Members of the COPE executive board who are seen as favouring a close alliance with Vision Vancouver were dealt a setback at the organization’s annual general meeting on Sunday (February 19). Their control of the executive dropped from all to only seven of the 12 positions on the board.
The “Independent COPE” group gained five positions on the board and even those seats won by the COPE-Vision “coalitionists”—as I will call them here—were often won by only narrow to razor-thin margins.
While the pro-Vision coalition slate ran only nine candidates for 12 positions—leaving three up for grabs—Independent COPE was able to take all those three plus chipping away another two.
The meeting got off to a rocky start when an apparent 69 brand-new or renewed members of COPE showed up close to the meeting start time. With members of COPE streaming into the hall, the executive decided to hold a quick conclave to approve all the new memberships.
COPE member (and lawyer) Gail Davidson charged to the microphone at the very start of the event to challenge this apparent effort at meeting packing by the outgoing executive. Davidson also alleged later that four Independent COPE supporters were subsequently excluded from the meeting for apparently arriving too late.
As a former member of the COPE executive, I have to say that the actions of the outgoing executive in approving these 69 new members was singularly lacking in transparency.
The COPE constitution and bylaws do not enforce a mandatory minimum advance sign-up period for new members who wish to vote at a general meeting—unlike a nomination meeting’s 45 days (e.g., no new members signed up in the 45 days prior to the nomination meeting). However, the executive must approve all new members—and in this lies much of the problem.
During my seven years on the board, new members were generally approved the night before or the morning of the meeting, but not after members were already walking into the meeting hall. When these approvals did happen the night before or morning of, there was usually a broad understanding by all sides in an electoral contest that all of the eligible new memberships would be approved at the same time—fairly and squarely.
I am afraid that quickly approving 69 new memberships in the course of only a couple of minutes raises serious questions about due process and whether there was an appropriate level of scrutiny to make sure all new members were eligible—and I mean eligible according to the dictates of the constitution and bylaws—not eligible according to the need of one side to win at all costs.
Of course, it also appears that Independent COPE might have won even more or all of the positions on the board if it wasn’t for this group of 69 who floated in at the last moment.
After this opening debacle, the membership passed a motion asking that the organization review the criteria for membership sign-ups prior to the next general meeting—kind of like locking the barn door after the horse has already escaped and run far away.
Despite being swamped at the last minute by this group of 69, who appeared to be mostly supporting the pro-Vision coalition side, Independent COPE got its message out.
The voting started off with a razor-thin contest when Tim Louis of Independent COPE came within four votes of defeating R.J. Aquino for the position of external chair (Aquino 145, Louis 141). The other table officer votes went as follows:
• Internal chair: Serena Talbot 144, Connie Hubbs (Independent COPE) 122
• Recording secretary: Donalda Greenwell-Baker 133, Gretchen Dulmage (Independent COPE) 105
• Corresponding secretary: Kim Hearty (Independent COPE) 122, Brent Granby 119
• Treasurer: Aaron Eddie 111, Paul Houle (Independent COPE) 110
• Fundraiser: David Chudnovsky 123, Raymond Tomlin (Independent COPE) 96
• Membership: Kate Van Meer-Mass 109, Sean Antrim (Independent COPE) 97
Independent COPE took four of the five member-at-large positions: Ifny Lachance (171), Anita Romaniuk (157), Wilson Munoz (121), and Tristan Markle (110). The remaining spot was claimed by Richard Marquez (125), who ran with the COPE-Vision “coalitionist” group, although many of Marquez’s comments during his acceptance speech seemed to echo those of Independent COPE, especially in regard to developer control of city hall.
Not successful for member-at-large spots were: Jane Bouey (109), Brent Granby (104), and Tim Louis (100). Louis had dropped down to run for a member-at-large opening after not being successful for external chair. His defeat for a member-at-large position was surprising given his strong showing in the external chair balloting.
However, it appears that about 100 people left the meeting in the approximately four hours it took to finally get to the member-at-large balloting. It could have been that many of the people who left may have been supporters of Louis. As well, many may not have realized that he was going to seek a member-at-large position after losing at external chair.
So, this significant gain by Independent COPE will put us in a better position to point out the folly of COPE’s subservient alliance with Vision Vancouver. Vision has become the new pro-developer party, with the NPA relegated for now to a “junior” developer party position.
Independent COPE needs to work within and without COPE to support the average residents of this city and to bring COPE back to its rightful place of being the real defender of the “99 percent”. Vision is busy defending the big developers in the city. COPE must be the advocate for those who cannot afford to buy overpriced condos in Canada’s most expensive city.
Independent COPE can help to galvanize the organization again to become the real opposition and real alternative at city hall, park board, and school board.
Paul Houle is a supporter of Independent COPE and has been a member of COPE for 26 years. He lost by one vote in the race for the treasurer’s position at Sunday’s AGM.