I was invited to attend this morning an interesting gathering of “progressives” seeking a new home in the Vancouver political space. There was an interesting mix group of forty or more, including — an oddity at many Vancouver political events — a goodly number of young people. I guess I should no longer be surprised at how many people I know at these kind of meetings.
My educated guess is that many of the attendees were in disaffected flight from the Tim Louis brand of COPE, though definitely not all. Many of the organizers were of that persuasion, certainly, including David Chudnovsky.
The new organization, which still has no name, positioned themselves as “a socially progressive group moving toward forming a municipal party.” There was talk of adopting a Theory of Change model, but the meat and potatoes today was a discussion around “How We Do Politics” which was a way of framing general principles. Some of this concerned treating everyone with respect and that kind of thing, but there were also headline topics such as affordable housing, involving neighbourhoods, “environmental justice through better transit”, dealing with inequality, and a pledge to accept no corporate donations.
When the facilitators had completed their brief presentations, the floor was opened to questions. One part of the General Principles talked about appealing to those who currently support other parties. It was agreed by many that this should be dropped — “lose the baggage” — and more concentration be placed on the future. There were small debates on fundraising and approaching organized groups in the City that didn’t consider themselves political. Other speakers talked about emphasizing support for low-income and others with disadvantages, and to encourage greater voter turnout.
One speaker, a migrant himself, had an interesting perspective on the lack of engagement by many immigrant groups. He noted that many of them are conservative by nature and consider their lives in Vancouver to be very good. Thus they don’t get involved.
Another speaker complained that the Guiding Principles were basically just motherhood statements, and she wanted a more action-oriented approach. David Chudnovsky responded that, while he agreed they might be motherhood statements, it was important to state them because no other parties were, in his opinion, actually following them. Another speaker said it was important to become the party of political reform, though another said they needed to careful to not lose sight of what she called “the simple story told well.”
The discussion then shifted to a potential timeline for organization running from today until the election in 2017 (or as I pointed out, 2018). It was agreed that there was too little time left between now and November to do more than “a limited electoral effort” (although there were fulsome cheers for one lady in the group who said they should run full slates and sweep the elections!) The organizers accepted that they had not discussed School Board or Parks Board in any substantive way.
It was mentioned that some people had already volunteered to run under the group’s banner, and R. J. Aquino said he was seriously considering it. Gwen Giesbrecht and Jane Bouey announced that they were definitely running for School Board, but both noted that they hoped to establish an education-only electoral organization.
At this point, Joey Hartman, president of the Vancouver & District Labour Council stood and announced that they were still supporting both COPE and Vision. However, because an electoral pact between the two seemed impossible this year, the VDLC would not be supporting slates but rather individual candidates that they would endorse at a meeting in mid-September. She said that most unions still supported Vision because there had been no contracting out and they supported Vision’s “build, build, build” policies.
The meeting then broke into small working groups and I took my leave. The big gap for me was in the area of media strategy, which also includes the dealing with their name issue). This gap was recognized but, as with many gatherings of policy wonks, was not as up-front and central as I believe it should be.
Also, do we really need yet another party to split the anti-Vision vote? Or is this a group that will eventually form an alliance, however loose, with Vision? This is a group to watch.