Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


The COPE annual general meeting is set for a major showdown this Sunday, May 27, 2007. While it may appear that the AGM is really about who obtains control of the executive, this election though will have far greater significance if a slate headed up by former Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, proves to be victorious.

What is at stake at this AGM, is whether COPE led by former Councillor, Tim Louis is subsumed by the Vision party founded by former Mayor, Larry Campbell and his sidekick, former Councillor and behind-the-scene defacto Mayor, well known American, Jim Green.

COPE elected officials, led by Councillor David Cadman are backing the self-styled "Unity" slate, cobbled together by back-roomers and headed up by Ellen Woodsworth. What the "Unity" refers to is an official alliance with the Vision party. Ms Woodsworth is close to people in Vision, including Councillor Tim Stevenson, Jim Green and Senator Larry Campbell. In fact, according to a prominent city hall observer "from 2002-2005, Ellen always seemed to play footsie with Jim Green".

Ms Woodsworth though isn't the only one in COPE responsive to Vision. Spencer Herbert, a current COPE park commissioner said this week in the Straight, that they want to broaden their party and one assumes this broadening means an official coalition with Vision Vancouver. Its interesting that this "Unity" slate believes it can work with Vision. Although in 2004, Mr. Herbert was sayiing a completely different thing.

COPE has had a 40 year history in Vancouver municipal politics. It has, whether you agree with them or not, been steadfast in their core beliefs. The membership and party opposed the Olympics. They were against expanded gambling and always stood on the side of responsible, controlled and ethical development. Another issue important to COPE is liquor licensing and their policies have been more responsive to community and neighborhood concerns say versus the well funded and organized bar lobby.

On the other hand, Vision, (made up of former COPE representatives), in its relatively short period of existence as a municipal party, has been out-of-step and some might say off-side with the COPE membership on important social issues. These differences created the split in the first place and hence, raises an important question of how there can be "Unity" if there are major fundamental policy differences between the two parties?

In fact, a week ago, this blogwriter posed a number of questions to the leader of this "Unity" slate. I asked Ms Woodsworth how she might reconcile major policy differences between COPE and Vision. Some of these issues are the sex trade, liquor licensing, the Olympics, and development issues. Much to my sadness, Ms Woodsworth chose not to respond to my written questions. This was surprising considering, in the latest issue of the Straight, Ms Woodsworth stated she wanted to work with other progressives in the city.

Perhaps Ms Woodsworth' silence isn't so surprising considering that the bar lobby are major backers of Vision, as is the gambling industry. Both these groups donated significantly to Vision and were only financially out donated by the development industry, who contributed nearly a million dollars to the coffers of Vision.

But these aforementioned issues are not the only matters which concern the rank and file COPE membership.

Housing and the Environment will play key roles in the 2008 election, especially with the upcoming Olympics. Everyone will be attempting to cash in. Already West End renters (who tend to vote COPE) are feeling the squeeze as developers are displacing them as they convert their newly acquired properties to luxury condos. Many of these same developers are major donors to Vision. In fact, after Vision Mayoralty candidate Jim Green was defeated, he went to work for the development industry.

Mr. Cadman, who, was the COPE Mayoralty candidate in 1999, was encouraged in 2002 to run for Council so that former Coroner, Larry Campbell could be the Mayoral candidate. Mr. Cadman and Mr. Green cemented the deal which brought Coroner Da Vinci to City Hall.

This campaign by COPE in 2002 was the most expensive in its history. Although they were successful at the polls, they incurred a significant debt. Much of the debt was covered by Mr. Cadman who is still owed a major amount of money. Apparently its $50,000.00 and when Campbell, Green and others deserted COPE, they also deserted the debt that they were collectively responsible for.

This is another reason, why it doesn't make sense that Mr. Cadman would be pushing to have a partnership with Vision. They betrayed him once and while personal forgiveness is a wonderful trait, he's stupid if he thinks they won't do it again. Besides how can you have principled unity with betrayers?

But as they say, once bitten, twice shy. Rumours are widely circulating that another deal may have been struck. This time, Mr Cadman, not being naive, would ensure his outstanding debt is paid off. However, there are usually strings attached with favors and this is terribly concerning to the COPE membership for a number of reasons.

If there has been a pre-arranged deal between Mr. Cadman and Vision, this means that the COPE membership and their core values will in the process, be sold out.

In return for financial support
, Mr. Cadman along with others, agrees to work in coalition with Vision. Moreover, theories abound that Mr Cadman could head up this coalition as the designated Mayoral candidate in 2008 with Jim Green returning to Council. With his considerable support from the development industry, Mr. Green would play the same role he had from 2002-2005 with Larry Campbell where he was the powerful behind-the-scenes Mayor. Mr. Cadman, one anonymous source has stated, if he won, would take care of Regional issues, leaving Green to run the City.

So at the AGM of COPE on Sunday, it will become crystal clear who will be controlling COPE as it heads into the 2008 election.

COPE grassroots members with their Leader, Tim Louis (who has impeccable integrity) will make a valiant stand against the various special interests who have cosy relationships with Vision. However, I suspect they will be no match against these powerful interests who call the shots and hold the purse strings at Vision and in my opinion are giving politics and public service, a real bad name.

I hope for the sake of democracy that on Sunday, Tim Louis prevails.

Jamie Lee Hamilton