Yesterday COPE members voted in favor of a slate of candidates pledging independence from corporate parties like Vision Vancouver in next year’s municipal elections. Over four hundred COPE members attended the party’s annual general meeting at the Maritime Labour Centre. In addition to selecting a full slate of Independent candidates for COPE’s executive, members passed a motion confirming that in 2014 COPE will nominate a mayor and majority of candidates on parks board, school board and council. This decision opens many new possibilities for residents and organizers from diverse communities across the city to run for up to 27 positions next year.
The meeting saw the largest turnout for a COPE general meeting in recent history. At the June 26th meeting in 2011 – where the first organized ‘COPE not Vision’ campaign was initiated – there were 200 members in attendance. The following year the party’s AGM brought out 300 members. In the month leading up the meeting, COPE staff were forced to move the AGM location due to a surge in membership, and over 400 people filled the Maritime Labour Centre yesterday.
The candidates on the independent slate were sharply critical of Vision Vancouver’s two terms in office since 2008 and rallied around the need for a COPE that is independent of Vision Vancouver’s corporate funding. The same candidates made speeches calling for COPE to re-connect with its 45-year long history as a grassroots party.
Kim Hearty, incumbent and elected Corresponding Secretary, said “COPE will support grassroots struggles in this city and COPE needs to – to build those networks that will lead to a strong diverse coalition for 2014…so that we can actually advance our radical politics and create a radically just city.”
Tristan Markle, an incumbent candidate on the independent slate, recently wrote an appeal in the Georgia Straight: “Only an independent COPE can solve the housing crisis.” His speech expanded on the need for a housing authority, a universal transit pass, and a Sanctuary City policy to combat Harper’s anti-migrant agenda.
Stuart Parker delivered a rousing speech criticizing Vision Vancouver and Gregor Robertson’s policies, especially their impact on the poor. Latino activist Wilson Munoz, who was nominated by a delegation of community leaders from the Downtown Eastside including Wendy Pedersen, also spoke in favor of bringing COPE back to the people and building strong ties with DTES anti-gentrification, sex workers rights and Indigenous social movements.
Paul Houle proposed strategies for moving the party beyond debts incurred over the course of the past decade, particularly the 2002 elections. Members seemed assured by his clear vision for building COPE’s finances sufficiently to run a successful campaign in 2014, electing Houle as Treasurer by a wide margin
Tim Louis spoke to a diversity of issues, including gentrification, affordable transit, and neighborhood control. Louis won the position of Internal Chair with a resounding 329 to 64 margin. COPE’s board has twelve members but elections are staggered, which means that only six positions are elected per year.
The successful candidates for those six seats the COPE board are as follows:
Kim Hearty – 245 votes, Corresponding Secretary
Paul Houle – 316, Treasurer
Tim Louis – 329, Internal Chair
At-large members (top three vote-getters were elected):
Stuart Parker – 286
Tristan Markle – 277
Wilson Munoz – 255