Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beat the drum for accountability

Feeble, at best. Asinine, at worst.

I am talking about the Vancouver Police Department's baseless blame-the-media-for-the-Stanley Cup-riot response to the revelation that Liquor Control and Licensing Board general manager Karen Ayers warned the Deputy Solicitor General of "pre-riotous behaviour" during the Stanley Cup final.

"Most of the reporting on the riot and the aftermath has been accurate and insightful, but some has been misleading and inflammatory – suggestions that LCLB documents reveal prior knowledge of a riot falls squarely into the latter category.

"We are concerned about stories created that choose to inflame the rhetoric about the riot based on wrong information, as we were originally concerned by stories and reporters who beat the drum most loudly inciting crowds to gather in the first place. We would respectfully ask that facts be checked and confirmed."

To Chief Jim "No Clue" Chu, I dedicate the above "Beat the Drum" video by Great Big Sea.

I can't think of any of my colleagues or competitors in any part of the British Columbia media who "beat the drum" for unruly behaviour by any hockey fans in June 2011. On the contrary, the message given was to celebrate safely. No matter how important the series, no matter how much we'd all like to see a Stanley Cup parade in Vancouver someday, it is just a game.

Click here for my Tweet on June 13, when I was beating the drum for a civil celebration by offering a cautionary reminder of the ugly legacy of 1994's riot.

CKNW reporter James Lewis challenged Chu on Sept. 24 to clarify the clarification and to explain whether he agreed with the blame-the-media statement and whether he authorized it. Chu gave Lewis, who asked the right questions, the cold shoulder. Read the story and hear the clip here.

Ayers is the first-known public official to use a variation of the R-word. She did so in an email, three days before the Stanley Cup riot, to justify her decision to close downtown Vancouver liquor stores early on June 13 and June 15. Here are excerpts from her notes, obtained under Freedom of Information (see the full document below):

June 10

Vancouver Police Dep. Chief Doug Le Pard
"Not at tipping point… need to look at tonight and do hard level of enforce…"

Transit Police Mike Purdy
"Riot '94 t-shirts (observed)…"

June 12

D&B (Donna Lister and Bruce Edmundson of LCLB)
"Post-game went wild… by this point, police so overwhelmed… open consumption (of liquor)… demographics different than Olympics, majority 16-30… like a zombie movie…."

Le Pard
"biggest crowds ever… bigger than Olympics… scariest crush of people… way more itox (intoxication) than other nights… pretty rowdy later on, fights, violence… building to finale…"

"Transit never seen so much liquor…

Mike (last name not legible), B.C. Ambulance Service
"Just shy of gold medal…. not family oriented like Olympics…"

Dave Nelms
"Lots more problems… off power poles, glass bus shelters… more broken glass… being more violent."

My Sept. 21 story in touched-off a firestorm of controversy and put the Vancouver Police into damage control. VPD is in full "protect the chief mode." Chief Jim Chu, you will remember, told Mike Howell of the Vancouver Courier before Game 7 that there would be no riot. Afterwards, he claimed there was no intelligence to suggest a riot was likely.

Ayers had consulted with various officials before making her decision, including Deputy Chief Doug Le Pard. Le Pard was on a conference call with Ayers, junior liquor control officials, Transit Police officers, St. Paul's Hospital representatives and B.C. Ambulance Service officials.

The question is this: if a bureaucrat could reasonably conclude that there was the potential for a booze-fuelled, Stanley Cup-related riot in Vancouver last June, why didn't the police?

I'm talking about the same police force that so concerned with the huge crowds and level of drunkenness and violence during the 2010 Winter Olympics that it asked the RCMP for urgent help.

I'm talking about the same police force in the city that had a riot on the night of Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final.

B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch documents about the 2011 Stanley Cup riot

Friday, September 23, 2011

Breaking: B.C. Place workers schedule strike vote

B.C. Place Stadium's unionized workers were told Sept. 23 in a members' only meeting at the YWCA Hotel that talks with B.C. Pavilion Corporation have reached an impasse.

Local 1703 of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union has set Sept. 29 for a strike vote. If the membership agrees, then a strike would not happen for at least 72 hours.

The stadium's Sept. 30 reopening for the B.C. Lions vs. Edmonton Eskimos would not be affected. Could the Vancouver Whitecaps' first match in the Telus-sponsored downtown stadium on Oct. 2 against the Portland Timbers be disrupted by job action? If, in a worst-case scenario, Local 1703 gets an immediate mandate on Sept. 29 to exercise 72-hour strike notice, the countdown would end after the first Major League Soccer match at B.C. Place Stadium.

Empire Field would be a logical emergency backup for any Whitecaps or Lions games in October. BCGEU spokeswoman Karen Tankard said a strike is not desired. The union wants leverage to bring PavCo back to the bargaining table to achieve a new contract.

"There is no risk (of a strike on reopening night)," Tankard said. "We want B.C. to enjoy opening night, our members want to work and enjoy opening night.

"We don't want to go on strike, we want a fair collective bargaining agreement."

Sources tell me Local 1703 and PavCo have not held a scheduled bargaining session since breaking-off before dawn Sept. 8. Even then, mediator Mark Brown was shuttling back and forth between the bargaining teams in separate rooms. They weren't meeting face-to-face!

Brown has since met separately with the sides. No pay raise is being offered, as per the central government directive of pay freezes. Tankard said Local 1703 is willing to keep the same pay rates, but the dispute is about job security. She said Genesis Security now has 20 people doing jobs once done only by union members.

The union wants the new contract to contain anti-bullying language, but management is not budging. Premier Christy Clark, while a talkshow host at CKNW radio, led an annual province-wide anti-bullying campaign by selling pink T-shirts.

"(The Premier is) the Queen of Pink and her own Crown corporation is turning down anti-bullying language!" said one member who did not want to be identified.

The collective bargaining agreement expired May 31. The union includes 20 to 25 full-time staff, 30 part-timers and 300 event-specific staff.

In February 2005, BCGEU workers went on strike, delaying set-up for the annual boat show. Labour ministry intervention enabled settlement and prevented cancellation. Security guards, housekeepers, ushers and technicians approved a four-year deal in May 2007 with a 9.5 percent raise and signing bonus.

See the union members' update below.

More to come...

By the way... much confusion about the name of the new home of the Whitecaps and Lions. It will be sponsored by Telus. An announcement is expected before Sept. 30. But the only way the Whitecaps will play on a Bell Pitch again is if they're forced to return to Empire. Telus doesn't want its competitor to have a foothold in the stadium that it is both sponsoring and supplying.

BC Pavilion Corporation Bargainig Bulletin 23 Sept 11

Tweet the Chief = Ignore the Journalist

I was interviewed on News1130 for my evaluation of the Vancouver Police Department's Tweet the Chief interactive, social media event on Sept. 22.

My grade? A "charitable B-minus."

It was the first time that VPD Chief Jim Chu took questions via Twitter and Facebook and offered answers in a Livestream webcast. I encourage the VPD to do a Tweet the Chief event every month. There should also be Tweet the Chief sessions in other languages and there should also be a regular Tweet the Chief event solely for the media.

I support any effort by politicians and public officials to face the public, because politicians and public officials are employed by the public. They are accountable to the public. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Mayor Gregor Robertson's only foray into a social media event (beyond a traditional radio call-in show) was actually a telephone town hall conference for Vision Vancouver members only.

There were technical difficulties. The session started late. There was also no explanation for who the people were in the "studio" audience at the VPD headquarters' media theatre or whether their questions were pre-screened and approved by the VPD.

Const. Jana McGuinness was the moderator. She has experience handling media scrums, but being a host of a live webcast was new to her. It was obvious that the strategy was also to put a kinder, gentler face on the police chief and the force. Chu talked about a favorite police movie and mentioned his love of hockey. He was asked why VPD uniforms are black and joked that it was the only color that would hide stains from spilled coffee and donut crumbs.

I offer all the above comments, despite the fact that all of my questions via Twitter and Facebook were ignored. There were fewer than 200 viewers of the Livestream, so it's not as if the quantity of questions was overwhelming. I think my questions were ones that the VPD didn't want to address. Or McGuinness didn't want to put her boss on the spot.

I have copied below verbatim the questions I posed during Tweet the Chief. I challenge Chu -- not the media relations department, but the Chief himself -- to respond. Or, better yet, sit down with me for a one-on-one interview, to answer all the questions.

I'll buy the coffee and donuts. I promise not to spill.


Dear Chief: please comment on sentence of ex-Const. Hodson. What is VPD doing to prevent corruption in force? @VancouverPD #TweetTheChief

Dear Chief: why were cars not towed away from post office parking lot before Game 7? @VancouverPD #TweetTheChief #riot2011

Q: Who are the people in @VancouverPD #Tweetthechief "studio audience" and were their questions vetted by VPD?

Dear Chief Chu, After #riot2011, why should citizens have faith in VPD to keep safe/secure people and property? @VancouverPD #Tweetthechief

Dear Chief: Why did no one from VPD join city manager Ballem's fan zone conference call on morning of 6/15? #TweetheChief @VancouverPD

Dear Chief: Please give 3 reasons why you and Dep. Le Pard should remain in office after #riot2011. @VancouverPD #TweettheChief

My @VancouverPD #TweetTheChief stats: 1 hour watched, 6 Twitter questions asked, 3 Facebook questions asked. Answers? 0. #fail


Bob Mackin
Dear Chief Chu, After the VPD mis-handled the riot response, why should citizens have faith in the ability of VPD to keep safe and secure a scheduled public gathering or assist in a natural disaster?

Bob Mackin
Dear Chief Chu, high-ranking RCMP E Division officers Craig Callens and Norm Lipinski were embedded with the VPD command on June 15. FOI documents show Craig Callens reported to the Deputy Solicitor General that there were 700 police officers from all sources deployed for the riot. Can you explain the disparity between Callens's total of 700 and the 928 you have in the VPD internal review?

Bob Mackin
Dear Chief Chu: VPD Dep. Steve Sweeney appealed Feb. 22, 2010 to RCMP V2010 ISU for extra help to prevent an Olympic hockey riot. Crowds were larger than expected. There was widespread public drunkenness and fighting. A briefing note written by the RCMP says VPD claimed conditions were reminiscent of June 14, 1994. During the 2011 Stanley Cup, similar "pre-riotous" conditions were observed by LCLB, especially on the night of Game 5. Why did VPD not invoke its authority and shut down the fan zone before Game 7? Was there resistance from the Mayor and/or City Manager?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Someone used the R-word before June 15

That is a photograph of a line-up of thirsty Vancouver Canucks' fans snaking along the sidewalk outside the Spirit of Howe private liquor store at 1275 Granville Street on June 10, the night the Canucks won Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final at Rogers Arena. The government-censored photo was included in documents released via Freedom of Information on Sept. 21 in response to a request I filed. (The people were on a public sidewalk, so why censor them?)

The photograph is the only one included in the 97 pages from the Solicitor General's ministry, which is responsible for the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. These documents give a glimpse inside the planning for the early closure of liquor stores in downtown Vancouver on June 13 and June 15 during the Stanley Cup finals. For the first time, we find a public official using the R-word (or a variation thereof) before the Game 7 riot.

After a June 12 conference call that included Deputy Vancouver Police Chief Doug Le Pard, LCLB general manager Karen Ayers reported to Deputy Solicitor General Lori Wanamaker about Olympic-sized crowds, fights, violence and binge drinking in public during the June 10 Game 5.

"We are expecting record crowds (for Game 6 on June 13) as this may be the deciding game, and given the escalating problems, intoxication, violence and pre-riotous behaviour, I have made a decision under the Liquor Licensing and Control Act to close all liquor stores in the downtown Vancouver core at 4 p.m. tomorrow evening. ”

Chief Jim "No Clue" Chu famously proclaimed before Game 7 to Mike Howell of the Vancouver Courier: "There's not going to be a riot." The VPD internal report released Sept. 6 claimed: “Prior to Game 7, there was no substantiated intelligence that a riot would occur.”

Obviously the VPD's spin is wearing thin.

Read the full story in here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Riot review was a VANOC reunion

The Sept. 1-published "The Night the City Became a Stadium," the fancy title for the Stanley Cup riot review, has John Furlong and Doug Keefe's names on it. It was ghost-written by Stewart Muir, whose wife is Premier Christy Clark's deputy minister.

Now we know that there was another ex-VANOC executive involved. Terry Wright of IPS Consulting was the executive vice-president for the 2010 Winter Olympics whose portfolios included transportation, accommodation and security. He worked closely with VANOC CEO Furlong. Wright also relied heavily on Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson for the vital people-moving plan during the Games.

Wright was paid at least $24,000 for his work on the Riot Review, according to records released by the Public Safety and Solicitor General ministry after a Freedom of Information request by me. Not bad for a summer job. Not bad when there are no Olympic gigs happening for either of them.

Furlong and Wright were both in Durban in early July for the International Olympic Committee's annual meeting and left off the coordination commission for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The IOC traditionally appoints a top executive from the most-recent completed Games to the panel that oversees planning and organization of the next. There are no Vancouver 2010 executives on the 2018 checkup group.

There is a perception by anyone who observed the 2010 Winter Olympics that both Furlong and Wright owe a debt of gratitude to Ballem and Robertson for handling the urban domain so well during the Games (not to mention, being responsible for the in-receivership Olympic Village). VANOC sources have told me how Vancouver city hall did yeoman's work before and during the Games. One can reasonably question the independence of their review. Why would Furlong and Wright want to stand back and criticize -- without fear or favour -- those who helped them in the defining moments of their careers?

If Premier Christy Clark really wanted an objective investigation of the public authorities' role in the June 15, 2011 Stanley Cup riot, she could have easily hired a retired judge.

Vancouver Riot Review was a VANOC reunion

Blog Archive