A name intended to unite the community is causing a rift between a prominent business organization and a new civic party in New Westminster.
Together New West, a new municipal party that has been created to support and help elect progressive candidates for mayor, city council and school board, held its inaugural annual general meeting on Zoom on Dec. 5.
The Downtown New West Business Improvement Association immediately expressed concerns about the party’s name.
“Our president reached out to party leadership to discuss the #togethernewwest brand that we created in spring of 2020 (and continue to use) and a meeting was held to discuss our concerns about their choice of name. We are in continued discussions,” said a statement from the BIA after the party’s AGM. “The Downtown New West BIA does not endorse nor is affiliated with any political party or candidate in any municipal, provincial, or federal election.”
In a Dec. 15 email to the Record, Together New West member Gurveen Dhaliwal said the party has no plans to change its name at this time. She said a branding exercise was completed over the summer of 2021, with the priority being to develop a brand that reflected the party’s values and vision for the city.
“Our branding – and its different accompanying elements – is unique,” she said. “We also recognize that hashtags often change and evolve and are used by different individuals and groups at different times.”
Dhaliwal said Together New West will connect with local businesses to build awareness of the new party, and “they may determine if they would like to disassociate with the campaign.”
“Our name reflects our beliefs in bringing and building community together,” she wrote. “This includes empowered and empowering approaches to housing, education, transportation, access to public space and art, culturally sensitive and inclusive programming, and accessible public services that support all New Westminster residents.”
On Dec. 15, the BIA executive released a follow-up statement to the Record.
“The Downtown New West BIA respectfully requested that the new ‘Together New West’ party change their name, considering this is a brand that we have created and continue to use since Spring 2020. Much to our disappointment, we were just informed that our request has been denied,” said the statement. “We are exploring all possible options, including legal, to determine next steps.”
A day later, Mayor Jonathan Cote took to Twitter to address the issue.
“I am a strong believer that when you make a mistake, you own it and you take action to make amends. I need to take responsibility for being involved with the launch of a new local party that has negatively impacted an important community partner,” he wrote. “There was no malice or ill will behind this action, and I take responsibility for not doing the due diligence and engagement needed beforehand.”
“The last thing I want to do is undermine my political colleagues for whom I support and deeply care about and what I am doing will probably break every rule in party discipline. Still I did not join (and help create) a political party so that I could undermine my own integrity,” he tweeted. “I am disappointed the party executive have decided not to work with the @DowntownNewWest to fully address the legitimate concerns they have raised. With fully sincerity I apologize to the @DowntownNewWest.”
The apology was generally well-received and garnered a number of thanks from community members.
“We appreciate your apology and would be happy to talk directly with you about what actions can be taken to rectify this,” tweeted the BIA.