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Ladner and Vision: Who Courted Whom?

NPA councillor discussed switching sides, claims De Genova.

Tom Sandborn 15 Feb

Tom Sandborn is a contributing editor at The Tyee.

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NPA's Peter Ladner

[*Note: this story was updated at 12:25 p.m. on Feb. 15 with comment from Vision co-chair Mike Magee, and again at 9:00 a.m. on Feb. 20 regarding Kennedy Stewart's quote in the Georgia Straight.]

Non-Partisan Association Councillor Peter Ladner recently met unsuccessfully with a leader of rival Vision Vancouver party to seek that party's mayoral endorsement, claims Allan De Genova, who has already said he wants to run for mayor under the Vision banner.

But Ladner tells it differently, claiming Vision courted him as a candidate, and he demurred.

Ladner now is widely expected to seek a nomination to run for mayor for the NPA.

"Peter did meet with Vision not too long ago," De Genova told The Tyee, "and I know he left the meeting feeling that things didn't come together the way he wanted."

Responding to a Tyee request to comment, Ladner left a voicemail minimizing the significance of his contact with Vision, portraying it as a casual conversation with an old friend, not a formal meeting or negotiation.

"Mike Magee is an old friend of mine. We were out to lunch and he casually asked me if I would run for Vision. I told him it wasn't going to happen. It was no big deal."

Magee is co-chair of Vision Vancouver. He told The Tyee Ladner "is a friend despite our different political affiliations. I think it's unfortunate that he's with the NPA but I still respect him. Nothing much should be read into the fact that we enjoy sharing a meal to discuss issues occassionally."*

Jockeying for position

Ladner did say in the same voicemail that the rumour he had met with Vision seemed to be all over town.

The claim that Ladner had been testing the political waters for a possible jump from NPA to Vision comes as the pre-nomination manoeuvres of the men who would be mayor are filling local news media. De Genova told The Tyee that he intended to file nomination application papers with Vision just as soon as the party's executive was ready, and said he had recruited well over 500 new members to support his candidacy.

De Genova referred to NDP MLA Gregor Robertson and City Councillor Raymond Louie, who both figure prominently in speculation about who might carry the Vision banner next fall, as his "pal opponents," and expressed his warm regards for both, as well as for Ladner.

Nevertheless, in what is already shaping up to be a bruising contest to fill the Vancouver mayor's seat for the term that will include the 2010 Olympics, De Genova's story could drive a deeper wedge between COPE and Vision.

Vision was formed by allies of then-mayor Larry Campbell as a schism widened within the then-reigning COPE (Coalition of Progressive Electors) party during its only term of city hall dominance. In the last election, four members of Vision and one COPE candidate were elected to the city council, controlled by a majority of six NPA councillors, including mayor Sam Sullivan.

Divide not healed

Unions are withholding funding from both COPE and Vision while the schism persists. Some activists on the left within the labour movement have publicly claimed COPE should not be punished for the split, declaring Vision doesn’t deserve union funding because it takes far more money from developers and other business interests.

De Genova is a five-term former Parks Board commissioner and longtime NPA fundraiser and organizer. But he was expelled from that organization by current mayor Sam Sullivan in 2006, and says he declined to return to the fold when the suspension expired.

"I was happy as an independent," De Genova told The Tyee. "I will bring to Vision my skills as a consensus builder and team player. I'm not here to re-make Vision. I like their social policies, but I'm a fiscal conservative. I've reached out to Vision, to COPE and even to union leaders. The union guys said I was somebody they could work with."

Ladner's red light

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Sun's Frances Bula reported on Feb. 13 that she was told by the NPA president Matthew Taylor that Ladner intends to seek the NPA nod to run for mayor.

In order to do so, Ladner will need to persuade that organization to reverse a "greenlight" procedure it adopted last fall, reportedly at Mayor Sullivan's urging. The policy as it stands is seen as a block to non-incumbents being nominated by NPA, and would thus prevent a Ladner nomination.

SFU public policy professor Kennedy Stewart was quoted the next day in the Georgia Straight, saying that De Genova's candidacy for Vision would discredit the new party's claim to represent the centre left, and would revive the possibility for another COPE victory in the fall.

The Tyee placed a call to Vision council member Raymond Louie with a request for comment on this story. The call was not returned.

The Tyee spoke to Mayor Sullivan's press spokesman, David Hurford, who said he was sure the mayor would not be willing to comment.

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