The Secret World of Mike Magee

Post by Mike Klassen in


Secrets at City Hall: time to fix the accountability deficit? Watch the video.

If there is one person who exemplifies the secrecy principle which prevails within Vision Vancouver, it's the party's former president, key organizer, generous donor to the tune of $40,000, campaign manager and now Chief of Staff to Mayor Gregor Robertson, Mike Magee. It's said that Magee is the man who truly runs Vancouver City Hall today, making his hand-picked City Manager, the Mayor, and everyone in the Vision caucus all report to him.

When he's not making systemic social change happen at 12th and Cambie, Mike is a consultant who advises Tides Canada and dozens of other environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) and fantastically funded über charities like Seattle's Bullitt Foundation. Late last summer Mike got himself into a bit of a pickle when it was learned he had doubled a web development contract for favoured sons FD Element.

FD Element also work in the charity/environmental causes sector. That's the same group of organizations which seems to have boundless bundles of cash when it comes to making sure no tankers can carry oil from B.C.'s coast, but apparently not nearly as much for other causes.

The wrinkle to the story about hiring FD Element – first for $14,000, then for $28,000 – was that concurrently the contractor was paying the costs for a pro-Vision blog written by Jonathan Ross. Ross has since retired from writing at civicscene, and there's no word whether FD Element still have him on the payroll. At the time FD's CEO Don Millar – who is currently up to his eyeballs trying to get Christy Clark elected as B.C.'s next Premier – said that they had Johnny doing "conversation mining."

It was an embarrassing predicament for Magee, who had either signed off on contracts, or had helped FD Element to land over $110,000 worth of projects at City Hall. Did Mike's office pay FD Element, so they could turn around and pay Ross to write his pro-Vision/ blog?

Magee was extremely miffed by the suggestion. When he came back from the $120,000 junket to China with Mayor Gregor, he promised to be open and accountable for all decisions made by him and his office with regards the payments to FD Element. He insisted that he had been smeared by the accusation. Frances Bula reported: Magee’s first interview since coming back from China yesterday, the chief of staff says he’s willing to open up the books so people can see anything they want about FD Element billing and work for the city.

Well, let's count the months since Magee made that promise. One, two, three, four, five months, and no accountability, no explanation, no "opening of the books" by him.

We thought we'd help Mike out, as we're sure that single-handedly piloting Vancouver toward systemic social change must take up a lot of his time.

We made a freedom of information request for Magee's cell phone records during that period. Simple, right? If there were no calls going back and forth between Jonathan Ross and Magee to work out the wording of a rebuttal, or some new unique way to put down Park Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon or any other enemy of Gregor Robertson, surely that would exonerate Magee.

 Well, the City of Vancouver didn't see it that way. Four and a half months after we made the request, we were told the cell phone records were not going to be released. Too much personal information, it was argued by the City Clerk's office. We asked, scratch out the numbers. We just want to know how many calls, what duration, where and when.

Nope, can't have that info either.

Before you know it we're going to be on a first name basis with the Privacy Commissioner after we register a review by the OIPC!

Being "accountability challenged" is something Mike has exhibited on another occasion. For example, when he quietly took off to New York last April with Mayor Gregor on the taxpayer dime to meet with a Rockefeller Brothers Foundation VP and reps of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Magee picked up a $600+ dinner tab in Manhattan. When queried by 24 Hours reporter Bob Mackin about it, Magee didn't think it was anyone's business:

Vancouver city hall’s chief of staff charged taxpayers $621 for “hosting” during an April trip to New York. But Mike Magee won’t identify the people he hosted.

Among Magee’s expenses, obtained via Freedom of Information, were $441 in combined charges at ABC Kitchen on April 13 at 12:31 a.m. and April 15 at 9:05 p.m. Neither the establishment nor his guests were listed in his agenda. The receipts do not list the food and drinks purchased. See the documents

Magee would only say he hosted “businesses we’re in negotiations with for moving to Vancouver.”

magee-twitter.jpgI'd like to give Mike the benefit of doubt. Surely he wants to "open up the books" but just hasn't had the time. We thought perhaps we'd send him a DM through Twitter, but... oh, he doesn't allow anyone to read his tweets.

Oh well. Maybe we'll just have to accept that Vancouver City Hall's present status as a 'sealed fortress.' But I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that Magee will still get some of that ol' time accountability religion one day.

- post by Mike


Nice video, pinko.

So tell me, is that the first time you've received a severed document ?

Do you not know what S22 means ?

Well, Ringo, I'll tell you a little secret - it stands for Section 22.

Look it up in the act. Its a good thing Martha, well except for morons who expect local government to release peoples personal information so they can be harassed by the likes of gonzo media outlets.

I hope they charged you for every last minute of your request.

The FOI&PP act is a valuable piece of legislation to those who know how to make definitive request keeping retrieval times under 3 hours, rather then vexing a system for petty politicking.

Get a life, or better yet, get a cause.

Great video Mike. Every voter should watch it. If it wasn't so sad, I'd be laughing.

These guys will end up paying the political price at election time for all this secrecy.

As for your last commenter Jim, well hmmmm, I wonder if he is related to Magee somehow? Sure sounds like it.

@Eric, Sorry, no relation, don't even care about VCR's problems, wouldn't matter who was in charge, the rhetoric is the same.

As for your ignorance as to the belief that severed documents constitutes "secrecy" is total ***, and a cheap story.

Legislated access to information is good, otherwise you would have NO access to those documents.Protection of peoples privacy is also paramount in this context as the city wants to protect its citizens from politicking assholes looking for cannon fodder, and wasting the taxpayers dime complaining to the commissioner office.

Hey Eric, I'll tell you a secret, did you know vancouver council has secret meetings ? Don't tell anyone, its a secret !

You seem to relish secrecy. Are you sure there isn't a totalitarian regime you'd like to move to instead of Canada?

The truth is alot of that section 22 stuff you refer to is not people's private information. In the case of Vancouver's olympic house it was simply the names of people who were wined and dined at taxpayers expense. Do you think that information should be sealed away in Magee's vault? I for one don't think so. Good on Mike and other media for exposing this.

@Eric, actually I mustard secrecy.

"The truth is alot of that section 22 stuff you refer to is not people's private information. "

If it was not people private information, it would have a different section(subsection) code.

"In the case of Vancouver's olympic house it was simply the names of people who were wined and dined at taxpayers expense."

And because of this situation they all of a sudden loose their right to privacy ? You want to know who attended so you can do what with that information ? prank call them ? throw eggs at their house ? publish their names as known associates ?

"Do you think that information should be sealed away in Magee's vault"

It's not someones personal vault goof.

@ Jim:

Public employees hosting parties on the tax payers dime do not have the benefit of holding a guest list hostage.

It is no different than an employee taking a client out to lunch, submitting the expense to their company for remimbursement but not telling the company that they work for who they were with or the restaurant they were at.

It does not fly.

As for the cell phone records, it depends on whether the tax payers are covering his cell phone costs. Then it becomes 'public' property, not private and for personal use only.

Perhaps you should reread the post, CityCaucus stated that phone numbers could be blanked out. They requested lenghth of calls, where they were made from and to whom they were made.

Now that we're into name calling.

Speaking of goofs.

"And because of this situation they all of a sudden loose their right to privacy ? You want to know who attended so you can do what with that information ? prank call them ? throw eggs at their house ? publish their names as known associates ?"'s "lose" not "loose"

Obviously if it was mandated by law that people wined and dined by Gregor Robertson at city taxpayers expense should be protected by secrecy legislation, then the information wouldn't have been made public. But the reality is this information is now in the public domain for a reason.

There is a certain expectation that when the elites are hobnobbing with their wealthy juice boy mayor, they are open to public scrutiny. There are only so many crumpets and caviar they can eat before the gigs up.

Hard to believe that you don't even think the names of people receiving a taxpayer benefit should be public. What else would you like to hide away in the Mayor's office? Sheeesh. You really are a goof.

@Max, please, how is remitting the required documents ultimately to the CRA, the same as a severing a document where necessary under the FOI&PP act ?

I don't really care what Citycacus's interpretation of the act is, thats the job of the commissioner when you have a complaint, not the media.

@Eric "Hard to believe that you don't even think the names of people receiving a taxpayer benefit should be public." - I'd like to see you get a list of everyone collecting welfare, or unemployment insurance, I'm sure you would love those lists, so you can identify those dining on the taxpayers dime right ?

Where is this list released to the public domain you speak of ? Please give me a link so I can toss some eggs !


Did you note that this request is now before the Commissioner?

Just as obtaining a (highly) un-edited guest list for Vancouver House went before the Commissioner?

And as a note, the Commissioner ruled in favor of CityCaucus and their request for the guest list.

What it comes down to is this, the City not wanting the unwashed masses knowing how our tax dollars are being spent, on who they are being spent and the reasons behind it.

Funnily enough, Robertson & Magee's trip to New York (paid for by Vancouver citizens)has the appearance of being more to the benefit of Tides Canada, and their agenda, than to Vancouverites.

We have a right to know who Magee dined with on our money. The fact that he will not willingly disclose this information smacks of arrogance.

And we are still waiting to find out how the $128K junket to China is benefiting Vancouver?

It was enlightening to learn that Robertson finds democracy overrated. I, for one, want to thank him for giving the Chinese government, a government with a notorius human rights record, a very public big pat on the back during that trip. It was a true eye-opener for many and a great embarassement for more.

@Max "And as a note, the Commissioner ruled in favor of CityCaucus and their request for the guest list." - Tired of waiting I did a search, and found the article here myself.

That would have been an easy one for the commissioner, I don't know the particulars of this vancouver house event, nor do I care, but a cursory glance at the list indicates to me you missed a fairly well know politically radical group attending the event.

I bet they city did do it on purpose to *** you guys around for being ***. They will always air on the side of caution, and severe more then accidentally release a single private citizens information and catch hell. Those where all corporations, organizations and societies from what I quickly glanced at.

You catch more flies with sugar at city hall, the people with the jiffy markers are not lawyers, and the time to severe is free to YOU, not to the city. I have dozens of FOI's under my belt, and have only had to request assistance from the commissioner a single time, for non compliance by a schedule III governing body.

'I bet they city did do it on purpose to *** you guys around for being ***.'

Regarldess of whatever childish reason lies behing their motive, they are responsible to each and everyone of us that support them through our taxes.

Robertson, VV and gang have brought this scrutiny upon themselves. Time and again they have lied about or hidden information from the public.

They have created the distrust monster and now they get to deal with the aftermath.

FYI - saw Robertson at the VEF Clean Tech conference on Tuesday night. Yet another 'riveting' speech stumbled through. (Rolls eyes) Also noticed aside from 1 TV camera man that showed up, no other media showed up. The badges for reporters from the Van. Sun and BIV were still sitting on the table after he had left.

One more:

The Clean Tech conference brought companies not only from Vancouver but various points in the US. There were roughly 250 - 300 people in attendance.
The place was packed.

After the panel discussion, people/companies were wanting to speak with the Mayor only to find out, he was long gone.

Seems that after he gave his initial speech which was all of maybe 10 mins (if even that) he left.

He showed up, gave his speech and left. He did not stay for the networking after, nor did he come for the networking prior. (1/2 hour before the conference starts)

For a Mayor who has stated he wants to create XX 'green jobs' and promotes Vancouver as being the 'greenest city' here was an opportunity to speak with those like-minded individuals. People wanting to and working to grow this sector.

Yet, he could not find the time to stay and talk to those people.


Do you know where he was before? Where he was going after?

doesn't matter boo he rode to office on this agenda....he has the ability to reschedule...this event was planed in advance... we could check his twitter...

@ boohoo,

No, I don't.

But I do know that the Clean Tech conference has been promoted on the VEF web site since December 2010. Along with the fact that the Mayor of Vancouver would be in attendance.

boohoo, there were companies up from Seattle and San Francisco for discussion.

It was no small event by any means.

The conferences are held at VanCity theatres and it was packed past the point of standing room only.

The event was sold out and people were on a wait list trying to get in.

I'm not saying it was small, large, important or not. I really know nothing about it.

But why do you assume what he was doing before or after was any less important?

I guess it is a matter of priorities and we've been lead to believe that 'green tech/clean tech' is one of the top 3 by this mayor and council.

As a side note: Peter Ladner attended a similar event back in 2008. If I remember correctly he gave the opening speech and stayed to speak with people after the discussion panel.

Sure, but who is to say he wasn't off meeting with CEO of some clean/green company? We don't know.

That's all I'm saying--the assumption that he's off doing something 'less valuable' is strange.

I was off doing something important. Trust me.

Illustrates exactly how silly it is to assume the opposite. Thanks!

Very possible boohoo.

But there were a great deal of company Presidents and CEOs at this event.

As well as people from the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade, the Business Development Bank, legal firms, universities, recruitment firms, angel investors and so on.

Personally, and as this event was scheduled well in advance, I would have kept open the 1/2 hour prior to his speech to talk to people (speech at 6:00) and left after if need be.

But I would not have shrugged off several hundred people working in a market you are supposedly courting.

The question being asked around was, 'Where is the Mayor, did he leave? We were wanting to talk to him'.

Had the Mayor needed to leave as per your scenerio, it would have been a good idea to have perhaps one of the other Councillors attend the before or after event in his place.

It does seem odd that our wannabe 'green' mayor only shows up for a photo op scripted speech, and then promptly vapourizes with no explanation or backup. It, however, does speak volumes about Vision's lack of confidence in their leader's ability to cope off-script.

Sadly, another wasted opportunity, but it will no doubt be trotted out come election time as one of Vision's hollow 'greenest city' accomplishments

Hi Bill:

No worries about them trotting this out.

It is all vidoe documented and can be found on the VEF website.

As for the balance of the details, there is myself and others of which this did not go unnoticed.

FYI, his exec assistant, Ko, was registered in and didn't show up either.

Here is a sold out event with a wait list - at the very least, have the courtesy to cancel and give your space up to someone who does want to be there. (and will be paying to be there)

Regardless, I look forward to meeting you March 9, and I will volunteer my time and any talents I may hold that you and the NPA can untilize to defeat Vision. Let's get this done!

Check out!

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