Mayor Gregor charges taxpayers $2,258 for Mandarin tutoring

Post by Mike Klassen in


A $10 petty cash expense would have bought this book instead

UPDATE: Frances Bula on her blog is reporting information given to her by Mayor's office staff:

I’ve now been told that actually Sam Sullivan spent $3,125 on his Chinese lessons. No bills forwarded to me yet for Punjabi, Tagalog or Italian.

Sullivan confirms that he had no "lessons" for any language training while in office. There was a budget for hiring communications help in translating speeches for addresses at ethnic events. His language skills are self-taught.

This is what Bula had to say about Gregor's new language skills:

He spoke some Mandarin at council recently and I, a temporary resident of China for three months at one time, was impressed with his accent.

Bula also notes that the former quadraplegic Mayor had:

quite an expensive upgrade to make it easier for him to get in and out.

Sullivan was castigated by Vision and COPE for hiring a device to help him make a state of the city address, and allow him to flip the pages of his speech. The former Mayor has limited use of his arms, and uses his knuckles to answer his phone or move objects.

While Vision and COPE position themselves as "progressive" politicians, they're less charitable to people with disabilities, especially when they're political opponents.


Mayor Gregor's junket to China last September cost taxpayers $120,000, but the high cost and low return on investment didn't seem to faze overburdened Vancouver ratepayers. However, we wonder if recent news about the cost of paying for Robertson's private language training might raise at least an eyebrow.

According to a report by 24 Hours reporter Bob Mackin, Gregor Robertson billed taxpayers $2,258.16 for six-months of Mandarin tutoring prior to the China junket.

Robertson grossed $18,870.25 in taxpayer-funded travel costs, though $1,426.56 was paid by the organizers of a New York climate change forum. His 2010 itinerary also included trips to Toronto, Ottawa, San Francisco, Whistler and the Vancouver Economic Development Commission tour of China. The travel expenses included $2,258.16 for almost six months of Mandarin tutoring and translation by Jie Jade He.

In order to make sure our Mayor said 'hello, how are you, greetings from Vancouver,' and not 'your son eats fish heads' or 'is that watch really gold?' taxpayers had to pony up.

Since Mayor's office staff are already going into the "but the previous mayor did it" message box, I decided to give Sam Sullivan a call to ask if he used public money to learn how to speak fluent Cantonese, or become conversant in Mandarin or Punjabi.

"About as close I came to that is when I used to invite the security guard at City Hall up to my office on his lunch break," says Sullivan. "I'd ask him how to say something in Punjabi, or to critique my pronunciation."

Sullivan said his office would occasionally hire translation services for speeches or communiqués to ethnic communities, but never was someone paid out of his office budget to teach him how to speak in other languages.

The news about the Mandarin tutor expenditure is in addition to Robertson topping out his car allowance at $7,175. The pedal-powered Mayor has apparently already spent more on car travel than Larry Campbell and Sam Sullivan combined.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson rides a bicycle to news conferences and lives two kilometres from city hall, but he took a $7,175 transport allowance last year. Robertson was just $25 under the annual cap, according to the Thursday-published 2010 report on council remuneration and expenses.

In 2003, when it was known as an auto allowance, then-mayor Larry Campbell cost taxpayers $2,535.07. Robertson's predecessor, Sam Sullivan, charged $1,656 for transport in 2006 but nothing in 2007 or 2008.

Robertson aide Kevin Quinlan said the mayor needs to drive to some Metro Vancouver and TransLink board meetings for scheduling reasons.

According to the Translink website, there were a total of four meetings of the Mayor's Council in 2010. Gregor Robertson only attended two of the four meetings.

No one we've spoken to can actually recall seeing Robertson driving.

We've not calculated how many Metro Vancouver board meetings Gregor Robertson attended in 2010, but for those who wish to sift through the minutes, you can find them here. Whether attending those board meetings should have totalled over $7,000 in car allowance is another matter. We should point out that the Metro Vancouver offices are located beside a Skytrain station.

In a time when the City is cutting amenities like the Children's Petting Zoo at Stanley Park, it sure doesn't look good when the Mayor is spending tax dollars on personal language tutoring. Whether or not Mackin's story gets any legs, Gregor Robertson should do the right thing and pay that $2,258 back to the City.

- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen or check out @24HoursVan.


There is absolutely no reason why we should be paying for these expenses....the transportation costs seem a little padded.. as for the tutor, get real the money back!

Gregor do the right thing and return the money. Or at least make a donation to the Bloedel Conservatory for the equivalent amount. What were you thinking?

Don't get me started about you making a claim for car allowance. For heaven's sake.

a quick Google produced these numbers..

Chinese (Mandarin) Courses
Level Day Type Start Dates Price
Cactus Level 1 Tue
6:30-8:30pm 10 Wks 12 Apr, 5 Jul, 27 Sep $249
Cactus Level 2 Tue
6:30-8:30pm 10 Wks 12 Apr, 5 Jul, 27 Sep $249
Vancouver St Giles School

Address: Vancouver, BC, V6E 4A4
Course Info

These are group courses which acknowledge individual needs. The content is academically sound and will promote and lead towards long term aims with the language. The teaching, by native speaker teachers, will be communicative, intimate, fun and will engage and stretch the students. Although the emphasis will be on speaking and listening grammar will be included and taught in context. Our courses are monitored throughout, feedback gathered from students at the mid and end of each course (together with any direct contact) and acted upon by Cactus Language Training. More on course outlines

Please Note:
All courses listed here are Group Courses. If you need one-to-one tuition please go directly to Individual Courses>>

å–„å”± Thought æ–°å¹´ å–„å”± Evening

" 忘不了的您 畫家陳叔善唱 何日君再來"

Your Mandarin immersion quickie, should allow you to read the above 'Thought of The Evening'. Enjoy!

What I like about this mandarin song is its message:

Par example @ 1.33 to 1.47 min, it says:

"Blossoms of Hollyhock,
Ready to pi-pi-pi-pi-pi-ck,
They are just baby leafs,
Visions with tiny di-di-di-di-di-ck!"

We 大团圆/ 龙头 Vancouver 大队贺新年/新年快樂/恭喜 busy.

FYI George:

His transportation charges are down from the previous reporting period.

Does it make it better - nope.

(Must be an election year....)

The heading/caption on the book should read:

'Chinese Phrases for the Mayor of Vancouver and his Taxpaying Dummies'


Seriously? I didn't know that.. this on the heals of Gregor's Earth Day failure..Gregor the Green is becoming quite the enviro failure...

@GR LMAO good one!

just noticed, there are no tweets yet for this post.... Gregor's peeps are slipping...

I would have thought he might have used that money to brush up on his English...


I just want to make sure I have this right...Captain cycle claims 3x more in travel expense than our previous mayor, who one would think, had slightly more reason to legitimately claim assistance with travel.

Unbelievable, truly unbelievable.

Oh and just for anyone who hasn't done the SUV that cost $75 a week for gas to run would cost you $3600 a year....and he claimed $7175...that's one expensive bicycle....or one incredibly greedy mayor who feels that taxpayers owe him something

In Feb.2010 Robertson claimed $7,424 for local transport and $18,616 for other tranport/conferences costs.

Looks like FOI time again.
Ask for Robertson's mileage receipts and claim form copies. All city employees have to produce substantiating documents for their vehicle usage. Revenue Canada might be interested in how a diehard cyclist can possibly justify such a high car allowance. Just what kind of vehicle does he actually drive? Could we have a case on his wife being the principle user? Sounds like abuse of trust. Much explaining to do mister.

Now I'm pissed off! I could handle backyard chickens, vegetable gardens, costly inaugural parties. But Mandarin tutoring while he's slashing the budgets at city hall! Who are you kidding?

Gregor they could run a goat against you in November and I'd vote for it. Enjoy your last few days in office before the voters hand you your pink slip.

You need a different handle, my friend...


Out of curiosity, what budget do you thinkg the city should have for learning on the part of its staff and executives and what do you think should be included.

In my own companies in the private sector I generally budget a floor of $5,000 per year and depending on the company and its stage anywhere from 5% to 20% of total compensation.

I would certainly approve Mandarin training for any of my staff that wanted to take it. It is critical to cognitive and creative capabilities to be able to speak more than one language and given that China is the world's second largest economy I would hope that the mayor of the largest Canadian city on the Pacific Rim would have at least some basic Mandarin.

not one dime...there are other things our Mayor can do/or not do, to keep his cognitive skills sharp...preferably not on the PUBLIC teat..

It seems Councilor Stevenson get the gold star for the most monies spent on 'travel and conferences'.


The report states that the mayor is entitled to a $600/month car allowance.

@Steven. Maybe Gregor could have phoned Sam Sullivan and got him to provide free Mandarin lessons and saved us all a lot of money. Too funny!

Next time we hire a new mayor, we should make sure to put fluency in mandarin in the qualifications box. This way we'll prevent another Robertson victory.

Another day, another ridiculous project from Gregor....

Oh wait, here's another...and this one will only cost us $420 million...

Gregor is really on fire today.

@ Jason

I read that article and am only praying it is an 'April Fool's' day joke......

But with this group it is hard to tell.

James "Bud" McElroy, professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, is a consultant with DigableProjects, one of the contractors mentioned in the city report. McElroy visited city hall in October, and helped city planners draft the tunnel proposal.

Speaking by phone from his home in San Francisco, McElroy said "If you bore a tunnel correctly, with love ... , its allure is too great to resist."

The punchline writes itself

Yes, it was a joke...but I thought it deserved a "reprint", as I find it funny that it's gotten to the point where you can't tell the difference.


The funny part Jason, is that we all hurried to it isn't too far fetched in Gregor's world.

Sad when your Mayor becomes the joke..

well played...

Looks like Quinlan is in major damage control. His boss got caught and his only defense is "Sam did it too".

And now we find out Sam actually didn't do it. Why isn't Bula posting up the invoices so we can find out who taught Sullivan mandarin? We should be able to call this tutor and find out what actually happened.

Wouldn't it be delicious if we discovered the mayor's office was caught fibbing about this latest bit of Sullivan smearing.

In my line of business I'd need to drive 20,500 km to get that much! This is what happens when shameless entitlement overwhelms decency and common sense.

However, Mike, expecting Gregor to use the Skytrain is not really 'fair', it has some bad memories for the guy.

Add this to the list of taxpayer funded 'stupid' expenses.

As posted on Alex Tsakumis's blog:

....'I can confirm that three lucky gents at City Hall are about to go on a ONE MONTH vacation, er, excuse me, work-related trip, to Christchurch, New Zealand, and all on your dime.

Leaving in a few days are:

Daniel Stevens from Emergency Management

Jim Young from Vancouver Fire and Rescue

Peter Navratil from Engineering

The City is sending these three to Christchurch to evaluate, firsthand, their experiences with earthquake aftermath issues. One whole month! Add it up: Airfare, accommodation, per diems, salaries, acting pay for those expected to cover them, lost productivity, and so on and so forth. Ah, to be one of the chosen. The engineer alone makes about 12k a month, closer to 16k when benefits are factored in. Plus the salaries of the other two…. think about it! This is the City of Vancouver that have been cutting and slashing to accommodate their hurtful, radical agenda against any of you that drive cars. This is the same CoV that is paying that dizzy harridan well into the six figures to be City Manager and cover-up artist.'

God you're right!

How stupid that a representative from Emergency Services and Fire and Rescue would go to the site of a recent earthquake. I mean it's not like we could get an earthquake here is it?? What a ridiculous idea that we could learn from other people and places! What a waste!

Next thing you know you'll have these slackers from the fire department taking training courses (ie. free time off!) to 'learn'. Ha!

read Glissy's opinion, he's been there done that and gave us his advice for free..why try and reinvent the wheel....on our dime?

Steven for this one I copy/ paste Remmy's...
å–„å”± Thought æ–°å¹´ å–„å”± Evening

" 忘不了的您 畫家陳叔善唱 何日君再來"
Now you take care! I mean it. Take. Care.
And by the way on a day like this (April First)I wonder, what would Glissando do?

Actually boo I've rethought my comment with a more constructive idea..

if you're going to spend taxpayers money why doesn't the City purchase emergency kits,have these gentlemen go door to door for a month, educating everyone on how to protect ourselves and how to use our free kits?

Sarcasm meet sarcasm...

What Gregor did is called 'Topping Up Allowance' his little money he makes as a useless piece

this robertson chap is too good looking to be mayor of vancouver who voted for him women

You're wrong. I didn't vote for this punk.

Does Robertson even own a second vehicle?
Has he ever used any personal vehicle for work at a level to justify a car allowance? Hello, Revenue Canada?

Riddle me this:

What blows smoke up Vancouver's ass pushing everyone to straddle two wheels, claims money for four, yet can't show any proof to merit it?

Answer: Our Propeller-head mayor, found again hiding under his desk today, no doubt.

How often does this mayor pedal to work? If he does it a lot then how does he get his car allowance this high. .

Is he doing a lot of driving out of town?

This is up on CKNW:

Spin or deflection...

.....'Officials with the Mayor's office say Robertson's expenses appear to be higher than his predecessor because Sam Sullivan was provided a car by the city.

That explains why it appears he had no auto expenses in 2007 or 2008...'

So officials say that the city provided a car for Sullivan? Difficult to believe this spin. We're looking next for Sam to confirm this. Sam Sullivan can have some fun with this twisted expense claim of the current mayor.

Sam's vehicle could then have been provided to Robertson then?

Why not provide him with a tricycle? Save some more money. Fits his image.

Hi Max
I wonder if Gregor uses a coop car, I've been told they are very cost effective.How much of these costs are taxi's after late night meetings, soccer games, concerts etc..when riding a bike home is too much of a hassle.

I would have expected Sam's costs to be much higher, considering he was a person with disabilities, and transport is a much more difficult process.

That being said, I think it would be like comparing apples and oranges...

Hi George
I believe Mayors are given an auto allowance or the option of having a vehicle provided by the City.
Mayor Gregor had a pretty big allowance it looks like.
Mayor Sam had a vehicle and a driver when he was the Mayor (I'm not sure how that shows up on the books of the City)

I actually don't resent vehicle allowances etc. because the Mayor of the City is supposed to represent us (the citizens) at a lot of places.

I resent the hypocrisy of being told that the rest of us must (no matter what our circumstances are) ride a bike or take the bus.

Try getting to everything the Mayors have to go to without a vehicle or good transit.

And I don't drive a car!

I have no problem with a car allowance either, many companies have them, but, what I wonder - is he taking this expense and not using his vehicle?

Car allowances are given as a benefit usually associated with a necessity of your work.

If he is using alternative transportation, like biking, then why is he taking this expense?

As a side note, this is how I spent 15 minutes of my today.....

It was a lovely day for a pillow fight!

@ Bruce Wayne: What blows smoke up Vancouver's ass pushing everyone to straddle two wheels, claims money for four

I am committed to pedalling in Vancouver. my bike just happened to be in the shop for a while. I needed some air.... watch as the engineering department does some fine work getting me back on the road
sincerely - your mayor

Check out!

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