The Falun Gong Show for Vision Vancouver

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Is it only a matter of time before the current city manager goes bye-bye?

It’s the question a number of Vancouver city staff are quietly muttering under their breath: is the end of Penny Ballem's term as city manager at hand? Some recent events signal that some big changes at City Hall may be afoot.

It has been common practice at City Hall under Vision Vancouver for the Mayor’s chief of staff and city manager to work very closely on every policy report coming before council. Not a single major policy initiative is signed off by the city manager without first getting the green light from Robertson’s political staff.

That’s simply what the new world of a highly politicized public service looks like these days.

As one city staffer told me yesterday, “there isn’t a report that gets posted on the website that hasn’t been micromanaged by Ballem. For God’s sake, she even signs off on the invoices ordering stationary for my department.”

That brings us to the recent controversies regarding Mayor Gregor’s “protest bylaw” which went over with Vision's membership like a lead balloon. The bylaw – which took staff six months to prepare – was dropped into the council agenda at the last minute. It drew howls of protest from traditional Vision Vancouver supporters who couldn’t believe what they were reading.

As written the protest bylaw would severely restrict the right to protest in Vancouver. It proposed a new $200 tax in addition to a $1000 deposit for anyone wanting to erect a small “structure” as part of their public demonstration.

In addition, Ballem dropped a bombshell during the council debate when she revealed the City had entered into a confidentiality agreement with the Chinese consulate and consulted with them regarding the scope of the by-law. Needless to say, the NPA and COPE opposition councillors went ballistic (although councillor David Cadman blamed staff and gave his Vision coalition colleagues a get out of jail free card) when they heard the news.

Not only did Vision Vancouver provide the NPA’s Suzanne Anton an excellent issue to dine out on for a few days, they were also inundated with complaints from their members and the public. As a result, late Sunday night we got wind the Mayor and his Vision team were folding like a deck of cards.

Vision are now in the embarrassing position of trying to distance themselves from their very own legislation, saying it has gone too far and it needs to be re-worked. No kidding! By doing so, they’ve made the politically expedient decision to throw their hand-picked city manager to the wolves.

This is really not all that surprising given the fact Robertson sanctioned his COPE coalition colleague David Cadman’s appearance on CKNW last week, whereby he proceeded to dump all over staff (a.k.a. Ballem) for their mishandling of this bylaw. It was a very cowardly act from a civic politician who knows city staff are not in a position to defend themselves.

The fact Mayor Gregor allowed Ballem to hang out to dry is to me a clear indication the power base at city hall has now begun to shift eastward – ever so slightly toward Chicago. Combine this with the fact Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson was front and centre at a recent Vision food cart announcement (Ballem normally attends these) it would appear time is a ticking for Vancouver’s top bureaucrat.

It’s only a matter of time before the Mayor’s political machinery makes the final call that Ballem has become more of a hindrance than an asset regarding their 500-year plan for systemic social change. As far as I know, Ballem has no links to the Hollyhock crowd.

Canada’s most secretive city government has been in a state of disarray the last month or so. They’ve mishandled several key files including the Pandora Street inquest, Chinatown towers proposal and the mega casino. Now they’re in a real pickle having introduced the Falun Gong protest legislation at 5 minutes to midnight. If they don’t ram this through by the court imposed deadline of April 19th, Vancouver will be in a legislative vacuum when it comes to regulating protest structures.

Mayor Gregor can thank the Sedin twins and the federal opposition parties for helping to keep the electorate busy with the Stanley Cup playoffs and a federal election. Otherwise, it’s quite likely the Mayor’s recent policy gaffes would actually be generating some significant headlines and public reaction.

- Post by Daniel. Follow @CityCaucus on Twitter.


No kidding! The first five minutes of Global's newscast tonight was Canucks. Thank goodness VCV TV is on top of things.


Thank you for re-posting this link...each time I notice more and took until now to figure out what the reference to rename Hornby to Falun Gong Trail meant....oh my, you have out done yourself...LMAO

good thing some of us don't like hockey...

Before everybody gets excited about what may or may not happen to Penny's job - remember she has a 1 million dollar termination package. Do you think she is stupid? Do you think this is all random??

Follow the money people!!

You think we are stupid??

Dismissal for cause is free. To answer your question, well, maybe.

Mike, your:

"The fact Mayor Gregor allowed Ballem to hang out to dry is to me a clear indication the power base at City Hall has now begun to shift eastward – ever so slightly toward Chicago. Combine this with the fact Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson was front and centre..."

prospect is even more frightening than what we've endured to date under the Ballem Ballet. We would be going from control mania to free-fall. For a preview of what will happen if the Deputy were in charge just look at what happened when Penny was away for a couple of days after the Pandora fire. Talk about fumbling the ball. Sandu couldn't find the ball. His statements were inaccurate and misleading, and were the 1st clues all was not well at the Hall regarding the Fire. Vision has hired both these people and they must live with that.

This also brings up the issue of who Councillor Cadman is referring to when he speaks of "Staff"? Is he speaking of Ms. Ballem? Mr Johnston? The Legal Department, Engineering? Who in those Departments?

This is just one of the things that goes off the rails when you politicize the civil service. And, it gets even worse when "staff" are used as political footballs to gain partisan advantage (which Vision have been doing on an on-going basis for some time with planning and bike lanes issues). Who is the "staff" Mr. Cadman is talking about? To be fair to those he is not talking about should he not be more precise? Which staff can we now consider to be "civil" servants and which are "political" servants? Where do you draw the line? Who knows? This state of on-going confusion is not fair to any City of Vancouver "staff".

Mr Cadman owes these good people an answer. And, he owes Vancouver voters an answer as well.

Ops, I should have addressed my comments below to Daniel, not Mike.


Thank you for your due diligence, this helps so much. I didn't have a complete understanding...OMG!!!

This explains why the Chinese government demanded a confidentiality agreement...

Clip of Bill Good on CKNW reporting Meggs was in favour of what was proposed in the public expression bylaw report before it went to council:

If there are any teckies out there....

It would be helpful if a clip from the council meeting where Penny Ballem states, in response to a question that indeed a homeless man that leaves his cart on the sidewalk, while going into a public restroom would be considered an illegal structure....that entire exchange is something people should hear..

Did anyone read Pete McMartin's piece in today's Sun?

'Absolutely impossible' that city not pressured to remove Falun Gong

Former diplomat says Chinese consulate-general would have been on orders from Beijing to have protesters stopped

Read more:

Gerry McGuire...
You are a class act, your call for a moment of silence at council tonight for the Falun Gong was the best..

Check out!

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