Will Vancouver's Mayor get to meet those who make spending decisions in Ottawa?
Mayor Gregor Robertson jetted to Ottawa this week, not only to see the kick-off of the Paralympic Torch Relay, but ostensibly to use Vancouver's "new political capital" as the successful host of the 2010 Olympic Games to urge Ottawa for more funding to build housing for his city's homeless. But what really will come of Robertson's Ottawa trip? We should know soon.
Readers might recall that the Mayor's aide Kevin "Vancouver Kid" Quinlan was caught in an email stating that CBC Early Edition host Rick Cluff is an "easy" interview, suggesting he asks puffball questions. The one thing you never underestimate is someone who has spent most of his life as a broadcaster. On this morning's program, Cluff asked Robertson an "easy" question: "Who have you met so far to discuss this funding?" You can catch the audio clip here:
Robertson answers, "Well, I have been bumping into various ministers, yesterday with the throne speech, and they were, they're all back here now [for a new session of Parliament] in, uh, great numbers. And today is the budget so I'll be, I'll be hangin' around, talkin' to lots of, lots of them in Parliament there, and of course talking to the national media about this, 'n makin' sure that Vancouver's concerns are, uh, are on the table, and uh, they're shared by big cities across the country."
Back during their time in opposition Vision Vancouver loved to throw stones at then Mayor Sam Sullivan, especially whenever he left town to visit Victoria or Ottawa. But even his critics acknowledge that Sullivan had a busy itinerary during his Ottawa trips. For example, Sullivan would meet with people like the Governor General, The Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, and even Opposition Leaders.
Still, that wasn't good enough for critics like Allen Garr, or the opposition who would rail at the Mayor, decrying the lack of "tangible results" from those trips. Take for example this quote in the Georgia Straight from March '07:
Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie said he is disappointed that Mayor Sam Sullivan's trips to Ottawa haven't produced tangible results in support of the city's housing needs. "Sam had been purported to have all this influence in Ottawa," Louie told the Straight. "He has traveled so many times to Ottawa, including for this budget, I understand, and has delivered zero in terms of value for the citizens of Vancouver."
The COPE opposition liked to dish it out, too, like for example in this December 2006 newsletter:
Sam Sullivan went to Ottawa this week to meet with representatives of the federal government. This trip was NPA Mayor Sullivan's fourth this year, all made for the stated purpose of bringing Vancouver's issues, such as the homelessness crisis, to the federal government's attention. What did Sullivan bring back to show for yet another trip back East?
...Rather than really pressuring Ottawa for funding, it is beginning to look like Sullivan's junkets are more about meeting with his ideological soul mates in the Conservative government.
Even Mayor "Geoff" Meggs took swipes at Sullivan's Ottawa trips, such as he did in August 2008, attacking Sullivan's attempts to secure support for an innovative drug treatment strategy from the resistant Tory government. Meggs' comments in '08 seem to foreshadow his own government's fading support for Vancouver's lauded Four Pillars program.
With this background in mind and knowing that, by Vision Vancouver's standards, trips to Ottawa require "tangible results", it will be interesting to see exactly what Mayor Gregor Robertson accomplishes by bumping into Cabinet Ministers in Ottawa this week. And most of all, it will be good to know whom he actually ends up meeting with from the Federal government. It's our understanding that no formal proposal by the Mayor's office was put forward in writing to anyone in the Federal government in advance of this trip.
We hope that Robertson is as generous in his responses to questions from the media when he comes back as he was leaving town (that is, if the Vancouver media bother to ask). I'm sure we'll get a full report of whom he met with, and what commitments Vancouver can expect from his negotiations with the Feds very soon.