Dan Fumano: Ex-Rebel Media figure among newcomers on NPA board

Credit to Author: Dan Fumano| Date: Thu, 28 Nov 2019 03:05:00 +0000

Vancouver’s oldest civic political party has a decidedly new-look board, including recent campaign rivals, a member whom outgoing board directors tried to stop from running, and a former Rebel Media personality who generated national headlines for an argument with Canada’s environment minister.

Hundreds of Non-Partisan Association members packed into the Italian Cultural Centre for the party’s annual general meeting on Monday, electing a new 15-member board of directors.

The NPA’s past board was in the news before last year’s civic election, after it barred sitting NPA Coun. Hector Bremner from seeking his party’s mayoral nomination. The NPA elected five councillors in that election, the largest caucus on Vancouver’s mixed council. But after Bremner and other former party members started rival organizations to run, the NPA’s mayoral candidate Ken Sim lost by fewer than 1,000 votes.

One new NPA board member, Christopher Wilson, was previously B.C. bureau chief for The Rebel, a far-right media outlet founded by Ezra Levant. Wilson is perhaps best known for a 2017 confrontation with then-federal environment minister Catherine McKenna at a Vancouver press conference that became national news. Wilson asked McKenna a question, and before answering, the Liberal politician asked him and his Rebel colleagues to stop referring to her by the insulting label “Climate Barbie.”

“I would like a commitment you will not call me names,” McKenna said. “There are lots of girls who want to get into politics, and it is completely unacceptable that you do this.”

Wilson told McKenna he couldn’t stop others from using the nickname, but insisted he hadn’t used it himself.

“Me, personally, I never have,” Wilson said.

That was not true.

Wilson had repeatedly called McKenna “Climate Barbie” in a Rebel video segment posted earlier that year, and used the disparaging nickname on his Twitter account, which he has deactivated.

Wilson stopped working for the Rebel in December 2017. On Wednesday, Wilson refused to discuss how or why he parted ways with the company, but said: “I’m ready to move on from my time there. … But I just don’t really want to speak ill of anybody involved with the Rebel.”

In a 2017 Rebel story, Wilson blasted “the supposedly conservative NPA,” who he described as “a total and complete disaster in opposition” during Vision Vancouver’s majority on council.

On Wednesday, Wilson said that while he criticized the NPA in his stories for the Rebel, he’d also given credit to some of the party’s councillors.

“I care about Vancouver,” he said. “And I noticed a trend with the NPA is their inability to win elections, despite a lot of discontent with the people in control at city hall.”

Wilson said he’s been an NPA member for “a few years,” but this week marked his first formal position with any civic party. He now works for a private education company.

The federal Conservatives previously had ties with Rebel, including Hamish Marshall, a past Rebel board member, who served as campaign director for the federal Conservatives in this year’s federal election. But that relationship turned “toxic” in 2017, Maclean’s reported, when Scheer “declared he wouldn’t grant any more interviews to Rebel after its sympathetic online coverage of neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, N.C.”

Another new NPA board member was the subject of controversy both on the floor of Monday night’s AGM and behind the scenes in the days leading up to the meeting.

Jane Frost, a former federal government employee, was elected to a three-year term on the board. But in the weeks leading to the AGM, members of the previous board tried to bar her from running.

Earlier this month, then-NPA president Mark Angus wrote an email to the previous board warning that a motion advanced by some directors, aiming to exclude Frost from standing for election at this week’s AGM, “will be the proverbial nail in the coffin.”

“Sad to say — but I predict a gong show if we continue with this action,” Angus wrote, in emails obtained by Postmedia. Board members apparently had concerns Frost provided information about the NPA AGM to her supporters before it was to be made public.

In the end, Frost was included on the ballot and elected Monday, while Angus was not re-elected.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Angus said he stood by his decision that Frost should be allowed to run, and had obtained a legal opinion which agreed.

“I wasn’t re-elected, but that’s fine,” Angus said. “Live by the sword, die by the sword.”

Frost did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

Also elected Monday were NPA board members who were political opponents in last year’s municipal elections, running for upstart civic parties that were accused of splitting the centre-right vote and drawing from the NPA’s traditional base. Those included ProVancouver mayoral candidate David Chen, Yes Vancouver council candidate Phyllis Tang, and Ray Goldenchild, who ran for park board with Vancouver 1st.

NPA board member Harry Cockell, who did not stand for re-election this week, said he was “encouraged to see the breakaway parties come back and as long as everyone can continue to agree to disagree, then the NPA will be a formidable force in 2022.”