Far more transparency could help NPA board alleviate public concerns about a right-wing takeover

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      The possibility of a SkyTrain strike is going to attract a great deal of attention from the media unless it's resolved.

      But the future of the NPA could have far more important long-term ramifications for the city.

      The board appears to be under the control of a group of directors who are more conservative-minded than the NPA caucus.

      It sets up the possibility of the board putting forward a very conservative slate of candidates in the 2022 election.

      Keep in mind that before the last election, the NPA board vetoed an application by a sitting councillor, Hector Bremner, to seek the party's mayoral nomination.

      It finished off his political career, at least for now.

      An application by engineer George Steeves to run for mayor was also vetoed by the board for undisclosed reasons.

      In light of this history, there's nothing stopping the current board from vetoing applications by any of the four NPA councillors, three school trustees, or two park commissioners from becoming the NPA's mayoral candidate in 2022.

      Hell, the board could even veto their applications to run for their current positions again in 2022.

      Former NPA councillor Hector Bremner created a new party, Yes Vancouver, after the NPA board vetoed his application to see a mayoral nomination.

      NPA boards have chosen entire council slates

      It's worth noting that the NPA board has kept a firm grip on this process in the past.

      In 2018, the NPA board selected its slate of candidates for council, school board, and park board.

      There were no open nominations for these positions.

      There were no speeches by all the council, school board, or park board hopefuls at a public meeting in the full glare of the media. Long-time party members weren't allowed to choose who would run.

      In fact, the party board decided in secret whose names would be on the ballot. The public was never even told who applied to run.

      That led to speculation on various websites that businessmen Peter Armstrong and Chip Wilson were guiding the process. Wilson is a major landowner in Vancouver through his real-estate company, Low Tide Properties.

      The beneficiaries of this undemocratic process are current members of the NPA caucus.

      The same thing happened in 2014: Gregory Baker, Ken Low, Rob McDowell, Suzanne Scott, Melissa De Genova, and Ian Robertson were all unveiled to the public as NPA council candidates after a secretive process.

      Incumbents George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball didn't have to compete for nominations in 2014, either.

      After the NPA slate of council candidates was unveiled in 2018, there was some chatter around town about the role that billionaire lululemon founder Chip Wilson (botton left) played in the party's back rooms.

      Political experience not necessary for mayoral candidates

      One could even argue that the NPA board was more democratic in 2018 than in 2014, which isn't saying much.

      That's because in 2018, three names were put forward to the membership as potential mayoral candidates—Ken Sim, John Coupar, and Glen Chernen.

      Members voted overwhelmingly for Sim, who had never run for public office before.

      In 2014, the NPA board simply decided in private that the mayoral candidate was going to be Kirk LaPointe, who had also never run for public office before that.

      In 2011, the NPA board acclaimed most but not all of the candidates on its slate.

      One of the main reasons that Rebecca Bligh was nominated as an NPA candidate in 2018 is because she successfully navigated the secretive process that ensured her name got on the ballot. She did not have a high public profile before becoming a politician. 

      Like LaPointe and Sim, she had also never run for any public office before the NPA board greenlit her candidacy.

      Businessman and former party president Peter Armstrong (right) played a key role in Kirk LaPointe being nominated as the NPA mayoral candidate in 2014.
      Yolande Cole

      NPA caucus says its LGBT-friendly

      Bligh quit the party on Friday (December 6) and will sit as an independent because she's not comfortable with the rightward shift on the board of directors.

      Surely she knows, as much as anyone, that her renomination as an NPA candidate could easily be zapped by a board decision.

      Admirers of Bligh are distressed that the president of the B.C. Conservatives (Ryan Warawa), a director-at-large of the B.C. Conservatives (Christopher Wilson), a socially conservative former Yes Vancouver candidate (Phyllis Tang), an antidensity advocate who ran for mayor with ProVancouver (David Chen), and a former Vancouver 1st park board candidate (Ray Goldenchild) were elected to the board last month.

      This is especially troubling for some because the Vancouver 1st mayoral candidate, Fred Harding, openly opposed the rollout of the provincial SOGI 123 educational program to make schools for welcoming for LGBTQTS+ students and staff. Goldenchild remained on the ticket after Harding made this declaration. A Vancouver 1st school-board candidate and park board candidate split from the party before voting day. 

      The NPA caucus recently issued a statement declaring its support for SOGI 123 and inclusion.

      Video: In 2018, Vancouver 1st mayoral candidate Fred Harding expressed his opposition to the rollout of SOGI 123.

      Transparency could ease concerns

      Many of these same NPA sympathizers alarmed about the composition of the board have never uttered a peep of concern in the media about the fundamentally undemocratic nature of their party.

      This board, like all those that came before it, still has the power to veto certain candidacies and approve others in the absence of a nomination meeting.

      The NPA board could go some way toward defusing concerns about it being hijacked by the far right.

      For starters, it could promise to hold open nomination meetings for council, school board, park board, and the mayor. That would be a dramatic improvement over the way things have worked in recent years.

      There once was a time when the NPA held raucous nomination meetings, attracting hordes of new members. It helped the party win landslide victories in the 1990s.

      It's 2019. The time has come to end the star chamber approach where everything is decided in secret.

      There are other measures that could be taken to boost transparency, including:

      * posting minutes of board meetings on the party website;

      * posting motions passed or rejected by directors at board meetings;

      * and publicly disclosing criteria that candidates must meet in order to seek an NPA nomination.

      Former Rebel Media B.C. bureau chief Christopher Wilson—also a director-at-large of the B.C. Conservatives—was among those elected to the NPA board last month.
      Rebel Media screen shot

      And for God's sakes, release the first names along with the surnames of donors to the party. The board didn't even manage to do that in 2018 shortly before the election.

      If the board is worried about being unfairly branded as anti-SOGI 123, then pass a motion declaring that the party will not accept any candidates who oppose this in Vancouver schools. And post that motion on the party website for everyone to see.

      Through these moves, the NPA board could easily rebrand itself as the party of transparency.

      That would reduce the anxiety of incumbents who might worry that their applications for renomination will be nixed.

      It would also put pressure on other parties to behave in a similar manner.

      Who would argue against that?