NPA board should have encouraged Ken Charko to run for mayor in an open nomination
Next week, the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association is expected to announce its mayoral candidate.
But whomever the board chooses will have to overcome a compelling narrative being crafted by Vision Vancouver's marketing whizzes.
The storyline goes like this: the NPA wants to run the city out of the living rooms of Shaughnessy on behalf of the richest one percenters in Vancouver.
Two wealthy businessmen on the NPA board, Peter Armstrong and Rob Macdonald, want to hand-pick their mayoral candidate, so they invited a few people in for interviews.
The choice is between former Vancouver Sun managing editor Kirk LaPointe and former park commissioner Ian Robertson, who used to be on Armstrong's payroll at Great Canadian Railtours. Both of them look good in a suit. And the NPA membership will have no say whatsoever in who is eventually chosen to lead their party.
Pretty undemocratic, right?
Set aside the fact that the Coalition of Progressive Electors chose its mayoral candidate, Larry Campbell, in 2002, or that Vision Vancouver chose Jim Green in 2005.
Modern political parties aren't supposed to pick leaders in backrooms without the consent of the membership.
And Vision will drive that point home from now until voting day on the third Saturday in November.
Throw in another message that the incumbent, Vision's Gregor Robertson, is the only competitive mayoral candidate who's intent on protecting Vancouver's beaches from Big Oil and it's possible that this election is already over. The narrative has been cast in stone.
The NPA could have chosen another path.
It could have held an open nomination and encouraged one of its directors, businessman Ken Charko, to run for mayor.
In many ways, the president of the Dunbar Theatre is the antithesis of Robertson, who comes across as a too polished and mealy-mouthed for many voters.
Charko is blunt, honest, and doesn't look nearly as glossy as Robertson in a suit.
In addition, Charko is not like those other politicians who take diplomacy to extreme levels.
If the Dunbar Theatre president disagrees with something—such as the NPA's policy for selecting a mayoral candidate or the way the Hillcrest Community Centre Association is being managed—he'll speak his mind about it.
He's been active in the fight to save independent movie theatres in Vancouver as a board member of the Motion Picture Theatres Association of B.C.
He also built the Golden Spoon Frozen Yogurt chain, showing his mettle in business.
Charko's an involved member of the community who has helped improve the city through his actions.
Sometimes, he rocks the boat with out-of-the-box suggestions, such as when he called for seasonal grade-separated bike lanes from April 1 to September 30.
He argued that this would ensure parking-meter revenue could continue flowing into the city in the winter.
In the 2011 election, Charko came 14th with 45,372 votes. That's quite impressive for a candidate with a low media profile and who had never run for public office before.
He also did very well on the city's West Side, which is the NPA heartland.
Charko's populist approach would have had the potential to galvanize voters who are angry at Robertson, just as Rob Ford galvanized Torontonians fed up with the so-called "gravy train" under former Toronto mayor David Miller.
Instead, the NPA board has decided pick a mayoral candidate in secret, leaving the party extremely vulnerable to the Vision spin doctors.