Two park board candidates defect from NPA to TEAM with weeks to Vancouver elections

Incumbent Park Commissioner Tricia Barker and Park Board candidate Kumi Kimura are the latest defections from Vancouver's Non-Partisan Association. City of Vancouver / NPA

With fewer than six weeks to go before Vancouver’s municipal election and just days after it announced its new mayoral candidate, the city’s oldest civic political party has lost two more candidates.

Incumbent Park Commissioner Tricia Barker and park board candidate Kumi Kimura announced Thursday they were leaving the Non-Partisan Association to run for TEAM For a Livable Vancouver.

Barker, who is seeking her second term on the board, announced her exit in a brief statement on Twitter, saying she was grateful for the NPA’s support in her 2018 campaign.

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Speaking on CKNW’s The Jill Bennett Show, Barker wouldn’t say specifically if the party’s new mayoral candidate Fred Harding was the reason for her exit, but appeared to suggest the shakeup at the top of the ticket was related.

“I don’t think I would have left if John Couper had been there,” she told guest host George Affleck, referring to her park board colleague and former NPA mayoral candidate who quit the race in early August.

Barker said she didn’t feel like a traitor for her exit, but that she felt she needed room to speak up for her own priorities.

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“It’s also about getting your voice out and having the opportunity to have your voice come out, and if other voices in the room are louder than your voice, then people aren’t going to hear about what you’re interested in,” she said.

Barker, who has been outspoken in her opposition to the Stanley Park separated bike lane, told Global News the issue would remain a key priority for her.

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In a media release, TEAM billed the defection as a “game changer” in the campaign, pegging the party as the “common sense alternative” in the upcoming vote.

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“Tricia Barker has been a voice of reason on a Park Board where the majority have so often been out of step with Vancouverites,” TEAM mayoral candidate Collen Hardwick said.

“Her experience and commitment to our parks will greatly help our existing candidates, along with Kumi Kimura’s deep knowledge of recreational facilities and management.”

The move leaves TEAM with six candidates vying for a place on the seven-seat Vancouver Park Board, and leaves the NPA with no incumbent park commissioners seeking re-election.

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In a statement, the NPA described the two candidates’ move as “unfortunate,” and that it would announce new candidates soon.

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The loss of Barker and Kimura is the latest blow to the NPA’s rocky 2022 campaign.

In August NPA council candidate Mauro Francis left the party and announced he’d run instead with the Mark Marissen-led Progress Vancouver.

Just a week before that, NPA mayoral candidate and sitting Park Commissioner John Coupar abruptly withdrew his candidacy.

The year prior, three sitting NPA councillors, Sarah Kirby-Yung, Lisa Dominato and Colleen Hardwick quit the party over what they said was a “backroom deal” to select Coupar as the mayoral candidate.

Dominato and Kirby-Yung are now running with the Ken Sim-led A Better City (ABC).

Thursday’s move leaves Coun. Melissa De Genova as the only remaining NPA incumbent seeking re-election.

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