A picture is worth a thousand words. NPA Director Naresh Shukla stands alone in front of the NPA's "booth" at Vaisakhi Day
NPA board member Naresh Shukla stands on Main Street during the Vaisakhi Day festival. He greets people warmly, but admits candidly the Association's presence at the event is a very lame affair. No other volunteers are present, a small vinyl banner left over from previous events hangs on a storefront, but no other buttons, brochures or hand-outs are to be seen. Gone are the NPA helium balloons, steady supply of volunteers, and the presence of elected officials that characterized this event in years past.
Shukla is blunt. "Next year we have to do better than this. Vision's booth has at least a dozen volunteers." Indeed, the city's governing party has a strong presence, with many of their caucus and lots of giveaways.
I'm no longer a member of the NPA and haven't been for a while. Nor do I have any intention on becoming a member any time soon. And based on Shukla's candid remarks, I'm clearly not the only one asking why the NPA has been transformed into a mere shadow of its former self.
It's now April, and this is our third post on the subject of how the NPA has failed to understand that it has to get moving now if it even wants a slim fighting chance for electoral success in the 2011 civic election. That's because unlike the previous COPE administration that fell apart due to internecine warfare, this current gang are a lot tighter and much more disciplined.
Under Robertson's (aka Geoff Meggs) leadership, there are no public spats to speak of and they all vote in one massive block for each and every single issue. Vision and their political operatives both within and outside the public service realize the start of the 2011 campaign started the day after the last one was over. This is something that has apparently been completely lost on the NPA.
I have heard of no major renewal efforts the NPA has undertaken or has planned since the last civic election. There are no membership workshops to get feedback. No e-blasts inviting people to the occasional pub night to meet their elected officials. There are no membership recruitment drives to speak of nor any strategy for outreach.
The NPA appears to be crippled by its own constitution, which forces the association to avoid any direct support for its political caucus. No press releases from elected officials are posted on the NPA website, nor is there any caucus support (i.e. research or public relations) coming from the association.
So, what you basically have is a rapidly aging civic party with a recognizable brand name that is hoping the "socialist hoards at the gate" simply implode. Sorry folks, that's a recipe to keep the NPA in the political wilderness for years to come.
Two senior board members recently resigned which is either being interpreted as folks abandoning a sinking ship, or a good opportunity for renewal - it really depends on who you talk to. That said, I'm also hearing the Spring annual general meeting for the NPA may be postponed to the Fall, another sign Canada's oldest civic party is now showing its age.
If the NPA is going to win future elections, it must come to the realization the city has changed. It is no longer electorally savvy to assume you can win by merely appealing to Vancouver's Westside WASPs as was done in 2008. That's because in part, Vision won due to their ability to attract good candidates from various ethnic communities who brought to the table a significant block of votes.
Based on what I've seen since the election last November, and assuming Mayor Robertson doesn't bail to run for the provincial NDP leadership in 2010, I would say he and his Vision team are all but a shoo-in for 2011. It would take nothing short of an electoral miracle, and a lot of elbow grease to get a centre-right party in shape to take on the powerful Vision Vancouver led by their new pragmatic leader.