Will the Olympic Village put gas in Vision's tank right through the 2011 election?
BANG! The front page story on Sunday morning's Province newspaper about shoddy workmanship in the Olympic Village (aka Millennium Water) came out of the blue. Mouldy walls inevitable in what only one day before Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason described as a great jewel of Vancouver, the Athlete's Village on SE False Creek.
The storyline is so odd and has so many unanswered questions, we're frankly surprised no one in the MSM has bothered yet to ask them. First, the story goes something like this. A business agent from a union representing insulation workers begins to raise concerns about pipes not being insulated in the LEED Gold certified construction project. Why Lee Loftus of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Union Local 118 was so dogged on this matter is not clear from the reporting. Were his workers underbid by a non-union competitor and he wanted to prove "ha ha, we told you so" to the developer Millennium Group? Or was Loftus simply someone who really cares about how public money is spent?
If it's the latter, maybe he should write for CityCaucus.com...but I digress. Still, why Loftus decided to be a whistle blower and why now are not clear.
According to Loftus, he arranged a meeting with the developer and various building trades on May 11th. The Province story continues:
Wayne Peppard, executive director of the trades council, said he had approached Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs with some concerns about subcontracting at the development and Meggs suggested he speak with city manager, Dr. Penny Ballem. Ballem advised the trades to meet directly with the developer.
First, note that the go-to guy is Mayor Meggs first, indicating that most people know where the real power of the Vision Council begins and ends. Second, note that the discussion is elevated to the City Manager Penny Ballem.
Seven weeks later the story goes public, and what does the City Manager say in response?
"This is the first I've heard of this," Ballem said when contacted by The Province. "If the concerns are true -- and I have no evidence of whether they are or not -- and they not being paid attention to, that's a concern for the city."
Ballem said she had heard "only that a union had some concerns about quality control."
In Vancouver, using the phrases mouldy condos and Olympic Village in the same sentence is pure gold for a local reporter. You've got the infamous scourge of the 1990s and today's political hot potato all wrapped up in one.
No surprise then that crack reporter Brian Coxford covered this story for GlobalTV. Not only did they interview Loftus and show more shots of the plumbing in question (CKNW's Shel Busey reportedly commented that the pipes were for gas, not water, as the media has been reporting), they trotted out the photographer (see right) who was a dead ringer for Brian Wilson during one of his bad patches, or a live version of a Simpson's character. Asked by Coxford if he took the pictures, he says "yep."
Now, on a day where Mayor Robertson and Vision Vancouver are getting the crap kicked out of them on the HEAT shelters debacle (and Minister Coleman accusing Robertson of "amateurishness" and "damaging" the prospects for homeless care), do you think Robertson & Co. need a distraction? You bet.
So today, Councillor Raymond Louie is calling for an investigation into the allegations of shoddy workmanship at the Olympic Village. We don't know if this is an earnest attempt to figure out the truth, or a smokescreen. Our spider senses are tingling like crazy though.
The last we heard Vision had a direct pipeline into the developer's office through former mayoral candidate Jim Green, who began working with Millennium back in January. Since this story broke on Sunday morning, to our knowledge no one from the developer's office has yet to comment on these specific allegations. Why the delay?
Something doesn't smell right about this story. Call us jaded by the multitude of occasions that Mayor Meggs, Ballem, Robertson and Louie have pointed fingers at the NPA for all the problems on this project. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on this being the fault of the NPA by the end of the week if not sooner.
Mayor Meggs will let us know who screwed up well before we get the toxicology report from the Michael Jackson autopsy, and it ain't gonna be Vision.