Like these guys, Vancouver city council & their spouses just hit paydirt!
You know that awesome feeling when you score free tickets to a show you wanted to see? I admit it doesn't happen very often for most of us, but there's nothing like that fist-pumping gratification when you get sumthin' great for nuthin'.
Perhaps that's what Mayor "Geoff" Meggs and his wife Jan O'Brien might feel like, or Councillor Raymond and Mrs. Louie, or perhaps Councillor George Chow and his spouse might feel like now that the City is providing pairs of tickets to the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies for councillors. These tickets are worth $800 each, which means the Meggs, Louie or Chow households could each score a minimum of $3200 of Olympic freebies paid for by Vancouver taxpayers.
Vancouver Sun Olympic reporter Jeff Lee and freelance reporter Stanley Tromp pursued the story of tickets purchased by the City of Vancouver, which made the front page of the Vancouver Sun today. It revealed that unlike other levels of government like the Feds (who purchase tickets for politicians, then require that they are reimbursed), or the Province (where no special purchase privileges are doled out for MLAs), the City of Vancouver has felt that it's necessary to purchase tickets for elected officials.
What today's Sun story reported erroneously and corrected later on Jeff Lee's blog, was the fact that spouses will also get free tickets. Lee posted this morning on his Inside the Olympics blog that Geoff Meggs contacted him after today's front page story to correct one detail:
Geoff emailed me this morning to indicate he's wrong on that score: spouses and partners will indeed get to hang on the arms of elected officials for free.
The original story ran with a quote from Meggs that "the offer doesn’t include spouses". So, before we go all "CTF" on this subject, let's take a look at what's happening.
The Sun story points out that a lot of public dosh is going into what appears to be a perk – tickets for the opening & closing ceremonies. These will no doubt be exciting affairs, so BC Place is hardly the best environment for relationship building with business representatives. If it's not about business, then why provide tickets for city councillors for these big shows at all?
For one thing, it could be about appearances. The Mayor is going to have to be at all the major events, like the opening and closing ceremonies. He hands the flag off to the Mayor of Sochi, Russia after all. Having his fellow council members also present helps to prop him up in the eyes of dignitaries and invited guests.
Someone like Coun. George Chow might be good to have with Chinese delegations, although I'm not aware of his fluency in Mandarin, in case that matters. Meggs and Louie would be good to have around because they're probably more intimate with the City's economic development strategies. It's a coin toss whether Stevenson, Deal, Reimer or Jang would help in courting business to Vancouver.
Woodsworth and Cadman reportedly have not accepted any Olympics tickets. If there isn't a boarding pass and a seat in business class it probably wouldn't interest David anyway.
Suzanne Anton has experience in government and is well-connected, so she might be useful to Robertson. More likely, however, she'll be boxed out of any meetings of substance by Robertson's staff.
Meggs says that the tickets provided to elected officials is all about making sure the City is represented at many of these events, and the tickets are not for "personal" use. I have no reason not to believe Meggs on this point. If I were him, I'd probably wish I could stay home some nights.
I'm skeptical, however, on the giveaways to the opening and closing ceremonies. It reeks of a perk for councillors and their spouses.
The bigger question is whether Vancouver has a real strategy to curry favour with influential people, or if they're just making up as they go along. Plans for Vancouver House were quickly retrofitted last fall to sell Gregor's Green Capital concept, and there's little mention of Metro Vancouver Commerce (MVC), the region-wide economic campaign, in promotions for the pavilion.
So good on Meggs for coming clean on the tickets going to spouses. Instead of peddling all this as business, the City should just come clean and say they're giving a perk to councillors for working long hours at low pay. Let's hope that councillors declare it as such to the City Clerk's office.
- post by Mike
UPDATE: Marcello Benardo of CKNW reports that Councilor Meggs "inundated" with angry calls regarding the Olympic freebies for spouses
A prominent Vancouver City Councillor is setting the record straight after being inundated with angry phonecalls and emails about taxpayer-funded tickets to Olympic events.
Geoff Meggs says there's no truth to claims the spouses of politicians are getting free tickets to anything more than the opening ceremonies.
He says: "...council will be attending the opening ceremonies,so councillors have been told they can bring their spouse on that occasion. That's it."
The city's spending nearly 400-thousand dollars on approximately two-thousand tickets, namely for hockey and curling.