NPA announces candidates for council without a nomination meeting

Call me old-fashioned, but I'm a fan of allowing members of political parties to choose their candidates.

It still takes place at the provincial level.

Witness the battle between Coun. Geoff Meggs and former Sierra Club of B.C. executive director George Heyman for the NDP nomination in Vancouver-Fairview.

It renewed the NDP constituency association and set the stage for Heyman upsetting the incumbent, former cabinet minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, in the general election.

There was a similar fight in Vancouver-Quilchena between B.C. Liberals Suzanne Anton and Andrew Wilkinson. Wilkinson won, but Anton learned some things that probably helped her win when she was nominated in Vancouver-Fraserview.

Contested nominations strengthen parties because each candidate recruits new members to revive creaky political institutions.

Competing for nominations helps raise money, attract volunteers, and boost candidates' profiles going into an election.

By going through a nomination fight, candidates are forced to listen to people. They learn from their errors. And that makes them better politicians during the subsequent general election.

Most importantly, contested nominations send a message that the party is democratic.

Both Vision Vancouver and the NPA have failed this test.

Vision reserved spots on the ballot for its seven incumbent councillors. It appeared like there would be a race for the eighth place between park commissioner Niki Sharma and Vancouver library board chair Catherine Evans.

But Evans backed out, ensuring there was no nomination vote for any of Vision Vancouver's council candidates.

To its credit, Vision held a lively nomination fight for four spots on its park-board slate and one spot on its board of education slate. So there is some party renewal, though perhaps not enough to guarantee that it will hold its majority on council.

The NPA has gone down a similar path by having the board select its mayoral candidate after closed-door interviews.

Today, the NPA will announce four new council candidates: Gregory Baker, Ken Low, Rob McDowell, and Suzanne Scott. If you want to learn more about them, you can read the NPA news release.

They'll join a council slate with four others who didn't have to win the members' approval at a 2014 nomination meeting: George Affleck, Elizabeth Ball, Melissa De Genova, and Ian Robertson.

I remember when the NPA had rollicking nomination fights. It's no coincidence that the party often went on to win landslide victories in the election.

Nowadays, the NPA's approach is even more insulting to party members and the public than that of Vision Vancouver.

At least Vision allows members to vote on the new candidates. Those who've been supported once in the past at a Vision nomination meeting stay on the ballot for life.

Maybe the NPA feels that it doesn't need to hold nomination meetings because it has enough money to run this campaign already.

Maybe the oil barons in Calgary have already told the NPA board not to worry—there will be more than enough money to buy billboard space and ads in friendly newspapers to boost the name recognition of their candidates.

Maybe NPA president Peter Armstrong has assurances from the city's richest residents—such as Fraser Institute chairman Peter Brown, Fraser Institute director Hassan Khosrowshahi, and NPA vice president Rob Macdonald—not to worry. Just get enough names on the ballot and our money will do the rest.

NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe has claimed that he intends on creating the most open government in Canada.

When it comes to political pronouncements, the public knows that actions speak louder than words.

If you don't have an open party with open nominations, it's a bit rich to expect that the culture will change once this group takes power.

Comments (12) Add New Comment
Factchecking
One person of colour? Three women? That stock photograph you've used is a bit too diverse to pass for the NPA, don't you think?
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BahHumbug
Oil barons? WTF are you talking about Charlie.

Nominations are dumb because if you leave it up to the membership, they'll pick a slate that isn't representative of the city at large, but rather one that conforms to some ideological purity test. How did the liberal candidates fare at Vision's nomination? They all got screwed cause they weren't left-wing enough. You are just promoting factionalism writ-large. Nomination meetings expend precious resources that are better served fighting the real fight in November -- you know, the actual election. I'd rather the NPA give Vancouverites a real choice on their ballots than fufill Charlie's aesthetic appreciation of watching a good ol' nomination fight.
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Charlie Smith
Methinks Bah Humbug is doing some pretty good spinning for the NPA.
The reality, as I pointed out in the column, is that nomination fights renew political parties. They're particularly helpful for candidates in close fights, like Heyman. Parties that don't hold them risk extinction over the longer term.

The NPA's nomination races in the 1990s brought many new people into the party after Gordon Campbell moved to provincial politics.

COPE's nomination race for council positions (not the mayoral race) set the stage for its stunning victory in 2002.

Charlie Smith
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Disgusted
Nomination meetings are the ideal. Diversity, democracy, egalitie, fraternity, sorority...etc.

Perhaps at one point in our semi-storied Canadian political life they actually had opena nd fair nom meetings. I doubt it, but, certainly, no more.

Nomination meetings at every level of government are rigged by special interest groups within parties and scandals abound about how 'party members' are signed up to vote in these nomination fandangos. And all it takes is for the really deep corporate or union or environmental or charitable organizations pockets to skew the whole show.

I believe the Vision 'nomination' of its 'Group of Four' Park Board candidates is a case in point. Were these nice people coming in with their own legions of voters, followers, family and friends?

No. They were handpicked by the party apparatchik, packaged, and then it was broadly 'suggested' to members that this WAS the team. More qualified people were left speechless as the Vision steamroller took over.

I understand there was also a very impressive/expensive phone bank GOTV system set up for them as well. So young, dumb, smart straight, queer---as long as you fill the voter market segment slot as dictated by 'Big Daddy' you're golden, baby!

If there was some way to actually have the kind of nomination system we dream about, that would be wonderful. But, until we can knock all the big money and party executive inside manoevering out of the game, we have will settle for those who's past performance and CV's show them to be the smartest, experienced people who are ready to serve all Vancouverites.
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Disgusted
Charlie,

How did the Heyman/meggs fight renew the party?? Heyman was a terrific choice, but I also suspect Meggs was never going to win because of his affiliation with Robertson.

Old hatreds die hard in the NDP. Witness Horgan's placement of James in the shadow Finance slot (back o'the hand to YOU, Bob Williams!) and the demotion of jenny Kwan 9well deserved).

No, all this stuff is inside ball. Nothing new under the sun, as long as you have an exec of 'old boys and girls'...
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BahHumbug
Instead of actually engaging with my argument, you discount me an NPA hack. Did you learn that strategy from Gregor? Are you going to discount all the NPA candidates too since they are fruit from the poisoned tree of closed nominations?
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Charlie Smith
Bah Humbug,

I actually did engage and you responded with what people can see above. Let's not kid ourselves. There are lots of party hacks who show up on websites like this during election seasons. Then they disappear afterward. I am not going to discount the NPA candidates. I would like to know if the NPA or Vision or anyone else is accepting donations from Calgary-based oil companies, but that's not possible before the election under our present system.

This is going to be the topic of my next commentary.

Charlie
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Ken Charko
A missed opportunity for the Kirk and the NPA, I know some will say Vision only sort of had nominations so whats the big deal. The big deal is we are not Vision were better then vision the NPA should strive to have an open and transparent administration that listens to the people of Vancouver. How can the NPA have the moral high ground when the actions they have done so far don't support the narrative.
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Raymond Tomlin
@Charlie

After the gong show that was the NPA 2011 campaign for office, defined by infighting among the Council candidates that, on a day-to-day basis, beggared belief, the NPA -- for better or for worse -- moved in this election cycle to select candidates who, as you say, "didn't have to win the members' approval".

NPA Mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe addressed that issue at both his early morning media briefing 11 days ago, and in his commencement speech -- he said it won't happen again, and in 2018 the nomination process will be an open one. Although we can hold his feet to the fire on that commitment come 2018, all things being equal, I agree with you, Charlie -- 2014 oughta been an open nominating process by the NPA.
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MarkFornataro
@BahHumbug using your real name might help your credibility. Mushrooms grow in the dark, unlike democracy. Maybe NPA and Vision could form the Mushroom party.
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James Blatchford
Charlie, BahHumbug rightly took you to task for the oil barons barb....tut-tut, very incendiary of you.

Bitumen barons is the correct nomenclature.
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Colleen Hardwick
Charlie, you're right. You have to walk the walk, if you're going to talk the open and transparency talk. Nomination contests are essential to a healthy democratic process. They reinvigorate organizations, as you aptly describe. Sadly, this is a missed opportunity for much needed change.
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