Friday, October 22, 2004


Underbelly News
Downtown Eastside


Well as you can imagine, referendum day has come and gone,yet the wards debate like a bitter taste lingers on. While the loss for the Yes side was a difficult pill to swallow, nevertheless they must get over it. Continuing to mudsling by blaming the voters for exercising their democratic rights is disrespectful.

First of the bad losers is COPE Park Commissioner Anita Romaniuk. In a email posted to a NDP group, Ms Romaniuk falsely claims that the wards issue was lost due to a higher number of Asians now living in Vancouver. This outrageous statement by Romaniuk is tantamount to inciting racism. Blaming Chinese Canadians for the public's loss of confidence in the governing party COPE is pathetic.

Another of the sore losers is COPE City councilor Raymond Louie. Mr Louie, obviously unhappy with the result is now demanding that the City Clerk investigate whether the winning Knowards side broke the law on referendum day. Councilor Louie, claims he saw an ad in the Sing Tao newspaper urging voters to reject wards. Apparently, under the Vancouver Charter, advertising in radio,tv, magazine or newspapers on general voting day isn't allowed.

One must question though whether referenda votes which can happen anytime and under the whim of politicians, should be considered a general voting day. Although not having a legal background, common sense seems to dictate that general voting day, at least municipally, is the third Saturday in November every three years when voters exercise their basic fundamental rights in our free and democratic society.

While, this issue raised by Councilor Louie is nothing more than a red herring, for Mr Louie like Ms Romaniuk to use their public trust offices to make libellous claims raises other disturbing concerns. Why these two polticians can't follow the lead of their leader, Mayor Campbell, who calls the wards issue a dead matter is beyond me. After all, as the former Chief Coroner, I think Mayor Campbell knows a thing or two about dead matters.

Apparently, though not so according to Yes organizer and longtime COPE party organizer Mel Lehan. Mr Lehan, who is well respected within COPE and in the City, raises a point in his letter to the editor in the Vancouver Sun printed on October 22,2004. Mr Lehan speaks about the spending disparity in the recent referendum. Mr Lehan raises another good point when he challenges that there must be campaign spending limits and full financial disclosure in our political systems. However, it seems that the party Mr Lehan belongs to doesn't agree.

COPE, since assuming office two years ago in a sweeping landslide has yet to initiate campaign spending limits and full financial disclosure. As a result, one wonders whether COPE can carry on much longer continuing to expouse itself as the party of the people.

In fact, in an article written by the esteemed journalist Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight, Mr Smith refers to COPE as drop-kicking democracy. He reminds his readers that COPE still is carrying a debt load of $400,000.00 from the last election. Mr Smith, moreover, questions who on behalf of COPE is taking care of this huge debt. Perhaps COPE's union buddies have come through for them, however, citizens need to be re-assurred that there isn't any unsavoury aspects to this COPE debt.

COPE can clear this matter up simply by disclosing who is shouldering their debt. Instead though, in attempts to deflect criticism, they are holding to the belief that the public doesn't have a right to know this. Talk about a slap in the face to democracy! If they don't smarten up, COPE simply will go the way of the recent referendum. Voters are wising up to COPE, especially to the erratic ways of their leader. Continuing to harp on the supposed injustices of the referndum will only ensure the spotlight remains fimly planted on the democratic deficit COPE finds itself in. Talk about messy affairs!

For the sake of the good guys in COPE like Mel Lehan, I sincerely hope COPE refoms its ways.

The late godfather of COPE, the well respected and much loved Harry Rankin is probably having many a restless night in his golden coffin in the sky. To observe from above what these newcomers are doing to his once proud party must be terribly sad.

Instead of taking the boots to democracy, perhaps its time for the good guys in COPE to boot out the door, the interlopers who have infiltrated their party. Time is closing in on COPE. If it is to have any chance of saving itself as a viable party in the next municipal election in 2005, it must act now. I say start by tossing out the bad apples in COPE.

Jamie Lee Hamilton
(604) 781-3361