What's your income? How will you vote? Oh, and are you queer or straight?
It's called a push poll. That's when the pollster is trying to influence the person on the other side of the phone. What we know is that a company with direct ties to the office of Mayor Gregor Robertson has been asking residents in a West End neighbourhood how they will vote, the type of housing they have, their income level, and their sexuality – whether they're straight, gay/lesbian or bisexual.
That's what was revealed in a video release by West End Neighbours (WEN), who have been campaigning vigorously to stop a development by Westbank. The 14-minute agitprop production by WEN includes in its soundtrack the voices of a pair of Strategic Communications pollsters asking questions about the surrounding community about their knowledge of the STIR development.
Just past the 12-minute mark in the video comes the following questions:
(Voice of Stratcom pollster) Could you tell me the year of your birth?
What type of dwelling do you live in? Is it a single detached house, duplex or townhouse apartment? Do you own or rent it?
How long have you lived in the West End?
If a municipal Vancouver election were held today which party's candidates would you most likely vote for? COPE, NPA or Vision Vancouver? Okay, that was my next question, and you voted for Gregor.
Okay, then finally I'd like to ask about your sexual orientation. Do you consider yourself heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual?
For those who are not aware of who Strategic Communications are, it is a company started with funding from Joel Solomon's Renewal Partners, and it is owned and operated by perhaps one of the top people who have Gregor Robertson's ear, the media-shy Bob Penner.
Strategic Communications was listed as the number three largest donor in B.C. municipal politics according to a database created by the Vancouver Sun. "Stratcom" gave $85,321 to Vision Vancouver as of 2008. They are number two to only CUPE and Joel Solomon's Renewal Partners. Stratcom also conducted the poll leaked to former Vancouver Sun columnist Miro Cernetig early last year which said that Gregor Robertson had a 78% approval standing. Since that poll Robertson's popularity has plummeted to the low forties.
The developer is Westbank, who paid for the poll. It is standard practice for polling companies to request clients if they can add extra questions onto the survey. Why Westbank would need to know the voting preferences and the sexuality of people living near their proposed development? Westbank most likely was advised by Stratcom on that decision, who have an interest in building voter profiles on behalf of Vision Vancouver for the upcoming election.
One of the victims of Vision Vancouver's "divide and conquer" tactics over the West End STIR developments has been to pit the LGBTQ community against critics like WEN. West End Neighbours have raised the profile of this project to the stratosphere by collecting over 11,000 signatures of citizens opposed to the development. In order to garner favour for the development, the Qmunity queer resource centre have been promised new facilities within the Westbank development.
While the arrangements made with Qmunity might help to explain why the pollsters asked if people were heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, these questions indicate a move by Vision Vancouver to enter "the bedrooms of the city" to locate supporters.
Former Prime Minister Trudeau, who famously spurned the idea that governments would enter the bedrooms of the nation, might be rolling in his grave.
Perhaps the most delicious part of the video is at the very end. Vision Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson, standing beside David "Carbon" Cadman and Vision candidate Aaron Jasper, during a 2008 campaign rally in the West End. Here's what Stevenson says that brings a cheer from the room:
What it's going to take is all of us together letting Sam Sullivan and the NPA know that we're not going any further down the road they've been going, and the developers are not going to make the West End into a Yaletown.
Well, of course, the NPA never had any plans to add more of this kind of development to our already dense West End like Tim suggests. And now it would appear that Stevenson has reneged on a campaign promise to boot.
We include a poll in this post which you can also link to here. We ask a simple question:
Are you concerned that a Vision Vancouver-linked polling company is asking peoples' sexual preferences?
UPDATE: The West End Neighbours are now on "bulldozer alert," saying that if possible they will not allow Westbank to tear down St. John's Church. We've also learned that artist Tiko Kerr, who has publicly opposed the Westbank STIR project, has resigned from the Mayor's West End advisory committee. There have been no public statements by Kerr as to why he left the committee.
- post by Mike