Members of Vancouver’s Non-Partisan Association – as well as several political observers – believe the time is right for their party to emerge from the political wilderness in a fall election left open with Mayor Gregor Robertson’s decision not to run again.
But an unusual candidate aiming for the mayoral slot with the once-powerful NPA is threatening to shake up the party with his vocal opposition to foreign home buyers and antagonism toward developers.
The NPA ruled the city for decades, until the recent Vision Vancouver era, with a series of development-friendly mayors and councillors who have tended to support the provincial BC Liberal Party and its policies that favour economic immigrants.
But Glen Chernen, the first of several rumoured candidates for the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral nomination to declare his candidacy, isn’t a typical party member, much less a typical leadership candidate.
“It’s clear to me that what the city has done under Gregor’s watch is just build a lot of luxury condos,” he said in a recent interview, articulating a viewpoint that has become popular among many from both the right and left in Vancouver. “I would do everything that was legally possible to protect housing options here from being harmed by offshore money.”
Pressed for an example of something he would do differently from the current administration, he cited the case of a local development company, Onni, that was mistakenly given a $1.5-million rebate on fees. Mr. Chernen said Mr. Robertson never ensured that that mistake was properly investigated.
The 48-year-old Mr. Chernen, who earns his living by managing personal investments, also indicated he’s willing to challenge candidates with a more traditional NPA view.
Mr. Chernen excoriated the NPA’s most recently elected councillor, Hector Bremner, who campaigned last fall saying the city needs to densify its single-family neighbourhoods. Mr. Bremner repeatedly argued that it’s dangerous to target foreigners as the cause of the city’s housing problems.
“Hector is clearly out there on the far end. I do not agree at all with him. I think he’s harmful to the city,” said Mr. Chernen, who created his own party in 2014 and ran for mayor before dropping out and endorsing an independent.
Mr. Bremner, who is considering a run for the mayoral nomination, is equally concerned about Mr. Chernen.
“He’s playing to a certain message, that we should blame Chinese people,” Mr. Bremner said. “I represent a voice that is going to resist and reject becoming some extremist alt-right version of ourselves.”
The question is whether those being signed up daily as NPA members in anticipation of a mayoral nomination in March agree with him or more classic NPA candidates, such as Mr. Bremner.
Besides Mr. Chernen and Mr. Bremner, other candidates who have expressed interest in the mayoral position are former Conservative MP Wai Young, and the NPA’s mayoral candidate from 2014, media executive Kirk LaPointe.
The nomination race is sure to generate a great deal of interest because of a widespread feeling among opponents that Vision Vancouver’s era is over. Besides Mr. Robertson, three of the remaining Vision councillors have indicated they are not running again. They include Andrea Reimer, the party’s youngest councillor; veteran Tim Stevenson; and, as of this week, psychiatry professor Kerry Jang. The only current councillors that will carry the party’s flag are Raymond Louie and Heather Deal.
Mr. Chernen, a west-side resident and Churchill high-school graduate, began appearing as a public opponent to Vision Vancouver policies about five years ago. He and his brother, Nicholas, created the Cedar Party for the 2014 election.