NPA MOVES CLOSER TO NAMING CANDIDATES OVERDOSE VICTIMS WILL BE COMMEMORATED
Vancouver is six weeks away from a by-election that was called to fill a vacant council seat. A number of parties have declared candidates but the city’s big two are not among them.
The opposition Non-partisan Association (NPA) is scheduled to hold a nomination meeting on September 6. Three members are competing for the council spot. Hector Bremner works in public affairs and previously served as an executive assistant to former deputy premier Rich Coleman. Glen Chernen is a financial analyst who has run for office unsuccessfully with the Cedar Party. And Penny Noble is a former school board trustee who has also worked as a teacher.
The NPA has not identified who is seeking nominations for the nine Vancouver school board seats that will be up for grabs on the same day the council by-election is held.
Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver party has said it will name a council candidate via an internal party appointment. The third party to hold a seat on council, the Greens, will be represented by Pete Fry, a community activist from Strathcona.
No matter who wins, Vision Vancouver will still hold a majority on council. But that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm, especially at one end of the political spectrum: the left.
The first person to announce her intention to enter the race was Judy Graves, a long-time advocate for the homeless. She’s on a ticket with Onecity, a relatively new political party that in 2014 unsuccessfully fielded one candidate for council.
Jean Swanson was the second. Swanson, also a respected activist dedicated to low-income housing, is running as an independent.
A third woman coming from outside Vancouver’s big three civic parties is Mary Jane Dunsdon. She’s with the local arm of Sensible B.C., which is best known for a failed but notable 2013 campaign to see British Columbia decriminalize marijuana. Dunsdon, a.k.a. Watermelon, has framed herself as an advocate for small business and specifically the city’s booming dispensary industry.
As the Straight went to the printer on August 29, the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) was holding a meeting to decide if it would nominate a council candidate.
The council seat in question was left vacant in July when Vision Vancouver’s Geoff Meggs resigned to become Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff. The deadline for nominations is September 8 at 4 p.m. The by-election is October 14. After almost six years as executive director of the ruling civic party in Vancouver, Stepan Vdovine is leaving to explore new options.
Vdovine has run the day-to-day operations of Vision Vancouver since May 2012, and was the deputy campaign director and chief financial officer of the party during the 2014 municipal election.
In July, Vdovine went on leave to be part of the transition team of the B.C. NDP government, serving as ministerial assistant to Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Lisa Beare.
His temporary posting with the province finishes at the end of September, and his resignation from Vision takes effect in the middle of that month.
“I don’t have my plans confirmed at the moment, but it’s time for change,” Vdovine told the Straight by phone Tuesday (August 29).
Vdovine doesn’t plan to run for either council or school board in the October 14 by-election in Vancouver.
He first got involved with Vision in 2007. At the time, he was serving his first term as school trustee on the Maple Ridge–pitt Meadows board of education.
Vancouver will hold its regular election next year, and he was asked why he is leaving now.
“Vision’s been successful because a lot of people, you know, work to make it what it is today,” Vdovine replied.
Nimmi Takkar is serving as interim executive director of Vision.
Vdovine’s partner, Mira Oreck, is the director of stakeholder relations in Premier John Horgan’s office. Vdovine and Oreck have a 14-month-old child.
“I’m actually looking forward to spending time with my son,” Vdovine said. > CARLITO PABLO On Thursday (August 31) Vancouver will be one of more than 50 cities around the world hosting events to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day.
There are three rally points where people are scheduled to listen to speakers, hold vigils, and demand government action on the fentanyl crisis. The first event will begin at 12 p.m. in a lot at 58 West Hastings Street. The second location is the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery, where speakers will take the stage beginning at 5 p.m. Outside Vancouver, there’s a gathering in New Westminster’s Hyack Square starting at 6 p.m.
Jordan Westfall is president of the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs (CAPUD). In a telephone interview, he said the message at the Downtown Eastside event will be one of empowerment. “The idea that we fight for those we love and lost,” he explained. “And that we fight for policies that respect our human rights.”
At 4 p.m., a march will begin from 58 West Hastings to the art gallery at West Georgia and Howe streets.
Speakers there are scheduled to include Nichola Hall of From Grief to Action, a group that was instrumental in Vancouver’s response to a spike in overdoses the city struggled with in the 1990s. Another is Darwin Fisher, who manages North America’s first sanctioned supervised-injection facility, Insite. A third is Libby Davies, who was an NDP MP representing Vancouver East for 18 years until 2015.
In a telephone interview, one of the day’s organizers, Tabitha Montgomery, said the decision to host the second event at a location outside the Downtown Eastside was a conscious one. She explained they want to send a message that B.C.’S ongoing overdose epidemic is not confined to one neighbourhood.
“I am hoping we can make that very clear,” Montgomery emphasized. “This is not just a Downtown Eastside problem.”
This year B.C. is on track to see more than 1,500 overdose deaths. It’s projected only a little more than 400 of those will occur within the city of Vancouver. Surrey, Abbotsford, and Burnaby, for example, are all expected to see record numbers of fatal overdoses in 2017.