A new Vancouver party whose members left their long-time left-wing party to focus on education may face troubles in the civic election, according to a veteran trustee.
The newly formed Public Education Project has endorsements from Green Party and Vision Vancouver candidate. But the party will suffer in the upcoming election because of its single-platform structure, said long-time veteran school trustee Ken Denike.
“It’s difficult for a single purpose party with just two candidates to get the attention of people outside of the education area,” said Denike, who has been a Vancouver school trustee for more than 30 years.
Denike was recently expelled from the Non-Partisan Association and will be running for re-election with another new party, Vancouver First.
However, PEP candidate Jane Bouey believes her party’s distance council politics is one of her party’s biggest assets. She says the party’s two candidates will be better equipped to campaign for public education by distancing themselves from other levels of civic government.
“It frees us from some of the polarized politics that exist,” said Bouey, “in order to do the kind of work that we need to do in our schools.”
She argued this freedom would allow the PEP to take a stronger stand for education by uniting other parties. She also said that party co-operation through the PEP could help everyone fight against cuts to public education come budget time.
For his part, Denike remains unconvinced. He said he has found inter-party collaboration difficult and that partisan politics continually disturb the day-to-day workings of the current school board.
Bouey served on the Vancouver school board with Denike from 2005 to 2011. At the time, Bouey and fellow candidate Gwen Giesbrecht were with COPE, the formerly dominant now-marginalized left-wing party in Vancouver.
In 2011, there was a conflict within COPE over the extent the party should collaborate with Vision Vancouver.
Bouey says her choice to run with the PEP instead of with COPE was unrelated. She commented that the formation of the new party was “not a separation,” but was instead due to the increased public interest in education following the teachers’ strike.
Vision Vancouver and longest school trustee Allan Wong is a vocal supporter of the PEP. The Green Party’s Mischa Oak tweeted an endorsement of his own, but both Bouey’s former party and Denike have refused to endorse Bouey or the PEP.
“We’re not endorsing other parties, but we are all for collaboration,” said COPE representative Sarah Beuhler. “And we do believe that we and Jane share the same values.”