3 school trustees join mass departure from Vancouver's Non-Partisan Association

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Vancouver School Board trustees, from left, Carmen Cho, Oliver Hanson and Fraser Ballantyneall quit the NPA on April 24. (Non-Partisan Association - image credit)
Vancouver School Board trustees, from left, Carmen Cho, Oliver Hanson and Fraser Ballantyneall quit the NPA on April 24. (Non-Partisan Association - image credit)

With the exit of all three school board trustees on Friday, Vancouver's centre-right Non-Partisan Association has lost two-thirds of its elected caucus in a matter of days.

Vancouver School Board chair Carmen Cho and fellow NPA trustees Oliver Hanson and Fraser Ballantyne all announced Friday that they are quitting the party to sit as independents.

Their decision was made "following months of controversy surrounding the NPA board," according to a joint statement.

"As independents, we remain committed to the students, families and communities of Vancouver, and to working to ensure a safe, inclusive and engaging school environment that supports student learning and well-being," the statement said.

Their departure comes just two days after three of the party's four city council members also quit the party, saying they were "blindsided" by the board's "secret backroom decision" to select a mayoral candidate for the upcoming 2022 civic election. Councillors Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung are now also sitting as independents.

That leaves the NPA caucus with just three elected members — Coun. Melissa De Genova and park board commissioners Tricia Barker and John Coupar.

The mass exodus from Vancouver's oldest political party follows the NPA board's appointment of Coupar as the party's mayoral candidate for the 2022 election, a decision the departing councillors say they learned about just before it was announced to the media.

It also comes after months of concern about a shift of the party's board of directors to the far right.

The newly independent officials follow in the footsteps of Coun. Rebecca Bligh, who resigned her party membership in December 2019, explaining she was concerned about the apparent anti-LGBTQ leanings of some board members.

Members of the NPA caucus also spoke out last year after board member Christopher Wilson vilified the city's homeless and drug using populations online, encouraging fellow members of a Vancouver Facebook group to "start harassing these low-lifes."

At the time, Dominato told CBC she was "incredibly disgusted" by Wilson's comments.