Harry Rankin was the founder of the Committee of Progressive Electors (COPE). He ran 12 years in a row before finally getting elected in 1966 as an independent.
Over the next twenty years Rankin became the most popular alderman in the City. The NPA controlled the other seats but there was a reservoir of affection for Rankin. When election time rolled around the voters who worried about the 'Socialist Hordes at the gate' always "Saved one vote for Harry to keep 'em honest."
In 1986 Harry ran for Mayor against the NPA's, Gordon Campbell. Harry lost. In 1988 he regained his council seat.
Why was he so popular? He was very funny, highly intelligent and, although he did not suffer fools gladly, showed a streak of kindness to everyone including, on rare occasions, the opposition.
Paradoxically, Rankin and COPE for all their socialist rhetoric were extremely cautious. COPE's acronym was parodied as “the Committee Against Practically Everything.”
He was the Councillor who most carefully analysed expenditures. He insisted that the City should only undertake projects that free enterprise could not do. He was sceptical of most government initiatives because he feared City Hall's propensity to screw things up. When Council created the position of "children’s advocate" Rankin suggested that for all the good she was doing, she might be a valuable source of protein for hungry kids in school.
He refused to attend Expo 86. He referred to the Federal Granville Island development as a "boondoggle". Ditto for Granville Mall. He was ice cold to the Vancouver Land Corporation, the purpose of which, was to supply market rental housing on City owned land. He dismissed it as "state capitalism."
Rankin served on Council until 1993. He ultimately quit his party in disgust in 1996. He considered that it had been hijacked by witless opportunists-the same ones who ultimately morphed COPE into VISION.
When he died in 2002 there was a demand that the flag be lowered to half mast. The Council of the day declined ('if we did it for him we'd have to do it for everyone') but miraculously it lowered itself and stayed there for a week.
Tim Louis articled with Rankin. He and mayoral candidate, Meena Wong, seem to be trying to return COPE to its roots. Their platform is left-wing and has some strange elements but don't sell COPE short. The party could regain the votes usurped by VISION when it abandoned Harry and lost its soul.