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Vision and COPE cut 8-2 council deal; Greens get parks board slot

Leaders of Vancouver’s three leading left-of-centre parties have cut a deal under which COPE and Green Party members would rally behind Vision Vancouver mayoral nominee Gregor Robertson. The three parties also pledged to to limit their slates for Vancouver City Council (Vision 8, COPE 2), school board (COPE 5, Vision 4) and parks board (Vision 4, COPE 2, Greens 1).

What remains to be seen is whether the free-thinking membership of COPE will ratify the historic deal at what promises to be a lively policy conference this Sunday (September 14).

“It is crucial that we work together to return progressive government to city hall, park and school board,” COPE Councilor David Cadman said in a prepared statement. “We want to work with Gregor Robertson and Vision to cooperate around areas of common concern. With this agreement we can avoid splitting the progressive vote and create a better Vancouver.”

“Vision Vancouver believes the issues in this upcoming election are too important to be ignored. With this agreement, we can work with COPE to maximize our chances to bring progressive government back to Vancouver,” agreed Mike Magee, co-chair of Vision Vancouver.

If ratified by the Council of Progressive Electors (COPE) and supported by the independent-minded members of all three parties, the deal will cement mayoral candidates Gregor Robertson as the front-runner with more than two months to go before the November 15 election. Robertson was a co-founder of the Happy Planet organic juice company, and served briefly as an MLA for the New Democratic Party.

The deal would also appear to ensure the re-election of Councillor David Cadman, a COPE stalwart who is respected by members of each party, and who briefly threatened to run for mayor himself if these negotiations failed. The contest for COPE’s second council seat could become lively, as former councillors Ellen Woodsworth and Tim Louis battle against each other while fending off omnipresent newcomer Meena Wong. Woodsworth has been among the strongest supporters of a COPE-Vision deal, Louis has historically opposed it — and is infamous for orchestrating party coups staged from the meeting floor.

Within Vision, the September 20 contest for eight spots on the new party’s council slate will likely be harder-fought than the November general election. No less than 17 candidates are fighting for those eight seats.

The party’s four incumbents — Tim Stevenson, Heather Deal, George Chow and Raymond Louie – were endorsed by party leader Robertson and caucus chair Louie on Monday afternoon. Said Robertson: "Tim, Heather, George, and Raymond have been instrumental in building Vision Vancouver, and I want the four of them on my team as we head into the election on November 15th.”

Assuming the membership agrees, that leaves 13 council candidates vying for only four spots on the council slate. The next ten days should be amusing, as Vision candidates will make nice in public while privately tussling for spots on one of a handful of endorsed slates.

Union leader Paul Faoro, of the CUPE local that represents the city’s 5,000 inside workers, is expected to endorse the four Vision incumbents, Andrea Reimer, David Eby, Geoff Meggs and a candidate yet to me named. The union remains angry over the way NPA Mayor Sam Sullivan handled last year’s civic strike, and is expected to strongly support a combined Vision-COPE-Green effort. If the outside workers join in support of a single slate, the CUPE endorsement could play a leading role in shaping the Vision nominations.

Kerry Jang, Andrea Reimer, and Kashmere Dhaliwal have already established their own Vision slate. Reimer told The Tyee their team will not endorse any additional candidates. A coalition of women candidates could also evolve into a slate.

For school board, COPE will run five candidates to Vision’s four. The deal may have hinged in part on securing these COPE slots, which pave the way for re-elections of COPE incumbents Al Blakey and Allan Wong, and clear the path for COPE veterans such as Bill Bargeman and Jane Bouey.

As with council, the Vision contests for school board and parks board slots are expected to be fiercely competitive.

The deal also clears room for a Green Party nominee to parks board, and promises that Vision and COPE will cooperate around specific policy issues, “including a strategy on homelessness.”

Monte Paulsen edits The Hook.

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