It's time to end selective media leaks, and take the muzzle off senior staff
Sometimes in the midst of the battle better known as civic politics, the first casualty is the truth. Can Vancouver taxpayers handle the truth? We think so.
Last fall during the civic election in Vancouver, someone decided to leak selective bits of information to Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason regarding the Olympic Village project. He ran with what he had, and it ended up becoming the issue of the fall campaign that helped to catapult Mayor Robertson and Vision Vancouver into power.
Now fast forward to last Friday when the Vancouver Mayor's Office was spinning out a story that taxpayers were going to be on the hook for a what they dubbed a 'billion dollar blunder'. Mayor Robertson conveniently forgot to mention the role his Vision colleagues played in the Olympic Village issue, and proceeded to take a number of partisan shots against his predecessor.
Today, Mason is again reporting on the Olympic Village file, and (SURPRISE!) someone has conveniently leaked him minutes from a June 2007 in-camera meeting which he claims exonerates the Vision and COPE members of Council from any culpability regarding the Olympic Village.
It's time to end all the selective leaks, and break this file wide open for Vancouver taxpayers. If the Mayor is truly convinced it is in the City's best interest to have as much information made public then he should do two things immediately:
- Make public the minutes of all the meetings relating to the Olympic Village that were held in-camera. Only then will we be able to confirm whether the Vision and COPE councillors, alongside their NPA counterparts, had any role in the decision making process. For example, in June 2007, how do we not know that Vision or COPE didn't move a motion to secure a 'completion guarantee' for the project? Did they, or didn't they vote against every part of the motions presented by staff? The only way to get to the truth is to have all the minutes made public immediately.
- Let the staff who have run this project speak publicly, not your politically appointed City Manager who has been on the job for less than four weeks. These people are Jody Andrews, Deputy City Manager, James Ridge, Deputy City Manager, Ken Bayne, Finance Director, Francie Connell, Director of Legal Services, and Michael Flanigan, Director of Real Estate. Give them full and free access to the media instead of doing "secret briefings" in the basement of City Hall with politically appointed staff.
Anything short of these basic recommendations demonstrates this is simply just an exercise in partisan politics, and therefore cannot be trusted.
Robertson should be holding a news conference this afternoon and request all five of these senior City staff answer questions related to the history of this project. The public should ask, why is he silencing them? Why have we not heard their side of the story?
All he would have to do is guarantee them that there will be no reprisals if they speak their mind and just happen to disagree with their new City Manager's perspective on this file. What could be simpler than that?
Today and editorial in the Vancouver Sun reads:
Mayor Gregor Robertson's strategy of milking this crisis for political points is not helping clear the air. His initial assessment that the city is now at risk of an $875 million loss - is mischievous.
We agree with the Sun's view. Once again, we ask Mayor Robertson to step away from the precipice of political grandstanding, and get back onto making this project and Vancouver's 2010 celebration a success.