Has the Coalition of Progressive Electors grown too old, too narrow, and too rigid for the times?
The answer seems to be a "yes" from COPE's six elected city representatives. And in a bid to seize the leadership of the party when it holds its annual general meeting on May 27, the group has endorsed an executive-board slate to replace the current board, which contains former Vancouver councillor Tim Louis, his partner, Penny Parry, and several close allies.
Known as the "group of seven", the slate is composed of Donalda Greenwell-Baker, former city coun cillor Ellen Woodsworth, David Ages, Rachel Marcuse, Carlo Bodrogi, Nathan Lusignan, and Lucas Schuller.
Backing them up are Vancouver councillor David Cadman, school board trustees Allen Blakey, Sharon Gregson, and Allan Wong, and park board commissioners Loretta Woodcock and Spencer Herbert. Their decision to support the slate appears to be a revolt of sorts against the present leadership. Without naming anyone in particular, Herbert told the Georgia Straight : "Rather than one person calling the shots, one person running the party, we need to broaden it out."
Herbert also recalled that at last year's AGM, elected COPE representatives "had some people run who we felt comfortable with, but they were virtually shut out". Instead, "a group with Tim Louis and [former councillor] Anne Roberts" emerged victorious.
"The last time we tried to go, 'Let's work together'”¦they told us very firmly, 'We want control,' and so the elected, I think, have been feeling a little bit disenfranchised," Herbert said.
Herbert said elected COPE officials believe the party needs a "fresh executive with people who bring new perspectives as well as people with experience who can reach out to that broader community, especially a younger community".
"Rather than growing narrow, we need to broaden our base and have a diversity of opinions," he said.
Among the slate members, only Woodsworth has council experience; Greenwell-Baker is the sole member of the current board, holding the post of internal cochair. Ages, a former B.C. government regional director of employment standards, chaired the election campaign of MLA David Chudnovsky for Vancouver-Kensington.
The four others–Marcuse, Bodrogi, Schuller, and Lusignan–are aged 25 and under. "We're running on a unity platform," Marcuse, 23, told the Straight . "We're hoping to inject new blood into the party."
Cadman, according to Herbert, is the "official spokesperson on this one", but the councillor wasn't available for comment. Cadman, attending a climate-change conference in New York City, is due back on May 22.
In a declaration of endorsement by the six COPE representatives, Cadman stated: "This is an opportunity for growth and renewal in preparation for the 2008 Civic Election." Blakey said that civic politics "needs new young faces", and Gregson pointed out the need for a balance between "experience and wisdom" and "energy and fresh ideas". Wong noted that it is "critical to have a COPE executive that is varied and inclusive", and Woodcock said it was "inspirational" to see young people come forward.
Louis, COPE's corresponding secretary, told the Straight that it's the "democratic right" of the party's elected city representatives to endorse a slate that doesn't include himself or his allies.
"Not in the slightest," Louis said when asked if he was personally disappointed about their decision. "I'm very pleased to see some very good people running for the board."
There are 11 positions on the COPE executive board up for grabs. Louis said he, along with Parry and Paul Houle, membership secretary and treasurer, respectively, are sure to run in the board election but haven't decided for which particular posts.
"Competition is very healthy," Louis said when asked how the election of a new majority might affect his endorsement of friend and former councillor Fred Bass as the party's mayoral candidate in next year's election.
In an interview with the Straight , Woodsworth said, "We're running for some basic principles we stand for. We don't plan to run against Tim."
Woodsworth said their group is committed to building coalitions to defeat the civic ruling Non-Partisan Association of Mayor Sam Sullivan. She also said that they want to reach out to Vision Vancouver, the Vancouver Greens, and "other progressive people in the city".