Three Vancouver city councillors leave Non-Partisan Association over controversies

Apr 21 2021, 9:51 pm

The Non-Partisan Association’s (NPA) representation within Vancouver City Council has dissolved following the decision by three city councillors to leave the party over a string of controversies.

Councillors Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick, and Sarah Kirby-Yung will now sit as a group of independents. They join Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Rebecca Bligh, who was previously with the NPA up until December 2019.

At the start of the term, there were a total of five NPA city councillors, but now the party’s sole representation in city council is councillor Melissa DeGenova.

The three councillors describe the early-April “secret backroom” decision by the NPA’s board to name Vancouver Park Board commissioner John Coupar as the party’s mayoral candidate for the October 2022 civic election as the final straw.

“We have heard loud and clear from NPA members and supporters that the actions of the Board and John Coupar do not reflect the standards of transparency, integrity and accountability we all expect from the NPA and each other,” said Hardwick in a statement.

“NPA supporters and Vancouverites deserve better, which is why the three of us are stepping away from the NPA to sit as a group of independents. Instead of a fair and democratic process to select the best mayoral candidate, the NPA Board and John Coupar sidelined the elected members of the NPA and made a backroom deal. By any measure, it was about as old-boys-club as it gets.”

An open letter by the trio to their supporters describes the party to be in a state of disarray due to internal conflicts, “divisive politicking,” and a clash in values with members of the elected caucus.

Bligh’s resignation from the party a year and a half ago centred on the newly elected board’s anti-LGBTQ sentiments, and in July 2020 four NPA directors resigned over the “board’s ineffectiveness.”

Since January 2021, the elected NPA councillors, Vancouver School Board trustees, and Park Board commissioners have been calling on the NPA board to hold an annual general meeting to address the issues, but a meeting date has yet to be announced.

john coupar vancouver park board

NPA Park Board commissioner John Coupar. (John Coupar)

Coupar’s selection as the party’s mayoral candidate in April 2021 was done without the input of NPA members and their caucus members.

“The NPA Board has gone in the wrong direction and is out of touch with supporters and residents who have been reaching out to express their concerns. Women in politics need to stand up for their point of view and lead by example,” said Dominato.

Kirby-Yung added: “The public response shows the party has lost any connection with the people of Vancouver with this move of pulling a power play behind the backs of their elected Councillors, and with no transparency to the public. We stand up every day in and out of Council chambers to bring Vancouverites voices forward, and wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t stand against this.”

The closed door nomination of Coupar as the NPA’s mayoral candidate 18 months before the 2022 civic election greatly contrasts with the open process performed four months prior to the October 2018 civic election. In June 2018, party members chose Ken Sim as their mayoral candidate, after he secured 977 votes — ahead of Coupar with 379 votes, and Glen Chernen with 379 votes.

In the 2018 civic election, Sim narrowly lost to Stewart, with the results being 49,705 votes for Sim and 48,748 votes for Stewart.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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