Taxpayers funding project of Vision Vancouver insider, says NPA's Anton

Post by Mike Klassen in


Crankin' up the rhetoric on taxes – Gregor won't admit to poor spending choices

Tongues were clucking loudly on Tuesday afternoon in Vancouver city council when Councillor Suzanne Anton wondered, after just receiving a briefing from the Director of Finance on a $20 million budget shortfall, why the City of Vancouver was spending $6000 to help fund a conference. Further, she asserted, a conference being organized by a key financial and political supporter of Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Vision went on the attack, with a little of Carbon Cadman's puffery added in for good measure. The video of the self-flattering Kerry Jang was worth the price of admission – "I'm embarrassed to be a city councillor after listening to Councillor Anton's accusations," offered Jang. After the smoke cleared it's a surprise that Anton wasn't just a smoldering pile of ashes in her chair in the council chamber.

What peed off the Vision crew was Anton's noteworthy appearance on Monday night's GlobalTV News Hour (which, by the way, is the most watched local newscast in Canada at close to 1,000,000 viewers). Anton scoffed at the notion of Mayor Robertson talking about not wanting to "crank up" taxes, while continuing to spend in such a cavalier manner on new offices, self-promotion, inaugural balls, etc. Despite Vision's insistence to the contrary, the City of Vancouver typically does not fund conferences for third parties, although the COPE/Vision council (2003-2005) found plenty of excuses to do so.

What made this handover of taxpayer dosh to the "Social Purpose Real Estate" (see staff report, with references to "positive social change" goals) conference all the more egregious was the name of a key Vision Vancouver insider on the list of organizers. Martha Burton (seen in this photo looking reverently at her business partner Joel Solomon) is a woman who wears many hats. She's a Vision Vancouver director, as well as being a key operative in Joel Solomon's mix of US-backed charities and investment bucks.

Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith wrote a highly recommended piece last weekend for providing a bit of important background on the money trail surrounding Solomon and Burton. Here are a few quick bullets about Martha:

  1. Martha Burton is the treasurer for Vision Vancouver and sits on their executive.
  2. According to IRS tax returns Burton was Senior Vice-President of the charity Endswell Foundation earning $135,325 in 2008 (Endswell is funded by Carol Newell, President was Joel Solomon), up from $72,036 in 2007. Records show that 99% of Endswell grants went directly to Tides Canada Foundation.
  3. Burton is a partner in Joel Solomon's Renewal Partners venture capital company, which was also bankrolled by Carol Newell.
  4. Renewal Partners is recorded as the largest business donor in BC municipal politics, donating well in excess of $100,000 to Vision Vancouver.
  5. Burton, along with Solomon, are directors for a company called Interdependent Investments. Endswell Foundation is reported as giving $1.2 million in payments to Interdependent Investments between 1997 and 2008.
  6. Interdependent Investments Ltd. have in turn donated $6000 to Vision Vancouver. Burton has personally donated $1050 (2008).

So when it comes to being a Vision Vancouver insider, it doesn't get much more inside than that. Charity senior VP, corporate executive, board member, Vision donor & Vision treasurer – all in one package! Which is why having Martha Burton on the list of organizers of this City of Vancouver sponsored event is just a bit concerning. You certainly can't fault Anton for asking these questions:

  • Why spend $6000 on a conference when we're being asked to bootstrap for the 2011 budget?
  • Why give money to an event with clear connections to Vision Vancouver?

Social Purpose Real Estate (SPRE) might be, according to Gregor Robertson, the greatest thing since sliced bread, but why should Vancouver taxpayers support it? We haven't received a good answer for that yet.

Renewal Partners are big believers in the SPRE concept – they practically coined the term. They invest money to different "social" real estate ventures, including the Renewal Land Company (holdings on Cortes Island where Robertson and Solomon own property), and Village Real Estate Services of Nashville, Tennessee.

Joel Solomon is a ten-percent owner of Village Real Estate Services. According to Burton's bio, she is a founding member of Nashville's Women in Commercial Real Estate.

If they're experts on profiting from real estate transactions, surely they don't need taxpayers help?

Read more: Charlie Smith's Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson's associate generated significant income from charity work


UPDATE: We've spoken with one of the event representatives for the SPRE conference. They explain that Martha Burton's involvement is "minimal" and asked us to share this information. It was agreed by us that any appearance of conflict regardless of which political party was involved should be avoided. They assert that the linkages between Mayor Robertson's political supporters and the conference should not reflect badly on the good work being done by other partners including the Real Estate Foundation of BC, Vancity, and the Central City Foundation.

- post by Mike


You note it's not typical for them to fund it and you mention the previous COPE/Vision group.

Did the previous NPA group fund these types of things at all?

Fair question. According to Anton's remarks in today's council meeting, the ones approved by the NPA council were holdovers from the previous COPE/Vision council. Vision read out conferences supported by past councils, but the dates were conspicuously all done during and just after that council. This does not include conferences involving staff, only third party events.

Did someone in the background yell, "Don't break the camera?" lol

The Thought of The Evening

“Never launder the Whites and the Reds together in the same batch. That’s the Golden Rule of laundering. Ah, my beautiful launderette. “

When you do it deliberately though, you should know, we know that you are not hoping for the Reds to Not stain the Whites. On the contrary, we know that you hope that it does.

Who doesn’t love Pink? Plus, it’s so damn confusing to look at. Is it Red? Is it White? The whole thing is becoming so... Greyish.

What I’m trying to say is you don’t pay yourself $ 135, 000/ year and call it ‘working for a Charity’. That’s too modest. You may want to call it something more sophisticated, like ‘Exceptionally Complicated Money Tricks’ or ‘Philanthropically Entitled to Self-Gift’ or maybe, my favourite ‘I'll Run for the Cure in Your Shoes’.

Anyway, I think Mike did a pretty good job in Mapping out the Money Expedition of the Solomon’s Ark from Port 1 to Port 6.

I am sure that the best accounting principles were employed in all these benign money transactions, however, being a practising agnostic I would like to have someone from, say Revenue Canada and... IRS Friends, looking deeper into ways of reducing their marginal taxation on Tidy and Renewal Charitable Thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong. As a future, potential 6/49 Lottery Winner, I’m all against over taxation for the Rich and Filthy. We are all in this together, woven like a bunch of young and loving Interdependent Partners, a solid Foundation for Future Investments!

All is well when it... Endswell.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

These dudes and dudettes contributed $100,000+ and are getting a measly little contract for $6,000 in return? Out of which there must be some costs incurred, giving them a net margin of , who knows, let's say a couple of grand and a percentage return of like -5000%. I thought they were supposed to smart...oh well, party on, dudes and dudettes.

This is the product of a fecund mind!!!

You're almost right-he said "Don't break the camera, Gregor".

It's at 40-42 seconds.

Here's some more "soup" to slurp on

I saw this on the news yesterday and I give kudos to Anton for raising this and taking the heat, which, won't go away in the near future.

I keep thinking that this Mayor and Council can't do anything else that will shock us - but hey, everyday brings something new.

As for Jang and this statement' "I'm embarrassed to be a city councillor after listening to Councillor Anton's accusations," offered Jang.

Guess what buddy - their are plenty of us in Vancouver that are embarrassed that you are a city councilor as well. Some of us still remember the HEAT shelter meeting where you took your name badge off and pocketed it when you realized it wasn't going to be a cake walk.

Just like getting your seat back in the next election won't be a cake walk either.

Interesting response in the video when the reporter asks Gregor if he believes he ever poorly spent tax dollars. His response was a nose stretcher. "I don't think so". hello??? can you say office renovations at $260,000 bucks. Remember his rationale was that he "needed more privacy". Shall I go on?

Hi Mike,

Would love to know how much actual background research you have done on the conference. I have been in the room while it has been organized - can't say I saw you there. It is unfortunate that people take strong opinions on things without knowing the facts. I am happy to speak with you directly about the conference if you wish to learn more about the good work of these non-political non-profits. This is in no way a City of Vancouver led, organized, or initiated conference. How we got dragged into this political snowball fight is beyond me. Please respect what we are doing - and in all sincerity, I suggest you even attend.

@Karin. I don't know you, but you sound like a nice woman. Let me just say if the treasurer of the NPA were the person in question, and an NPA government gave $6000 to support a conference they were organizing, I bet vision would be squealing like stuck pigs. When you take public money to run these kinds of conferences, you are open to public scrutiny and comment. If you don't want to face any criticisms, then fund it on your own dime.

Thanks for your note, Karin. I've not stated anywhere, nor has Coun. Anton that this is a CoV led conference, nor have we offered any opinion of your event. The City are donating to the event and therefore validating it. You said that there were no "friends of the mayor" involved, and that does not appear to be the case.

Ms. Burton's political connections are clear and her organization's involvement should be considered by most as crossing a line into conflict of interest.

I'll go on for you. Bike lanes this year, contrary to Global's "reporting" received about six to six-and-a-half MILLION dollars.

When the Mayor mentions there will be no cuts to safety services in Vancouver, does that include the freeze on hiring of much needed new police officers or the $4M shortfall fire services are facing - which may result in 1 or 2 fire stations closing up?

From what I understand in this piece ---the Mayor mentions he doesn't want to raise taxes - he needs to cut services -- and is going to consult on what services should be cut. Will it be only services Robertson and gang want to cut?

In other words, we (current council) will consult with you and not listen -- and then tell you what we are going to cut, as it fits with our Vision

What's wrong with this picture?

A right-wing blog site questioning the contributions and/or motives for, of a centre-left municipal party's source (or not) of funding.

Incredible! I'm going to wake up the kids and show them this one.

By the way, at the NPA fundraiser this weekend, perhaps you terriers should discuss possible leadership candidates.

I hear Mel Gibson is free.

I don't see how they cannot increase taxes next year.

We are already at an estimated $20 Million shortfall, and I am not sure if that includes the 4% salary increases right across the board for the city workers which amounts to roughly $34 Million in itself.

Now, we have loss in revenue from parking for the Hornby bike lane as well as others that are planned. (Jerry Dobrovolny, slipped during one of the Global reports yesterday. He stated cycling as the number 1 ....oops number 2 transportation priority in Vancouver and yes, there were other bike plans in the works)and possible tax revenue loss from shops in that area.

Then pull in the reckless and drunken spending on frivolous pet projects including funding of projects including the conference in this article.....

Wait for it.

I wondered how long before racial slurs would take over this conversation...
Lets see babalu, comparing people that don't agree with you, to a breed of dogs, then bringing in Mel Gibson and his anti Semitic rants... you should be ashamed of yourself...

@babalu. "right wing blog". Unlike you I am a card carrying right wing conservative and have never seen either of these bloggers at an event in Vancouver. If they're right wing, they have a funny way of showing it. Fontaine is a BC Lib and a former federal liberal organizer. I know Klassen is a BC Lib and I believe a federal liberal??? Mike do you want to enlighten us? Are you a fed lib too?

@Steve S. I love everybody, and don't play much in the federal sandbox. Agree with you though that calling a right wing blog would be a mischaracterization.

@babalu. Glad that your kids are interested in matters concerning the fairness in our system of electoral politics.

I speak with many people who vote NDP who don't like the idea that money coming in from foreign sources might be influencing our politics. This isn't a left-right issue, but one which all citizens have a stake. You can count on us to continue to explore the money behind Vision Vancouver.

Does anyone remember when the CSIS director said some Vancouver politicians were beinginfluenced by foreigners? I am still wondering who he might have been talking about. Surely there are no politicians in Vancouver who are connected and funded by foreign sources?

WTF? george ma' man,
you really jumped the line in here with your 'anti semitic' insert. Where did that come from? And FYI Mel Gibson is a great actor/ director. Too bad for him to be associated with Hollywood. Check out 'Brave Heart', 'The Passion' and 'Apocalypto'. Genius. I didn't get babalu's remarks, but here's a friendly reminder, check out 'Vision and Gregor's american financial backers symbiotic 'affiliations'. Sheesh!

point taken, unfortunately, Mel has been getting a lot of press lately for his remarks rather than his movies. That is the way I interpreted the post. There are certain posters that have been bringing in slurs lately...I might have misjudged today's remarks....maybe;) Thanks for your thoughts...

I'm not a Mel Gibson fan, but I am confused as to why I am paying for this conference in the first place. Ms. Kirkpatrick, since you were in the room, can you let us know why the City was even approached to assist with the costs in the first place?

Economic powerhouse Winnipeg has frozen property taxes for 13 years in a row. How come they can do it but Vancouver can't?

Vision Vancouver is also planning to sponsor the Velo City convention in Vancouver in an effort to push the much-hated bike lanes. Vision Vancouver and Mr. Sippy Cup Mayor can't be trusted with the job of running a city. I regret having voted for this guy.

Check out!

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