COPE internal chair Tim Louis responds to Stuart Parker's claims about party's direction

The internal chair of the left-wing Coalition of Progressive Electors says that a high-profile member presented a misleading impression of a proposed amendment to COPE's bylaws.

Tim Louis, a former city councillor, told the Straight by phone that a proposal to create "equity caucuses" will only occur "if the membership—in an open transparent democratic meeting by a majority of 75 percent—vote in favour of creating them".

"They’re only created, if they’re created, by the membership, not by the executive," Louis insisted.

In a blog post earlier today, former B.C. Green party leader Stuart Parker claimed that these "equity representatives" on the board will create "a political feedback loop, whereby the current executive can insulate itself against the democratic will of the members".

Louis declared that this is a false interpretation.

"There is no such self-perpetuating loop," he said. "The equity caucus selects its own rep to sit on the executive. The executive has absolutely no input—not even a recommendation of the composition of the equity caucus."

Furthermore, Louis said that the executive has no influence on the identity of any nominee chosen by an equity caucus.

"It doesn’t even recommend,” he added.

Meanwhile, COPE's executive director, Sean Antrim, told the Straight in a separate phone interview that for the upcoming civic election, his party is developing policy, recruiting candidates, and nominating them "in the most democratic way that we have in a really long time".

Antrim rejected Parker's assertion that a new code of conduct can be used by the party executive to fire candidates after they're chosen by members.

"The code of conduct can’t eliminate nominees who have been nominated by the membership," Antrim said. "The membership makes all of the decision in COPE when it comes down to it. That’s the best thing about the organization. That’s what makes it different from every other political party. And that’s why I got involved.”

He added that COPE passed a motion last November preventing anyone even considering becoming a council candidate from being on the party's election-planning committee.

"So Tim [Louis], for example, is not on our election-planning committee because he’s thinking of running for council," Antrim said.

Comments (26) Add New Comment
Stuart Parker
Tim's and Sean's claims can be easily fact-checked. I would encourage anyone reading this article to read my original blog post which cites, verbatim, the minutes and rules clearly demonstrating their falsity. This is not rocket science.
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kim hearty
"The membership makes all of the decisions in COPE when it comes down to it." And when is that, Sean?
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Sean Antrim
For the first time ever, all of the meeting dates were put online at the same time, some over 6 months in advance, so that members would have the ability to plan their election year.

You can find the dates here for all the general meetings here: http://cope.bc.ca/category/events/

Because we can't book venues without knowing how many people are going to be there (without having to cancel meetings because sometimes 500 people show up), venues aren't set until closer to the date.
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Self-righteous to the very end
The current crew -- Tim Louis and his allies and followers -- have brought about the end of Vancouver's oldest progressive party. It is a tale of power-hungry (male) egos, doctrinaire Trotskyites (you're with us or you're against us in the revolution), factional alliances of convenience (followed by subsequent and relentless internal infighting), exclusionary politics, and self-righteous want-to-be revolutionaries.

These people need not worry about Vision Vancouver, they're dismantling COPE just fine on their own. The great irony, perhaps, is this is led by Tim Louis, the petty-bourgeois West Side lawyer and landlord.
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Actually
A group of LGBTQ activists in COPE formed a group, recruited new members from other communities, and created internal COPE policy to ensure they had a safe space in the party and on the ballot.

Now they are being attacked in the media.

Politics are toxic because people when people try to stand up for what they believe in, they are constantly attacked. This is why people don't get involved, and we have a crew of self-interested politicians who don't put forward policies that will help anyone.

Please don't attack "the people" either. It's individuals who feel that they need to ignore most of us and intervene on their own that at the egos.

This is exactly what we need to be fighting against.
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Arthur Vandelay
Personally, I like the stock photo of Tim in his Che Guevara t-shirt better than the glam shot used for this article, especially in the context of democracy within political parties.
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RUK
@Actually

Re "they are constantly attacked" - I think this is more symptomatic of the left than the right.

Right wingers, IMO, are inclined towards authoritarianism, unity, teamwork, discipline, and all hands pulling on the given rope at the signal. That leads to a certain hardening of the mental arteries when it comes to adapting their thinking to changing times and facts, but they're strong at election time. They support their leaders.

Left wingers, I think, want to take the moral high ground, seek to display compassion, believe that society is only as strong as its least powerful, and are intuititively opposed to authoritarianism. But this makes us turn on all authorities; goddess forbid that one of us should show leadership - set herself up to be the louder voice, the focal point - how undemocratic! Unless consensus can be found, grumbling and splittism must follow.

Is depressing.
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G
Somehow I have more faith in Stuart Parker than Tim Louis. The proposal to dilute the executive with additional members representing select segments of the membership is a classic tactic used in a range of parties to enforce long term control. The proposal to add 4 seats for select groups deemed in need of additional representation creates an interesting scenario when it comes time to elect the executive. Depending upon which boxes a member has checked, she/he could be voting for only the "open" slate or some or all of the "reserved" seats. One thing I did note about the plan for additional spots is that women aren't given a unique spot, do they already have one or have they been deemed to be enfranchised?

The left is crippled by infighting between the wide range of "concerns" that fall under the meaningless catch all of "social justice." COPE is made up of myriad small collectives mostly operated as feudal estates with the serfs obediently echoing their leaders mantra. There is no concern too small or absurd that can't be squeezed under the umbrella, invariably diluting any efforts to create a platform that includes specific programs. Like good little stakhanovites members work hard to represent the collective and support the party line as dictated by their leader.

The uneasy alliance between COPE & Vision shows how naive the "progressive" party members were. They were bought off with bike lanes, green propaganda and a promise to "end homelessness" whilst being sold out by opportunists within COPE and ultimately led to "progressive" voters supporting development on a massive scale. Vision talked about "social justice" and continued to subsidize some of the groups that align themselves with COPE. They left DES issues to COPE & Vision allies in the poverty industry allowing the ongoing exploitation of the people of the DES for reasons of profit or ideology whilst giving donors deals on city property or changing zoning.

I especially enjoy the criticism levelled at Tim Louis for operating the party exactly as his heroes would. "West-side lawyer," "bourgeois," and my favourite "landlord." That is good stuff that wouldn't look out of place in Lenin or Stalin's Soviet Union, although "west-side" would likely need explanation. Perhaps Louis' parents were kulaks!
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G
I see the word has gone out to the obedient followers to "thumbs down" comments by Stuart Parker, I guess it just took until the party hacks got out of bed. I look forward to attending the various upcoming COPE meetings: the floor show will be fantastic and I am taking bets on which faction will attempt to shout down their opponents first.
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James G
This is actually a reasonable forum for this debate. It is open for anybody to contribute, from gadflies like myself to lifelong activists like Tim Louis and Stuart Parker. I admire them both. I would love to see COPE nominate Stuart Parker for Mayor. I would love to see Tim Louis back on Council. The external locus that causes friction within the organization seems real but there are several theories about where it originates. I have heard the main long term "inflitration" scenario directing me to the federal Liberals, the VDLC theory, the Vision Away Team, the idea that it all originated as with the split in the CPC, that the BCNDP is somehow darkly involved, that Tim Louis is beholden to MAWO, that "doctrinaire Trotskyists" are to blame and there are likely others. Members of the Natural Law Party must still be around somewhere so should we blame them too? If any are true, work around it. It's politics. It gets rough and dirty and it's unfair. Suck it up and come to terms. Make deals if you must but shake hands.

I was at the meeting that elected Kim Hearty and others to the executive and I haven't regretted for a moment voting for her. I did hear Ellen Woodsworth condemn the slate that was elected for it's slight gender imbalance. So, there is an argument that this change in approach (which I don't support) is true to the spirit of COPE and comes from not only "the floor" but would likely have some resonance with respected members. It's not perfect largely because it trips over itself trying to be.

If we had a ward system, it would be virtually impossible to select candidates in a way consistent with quotas. COPE would be trying to appeal to demographic constituencies while running in the geographic constituencies wards would create. It's a terrible idea and contrary to the obvious democratic engagement wards could present. Wards are long term COPE core policy and that is for the good of the citizens of Vancouver, not just members within the party.

So, give me a party and candidates of which I can be proud. Vision in administrative terms is by no means the worst it gets. Robertson looks like a pretty decent fella when you recall his predecessors. As an organization, though, Vision knows only one of you will live. Don't be surprised if they end up running a joint slate with some other organization.
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Chaz
@Art Vandelay

Me too! It's good to see a local politician honour the man who is a hero among the people who are fighting against the tyranny of US-backed governments.
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Rick in Richmond
Among the many reasons for COPE's internal destruction is this: identity politics.

These self-described 'caucuses' are no more than mirrors of self-regard. For these narcissists, their personal identity and personal 'needs' are more important than the commonwealth.

Every party is, to some extent, a coalition. This is normal, conducive, and rational. But in COPE these identity politics have caused what their advocates claim, with a straight face, is "splittism". An internal caucus of 5 feels threatened by a internal caucus of 6.

Apparently the only one wholly welcome in COPE these days would be a vegan, trans, roller-blading, Ali Yerevani-obeying but anti-oppression demanding, person of indeterminate colour who lives part-time in the DTES and the rest of the time in Kerrisdale.

COPE is the future of identity politics: chaos, paranoia, and amateurism. VISION is laughing all the way to the ballot box.
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Anita Romaniuk
I am surprised that the concept of Minority Caucuses has caused so much controversy. The BC NDP has had them for years. They have a Women's Rights Committee, a LGBTQetc. Caucus, the YND (youth), Labour, for e.g. The caucuses elect their co-chairs who in turn have to be ratified by the membership at Convention. I can't see how this differs much from what COPE is proposing. If anything, it is odd that the NDP had this for so many years before COPE got around to proposing it.
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Bruce
@Anita

"The caucuses elect their co-chairs who in turn have to be ratified by the membership at Convention. I can't see how this differs much from what COPE is proposing."

In this case the proposal says nothing about ratifying the persons the caucuses elect, and the executive retains the power to set the membership of the caucuses, and overrule their decisions. And the present exec is not widely trusted, they retain control largely via block voting by a group called "fire this time".

It was pointed out prior to the resolutions being submitted how it could be made safe and acceptable, but no changes were made.

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Bruce
Correction: there is mention of ratification. The problem is that it's meaningless. A person is put onto the exec until the next general meeting. If the membership rejects them, the committee (which is at the mercy of the exec) can put someone else in the next day, and it could be up to a year before their are again ratified. Such a system is wide open to abuse.
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MD
To be blunt, having had to endure more than my share of meetings including Tim Louis and others associated with him, if Tim says something is "democratic", what he really means is that it did, or will, produce the result he wants.

If something is "undemocratic", it is because it will not, or did not, produce the result he wants.

Can anyone remember any time in the past twenty years when Tim, or any of the usual assortment of alphabet soup far left groups that he runs with ever has ever claimed something was "democratic" when he/they didnt get what they want, or "undemocratic" when he/they did ?

If this is the version of COPE that they plan on taking into an election, I will obviously be removing myself from your supporter and donor list.
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RUK
@Anita

Minority caucuses are controversial because they are divisive and exclusive.

Sure, from time to time committees should be struck to examine specific concerns. Those with specialized knowledge should advise the general body.

Of course factionalism will happen, and that is arguably how renewal of culture occurs within political parties, but to make it official that Group A, B, C, and D should have their standing subgroups makes me nervous. Does this mean that Group E, F, and G have less worth and merit? If I happen to have the ethnicity of Group B, but I think they are stupid shitheads and I don't actually care about advancing a racist agenda, am I supposed to feel thrilled that these people are presumed to represent me?

Urgh.
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D. Zaster
Wow - no wonder Vision was able to co-opt the Left and consolidate its progressive base so effectively. The old-line city lefties jumped headlong into the pool of identity-based fictionalism, and forgot what politics is really for.

Meanwhile, Gregor pretends to be a grassroots populist and apostle of sustainability, while in reality running the city like the slick, private-corporation CEO he really is. With his developer-friendly agenda of full-bore densification, is out-NPAing the NPA. It must make him laugh to think of COPE and the petty internal pissing contest the party has descended to.
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Imtiaz Popat
I agree that there needs to be a womens caucus. It believe that we discussed it at the equity committee. The problem is putting the cart before the house. The membership should decide what caucuses there need to be. Representation is also something the caucuses need to discuss. The reason why the proposed caucus reps were pushed forward for the convention is that this where we will have these caucuses for the first time. We wanted to empower equity and representation of diversity on the executive. But this has caused some confusion because of existing category caucuses in the by-laws which are created by the executive. We need to change that and may require a further amendment to the by-laws.
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Stuart Parker
Let's be clear, "Actually."

What you mean by "A group of LGBTQ activists in COPE" is one 50-year-old man from Surrey. By "recruited new members from other communities," you mean, "talked about how important it was to recruit new members and then didn't" and by "created internal COPE policy to ensure they had a safe space in the party and on the ballot" you mean "said some things to the chairman's closest allies and associates which were then variously reworked, rephrased or completely dropped from some proposals, none of which are in effect right now."

Just as I'm on my way out, I finally crack the code of COPESpeak.
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