Vancouver Votes to COPE

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On November 16, the citizens of Vancouver resoundingly gave the formerly predominant Non-Partisan Association (NPA) a swift kick out the door, and ushered in a new era of leadership for the City of Vancouver.

Snatching away the mayoral position from NPA candidate Jennifer Clarke — who was a shoe-in for the job less than a year ago — Larry Campbell led a strong slate of candidates under the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) banner, every one of which was elected to the body they ran for. With all the votes tallied, COPE took 8 of 10 seats on city council, 5 of 7 seats on the Vancouver ParksBoard, and 7 of 9 seats on the Vancouver School Board.

While even as early as a year ago, COPE was expected to take a bite out of the NPA’s thirty-five year dominance in Vancouver municipal politics, few expected as resounding a vote for change as the one that came Saturday. Pundits and politicians, business leaders and media alike were stunned with the results — although perhaps none as much as the NPA.

Could the signs have been on the wall after the last election, when the NPA’s stranglehold on all ten seats of city council was broken with two COPE candidates fighting their way in? With a garbage strike here, a teachers’ strike there, and a transit strike everywhere (one that literally shut down public transportation for four months) it seems that too many Vancouverites were simply fed up with the way the city was being run.

Ironically, while it is clear that most of the credit for this win is owed to the COPE team for putting together a viable alternative for Vancouver’s distraught citizens, one person who surelyhelped their cause — and in doing so sealed the NPA’s fate — was former NPA leader, and current B.C. Premier, Gordon Campbell.

The hardships created by his ideologically-driven pro-corporate agenda to privatize anything that walks, and cut costs and taxes, regardless of the consequences, may have been just what the doctor ordered to stimulate — what has historically been an all-too-ambivalent Vancouverite — to get out to the polls to say, “I’ve had enough!” And that folks, they certainly did.

(Oh, and by the way Mr. Premier, sir, perhaps your economic whiz of a finance minister can explain why, in light of the “self-paying” retroactive tax cut you doled out in 2001, Statistics Canada has recently downgraded its figures on B.C.’s 2001 real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate from 0.9 per cent growth to negative 0.2 per cent growth — the first time the province has experienced negative growth in real GDP since 1982!)

But back to the win at hand, while it may not seem like it now, perhaps the easiest thing COPE did was win this election. The tough part is quickly approaching, however, as COPE will have tofind innovative ways to help a city drowning from economic stagnation, a drug abuse and HIV/AIDS pandemic, a transit system that needs a major overhaul, and a dozen or so other ailments the NPA seemed content to let fester ad infinitum.

In interviews shortly after the election win, mayor-elect Larry Campbell seemed quick to recognize that it won’t be an easy road and that some mistakes are bound to be made.

“You will see a government that listens to the people and responds to them. We are not always going to be right and we will be the first to step forward and admit it.”

If one thing seems clear now, it’s that this week the people of Vancouver came out in record numbers to say they supported a COPE team that, as the campaign slogan said, was looking to bring in “fresh ideas and new solutions.”

I, for one, look forward to a new era of democracy, transparency, and prosperity (not to mention fun!) and congratulate the voters for having the wisdom to look past the mudslinging and get down to what counts — building the great city that Vancouver can be!

Congratulations Vancouver, you’re one step closer...

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