CTV must speak to a "Vision Vancouver spokesperson" to get answers on a decision to spend public money
First of all, we must commend Vancouver's media for probing more deeply into the troubling case of Vision Vancouver Park Commissioner Constance Barnes' driving while intoxicated, and the subsequent shyness of her caucus members around questions of who funded Barnes' summer retreat to kick alcoholism.
CTV's Stephen Smart brings the controversy to the small screen on tonight's news broadcast (see video), revealing that Barnes' treatment cost $18,000, and the City of Vancouver provided a $3,000 loan to pay for it. CityCaucus.com were asked to comment for tonight's story, and we asked why there has been so little transparency by this party who campaigned on a more open style of government.
We should remind our readers that the typical annual compensation for a Park Commissioner is a modest $8,000 stipend, with an additional $4,000 tax-free for expenses. It's unclear what the terms of repayment of the loan by the City are, other than it will be drawn out of her Park Board stipend.
What is clear, none of the elected officials from Vision Vancouver are being allowed to speak on this issue. Not even Barnes herself has spoken publicly after contradicting herself in an interview with CKNW's Janet Brown. Vision are sending PR flacks out to defend Barnes instead.
City Hall watchers note that the Vision Vancouver organization, who ended last November's election campaign $250,000 in the hole, seem to have no shortage of money for staff and public relations. Back in June, former Gregor Robertson Constituency Assistant for Vancouver-Fairview Mira Oreck, now a member of the Vision Vancouver executive, and who also began working with James Hoggan & Associates earlier this year, spoke on behalf of Vision Vancouver on all questions relating to the Barnes drunk driving & car crash into a south Vancouver house.
Now today Ian Baillie, formerly Robertson's media handler on the fall election campaign, is back on Vision's payroll. What all the attempts at spin control do not answer is, why the party is being asked to respond to questions about decisions made by the Park Board and City of Vancouver to pay for Barnes' treatment? Surely, Vision Vancouver should be speaking to this issue when it involves the use of public funds.
NPA Park Commissioner Ian Robertson says he's been kept in the dark all along on Barnes' loan. He takes a harder line:
“What concerns me more is that she’s been inconsistent and evasive in dealing with this whole issue,” he said.
Robertson says that Barnes actions such as missing all of her court dates, and her evasive responses on whether she'll plead no contest to the charges against her, signify that she's not really taking responsibility for her actions. He also says she should have never taken the loan.
Vision Vancouver are no doubt counting on the dog days of summer to distract the public away from this issue. They'll continue to work hard to keep Barnes' reckless act apart from other Vision elected officials. But if I were to make a bet, the public's interest in this story is only just beginning.