Vision caucus stick together through thick and thinning

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


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Leaving Vision's herd may result in banishment to a lonely political wilderness

Say what you will about Gregor Robertson and his Vision caucus, but you certainly can’t fault them for holding together despite dark clouds on the horizon. Unlike the previous three regimes in Vancouver – led by mayors Philip Owen, Larry Campbell and Sam Sullivan – this team clearly has the discipline to keep a lid on any kind of internal discord. That’s not to say that Vision is living on a Happy Planet, it’s just that they haven’t been willing to expose their divisions.

Despite Robertson’s steadily dropping approval ratings and the end of his media honeymoon, the Vision council caucus continues to publicly hold firm behind their mayor. It would appear no matter how serious Mayor Gregor’s policy or communication gaffes become, his caucus colleagues sit on their hands and let it continue to unfold.

As one of my Vision contacts joked with me yesterday, “the alarm bells could be ringing and the iceberg could be right off the bow, but these guys are sticking with Robertson through thick and thin. They’re not going to allow Vision implode like COPE and the NPA. Not a chance. Keep dreaming.”

Meanwhile, as the Mayor’s poll numbers continue to tumble and the NPA surprisingly appearing to gain momentum with voters (despite not even having a declared mayoral candidate), Vision are staying the course. Like lemmings, their caucus sit idly by as the Mayor presides over a council that's witnessing plummeting staff morale, historic cuts to the park board budget, and a controversial expansion of the PNE’s footprint.

Don’t any of them have the political acumen to realize that many of them won’t be re-elected in November if this continues? Several members of the current Vision team are going to be thrown off the island. The question is no longer about whether it will happen, but rather, it’s about which of the them will get the boot.

When it comes to holding together his potentially fractious coalition caucus, Robertson has two people making him vulnerable. No, I’m not referring to COPE councillor David “Carbon” Cadman, or even failed Vision leadership candidate Raymond Louie. Far from being the voice of reason, both of these politicians not only endorse Gregor's agenda, they’re helping to craft it from behind the scenes.

Gregor's dissenters are not at council but at the Vancouver Park Board, which under this Vision administration has seen their budget slashed for the last three budgets. The only two politicians in the Vision-COPE-Green coalition who've had the political smarts to stand up to Mayor Gregor are Green Party Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, and Vision Park Board Chair Aaron Jasper.

Mackinnon – along with his NPA counterpart Ian Robertson – have been the only contrarians on a Park Board which has basically handed the keys of the operation over to the City Manager’s office. For example, despite facing repeated personal attacks from operatives within the coalition, Mackinnon continues to speak against the City Manager’s interference in Park Board operations. He’s also described his Vision Park Board colleagues as the least progressive bunch he’s seen.

By speaking out publicly, Mackinnon is demonstrating a trait that former NPA elected officials such as Gordon Price and Nancy Chiavario used to exhibit. They regularly openly challenged their NPA colleagues on various policy matters when they felt it was a matter of principle.

It was a time when the NPA’s role was to simply elect good candidates who were asked to leave their partisan politics at the door. I’m sure some of you remember those good old days when civic politicians in Vancouver were actually permitted to speak their mind on issues and not face the wrath of a caucus whip. Whereas if you're in the Vision caucus and speak out, you run the risk of losing your "cabinet portfolio."

If the NPA’s candidate recruitment committee were thinking, they’d be approaching Mackinnon now and ask him to maintain his Green credentials while joining their 2011 civic slate. Perhaps Stuart would even be open to moving up to council in order to work with a team truly interested in greening up the city through its park network.

Not sure if he’d be willing to make the move, but it would certainly shake Robertson’s coalition to the core if he did. The Mayor’s henchman should think about this prospect the next time they are about to push the send button on their next nasty press release aimed directly at Mackinnon.

Much to my surprise Aaron Jasper has also broken slightly free of the Mayor’s talking points this week. He’s finally stating that he won’t sit idly by as the Mayor moves to cut the Park Board core budget yet again. Too bad he was so quiet over the last two years, but better late than never I guess.

Many political watchers know that Jasper fancies himself as a possible mayoral candidate one day. Could that be what’s motivating him to speak out now? Is he trying to position himself as different from the nanomanagement style that has become the hallmark of Robertson’s term?

Regardless of what’s behind all Jasper's political posturing, park supporters are cautiously optimistic. That’s because with Mackinnon, Jasper and Robertson all saying they won’t support Mayor Gregor’s cuts, we could well see His Worship back down and restore some of the Board’s funding.

If the Mayor chooses to ignore the Park Board's concerns on this one again, he might discover that other members of his coalition will end their silence and speak up.

- Post by Daniel


So often, we hear the names of people in public life, but know little if anything about them. This certainly is the case for me. I therefore formulate impressions about them based on statements they may make that get heavy media coverage, or what other people say about them.

At the risk of damaging any future political prospects for Stuart Mackinnon, I want to say publicly what an impressive person he is. While we obviously come from very different backgrounds, with different political associations, I have recently got to know him a bit, and must say that he's a very impressive guy. He stands up for what he believes in; is not afraid to speak his mind, even when he knows he's not necessarily telling you what you want to hear; and is very thoughtful and caring.

While I do not intend to run in the forthcoming election, I hope he will do so, either for Park Board or Council. And to those of you who don't know him, I would urge you to pay attention to what he has to say. He's a very bright, complex guy, with a good heart and an open mind. Just the type of person we need in public life in Vancouver.

Stuart Mackinnon worked across the hall from my girlfriend, and she always had nice things to say about him.

On another issue, though:

Aaron Jasper and Stuart Mackinnon are going to cause the downfall of Vision? Please read that question and let me know if you actually believe your answer.

I wouldn't count on Aaron Jasper unless there is a payoff for Aaron Jasper..

First, I want to tell Michael Geller he has my vote. Second I want to confess that I never really followed municipal politics very closely - what harm could they do I thought. Third, to my everlasting regret, I voted the Vision Vancouver slate. I thought I was voting for a pragmatic group. I hope NPA gets it act together and presents us with a clear choice.

Michael has my vote for Mayor too.

He always makes such good sense especially on land use issues.....and for sure, we need a new direction on this as soon as possible.

Daniel and Mike,
You need to be following Marisa Thomas's story on the Nature's Path guy and his wife near-clear cutting their posh Pt. Grey property without a permit.

This will be a really touchy one for Gregor and the city to handle.

Ratana Stephens (wife of Arran Stephens) is completely tied in with Renewal Partners and Endswell.

Looks like a classic case of 'some animals being more equal than others'

Unity in what's left of the Left? Maybe someday. They're a bunch of snakes with fragile over-sized egos. Nobody trusts anybody, and with good reason. Just look across the water at their self-destructive palace coup.

Integrity and loyalty are just words, the ultimate goal is handing control of the capital budget over to the construction unions.

Speaking of palace coups, think back 5 years or so:

I loved this line in the Tyee piece!

"One of the problems that COPE had to deal with, was the thinking that it knew best how people should live their lives," Meggs added.

And there you have in a nutshell the crux of the backlash against Gregor, his backers, and Vision.

Thanks, rf. It sure looked to me like they knew what they were doing. Of course they can afford the six figure fine. Looks hypocritical to me.

It will be interesting.

Robertson stated on Global that it would be looked into and if found guilty - the full effect of the fines would be put into place.

Get the popcorn ready!

Under the circumstances I would argue it was inappropriate for him to comment on it at all.

He is conflicted and should have to publicly admit it.

Look for city council to give way on partial funding for the Park Board tonight. The Courier cover story of washrooms closing during winter and a Vision attempt to make Jasper look good will lead council to give funding for keeping park washrooms open during winter.

sounds a lot like the $20 million budget shortfall story.
AMAZING! They were able to solve it!

Really, that explains why he had such an agitated arrogant responce in regard to the questions.... I made a mistake... right.. wink wink nod nod.

In response to my own comment..
I called that one right.... Kudos to Councillor Anton, calling Aaron Jasper out, for politicizing the podium for Vision, at the budget meeting tonight!!

If the Vision Council does 'back off' for the Park board budget request tonight, it is clear this will be another staged event for the cameras.

As a former Park Commissioner I am shocked @ the lack of intestinal fortitude of this Vision Park Board. They have 2 jobs -

1] look after the care & custody of Vancouver parks & recreation facilities
2] advocate for parks & recreation facilities to senior governments [including Council] & private donors.

They have done an abysmal job of 2] as the above statistics prove &, they are also doing an equally abysmal job of 1] because of not doing 2]. We are witnessing the Vision dismantling of our exceptional, world renowned parks system which is a key ingredient to the quality of life Vancouverites enjoy.

It's pretty pathetic when Vision choses to clean snow from unused bike lanes instead of cleaning washrooms [see excellent Van Sun, letter to the editor today].

I agree with you Bill..I've included the editorial on the snow removal for the readers.

By Nancy Nelson, Vancouver Sun December 2, 2010

As if the bike lanes are not obstructive and irritating enough, last week's snow storm took the cake.

As I sat and watched cars on the Burrard Bridge and pedestrians on the sidewalks slip and slide through the snow and slush, out comes a mini snow plow and starts to clean, you guessed it, the bike lanes!

Yes folks, he was cleaning our now-infamous bike lanes, up one side of the bridge and down the other, over to Pacific and then to Hornby Street.

Then around and did it all over again.

Nary a snow plow touched the streets or side streets or sidewalks, just the bike lanes.

I really laughed when I saw the mini plow dump the excess snow onto the roads.

The cars really needed more snow to drive in. I can see all this from my 22nd floor condo.

And guess what, not a bike was to be seen on any of these lanes all day.

This is just a joke, albeit a bad one, that is being played on the taxpayers of Vancouver.

Nancy Nelson


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