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Trio of city councillors leaves Vancouver’s NPA party

Colleen Hardwick, Lisa Dominato and Sarah Kirby-Yung upset over party’s appointment of John Coupar as mayoral candidate
Colleen Hardwick is among the trio of NPA city councillors who announced Wednesday that she is leaving the party. File photo Dan Toulgoet
Three serving NPA councillors announced Wednesday they are leaving the party because of being “blindsided” by the organization’s decision to appoint John Coupar as its mayoral candidate in the 2022 election.

In a news release, Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung said they will sit as a group of independents, calling the party’s move to appoint Coupar a “secret backroom decision.”

“We have heard loud and clear from NPA members and supporters that the actions of the board and John Coupar do not reflect the standards of transparency, integrity and accountability we all expect from the NPA and each other,” Hardwick said.

“NPA supporters and Vancouverites deserve better, which is why the three of us are stepping away from the NPA to sit as a group of independents.”

Added Hardwick: “Instead of a fair and democratic process to select the best mayoral candidate, the NPA board and John Coupar sidelined the elected members of the NPA and made a backroom deal. By any measure, it was about as old-boys-club as it gets.”

Hardwick and Kirby-Yung have long been rumoured to be interested in becoming the NPA's mayoral candidate in 2022.

In an open letter to NPA members and supporters, the councillors said the party as it stands today cannot be trusted to govern fairly or responsibly — “and that it does not represent the values and standards that Vancouver residents and NPA supporters expect and deserve.”

The letter outlines a series of events that unfolded since the current board took control in November 2019, including caucus demands for an open NPA annual general meeting and renewal that have been ignored.

“The NPA board has gone in the wrong direction and is out of touch with supporters and residents who have been reaching out to express their concerns,” Dominato said.

“Women in politics need to stand up for their point of view and lead by example. As a group of independents, we will continue to provide strong leadership at the council table, focused on bringing the city together rather than divisive politicking.”

Kirby-Yung said the public response to Coupar’s appointment shows the party has lost connection with residents.

“We stand up every day in and out of council chambers to bring Vancouverites voices forward, and wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t stand against this,” she said.

“I’m proud to be serving on Vancouver’s first-ever majority women council and I won’t diminish that by not drawing the line. In 2021 we shouldn’t have to fight for a level playing field but we are.”

Added Kirby-Yung: “Moving forward, we’ll be sitting as independents working together and across the aisle to deliver strong and smart leadership to help move Vancouver forward. This story is far from over. We expect to have more to say about the future of our incredible city, people and our neighbourhoods in the months ahead.” 

The trio’s move leaves Melissa De Genova as the lone NPA councillor, who said in a brief text message: "The reality is, little will change for me. As a caucus, sometimes we would vote together, sometimes not. I expect that to continue."

Glacier Media left messages Wednesday for Coupar and NPA president David Mawhinney, but had not received a response before this story was posted.

The NPA board issued a news release late in the afternoon, saying it "sincerely" wanted to thank the departing councillors for their service.

An excerpt from the statement in bold text said: "The NPA would like to remind our members and the public that each of the three departing councillors were appointed to their role as candidates for the NPA in the exact same manner as our current mayoral candidate, Mr. John Coupar."

The trio’s move comes after Rebecca Bligh, who was elected with the NPA in 2018, left the party in 2019, citing concerns over the board’s move to the far right of the political spectrum.

The NPA announced April 5 that Coupar was the party’s mayoral candidate. No nomination meeting was held. The move came as a surprise to municipal politics watchers but the party has foregone nomination meetings in the past, most recently in 2014 and 2011.

Until Wednesday's announcement, the NPA held the most seats on the 11-member council. That distinction now goes to the Green Party, which is represented by councillors Adriane Carr, Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe.

Last week, the new A Better City party launched and plans to run candidates for council. Ken Sim, who was the NPA's mayoral candidate in 2018 and announced more than a year that he is running for mayor in 2022, said he plans to take out a membership with the ABC party.

Mark Marissen, who helped create the Yes Vancouver party in the 2018 election, also announced last week that he is running for mayor. It is expected he will relaunch Yes Vancouver as election day in October 2022 moves closer.

Upon hearing the news Wednesday, Marissen tweeted: "Congratulations to Dominato, Hardwick and Kirby-Yung for standing up for democratic principles by leaving the NPA. The NPA board's decision to thumb their noses at their membership and caucus by imposing Coupar on them in a secret backroom deal is completely indefensible."

Former NPA city councillor George Affleck also took to Twitter, saying he was confused by the trio's criticism of a "secret backroom decision."

"Ummmm...all three were appointed in the backroom in 2018 [campaign] with support of their buddy @kensimcity. How come that was OK?"

Former NPA board member Dave Pasin wrote on Twitter: "Well, their time is up. Personal ambition trumped common sense or ability to work with each other. Doubtful they would have survived being renominated anyway as they wore out their welcome. Their free ride on the coattails of the NPA is over."

Note: This story has been updated since first posted.