10 September 2008

Vancouver's centre-left civic parties strike deal

Globe and Mail Update

September 9, 2008 at 2:40 PM EDT

Vancouver's three centre-left civic parties have struck a deal that will ensure Vision's Gregor Robertson will be the only mayoral candidate among them.

The deal also gives Vision, the Coalition of Progressive Electors and the Green Party each a share of council, school and park slates.

The three parties see it as the only way to beat the centre-right Non-Partisan Association, by ensuring that no progressive candidates are competing against each other.

"This is good for the city because we're not going to have divided slates now," said COPE Councillor David Cadman, who had talked frequently about the possibility of running for mayor earlier in the year.

In the last election, the nascent Vision and COPE, the party it had just split off from, had only a weak, and sometimes fractious, alliance that many say allowed the NPA to squeak to a win.

Vision co-chair Mike Magee said it was a tough negotiation that went on for months, since Mr. Robertson was chosen as the mayoral candidate in June.

It was complicated by the fact that an enormous number of people, enthused by Vision's surge, decided to run for office. The party now has 37 candidates competing for the 16 slate positions it has now negotiated.

"I think it's a fair deal," Mr. Magee said. "But it was emotional. There was a lot of give and take and it took a long time to get there."

Some had been predicting that there might be no deal at all because it was taking so long to put together. But Mr. Robertson started phoning Vision's candidates on the weekend to tell them the numbers.

In what came as a surprise to some, COPE is getting the majority of spots on the school-board slate, five of the nine.

But that was the price to pay for getting more Vision spots on council, eight out of the 10, and ensuring that no one ran against Mr. Robertson for mayor, say people from all camps.

"I'd hope [the COPE school candidates] would see the value of making this work," said Mr. Magee.

On park board, Vision will run four candidates, COPE will run two, and the Green Party will have one.

"Personally, I am pleased that we've been recognized as a force in civic politics," said Stuart Mackinnon, the Green Party's park board candidate.

"And Vision is running the greenest mayor we've ever had. Gregor Robertson could be a Green Party member."

In fact, the first provincial party Robertson joined in 2001 was the Green Party.

The "co-operative understanding," as it's been called, has been approved by the COPE and Vision executives.

It still has to be approved by the COPE membership, where it's expected that former councilor Tim Louis, who was the only COPE board member to vote against it Monday night, will suggest that COPE should run full slates and a mayoral candidate.

Vision and COPE have also agreed to identify three issues where they would have a common platform, said Mr. Cadman. But the two parties will not have a joint campaign.

The news comes in a week where all the civic parties have had to reassess their campaign strategies, given the reality that a federal election will dominate the news until a month before the Nov. 15 election date.

As well, the city may see two byelections, one in Fairview, one in the West End, in between the federal and civic elections.

Mr. Magee said he thinks the shortened campaign period will work to Vision's benefit, since it will give the NPA and its mayoral candidate, Peter Ladner, less time to run the negative campaign against Mr. Robertson that he has been anticipating.

As well, he said, the public may be turned off by negative campaigning by the end of the federal election.

But other analysts say that Mr. Ladner may benefit from the short campaign window, since he is better known than Mr. Robertson and four weeks will not be enough time for the public to get to see a difference between the candidates.

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