A Vancouver Public Library trustee who has criticized Mayor Ken Sim’s ruling party is raising concerns of “cronyism” at city hall after councillors rejected her application for another term and appointed an ABC donor instead.
First-term trustee Melody Ma, a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Vancouver’s Chinatown, says the library’s board of trustees recommended she be reappointed, but on Wednesday the city clerk’s office informed her that Vancouver city council’s nomination sub-committee had rejected her application.
She says that’s because of her stance as a trustee and advocate, which has often brought her into opposition with Sim and councillors from his ABC Vancouver party.
“I was the one who was singled out, because I’ve been a critical voice of the ruling party, and replaced with a party insider,” Ma told CBC News on Sunday.
“We’re witnessing cronyism live in Vancouver folks,” Ma said in a Saturday post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
1/ Over the 2 years, I had the great honour of serving on <a href=”https://twitter.com/VPL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@VPL</a>’s board. A few days ago, my service ended abruptly. Vancouver city council kicked me off the board and replaced me with a political crony. This never happens. City councils usually reappoint sitting trustees. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/vanpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#vanpoli</a> <a href=”https://t.co/BU8aPFdY3t”>pic.twitter.com/BU8aPFdY3t</a>
The nomination sub-committee is composed of three councillors: Mike Klassen and Lisa Dominato of ABC, and the Green Party’s Pete Fry, who said Sunday he advocated for Ma’s reappointment.
The three councillors vote on appointment recommendations for several civic bodies, which are then put to a vote by council.
According to the Nov. 28 council decision, the new appointee to the VPL’s 11-person, non-partisan board is Parveen Mangat, a registered pharmacist and strategic adviser at the Canadian Pharmacists Association with ties to ABC and the mayor.
ElectionsBC contribution reports show Mangat donated $1,250 — just shy of the $1,309.09 individual contribution limit — to ABC’s municipal campaign in 2022.
Mangat was a member of the ABC campaign team, according to a December 2022 social media post by Dominato, and was an invited guest at Sim’s November 2022 inauguration, according to a guest list obtained through a freedom of information request.
Mangat was also previously appointed to the board of the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of British Columbia by Health Minister Adrian Dix from 2019 to 2020.
Attempts by CBC News to contact Mangat for comment were unsuccessful.
ElectionsBC records do not show any political donations by Ma.
Ma says she feels she has been “punished” for her advocacy, and says the decision to reject her application for reappointment is “antithetical” to the freedom of expression VPL holds among its stated core values.
“This is not about pitting one racialized woman of colour against another racialized woman of colour and comparing our background and expertise,” said Ma. “This is about a ruling party that doesn’t like people who criticize them.”
A statement from Sim’s office Sunday did not respond to questions about Ma’s claims or Mangat’s appointment, but said deliberations by the nominations sub-committee are not made public.
“There are a wide range of factors that go into the appointment process for the city’s boards and committees, including balancing skill sets and renewal,” said the statement emailed to CBC News. “We thank all who serve on our public boards and agencies, past and present.”
CBC News contacted Klassen and Dominato, who both directed questions to Sim’s office.
George Affleck, a political consultant and former city councillor, said it’s not unusual for new councils to replace board members appointed by their predecessors, but added it’s important boards have a balance of perspectives.
Appointments are also a chance for parties to bring “rising stars” into the fold and prepare them to run in future elections, he said.
“It’s not surprising, with somebody who has been very, very controversial at city hall, for a new council to perhaps not see [Ma] as someone that they want,” Affleck told CBC News.
“I don’t know the backstory here … but it sounds a bit like sour grapes.”
In a Sunday social media post, Councillor Fry said he found Ma “to be a smart, productive trustee [who] did not bring unrelated partisan politics to her role.”
“I advocated to reappoint Ma, but nomination subcommittee is *not* non-partisan, as one might deduce from membership,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
ABC councillors recently voted down a motion Fry said would increase transparency around nominations, he added.
Before I was replaced at VPLBoard, I worked w/ Melody and found her to be a smart productive trustee, and did not bring unrelated partisan politics to her role. I advocated to reappoint Ma, but nomination subcommittee is *not* non-partisan, as one might deduce from membership… <a href=”https://t.co/OSX7k1bpw1″>https://t.co/OSX7k1bpw1</a>