COPE’s future steps discussed at Vancouver meeting

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      About 100 members of the Coalition of Progressive Electors met Sunday (January 22) to discuss the party’s direction as it looks ahead following its defeat in the November civic election.

      Among those in attendance at the membership consultation meeting were former city councillor Ellen Woodsworth and former council candidate RJ Aquino, both of whom cited the turnout as a positive sign.

      “What came out of it is that we do have our differences within the party, but we all agree that there’s work to be done, and that we need to move forward,” Aquino told the Straight. “Seeing how people have come in and have agreed to do that, and just the turnout–the original estimate was about 50 people and double of that showed up–that says a lot to how passionate people are about what needs to happen.”

      The topics discussed among small groups at the meeting included whether or not the party should continue with its electoral alliance with Vision Vancouver.

      No consensus on the issue was reached, but Aquino noted that “I think people really want to evaluate the kinds of relationships we establish moving forward.”

      “How we’re going to do that, I think that’s still up for a lot of discussion, but I think the consensus is that people want to...just take more steps in evaluating how to create partnerships or any other types of relationships in the future,” he added.

      The former candidate said he got a sense while door-knocking during the campaign that members of the public didn’t understand the electoral partnership that Vision and COPE had formed.

      “The way I see it, it’s good if we build partnerships, but then there needs to be clear definitions as to what each partner’s role is, and that needs to be not just clear internally, but clear to the general public,” he said.

      Woodsworth said it will be “pressing social issues” that will determine what kind of parties or alliances go forward in the next election.

      “But it’s three years from now and a lot can happen,” she added.

      Woodsworth came within just 91 votes within winning a seat, behind Green party councillor Adriane Carr. COPE school board trustee Allan Wong was the sole candidate from the party to win a seat in the November 2011 civic election.

      According to election analysis data presented by Christopher Porter at the meeting, vote-splitting may have impacted COPE’s results.

      Porter said his analysis showed that Vision and COPE garnered 55 percent of the vote in the 2008 election, while Vision, COPE, the Green Party and Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver comprised 55 percent of votes in 2011.

      He also noted that in 2008, former COPE councillor David Cadman came in seventh place among council candidates, earning 56,665 votes, meaning he could have lost over 8,000 votes in 2011 and still earned a council seat.

      Woodsworth acknowledged that not having veteran councillor Cadman on the ballot may have impacted the party’s chances at not gaining a seat.

      “I think the polling that was presented...showed that David Cadman could have won a seat, and could have possibly pulled others of us on council, because he’s been on council for a very long time, strong name recognition, so that’s certainly a factor, there’s no question,” she told the Straight.

      Cadman was turfed as a candidate for his party at a nomination meeting last year, where former city councillor Tim Louis won a spot on COPE’s partial council slate of three candidates.

      Woodsworth added that the party wasn’t able to overcome the competing budget of the city’s two major parties.

      “For people who hadn’t voted before in an election, a lot of people didn’t know what COPE stood for, and we didn’t have the $2 million to advertise ourselves,” she said

      The COPE gathering included discussion of what members said is a need for electoral reform measures such as restrictions on campaign donations and spending limits, and of potential steps for the party to move forward, including early identification of candidates for the next election, and establishing alliances with local grassroots organizations.

      Panel discussion participant Paul Houle suggested that the party should position itself as more of an opposition over the next three years.

      “I don’t think we really clearly positioned ourselves as being an opposition and criticizing Vision where Vision should have been criticized, and to do that I think we need to reinvigorate some of the caucuses and committees that we had going...between 1999 and 2002,” he said.

      The party will hold an annual general meeting on February 19, where Woodsworth expects members will want to establish committees.

      “What I’m hearing is that people what to get a strong executive committee set up, they want sub-committees...they want to start an online COPE newspaper that talks about municipal issues, they want to reach out to diverse communities, they want to make sure that the community neighbourhood organizations know what COPE stands for,” she said. “We need to continue what we’re best at, and that is building social movements.”

      Woodsworth, who was recently quoted in a press release sent out by COPE on expanding the city’s proposed online rental database, said the party will continue to be vocal on similar topics.

      “We’re all of us community activists and we will continue to work on those issues,” she said.



      james green

      Jan 23, 2012 at 11:40pm

      Cope lost because people were looking for an alternative to Vision.
      People were looking for an alternative to Robertson.
      COPE being in bed with Vision did not present as an alternative and people did not want the NPA, clearly. COPE must rebrand itself, separate from Vision and show the voters they have doable programs that will solve this city's problems.
      As to Robertson, he had no real challenger so many held their noses and voted for him because a minority wanted Anton.
      Also COPE needs an experienced board and a fundrasing campaign that starts now.
      This bull about vote splitting is just that.

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      Jan 24, 2012 at 8:36am

      Quote: Woodsworth said it will be “pressing social issues” that will determine what kind of parties or alliances go forward in the next election. “But it’s three years from now and a lot can happen,” she added.
      Wrong: COPE needs to decide within months if they are going to team up with Vision again, not three years from now. Putting off this decision almost certainly guarantees no changes in three years.

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      Jan 24, 2012 at 1:15pm

      If COPE again runs with Vision, then they should not expect a 'free ride' from the rest of the opposition on the left. A vote for COPE will be considered a vote for Vision. There's a perception that COPE is responsible for the huge 8-3 majority the developer-funded Vision Vancouver currently has on council.

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      Jan 24, 2012 at 7:39pm

      @jamesgreen - you sure have a bone to pick, but repeating the same line over-and-over doesn't make it true. Where is the evidence that "Cope lost because people were looking for an alternative to Vision." That may be true for a very small percentage of the electorate (including yourself), but not for 'the people' as a whole.

      If people were truly looking for an alternative to Vision and the NPA, Randy Helten would have done better than 2.8%, and the NSV would have done better. The NSV council candidates best polls were in the West End and Commercial Drive, the same areas that Vision and COPE had their best results (hence my vote splitting conclusion).

      More of my analysis is here. There is plenty of evidence of vote splitting, but none that I've found to support your hypothesis.

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      james green

      Jan 25, 2012 at 10:40pm

      Look at campaigns not these meaningless analysis.
      Perhaps, like me, you should talk to the hundreds of people in this city who agree that Cope broke its brand and voters deemed not to waste their vote on COPE as many saw them as a division of Vision.

      Randy did not do better because his party entered late, had only $40,000 and he had no name recognition and he was a novice at the dirty little game called Vancouver elections. And I do not have a bone to pick but know my facts and the election scene in Vancouver and how it works unlike you veggiecakes.

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      Jan 28, 2012 at 12:00pm

      RJ's words above look to be carefully spoken, not to offend anyone, "we have our differences, but blah blah numbers showed us that", - you guys were wiped out - and here we have "we want to build relationships, same old, we want to work together" oh really? same with Ellen's .. you hear this kind of thing over and over - I think it's important we look at this or that, and so on, blah, but just where are they in terms of teaming up with Vision in the future? I wasn't at the meeting, so perhaps they did speak of this. It's like some of the members are vocal and speak up; others always seem to be walking on egg shells, sitting on the fence, waiting to see which way the wind blows, which way perhaps a majority of members will agree on in terms of their continued alliance with Vision. Then there's people like Tim Louis who actually take a concrete stand on many issues, doesn't mean we always have to agree with, yet he seems to get the most criticism.

      As for the "I guess we'll call them COPE members" who support the Vision alliance, why don't you just join Vision and work for that party, since you embrace the developer party's goals so much. After all, there's no real COPE opposition anymore now that you are so aligned with Vision, you also seem to be so far removed on some of COPE's original mandate and values. Really, it's become one of the same. COPE can and will rebuild without you if you are so in love with Vision!

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