For many on the Left, OneCity is nothing more than a stalking horse of the ruling Vision Vancouver party of Mayor Gregor Robertson.
Their judgment is shaped by the history of two of OneCity’s main characters, David Chudnovsky and Rafael Joseph ‘RJ’ Aquino.
As many like to recall, Chudnovsky and Aquino pushed for electoral alliances with Vision during their time with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), the city's oldest left-wing electoral organization.
Even though Vision is regarded by many as a pro-developer cabal that is not different from the Non-Partisan Association, its backers have maintained that Vision is a progressive party.
Many, especially those within COPE, disagree with that assertion, as housing affordability and homelessness have worsened in Vancouver since Vision came to power in 2008.
Chudnovsky and Aquino had argued in the past that a strategic alliance with Vision will prevent the progressive vote from getting split.
In 2013, Chudnovsky, a former B.C. NDP MLA, and Aquino, a high-tech sector professional and community activitist, left COPE, and launched OneCity the next year.
In the 2014 election, OneCity fielded Aquino as its sole candidate for council, but he lost. In that election, Vision ran candidates for only eight of the 10 seats in council.
In the October 14, 2017 by-election for a seat in council, one of Vision’s traditional financial backers, the Vancouver and District Labour Council, endorsed OneCity’s candidate Judy Graves over Vision’s Diego Cardona.
About two weeks after the by-election, Aquino declared on social media: “Squashing it before it becomes a thing: OneCity Vancouver has never considered working with Vision and will not entertain any sort of merger for 2018.”
Aquino was referring to the 2018 general election, and it was about that subject that the Georgia Straight sought an interview with the OneCity co-founder.
Asked if OneCity will either field its own mayoral candidate or support another, Aquino said by phone that nothing is definite yet about the party’s intentions for next year.
“Our immediate focus is ensuring that we have a progressive council,” Aquino said.
He was also reminded that the new executive of COPE has a mandate to seek cooperation with other “progressive” forces in the city for the 2018 election, and he was asked how OneCity would look at the possibility of working with COPE.
“We have been talking about cooperation with a number of people, a number of organizations,” Aquino replied. “There are conversations happening, and we want, again, our goal is to ensure that we have a progressive council that can begin to address the housing affordability issues that we’re currently encountering.”
“What we want to see in terms of cooperation is that we’ve been talking to a lot of people that have shared values and have overlapping policy ideas and policy priorities,” he continued. “We’re going to continue to have those conversations and work out what cooperation looks like for 2018.”
Days before the interview with the Straight, Aquino released a statement regarding Vision’s new housing strategy.
In that statement, Aquino said that “after a decade of broken promises and misplaced faith in the private market to solve the affordability crisis, it’s City Hall that needs a reset”.
When asked in the interview to categorically rule out cooperation with Vision in 2018, Aquino said: “Cooperation extends to anybody who shares our values and priorities around what it’s going to take to fix the affordability crisis in the city.”
Aquino continued: “Certainly, the progressive forces in the city recognize that in order to accomplish those goals, we need to cooperate on, well, how we work together to achieve those goals.”