Straight talk


The Georgia Straight - - Contents -

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.

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