Greenest City team taking credit for work they didn't do

Post by Mike Klassen in


Green-washing Vancouver isn't reducing our carbon footprint – it's just empty hype

Many of us are realizing now that there was "fine print" on Gregor Robertson's promise to end homelessness. By slyly adding the word "street" before the H-word, Robertson is basically saying that mats in a warehouse, or sleeping on a pew equals Mission: Accomplished. Even former VV mayoralty candidate Jim Green said on CKNW the other morning that homelessness is "down by 50%" under Vision's governance. Oy vey.

However, it's the Mayor's promise to make Vancouver the world's "greenest city" that might be his biggest nose-stretcher yet. Exhibit A is the op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun yesterday by David R. Boyd, co-chair of Gregor Robertson's GCAT committee. Boyd is an environmental lawyer who also serves as an adviser to Joel Solomon's Renewal2 project, and he also taught at the Hollyhock School for Environmental Leadership.

The op-ed is intended to make Vancouver under Robertson's leadership as a veritable beehive (pardon the analogy) of leadership on the green file. What the piece does show is that Boyd has either been seriously misinformed by his political masters, or he too believes that GCAT is somehow responsible for years of hard work by staff that preceded Roberton's government.

Boyd crows about requiring LEED Gold for new buildings, yet he takes pains not to use the term EcoDensity, which is how that City standard was implemented. Recall that Robertson ran against EcoDensity, yet he embraces it today. Laneway housing – another EcoDensity initiative – is also boasted about, but David should know that all the heavy lifting getting public buy-in for it was completed in the Fall of 2008, before that year's election.

Even food scraps curbside collection, which Boyd credits as one of GCAT's accomplishments, has been in the works for years after being initially proposed by Coun. Suzanne Anton. Even Vision's own staff report from last March states:

Since the spring of 2008 Vancouver staff have been discussing with MV staff our interest in participating in a regional food waste diversion initiative. In 2008 and early 2009 Metro Vancouver conducted a competitive contracting process for securing regional food waste composting capacity.

The report then says:

At the In Camera session of January 26, 2009, Council provided approval for staff to negotiate and enter into a contract with Metro Vancouver for composting of yard trimmings and food waste...

So in other words, curbside composting was ready to implement a full month before the first meeting of Robertson's Greenest City team at the end of February 2009.

The list of empty boasts goes on...

  • Olympic Village certified LEED Platinum – that project was under construction two years before Robertson took power.
  • The Village's Neighbourhood Energy Utility, also planned for and under construction for years.
  • "Vancouver enjoys the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emissions of any city in North America." Did that happen overnight? Of course not, it's been achieved through decades of planning and development. See here and here.

What Robertson can take credit for is his community garden that he decreed be built on City Hall's front lawn with no community input. He can also take credit for putting in a single solar hot water system at Brockton Oval's public washroom, which means that tourists can marvel at this innovation. No mention of the carbon footprint created by manufacturing the system's plumbing and solar cells.

Robertson can also take credit for the costly Green Capital brand and the embarrassing vanity of Vancouver House during the 2010 Games. The Mayor is promising 20,000 "green" jobs by 2020, but has provided no benchmarks as to what a green job is, or how long it should last.

Speaking with another lawyer, an expert on international commerce, I asked if Robertson's pledge of 20,000 jobs in the green sector was achievable within city limits. The lawyer chuckled and said, "What the green technology sector needs is affordable land and lots of space, of which Vancouver has neither. While other parts of Metro Vancouver might benefit by this economic direction, Vancouver will struggle to reach those kinds of job numbers."

Completely missing in Boyd's op-ed is any mention of how the City will deal with waste. Robertson and Vision embarrassed themselves by filing a set of amendments to kibosh a waste to energy initiative under consideration by Metro Vancouver. By comparison, New York is now seriously looking at W2E to deal with their massive garbage problem.

Of course, Boyd's op-ed contained the oft repeated request for more transportation dollars from senior levels of government. As we know Robertson's "bumping into Ministers" strategy hasn't succeeded so far. What would be nice is if the Mayor actually came up with a plan and approached the Feds or the Province instead of making statements in the press, then someone might take their requests seriously.

The green game in Vancouver today is all about optics. Saying your green is much different than being green, and Vancouver can do much better than Gregor Robertson's style of symbolic environmentalism.


Snap!! That's the sound of someone getting caught with their finger in the mousetrap as they try to grab the fromage. Why is Boyd trying to take credit for work done by the previous NPA regime? He should just stick to what vision is doing, and avoid this kind of embarrassing post.

This does not make the GCAT team look good in my opinion. I think there are well-meaning people on the committee, however, not sure they want their name associated with Boyd's obvious partisan writings.

Robertson should have a chat with his chair, and perhaps ask that he step down. Especially after what I just read regarding the composting initiative.

What's the carbon footprint of debt?

I have enjoyed this blog since your excellent coverage of the Olympics back in February. I was hooked! However, increasingly, your blogs has consisted of tiresome attacks on the current municipal administration and the VSB. Your tone and intent have certainly not been in keeping with your stated goal of generating a
"fun, but respectful dialogue about Canada's major urban centres" Perhaps you don't hold yourself to the same standard as you do your readers who you ask to "participate in "the conversation" by providing comments that stick to the issues, and do not stoop to name-calling or personal attacks."
If you're going to shill for a particular political party or espouse a particular political philosophy perhaps you should state that clearly from the outset.

I'll buy you a weekend retreat package at Hollyhock, if you have the guts to read aloud the following statement, in under 10 seconds:
You sound like a clean boy.

Mike don't pay any attention to Jesse who sounds alot like a vision blogger we know. Hmmm, I would have thought he was at the vision agm tonight? They would love nothing more than if you packed your bags and let the msm handle the in depth coverage of their administration. Not a chance. Keep up the good investigative work.

I agree with Jesse. Despite its stated intentions, this blog shows no balance in its views. Mike Klassen's relentless barrage of criticisms and not-so-subtle digs at City Hall suggest an immense axe to grind. The inevitable result is a blog that is only read and respected by people of the same rabid partisan views. Pity that. It could have been so much more.

"-stretcher yet. Exhibit A is the op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun yesterday by David R. Boyd, co-chair of Gregor Robertson's GCAT committee. Boyd is an environmental lawyer who also serves as an adviser to Joel Solomon's Renewal2 project, and he also taught at the Hollyhock School for Environmental Leadership."
This Hollyhock organization is starting to smell very much like a cult. And we know that cults never turn out well. Mr Robertson will do some damage but it will eventually be reversed.

More whining from VV supporters. I think there are people from all sides of the spectrum that read and comment on this blog. Hence your lefty views you just posted.

Just admit, you guys just don't like anyone shining a light on your activities. Mike and Daniel deserve the order of bc for the efforts they put into this work. Nobody, and I mean, nobody else (maybe with the exception of alex) is doing this type of in-depth analysis and coverage of civic politics in metro vancouver.

Whoever is in power needs a bright light pointed at their activities. Period.

Tieleman and other "left" oriented commentators were unrelenting in their pursuit of disclosing the actions of the NPA people. For Vision supporters not to expect the same level of vigilance is unrealistic. Dare I say it? Even hypocritical.

Bobh, have you notice how all this organizations with no clear deliverable goals are fashioning names like "The Incredible Institute for The Capable Oxymoron D**ks"?... "Hollyhock School for Environmental Leadership" WTF is THAT?

I want to say something in support of mats and pews for the street homeless. When I did my petition to make Storeyeum a shelter, the 6,000 people who signed my petition did not ask for housing; they only wants a place on a floor anywhere -- somewhere dry from the elements and safe. The argument that these monies for shelters should be spent on social housing is but a formula for a segment of the population to remain on the streets until they die. No matter how you look at it; shelters are cheaper than social housing by billions of dollars.

Symbolic environmentalism brings in big donations to the Hollyhock school of fudd. Hollyhock refuses local requests for an environmental impact study of its unsustainable Cortes Business.

Then there's "Treedom" Gregors pretend forest management project, hiding deforestation using TLC covenants same as Renewal Lands deforestation of their Sisken lane properties.

We have a newcomer called "Nextwave Foundation" No ones heard of them here yet they applied for Gaming Grants for Mansons landing on Cortes in 2009.

"Green Wash" keeping the sky from falling is a profitable investment plan.

If you actually bothered to read the article closely, you would have realized that practically all of your criticisms are baseless.

For example, starting at paragraph 3, which begins,
"Vancouver's aggressive green agenda", it is pretty clear that the city as a whole is given credit for the initiatives, not just the GCAT.

For the food scraps program, it clearly states that credit is being taken for the "implementation" of the program. As you should know, there is a huge difference between implementing and studying or recommending. Things can be studied forever. To get things actually on the ground (or in the ground in this case), it takes leadership.

It ends with "Robertson and the council are taking the city's reputation for environmental leadership to the next level in producing a cleaner, healthier city." which clearly acknowledges the great work that was done by previous councils and other people in the city.

And to be honest, there are few politicians that don't take some credit for initiatives that were started under a previous administration. For example, Harper was all over the Canada Line even though it was funded when the Liberals were in power.

Regarding the Olympic Village, the work was done under several councils, so it would be rather hard for one to take credit for all of it anyway. The environmental standards were set before the last NPA council came into office although it was the NPA that was responsible for the implementation of the environmental standards. I'll give credit for that. However, they did go just a bit over budget in the process.

Another day, another manufactured nontroversy.

It is rather sad that after hosting the Olympics and people thinking Vancouver is up to great things, that some people who visited the city might read these posts and wonder why people in such a great city are bothering with poorly formed arguments involving petty criticisms.

This post was just begging for ad hom comments to be made. Having the homeless inside and dry isn't commendable? Sure it's not to be lauded as Mission Accomplished, but it's the right direction.

@FP how exactly does "ending homelessness" suddenly become creating a temporary shelter by anyone's logic other than Gregor Robertson's? Citycaucus are right on this point. We were duped.

Richard Campbell, thank you for your comment. You clearly decided to do a lot of work here to try and defend Vision Vancouver. Making excuses for the graceless attempt to take credit for real political initiatives and the heavy lifting done by previous councils and city staff still doesn't get Vision off the hook though. Do you take credit for the work of others and boast about accomplishments you had nothing to do with? It's very unbecoming behaviour when people do it and so it is with governments.

Let's say my wife finds a great recipe for a cake. She goes shopping for the ingredients, and slaves in the kitchen to make it. I come along with a knife, cut it and starting eating. If I pronounce that "we" made the cake, my wife would take a rolling pin to me.

Vision's "implementation" of work done by others does not demonstrate that they have any foresight or political backbone. It's like saying Vision "implemented" the Canada Line by cutting the ribbon, and therefore can take credit for the success of that system. Vision will "implement" the opening of SEFC this month and can therefore take credit for a decade's worth of work making it happen. Vision "implemented" laneway housing after the NPA put it on the table, consulted with the public about it, and took considerable political lashing from opponents of the idea.

I have a much harder question for you to research. What exactly has Robertson or GCAT actually done that has reduced our carbon footprint? I say Robertson's green dog and pony show only promotes the status quo.

I sincerely hope that people visiting our city DO read our criticism and note that the aimless posturing by our Mayor is not representative of reality here. Vancouver has succeeded like few North American cities have in becoming more sustainable, and with real leadership it will again one day.

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