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Will YesVancouver be the name of Hector Bremner’s new party?

NPA rookie city councillor’s move to form new party comes less than six months before Oct. 20 municipal election
NPA Coun. Hector Bremner wants to form a new political party in time for the Oct. 20 election. But he has yet to rip up his NPA membership. Photo Dan Toulgoet

You may have heard NPA Coun. Hector Bremner wants to start a new party.

You may have heard the reason for embarking on this ambitious venture is because Bremner was dumped by the NPA board as one of its potential mayoral nominees.

What you probably haven’t heard, unless you have paid attention to city politics for more than two decades, is that a splinter party forming as a result of dissatisfaction within its own organization is not a new thing in Vancouver.

But with less than six months to go before an election, and a rookie councillor planning to go full splinter on his NPA mates, well that’s kind of new and certainly challenging, if not a little bit cray-cray.

Before I get to Bremner’s thoughts on this, let’s go back a few election cycles.

I won’t go into the deep history of the metamorphosis of all organizations but Vision Vancouver hatched in 2004/2005ish after then-mayor Larry Campbell and some of his COPE councillors—Raymond Louie, Tim Stevenson and Jim Green--decided to distance themselves from the “wild-eyed revolutionaries” of COPE.

Those were Campbell’s words.

Apparently, Campbell and company made the right choice: Vision has ruled city hall since 2008, COPE has no elected officials.

Over the years, various NPA members have abandoned their party to create other organizations. Anyone remember The Electors’ Action Movement of the Lower Mainland Association? That was created in June 2013, but the party never did run a candidate in the 2014 election.

The party or movement—whatever you want to call it—was led by Bill McCreery, who ran unsuccessfully with the NPA in 2011 for a council seat. McCreery is the same guy who wanted the NPA to change its name to Vancouver First back in June 2010.

“I, and many others within the NPA, as well as many more outside the association have realized for many years that [the party] needs to become more inclusive, relevant and effective within the present day political reality,” McCreery said at a meeting back then, where a majority of members voted to spike the name change.

The Vancouver First name, however, did get adopted by another former NPAer, Jesse Johl, who ran with a handful of candidates in the 2014 election. None of the candidates was elected, not even Olympian swimmer Brent Hayden.

It’s a fact that strong party brands such as the NPA and Vision have carried the day since 2005, with the Greens gaining ground in recent years, along with the emergence of OneCity; COPE still has work to do to rebuild the once powerful mainstay of civic politics.

But this year, as us media types have repeatedly reported, candidates and parties will be restricted on how much money they can raise and spend in this election. There’s also a ban on union and corporate donations.

Will that mean Vancouver will see its first independent candidate elected since the mid-80s when Carole Taylor won a council seat? Independent mayoral candidates Shauna Sylvester and Kennedy Stewart hope so. So does independent council candidate Sarah Blyth.

But I’m getting off track here…

Let’s get back to Bremner who, by the way, told me he has yet to destroy his NPA membership. I heard his new party might be called YesVancouver. Bremner wouldn’t deny the name when we chatted over the phone.

“Good rumour, I like that name,” he said. “It’s a good one. Would you like that name? I think it’s a great name. You know the hardest answer to get out of government is that answer. But we’re still going through the process.”

Bremner said he had a meeting last week with more than 50 people to discuss the new party. If the party goes ahead, Bremner said he expects there will be a leadership contest and he’ll compete for the job.

Adrian Crook, Wade Grant and Scott de Lange Boom, who all intended to seek council nominations with the NPA, are expected to join Bremner. Bremner said people have also contacted him with an interest in seeking spots on school board and park board.

“One cannot underestimate the overwhelming desire out there for something new, something positive and something solution-focused,” he said. “So I’m really excited about it.”

He dismissed it was now awkward for him to be sitting with his fellow NPA councillors at a time that he wants to form a new party. He said the board’s decision to dump him wasn’t the fault of Melissa De Genova, George Affleck or Elizabeth Ball.

“Sometimes, it’s just time to move forward and move on,” he said. “It’s not about being loyal to a brand, or a party or three letters, or a colour. It’s about being loyal to your values, and what you really believe in and why you got involved in politics.”

But stacking his party up against the NPA and former Conservative MP Wai Young's Coalition Vancouver is surely to siphon off votes from the centre-right electorate. Bremner doesn't think so, nor does he think it’s a little late in an election year to create a new party.

“No, the parties are all polling at like nothing. I think the top party awareness is maybe around eight per cent. Everyone else is in and around the five to six per cent. Nobody knows any of the parties. Nobody even knows who any of the candidates are. People won’t really start paying attention until probably late August, early September.”

The election is Oct. 20.

More, as they say, to come.