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COPE Turmoil: What Fred Said

The words that threaten to break Vancouver’s civic party apart were presented as a bid for unity.

Fred Bass 8 Feb
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[Editor’s note: At COPE’s monthly membership meeting on Feb. 6, Vancouver city councillor Fred Bass made the following speech, which was subsequently cirulated by e-mail.]

Welcome and thank you for coming this Sunday afternoon. I want to speak to three groups within this audience: COPE members, Larry Campbell, and the media.

First, members of COPE:

In the fog created by the division and separatism within the COPE council caucus, you may have lost track of our accomplishments. We have done more than the previous five councils put together. These include: the Vancouver Climate Change Action Plan (“Cool Vancouver”); the Southeast False Creek Plan, committed to both the environment and to housing all economic segments of Vancouver; the Women’s Task Force; the Ethical Purchasing Policy; North America’s first safe injection site; the redesign of Woodward’s; the Food Policy Organization; legalizing secondary suites; referenda on major issues; major capital investment in bicycle infrastructure; and many more.

COPE, be very proud of what your COPE council has done. 

Second, Larry Campbell:

I am your true friend and doing what a true friend should do — telling you when you are off course. Let me be clear, there should be only one COPE council caucus and you, Larry, should be its leader.

You bring many positives attributes: a quick and profound wit, a high capacity for work, and the capacity to relate to a wide variety of people. You also bring the negative: sometimes an intolerance of dissent, and sometimes a disrespect for those who do not share your point of view.

Over the past months I have repeatedly asked you to come back to the caucus that you abandoned many months before December 14, 2004, and you have said no. You have divided the COPE council caucus into two groups that don’t meet face to face. You are raising money separately from the party of which you profess to be a member. Apparently, you have now turned your back on the COPE debt.

Let me tell you a story. In ancient Greece, after a long war between the Greeks and the Trojans, the Greeks gave the Trojans a large wooden statue of a horse as a symbol of peace and left it outside the gates of Troy. The Trojans brought the horse into their city. That night, under cover of darkness, armed soldiers crawled out of their hiding places within the wooden structure, destroyed the Trojan army and ended the existence of Troy.

I ask you Larry Campbell not to be a Trojan Horse …to stop your factional war within COPE, and to work jointly with all COPE councillors to serve the people of Vancouver. I ask the executive and the supporters of COPE not to allow armed men to come into our midst and destroy COPE values that this party has struggled to maintain for 36 years.

The COPE constitution says, as its first purpose, that “COPE stands for uniting individuals and groups behind a program of civic reform.” We are a united coalition of progressive electors.

In 2002, Larry Campbell, COPE welcomed you as our mayoral candidate. By building a splinter group within COPE and raising funds separately, you are doing something unethical and going against the COPE constitution.

No councillor should ever have to choose between loyalty to the mayor or loyalty to the platform on which he or she ran. I challenge you to show true political leadership by promoting teamwork that allows for democratic differences, rather than insisting on chain-of-command obedience and conformity. Valuing dissent is the cornerstone of democracy and of good group decision-making.

COPE and the people of Vancouver need a mayor who will cherish diversity and build a council team that will get re-elected this November. I think you are capable of doing that, if you are willing to change course.

Larry, be a leader, not a Trojan Horse.

Third, the Media:

The easy thing for you to do would be to report what I am saying as a manifestation of dissension within COPE instead of my intent — to review our accomplishments and to build unity.

I challenge you to tell the entire story and to recognize that diversity and dissent promote problem-solving and accomplishment.  [Tyee]

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