If Vision loses in 2011, the heavily politicized civil service will have to go
It's the first week of December 2011, and staff in Gregor Robertson's office are cleaning out their desks, stunned at the unforeseen triumph of their centre-right competitor.
Once again, as with the elections of 2002, 2005 and 2008, Vancouver voters have decided that it's time for a new set of faces at the top. A series of gaffes by Vision Vancouver in 2011, rumblings of discontent from their park board caucus and blatent challenges to the leadership by the rank and file, coupled with a post-Olympic grumpiness across the city crush the centre-left party's popularity.
Despite the enormous advantage given to him by incumbency, Robertson falls flat against his opponent during the campaign...
Okay, I'll admit it's a fanciful idea that Vision will lose the 2011 election, but the previous three governments probably didn't think that in the first year of their mandates either. So what happens if another party wins power at City Hall next time round? Well, regrettably for Vancouver taxpayers, it's going to be an extremely expensive turnover.
The reason is simple. Vision have effectively poisoned the well by their aggressive campaign to politicize City staff. The loss this week of yet another senior manager, Melina Scholefield, and strong rumours that yet another senior manager (this time in the Supply Management department) has already tendered their resignation – just days before the Olympic frenzy – are deadly signs for the civic administration. Comments like these on Frances' website validate what we've said for months... (repeat after me):
"Good governments get rid of bad people, and bad governments get rid of good people"
Vision have made their mark in the way they've decimated the culture of having a non-partisan civil service. The next government's job will require a merciless house cleaning of anyone with direct ties to Vision Vancouver. If you've handed over a donation to Vision, like for example Lesli Boldt in the city's Olympic communications, or worked on a Vision campaign like the new Director of Communications Ryan Merkley (who by the way was late for work on his first day according to this photo), then don't count on being kept on.
Of course, Penny Ballem, if she indeed lasts until the end of 2011, would be expected to pack up. Vancouver's nanomanager has probably racked up so many EDO's the City will be lucky to pay much less than $700K in severance. Because of her direct connection to Vision Vancouver through former Mayor's office staffer Brent Humphrey, Laurie Best would receive her walking papers.
New CFO Patrice Impey would be seen as an obvious Vision appointment, and therefore would be looking for a new gig. With her 20 years of seniority built into her contract, she'd likely get a buyout in the $400K+ range.
Then there's Sadhu. He might be a nice guy, but it would be highly improbable that Sadhu Johnston would last a month as Deputy City Manager under a new administration. Removing and replacing the 2nd in charge will not be cheap.
With each of these people, and several others who can credit their loyalty to Vision for either jobs or career advancement, there will be considerable expense in not only pay packages, but hiring and re-training. But the greatest cost to the City will be the predicted months of toil that will be involved in trying to restore a semblance of worker morale.
Such are the costs Vancouver will face repairing Vision's "retooling" of the civil service that even a friendly fellow like Robin Adair – currently on an eighteen-month contract with an option to renew – would not be left standing.
It's tragic on many levels – for the taxpayer, and for the workers themselves – and it didn't need to happen like this. And just imagine if there hadn't been a hiring freeze in place – the Hall would be overrun by Visionistas by now. Just watch next year as they begin to loosen up and start hiring again, we may see dozens more direct political appointments.
It truly is a measure of how insecure Vision feel about their own leadership that they must pepper the ranks with political friends. And for the government that succeeds them, it will be a huge mess to clean up.