Saturday, December 31, 2011

That's a wrap for "plenty"-eleven

After hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics last year, some of you thought Vancouver would revert to its old, boring self.

The year 2011 was anything but dull and kept us journalists on our toes.

The Stanley Cup riot on June 15 was the biggest local news story of the year and the ripple effects will continue in 2012 as accused rioters and looters are slowly prosecuted. Those of us who remembered 1994 were hoping for a victory parade instead of that ugly, four-letter word.

There was only one day better than the Vancouver Whitecaps' triumphant Major League Soccer debut under sunny skies at Empire Field on March 19. That was Nov. 27 when the B.C. Lions won the Grey Cup at home for the second time. The first time was Nov. 27, 1994. Yes, that year also included a riot by Canucks' fans.

B.C. Place Stadium reopened from a $563 million renovation on Sept. 30. The jury is still out on the engineering marvel and we don't know the final cost to taxpayers. Telus was supposed to become the naming rights sponsor; the deal mysteriously went sideways. A proposed mega-casino was supposed to help pay for the project, but an effective campaign forced city council to vote it down on April 19.

The Occupy movement provided citizens across the broad political spectrum a chance to come together Oct. 15 at the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza to vent their frustration at the varying degrees of government action and inaction with the problem of so-called crony capitalism. The movement was part of a broader wave of global rage against corruption that toppled dictators. What next?

There were elections. Federal on May 2 and municipal on Nov. 19. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives got a majority and Mayor Gregor Robertson's Vision Vancouver got three more years. On both counts, however, turnout was disappointing. Civic independents in Vancouver are pondering an alliance to neuter the influence of the real estate development lobby on governing Vision Vancouver and the opposition Non-Partisan Association. A desired fall provincial vote was scuttled by new Premier Christy Clark on Aug. 31. Clark was installed by the B.C. Liberal Party in February to replace Gordon Campbell. Clark has done little governing and plenty of campaigning. Evidently, you can take the host out of the talkshow, but you can't take the talkshow out of the host.

Power to the people who defeated the Hated Sales Tax. A mail-in ballotseemingly engineered to give the government the result it wanted -- to keep the Harmonized Sales Tax -- resulted in 54.73 percent of voters opting to quash the tax. The two Dutch Bills -- right-winger Vander Zalm and left-winger Tieleman -- celebrated at Jack Poole Plaza, in the shadow of the Olympic cauldron, on Aug. 26.

Alas, Tieleman (and others like Alex Tsakumis) still hope and wait for an inquiry into the corrupt sale of B.C. Rail.

Here's wishing Premier Clark has a courageous change of heart and orders one in 2012.

Families want jobs, but they also deserve a transparent government they can trust.

Happy New Year. Play hard and play fair in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

TransLink ticket scandal revealed

On Oct. 25, 2011, Transit Police announced two men were accused of stealing thousands of FareSavers tickets from the Richmond recycling warehouse where they worked.

Documents released to me by TransLink indicate the taxpayer-funded regional transit company was negligent in the way it handled the destruction of tickets deemed obsolete by a fare increase.

Read my story from the Vancouver Courier here.

The source documents below show the faulty decision-making and new policies to beef-up security next time bulk tickets are to be destroyed.

TransLink Ticket Destruction FOI Release - 2011-167 - MACKIN, Bob

City hall's first family rocked

Eight years ago, on Dec. 28, 2003, police raided the B.C. Legislature. They didn't tell us at the time it was about the corrupt sale of B.C. Rail, but indicated it was connected to an organized crime investigation. Premier Gordon Campbell was away in Hawaii.

On Dec. 29, 2011, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was away in Hawaii when the Richmond Review reported that his foster son Jinagh Farrouch Navas-Rivas is wanted for serious guns and drugs charges by the Richmond RCMP. An arrest warrant was issued Dec. 23.

Robertson's prepared statement issued to the media at 4:54 p.m. Dec. 29 aims to distance Navas-Rivas from the family, claiming:

"My wife and I foster parented Jinagh for two years until 2009. We have always believed that providing support to youth in need is of great importance and that fostering is an important contribution our family can make."

“It was in this spirit that we took in Jinagh to live with us. He has been on his own now since June 2009."

The Mayor's Dec. 14-updated bio on the city hall website says: "Gregor and his wife Amy have four children: Terra, Satchel, Jinagh and Johanna." (The same bio also claims Robertson's organic juice company Happy Planet is "Vancouver-based," but my Vancouver Courier story in October revealed it is actually now based in Burnaby.)

The 21-year-old Jinagh was onstage at the Wall Centre for Robertson's re-election victory party on Nov. 19 and introduced by Robertson as the "birthday boy."

Jinagh also had exclusive access to the Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean-hosted Hotel Vancouver party with foreign dignitaries before the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony and he also sat in the dignitaries box at B.C. Place Stadium for the closing ceremony. On the official guest list for the Feb. 12, 2010 event and on the name card attached to his chair for the Feb. 28, 2010 ceremony, he was identified only as Jinagh Robertson.

According to Court Services Online, Navas-Rivas is charged with alleged trafficking in a controlled substance on Nov. 4 in Vancouver and Dec. 9 in Richmond. He is also accused of manufacturing or transferring a firearm on Nov. 18 in New Westminster -- the eve of the election! See the charge sheet below.

This puts the Mayor, who is also chairman of the Vancouver Police Board, in a very uncomfortable position.

Court Services Online charge sheet

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What wasn't included in the Furlong and Keefe report

One of the biggest stories in Vancouver of 2011 was the Stanley Cup riot of June 15. A terrible blemish on the reputation of British Columbia unlikely to heal for some time.

When provincially-appointed reviewers John Furlong and Doug Keefe released their expensive report into the riot on Sept. 1, 2011, what they didn't include were the 85 submissions received via email and Canada Post from the public and various interest groups.

On Dec. 20 I finally received the records I requested via Freedom of Information. Here is my story from the Vancouver Courier.

Some of the comments were not flattering to Furlong, Premier Christy Clark or the Vancouver Canucks.

See the records (which were partially censored by the government) below.

Riot Review Submissions-Mackin

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the Night Before Christmas inside B.C. Place,
A lone pigeon flew in the space.
While the roof stayed closed,
Two questions he posed,
"Didn't the Caps suck?"
"Hey, didja see the Leos beat Buck?"
Across Griffiths Way,
Where the Canucks do play,
Despite Game 7's crash,
The brothers Aquilini counted cash.
"Grazie Luongo, Merci Burrows and Tack to the Sedins,
"We kept your bonuses when you played like has-beens!"
Meanwhile uptown at the Nat,
Kerr and Mooney's wallets grew fat.
Out with the A's,
In with the Jays!
At the 60-year-old ballpark,
The C's are league champs, hark!
A year after Olympics, 2011 it was,
Many stories created a buzz.
So after elections, Occupy, and the riot,
Relax and let's all have peace and quiet.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mayor rings Bell with letter about lousy lights

Publicly, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is a rather placid fella.

So I found the tone of this Oct. 24 letter to Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell stern.

Bell is responsible for B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the provincial Crown corporation that operates B.C. Place Stadium. As part of the $563 million stadium renovation, Terry Fox Plaza was remade with Douglas Coupland's statues of the Canadian hero, forever heading west.

PavCo erected a giant video screen on the exterior of the stadium, angering area residents who won't tolerate bright lights flashing in their apartment windows. They were never consulted and are fighting back. PavCo used B.C. Place's provincial status under the B.C. Enterprise Corporation Act to bypass the city hall bureaucracy.

Not only did Robertson ask Bell to respect the city's sign bylaw, but he also asked PavCo to turn off the lights inside the stadium at night. PavCo has claimed that the stadium is more energy efficient than before the renovation, despite erecting so many video screens.

I obtained Robertson's letter via Freedom of Information. I am waiting for Bell's ministry to send me a copy of his reply, which apparently was sent Dec. 12 or 13.

Read my story here. See Robertson's letter below.

Vancouver Mayor's stern letter to Minister Responsible for PavCo

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jersey Girl also the Charter Chick?

Jobs and families. Premier Christy Clark's two favourite words. One thing is certain, she has given the powerful McLean family the job of flying her entourage.

I learned that Clark flew on eight trips during her first six months in office on Blackcomb Aviation, which is co-owned by the McLean Group. See my story here. The invoices and itineraries are below.

Premier Christy Clark's charters on a Liberal-friendly airline

Patriarch David McLean led the privatization of CN Rail and became its chairman in 1994. He is also a prominent B.C. Liberal Party fundraiser and donor. His Elections BC record shows he donated $209,707.50 since 2005. McLean was one of many supporters of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic bid. As owner of The Landing in Gastown, he was landlord of ICBC which sublet space to the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation. BidCorp. morphed into VANOC, expanded and moved into a city-owned complex in East Vancouver. (The Landing is where post-Olympic VANOC moved-in with the Twentyten Group, a marketing firm that also manages VANOC CEO John Furlong's speaking engagements.)

Premier Gordon Campbell had promised not to sell the people's railway. CN Rail bought BC Rail operations for $1 billion in 2003 in a suspect tendering process. Competing bidder Canadian Pacific Railway withdrew, calling the process unfair.

Son Sacha McLean is Blackcomb Aviation's CEO and donated use of the company's jets to Clark during her leadership campaign in early 2011, a fact initially reported by Sean Holman. McLean's other son Jason was an aide to Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien from 2000-2002, is a member of the Vancouver Police Board and became president of the Vancouver Board of Trade in 2010.

David McLean was expected to be among the witnesses called to testify in the B.C. Supreme Court corruption trial of Dave Basi and Bob Virk. The former B.C. Liberal ministerial assistants copped a plea bargain on Oct. 18, 2010 and the trial abruptly ended. Taxpayers were saddled with their $6 million legal bill, despite being convicted.

With a reliance on the McLean Group, why would Clark want to risk embarrassing political friends by ordering an inquiry into the sale of BC Rail? She has not changed her stance since the leadership campaign. An inquiry, to restore the integrity of government, is something that both Bill Tieleman and Alex Tsakumis wish would happen.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Luge slides back to 2010 Olympics venue

Felix Loch has mastered the Whistler Sliding Centre.

The German won the Olympic gold medal at the track during the 2010 Games and he was atop the podium again Dec. 9 during the second International Luge Federation world cup stop of the 2011-2012 season.

Loch’s combined time of 1:36.48 was 0.278 better than fellow German Johannes Ludwig. David Moller, the 2010 Olympics silver medallist, completed the German podium sweep.

“I like the fast track here, the start is good for me, it's not too steep. It's good for all Germans. The sled was today very fast,” Loch said. “The track became more safe, those nations that are not on the level of Germany, they are learning and getting better on this track.”

Calgary's Sam Edney was fifth in 1:37.061. Edney's seventh-place in the Olympics at Whistler was a best for a Canadian in men’s singles.

“Five Germans and a Canadian (among the last six) -- it's clear to me where they have that edge, at the start,” Edney said. “This has got to be the best track in the world. The feeling you get when you're sliding down you can't express it, the speed and that feeling of that adrenaline rush. Hearing the crowd as you're sliding down is one of the coolest things you can ever feel as you're sliding.”

Italy's Armin Zoggeler, the 2002 and 2006 Olympic champion and bronze medallist in 2010, was a disappointing 13th.

The first FIL world cup in Whistler was in 2009 when Moller won gold, Zoggeler silver and Loch bronze. Ludwig was fourth and Edney 12th.

* * * * *

In the men's doubles, 2010 Olympic champions Andreas and Wolfgang Linger of Austria won gold, beating countrymen Peter Penz and Georg Fischler by 0.244. Italians Christian Obsertotz and Patrick Gruber were third.

Linger and Linger established a doubles track record of 41.255 seconds. Penz and Fischler, however, are FIL leaders after two rounds of the nine-stop World Cup tour, which continues next weekend in Calgary. The Lingers are second.

Canada's Tristan Walker and Justin Smith were 10th.

* * * * *

No sliders from Georgia have competed in the first two rounds of the FIL world cup. But Georgia’s flag was displayed in memory of Nodar Kumaritashvili.

The 21-year-old died after crashing near the end of his last training run on Feb. 12, 2010, the opening day of the 2010 Winter Olympics. A small flag marks the spot where the tragedy happened.

A bigger flag is outside the track offices, near the Olympic podium.

The start area for women’s races continues to be used, as it was the day after Kumaritashvili’s crash. A safety audit ordered by the British Columbia Coroners Service was conducted by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. The results are expected to be made public in the first quarter of 2012.

During the summer of 2010, concrete on curves 12 to 16 was modified with the blessing of FIL and the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. More changes are coming.

Whistler Sliding Centre begins its second season of public skeleton rides on Dec. 16. On Dec. 22, it launches a public bobsled program. The two-hour courses are $149. The bobsled experience includes professional pilots. Retired Canadian legend Pierre Lueders, the 1998 Olympic champion and two-time world champion, will be among the guest pilots this winter.

* * * *

The official attendance wasn’t announced. In diplomatic terms, other things must have occupied the collective interest of Whistler locals and visitors. There were more athletes and reporters at the end of the track than there were fans.
Whistler is host of the 2013 world championships.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

B.C. Place's multimillion-dollar legal fiasco

A very messy legal battle is unfolding over the controversial $563 million renovation of B.C. Place Stadium, home of the Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions and the Major League Soccer chump Whitecaps.

Quebec-based steel supplier Canam Group slapped French cable specialist Freyssinet with a $26.15 million countersuit on Nov. 18. Read all about it here.

Canam's Structal division was responsible for the steel masts. It hired Freyssinet to supply and install the cables for the new retractable roof. Quite simply, the two companies couldn't get along. Now they're pointing fingers at the other, alleging bad management and shoddy workmanship.

This lawsuit has been festering since April, when Canam informed shareholders of a major cost overrun. B.C. Pavilion Corporation claimed it wouldn't cost taxpayers more, because the contract was fixed-price. This is what I reported then.

This is what I reported in August, as the reopening of the stadium rapidly approached and construction was going around the clock.

If you followed any of the roof leaks and box office and food and beverage service troubles during the reopening, the root cause of the rocky reopening was the Canam/Freyssinet conflict.

Had erection of the steel masts and attachment of the cables gone smoothly and according to schedule, the roof would have been fully installed by the start of summer and game day staff would have had several weeks of training inside the building before the Sept. 30 reopening. Workers could have leisurely done their best to make the new roof leak-proof, while days were long, sunny and dry.

Read the key court filings below.

Though unproven and untested in court, these filings lead to more questions than answers about the risky renovation.

What did PavCo and general contractor PCL know about the dispute?

When did they know the two important subcontractors were encountering major difficulties?

Why did taxpayers have to wait until lawsuits were filed to learn about these problems?

How much will the stadium ultimately cost taxpayers?

B.C. Place renovation lawsuit: Freyssinet Statement of Claim

B.C. Place renovation lawsuit: Canam Response

B.C. Place renovation lawsuit: Canam Counterclaim

B.C. Place renovation lawsuit: PavCo Response

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

After 168 days, the wait is over

The first 25 people charged in Vancouver Provincial Court with taking part in the June 15, 2011 Stanley Cup riot were announced Nov. 30, 2011. All are innocent until proven guilty. Here are their names and the additional charges.

Emmanuel Seren Alviar of Surrey, 20: two counts of mischief
Sean Charles Burkett of Surrey, 18: two counts of mischief
Oliver Cornelius Burke of Vancouver, 28: break and enter
Matthew William Cottrell of North Vancouver, 23: break and enter
Richard John William Dorosh of Surrey, 18: break and enter
Connor Blair Epp of Maple Ridge, 20: mischief
Kristian Toomas Johanson (aka Christian Johanson) of Vancouver, 20: three counts of mischief and two counts of break and enter
Kelly George Johnson of Surrey, 20: two counts of mischief.
Spencer Robert Kirkwood of Vancouver, 25: mischief
Timothy Tin-Chew Kwong of Burnaby, 30: arson
Sophie Carmelle Laboissonniere of Richmond, 20: break and enter
Anthony Joseph Karl Larsen of Surrey 18: break and enter
Matthew John Lennox of Vancouver, 24: break and enter
Nigel Boxuan Li of Vancouver, 19: mischief
Dylan Ray Lloyd Long of Surrey, 19: break and enter and mischief
Mobeen Mohammed of Surrey 33: break and enter
Alexander Keelty Peepre of Vancouver, 20: assault and mischief
Alexander Frederick Pennington of Burnaby, 21: break and enter
Alicia Price of Surrey, 22: mischief and arson
Robert Mitchell Snelgrove of Vancouver, 25: break and enter
Name withheld of Surrey, 17: break and enter
Jeffrey Ray Post of Maple Ridge 20: mischief
Jerry H. Wernicke of Vancouver, 28: mischief
Jensen Peter White of Seattle, 21: mischief
Lincoln Ray Kennedy Williams (aka Lincoln Kennedy) of Delta, 21: mischief and arson

According to a search on Court Services Online, none of the adults charged appears to have had any prior criminal record. Unless there are cases of mistaken identity or weak cases by Crown prosecutors, don't be surprised if there are plea bargains galore and conditional sentences: no criminal record in exchange for a year's probation and 100 hours community service or a like sentence. The courts are bursting at the seams, burdened by a lack of facilities, judges and sheriffs. For that reason, you could very well see trials (if any) happening in 2013.

Karanvir Singh Saran, 18, has the distinction of being the first person charged and processed, albeit in Surrey Provincial Court in a matter investigated by the RCMP. He got an absolute discharge Nov. 2 on a lesser charge of possessing stolen items. Joshua Lyle Evans of Calgary was wrongly accused by Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu of possessing a weapon. The 27-year-old's charges were dropped when witnesses said Evans was disarming a knife-wielding man. Charges of aggravated assault were also stayed for Burnaby 20-year-old Edgar Ricardo Garcia.

If you need a hint of what's to come, consider the variety of conditional discharges and dropped charges from the Feb. 13, 2010 anti-Olympic march. Willow Riley was the last to appear in Vancouver Provincial Court. She received a conditional discharge from a sympathetic judge who noted she had no prior criminal record.

Now, about those public officials who have yet to admit fault for the ill-conceived and poorly planned Stanley Cup fan zone...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Angus Reid: "Let's just enjoy it"

What the B.C. Lions have done to get to the Grey Cup is nothing short of miraculous. They opened the season with five straight losses. Since losing 30-17 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Aug. 13 at home, B.C. has won 11 of 12 games. The team will ultimately be judged on the result of the 99th Grey Cup at home in B.C. Place Stadium.

This orange and black team can become the first Canadian Football League squad to win the Grey Cup on home field since the 1994 Lions beat Baltimore on Lui Passaglia's dramatic last-play field goal. That was also on a Nov. 27.

The Lions have battled a bad economy and new competition in the form of the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer. Commentators speculated that the Lions would be overshadowed by both the Vancouver Canucks and Whitecaps. The Canucks were Stanley Cup losers and the Whitecaps mired in last-place with 18 losses to end their first MLS campaign.

"As players you can't approach a season on what media thinks who's going to be the biggest team in the league, how are we going to fit into the media circle and what are fans going to think of us? All we knew was we were losing games early on," said veteran centre Angus Reid.

"That's the beauty of this team: we never looked outside of the room, we had to pull together, we don't point fingers, we don't cannibalize each other...

"Look at what's happened. The media's behind us, the city's rallied behind us. That came with us doing our jobs as football players, not worrying about public image."

Not only is the game an opportunity for the 2011 Lions to become one of the greatest teams in CFL history, but it could also further the healing for a city bruised by the June 15 Stanley Cup riot. The last time the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup and fans rioted, the Lions won the championship at home.

"There's going to be almost 60,000 people in one building that will be filtering out together. That's a recipe for anything. I'm not going to compare CFL fans with NHL fans, because a lot of that wasn't sports fans, they were just idiots being idiots," Reid said.

"We can take this opportunity as a city and prove that we can have a mass amount of people here involved in a massive sporting event, where I'm sure there will be alcohol involved, and I'm sure there will be all the fuel you'd need to be a bad situation and, yet, we have it be a joyous celebration regardless of outcome."

"It's a great event, let's just enjoy it for what it is and prove that this is a city that can have great things here and not screw it all up."

Vanier Cup protest foiled?

Federal sport minister Bal Gosal was at the 47th Vanier Cup -- a Canadian football game like no other -- but not Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper was in Vancouver earlier Nov. 25 to commemorate the renovations at Science World. He was protested there by members of Occupy Vancouver.

Someone at the McMaster versus Laval epic evidently wanted to remind fellow Canadians of Harper's habit of limiting the number of questions he takes from reporters at news conferences. His handlers also pre-screen questions, though us crafty journalists try to avoid that problem by adding a second, so-called "dirty" question when it's our turn.

I spotted this sign inside Gate H at B.C. Place on Nov. 26, near garbage cans that were used during the previous night's Vanier Cup. It says "I want a Prime Minister that's not afraid of live questions from reporters."

By the way, anyone else get the same creepy feeling I got when I saw a Canadian Security Intelligence Service "Intelligence Matters" recruitment ad on the big-screen at B.C. Place?

The glum, downbeat musical score and impersonal nature of the creative was off-putting, to say the least. Then again, maybe Canada's spy agency really bears no resemblance to the jet-setting, womanizing and martini-drinking lifestyle of spies from the James Bond flicks.

Oh, say can you see?

The official sellout of the 99th Grey Cup game, announced in July, was 52,511. B.C. Place Stadium is said to hold a maximum 54,500. But will every seat truly be occupied on Nov. 27?

While the panoramic view can be described as spectacular, the renovation of the stadium left hundreds of seats near the top of level 4 with obstructed views. From some seats, only one of the two end zones is visible. You may also not be able to see the giant, centre-hung, shoebox-style video board for replays. The first, and often second, aisle seat in the top four or five rows of level four is impeded by structural columns.

If you have aisle tickets in rows VV-ZZ on level 4, you should contact TicketMaster or the Grey Cup committee. (Then email me to tell me about your experience.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy eviction intended to protect Grey Cup bank

What's really behind the City of Vancouver’s rush to disband Occupy Vancouver’s camp from the bark mulch and concrete of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s north plaza?

Grey Cup Festival organizers fear protesters could disrupt the Nov. 26 Grey Cup parade and embarrass a major sponsor. The B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction that allows police to evict protesters if they don't remove tents and structures from the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza by 2 p.m. Nov. 21.

No Grey Cup events were planned for the VAG plaza, where the protest began Oct. 15, and the Saturday morning parade route uses Burrard Street. There is no intelligence that such a protest would happen and Occupy Vancouver has not made a public statement against the Grey Cup festival or its sponsors. But a source involved with the 99th Grey Cup game organization indicated that nobody wants to risk embarrassing Scotiabank.

The Occupy movement’s protest targets have included banks. In Vancouver, locations of TD Canada Trust and RBC have been protest sites. Occupy protesters have also picketed against Enbridge, the company that wants to build a pipeline between the Alberta tarsands and coastal British Columbia to carry oil for export to Asia. Aboriginals opposed to the proposed pipeline attended the Scotiabank annual general meeting in Halifax last April. A Yinka Dene Alliance news release claimed Scotiabank raised $10 billion for Enbridge.

The newly re-elected Vision Vancouver-dominated city council enacted restrictive measures before the 2010 Winter Olympics to protect VANOC sponsors. No similar bylaws are in place for the Grey Cup. Mayor Gregor Robertson and his opponent Coun. Suzanne Anton are among the Grey Cup Committee members.

Planning for the Grey Cup Festival has been complicated by the ugly legacy of the June 15, 2011 Stanley Cup riot. The 1966 Grey Cup parade was a night-time affair and revelers rioted with Vancouver Police and RCMP outside the Hotel Georgia and courthouse (now the art gallery).

Freedom of Information requests for agendas and minutes of the large events oversight committee, central management team and Grey Cup committee have been denied in-full by the City of Vancouver.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Riot redemption or Eskimo jinx?

The Edmonton Eskimos are back in Vancouver for the third time in less than two months to seek their first win under the new roof at B.C. Place Stadium.

If they win Nov. 20, they will get a chance the next week to get their second win -- in the 99th Grey Cup.

The more times the teams play on the new synthetic turf field, the greater the odds that the Eskimos will finally win one. But will that win spoil the B.C. Lions’ ambition to finish the season as the home team in the Grey Cup?

Edmonton has rained on the parade before. Enough that you might suggest there is a green and gold jinx.

Every time the Lions have met the Esks in the West final of a B.C. Place Grey Cup hosting year, the Esks have eliminated B.C.

Nov. 23, 1986: Esks 41-Leos 5 in Edmonton (Mike Kerrigan and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat the Esks 39-15 in the Grey Cup).
Nov. 22, 1987: Esks 31-Leos 7 in Vancouver (Gizmo Williams and the Esks beat the Toronto Argonauts 38-36 in the Grey Cup.)
Nov. 20, 2005: Esks 28-Leos 23 in Vancouver (The Danny Maciocia-coached Esks beat the Montreal Alouettes 38-35 in overtime to win the Grey Cup).

What’s more, the Calgary Stampeders eliminated B.C. on Nov. 21, 1999, 26-24 at B.C. Place. The Stamps returned the following week to lose 32-21 to Darren Flutie and the Ti-Cats.

Could the Stanley Cup riot be a good omen?

The last year in which the Vancouver Canucks were losers and fans reacted by rioting in downtown, the Lions beat an Alberta team in the West final and won the Grey Cup at B.C. Place.

The Lions edged the Stampeders 37-36 in dramatic fashion in the snow at Calgary on Nov. 20, 1994. On Nov. 27, 1994, Lui Passaglia kicked the game-winning field goal on the final play to beat Baltimore 26-23. That remains the greatest sports moment in the history of 1983-opened B.C. Place and, arguably, the greatest 20th century moment in Vancouver sports history.

Vancouver was rocked by another Stanley Cup riot when the Canucks were losers on June 15, 2011.

Can the city end this year with a home-won Grey Cup as consolation?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Will it be 'independents night' in Vancouver?

One of the most vicious election campaigns in recent memory ends Nov. 19.

The Scotsman who wore a kilt to his 2008 swearing-in isn't taking the high road. Mayor Gregor Robertson originally pledged that Vision Vancouver would stay positive, but the party switched its strategy in the middle of the final week when the Non-Partisan Association closed the gap to within the margin of error according to some polling.

This is remarkable, because Vision Vancouver's own in-house polling claimed Robertson had 78 percent approval of Vancouverites at mid-term and he looked unbeatable. In Robertson's corner is Joel Solomon, the left-wing bagman from Tennessee whose intricate finances were deftly deconstructed by Vivian Krause. She calls her blog Fair Questions and reasonably wonders if the Vision Vancouver funding via various U.S. charitable foundations is legal. I discovered that the juice company Robertson co-founded moved out of Vancouver, therefore questioning the credibility of his spin that Vision Vancouver has attracted investment.

The NPA went straight for the Juice Man's jugular from the beginning, highlighting his party's backyard chickens, front-yard wheatfields, $500,000 Occupy Vancouver campsite, the million-dollar Stanley Cup riot, empty bike lanes… Let's just say Robertson provided his opponents a bounty of low-hanging fruit from which to make juice. The NPA's campaign chairman is Peter Armstrong, the Rocky Mountaineer tourist railway boss. His company got headlines for the wrong reason when replacement workers were hired because of a strike.

Vision Vancouver focussed on NPA candidate Jason Lamarche and his "Date Matrix" from his college days early in the campaign. COPE took aim at wannabe Mayor Suzanne Anton's unauthorized campaign pamphlet photograph with two Filipino-Canadian children late in the campaign. Anton quickly said sorry.

Robertson did more damage to his own cause by not acting decisively to strike a balance between the rights of Occupy Vancouver to protest with the bylaws that reasonably regulate public space. The three-day B.C. Supreme Court hearing on the city's application to tear down the Occupy Vancouver protest camp ended Nov. 18 with the city getting the court order it wanted (but didn't really need). Occupy Vancouver's pro bono lawyers Michael McCubbin and Jason Gratl scored some key points against city hall. Robertson's pet project is solving homelessness, but the court heard that the city's homeless shelters are both scarce and dangerous!

Robertson was mayor during the 2011 Stanley Cup riot. Now he faces the real possibility of a Grey Cup-week riot if Occupy Vancouver squatters resist the 2 p.m. Nov. 21 deadline to remove tents and structures from the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza.

Occupy Vancouver protested both NPA and Vision Vancouver campaign offices on the afternoon of Nov. 18, after calling into question the two parties' finances. Neither came clean on who's paying their bills by Occupy Vancouver's Nov. 17 deadline. They aren't required to during the campaign, but they really should. It comes down to the old maxim that he (or she) who pays the piper, calls the tune. Voters should have been able to know who the tune callers are of the two big parties before they go to the ballot box.

In 2008, Vision Vancouver spent $2,502,566 and its ally COPE $346,730. NPA spent $2,1101,229.

You'll have to wait to find out what the NPA and Vision Vancouver spent for their 2011 campaigns. But Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver disclosed $37,965 in donations.

NSV, led by mayoral candidate and West End Neighbours' present Randy Helten, endorsed COPE's R.J. Aquino, Tim Louis and Ellen Woodsworth, Green's Adriane Carr, independent Sandy Garossino and NPA's Bill McCreery for council along with its own slate of Nicole Benson, Marie Kerchum, Terry Martin and Elizabeth Murphy.

Helten got fed up with Vision Vancouver's pandering to developers and ignorance of neighbourhood issues, so he formed his own party. If it's as close as many believe, Helten could be the spoiler if he can draw 1,500 or more votes. I'll be watching Carr and Garossino's numbers closely. Carr is the veteran candidate of provincial and federal battles for the Greens. Garossino rose to prominence as the leader of the Vancouver Not Vegas coalition that defeated the Paragon Gaming/B.C. Pavilion Corporation bid to build Western Canada's biggest casino connected to B.C. Place Stadium.

A city council with Carr and Garossino would certainly keep Vision Vancouver and the NPA honest for the next three years. Helten would be more valuable as a councillor, but he seems to have a vision to grown NSV into the city's third party and his name on the top of the NSV slate is an attention-getter.

Speaking of Occupy Vancouver, that's where you can often find mayoral candidate Darrell "Saxmaniac" Zimmerman and council candidates Lauren (Rent is Crazy High) Gill and Chris Shaw of De-Growth. While John Furlong was boosting the Olympics for the better part of a decade, Shaw was the well-researched critic and the media's go-to-guy who a VANOC reality-check who risked his own privacy -- police spied on him -- to exercise his right to dissent.

It takes all kinds to run for office. Gerry McGuire of Vancouver Citizens Voice. Gölök Zoltan Buday has the most umlauts of any candidate and is running for the fifth time. He's "lusting" for power, that is Liberty, Unity, Sature and Trust. Dubgee is a fab rapper with the most creative mayoral campaign.

The moral of the story is that you don't need to vote for a candidate from one of the big parties. You have a choice. Whatever you do, get out and vote. It's your right.

Here's all you need to know about the City of Vancouver election.

By the way, if you notice any voting irregularities (broken machines, people voting twice, campaign signs too close to polling stations), report to 3-1-1 and then email me.


I'm watching out for Alexa Loo in Richmond and Larry Anschell in White Rock.

Loo is the Olympic snowboarder, running for Richmond city council. Mayoral candidate Anschell is an accomplished recording producer and engineer who has worked with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nickelback and Sarah McLachlan.

And, in the Olympic resort municipality of Whistler, will Ken Melamed win re-election or will the Olympic Village asphalt scandal bring him down? Will Whistlerites tell the incumbent to hit the asphalt? Under Melamed, Whistler was ranked second worst in municipal spending in B.C. by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Election day in British Columbia. Get out and vote. Then getcha popcorn ready!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Three more years?

Since 2008, it has been the best and cheapest place in Vancouver to witness tragedy and comedy. The seats are new and comfy and there is even “free” wifi.

I’m talking about Vancouver city hall, at Cambie and 12th. Government is not supposed to be so entertaining. But that’s how it has been under Vision Vancouver's management.

In my 21-year career, no single government I have followed has dealt with so much upheaval in such a short amount of time. Governing an Olympic city before, during and after the Games has proven harder than Vision Vancouver ever imagined. On Nov. 19, it will be up to the voters to decide whether Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver-dominated city council should be rewarded.

Robertson overcame an unpaid SkyTrain ticket and rode the Olympic Village financing scandal to victory in the 2008 election. His administration has been anything but the moderate, business-like one that was promised. At a time of global and local socio-economic upheaval demanding no-frills, cost-conscious government, Vision Vancouver has made bike lanes and chicken coops priorities. I haven’t seen any rogue roosters on the streets yet, but I found evidence that helmet and safety bylaws are not being properly enforced.

It all seemed to unwind for Vision Vancouver just before the Olympics, with the firing of chief electrician Ark Tsisserev for nothing more than cost-cutting. The original spin was that Tsisserev had retired or quit. Instead, his lawyer threatened a wrongful dismissal lawsuit and the city changed its tune. Ark floated away with a nice golden parachute.

Tsisserev had red-flagged concerns about safety at Olympic sites, including the Olympic Village. During the Games, a barrier collapsed at the City of Vancouver’s David Lam Park live site when the crowd surged. I found out later that city hall knew there were serious safety concerns because: A) none of the officials had not figured out the maximum capacity of the site and B) the emergency exits were locked and nobody knew where to find the key!

So 19 people were injured and nine hospitalized on Feb. 16, 2010 in the worst crowd control incident of the Olympics. There are at least two lawsuits against the city. One girl’s flesh was ripped from her leg in the melee.

After the Games, more chaos with city hall oversight and infrastructure.

It’s lucky nobody was killed in a demolition gone-wrong on Hornby Street or a hazardous materials incident on Nelson Street at the old B.C. Hydro building, now the Electra apartments and offices. Both incidents exposed city hall regulatory shortcomings. There were sinkholes in South Vancouver and downtown that affected major transportation routes and harmed businesses. There was a propane explosion at the Vancouver Christmas Market, on the day it was to open.

And then the ultimate tragedy -- the preventable deaths of three men before Christmas 2010 in an illegal rooming house on Pandora Street. Common sense says the city should have acted swiftly and decisively and condemned the building and found the men suitable accommodation elsewhere. But that did not happen. Inspector Carlene Robbins sued in the aftermath.

After the Games, Robertson went to New York City in spring 2010 to make him look like a statesman back home, but instead spent much of his time meeting with New York-based party supporters. Chief of staff Mike Magee held mysterious “hosting” functions at bars and restaurants in the Big Apple, but kept secret the identities of his guests.

Robertson was caught calling concerned citizens “fucking hacks” after a lengthy council meeting. Some of those “hacks” were members of his own party. Randy Helten got so angry at Vision Vancouver, he started his own party called Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver.

The Mayor’s Office hired a spin doctor who in turn hired a blogger to attack other bloggers and the media. It was officially a contract for “conversation mining.”

Researcher Vivian Krause probed Vision Vancouver’s intricate web of campaign financing. Her fair questions about whether American interests are breaking Canadian laws and influencing Vancouver policy making have gone unanswered. Vision Vancouver bagman Joel Solomon lobbied deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston to find a spot for one of his coffee company investments.

Of course, that should have been the job for the Vancouver Economic Commission, but it was too busy trying to pad the results of its Olympic business promotion while hiding the real information from nosy journalists.

Journalists have been stymied, under Vision Vancouver, because of city manager Penny Ballem’s gag order for staff. Meanwhile, the city communications budget has skyrocketed and the Freedom of Information office gutted. The city has fought tooth and nail against those who have sought copies of important reports. It even decided to withhold key information about contracts and spending on the Stanley Cup fan zone until after the election!

Robertson promised in his swearing-in speech that transparency was a top priority. No ifs, ands or buts.

"That accountability must extend to every aspect of City Hall. When the city uses your money, you have a right to know where it’s being spent, and what it’s being used for. When leaders fall short of that standard, public confidence is shaken.

"Over the next three years, we will rebuild that confidence, and ensure transparency, accountability and public debate at City Hall.

"Politicians do not always live up to that responsibility, I know. But I also know that there were literally thousands of people voting last November for the very first time.

"My commitment to them, on behalf of every member of my team, is that I will not let you down on making City Hall more open and accountable."

What is the Mayor hiding? The election will come and go with not a single rioter or looter being charged in Vancouver, yet Robertson, city manager Penny Ballem, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu and Deputy Chief Doug Le Pard have gone out of their way to protect their reputations amid criticism they failed the public on June 15. No fun city? No fault city.

Unelected, $300,000-a-year-plus Ballem was appointed a member of the VANOC board after her 2008 hiring and has used her power to spend $2.32 million on used VANOC furniture and computers and to sign a contract that keeps Olympic financial and board documents secret until 2025. She did so without council approval and denies conflict of interest. Shouldn’t citizens who employ her be the ultimate judge of that question?

The Mayor is supposed to be the number one cheerleader for business in the city, but the juice company he co-founded made a bee-line for Burnaby a year after the Olympics and quietly closed up its Downtown Eastside warehouse and office. Robertson claims he owns less than 10 percent of shares but was noncommital when I asked him the simple question: did you make any effort to persuade the majority shareholders to maintain a Vancouver presence?

The Olympic Village remains a story without end. When a municipal auditor general is finally appointed, this project must be the first he or she probes. Vision Vancouver inherited the mess from previous COPE and NPA dominated city councils and has continued to keep citizens in the dark about how much the real loss is.

On the eve of the election, lawyers for the Occupy Vancouver protesters were trying to thwart the city's bid to disband the anti-corporate greed tent village on the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza. (Y'know, where the B.C. government replaced the green grass with bark mulch after the Olympics.)

Robertson could have enforced bylaws to remove tents and structures in the days after the Oct. 15 rally. He could have followed the lead of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and sought a compromise that included issuing of permits to the protesters, so that they could exercise their right to freedom of speech and assembly while adhering to reasonable bylaws. McGinn served protesters coffee and his council voted to support the movement. Robertson claims he has visited the Occupy Vancouver site, but my repeated questions have turned up no proof of dates or times of any such visits.

Robertson didn’t and now his city hall’s failure to provide safe and ample homeless shelters to the city's weakest people is an issue for the defence lawyers.

The last three years have been a treasure trove of stories. Those of us in the media thrive on conflict and controversy.

Citizens of Vancouver who pay the bills probably don't share that sentiment. They want a responsible, compassionate and transparent government that upholds laws, protects and respects all citizens (and their rights) and, most of all, spends public money wisely.

Do they really want three more years of Vision Vancouver?

We'll find out on Nov. 19.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flyer photo flap

A Filipino-Canadian man who complained that photographs of his daughter and niece were used in an NPA campaign flyer without permission appears to have backed off a lawsuit threat. But he is complaining to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the civic elections office. He has also issued a list of demands.

Clifford Belgica wants the NPA campaign to pay for full-page apology advertisements in five major newspapers, donate a mutually agreed sum on behalf of the children to B.C. Children's Hospital and perform community service volunteer hours to an adolescent psychiatric unit.

Here is the full complaint, emailed to media early Nov. 16 from Belgica, whose complaint was publicized by the Coalition of Progressive Electors in a Nov. 13 news release.

RE : Vancouver NPA Party

Attention : Peter Armstrong, Party Chairperson
Suzanne Anton, Mayoral Candidate

This is to formally inform the Vancouver NPA and Ms. Anton that a formal complaint had been forwarded to the Office of the Information and Privacy Comissioner for British Columbia as well as Elections Vancouver [File #237386].

This is with regards to the blatant violation of the rights of the my child [Ella Belgica] and her cousin [Gabrielle Mojica] by the NPA and Ms. Anton; done by using their photo image taken in a public event that should have been for posterity purposes; but however the party decided to use as a leverage to show their electorate of their association and "concern" towards the minorities and the multicultural fabric of Vancouver if only to be able to sway votes for party and Ms. Anton's favour without the due process of obtaining consent.

We would also like to inform you that we were at the parade representing a 20 year old duly registered society protected under the BC societies' act upon which the organization is mandated to remain apolitical and not allowed by it's constitution and by-laws not to wear any political color. BIBAK organization of British Columbia is a conglomeration of British Columbians who owe their ancestry and heritage to the indigenous people called Igorots that inhibit the Cordillera mountain ranges in the Northern Philippines hence the traditional garbs being worn by the children during the parade.

This is also to inform you formally that a brief call of no more than 2 minutes to me from Ms. Anton detailing that it was a mistake by a junior staff and the kids are cute anyways ended up providing "insult to injury" specially the media releases sent out by your team right after to say that an "apology" had been made and using media to do the work for you for free . We have given ample time to when a family member had informed your party who were then distributing the materials to withraw up until we had issued our first media release on sunday [Nov 14, 2011] but you only contacted me after the release.

On Ms. Anton's admission, she also stated that the pictures were also used in platform broc
We are ready to move forward with our lives that had suddenly spiralled out of a peaceful existence with a wishful thought of the party making right and setting the wrong that had been done once and for all. As such, in the complaint sent out we wish for the following outcome:

[1] A full page paid party ad with 5 major newspapers [including the Vancouver Sun and The Province] of a full apology and full description of the violation as well as concrete measures that the party had and will do to prevent this from happening again [not a haphazard "apology" via free press]; content to be agreed upon by us prior to release.
[2] A mutually agreed compensation for the incident to include a donation on behalf of both child to BC Children's Hospital
[3] A mutually agreed community service volunteer hours on one of the adolescent psychiatric units in the GVR
[4] Any other outcome that Gabrielle's family has asked in their formal complaint also lodged with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Thank you and best regards to the upcoming elections,

Clifford P. Belgica

Friday, November 11, 2011

From tent city to the Village?

Occupy Vancouver's next rally, on Nov. 12 at 1:30 p.m., is a pro-housing march after a noontime speech by University of British Columbia Urban Studies chair Elvin Wyly on "the Vancouver housing shortage (and) overpriced condos" and a 1 p.m. speech by Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver mayoralty candidate and City Hall Watch-er Randy Helten on how campaign finance and corporate influence have tainted city hall.

Where will that pro-housing march go?

The Occupy Vancouver website doesn't show the route, but I'm going to guess: could this be the day that Occupy Vancouver meets the Olympic Village?

The Olympic Village, which went into receivership on Nov. 17, 2010, is now known as the Village on False Creek and remains the most controversial luxury housing development in Canada. The Olympic Village's lender once was a division of Fortress Investment Group, the debt-laden, Wall Street hedge fund that, through a subsidiary, foreclosed on victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

According to the fifth point of a six-point motion passed at the Nov. 10 general assembly (see below), Occupy Vancouver members would like to move to the Village, into the portion of units that were originally to be set aside as non-market, social housing. The inventory of 252 was halved when Vision Vancouver decided to give unionized first responders, teachers and nurses first dibs. Residents of the other half of the so-called affordable units have been burdened by a confusing and costly utilities regime run by a company with ties to Vision Vancouver.

In 2008, a different OV -- the Olympic Village -- changed the course of Vancouver politics and enabled Vision Vancouver to win election to Cambie and 12th.

It can be argued that Occupy Vancouver, though leaderless, has become the dominant force of the Nov. 19, 2011 civic election, dictating how both Vision Vancouver and the NPA have campaigned.

If Occupy Vancouver visits the Olympic Village, will that cause Vancouverites to ask more questions about the billion-dollar bailout, such as how much it's really costing taxpayers and could the money have been better spent on housing the homeless?

Passed by General Assembly, Nov 10, 2011

That if BC Housing, Judy Graves, or any representative of any housing
agencies come to Occupy Vancouver to offer housing options to those on
site, that members of this tent city collectively, and in solidarity
with one another and the movement, negotiate as a block for housing
with the following, or other, stipulations.

1) That those receiving housing from the tent city at occupy Vancouver
be housed in the same vicinity as each other, and ideally, the same
building, to maintain the vital community that has grown here, and
continue the movement in accessible, local, social space.
2) That those housed continue to maintain collective bargaining rights
in dealing with building managers and non-profit housing providers
regarding tenancy rights issues once housing has been provided. This
is to ensure adequate and appropriate housing options for those with
families, pets, or other ‘barriers,’ and to avoid slumlords,
infestations, and restrictive conditions preventing guests.
3) That BC Housing or some other entity provide daily transportation
funds or provide a shuttle bus between the new housing and the
Vancouver Art Gallery, to ensure accessibility within the Occupy
Vancouver movement.
4) That the encampment at the Vancouver Art Gallery continue, in order
to, amongst other things, allow those who have not yet been provided
permanent housing an interim safe, warm, and dry space to sleep and to
connect with housing agencies to secure housing.
5) That this housing be at the site of the promised, but lost, social
and affordable housing at the Olympic Village.

6) Before a final decision is reached, it would be brought to the
General Assembly for approval.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Things to make you go, "hmmm...."

Mayor Moonbeam
So who produced the clever satirical Mayor Moonbeam video that is going viral on YouTube?

I asked NPA campaign manager Norman Stowe -- who emailed me the link on Nov. 8 out of the blue -- and his response was: "Not ours… but I love it."

It's a well-produced satire. Slick, you might say. Do I believe Stowe? No.

Notice how the video doesn't use the Vancouver Canucks' logo, but it does include the Olympic rings and the Stanley Cup. All three are trademarked, but usually those who dabble in the world of satire are not afraid to poke fun at corporate logos, regardless of the distance of the corporation's head office.

Dear Freevancity -- the YouTube account name attached to this video -- contact me and tell me more, please!

UPDATE (Nov. 10 morning): Evidently the producer spent too much time worrying about the Canucks' logo and not enough on getting permission to use the music. New York-based MPL Music Publishing Inc. -- part of Beatle Paul McCartney's empire -- found out and was displeased. The video is gone from YouTube. The "Mayor Moonbeam" tune was from "Mr. Sandman," which was written by Pat Ballard and recorded by the Chordettes in 1954.

UPDATE (Nov. 10 afternoon). "Mayor Moonbeam" lives! Dave Teixeira, who I originally knew as wrestling impresario Dave Republic, has preserved the video on his site. You can enjoy "Mayor Moonbeam" here.

"Bum, bum, bum, bum..."


When Mayor Gregor Robertson did a media scrum on Nov. 5 in the aftermath of the death of Ashlie Gough, he did it with his back to the wall of the Vancouver Art Gallery, near the building's Hornby Street entrance.

I asked him if he would go to the protest camp, a couple dozen metres north and around the corner on the VAG north plaza.

He said:

"I've been on this site many times over the last couple of weeks. Every day over the last several weeks."

Robertson did not go to the Occupy Vancouver camp on Saturday night to offer his condolences or diplomatically and kindly tell the campers that he supports their message but not their mess. Instead, he walked across the bike lane he built and got in the passenger side of a waiting car.

Within minutes, I asked Chris Shaw and Eric Hamilton-Smith, both involved with Occupy Vancouver. They told me they had no recollection of seeing Robertson on the site.

I Tweeted and blogged about it, encouraging any witnesses of a Robertson visit to Occupy Vancouver to tell me what date and time he was seen.

No response.

I asked City of Vancouver spokeswoman Wendy Stewart who referred me to the Mayor's assistant Lara Honrado who did not respond. So I contacted Vision Vancouver spokeswoman Marcella Munro on Nov. 8, who said:

"I know he has been down, but I will need to check with him re. specifics."

UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, I got an email response from Honrado, who said:

"As the Mayor has said, he has been to the Occupy Vancouver encampment several times without the media present. There are no photos of these visits but they have occurred throughout the duration of the encampment."

Still no answer to the simple question about precisely when did the Mayor visit.

I continue to wait.

Coun. Suzanne Anton, his mayoralty opponent, has visited at least twice. Randy Helten, a former Vision Vancouver member and mayoral candidate for the new Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver was there on Sunday. Shaw told me that he saw Coun. Geoff Meggs there on Wednesday.

"He went through liked greased lightning," Shaw said.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who comes from the same left side of the political spectrum as Robertson, visited Occupy Seattle. McGinn, in fact, seems to have achieved what Robertson can't: an uneasy truce with the Occupiers. The protesters in Seattle have permits including a lengthy list of bylaws they must respect while exercising their right to free speech!

McGinn even hung out with them and gave them coffee.

So I am no further ahead in my quest to answer this question:

Has Mayor Gregor Robertson really visited the Occupy Vancouver camp on the north plaza of VAG? If so, when? Does anyone have photos?

The Juice Man and The Powdered Juice Man

Mayor Gregor Robertson is on heavy rotation on CKNW with advertisements pumping up Vision Vancouver council candidate Tony Tang. The ad says that, like the Mayor, Tang is a businessman. Funny, Tang's bio mentions he has an engineering degree, has been a volunteer and that he has a "rambunctious dog." But it makes no mention of being involved with any business. The ads are in such high rotation, that one has to wonder: is the fate of Vision Vancouver's majority riding on Tang's shoulders?

Tang has the same name as that famous juice that sustained astronauts (and us kids in the 1970s).

Robertson is the infamous co-founder of Happy Planet Foods, whose juices have only been ingested on this planet.

He says he owns less than 10 percent of the company and was noncommittal when I asked him if he made any effort to persuade majority owner Earth's Own Food Company of Burnaby from closing the office on Powell Street in Vancouver last February. Read my stories about the Mayor of Vancouver's former Vancouver company here and here.

Monday, November 7, 2011


City of Vancouver lawyer Ben Parkin has a 2 p.m. date on Nov. 8 with a judge at British Columbia Supreme Court in the Law Courts at Robson Square, near the Occupy Vancouver camp at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Or is it 9:45 a.m.? The chambers schedule (below) that includes the case known as City of Vancouver vs. Sean O'Flynn-Magee, Jane Doe, John Doe and other unknown persons (File S-117498) says it's in the 9:45 a.m. session.

City of Vancouver wouldn't hustle this matter before a judge when people aren't expecting? A stealth application to avoid an occupation of the court? UPDATE: The "Attendance List for the 8th Day of November, 2011" still lists the application in the 9:45 a.m. session, but the more authoritative "Vancouver Supreme Court List" shows the city application is to be heard by Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie in room 55 at 2 p.m. (MacKenzie was the judge who presided over the Basi-Virk B.C. Rail corruption trial, which occupiers might call a case of 1% crony capitalism.)

Website List

City of Vancouver's bid to end Occupy Vancouver on the docket

Parkin's mission, as ordered by Mayor Gregor Robertson and city manager Penny Ballem, is to convince a judge to order protest structures removed from the Vancouver Art Gallery where the protest began Oct. 15. The city also wants the authority to empower police to enforce the Land Regulation Bylaw on VAG property, which is leased by the city from the Province of British Columbia. Robertson and his governing Vision Vancouver party are desperate to end the protest camp for fear that NPA challenger Suzanne Anton will gain in popularity as the Nov. 19 election approaches.

The legal filings do not explain why Sean O'Flynn-Magee was chosen. Occupy Vancouver, like all the Occupy Wall Street clones, is supposedly leaderless. Magee is a digital journalist in Vancouver and here is his Facebook page.

The legal filings (below) spell out the reasons for the city's injunction and the laws it wants to enforce. Specifically, the Land Regulation Bylaw says it is illegal, without permission of the city manager, to:

(d) construct, erect, place, deposit, maintain, occupy, or cause to be constructed, erected, placed, deposited, maintained or occupied, any structure, tent, shelter, object, substance, or thing on city land.

The city is also pleading sections of the Bylaw that ban lighting fires and burning materials; depositing garbage outside of garbage containers; and removing soil.

This may not be a slam-dunk for the city. In fact, it's plausible that the protesters' lawyer could introduce a City of Vancouver Tweet sent Oct. 15 via Hootsuite as evidence that city manager Ballem permitted the protest!

@CityofVancouver #occupyvancouver rumour you will be kicked out at 10pm false, but pls allow others nearby to sleep tonight by lowering PA volume!

The city did not become serious about regulating activity on the site until Nov. 4, the day after a camper nearly died of a drug overdose and the day before a camper did die of an apparent drug overdose.

Even if the court approves the city's application, the Occupy Vancouver protesters vow to stay and resist authorities. Stay tuned.

City of Vancouver's application for a court order against Occupy Vancouver

Check the record, Robertson

Politicians say the darnedest things, don't they?

Case in point. Mayor Gregor Robertson on CKNW on Nov. 7, 2011 when Bill Good hosted a debate between the incumbent and his challenger, NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton. The dominant topic for the hour-long debate was the future of the Occupy Vancouver tent village protest, 21 storeys below the CKNW studios, at the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza. Host Good challenged Robertson on his support for the protest, which began Oct. 15, 2011. The exchange is at the 11:00 mark on the CKNW audio vault file.

Good: "Mr. Robertson, you did say the occupiers could stay indefinitely. Why did you say that?"

Robertson: "That's not correct, what I said was..."

Good: "You did say that."

Robertson: "No, you can check the record on that. The protest could be indefinite. People have a right to protest in Canada, that is our right. The encampment has never been acceptable. It's against city bylaws and we've been clear about that all along."

Oh, really, Mr. Mayor?

I checked the record.

Below are your quotes from Jeff Lee's story in the Vancouver Sun on Oct. 18, 2011. The headline was "Occupy Vancouver can continue if it remains peaceful: Gregor Robertson."

The story remains online and it contains no clarification or correction.

“Obviously safety and cleanliness is crucial to the protest continuing, and violence won’t be tolerated,” Robertson said. “It is premature to say in terms of timelines [how long the protest will last] given the magnitude of this protest globally. I think we’re close to a thousand cities with these protests.”

“I believe this movement has a lot of support and kudos to the protesters and police for keeping it constructive and peaceful,” he said.

“I think everyone’s waiting to see what takes shape in terms of outcomes and agendas. There is a lot of energy around it and it has yet to be seen what results from this.”

The key word in the well-meaning Occupy Wall Street-inspired protests around the world is occupy. Occupy means "to take or hold possession or control" and "to reside in as an owner or tenant." In the context of the Occupy movement, protest and camp are one and the same. From these protest camps, the followers aim to create a movement. Mr. Mayor, you encouraged and enabled the protest camp, even when occupiers said they were gearing up for a long stay outside VAG. You accepted the camp, despite the bylaws that exist. Bylaws that could have afforded you a chance to strike a constitutional balance between public order and free speech. Don't hide from it. Now you're trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube and it's not going to be a pretty end.

Here's a suggestion. And you can thank me later for this. Charter a BC Ferry, invite all the occupiers for an all expenses-paid cruise up the coast to the campground at your Hollyhock getaway on Cortes Island and feed them as much juice and soup from your Burnaby-based Happy Planet Foods company for the rest of winter. Set-up a round-the-clock Livestream feed so that Vancouverites and others around the world can watch the general assemblies and other activities for months to come.

#OccupyHollyhock would be cheaper in the end and create the peaceful outcome you say you want.

Vancouver Police have more important things to do than a mass arrest of protesters. (Like solving the gang war.) Crown counsel has more important things to do. (Like reviewing the charges recommended against 60 alleged Stanley Cup rioters and looters.)

You have more important things to do. Like clowning around with your fake Movember mustache and campaigning for re-election on Nov. 19.

Because you surely don't want to go down in history as just a three-year NDP MLA and three-year Vision Vancouver Mayor. And you surely don't want to hear these three words: "Mayor Suzanne Anton."

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