Vancouver's NPA disputes claims new board members made anti-inclusion statements

A political organization in Vancouver is refuting the reasons behind the resignation of one of its elected candidates from caucus.

On Friday, Vancouver city councillor Rebecca Bligh resigned from the Non-Partisan Association to sit as an independent because of what she called an "infiltration" of socially conservative views.

The new executives on the NPA's 15-person board of directors include secretary Ray Goldenchild and treasurer Phyllis Tang.

In 2018, both were endorsed by the socially conservative Let's Vote Association, which says it is pro-family, pro-life and pro-parental rights.

Bligh took issue with a perceived stance of some of the new board against SOGI 123, a provincial policy around sexual orientation and gender identity that promotes LGBTQ inclusivity in schools.

Also on the board, as part of a new fundraising committee for the NPA is Christopher Wilson. He worked as the B.C. bureau chief for the right-wing outlet Rebel Media between July 2016 and Dec. 2017, according to his LinkedIn page.

He's the same Christopher Wilson who was told in 2017 by then federal environment minister Catherine McKenna to stop referring to her as "climate Barbie."

'No evidence'

On Saturday, newly elected NPA president David Mawhinney, released a statement to media saying the board and executive regretted Bligh's resignation from the NPA caucus and blamed news reports for alleging that the party's new executive have been involved in the anti-SOGI movement.

"These news stories are false," it read.

It went onto say that there is, "no evidence that either our secretary Ray Goldenchild, or our treasurer Phyllis Tang have ever made any anti-SOGI statements."

The statement said that it is in full support of another statement released by the remaining caucus, shortly after Bligh's resignation, which professed its support for the LGBTQ2S+ community and SOGI 123.

Current NPA Park Board Commissioner Tricia Barker and NPA City Councillor Lisa Dominato said the board of the party and the caucus are completely independent of each other.

Candidate selection

The board primarily works to determine which candidates will be nominated for elections.

For the 2018 election, the board blocked Hector Bremner from running for mayor for the party. He had won his seat on city council in a byelection in 2017.

NPA Park Board Commissioner Tricia Barker said the new board represents a change to how the party will pick candidates for the next election.

"I can pretty much guarantee you, that if that board had been in charge when I put my name forward to be a nominee for them, they wouldn't have picked me," she said.

Dominato says the caucus has asked the board to address concerns raised by Bligh that led to her resignation.

Doug Kerr/CBC

Frances Bula, who has reported on the NPA for 25 years as a freelance writer on urban issues says Bligh's resignation and confusion around what the board stands for could hurt the NPA in the next election.

"People are in an uproar about this," she said. "That's not good for any party's brand."

Before Bligh's exit, the NPA held five of the 10 council seats in Vancouver.

The NPA was established in 1937 and since has elected 11 mayors and hundreds of city councillors, Park Board commissioners and school trustees according to its website.

It usually attracts urban fiscally conservative members with progressive views.