Policy preparation Vancouver-style from the Mayor's office
In what has become a regular occurrence, Mayor Gregor Robertson held a press conference to make a prepared speech, then responded to reporter's questions with answers riddled with clichés.
"We suppressed expectations and then we had a home run. It feels like we knocked this one out of the park. Now that it's happened, we have to capitalize on that. We need to take a deep breath and focus on the follow-up."
So apparently Gregor Robertson's strategy for the 2010 Olympic Games all along was to "suppress expectations." We'd be the first people to suggest he gets a gold medal for doing nothing to prepare the public for the excitement that would follow. For months we wondered why Vancouver was sleepwalking toward 2010, but thankfully some of us were able to wake the city out of its slumber before the Games were gone.
Our sources have confirmed that no formal proposal from the City of Vancouver has been made to either the Federal or the Provincial government for the funding Robertson spoke about yesterday in his press conference. In other words, reporters got a story full of empty rhetoric, and policy written on the back of a napkin.
Some may recall Gregor Robertson's ill-fated trip to BCMC (Big City Mayor's Conference) last winter. Just hours before jumping on a jet the Mayor said that he was going to ask the federal government for money for social housing. The Feds had already given clear indications that they were prepared to fund only "shovel ready" projects. And in fact, the City of Vancouver had already prepared a list of infrastructure upgrades totaling $70 million. The problem for Robertson was that that list didn't include social housing, and the Feds noted that Robertson's social housing wish list wasn't shovel ready. So not surprisingly what happened as a result is that Vancouver kissed goodbye to tens of millions of one-time stimulus dollars.
Now Vancouver's Mayor once again asked the Federal and Provincial governments, who are both tabling their 2010 budgets this week, to "step up" (another Gregorism) and provide funding for transit and social housing. According to CKNW's report the Mayor stated,"I will be pressing both Victoria and Ottawa to demonstrate their support."
Now, it might not have occurred to Gregor Robertson that the budget documents are already at the printers, and the ink is dry. Does he seriously think that holding a press conference the day before the BC Budget is released, and three days before the Federal Budget is announced, that any new funding will come to Vancouver as a response?
Those outside of Vancouver are also scratching their heads at our Mayor's request. Columnist David Reevely of the Ottawa Citizen testily asks, "Vancouver wants what now??"
[Canadians] directly spent $450 million on the new train line between the airport and downtown, for example (admittedly under the fiction that oh, it had nothing to do with the Olympics), plus more through agencies we own like the Vancouver Airport Authority. We kicked in to the tune of $255 million more to build sports venues. We gave money to the "legacy fund" that's to enable the venues to keep operating. We paid a big chunk of the security costs, more than we would for any other big event. We spent $200-plus million on your new convention centre. The list goes on.
All this is only fair. The Olympics looked particularly good on Vancouver, but they reflect well on the whole country...
But now's the time you send the people of Canada a thank-you note for helping you throw a really great party, Mr. Robertson. Not another bill.
Gregor Robertson is even putting out the idea that the city might tear down the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. Critics have suggested this is merely a gift to the developer who owns the land, Concord Pacific, and not an attempt at improving public space. If that structure goes, a garden will not replace it. Rather several towers and at-grade roads will. The thorny problem of course is what will Chinatown think of the additional traffic?
As for the Bombardier streetcar, funding for that was going to be a part of the shovel ready ask last Spring, that is until Vancouver wiped it off their list. Going back to Victoria or Ottawa without a private partner in place to complete that project assures that the line will not re-open for a long time.
Instead of holding press conferences telling us how senior levels of government need to step up and kick it into gear, our Leadership 101 Guide suggests that Vancouver needs to bring something to the table first. That's just not happening under this administration.