So insecure with their own Park Board governance, Vision goes on the attack
To me, it looked like an innocent expression of one person's principles. Green Party park board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon was putting to his colleagues the idea of a 2011 plebiscite to gauge public opinion on the future of large mammals in the Stanley Park-based Vancouver Aquarium. If you've ever encountered Mackinnon, you know that he's probably among the most principled individuals in local elected politics you'll meet. I don't agree with all of Stuart's views, but I salute his respectful approach.
NPA Commissioner Ian Robertson put it best when he said on today's Christy Clark Show with host Mike Smyth, "I would have been surprised if Stuart did not bring this motion. He's a passionate opponent of large marine animals in captivity." Indeed, I truly have not formed my own opinion on whether we should have orcas, belugas and dolphins in tanks at the Vancouver Aquarium. But I respect those who argue on both sides of the issue.
However, Vision Vancouver seem to take another approach – it's called kill the messenger.
If you ever needed more evidence of how cheap Vision Vancouver are when backed into a corner, look no further than how they have dealt with Mackinnon on this issue. For those who do not recall, Stuart Mackinnon was a part of an anti-NPA slate featuring Green Party, COPE and Vision Vancouver park commissioner candidates back in 2008. In fact, Coun. Andrea Reimer was once a Green Party member serving on the Vancouver school board.
When it came to some key votes early in this term, Mackinnon decided that he could not support Vision Vancouver. In particular, he voted against Vision's budget cuts. Almost immediately Vision's knives came out. By voting against Vision he was deemed immediately persona non grata. Commissioner Aaron Jasper, who has gained a reputation as a very churlish member of the current board, began to repeatedly make personal attacks on Mackinnon, accusing him of political grandstanding.
"If you want a glaring example of political grandstanding," comments Comm. Robertson, "look no further than Vision's vote on the HST petitions in our park community centres. It served no purpose except to make an empty political point."
It's an absolute puzzle to me why Vision would have gone on the attack in this instance. Mackinnon's request was only to debate the motion at a Park Board meeting. With Vision and the NPA's Robertson already on the record as opposed, it would have fallen on a vote and that would be the end of it. In fact, it's rumoured that none of the commissioners had any problem with the motion – that is, until the Mayor's office caught wind of it.
Then there is another wrinkle for Vision. Reportedly, Commissioner Constance Barnes was set to vote in favour of Mackinnon's motion. Not so fast, Barnes was warned. In fact, we've heard unconfirmed rumours that Barnes re-nomination as a Vision commissioner was threatened if she decided to break ranks on this issue. If our sources are not accurate on this count, Comm. Barnes is welcome to contact us and we'll correct the record.
Then there is the nasty press release sent out under Park Board Chair Aaron Jasper's name – seen below. As you can see from the email information, it was provided to Jasper by Vision Vancouver staffer Jonathan Ross. The release is hardly what anyone would describe as focusing on the issue at hand. Rather, it is a very personal indictment of Mackinnon's character.
----- Original Message -----
From: Jonathan Ross email@example.com
Sent: Thu 15/07/10 3:17 AM
Subject: Fwd: PRESS RELEASE - Motion puts Vancouver Park Board at risk of lawsuit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2010
Stuart Mackinnon motion knowingly puts Park Board at risk of lawsuit
Political posturing takes precedence over protection of taxpayer interests
Vancouver, BC – A motion being forwarded by Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon is putting the Park Board at risk of a potential lawsuit, in spite of his prior knowledge of a legally binding agreement with the Vancouver Aquarium.
On Monday, November 26, 2006, the previous NPA majority Vancouver Park Board voted to “amend the term of the current Stanley Park Aquarium Agreement to extend the license to 20 years.” As part of that amendment, it was also decided that “it is the Board’s intention that in 2015 the board review the Parks Control By-law relating to captive cetaceans” (a decision that passed with 4 votes from the NPA in favour, and 2 votes against from the opposition).
In spite of Mackinnon’s motion referencing the “motion to review the Parks Control By-Law relating to captive cetaceans in 2015,” it still is advocating that “a plebiscite be held during the 2011 Vancouver civic election asking the public if they are in favour of ending the containment of cetaceans in Vancouver parks.”
This is the height of irresponsibility, according to Aaron Jasper, Chair of the Vancouver Park Board.
“I am absolutely shocked that in spite of being aware of the binding agreement that we as Park Board commissioners are bound by, Mr. Mackinnon is still pushing ahead with this motion” said Jasper. “The fact is that under these terms, the issue of cetaceans in captivity is moot until 2015, and bringing forth such a motion puts the taxpayers of Vancouver at considerable risk from a lawsuit.”
There are plenty of ways to gauge “public sentiment” regarding the issue after the current agreement lapses, and Mackinnon’s personal ambitions are clouding his ability to put fiscal responsibility first.
“Stuart is trying to initiate political mischief with this motion” added Jasper. “Regardless of our personal feelings on the matter, we as elected representatives have a responsibility to put the interests of our constituents ahead of petty politics.”
Mackinnon’s motion will be voted upon on Monday, July 19, 2010.
Aaron Jasper, Chair of the Vancouver Park Board
We've often puzzled at the person that CityCaucus.com staff offhandedly refer to as "Civic Boy". Is Civic Boy on the Vision Vancouver payroll? Is he in fact speaking on behalf of Mayor Robertson, Commissioner Jasper and the rest of the Vision Vancouver caucus when he launches into put downs?
For example, we have to wonder what the members of the West End Neighbourhood group (aka WEN) might think of being called NIMBYs by someone hired by Mayor Robertson's own party? It's bad enough that Robertson flipped the West End the bird last week, and now we have one of his own on a search and destroy mission. How can Vision Vancouver benefit by having one of their own trashing people in the community who disagree with Mayor Robertson?
Then there is Civic Boy's own attack on Mackinnon, again accusing Stuart of political grandstanding. Funnily enough, he cites his own press release written for Jasper, as though Jasper himself produced it! Civic Boy goes on to say this about Mackinnon as his parting shot:
But for a guy whose party has absolutely no profile, and who will be fighting for his political life in the next election, this kind of politics makes perfect sense.
One can only guess that the Vision-COPE-and-Green Party coalition is effectively dead. Not that Mackinnon would be stupid enough to align himself with these turkeys ever again.
Jonathan Ross is Vision Vancouver's direct pipeline from the Park Board to the Mayor's office – he's paid to attend every meeting. Mayor Robertson might want to explain what one of his own paid employees is doing making personal attacks on public officials and members of the public.
- post by Mike