TEAM members take a walk down memory lane

Post by Mike Klassen in


The opening words of the inaugural speech by TEAM's Mayor Art Phillips

This weekend former members of the government known as TEAM will assemble for a reunion. But May Brown, the former Park Board commissioner and later a city councillor stresses that this is not some attempt to revitalize TEAM, which was an acronym for The Electors' Action Movement. The occasion, as Brown describes it, is to reflect upon the accomplishments of that Vancouver political movement of the 1970s, and to possibly ask what can the city learn from it.

One exciting memento of that change of political winds in Vancouver is the January 3rd, 1973 inaugural speech by the new Mayor, Arthur Phillips, sent to me by Brown. Art, who went on to marry Carol Taylor, laid out an ambitious agenda for the city in his speech. The city council under the previous Mayor Tom Campbell was seen as being unresponsive to the public mood. Council meetings, for example, ran from 9am to 4pm and effectively shut out the public. Phillips speech outlines his wish to move public hearings to 7:30pm, allowing citizens better access to decision making at City Hall.

There are many other intriguing details within the speech, such as announcing the political career of Gordon Campbell as Phillips' top aide. Campbell became what today is referred to as the Chief of Staff, someone to watch the Mayor's back politically while also providing a link (or some distance) between him and the civil service. The TEAM city council also began Mike Harcourt's political career, setting him up to be Vancouver's Mayor (1980) and later BC's Premier (1991).

There are many other aspects of Phillips speech that will excite Vancouver political historians, but perhaps the most influential proposal by the Mayor was the creation of the Property Endowment Fund. Here's the genesis of the PEF described in the speech, which Phillips referred to as a new "Land Management Program."

I believe that the City's policy on the management of its own land should change. I have received a preliminary report on this matter which indicates that the City owns at least $60-million worth of land which might form part of a new Land Management Program. I do not believe that the City should continue its policy of selling off roughly $2-million worth of land a year in order to help finance capital programs. I believe the City could manage its land in such a way as to benefit the taxpayers of the city and also bring about more desirable development in the city. I would like to take charge of the examination of this subject and report to Council on a possible new Land Management Program.

With those words it could be argued that one of the great changes to Vancouver's governance occurred. By having this "bank" of property the City collects an annual dividend that provides operating funds for its various initiatives. The Fund, which today is worth approximately $3 billion, can also be used for strategic investments like the Athlete's Village or social housing projects.

The TEAM gathering is a closed event for former elected officials, members and a few invited guests. Former Director of Planning Ray Spaxman will be saying a few words, and Ken Cameron (past Chair of the Sustainable Cities Foundation and public policy expert) will also speak.

Others in attendance will be former city councillor Marguerite Ford, Bill McCreery (currently involved in an NPA revitalization effort), and my friend, the unflappable Professor Setty Pendakur. What amazes political watchers like myself is the brain power that TEAM assembled, and the vision they had for the city. As May Brown said to me, it's hoped that somehow this kind of inspired leadership returns to city politics.


The years that Team led the Vancouver Council were arguably the best in the City's history. Each member of the Team caucus was a very bright individual and brought special experiences and expertise to the job. There wasn't a dud in the bunch.
They elevated the City's vision ( if I can use that word) and changed the city from a pleasant backwater into a city with purpose and direction. Will we ever see such a group of councillors again?

When you have to put the word vision in your party name, it usually means you have none.

TEAM was a great example of a party that represented the whole city, not just those that attended a retreat with the mayor on some island off the coast. Is there a way to recapture this with a new, re-branded NPA?

The traditional way for the NPA to do business has not worked at all. Unless and until the NPA decides it is a cohesive political party with an agenda, their format is unsustainable. There has been some recent discussion concerning this issue, but no apparent progress. I think the NPA concept and name must die. And yes a brand new civic political party with a brand new complement of political hopefulls might surface. But can it be in time for the next election? And can we hope for ten nominees for Council with anywhere near the talent that Art Phillips led?

Those were certainly heady times and so inspired. The likes of Ray Spaxman and the TEAM leadership at all levels of the Vancouver political spectrum gave the impetus for what we see around us today. And who could not adore Setty? What a wonderful man whose subsequent Provincial campaigns many of my friends worked together on.
The ground is ripe for the germination of a new party and I can hardly wait.

After last night's NPA AGM, no, you won't see the quality of TEAM Councilors again. But, TEAM was more than that. It had effective, well thought out principles & policies &, a plan to implement them. We did implement them & the liveable City of Vancouver of today is the result.

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