Big polling numbers possibly a bigger bane than boon for Vancouver's Mayor

Post by Mike Klassen in


ahead of the pack
In politics, it's easy to predict you're unbeatable when you don't know what lies ahead

Metro Vancouver's biggest daily newspapers – The Sun, The Province and The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) have embarked upon a pro-Vision Vancouver editorial bent in recent months. All three papers have remained unflinchingly positive about Gregor Robertson during his term of government. In spite of some fine reporting from all three publications, it has been hard to overlook the prominent play given to seemingly mundane policy pronouncements and empty political posturing.

Examples include when The Province recently featured a full-page report on Gregor Robertson's talk about creating a green business sector – half of the page being a close-up shot of the Mayor's mug. Then on Saturday the Vancouver Sun also gave Gregor a full page – labeling it "Two Views of the Mayoralty at the Halfway Point".

With that headline one might predict that it would be a point/counterpoint. Perhaps a friendly assessment of Robertson balanced by a more critical take. No such luck. What readers got was one article supposedly penned by Gregor Robertson (the Mayor's dissertations fall apart after 140 characters, so we know it came from his staff), and the second piece by the normally reliable Miro Cernetig.

What Cernetig wrote was not the typical man crush that we've seen from other local journos. This was perhaps the greatest outpouring of admiration for the Mayor's telegenic perfection ever put in writing. The column begins:

When he came to power there was no doubt Gregor Robertson had the GQ. That's a natural when you're blessed with that chiselled jaw, the Happy Planet Zen and an apparent inability to take a bad picture.

Just imagine if we elected a woman as mayor. How long could a reporter last in a newsroom today if all they wrote about was her lipstick, or how her hair draped her shoulder at a meeting? It's a pretty clear double-standard, and one that we've let Vancouver's Fourth Estate get away with. What comes out of Robertson's mouth might be incomprehensible, but it apparently doesn't matter as long as his jaw is chiselled.

I've worked on political campaigns at the civic, provincial and federal level for 30 years, and my early work in campaign media monitoring has helped me to identify who knows what they're talking about when it comes to politics, and who doesn't. Cernetig's leap of faith on the power of Robertson's charisma and his political message comes across to me as breathtakingly naive.

Take for example this explanation of the source of Robertson's stratospheric public approval ratings:

The latest poll from Stratcom -- the polling company that has the mayor's party, Vision, as a client but is known for carrying out reliable surveys -- gives Roberson a 78-per-cent approval rating.

Let's talk about Stratcom, or Strategic Communications for a moment, shall we? Stratcom is run by Bob Penner, a key Vision Vancouver financial supporter and political adviser to Mayor Gregor Robertson. Their clients include the New Democratic Party, and the top labour unions in the province including CUPE (Vision's biggest net donors). Stratcom received their startup capital from Renewal Partners, the funding organization run by Joel Solomon and funded by Carol "RE" Newell's Rubbermaid inheritance.

Think that that's not enough of a connection? This company known for its so-called "reliable" surveys donated $48,004.73 toward paying off Vision Vancouver's 2005 election debt, with $40,004.73 donated on single day in July 2007.

Then according to Vision's 2008 campaign finance disclosure, Stratcom donated another $58,525.00, with $56,525 donated on a single day just over a week before the 2008 election. That's a grand total of $98,529.73 donated in a span of 18 months. Now they've just conducted a poll for an estimated cost of $30,000 making Bob Penner's Strategic Communications among the largest individual donors in British Columbia's political history at $128,529.73.

How on Earth is the breadth of this conflict not factored into Cernetig's story? His whole premise is based upon these poll numbers.

When it comes to the Mayor's popularity, most people can surmise Robertson is in a one-man race. His popularity reflects the lack of any alternative provided by an opposition party. In reality mid-term polling is about as useful as a spent piece of tissue paper for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Voter turnout in civic elections is just over 30 percent on average. A broad poll sampling does not reflect the reality of who will or will not actually vote.
  2. Politics 101 tells you that the only polls that matter are done in the weeks just before an election. The vast majority of voters (some say five to one) tune out on all things political between elections.

What mid-term polls do best is make politicians feel good. But the real downside of this data is that it makes governments complacent and arrogant. If you're Vision Vancouver and you see that your leader is polling at 78% you say to yourself, "We did chickens, STIR and crapped all over North False Creek, but the people STILL love us!"

If you think Vision have been just a little high-handed with various Vancouver communities in the first half of their term, don't expect it to get a whole lot better in the second half. The Stratcom poll tells Vision that they're on the right track.

What will be interesting to watch in this second half of their term is what I call the "George Chow Factor". You see, Coun. Chow has been phoning it in for months. Apparently despite the wishes of his spouse, Chow decided to run for a second term on council. He's not going to run again in 2011 which means that at least one spot will open up on Vision's slate.

Think about all the folks waiting in the wings salivating at the opportunity to take George's spot. There's Aaron Jasper, the ambitious and volatile Park Board commissioner. Jasper thinks he's meant for city council, and will vie to replace Robertson in 2014. There's also Patti Bacchus and Mike Lombardi over at School Board. Both of them think they're ready for the big dance at City Hall.

The other X factor is whether Vision Vancouver's board decides to provide their current council members incumbency protection. How will that be perceived by the rank and file if that happens? Vision would be crazy to not run a South Asian and Filipino candidate on their 2011 council slate, given the inroads they're making with those communities. And Chow is Vision's go-to guy for Chinatown and council's only Cantonese speaker. How indeed will they make room for these requirements?

Of course, it points to doing away with the coalition with COPE. COPE, according to Stratcom's poll, are at a record low 13%. For all intents and purposes, the Stratcom poll shows that COPE is at the brink of annihilation. There are several folks at COPE who don't want to settle for the table scraps Vision has given them thus far. They want more than 2 seats on council. People like Am Johal and Rachel Marcuse are investing a lot of time with folks like David Chudnovsky to make COPE into a reinvigorated voice of social justice. But if Vision squashes them, as they probably will, that work is for naught.

Then there is the NPA. If they can hold together three seats on council are almost a certainty, which means someone on the Vision slate will inevitably be roadkill. Meggs, Stevenson and Reimer polled the lowest for Vision in 2008 – so might that translate into a defeat for them? According to reports Stevenson is in big trouble in the West End thanks to the unpopularity of the STIR program, and Meggs was loudly booed at a recent public consultation in that community. And given that the "Chicken Lady" label is sticking to Reimer, don't be surprised if she starts updating her résumé early next year.

So it's fine for the editors of our local dailies to boost Robertson and his team in the mid-term. But the fact is that there are so many dynamics in play right now, no person or poll can accurately predict who will come out on top in November 2011.

- post by Mike


good (?) attempt to re-spin. maybe you can address the left leaning nature of the press in your upcoming run for city council.

One of the best bits of analysis I've read in this city in a long time. Quite refreshing and a breath of fresh air compared to the pro-vision garbage the Sun spews out everyday. I can't believe I actually pay to have this paper delivered to my home.

There is no getting around the fact this is the most undemocratic and arrogant government in a long time at city hall. The Sun's glorified views of Robertson only means those on the receiving end of his neighbourhood attacks will have to struggle even more. More STIR, chickens, density, police funding, cuts to social housing etc. When will it all end?

Oh Doug, you left wingers will never confront or live in reality, will you?

Always trying to spin it your way, even when someone de-spins your crap.

Practical radical my ass.

Let me ask Doug, have you - for the organization you co-founded, ever applied for funding from any of Joel Solomon's or Carol Newell's funding machines?

If you're going to just drink the bathwater, the best place for you is that blog run by Vision's fluffer in chief.

Latest Vision Polling

Who we ask for help with what to ask:

Lets ask: Jonathon Ross (AKA Spartikus, AKA Mr. Civic Scene, AKA Quick Hits, AKA whatever sounds cool as an alias)

Well.. I have a couple of totally, like outrageous, like totally cool, like really probing questions.

Ok Jonathon, what is it?

Well like lets ask our like totally committed members if..

Question 1:
1) Don't you just love Mayor Robertson and his bike loving giganticus kinda heart?

Answers Possible:
(i) with all my heart.. I want his babies
(ii) well maybe not his babies, but he is like Ironman, can I stroke his coat sleeve, I so crush on him
(iii)I crush on him, he's sooo cute
(iv) He's doing like a brilliant,super duper job.

Question 2:
2)Is Vision Vancouver is running the city like a superhero?

Answers Possible:
(i) Vision is da bomb
(ii) Vision like is so "Ironmanish"
(iii) Vision crushes like all evil in its wake
(iv) if Vision lets me smoke more bud,ahhh, mm can you get me some like Nachos man.. what was the question?

hey lets not like froget to give the results to like reporters who crush on the our man.

Thank you Johnathon.
Like can I get paid now man? I need like some groceries..

The Thought of The Day

"Post coitum triste Vision omnes est. Hence,the poll"

And according to their latest public release, this is how they reached the 78% threshold:

Gregor Robertson 15%; Raymond Louie 25%; Al DeGenova 38%.

Of course the Question asked was:
"If all the above were one person do you agree he would make a better mayor than Larry Campbell?"

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Jonathan Who? I just took a look at his blog. He could use a proofreader (and maybe someone to help scrape that brown material off his nose). For some reason even Visionistas refrain from helping him to apply lipstick to the (free-range, organic, progressive) pigs at 12th & Cambie. Apparently Frances Bula has that covered.
If it were my blog I'd post at least a couple of comments after each entry even if I had to write them myself using a pseudonym. Perhaps the tortured logic, jarring non sequiturs and fractured syntax would remain but, as Mr. Ross would no doubt agree, it's all about image. (Spartikus, whatever else he may be, can at least write coherently).
One hopes he is getting paid for his blog, otherwise Vision is laughing all the way to Carol Newell's bank.

Thanks for the welcome Glen. I've looked at your many posts, quite interesting. Do you have a blog of your own, or do you only post on other peoples?

Am a long time reader of citycaucas - great information and research but gets lost in the partisanship at times.

I discovered a while ago that if you post a comment on Civic Scene that goes something like, " Wow, your incredible insight shows how Gregor got it right again and by the way congratulations on your wonderful honeymoon pictures," it will appear immediately but any kind of rational argument will sit in the "Awaiting moderation" file for ever. A more mischevious person than myself, with more time to spare, might have some fun with this.

On the main subject, I know it's probably a dead cause but as long as we have the rotten "at large" system we are going to continue to get the politicians we don't deserve.

I read this and my blood boils. Why does Gregor get a pass in the media? Just cause he has pretty glasses and is doing his best impersonation of Clarke Kent? Did anyone hear this guy on CKNW radio this morning? He can barely string three words together. Yet the Sun wants us to think he's actually an intellectual who's just misunderstood. He pauses every 3 seconds because he's taking time to gather his thoughts, not because he's incoherent. When can I stop laughing?

This administration is a complete joke and the sooner the NPA get off their collective duff and start acting like a government in waiting, the sooner we will see vision as yet another one-term wonder (see COPE 2002-05, NPA 2005-08).

In terms of Robertson's Vision BC concept, that will do nothing other than to kill the BCNDP. Something that Carol James will not allow for a minute, nor will the unions.

Dream on my young urban farmer. If you wanted to be premier, you should have stayed in Victoria will all your ndp comrades and fought the good fight.

Most papers swing 'politically' one way or another.

The Vancouver Sun and 24 hours both seem to be Robertson lovers.

When Conrad Black had the National Post, he got into a full pissing match with Chretien. This resulted in Black denouncing his Canadian citizenship in order to become 'Lord Black'. (Good riddance.)

Unfortunately the days of non-biased reporting seem to be long gone.

Hey Hadaway-when you take a minute from driving you giant car around try to remember who led the charge against a ward system in Vancouver. Hint: you're soaking in it.

Questions that come mind when I see your photo. Is that guy on the bike being chased by an angry mob? Is he so far ahead of the pack that his own teammates have lost track of him? Was that bump in the road actually an urban chicken? Did someone in the crowd catch his attention by yelling "Mr mayor the media cameras are over here."

We live in a politically whacked city and this keeps us busy!

Sent to FRANCIS BULA's blog Jan 15, 2010 at 11:55 pm

I have been wondering where the media has been on Bloedel & the Children’s Farmyard, especially the print media.

There has been some TV & radio good coverage. But, it seems the Sun has taken an editorial position to support Vision because they’re ‘green’. But, just because someone says they want to be ‘green’ should not be justification for not critically assessing the what & why they are doing. Newspapers in particular are the bastions of the 4th ESTATE. And the 4th Estate has an even more critical societal role when there is a weak opposition.

$48,004.73 + $58,525 = $106,529.73.

It seem that Stratcom billed $30K for the results, thus reducing the effective donation to $76,529.73. Still, a sizeable figure. With quarterly polling Stratcom can put this one in the positive cash-flow file by Spring of 2011. Then they donate the profits to the Vision re-election campaign.

It's brilliant. Vision launders tax revenues through Stratcom and finances their marketing campaign with public money. Softens the blow to CUPE and the other unions. How long before the Senior Management Team at CofV books a Hollyhock retreat?

You couldn't make this stuff up. A Mayor financed by the Rubbermaid heiress who lives in a plastic box. Which agency handled the Rubbermaid account?


Absolutely hilarious.

I wish you coulda seen Mayor Moonbeam at the Prayer Breakfast...

His stirring intro: "Hey, wow, hey, ummm, wow, great breakfast, eh?'

Yes, kids, Mayor Moondoggie, at his best. Shurly, we are blessed to be in thepresence of True Local Government Greatness.

Surf's up!

(78% approval rating? My ass!!)

You can see a little more detail on this on my blog and some background about Miro, but a superb piece by Daniel and Mike. Kudos!

Hey sv, I've no particular objection to pseudonyms for regular comment but I do think that if you're going to be rude and make it obvious that you know me in some way you should grow the ****s to use your own name.

As to my opinions on 'at large' and those of this site, I know they differ completely. Hint: I'm not a robot.

well actually Gregor's war room was in the same building as Stratcom during the last election.

Straight up.

Check out!

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