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'The most diverse team ever assembled by the NPA': Ladner

After months of tumult, the Non Partisan Association has nominated a full slate of candidates for Vancouver city council and park board, and at least six for school board.

“Today we introduce a new NPA for a new era in Vancouver,” mayoral nominee Peter Ladner told a crowd of about 125 at today's nomination meeting.

“We have, without doubt, the most diverse team ever assembled by the NPA,” Ladner said. “We have single people, people married to same-sex partners, people with children, grandparents, and parents-to-be.”

With NPA board-approved candidates running uncontested for city council and school board – and a lopsided contest for three park board seats – Saturday’s nomination meeting attracted between 400-450 voters and produced no surprises.

After weeks of hinting about another high-profile candidate waiting in the wings, the NPA rolled out Kanman Wong as the tenth name on its city council slate. Wong was the Conservative Party candidate for Vancouver-Kingsway in the 2006 federal election, finishing third behind then-Liberal minister David Emerson (who crossed the floor two weeks later), and New Democrat Ian Waddell. Wong did not attend Saturday’s nomination meeting.

Park board incumbent Marty Zlotnik, party-switcher Melissa De Genova, and newcomer Naresh Shukla were added to the NPA’s park board slate.

‘The next generation’

Candidates spoke to the gathering crowd in three groups. There were only 13 people seated in the speechifying area when the first park board candidate took the stage.

Naresh Shukla and Wai Sin introduced themselves and praised the NPA in short, upbeat speeches.

Melissa De Genova, who left Vision Vancouver shortly after her father failed to win that party’s mayoral nomination, had the largest campaign presence at the NPA event, with one booth out front of the hall and another inside. (Full disclosure: This reporter accepted a Tim Bit from Al De Genova.)

“My father Allan has been elected to the park board since I was eleven,” said the junior De Genova, who’s omnipresent campaign flyers bore the slogan, “The next generation.” De Genova called for “creative fundraising” to pay for the renewal of Vancouver’s aging community centres: “The quality of our facilities should not be determined by east and west sides.”

Zlotnik, who’s campaign handed out Tic-Tac style boxes of what 24 wag Irwin Loy dubbed “Marty Mints,” outlined six priorities: sports programs for inner-city kids, retrofitting Olympic facilities for community use, more all-weather playing fields, the creation of a “linear park” on the CPR right-of-way from False Creek to Marpole, the redevelopment of the Brokton Oval in Stanley Park, and the renewal of Vancouver’s community centres.

‘Stick with this party, and you’ll be rewarded’

Speeches by uncontested school board and city council candidates followed, but most of those in still-growing crowd were talking among themselves by that point.

Sean Bickerton’s thoughtful speech further established the openly gay council candidate as one of the party’s rising stars.

“There is no personal freedom without freedom from fear,” Bickerton told the chattering crowd. The former VP of Columbia Artists said he married his longtime partner two years ago because, “for the first time in our lives, we were free to marry the person we loved.”

Bickerton also called for creation of a “new gay cultural centre on Davie Street” that he said would “rejuvenate the area for decades into the future.”

Anticipating the obvious question, Bickerton explained that his decision to run within the NPA was inspired by the party’s response to his requests for assistance related to a building problem in his Tinseltown neighbourhood.

“When I reached out,” Bickerton said, “I wrote letters to the mayor and to council. I heard back from no one except for members of the NPA. B.C. Lee came to our meetings, Peter Ladner worked behind the scenes.”

Leanore Copeland spoke in favour of the party’s candidates and its behind-the-scenes style of working out problems. She called for “action” on the Downtown Eastside, and for “rolling up sleeves,” but offered not one specific suggestion in a speech of roughly ten minutes. Copeland concluded, “What it takes is the experience, the know-how, the sure hand of the NPA.”

Retired HSBC bank vice-president David Lee converted “NPA” to an acronym in which P stands for “past” and A for “looking ahead.” Said Lee, “Stick with this party, and you’ll be rewarded.”

Kiss busts, and Busters towing

Mayoral candidate Ladner used his speech to walk a tightrope between the NPA’s past and future. He praised Mayor Sam Sullivan – who voted but did not linger at Saturday’s meeting – and the incumbent council. Then he used the meat of his short speech to draw distinctions between himself and Vision Vancouver mayoral nominee Gregor Robertson.

“We will offer to the voters of Vancouver a mayor who is not a member of any provincial party,” Ladner said, “and one who has lived in Vancouver for more than three years.”

Ladner portrayed the NPA as the party that would balance business interests with environmental and social concerns.

“Gregor Robertson is proposing a tax on real estate investments that would be impossible to implement and would scare away the only people that are building new rental stock in the city,” Ladner said.

The site of the meeting itself also invited comparison. The NPA meeting was at the Croatian Cultural Centre, the same Commercial Drive venue at which Robertson was nominated last June.

While the Vision event overflowed the red-roofed building with long lineups that snaked through a street-festival atmosphere, Saturday’s NPA meeting did not even fill one of the centre’s three halls, and was squeezed between a computer swap meet and a pop culture collectables fair (at which the collection of Batmobiles was surpassed only by the full set of busts of the band Kiss).

And while the Vision event featured a bicycle valet who parked hundreds of human-powered vehicles, the NPA event provided only a tiny bike rack squeezed between a bush and a De Genova loudspeaker. There was, however, an announcement from the stage the Busters was busy towing a phalanx of illegally parked cars.

Monte Paulsen is editor of The Hook.

See also reports by Irwin Loy and Frances Bula.

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