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NPA council slate includes five women and a gay man

The Non-Partisan Association's city council slate expanded to eight contenders with the addition of an openly gay political newcomer who mayoral candidate Peter Ladner said will boost the diversity of Vancouver's oldest political party.

Sean Bickerton announced his nomination bid on the deck of his Tinseltown condo last Friday afternoon. His husband and his family were among the assembled crowd.

Though he's never held elected office, Bickerton is no stranger to civic involvement. When he noticed sanitation and odour problems in his building, he enlisted local businesses and residents to address the issue. And a desire to create safer streets and deal with Vancouver's homelessness problem brought him to the Union Gospel Mission, where he currently volunteers.

"I look at my lack of political experience as a strength," said Bickerton, suggesting it frees him from the restraints of entrenched partisan politics. "I'm bringing a unique perspective."

His sexual orientation could prove a big asset for the centre-right NPA. When Bickerton was asked whether his sexuality bolstered the diversity of the party's council slate, mayoral candidate Peter Ladner spoke instead.

"Let me answer that question," Ladner interjected: "Yes."

Bickerton will join an NPA council field that already includes five women, a Chinese Canadian and a vocally Jewish developer.

In fact, Ladner, whose forefathers settled the community that bears his name, is presently the only blue-blood on the council slate of a party that has for more than half a century represented Vancouver's landed establishment.

Ladner said his support for Bickerton's bid has nothing to do with downplaying the recent controversy stirred up by Jamie Lee Hamilton. The transsexual former sex trade worker has vocally protested the NPA, and sought legal counsel, after recently being denied a chance to run for an NPA park board nomination, a decision she said was based on her sexual background.

"Sean has been involved long before Jamie Lee," Ladner said.

If elected to council, Bickerton said he aims to spearhead safer sex education drives, revitalize Davie Street and crack down on anti-gay bashing.

The addition of Bickerton brings the NPA council candidate count to eight with only a week to go before the party's September 13 nomination meeting. Campaign organizer Michael Meneer said several more people are still considering nomination bids.

The NPA's current candidates list:

For City Council: Former Crown prosecutor,Suzanne Anton, arts promoter Sean Bickerton, former theatre director Elizabeth Ball, former John Howard Society director Kim Capri, False Creek Residents Association president Leanore Copeland, development consultant Michael Geller, park board trustee Korina Houghton, and retired HSBC vice-president David Lee. Punjabi Market Association president Daljit Sidhu is expected to announce soon.

For School Board: Ken Denike, Carol Gibson, Clarence Hansen, park-board commissioner Heather Holden, Lakhbir Singh, Sophia Woo, and Joanne Pulis.

For Parks Board: Already nominated are current park board commissioner, Ian Robertson, former park board trustees Laura McDiarmid and Chris Richardson, and Active Communities Network co-chair Sharon Urton. Competing for three remaining nominations: Current parks board commissioner Marty Zlotnik, Melissa DeGenova, Naresh Shukla, and Wai Sin.

Profiles for all NPA candidates can be found on the party's web site.

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