Four Pillars Coalition officially on life support

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Ballem tells Bula she's "sorry" to see Macpherson leave Vancouver City Hall

Another senior staffer is about to announce he is leaving Vancouver's administration led by hand-picked City Manager Penny Ballem. Donald Macpherson, the man who currently heads up the City's award winning Four Pillars Coalition (FPC) drug strategy will announce this week that he is calling it quits.

The story of Macpherson's departure was anonymously leaked (I use that term loosely) to fellow CKNW civic affairs panelist Frances Bula. In her post, Bula quotes City Manager Penny Ballem who provides her perspective (a.k.a.spin) regarding Macpherson's sudden departure. Can you blame Ballem for trying to put a positive light on the current situation? Click on the following names to read more about a few of the most recent departures from the City of Vancouver since Mayor Robertson took the helm:

So what is Ballem now saying about the latest high profile staffer to bail from what is increasingly looking like a sinking ship? No, she didn't say he was grumpy. Nor does she say he quit to be with his grandchildren. Nope, nothing about wanting to go sailing. Ballem told Bula:

When he first started, there were so many stars aligned...that’s when you have a run that you remember, but that can’t last forever.

I swear I heard Mozart's requiem in D Minor playing in the background when I read that quote...blecch. Is that really all she could come up with?

Thankfully Bula came to her rescue and said Donald may be quitting in order to go be with his wife who is taking up a temporary gig in Paris this Fall. At least that's spin with a bit more flair...nez pas? Bula also notes in her post that many of the recent departures (only months before Vancouver hosts the Olympic Games) might simply have to do with baby boomers retiring...*pause*...okay Frances, I'd stop while you're ahead...I was actually starting to believe the Paris thing.

Macpherson tendered his resignation to Ballem on Friday and amazingly word "leaked" out to Bula within 24 hours. I don't know who gave Bula the goods, however, she deserves credit for breaking this story and for building up a close working relationship with Ballem since her arrival on the municipal scene. Her relationship with Penny appears much closer than the one she had cultivated with former City Manager Judy Rogers.

Unlike her predecessor, Ballem definitely works much harder at keeping a select group of media in her inner circle. As one staffer told me recently, "she likes to keep her friends close and the media closer." It's something her former political masters learned about the hard way.

I worked very closely with Macpherson during my three year stint at city hall. He was a bright, affable and extremely intelligent public servant who also had a real passion for what he did. Sure he had his detractors, but he always wore his heart on his sleeve and you could trust him to get the job done.

Regardless of how Roberston or Ballem want to spin this, Donald's sudden departure is another serious blow to the Mayor's style of leadership. As our regular readers know, we've been the only ones writing about how Robertson had abandoned the FPC during this term of council. This is in stark contrast to former NPA mayors Philip Owen and Sam Sullivan as well as Vision mayor Larry Campbell. They all championed the FPC as a tool to help reduce the impact of drug addiction on Vancouver's streets.

Philip Owen was the first mayor to champion the Four Pillars and he was a huge fan of the work Macpherson did at city hall. In an exclusive interview with, Owen appears to be upset with Macpherson's departure. He states, "Vancouver had a proven policy expert in Donald. It’s disappointing to see him leave and it will be a huge loss to not only the city, but to the Province and Canada as a whole." Owen continues, "You only have to look at where US policy on drugs is going to understand that our Four Pillars approach was the right one. President Obama’s administration is definitely moving in the right direction and Vancouver had been leading the way."

The departure of Macpherson leaves the FPC on life support. With no elected official on council willing to champion the Four Pillars approach, it is now all but dead. After almost 10 years of blood, sweat and tears by a number of politicians, community leaders and citizens, Robertson has managed to gut the program in less than nine months in office. Don't count on seeing this dubious accomplishment listed in his next campaign brochure.


nez pas?

Do you mean n'est pas?

"Four Pillars Coalition officially on life support"

No worries . . . they hired Ballem because she is a Physician and is now perfectly situated to save the patient.

Having a doctor running our city now makes perfect sense. Foolish me, I thought she was hired because she was a hard core socialist NDP technocrat with many, many friends in the "We're Progressive, We're Smarter" movement.

We never did find out how much money she sucked out of the eHealth Ontario gig she had going on.

Methinks M. LaFontaine nose his Français.

I think that Daniel was trying to sound a bit like "Hercule Poirot" with his "nez pas". Am I right?

Nevertheless, there is no way to spin Donald leaving as a good thing. Its bad. Very bad for the City and especially bad for the public. City Hall feels hopelessly micromanaged and rudderless. I think the sophisticated guidance system that was in place has been replaced by a myopic Mayor & Council and a repressive City Manager who is so overloaded, now that a chunk of senior staff has left, crisis management is just an ordinary day at the office for her. I think her next few months will make "e-health" look like a "cake walk"!

Well---it's about time. The Four Toothpick Approach never made a dent in the huge drug problem that is and has been overtaking our city.
It was a reactionary plan as is evident in the "we are not american" approach and chorus that the supporters all sang.

While I would reserve comment on Phillip Owen (whom I think beleived in this from an altruistic and passionate place, as for Mr McPherson, in my experience of him,he was was an arrogant and "deaf to the community" bureaucrat. There is no strong empirical evidence that supports or supported any of this folly.

What I do see is a city where smoking is overly prohibited in public sapce unless it is crack.

Check out!

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