About 500 members of the Coalition of Progressive Electors attended the party’s annual general meeting Sunday (April 7), where a motion was passed to hold nominations for a mayoral candidate and a majority slate in advance of the 2014 municipal election.
The call for at least six candidates to run for city council, in addition to a majority for the Vancouver park board and school board, marks a change from the party’s strategy during the last two elections, which saw COPE run a partial slate as part of an electoral agreement with Vision Vancouver. Only one COPE candidate, school trustee Allan Wong, was elected in November 2011.
Sean Antrim, the executive director of COPE, said the turnout of about 500 people was an increase from the attendance of around 300 at the annual general meeting last year. He noted the meeting featured “one of the youngest crowds” he’s seen at a COPE meeting.
“I thought it was an amazing meeting in that there was a whole bunch of different community leaders that were there, like from the Downtown Eastside, or the Latino community,” he said in a phone interview.
The AGM also included votes for six positions on the COPE board, which saw a slate of candidates for an “independent COPE” elected, who are opposed to electoral cooperation with Vision Vancouver or the NPA.
Tim Louis was elected as internal chair, Paul Houle as treasurer, and Stuart Parker as a member-at-large. Kim Hearty was reelected as corresponding secretary, and members-at-large Tristan Markle and Wilson Munoz also secured their positions for the next two years.
Markle said many people attended the COPE meeting for the first time Sunday.
“This is an interesting turning point where I think a lot of people were cynical about civic politics,” Markle said in a phone interview. “So this is a time hopefully when people are starting to think for the first time there’s possibilities that they can make real change.”
Louis, a former COPE city councillor, said he was “very, very pleased” to see a broader turnout at the annual meeting.
“The diversity and the breadth and the depth of that meeting was better than I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of attending COPE AGMs, and it really to me is a very promising sign of things to come over the next 18 months leading up to November 2014,” he told the Straight by phone.
“We have to be absolutely certain that we don’t now pause to rest,” he added. “We have to take the very positive AGM as a clear signal of how to move forward positively in continuing to broaden the depth of COPE’s support throughout the city.”
The lawyer described what he called “a fundamental shift” in the party’s approach, including a focus on developing partnerships with community organizations and neighbourhood groups.
“That’s what COPE was founded for and founded upon back in 1968,” he said. “It was never founded to help developer parties, it was founded to help folks get a voice on city council...that weren’t, and never will be represented, by developer parties.”
RJ Aquino, COPE’s external chair, said the motion passed Sunday will be revisited by party members at its nomination meeting next year.
“At the nomination conference, the idea of how many people that are going to be running, as well as if there is going to be a mayoral candidate, will be revisited,” he said in a phone interview. “However, as it stands now, with the motion being passed…that’s the will of the membership at this point in time.”
According to Aquino, the main feedback that he heard from people that were against the motion was that it was “a little premature”.
“The membership hasn’t had time to digest the idea whether or not that motion is in the best interest of the party,” he said. “It was introduced at the last minute at the AGM yesterday, so a lot of people were sort of taken by surprise.”
Aquino said it was encouraging to see the large turnout of young people at the meeting.
“It’s one thing to generate a lot of enthusiasm within an AGM, and it’s another to translate it,” he added.
“That’s part of the executive’s mandate, is to ensure that whatever enthusiasm was at the AGM yesterday, whatever energy that was brought in will translate into generating a bigger support base for the upcoming election.”