Coalition of Progressive Electors

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Coalition of Progressive Electors
Active municipal party
Co-chairsRider Cooey
Nancy Trigueros
Founded1968 (1968)
IdeologySocial democracy
Political positionLeft-wing
ColoursRed, Yellow
Seats on City Council
1 / 11[1]
Seats on Park Board
2 / 7[1]
Seats on School Board
1 / 9[1]

The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) is a municipal political party in the Canadian city of Vancouver, British Columbia. It has traditionally been associated with tenants, environmentalists, and the labour movement. COPE is generally guided by social-democratic principles and has a long history of advocating for issues such as improving public transit and investing in affordable housing. It last held a majority government on City Council from 2002 to 2005. COPE describes itself as being committed to environmental sustainability and generally supports measures and legislation to reduce municipal greenhouse emissions and to enact other environmental reforms. COPE cites climate change as a threat to the planet and to future generations, and much of its platform is based upon opposition to development that could contribute to climate change or endanger the city from an environmental perspective.

In 2014, the party adopted policies advocating for aboriginal representation at the municipal level.[2]


According to its constitution, COPE has three purposes:

  1. to unite individuals and groups behind a program of progressive civic reform;
  2. to involve Vancouver residents and community organizations in public action in furtherance of their interests and the collective interests of Vancouver; and
  3. to nominate and endorse candidates for election to civic office in order to promote these purposes, and to provide direction and guidance to such candidates, both before and after they have been elected.

Anybody who lives, works, or studies in Vancouver can become a member of COPE.

COPE members meet four times every year at General Meetings to discuss business relating to the party, with one of these meetings being an Annual General Meeting. In an election year, one meeting will be a Policy Conference, where the COPE membership decides on its election platform, and a Nominations Conference, where the COPE membership decides on its candidates for Vancouver City Council, Vancouver School Board, and Vancouver Park Board.

In between General Meetings, decisions are made by COPE's Executive Committee, which is elected each year at the party's Annual General Meeting.


COPE was formed in 1968, originally as the "Committee of Progressive Electors", when a number of left-wing community groups and social justice organizations joined with the city's Labour Council to organize more effectively against the Non-Partisan Association (NPA)—a centre-right political party which had dominated civic politics in Vancouver. Frank Kennedy of the Vancouver & District Labour Council and Harry Rankin, an outspoken lawyer and city councillor, were key figures in shaping the coalition, along with activists from the British Columbia New Democratic Party and the Communist Party of British Columbia.

Beginnings: 1970s and 1980s[edit]

For most of its history, COPE existed in an uneasy relationship with centre-left parties at the municipal level. From 1972 to 1986 COPE competed with The Electors' Action Movement, which governed the city under prominent federal Liberal Mayor Art Phillips in the mid-1970s. By the late 1970s, a breakaway faction of TEAM, comprising provincial NDP supporters and led by future premier Michael Harcourt formed an electoral alliance with COPE, from which both parties benefited. Led by Harcourt, the coalition governed from the centre and, although it ran a unified slate with COPE with the cooperation and support of the VDLC, Harcourt's small party of Civic Independents would sometimes vote with the councillors associated with the NDP and the remaining TEAM councilors against COPE's more socialist policies.

When Harcourt stepped down to become a provincial candidate and a renewed NPA led by future premier Gordon Campbell absorbed TEAM's two remaining councilors, COPE became the senior partner in its coalition with the Civic Independents. Nominating Rankin as its mayoral candidate, COPE fielded a virtually full slate of candidates (leaving three open spaces for the incumbent Civic Independents) but was badly beaten, the returning to power for the first time in 14 years, and deprived for the next two years of Rankin's leadership in the council chamber.

COPE and independents: 1980s–1990s[edit]

In 1988, COPE entered the election an equal partner with the newly formed Civic New Democrats, a party directly affiliated with the BC NDP. Led by anti-poverty activist Jean Swanson, the coalition made few gains but under the leadership of Jim Green in 1990, the party came close to winning the election. But while all COPE council candidates were elected, no Civic NDP candidates were (since a 1983 by-election, COPE had consistently out-performed all other leftist candidates on the concurrently elected School and Parks Boards). At this point, Vancouver's civic left conceded that the COPE brand was now more popular than any more centrist group. Thus, following the 1990 election, COPE merged with the Civic NDP, changing its name from the Committee of Progressive Electors to the Coalition of Progressive Electors. At this time, COPE made an official overture to the Green Party of Vancouver, the local affiliate of the Green Party of British Columbia, offering the group some minor policy concessions, joint billing in the party's ballot name ("COPE-Green '93") and assurances that important party members would ensure some Greens were nominated. The Greens turned the deal down.

Since 1993, COPE has nominated candidates for all civic offices (Mayor, City Councillor, School Board Trustee, and Parks Commissioner) but its closer affiliation with an incumbent provincial NDP government and inability to negotiate a deal with the Greens, who began siphoning votes in increasing numbers, resulted in flagging performance. Rankin's retirement from council also damaged the party. In 1993, COPE's representation fell to only one councilor, future MLA Jenny Kwan. COPE did not win any seats in 1996, thanks to a strong showing for the Greens and a left-right coalition called VOICE, led by Rankin's wife Connie Fogal and 1984 mayoral candidate Jonathan Baker. With this fragmentation of the civic left, the NPA won all 27 contested seats in that election with only 43% of the vote.

In 1999, COPE regained its footholds on School Board and City Council and the Greens gained a seat on Parks Board under the leadership of mayoral candidate David Cadman. The two independent candidates who had also joined the coalition were defeated, although former NPA councilor Nancy Chiavario came close to keeping her council seat after being pushed out by supporters of Jennifer Clarke at the NPA nominating meeting.

COPE's first government: 2002[edit]

In 2002, the NPA was divided between a right-wing faction led by Jennifer Clarke and a moderate faction led by then NPA Mayor Philip Owen, creating the possibility of a COPE majority.

Former Chief Coroner and RCMP officer Larry Campbell, fictionalized on the CBC show Da Vinci's Inquest whom COPE nominated as its mayoral candidate. Although Campbell attempted to keep the Greens in the fold, a new provincial leadership had taken control and pulled the party out of its municipal coalitions.

But Clarke's takeover of the NPA and purge of its centrists was highly unpopular with Vancouver voters, especially her movement's deposition of the incumbent mayor, an ally of Campbell. Now led by a centrist for the first time, COPE defeated the NPA in every seat it contested.

In the 2002 municipal election, an unprecedented surge in voter turnout elected the first COPE mayor and board majorities in Vancouver's history. Every candidate running under COPE's banner was elected.

After the election, the party created a new Climate Task Force, implemented ethical purchasing policy, built bike routes, and legalized secondary suites, among other initiatives.

Vision Vancouver splits: 2005[edit]

By late 2004, there were growing signs of disunity between the COPE mayor and some COPE councillors. Campbell formed an independent caucus along with three of his COPE colleagues (although they all remained as members of the party). The other COPE councillors remained in the original COPE caucus.

The maverick COPE councillors (dubbed "COPE Lite" or "Diet COPE" by the media) eventually separated and formed a new party, Vision Vancouver, to run in the 2005 municipal election. COPE did not run a mayoral candidate to challenge Vision nominee, former COPE councillor Jim Green .

In the election for Vancouver City Council held in November 2005, only one COPE councillor (David Cadman) was elected. The party was reduced to three seats on the city school board and two on the parks board, newcomer Spencer Herbert, and Loretta Woodcock.

More alliances: 2007–2008[edit]

In May 2007, a slate was elected to the COPE Executive, called "the group of seven" or "the facebook group" by some media.[3] All seven members of the slate were elected with a mandate to seek an electoral coalition with Vision Vancouver. From 2007 to 2008, 50% of COPE's Executive was under the age of 30, unprecedented for a major civic municipal party in Canada. From May 2007 to spring 2008, COPE made overtures to Vision Vancouver to enter into a coalition for the 2008 election "to defeat the NPA" with little success. It was not until Gregor Robertson was nominated as Vision Vancouver's mayoral candidate that formal negotiations between the two organizations began in early summer of 2008.

COPE and Vision Vancouver reached a tentative agreement in late summer 2008, which was later ratified by the Vision Vancouver Executive and COPE membership. COPE agreed not to run a mayoral candidate to avoid splitting the progressive vote.

Decline: 2008–2011[edit]

In the 2008 Vancouver municipal election voters replaced the NPA-dominated council with a near sweep of COPE, Green and Vision Vancouver candidates. COPE elected six of nine candidates, running a new media and youth-oriented campaign.

In the leadup to the 2011 election, several party activists launched a campaign to separate from Vision Vancouver, arguing that in coalition with Vision, that COPE "[hadn't] been able to do anything."[4] The activists were defeated by the majority of COPE members.[5]

In the November 19, 2011 election, a single COPE candidate was elected. The elected candidate was incumbent Allan Wong, as one of nine school trustees. COPE ran a total of nine candidates in the election.

On December 8, 2013, Allan Wong, COPE's sole elected politician, resigned from the party to join Vision Vancouver.


After the election loss in 2011, a group called "Independent COPE" was elected to COPE's Executive Board.[6]

During this time, a number of high-profile COPE members and former candidates left the party, including former Vancouver School Board trustee Jane Bouey, former BC NDP MLA David Chudnovsky, former candidates RJ Aquino and Gwen Giesbrecht, and Stuart Parker.[7][8][9]

At the party's annual general meeting in 2013, Independent COPE captured a majority by a wide margin.[10] The membership also passed a motion to run a mayoral candidate in the 2014 election, and a majority of candidates for City Council, School Board, and Park Board.

In September 2014, only two of COPE's 17 candidates were endorsed by the Vancouver and District Labour Council – the labour organization that helped found the political party nearly five decades prior.[11][12]

2014 mayoral campaign[edit]

At a general meeting in September 2014, an overwhelming majority of COPE membership endorsed Meena Wong as the 2014 mayoral candidate.[13] The community organizer and activist stated that the focuses of her campaign would be giving citizens a voice and keeping housing affordable.[14] She also proposed a tax on vacant homes in Vancouver.[15]

In addition to Wong, the membership endorsed a slate of 16 candidates. In accordance with the party's equity policy there was a First Nations (Indigenous) candidate for each board and the majority of candidates are female.[16]

The party's 2014 election platform advocated for a new Vancouver Housing Authority, for Vancouver to become a sanctuary city, to implement a minimum wage raise to $15/hr, and to hold a referendum for electoral reform to consider switching from a first-past-the-post voting system to a proportional representation system.[17]

2014 candidates[edit]

Candidate Position Declared Focus
Meena Wong Mayor Housing Affordability[18]
Audrey Siegl City Council Indigenous sovereignty, housing authority[19]
Gayle Gavin City Council Affordability, Inclusivity, Food security[20]
Jennifer O'Keeffe City Council Homelessness, Housing Security[21]
Keith Higgins City Council Transparency, Housing[22]
Sid Chow Tan City Council Integrity, Housing Affordability[23]
Tim Louis City Council Housing Authority, Expropriating the Arbutus Corridor[24]
Lisa Barrett City Council Affordability, Environmental Sustainability, Indigenous Sovereignty
Diana Day School Board Anti-Funding Cuts, Anti-Racism[25]
Ilana Shecter School Board Students Environmental Bill of Rights, Youth Empowerment[26]
Heidi Nagtegaal School Board Low Income Students[27]
Kombii Nanjalah School Board Class Sizes, New Immigrant Students[28]
Ralph Fraatz School Board Increased Funding, Decreased Class Sizes[29]
Anita Romaniuk Park Board Accountability[30]
Ezra Fulford Park Board Green Spaces, The Commons[31]
Imtiaz Popat Park Board Sanctuary City[32]
Urooba Jamal Park Board Youth Programs, Inclusivity[33]

2018 municipal election[edit]

In October 2018, COPE ran seven candidates for the 2018 Vancouver municipal election: Jean Swanson, Derrick O'Keefe, and Anne Roberts for City Council; Gwen Giesbrecht and John Irwin for Park Board; and Diana Day and Barb Parrott for School Board. The party had four of its candidates elected and achieved representation on each of the city's boards. The 2018 COPE campaign called for a mansion tax to end homelessness, a moratorium on renovictions, and a four-year rent freeze.

Election results[edit]

Election year Candidate Votes % Position Result
2018 None N/A N/A N/A Did not contest
2014 Meena Wong 16,791 9.24 3rd Not elected
2011 None N/A N/A N/A Did not contest
2008 None N/A N/A N/A Did not contest
2005 None N/A N/A N/A Did not contest
2002 Larry Campbell 80,772 57.79 Increase 1st Elected
1999 David Cadman 33,506 35.54 Steady 2nd Not elected
1996 Carmela Allevato 26,143 2nd Not elected
Vancouver City Council
Election year Votes % Seats +/–
2018 123,921 8.84
1 / 11
Increase 1
2014 187,733
0 / 11
2011 131,537
0 / 11
Decrease 2
2008 102,542
2 / 11
Increase 1
1 / 11
Decrease 7
2002 494,098
8 / 11
Increase 6
1999 145,594
2 / 11
Increase 2
0 / 11


  1. ^ a b c "Election results (unofficial)". City of Vancouver. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  2. ^ Hui, Stephen. "COPE backs First Nations votes on Vancouver city council". The Georgia Straight.
  3. ^ "At least they're not the Gang of Four". Public Eye Online. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  4. ^ Cole, Yolande (June 21, 2011). "Campaign launched against COPE election agreement with Vision Vancouver". The Georgia Straight.
  5. ^ Smith, Charlie. "COPE members ratify electoral deal with Vision Vancouver". The Georgia Straight.
  6. ^ Hui, Stephen. "Coalition of Progressive Electors chooses new executive". The Georgia Straight.
  7. ^ Lindsay, Bethany. "New party joins Vancouver civic politics scene." The Vancouver Sun.
  8. ^ Smith, Charlie. "Former COPE school trustee Jane Bouey runs for new Public Education Project slate." The Georgia Straight.
  9. ^ Pablo, Carlito. "Former COPE executive Stuart Parker quits 'toxic' party." The Georgia Straight.
  10. ^ O'Connor, Naoibh. "Independent COPE candidates capture seats on board". Vancouver Courier.
  11. ^ Ball, David P. "COPE largely loses labour's blessing." The Tyee.
  12. ^ Pablo, Carlito. "Vancouver and District Labour Council snubs most of COPE’s candidates." The Georgia Straight.
  13. ^ Howell, Mike. "Vancouver mayoral race now a three-way". The Vancouver Observer.
  14. ^ Hui, Stephen. "Meena Wong Runs For COPE Mayoral Nomination". The Georgia Straight.
  15. ^ Young, Ian. "Vancouver mayoral candidate Meena Wong proposes tax on vacant homes". South China Morning Post.
  16. ^ "Our Candidates | COPE". Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  17. ^ "COPE 2014 Platform". Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  18. ^ Young, Ian (Sep 8, 2014). "Meena Wong, the Vancouver mayoral hope with Hong Kong roots". South China Morning Post.
  19. ^ "Audrey Siegl for City Council".
  20. ^ "Gayle Gavvin for City Council". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  21. ^ "Jennifer O'Keeffe for City Council". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  22. ^ "Keith Higgins for City Council". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  23. ^ Chow Tan, Sid (Jul 23, 2014). "Homeless no more, evicted no more, silenced no more". Georgia Straight. Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  24. ^ Louis, Tim. "Longtime City activist Tim Louis ready for November 2014 election – calls for expropriation of Arbutus Corridor". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  25. ^ "Diana Day for School Biard". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  26. ^ "Ilana Shecter for School Board". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  27. ^ Nagtegaal, Heidi. "Facebook: "The economic background of a child should not dictate the quality of their education..."". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  28. ^ "Kombii Nanjalah". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  29. ^ "Ralph Fraatz for School Board". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  30. ^ "Anita Romaniuk for Parks Board". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  31. ^ "Ezra Fulford for Parks Board". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  32. ^ "Imtiaz Popat for Parks Board". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.
  33. ^ "Urooba Jamal for Parks Board". Retrieved Sep 13, 2014.

External links[edit]