Monday, November 01, 2004


Underbelly News
Downtown Eastside


Hi All

On July 2, 2004 I posted here that there would be a COPE civil war within six months. Here it is three months later and I am watching as this once proud party crumbles.

Just last week, the anticipated resignation of COPE chief election strategist Neil Monckton officially was announced in the Courier paper. Mr Monckton's feeble attempt to spin the story, focusing on his desire to devote more time to his consulting business was laughable. This is utter hogwash if the leadership of COPE expects the public to buy this.

A telling example of the departure of Mr Monckton was summed up and articulated by Councilor and COPE heavy weight Tim Louis. Councilor Louis officially said--no comment-- when pressed by Courier reporter David Carrigg on whether Mr Monckton did a good job for COPE after its landslide victory in 2002.

Mr Louis has been a longtime member of COPE and he articled in the prestigious law firm of COPE founder and legendary Councilor, Harry Rankin. In recent years, Mr Louis, has been the most successful of the COPE politicians. He previously served two terms on the Vancouver Park Board and is now entering his sixth year of political office, serving as city councilor. Councilor Louis has served the City of Vancouver for a combined twelve years of public service.

So with the political smarts of Mr Louis and before him, Councilor Rankin, why then is the COPE party destructing?

Well to place this into proper perspective, one has to look at a few leaders active today in COPE.

One of those leaders is Mayor Larry Campbell. As many recall, Mayor Campbell was enticed by the likes of Councilor Jim Green and MP Libby Davies to lead their grassroots group. Mr Campbell though came with baggage. Those who previously worked with him, called his style of leadership more like bullying. If Mr. Campbell didn't get his way--and if you opposed him-- you better watch out!

When Larry Campbell decided to take a run at City politics, many were unsure of his political leanings. This was a departure from the former glory days of Councilor Harry Rankin. The majority of citizens of Vancouver knew very well the politics of Mr Rankin but nevertheless continuously voted for him in order to keep his opponents honest. Mr Campbell needed to define his politics and when queried said they were at the centre of the political spectrum. He further articulated that he would move the left leaning COPE party to the centre of the political map.

Instead of moving the party to the centre as Mayor Campbell said he would, he resorted to moving the party away from its core support and core values. Many longtime community activists and supporters of COPE were aghast at Mayor Campbell's crass opportunism and the gloves were off.

Larry Campbell is best defined as similar to a one man show. He is not open to others sharing power or having others leading the way. Feeling some heat over his style of leadership, Mr Campbell began lashing out at those who believe differently than him. Strategically, he decided to engage in public spats against those he believed opposed his viewpoints. The desired outcome of browbeating opponents into silence, instead, set the stage for an eventual showdown within the Coalition of Progressive Electors.

Sadly, it pitted those who historically supported COPE against those who Mr Campbell deemed to be the new COPE. Mayor Campbell, not being blind, realized he had a major problem on his hands. Since, he never before belonged to COPE, those who opposed him could easily paint him an interloper. A belief that he was out for his own interests and acting badly against those who traditionally supported COPE did not endear him to longtime COPE supporters and voters.

Many critics of Mr Campbell remember his recent conversion to COPE. Sources confirm Mr Campbell only purchased a membership in COPE when he had made the decision to seek the Mayor's chair. This put him squarely in the spotlight. Being new to the COPE party, sources also confirm they didn't know how quickly he would turn on the party which provided him the infrastructure,resources and financing to get elected. Progressive activists paint Mayor Campbell as an interloper who once getting what he wants would not hesitate to dump those who helped him achieve his dream. Most likely he would choose to abandon COPE...

However, to be fair many COPEsters embraced Mr Campbell. The reason--Mr Campbell-- struck a deal with longtime COPE member Jim Green. Mr Green, as many city hall watchers have previously known, ran for councilor once Larry Campbell decided to run for Mayor. The unqualified support of Jim Green thus than gave Mr Campbell instant credibility and support. It also afforded Mr Campbell the right to lead the party. In turn Mr Green ,wielded more power once elected, than other councilors.

Everything would have been fine had Mr Campbell and Mr Green allowed dissenting opinions. They easily may have cruised to a second term victory. However, these two grown men are often inflexible in their beliefs and as a result, in the relatively short period of two years since assuming power, time after time, their agenda has cost COPE. Often, as a result of their decisions, neighbors were pitted against neighbors, citizens against citizens, community against community.

This type of politics happening in COPE most thought was long forgotten. COPErs reliving the nasty split of their party in 1993 by the hostile takeover of COPE by the civic New Democrats must be profoundly sad. Many longtime supporters vividly recall how this conflict created major setbacks for COPE. In fact COPE hobbled along after being wiped out in the 1993 and 1996 elections save for one lone voice who went on to serve as an NDP MLA. To see this happening again is like a bad dream.

Being starry-eyed, many COPEsters were estactic when in the 2002 civic election, COPE was rewarded with a sweeping majority. Mr Campbell and Mr Green swept into power and it appears they quickly became intoxicated with the power they would now wield. Mr Campbell believes he was responsible for COPE's stunning election victory. Not one to burst Mr Campbell's bubble, he would be wise to understand that his victory came about after a nasty split within the governing NPA party.

His power though is rapidly being stripped away. Acting like bully boys as Mr Green and Mr Campbell often do, is not the way to govern. Citizens want input. They want to know they are being listened to. This is why the citizens of Vancouver gave Mr Campbell and COPE a sweeping mandate in 2002. Citizens had became distrustful of the NPA. Too often, citizens felt they were not being listened to.

Those who tirelessly supported COPE, are bearing witness to the same largese that got NPA booted from office. COPE which bills itself as the party of the people, seems not to be listening to the people as Mayor Campbell turns COPE away from its core values.

As a result a showdown was bound to happen.

This isn't unusual for the likes of Councilor Green--Mayor Campbell's sidekick. Mr Green in 1990 while the paid organizer of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA) decided to run for Mayor. His slogan the neighborhood Green was a catchy one. Glimpsing into 1990 COPE politics, members soon realised that the Neighborhood Green came with a price. Mr Green successfully argued that COPE should pay him to run for Mayor. Jim Green was able to secure paid salary from COPE while he campaigned for Mayor. This hadn't happened before in COPE. Of course many members and stalwarts in COPE were opposed to this.

Opposition to this also came at a price. Those who opposed Mr Green receiving salary were long serving councilors Harry Rankin and Bruce Yorke. Mr Green was not successful in his Mayoral bid and took the loss badly. Privately, he was especially highly critical of DERA staffers who he thought should have worked endlessly on his campaign. Many volunteers had difficulty providing volunteer hours while Mr Green wasn't about to do the same.

As a result, Mr Green after his loss, according to many former staffers at DERA, was hell bent on getting rid of those he deemed disloyal to him. Revenge lurked. As a result, what was known as the DERA civil war erupted. Mr Green pitted staff against staff. Those deemed loyal to Mr Green were given opportunities and showered with favoritism. Those deemed untrustworthy were treated like garbage. Shortly after, things came to a head at DERA as a couple of longstanding progressive staffers were ruthlessly fired by Mr Green.

This resulted in a bloodbath and Wildcat strike by at least half of the DERA employees. These DERA staffers called the media and held a press conference in front of the DERA offices. Posted on the building of the DERA offices was the Mayoral posters of the Neighborhood Green campaign. Written alongside the posters was a stark question. Where are you Jim Green. You see this question had significant meaning as Jim Green was nowhere to be found.

Shortly after this labour unrest at DERA, Mr Green was offered a job with the newly elected NDP government. Glen Clark wanted the assistance of Mr Green in establishing a bank at the corner of Hastings and Main. Mr Green was offered three times his salary at DERA and opted for greener pastures. Of course he was more than happy to escape the turmoil at DERA.

So it is not surprising given the history of both Messer's Green and Campbell that the COPE civil war is in full bloom.

To counter this civil war, Mayor Campbell has a dinner planned in November at the Villa Amato. This dinner is a test to see the level of financial support the Mayor and Councilor Green can count on for the 2005 municipal election.

A decision has already been made behind closed doors. Mayor Campbell and Councilor Green have decided to strike out on their own. First though they had to secure the support of Labour and the New Democratic party. Sources confirm this has happened. Labour though demanded that this new body headed by Mr Campbell and Green not be in opposition to COPE. What was worked out is that COPE will run a number of candidates while this new group runs a similar number. This deal is similar to the one COPE had with the Civic New Democrats during the 80's and early 90's.

The final outcome of this alliance will rest with the voting public in 2005. The most likely scenario is that both these groups will lose considerable power. Citizens of Vancouver don't desire a party that is in disarray to govern them. COPE knows this and Mayor Campbell will shortly announce his plans. The sooner the better since the election cycle will soon begin

Now is the time for City Councilor, Peter Ladner who is expected to run for Mayor in 2008 to move forward his plans. Now more than ever, the City of Vancouver needs to look to the steady popular Ladner to solve the City's leadership woes.

Jamie Lee Hamilton
(604) 781-3361