COPE looks for the causes of the party's defeat

While some members blame Tim Louis for the civic-election thrashing, others point to insufficient criticism of Vision Vancouver.

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      Long-time COPE member Paul Houle is defending Tim Louis against criticisms that the latter's actions were responsible for the rout of the Coalition of Progressive Electors in the November 19 Vancouver civic election.

      Houle, who served on the left-leaning party's executive for seven years, maintains that COPE's stance of playing second fiddle to the ruling Vision Vancouver party of Mayor Gregor Robertson was fatal to the organization.

      “The real blame lies with the fact that COPE has tried to be a lapdog to Gregor Robertson,” Houle told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “They've tried to be essentially a toy poodle sitting on Gregor Robertson's lap and sort of tippy-toeing around the Vision organization. And sort of saying, ‘Well, if we don't upset Vision too much, maybe we can ride on the coattails of Vision into power.' ”

      Houle, Louis, and a third of COPE members had opposed entering into a Vision-dominated electoral alliance going into the recent civic balloting.

      If there's a lesson to be learned from COPE's defeat, Houle said that it's for the party to “start acting like an opposition and criticize the two developer parties”. He was referring to Vision and the Non-Partisan Association.

      Former COPE councillor Fred Bass also thinks it's unfair to blame Louis.

      Bass believes that what hurt COPE were moves intended to isolate Louis within the party.

      For Bass, this includes the decision made by councillors David Cadman and Ellen Woodsworth to endorse a neophyte Filipino Canadian politician, Rafael “RJ” Aquino, over the experienced Louis when the party held a nomination contest for three council slots in September.

      “Tim Louis was actually the object of strategies in earlier years to bypass him,” Bass told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Following his defeat in the 2005 election, Louis tried to stage a comeback in 2008 when COPE was running two candidates for council under its electoral agreement with Vision Vancouver. Cadman got the first nomination and Woodsworth edged out Louis by only six votes.

      Later, in 2009, Louis lost his seat on the party's executive board when COPE held an internal election.

      According to Bass, it's a “shame” that Cadman, Woodsworth, and Louis were not on the COPE slate going into the November 19 election.

      At the September 18 COPE nomination meeting, Woodsworth came number one, followed by Louis and Aquino, who outscored Cadman by only seven votes for the third slot.

      “I don't think he was the right choice,” Bass said in reference to Aquino. “David [Cadman] and Ellen [Woodsworth] are saying, ‘How could you turn down somebody [Cadman] with experience, an elected member of the party?' Oh, that's exactly what Tim Louis has been. He served two terms [on council], and I worked with him. I found him easy to work with.”

      Louis, Aquino, and Woodsworth lost in the last municipal balloting, with the latter coming in 90 votes short of the 10th-place winner, Adriane Carr of the Green Party of Vancouver.

      Of the six other candidates fielded by COPE for the park board and board of education, only one survived: incumbent school trustee Allan Wong. All of Vision's 17 candidates for council, park board, and school board won.

      The loss had just started to sink in for Woodsworth when she took a call from the Straight on November 22.

      “Nobody thought this would happen,” Woodsworth said.

      A day earlier, on November 21, Cadman told the Straight in a phone interview that Louis has to take responsibility for the thrashing received by the party. Woodsworth agrees.

      “I think that it's true that David Cadman being defeated by Tim [Louis], who hadn't really been active in city politics for six years and who some people really don't like, had an impact,” Woodsworth said.

      She recalled that Louis, a lawyer, was preoccupied with a court case until three weeks before the election and therefore had a short time to campaign.

      “Tim [Louis] was invisible for six years,” Woodsworth said. “He just wasn't active in the party. He wasn't in the public. He wasn't out there working on city issues. It might have been different had he been out there with his messages.”

      Louis was not available to comment by the Straight's deadline.

      Sidelined in the election, Cadman said that he will continue as the president of ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability, a global association of local governments working on such issues as climate change. His term ends in June 2012.

      Although COPE will push on as a party, Cadman sees a rough patch ahead.

      “The problem is going to be whether or not there will be the possibility of an agreement with Vision going forward next time,” he said. “And if not, whether COPE is going to be able to attract candidates who are able to win across this city without the benefit of incumbency.”



      2nd Nation

      Nov 24, 2011 at 6:26am

      Infighting never conveys a feeling of competance. That said, maybe Vancouverites didn't like COPE's platform very much. Just an idea.

      james green

      Nov 24, 2011 at 8:53am

      Clearly, COPE does not have a high profile, strong, colourful leader. Also, many saw them as Vision and said why vote for them they are Vision and went with Vision.
      Their alliance with Vision turned their base off. They could not raise enough money to compete.They need a experienced fundraising committee. They need a new name and brand as they are seen by some as old school. Their board of directors is too young and inexperienced and have bought into the Vision bullshit on such things as homelessness being decreased. Their candidates are lackluster.
      They are following the lead of old pol David Chadnosky who is just that an old pol, who does not understand current political marketing methods.
      They really don't understand that the social media is a place for people to connect and until you connect and engage with people on social media you cannot sell them anything especially political parties.
      Cadman hurt the party when he was on council by his lazy demeter, performance and absense at council too often. They should have run a full slate and a candidate for mayor as parties without a mayoral candidate are not taken seriously by many voters. Many voters did not see the COPE platform and did not understand what they stood for.They do not have enough volunteers.
      These are just some of their deficiencies. COPE needs a new and vibrant leader for mayor and who can breath new life and new direction for COPE and for Vancouver.
      Most important COPE find a leader.

      Arthur Vandelay

      Nov 24, 2011 at 9:24am

      In a nutshell, COPE is seen as the ideological progressive party and Vision as the practical progressive party. Most voters want things to get done that actually make sense.

      City Observer

      Nov 24, 2011 at 10:31am

      Having reviewed the COPE <a href="" target="_blank">platform</a>, it's difficult for this observer to see how the principles on which COPE stands are ideological rather than practical (they seem damn practical to me).

      One has to ask, as handmaiden to the dominant developer party, Vision Vancouver, and in an election dominated by coverage of Occupy Vancouver, how much did the voters actually know about COPE's platform, that committed to ...<ul><li><font size=2>Year round <a href=" target="_blank">farmers' markets</a> <p><li><font size=2>the creation of grassroots <a href=" target="_blank">neighbourhood councils</a> that would, as COPE Park Board candidate / former WERA president, Brent Granby, stated during the campaign, allow neighbourhoods input into the decisions on what their communities would look like going forward, and how they would develop over time<p> <li><font size=2>a neighbourhood-based <a href=" target="_blank">Community Transit Pass</a> that would reduce transit fares and encourage ridership, a laudable and achievable 'green initiative'</font></li></ul> </font>Seems to me that Tim Louis, Ellen Woodsworth and RJ Aquino were front and centre during the campaign annunciating a COPE vision for a more affordable city, and a more responsive civic government dedicated to the goals that we all share.

      Certainly it was not Tim Louis' fault, or COPE's fault, that Vision Vancouver ran $1 million dollars worth of polished, happy face ads during the evening television newscasts in the final week of the campaign, that made absolutely no mention of their civic 'partner', COPE, consolidating Vision Vancouver's 'get the vote out' campaign, that did nothing for their 'lesser' cousins, COPE, at all.

      Rob Roy

      Nov 24, 2011 at 10:44am

      COPE lost everything for a complex of reasons.

      They are perceived as a party of bitter ideologues. They made a Faustian bargain with VISION, and it bit them in the nose. Many people who could not vote for either of the developer parties (VISION and NPA, largely indistinguishable) went Green, or to NSV.

      Why? As others have also observed, Tim Louis (a prickly personality, at best) made unaffordable promises about transit, and no one believed him. Ellen Woodsworth got tricked into endorsing a statist scheme for 10,000 more units of public housing in the DTES. And RJ Aquino tried to run on the basis of ethnicity alone, and found that the Mabel Elmore 'machine' was running on 3 cylinders.

      None of these is a winning combination for anything. To add to their self-inflicted injuries, COPE marched with Occupy Vancouver, which promptly turned into a series of squalid squats for wandering hobos -- and lost all credibility.

      COPE is mired in the policies and the politics of the 1930s. Since Harry Rankin and Bruce Ericksen, they have been coasting on senescent slogans. Their last hurrah was with Larry Campbell, who turned out to be a Liberal.

      If COPE is to survive this debacle, they need to develop policies for Vancouver as it is today: a city of immigrants, lost opportunity, and great promise. Summoning dead heroes long gone has no appeal to young voters, new Canadians, or voters desperate for real change.

      Perhaps uniquely in Canada, only the NDP can succeed when invoking a ghost -- the voice of Tommy Douglas. Why? Tommy was there first, and beginning in 1944 gave us so much of the Canada we have become, and in the process never yielded on principle. In our consciousness, someone dead 25 years is still voted our 'Greatest Canadian'. He was unique, and irreproducible -- and regularly attacked by old-line Marxists in the old-line COPE.

      Most voters want solutions, honestly argued and skillfully achieved. Today, mere ideology looks like Manga. Today, COPE remains stuck in the past, willing to sell its soul for three seats on Council.


      Nov 24, 2011 at 10:47am

      So is anyone going to point out at any time that the actual campaign mattered and COPE's was bad?


      Nov 24, 2011 at 10:50am

      What we have here is a failure to communicate (by cope)...

      Better Luck next time.

      Dan Todd

      Nov 24, 2011 at 11:33am

      I think the result makes sense due to COPE's profile. Most people were really turned off by Suzanne Anton's ominous 'Greeegor Robertson wants you to dieee" ads on the radio and print. NPA's attacks were aimed squarely at Vision, and as a counter-balance to that, most voters who were against NPA's conservative elitism chose the natural counterbalance, who they saw as Vision. COPE's profile was simply too weak. But that tells you how ideologically caring they are - they could have run against Vision with 8 candidates, but they chose not to split the left... They care more about the people of Vancouver than about themselves. That alone should get people to re-think. I had dinner one time at a table next to Tim Louis, who was there with his wife and friends. He was the kindest, gentlest man, and he and his wife were the nicest people... They kept complimenting the waiter and had that genuiness and sweetness that shows what a big heart they have. I'm disappointed that they did not get any councilors elected.


      Nov 24, 2011 at 11:56am

      Hey, it's a media game. I doubt the general public even clocked the party internal squabbles. They just got swept away by the high profile Vision machine. It also looks like Cope didn't receive any campaign resource-sharing at all from Vision, possibly the most important lesson here. It was very sad that Cope's chance to grow during the Larry Campbell period fell apart - or - was intentionally undermined... If Vision continues as it has been, Cope must reconfigure as a new force, independent of any other compromises, with a platform that would induce all clear-headed progressives to join.

      another voice

      Nov 24, 2011 at 11:56am

      COPE lost because Vision voters didn't vote COPE. COPE voters clearly voted for Vision but it was not reciprocated. This will make Vision very pleased as their plan all along was to crush COPE. How very Machiavellian to do so while pretending to be their friend. This is the type of people who are our government in Vancouver. Sweet.