Joel Solomon: the man behind Gregor Robertson

Post by Mike Klassen in


Joel Solomon speaks in San Francisco, July '08 - view videos

Vancouver City Hall under Vision is a mystery wrapped inside a riddle, and it is fascinating process to try and deconstruct it. It's not the uninspired public policies per se, which we and many others regularly remark upon. Rather, it's the people behind the scenes, the big money and the dynamics of the political movement for which Gregor Robertson is the figurehead.

Piecing the puzzle all together has not been an easy task. The people in Robertson's backroom, like most political advisers, eschew too much attention for themselves. To coin a phrase, what happens in Hollyhock, stays in Hollyhock.

The fact alone that the spiritual and financial birthplace of the Mayor's political career exists on a remote, sparsely populated island known as Cortes, 150 kilometres from Vancouver city limits should be enough to pique the curiosity of local politicos. But when the leading representative of your political movement publicly declares his goal as "systemic social change", and he'll use a powerful combination of business, charities, and personal networks to achieve it, you can be forgiven for being just a little curious.

It's the widely held view that the most influential person in Vancouver politics today never has had his name on a ballot in a local civic election. Joel Solomon is the principal adviser and financial backer of Mayor Gregor Robertson, as well as being a longtime friend. He hails from Chattanooga, Tennessee from a well-off family of Democrats and in 1980 he first arrived on Cortes Island after, as journalist Frances Bula puts it, "becoming the archetypal American hippie searching for a new life". Decades later in October 2008 Solomon, who is known to have a southerner's polite and self-effacing disposition, became a Canadian citizen.

Solomon in a healing ritual.
Photo: Bill Weaver

Solomon lived most of his life with a genetic kidney disorder which gradually threatened his health. In November 2007 Solomon received a kidney transplant thanks to an organ provided to him by Shivon Ravensong, the woman that co-founded the Hollyhock retreat & education centre, and today remains a member of the organization's board. Joel tells the story that he found the kidney with the help of a widely circulated email to his list of contacts, and a Facebook group. It was a lucky stroke that someone in Solomon's inner circle was a suitable match.

Before the surgery Shivon notified colleagues of her decision to donate a kidney to Solomon via an email. She and Joel participated in a healing ritual prior to going under the knife at St. Paul's Hospital. Solomon's sister Linda describes how a week later, she, Joel's wife, his mother, Gregor Robertson and his wife and family all toasted Joel's recovery at an American Thanksgiving dinner.

Solomon's new kidney re-energized his life and work. He quipped that Robertson's electoral victory one year later was a first anniversary gift to him.

"Using the power of business, finance and politics..."

During the concluding days of the 2008 civic election campaign, things were not going well for the NPA. Despite getting a bump over the badly handled Skytrain fare evasion scandal that dogged Gregor Robertson for days, a leaked in-camera document around the Olympic Athlete's Village reported by Gary Mason would unravel the NPA's chances for a respectable result in the election. Instead it was a rout.

With one week to go both Peter Ladner and Robertson kept a promise made months earlier to identify the names of donors who supported their mayoral nominations. What was immediately apparent from Robertson's list is that he received sizable donations from several resident Americans. The story never gained any traction with the mainstream media before Election Day.

The question asked by some then and several times since has been, why are a bunch of well-heeled Americans (such as New Age guru Andrew Weil) donating money to help elect someone to become Vancouver's mayor? The answer becomes clearer after listening to Solomon's 2008 speech.

Solomon's health troubles, his affluence and his family history around politics shaped his quest to influence public policy, and specifically in British Columbia. He elaborates in his opening remarks:

Any of us who have been awake during our lifetime have certainly come to the conclusion that the planet is on a very difficult and dangerous course. And I concluded that I should use the power and privilege that I had as a white North American male, from an affluent family, to use those tools – the power of business, and finance and politics towards the common good.

And if I did that, however many days I got to live, I'd be doing what I feel good about on my deathbed.

So I chose to move my career to Canada because of a great opportunity to work with a visionary inheritor of a substantial amount of resources named Carol Newell.

And we put together a strategy … which was to take a long term look at how to deploy financial resources towards systemic social change focused in one region.

So we make business investments, charitable grants, support collaborations, leadership development and capacity building with the hopes of influencing public policy and creating models of sustainability solutions long term.

If you live in Vancouver, BC you can't help but notice what it means to be in one of the wealthiest and most blessed places on the planet. And if you can't do it in places like that, and in places like [San Francisco] we have a real problem on our hands.

It's an interesting and perhaps unprecedented situation in Canadian politics. You have two people of significant means – Solomon and Rubbermaid heiress Carol Newell – from a rural island community (where Hollyhock is the largest employer) using their wealth to promote "systemic" social change in their adopted home. They're not only targeting "one region", but they now control the most powerful political launchpad in the province – the office of the Vancouver mayor.

Someone must have convinced the many wealthy New Age devotees and social enterprisers who supported Robertson in 2008 that the battle for Vancouver City Hall was a worthwhile investment. Was it because they too are persuaded that the goal of social change was most possible here?

As Solomon says in his speech, "if you can't do it in places like [Vancouver] we have a real problem."

Judging by what's happening at City Hall, it appears that part of that process of change involves placing people with direct connections to Hollyhock in some senior roles within Vancouver's historically independent civil service. Apart from that, no one has really explained to the citizens of this city what systemic social change, or what the 'common good' is supposed to look like.

Perhaps it's time for more of us to inquire.

- post by Mike. More on Cortes Island and the changing face of Vision Vancouver in the days to come.


This is a great article Mike. Keep them coming. A real eye-opener.

Donated a kidney..
gives a whole new meaning to "selling your soul"
Is Rubbermaid made from plastic?

Later this month you can enroll in a 4-night program at Poppycock ($545, meals and accomodation extra at $200-300/night) : "Access your innate psychic senses to communicate with other species and discover that telepathy is a learned skill available to everyone."
Telepathy? Where's my tin-foil hat.
As they say on Cortes Island, "There's a seeker born every minute."

How much have we paid in severance so far?

I suspect this discretionary expenses plus the bike lanes would have kept a good part of the libraries, community centres, the Farmyard & the Conservatory open that Vision was forced to close because of their mismanagement of their 1st years budget. And, what about the civic employees jobs that go with these closures & cutbacks.

Is somebody doing the math?

The Thought of The Day

“When the whole world fools around on the 1st of April, every year, Glissando rests.”

True. That was no accident. I did not post anything yesterday. See, I am kind enough to leave others to try my job one day per year. Plus, that was in my union contract.

Nice one, though, with you being bought by Happy Puppy. Anyway.

I have to say, your title puzzled me for a moment. I was like “What a...? Joel: The man behind Gregor? Is he...? Are they...? Well, not that is anything wrong with that!” See that Mike? You son of a gun!

Anyway, so far, as it turns out, both of them are doing the rest of us! For now. And for that reason, I see everything‘s wrong with that!

On the other hand if all that Solomon wants to pull off is to get us a Communist British Columbia on Capitalist dough, while some of us are getting filthy rich in the process, I say, bring it on Comrade. I’m in! What better irony than this, eh? I get you Joel. Better now than later, better us than others!
Good plan. Those British Columbians will never see what hit them, suckers!

Global warming? Niet., Champagne chilling!
Carbon credits? Niet. Waterfront condos!
Organic foods? Niet. Orgasmic thoughts!
Green strategies? Niet. Dollars in the mattress!
Sustainable society? Niet. Kidneys for everyone!

I too had a dream, that one day every British Columbian will pay me a fee to stay in my cool shadow for a second or two. Is that genius, or what? Joel, Gregor and Me. What a Trio! Da, da, da!

Thank you, Comrades for opening my eyes. Send my regards to Vladimir, Leon and Josef. And keep those innocent For Profit and Change ventures going. Long live the Green Revolution!

Da, da, da..Ich liebe dich nicht, du liebst mich nicht.
We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy, aha!

Joel Solomon, professional Smoke and Mirrors man.

Joels social agenda is truly bogus.

Then Joel funds the Pivot legal society...

American Bullies buying votes taking control of city hall and the province.

Wake up Canada, smell the burning coffee. Its quite a stench.

he seems like a nice guy. what's the big deal here? rich do-gooder supports mayor!!! scandalous.

What a surprise! Timmy the Vision Defender thinks everything is fine. Was there a sale on lobotomies recently?

Another good article Mike. Yes, the Cortes mafia is now in control. At City Hall what you see is not what you get. Regardless of Solomon's intentions, it is too bad for him that he chose a candidate that is not very smart.


Unfortunately I believe the communist references are lost on most in this town.

Far too many here skipped the history classes in favour of smokin'a'duubie behind the portables, to learn what Bolsheviks did to the unsuspecting in Russia and Ukraine.

They again were out back takin'some'e; when the history lesson moved on to Lenin and Stalin convincing the poor souls who lived through the Bolsheviks, that they would "treat them better", while pushing them with guns to their back to the front lines of a war.

Now of course the NEW AGE messiah Joel Solomon isn't interested in any wars, he's just interested in "systemic change" that includes taking away public services from those who don't support his party and political efforts, and shifting them to people who do support his party and political efforts.

You see in today's world, most people instead of fighting for what they believe in, will either tolerate it, or just move onto to another city. Eventually the masses who were opposed are eventually replaced with willing sheep.

That is what they're all hoping for, Joel, Gregor, Meggsy, et al.

The "Vision" they have for Vancouver is more accurately described as a hallucination, as another commenter penned.

It is always important to understand where the money comes from. People critique large events like the Olympics specifically for being beholden to corporate money, and yet this is how the world works, everything has to be paid for and its better if we know from where.

It was interesting to see that while the Prime Minister and Premier, along with heads of state representing various countries, would be wearing the Olympic branded clothing of their countries, our Mayor only occassionally wore a Luongo jersey.
Now is it that he has problem with the sponsors and cant be seen wearing their logos. At the medals ceremonies for both Olympic and Paralympic, he wore a suit, couldnt even don one of the blue Vanoc jackets of the volunteers he admired so much.

maybe I am overthinking, but if you want to social engineer me you need me to connect to your ideas somehow. I think the success of the Canada branding in the Olympic clothing did more for connecting to an idea of national identity than anything I have seen in my lifetime.

Maybe if the Mayor gave out red and white t-shirts with an I heart Chickens logo.

Would this be the same who personally bankrolled the failed attempt to remove Bob Williams from the Board of Vancity?

Yes, it would. spent personal funds, held meetings at his home, ran a phony petition, and together with two public service unions tried very hard to defeat Williams.

They failed. Why does this matter?

Williams founded the Action Slate years ago, but today finds them way too secretive, too beholden, too afraid of new ideas. The Action majority has even tried to impose a code of secrecy on Directors regarding matters that have nothing to do with their fiduciary responsibilities.

City Caucus also opposed Williams. You might want to reconsider. He's a blindingly honest and blunt guy, smart as hell, and unafraid of people like Joel Solomon.

For good reason, and his friends are afraid of him. Stay tuned. And look at Victoria.

Third time’s the charm, Tim!

“I saw you in the City Park, the other day,
You’re sniffing butt; the Hall bitch, stood still.
“Name, breed” I asked the Mayor of the day,
“We call him Tim and he’s a Vision Latanville!”

Fallen soldiers: a messy termination of the Comrade Joel Solomonilyich’s kind. You’ll understand.
You wouldn’t roll over for me, now, would you?

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Hollyhock is not the largest employer on Cortes Island. Klahoose, Forestry and Oyster Farming is.

Few Island Residents can tolerate working there.

Most workers are hired from off island or imported under the Karmic Yogi Scam to work for free.

Hollyhocks Employee abuse is renowned which is why most Islanders stay away.

That is not the Cortes that I recognize.
The Klahoose band was smart enough to work out an arrangement with Plutonic Power on the Toba power project, but there sure seemed to be a large number of Cortesians opposed to the Toba project at the time and not just the Hollyhockers.
I don't see much forestry happening here. But I do see many anti-logging protests. Last year there were protests over the plans to log in Carrington and protests over the plans to log near the Free Store. Those weren't just Hollyhockers. The Cortes Ecoforestry Society has been claiming to want a community forest for something like 20 years. Have they cut a tree?
I don't see much active shellfish farming in recent years either. Cortes Transport dropped their number of shellfish delivery runs and even then the truck has not had much in it. And weren't those Cortesians protesting the Geoduck application under the banner of Save Our Shores (SOS)? Isn't it Cortesians who are now in the midst of a protest against Klahoose and Taylor Shellfish establishing a new shellfish tenure in the Gorge?
About the only project that didn't receive anything more than a token protest was Joel Solomon's subdivision.

@Cortes Islander and any others with direct experience on the island, contact us via our confidential email if you would like to continue any discussions offline. I'm holding your comment for now until we can check a few facts, not censoring you just taking precautions. I hope you understand. Thanks.

Fascinatingly weird stuff. I see that Vision buddy Richard Branson has bought a second Caribbean island, in the British Virgin Islands appropriately enough. However he has the sense to buy places that are uninhabited, so no pesky locals to get in the way of his ego, sorry, eco plans.

@strange bedfellows. Thanks for your comment. I've edited it as a precaution until I have further documented proof of your assertions. Email us confidentially at if you have anything to share on this.

As for being in support or opposed to Bob Williams, that's news to us. Apart from our mocking support of Allen Garr moving into politics, we've not held any other views about VanCity nor Williams. I would concur with you that Williams is a strong and influential figure, regardless of your political stripes.

Check out!

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