The Non-Partisan Association has identified 70 potential candidates a year in advance of the Vancouver civic election, according to party organizers.
At a press conference held exactly one year before voters head to the ballot box in November 2014, elected NPA officials and other party representatives said their plan for the coming months includes holding regular policy forums with community members.
“All of the forums that we’re planning over the next eight months will be issue-based or neighbourhood-based,” said NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball. “They will be large, they will be small, they will be in every possible community hall…so that we can really hear what our citizens want.”
According to NPA city councillor George Affleck, demonstrations of community opposition across the city over recent months are a sign that residents are not being heard.
“Whether it’s Point Grey Road, or the Marpole community plan, Kits park or a massive up-zoned building in the West End, one thing is clear: Vision doesn’t listen, and they don’t consult,” he said. “The examples are countless, and the people of Vancouver have lost their trust in city hall and the government under Vision Vancouver.”
NPA park board commissioner Melissa De Genova noted the city has faced lawsuits during the last year from resident groups over community issues.
“The public has told me how disappointed they are that Vision has ripped the community out of our community centres,” she said. Six community centres launched legal action against the park board earlier this year in the wake of a new interim agreement and changes to membership cards at centres around the city.
The first of the NPA’s policy forums will take place at the Joyce Walley Learning Centre in Kitsilano on Monday, December 11 at 6:30 p.m. According to Ball, the series of forums will focus on issues including development, small business, parks, housing, and arts and culture.
In addition to helping the party form its policies for the next election, NPA political organizer Natasha Westover said the forums will also provide an opportunity to recruit more potential candidates.
Westover noted the party has seen a 200 percent growth in its membership over the past 15 months. The NPA currently has just under 1,000 members.
The list of 70 potential candidates for city council, park board and school board includes several mayoral candidates, according to NPA board member Tim Laidler. A candidate recruitment committee has been established comprised of “a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds”, he said.
Affleck said he “wouldn’t want even to speculate” on a potential mayoral run in 2014.
“To pre-suppose what I might do in the next election is premature,” he told reporters. “Until we know what our policies are, until we know what the people of this city want…that will then feed into what kind of candidates we’re looking for, including the mayor.”
He added that running is "obviously an interesting question".
"That's a big decision...if I make that decision, I will let you know, but at this point my job is to be a councillor and to work with the NPA and do our job as a party."
Affleck cited property development, parks, and citizen engagement as some of what he sees as central issues for Vancouver residents.
“I think there’s an assumption that people go online and will answer all these questions,” he said. “I think we have to reach out to the citizens better.”
Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs said the city has been conducting “an enormous amount of outreach”.
He criticized Affleck’s voting record on rental housing, charging the councillor has “opposed that every step of the way”.
“The NPA does need to sit down and listen to people, because I think the votes that we’ve seen from George Affleck at city council have been really contrary to the direction a lot of voters would like the city to go in,” he told the Straight by phone. “So if they want to hear from renters, that’ll be good. If they have no intention of helping, they should just tell them not to bother coming to the listening sessions.”
Meggs indicated Vision Vancouver will have its own engagement process with the community and its membership on emerging issues.