Veteran school trustee Allan Wong crosses the floor from COPE to Vision Vancouver

The last remaining elected COPE politician has resigned his party membership and joined Vision Vancouver.

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Allan Wong, a Vancouver school trustee since 1999, made the move today.

Wong, chair of the board of education's planning and facilities committee, told the Georgia Straight by phone that he has workied well with Vision trustees for many years.

He specifically cited veteran Vision politicians Patti Bacchus, Mike Lombardi, and Ken Clement. 

"To me, it's a small transition," Wong said. "I'm still very close to a lot of the COPE ed people."

Wong said he will still attend COPE education committee meetings and remains in close contact with former COPE trustees Al Blakey, Jane Bouey, and Ruth Herman.

However, he said he will leave the room if they decide to discuss political matters.

Wong added that he is eager to continue working on some of the board of education's biggest challenges, including looming Hydro rate increases, seismic upgrades, and the underfunding of education.

He sidestepped a question about whether he left COPE because of its internal divisions, only saying that the party executive seemed more focused on differences with Vision at the council and park-board level.

In a Vision Vancouver statement, Bacchus described Wong as a "passionate supporter of public education".

"His experience, advocacy, and strong record of community service make him a tremendous addition to the Vision Vancouver team, and I look forward to working with him even more closely to support Vancouver students and our public-school system," Bacchus said.

Mayor Gregor Robertson described Wong as one of the city's "most respected political leaders".

"I am honoured to welcome Allan to the positive, forward-looking Vision team working for Vancouver's priorities on the school board, park board, and city council," Robertson said in the Vision statement.

Vision Vancouver now has six of the nine trustees on the board. The three other positions are occupied by the NPA's Fraser Ballantyne, Ken Denike, and Sophia Woo.

Comments (24) Add New Comment
JamieLee
By crossing the floor to sit as a Vision politician, Trustee Trustee Allan Wong seems to be thumbing his nose at Vancouver voters who elected him as a COPE trustee. To demonstrate political integrity Trustee Wong should have resigned, sat as an Independent and then sought re-election as a Vision Trustee in 2014..
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Save Vancouver
What's the Chinese word for quisling?
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Marcus
Allan Wong was elected, not “COPE trustee”. Otherwise we should just list party names on ballots and let them choose whoever they want.
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Gypsy
Maybe Bacchus can walk down the hallway in the Vision Vancouver office to the back room and ask one of the Liberal operatives working for Vision if they can increase education funding.
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RUK
Sucks for COPE.

But really. If he wasn't going to be able to work with Tim Louis, what else was he supposed to do, join the NPA or sit at home twiddling his thumbs?
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tim.
There isn't really much "floor crossing." COPE and Vision Vancouver ran a joint slate last election.
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cathy
hmm-when politicians "cross the floor" there is usually something in it for them.
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Bruce
The most notable issue re the Vancouver School Board is its rapidly falling student numbers. We all know the cause of this - Vancouver's real estate circus driving families out of the city.

Given that, it's hard to see how Wong can in good conscience ally himself with one of the two parties that represent the real estate sector.
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MarkFornataro
There is a danger that politicians who cross the floor to another party without facing the voters again to do so- can increase cynicism and apathy, and thus lead to a de facto type of voter suppression. The kind of cynicism and apathy this Star article refers to:
http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2013/12/08/suppose_they_threw_an_ele...
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miranda da costa diaz
To any discerning observer of Vancouver's civic political scene, it ought to be obvious that Mr. Wong is, indeed, demonstrating considerable political integrity at this time. At the school board level, there is really no "floor" to cross. Trustees from various tendencies have often worked together and Trustee Bacchus has provided solid, informed, tenacious leadership. Mr. Wong has always been a strong, knowledgable and principled advocate for public education and he has worked pretty tirelessly on a number of board committees to ensure that equity, equality, inner city, LBGTQ, and structural issues are addressed. This eats up hours and hours of time. It's not for the frivolous or faint of heart. It's no secret that since 1997, the VBE - underfunded by the province - has had to make a series of cuts to the point where there is no fat left and muscle and bone are on the chopping block. What is needed to address that and other serious problems that threaten public education, is a concerted and unified focus to defend and improve the institution. I suspect that Mr. Wong found this difficult to do in an atmosphere of ongoing infighting, bickering, purity contests and self-righteous, congratulatory puffery (and often just plain silliness) that have plagued the COPE board of late. Could Mr, Wong be expected to ignore or wish away the COPE board member who proudly identifies as a school drop out? I doubt it. And, as that slag against education is what the COPE membership endorses, what in the world would compel him to stay on? To this observer, Mr. Wong's 14 year commitment to ensure that education is inclusive, open and accessible to all and his reliable and informed advocacy is what is important. Who in the world but a glutton for punishment would want to waste valuable time attending COPE meetings when there is more vital and crucial work to be done? While I won't be supporting the current mayor or his council next time up, I will support Allan because doing so makes sense.
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James Blatchford
COPE - Can't Operate, People Exiting...is Tim Louis the John Cummins of the left?
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James G
I was a little surprised that he alone was re-elected last time. I had thought the alphabet advantage of a trustee with names like Al Blakely or Jane Bouey would trump the ethnic vote that so obviously left him undefeated.

Not to take anything away from his own efforts -- nor those of Jane Bouey, whose sign graced my windows only for me to find out later that while running for COPE, she had donated to Vision. They're good people, just no longer worthy (IMHO) of my vote.

It might be a lot easier to ignore differences between the increasingly neo-liberal Vision and the theoretically social-democratic COPE at the School Board level since with a majority a relatively powerless board faces off against the provincial government. For supporting initiatives like anti-bullying, it's nice that they worked together, especially since two of the elected NPA reps seem such despicable ratbags.

Nonetheless, a progressive municipal organization should be expected to engage more than teachers, unionized city hall employees and the building trades. Don't get me wrong -- these are valued members of a greater left constituency -- they just shouldn't be the only ones given a hearing. Any City Hall should listen to these voices among many others -- tenants, the working poor, non-union wage earners, East and West Enders, the unemployed and those struggling to make small businesses work.

Vancouver is changing so rapidly that it soon will be unrecognizable for those of us with a history here. There is a whiff of noveau-riche among some homeowners who presume themselves now wealthy based on the assessed value of their assets. Selling up means your new home likely won't be within the City limits. For now, I can see how Vision Vancouver becomes a fitting political vehicle for these people while they bide their time.

That's why Vision might be as good as it gets. Consider that and how sad it is that a undemocratic organization can come from nowhere with international funding, get fronted by NDP and Green nomenclature, make City Hall come running to every developer that whistles 24/7 and buy enough of us off with a few sops.

The NPA brought this about by decades of bad and corrupt government. Still, the NPA did what they did without ever getting my vote. I sincerely apologize to the City for once voting for Vision. It won't ever happen again and the NPA - still never.
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Surprised it took so long.
Wong has always been a supporter of Vision. He only stayed with COPE as long as it was convenient. Now that it appears COPE may set off on an path independent of Vision, it is an opportune moment to jump ship. A large portion of COPE were active supporters of Vision, this is no secret. When this city is reduced to Vision vs NPA, then there will be no reason to vote. At the rate it is going, we're well on the way there.
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Anita Romaniuk
As a Member-at-Large on the COPE Executive, who served as a COPE Parks Commissioner during Allan's second term (2003-05), of course I am disappointed that he has quit COPE and joined Vision. There has been a conflict within COPE since Vision split off in 2005, with one group which wanted to chart an independent course, and another which managed to convince the majority that an electoral alliance with Vision was desirable in 3 straight elections. The latter group had at its core a significant number of people who were members of the Education Committee in support of the COPE school trustees. It is not surprising that they were in favour of an alliance because it worked for them--for awhile. COPE elected 3 school trustees in 2005, but only 1 Councillor out of 5, & 2 Parks Commissioners out of 6. In 2008, they elected 4 school trustees out of 5, but only 2 Councillors because that was all the agreement with Vision would allow them to run, and 1 Parks Commissioner out of 2. By 2011, it was apparent that the alliance with Vision was broken even for School Board: COPE elected only 1 trustee and no one on either Council or Park Board. However, the COPE School Trustees always had a common nemesis with Vision in the provincial government, which controls Education funding. This common nemesis does not exist for Council and Park Board. The COPE School Trustees always had a happier relationship with the Vision School Trustees because of this. However, with the blatant pro-developer Vision Council running roughshod over the city, and an increasingly compromised Park Board, the need for COPE representatives to speak out against Vision's policies and actions has never been greater. COPE needs to be independent of Vision and stop allying ourselves with Vision on the grounds that it works for the School Trustees, because it doesn't work for Council and Park Board. It is quite possible that Allan Wong left COPE because he could see that it was not possible for the Education Committee "tail" to wag the COPE "dog" any longer. It's not that Education isn't important - it is - and it's not that the COPE Education hasn't doesn't a great job in supporting our school trustees for many years - it has. But it's time to move on and set a course that is independent of Vision in the governance of Vancouver's City Council and Park Board.
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Thomas Diaz
Anyone who actually has worked with Allan would know that this would not have been a decision he made lightly. He has been one of the most loyal members of COPE. Donating money, time, and energy in getting COPE members elected. All this while having such a strong personal constituency that it was always clear he was doing COPE a favour, not the other way around.

So this should not be read as a simple floor crossing. This is a damning indictment of the current COPE leadership ans a strategy that is confusing at best and suicide at worst.

I shudder to think who COPE's slate of candidates will be in 2014. No one with integrity Allan has, that's for sure.
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RUK
I guess if COPE and Vision were really that far apart on core issues then they should run separate slates all the way.

But despite the heated rhetoric about being the developers' pet from the purist left, Vision seems to me to be a reasonable compromise between actually getting income and then spending it on things that serve a progressive agenda.

But you know, I have really low expectations and maybe am too tolerant of realpolitik.

If the progressive vote is split among COPE, Vision, Green and independents, then that might let the NPA back in and there sure won't be any greenwashing then.

OTOH it might draw a few more businesses and head offices back to Van.

Interesting times.
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Bruce
@RUK

Well, you can count me as someone who is not a member of the purist left. In fact I'm a pissed off small business owner, watching employees leave, friends leave, my kid's friends leave, commercial landlords become increasingly irrational as they chase RE casino winnings, and my city's bubble mania becoming the laughing stock of the world's business press.

The capture of both major civic parties by the real estate sector is an incredibly bad thing for the city, on an economic, cultural, equality, and community level. At least the NPA is honest about what it stands for.

Back to the original topic: The #1 issue the school board faces is collapsing enrollment due to middle class families being driven from the city.
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Anita Romaniuk
Correction of a mistake: 3 COPE School Trustees were elected in 2008, not 4.
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RUK
@Bruce

There are regulatory and non-regulatory tools that various cities have used in order to control the degree to which real estate speculation influences civic policy and planning. I would assume that Vancouver staff read these reports but we, as armchair critics, certainly should be doing so also.

I think that is a more productive approach than bewailing the fact that Vancouver gets its cash from the permit issuance process. Definitely, Vision has to sell me the idea that it is getting a good bang for the buck, meaning investment in amenities other than condo units full stop.

Re the collapsing enrollment - yes. Huge problem. However one also has to note social trends. There is an inverse correlation between education and family size. I don't know that having more kids is a good thing in and of itself. The city needs to adjust to the kids that they are going to have, not adjust everything else so that there are kids enough to keep the schools open.
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Anita Romaniuk
I wanted to clarify that I didn't mean the COPE Education Committee approved or encouraged Allan to quite COPE and join Vision. They haven't been very active lately, but I don't believe they wanted him to leave COPE. We may differ on whether COPE should cooperate with Vision, or strike an independent path, but we are all still COPE.
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