A packed meeting of over 300 members and another 50 onlookers gathered on Sunday for the Annual General Meeting of COPE (Coalition of Progressive Electors). The meeting was alive and electric.
Two slates of passionate and committed activists competed to be elected to the executive and to give direction to Vancouver's party of the left. Both
groups were committed to working on social justice, economic equality and
environmental sustainability for the city.
One side was led by RJ Aquino who had run for a Council seat with
the strong backing of youth and the Filipino community and had supported a cooperative agreement with Vision endorsed by the COPE membership.The other slate was led by Tim Louis who blamed the agreement with Vision for COPE’s defeat; he argued that Vision Vancouver was just a developer's party no different from the NPA. Aquino's group had offered to cooperate on a joint slate, but that was rejected by Louis' faction.
Procedural wrangling, an unfortunate tradition at COPE meetings, delayed
the voting. Members wisely directed the new executive to review election
procedures and report back to the next general meeting with recommendations to streamline and democratize the processes.
When voting finally began, Aquino won a close vote over Louis for External
Chair of COPE. Six of the seven table-officer positions were won by
Aquino's team. It was clear that the membership were voting to support the direction taken by the previous executive and COPE's elected
representatives. As the numbers in the room dwindled and the hour grew
late, the remaining members voted for members at large, four of whom
represented Louis' slate. At the end of the day, I was reminded that this
is what democracy looks like. A strong belief in a better world and people
working hard to find a way to create an organization to build it.
In the end, the new COPE Executive represents the diverse and passionate
views of COPE members and activists, with a majority favouring the
perspective presented by Aquino and his allies.
That means COPE will continue to be the independent and progressive pole in Vancouver municipal politics. The party will continue to support the city council when it opts for policies that reflect social and environmental justice and community democracy. When they don't, COPE will present its critique forcefully and put forward progressive alternatives. In 2014, prior to the next Vancouver elections, the COPE membership will decide whether to cooperate with any other parties or groups, and on what basis that will be done.
The COPE executive's next public event will be a Gala recognition evening
for the its former Council, School Board and Park Board representatives
(David Cadman, Ellen Woodsworth, Al Blakey, Jane Bouey and Loretta
Woodcock) on March 31. For tickets and information call 604-255-0400.