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NPA mayoral candidate will make party 'proud,' president says

Just who will be the 2014 Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate?

At an evening fundraiser dinner this week, billed as the Vancouver party's campaign kick-off, party president Peter Armstrong offered no hints.

"I'm telling you, it's going to be someone you're going to be proud of," he told the crowd of party faithful gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

"Announcing our candidates is a very strategic step on the way to our campaign," he continued. "You will become very familiar with our slate of candidates in the near future, you will understand why we're going to be confident that on Nov. 15 at 10 o'clock at night, we're going to be celebrating the renewal of the NPA coming back to government."

Armstrong pleaded for patience and didn't name names of those who were pitched.

"I also hear people saying Armstrong, you've gotta get somebody now, pick up the phone, phone her! I know who you're talking about, no she doesn't want to do it. Then phone the other guy! He's in the crowd here tonight, I'm not going to embarrass him, but his wife is happy he's back after 17 years in Victoria."

She is Carole Taylor, who wasn't there. He is Colin Hansen, another former BC Liberal finance minister, who was.

Armstrong joked that the party was close to getting Trevor Linden to run, but "he wanted to go for the Stanley Cup" as the Canucks' new hockey operations president.

"Just remember, we're not an American political system that has people on continual election mode," he said. "The election usually comes together after Labour Day and it runs for 60 days. Larry Campbell was only nominated for COPE two months before he ran in 2002 and he won."

The NPA is searching for a new beginning. It lost power in 2008 when Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver romped to victory after the Olympic Village bailout scandal. A split formed earlier that year, when Coun. Peter Ladner beat incumbent Mayor Sam Sullivan for the party's nomination.

The party has two city councillors, two parks board commissioners and three trustees on school board. Armstrong, also the party's main bagman, made his money with his Rocky Mountaineer tourist train. Derailing the ruling Vision Vancouver from scoring an electoral hat-trick may be the biggest challenge of his career.

The party boasted raising $100,000 at the $350-a-plate dinner, which featured a Chinese lion dance, Indian bhangra and First Nations greeting before the meal and opera singers and improv comedians during the meal.

A video extolled the virtues and achievements of the city's "grand old party" -- it took credit for starting drug harm reduction, blue box recycling and bike lanes -- and how it elected 11 mayors over 75 years.

As campaign kickoffs go, it was heavy on rhetoric and light on news.

"I want to welcome you to what Mayor Gregor refers to as the angry old white guys' party," Armstrong said earlier in his speech, referring to Robertson's comment at the May 4 Vision Vancouver annual general meeting.

"Look around, he got it wrong. He gets it wrong so many times. He got it wrong trying to lay down pavement through Hadden Park, then on to Kits Beach Park, he's wrong in his approach to the homeless situation in the Downtown Eastside. He was wrong attacking community centre volunteers. He was wrong with community plans in Grandview Woodlands and the West End and the major developments like Oakridge."

Robertson was also wrong, Armstrong said, in the way 67 condo units in the Olympic Village were sold to the Aquilini Investment Group, in a deal to remove the remaining debt from city books days before Vision's AGM.

"He basically shafted every provincial and federal taxpayer, he did it using bits of magic. It's disgraceful and it definitely isn't transparent."

Citizens go to the polls on Nov. 15 and this time the stakes are higher. Winners will get four years in office, instead of three.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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