COPE Classic, COPE Lite, and the 2018 Vancouver civic election

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      This week, the fight between Vancouver's centre-left and the Bernie Sanders left came to the fore in an article by the Straight's Carlito Pablo.

      The centre-left, as represented by Vancouver NDP MP Don Davies in the piece, wants Vision Vancouver included in any progressive coalition fighting the NPA.

      The Bernie Sanders left, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with Vision Vancouver because of its handling of housing issues.

      It's reminiscent of the period in 2003 and 2004 when the ruling Coalition of Progressive Electors split into two factions, COPE Classic and COPE Lite.

      At that time, the differences were over serious policies: slot machines, a rapid-transit project up Cambie Street, willingness to fight for a ward system, and a regional transportation plan.

      The labour movement lined up behind the COPE Lite faction—then mayor Larry Campbell and councillors Jim Green, Raymond Louie, and Tim Stevenson—who went on to form Vision Vancouver. 

      The infighting helped the NPA barely capture control of council and the mayor's chair in the 2005 election.

      COPE, a.k.a. COPE Classic, now known as the Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn left, was obliterated.

      In 2005 councillors Jim Green, Tim Stevenson, and Raymond Louie left COPE to form Vision Vancouver along with then mayor Larry Campbell.
      Charlie Smith

      Don Davies, a former union lawyer, is on exceptionally good terms with the Vancouver and District Labour Council. 

      This organization, in turn, has a long relationship with Geoff Meggs, a former Vision Vancouver councillor who is now chief of staff to Premier John Horgan.

      Meggs was a key staffer in former mayor Larry Campbell's office when he split with COPE. Meggs has also managed Jim Green's political campaigns.

      Don Davies' support for the inclusion of Vision Vancouver in a "progressive coalition" should be taken as a sign that this is the labour movement's desire. It's likely what Meggs wants, too.

      After all, if the NPA takes control of council, there's always a chance that it could contract out municipal services, costing CUPE members their jobs.

      Vision Vancouver has also steadfastly refused to trim the police budget, pleasing the Vancouver Police Union but irritating the Bernie Sanders left, which would rather see some of this money spent on community services and housing.

      Those in the Bernie Sanders left already have a frayed relationship with the B.C. NDP over its decision to complete the $10.7-billlion Site C dam. It was done for the benefit of organized labour at the expense of Indigenous people, farmland, and a more distributed, community-driven renewable-energy sector.

      The Bernie Sanders left derisively refers to NDP insiders in Victoria as the "James Gang" for their willingness to pander to the wishes of right-wing media on a range of issues.

      In light of all of this, here's what I expect to happen.

      The Bernie Sanders left (i.e. COPE and OneCity Vancouver) will never do a deal with Vision Vancouver.

      Vision Vancouver will try to lure the Greens into a "unity" slate by running a mayoral candidate who appeals to Green-minded voters.

      The Greens may take the bait if this person is super-green. It's doubtful that Don Davies, the NDP MP for Vancouver Kingsway, would meet that standard.

      But SFU Centre for Dialogue director Shauna Sylvester could fill that bill, given her long experience in the environmental movement.

      If the Greens backed a unity candidate for mayor with Vision Vancouver, it would give Vision Vancouver an opportunity to run a slate of mostly young candidates to complement Heather Deal, park commissioner Catherine Evans, and possibly Raymond Louie on its council slate.

      The Greens might run two candidates along with Adriane Carr, likely Pete Fry and park commissioner Michael Wiebe.

      The Cola Wars are about to resume in Vancouver between modern-day versions of COPE Classic and COPE Lite.

      COPE and OneCity might each run three or more candidates, hoping for, at best, control of council but at worst, a foothold in a minority governing situation.

      The NPA would run a slate of six council candidates to concentrate its vote and win more seats, hoping to get most or all elected while winning the mayor's chair.

      Under this scenario, the three Greens would be elected. Christine Boyle would very likely be elected from OneCity. Deal and possibly one or two other Vision candidates could be elected on name recognition alone.

      Jean Swanson would be probably elected as a COPE candidate if she ran. And that would leave two to four NPA councillors elected.

      Nobody would be in control of council, no matter who became mayor. But if a unity candidate defeated the NPA standard-bearer, there's a chance that a Green-Vision alliance could rule the city, just as a GreeNDP alliance rules the province.

      The biggest concern for the Vancouver and District Labour Council could still the contracting out of jobs. That's because there could be enough Green and NPA members of council to do that.

      But if the Greens pledge not to contract out civic services in a power-sharing agreement with Vision Vancouver, that concern would disappear.

      Then the Greens would be able to demand a bunch of things in return, particularly with regard to housing.

      It raises the risk of the Bernie Sanders left once again being shut out of power, just as it was in 2004 and 2005.

      On Sunday (March 11), representatives of the Greens and OneCity will speak at a COPE meeting at the Russian Hall focusing on the party's 2018 election strategy.

      Don't be surprised if some of these issues come up in the discussions.