Peter Armstrong has jumped aboard the NPA train to help it win the next election
When it comes to politics, they say it’s all about the money. Only a few months ago, the NPA was being written off by the political punditry who felt the Vision Vancouver political juggernaut was invincible. Well-financed and fully staffed up for the 2011 election a year in advance, no one could stop Gregor Robertson and the Vision gang.
With their commanding 10-1 majority on city council, Vision Vancouver has run city hall like they own it. Having either fired or “persuaded” a majority of the senior management they had to go, the party has firmly left their mark on the city’s civil service too.
However, the NPA are not quite willing to cede just yet. They’ve brought in a business heavyweight to signal that it’s prepared to raise the cash needed for a serious contest in November.
The credit for Vision’s big bank account goes to Tennessee native Joel Solomon. Not only is he Robertson’s mentor and business financier, Solomon leads a mysterious eco-advocacy movement that bases itself on remote Cortes Island, 150 kilometres north of Vancouver on B.C.’s coast.
Using the inherited wealth of another American ex-pat, Carol Newell – whose late father owned the Rubbermaid corporate empire – Solomon has boasted in interviews he had begun in British Columbia a 500-year movement for “systemic social change.” Putting the backyard chicken-loving Robertson into power is one of his most important projects.
Robertson’s 2008 bid to win the leadership of Vision Vancouver was boosted by $180,000 in donations, mostly from a long list of Americans linked to Solomon’s business network. U.S. money and campaign machinery was also mobilized by Vision to sweep council, park and school board.
Hold on, not so fast, says their opponent. This week the NPA announced the appointment of well-respected Vancouver entrepreneur Peter Armstrong as its campaign chair. Armstrong is best known for running the Rocky Mountaineer rail tour company.
Armstrong is not only a formidable fundraiser, his stature has had the effect of encouraging key donors and volunteers to return to the NPA fold. His endorsement of Suzanne Anton as a mayoral candidate has clearly provided her team with a boost.
Also behind the scenes is Norman Stowe – veteran campaigner, PR specialist, respected media guru, and now the NPA’s campaign manager. Having Armstrong and Stowe on board has suddenly lifted the fortunes of Vancouver’s centre-right NPA.
Beating the Vision machine won’t be easy, but now the NPA will give them a good run for their money.
- You can read Daniel Fontaine's civic affairs columns which appear in 24 Hours Vancouver every Thursday. Follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus.