John Coupar has resigned as the NPA’s mayoral candidate, leaving the party without a leader with less than three months before the Oct. 15 Vancouver municipal election.
The party, which has run a mayoral candidate in every election for the past two decades, made the announcement in a news release Friday (Aug. 5) but didn’t provide details why Coupar left the race.
“The NPA board met during the evening of August 4 to discuss the progress of the campaign,” the release said. “Regrettably, the NPA has accepted John’s resignation as our mayoral candidate. We thank John for his remarkable service and tireless dedication to Vancouver as an elected park board commissioner since 2011 and we wish him well.”
The NPA said it will announce a new mayoral candidate “at a future date.”
Vancouver Is Awesome left a message for Coupar Friday but had not heard back before this story was posted. He issued a brief statement via Twitter Friday morning, saying he was grateful to the NPA for the opportunity to run.
"I love this city and have enjoyed serving the residents of Vancouver over the last 11 years," he wrote. "I have always strived to walk with the utmost integrity and with an unwavering commitment to those I serve. As I move on, I am looking forward to spending time with my family and friends."
'He looked at the lay of the land'
Elizabeth Ball, vice-president of the NPA’s board, said in an interview Friday that it was Coupar’s decision to leave the race and that he was not pressured by the board to resign. Recent polls have shown Coupar trailing in the race.
“No, there wasn't any of that,” Ball said. “I truly just think he looked at the lay of the land and what was happening out there. We're really sorry to see that John isn't available at this time, but we understand everybody has a right to choose the best time for them [to run].”
Asked for more details about a replacement, Ball said “you're not going to go out and get a replacement overnight, and then spring that on your already chosen candidates.”
“You’re going to have discussions and talks and it's not going to be an instant process,” she added. “But it will be a quicker process than one would hope. One doesn't hope for these kinds of things, but when they happen, you just cope.”
The NPA board’s selection of Coupar as its mayoral candidate was controversial because there was no nomination race. City councillors Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung, who were members of the NPA when Coupar was appointed in April 2021, had interest in becoming the party’s mayoral candidate.
Hardwick is now the mayoral candidate from Team For a Livable Vancouver and Kirby-Yung left the NPA to join the ABC Party, which is being led by the NPA’s 2018 mayoral candidate, Ken Sim.
The NPA has been in turmoil in recent years, with Hardwick, Kirby-Yung and councillors Rebecca Bligh and Lisa Dominato all leaving the party; Bligh and Dominato are also seeking re-election with the ABC Party.
The reasons for their departure were many — the board’s alleged shift to the far right, calls for an AGM being ignored and the resignation of four centrist board members in July 2020 over concerns the board was lacking enthusiasm and energy to move forward on city issues.
Melissa De Genova lone NPA councillor
Coun. Melissa De Genova, who is seeking re-election, is the only remaining NPA council member elected in 2018. In a text message she sent Vancouver Is Awesome in April 2021 in response to being the lone NPAer on council, she wrote: “The reality is, little will change for me. As a caucus, sometimes we would vote together, sometimes not. I expect that to continue.”
Coupar’s departure will conceivably come as good news to the campaigns of Sim, Hardwick and Mark Marissen of Progress Vancouver, who are challenging Mayor Kennedy Stewart and his bid for a second term at city hall.
In an interview in April 2021, Coupar responded to the turmoil in the party and the departure of the councillors.
“I’m disappointed, but they made their choice,” he said. “I wish them well. I’ve worked with all of them, including working with Sarah on park board for a number of years. I actually like to think I was kind of a mentor to her, and helped her at that time. Politics is always interesting in Vancouver, that’s for sure.”