Bickerton: "We are not your father's NPA"

Post by Sean Bickerton in


Bickerton is hopeful there will be a lot more red on this map by 2011

After a bitter, divisive leadership battle and what can only be described as an electoral rout last November, some are questioning the relevance of a political party forged in the heated ideological battles of the 1930s.

Our new Mayor and his Vision team seem to be tackling our tough economic challenges and demonstrating competence in managing the major projects underway. They have shaken up a city hall that frankly needed it, and have brought renewed energy to the table, building on the extensive environmental and housing accomplishments of the previous NPA administration.

By contrast, a once-powerful NPA has been soundly rejected by the electorate and reduced to rump status at all three levels of civic government.

How did the longest-standing political party in Canada fall so far?

Stated simply, we lost touch with the voters of the city. To some, we appeared arrogant, believing we were the natural ruling party of the city and entitled to hold the keys to City Hall. The voters didn't take kindly to that assumption.

Second, we failed to exercise good governance when the Athlete's Village was allowed to morph into a city-backed development, turning the city into a de facto developer and greatly expanding the outsized role the city already plays as the largest land-owner in Vancouver. True, this was partly due to lame-headed decisions taken by previous councils, some run by those now pointing their fingers, but we should have done better, ensuring transparency of decision-making in the process.

So, why should anyone care about the NPA today?

First, because we are not your father's NPA. The new NPA Board is a young group of diverse community leaders committed to acknowledging past errors and completely rebuilding our party as a progressive force in city politics. We are diverse ethnically, by gender, by sexual orientation, by socioeconomic background, by philosophy and by occupation. In short, the new NPA is representative of the city we seek to help govern and we are actively working to reach out and renew our ties to every community in the city.

Second, because our dedication to keeping big-party politics out of City Hall trumps ideology. We are committed to taking the best ideas from all perspectives and finding pragmatic solutions that help bring the city together. It was the NPA that created more social housing than any previous administration - more than 2,000 units. And it was an NPA council that made Vancouver's environmental building standards the highest in North America.

Third, because we are committed to finding and backing the best strong, independent candidates, expert in crucial areas of the city's responsibilities. Strong, independent candidates don't have to vote in lock-step with their party, which has become a disappointing pattern under Vision. The voters and the city are cheated when policy is decided in secret. A diverse council of strong candidates will provide a thorough airing of ideas and projects that will produce better policy and permit much greater transparency of decision-making.

Unfortunately, instead of learning from the NPA's mistakes, Vision was in such a rush to get their hands on the levers of power that they immediately started making the same errors.

The in-camera meetings they lambasted during the campaign? They have held as many secret, in-camera meetings since taking office as the NPA ever did.

Vision now controls the Mayor's seat and nine of ten votes on council. Yet regular order is ignored and long-standing rules and council traditions are regularly broken to silence Councillor Anton's lone voice of opposition. Isn't council supposed to debate the issues?

Vision appointed politically-connected backers to every seat on the Board of Variance, which hears appeals from developers and has the authority to bypass zoning regulations. Yet when one of their own appointees complained that rules were being broken and secret meetings condoned, he was immediately fired, raising a cloud over the integrity of the city's planning process.

While our opponents seem to be offering the city a future Vision of never-ending partisanship, the new NPA offers a completely non-partisan vision for the city's future. It will fall to the voters of 2011 to decide which holds the most promise.

Sean Bickerton is a member of the NPA Board and was also a council candidate in the 2008 civic election in Vancouver.


In their zeal to make their mark, it appears that the Vision team's political ideology is taking precedence over basic democratic principles.

History is full of examples of where and when this practice has occurred in the distant and not-so-distant past. I wonder when Vancouver's voters will sit up and take notice. Hopefully before the 2011 civic election.

Sean Bikerton misses the point. The very best of the civic administrations has been the Team group led by Art Phillips. Team was ideologically led, but its members were very very bright people each with an interest and background in urban development and/or corporate finance. Team members set the City of Vancouver on a direction that was the start of what Vancouver is today. Whichever civic political party can duplicate the intelligence, ethics and experience of Art Phillip's group will once again benefit the City. It needs it now more than ever.

"Yet regular order is ignored and long-standing rules and council traditions are regularly broken to silence Councillor Anton's lone voice of opposition."

Can you give any example of Council breaking a written procedural rule? It's quite an accusation to say Council is breaking rules regularly.

Hi Michael,

I would simply advise anyone interested to attend council and observe the rampant abuse of strike and replace, the use of amendments as a way of accomplishing strike and replace, and the lack of common courtesy to allow Suzanne her say on a number of different occasions.

Another area worth looking into is proper notice of meetings, proper notice and access to reports, and the regular rotation of deputy mayor duties.

There are other examples, but these suffice to make my point.

Hi Sean,

More conveniently, people can also cook up some popcorn and watch council meetings on video...

...but I think they'll see more of Councillor Anton's attention grabbing tricks (using points of order to make statements that have nothing to do with order, continuing to speak to a motion after her 5 minutes are up etc.) than any other foolery. These behaviours actually do violate specific rules.

Check out!

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