City approved $47,000 to hire "change management" consultant

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Our FOI of the Tekara Organizational Effectiveness Contract

It’s been a while since we’ve discussed Vision Vancouver’s goal of bringing “systemic social change” to City Hall. For over 2½ years Vancouver's Mayor Gregor has supported the efforts of his hand-picked City Manager Penny Ballem to massively reform the way public servants do their jobs. Initially there was cautious support for reform, but after months of upheaval and reports of plummeting staff morale, it's became clear that City Hall was on a difficult track.

Reeling from a series of leaks coming from within the Hall documenting workplace malcontent, Dr. Ballem decided it was time to call in the experts. With the backing of Mayor Gregor, the City Manager hired Tekara Organizational Effectiveness Inc. to come in and advise her on how to overhaul the City's workplace culture. She also put in place a full-time "Manager, Organizational Change," and a host of "Change Consultants" (see May 2011 HR Dept. org chart), who are still occupying one of the mostly empty upper floors at 12th & Cambie.

Now an FOI placed by shows that all that “systemic social change” didn’t cost spare change.

Documents released by the City state show that the budget to hire Tekara was set at $47,000 to assist them in coordinating a series of meetings to help staff cope with all the change. The invoices state Tekara was billing up to $2,000 per day for their services. Our FOI request accounted for a approximately $23,520 worth of billings.

Now, this is only the money devoted to coming up with a plan for change. Implementing that plan involves a whole other set of costs.

It’s been months since all of the feel-good change management meetings occurred, yet I’m still hearing nothing has significantly improved at City Hall. A veteran staffer told me, "No matter what Ballem is spending on change consultants, it's doing squat for folks on the front-line. This is all a big PR exercise." Of course, some staff do approve of Vision's New Order.

A summary of the staff survey conducted by yet another external contractor revealed some serious issues bubbling just under the surface. The Hay Group report confirmed that the majority of staff were unhappy. 43% of staff had an unfavourable impression of their current leadership. Meanwhile, 30% couldn’t decide either way, while a paltry 27% had a favourable impression of their bosses.

Fellow blogger Frances Bula summed it up nicely in a post she wrote on this subject. Here is an excerpt:

I continue to hear about people who want to leave because they just don’t feel like their work is valued or that they have any real say.

The new media policy continues to be demoralizing for many at city hall. It has been revised, by the way. Media have been given a list of about 15 senior managers at city hall whom we are now allowed to contact at will. But it leaves off dozens of people who have been regular and helpful sources for the media in the past, along with others we may want to contact in the future.

The unmistakeable message for staff on the no-fly list is that they’re considered too dumb, too unable to express themselves coherently, or too dangerous to be allowed to speak publicly. As one said, “They’re telling us we can’t talk because we’re not supposed to express opinions before reports are discussed by council. But we’re paid to write reports that have our recommendations in them.

In the end, I’m convinced that throwing thousands of dollars at a change management consultant was indeed more about optics than dealing with dysfunction. Staff’s concern regarding the nature and pace of change at City Hall still remains very high – and we don’t need a costly survey to confirm that.

If Vision Vancouver continues down the path of politicizing staff and pushing them out of City Hall for simply upholding the principles of a non-partisan public service, they’ll continue to face problems.

What Mayor Gregor seems to forget is a big percentage of his 9000 employees either live in Vancouver or they have networks here. That’s a very large pool of potentially dissatisfied voters heading to the polling booths this November.

Low staff morale is just another X Factor which will contribute to some very interesting results in November's civic election. I’ll have more to say on the topic of staff satisfaction in the coming weeks as Vancouver prepares to sign another collective agreement with CUPE.

Post by Daniel. Follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus.


Speaking of change the Bickerton post seems to have disappeared.

We've had some serious server issues over the last 24 hours and the Bickerton post along with comments left since Sunday were lost. We've restored Sean's post with all 36 comments from Monday here:

Daniel Fontaine

Any chance they can place Kerry Jang and Sadhu Johnson on the media 'no-fly' list?

Every time either of those two open their mouths their feet get firmly placed in.

Actually it is somewhat comical to watch front line stupidity.

thanks for the info daniel... last night I couldn't even get to this site... good to know it wasn't my computer.. :-)

From Vancouver Magazine's Power 50, 2010

#2. Penny Ballem
Manager, City of Vancouver

Ballem’s second full year on the job was a trying one. As the go-to on the toughest files—$20-million budget cut, massive city hall reorganization, tussling with UFC over its first-ever city event, Olympic Village mess—Ballem established herself as the centre of the universe at the hall. She’s also had more media clips in a year than previous manager Judy Rogers did in 10, and created a tight new circle of trusted staff. “She has an incredible ability to get her head around an issue,” says someone who works with her, “to take complex information and extract the essence in no time.” But, he adds, “you don’t ever want to find yourself on her bad side. She can be fierce.” In June, her senior staff sent a memo saying that morale was terrible and her management style was driving them nuts. Just wait, says an undeterred
Ballem, for the results.

Thanks Daniel.

it is amazing what they have money for. They cancel graffiti removal programs because there is no money... but there is cash for this????????

@ boo - maybe because its bafflegab? Take a looksee at the final paragraph -

"By freely sharing its data in accessible formats... Vancouver is joining other forward-thinking government agencies to harness the energy and involvement of citizens, community-based organizations and private businesses in everything from creative community problem-solving to the development of new service delivery ideas and solutions."


"Look at us... we opened the books a crack after everyone demanded to see where the taxpayer $ is going... wasn't that forward thinking and progressive of us???? "

The city should not waste time on press releases patting themselves on the back for doing that which is expected of them. What's next - developing an awards program for fixing the potholes?

If it were not so sad it would be funny.

The city has (based on looking at the organizational chart) more than 75 people in the Human Resources department.

At least 4 of these people actually have "change management" in their title.

But they need to contract it out?

Ironically....does that mean that the change management department was not able to make changes to their own roles and responsibilities to create the necessary resources to do it themselves?

Can anyone name a non-government organization that has 4 Change Management employees?

Ok Douglas, it's more than previous administrations did. You guys bitch and moan about the lack of transparency, they do something, and it gets no coverage. Just kinda telling.

$47,000 for a "change management" consultant is cheap...and I question if the consultant was qualified. Look at ICBC, where their junior "change management" hires from last fall are paid $100,000+ to "right-size" the service centers and introduce the one speeding ticket and your insurance jumps concepts. BC Hydro's "change management" specialists keep themselves busy by breaking up the company and putting it back together again (hello Accenture and BCTC)...and they go for $175,000 and up.

speaking of potholes!

Why the F*($# has there been an orange pilon sitting in a pothole in the middle of Nelson and Hornby for over a week!!!!!

boo to be honest when that information came out many of the Councilors should have been ashamed of their expenses...

I remember my first thought was why does Andrea Reimer use so many taxi cabs...and I questioned the amounts spent on education for another councilor.

thanks for bringing this up I'll get back to you with the questionable figures that I researched.

That's nothing. We've had a dozen pylons sitting doing nuthin' at 12th and Cambie for almost Three Years !

Boohoo, to me it is the function of the media to hold governments accountable, whatever their politics, not to regurgitate feel good PR. The newspapers and television are not what they were so I for one am very thankful to blogs such as this.

I love '..workplace malcontent, Dr Ballem..', even if that was a slip for discontent who can disagree? On the subject of that lady I wonder what the policy of a new city government would be toward her. I know she has an exceptionally generous severance package, a sort of poison chalice set up by Vision, but would really feel sick to see her fired and walking off with a million of taxpayers money. Can she be left in place, but supervised by her own change manager to make sure she actually does her job properly?


Certainly you can question some of their expenses, I haven't gone through it closely but the point is that you can go through them.

'Civic' Lee did an interesting blog a short while ago, based on the question of a reader;

A Beach Ave. resident who noted the city seems to be perpetually digging up a new water line being laid on Beach near Bidwell. Every few days street crews lay pipes, fill in the hole and cover with asphalt. Then they come along later and dig it up again. In the last six weeks, he's seen crews do this four times. He wondered if this isn't "a major waste of scarce public funds."

The article is titled: 'Why city crews dig up water lines over and over and over . . . ' The date is May 4, 2011

I don't know if I can post links to this site, so I will leave it at that.


The media should hold government accountable. It shouldn't be all about feel good stories. But nor should it be all about how shitty the government is. If they are interested in reporting the facts, then they need to report on all aspects of the news, even if they don't fit with their bias.

This blog has 'skewed' (to be generous) stories in the past to make it fit their bias. But, in the end this is a privately run blog so they can 'skew' stories all they want. I guess I would just advise everyone to take what they report (and what they don't) with a large grain of salt.

Very true boohoo but if my memory serves me correctly Vision had to be hounded for I believe it was over a year before they ponied up with the information..

The Quick Thought of The Midday

"Talking about spending and ...subsidies? Penny Ballem - $315,000+ PIY(per incompetent year); Aufochs Sadhu -$210,000+ PIY; add to this two another dozen of newly hired Hollyhock first cousins for a $1,000,000+ worth of incompetence and top it with...Gregor Robertson $149,000+ PIY; Seven Vision Councillors - $455,000+ PIY; Two COPE Councillors $130,000+ PIY; One NPA Councillor - $65,000+ PIY;...yeah, let's talk about this spending!"

Tides Canada, Renewal,Solomon, Hollyhock, Robertson, Vision Vancouver, Endswell,Ballem, City Hall...this is your devastating Tsunami, Vancouver!

Maybe FD Element will pick...on the following suggestions and score a PR campaign accordingly...

New City Hall Slogan:

'You've Got To Pick a Pocket or Two'

Vision Vancouver Party Anthem:
(recorded during their last Budget Review and Action 500 Plan)

(may be changed accordingly, to better frame the present time)

'Robin Hood, what a crook
Gave away what he took
Charity's fine, subscribe to mine
Get out and pick a pocket or two
You've got to pick a pocket or two, boys,
You've got to pick a pocket or two
Robin Hood was far too good,
We've got to pick a pocket or two'

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Actually George, it took them well over a year to post the annual reports, which had been posted until Vision got into power in 2008. If you remember, Daniel and Mike had a countdown clock running on this site as it was in contravene to guidlines as set out in the City Charter.

As for expenses, I would love to see who Mike Magee entertained in New York - that $600+ dinner he charged to taxpyers but would not divulge the attendees.

As far as Vision posting their expenses on-line, I think it may have been prompted by several stories in the media questioning spending habits.

Curious to note that Raymond Louie has charged an annual bus pass yet has also claimed parking and vehicle expenses.


From the printed and broadcast media with all its resources and influence, and any internet outlet with the same pretensions, we in theory expect balanced reporting independent of editorial position. Of course our expectations are not often achieved.

From a openly politically positioned blog such as this my expectations are somewhat different, simply that the facts they present are accurate. I can and do go to other places for viewpoints from another perspective and make my mind up accordingly. Perhaps a valid comparison would be with our adversarial system of justice, where lawyers present their side's case to the best of their ability but must not lie.


I guess it depends how you define accurate. I have read some 'facts' on this blog that are not what I would define as accurate but they fit the story they are trying to tell.

FYI All:

Anton gears up for announcement


NPA Vancouver city councillor Suzanne Anton will make what is billed as "an important announcement" tomorrow at the Opus Hotel on Davie Street.
Word is Anton has been mulling a run for the mayor's office.

"Curious to note that Raymond Louie has charged an annual bus pass yet has also claimed parking and vehicle expenses."

LOL Max I think it is called taking everything one can get for free...

I just found it odd that Andrea Reimer took so many cabs... but then again only us little folks are expected to transit or ride bikes..This lady loves air travel and gas guzzling taxi's...

Books and training classes for Heather Deal... but then again it is Democracy cubed..

It was an interesting read to see who eats heartiest at the troth...

Many thanks to boo for reminding us of the subject.


I'm curious - why would you waste time on a completely biased web site that skews (distorts?) the facts in their posts?

wondering are these numbers for real? Are the first two on your 'compensation' list 300 and 200 grands respectively? for PPP's and paper dance during council meetings? Despicable! And I also concur with George, Reimer is a real bitchy deal. can you imagine all those clowns cashing all their available allowance while advocating for bike lanes, public transportation and walking for me and you? What a despicable lot they are. At this point I would vote for whoever put their names down on the ballot other than Vision VAncouver. If any of you a$$h0le$ are reading this, one thing to look forward to is a Bloc Quebecois defeat for all you Hollyhockers

@Enough Vision:

The numbers are real. Not too bad dosh for a closed hiring.

Unfortunately to give Ballem the boot, it is going to cost us close to $1M.

boohoo, you continually try to imply with your coded comments that authors on this blog are not telling the truth. I would appreciate if you could back that up with specifics. I look forward to seeing what you have unearthed.

Max, are you serious 1 million dollars to get Penny out... not bad for 3 years work.. boy did we get taken. only wish is that we could sue Gregor and crew personally for the damages....but that is but a dream..

Danial... good on ya!!

I find the priorities of Council skewed
they save this

Heather Deal
Council unanimously votes to save and restore historic York Theatre on Commercial Dr. Uniquely purpose-built for great acoustics.
19 minutes ago via Twitter

but they want to bulldoze heritage Church in West End that could be used for community space..·

Hey George:

I was reading that the RIO on Boradway at Commercial is under new ownership.

They are planning to have live theatre!

At least a few of the old theatres are being saved.

I heard it had sold but I wasn't aware of the live theater...nice..

Still wish the Church could have been saved....

Well this is interesting... but I must say I'm a little disappointed...

I think I just found out who commissioned the poll that asked me where my ancestors came from...sigh...


I'm not going to go back and waste my time searching for each example, but I do recall this one in particular.

I call it out in the 3rd last post here:

I think you should go back and reread... from what I read I think you are wrong

Of course you do George. Of course you do.

actually boohoo

I was being serious I read it very differently...but once again you fail to put your money where your mouth is,and explain your position, so you condescend and start the "I'm so much smarter than you crap"

danial asked you a fair question, which you can't be bothered answering... instead by the comment you've made to me, it would appear that you choose to go after low hanging fruit, rather than go up against our humble editor.... cheap shot, and beneath you boohoo....or is it?

Actually, boohoo, I think you really are stretching it with your claim on that article. Essentially the accusation of lying, as far as I can see, rests on two points. A particular interpretation of Mike writing "the requirement .. to source organic" rather than "a requirement" and your differentiation of a "requirement" and a "category for which you get points".

Not enough in my view and not even reasonably close for such a serious charge.

Boo put the left truth in,
I left the right truth out;
Boo put the left truth in,
And we shook it all about.
To do the Hokey-Pokey,
We have to turn the facts around.
That's what it's all about!


"danial asked you a fair question, which you can't be bothered answering..."

Ummm, he asked the question and I did answer with a very specific point. Did you really read it?


Words are important. When you're a journalist your words carry weight. When you say something is a requirement, that means it's a requirement. You HAVE to do it.

When it is really just one of several options, it is no longer a requirement. If the competition is strong you might be required to get those optional points to win, but it in itself is not a requirement. Big difference. Especially when the point of the post is centered around that point.

It's not a horrendous transgression, but it's just 'twisting' the truth to make a point.

yes boohoo of course I read it as did every one of the other posters that are responding and letting you know you are full of it...

notice how on this blog people call you on your crap... and posters remark on how they find my opinions ...hummm quite reasonable...

try as you might my only continue to make yourself look small...

the point here boohoo is now everyone is calling you out.. and again you don't give answers to back up your statement instead you focus on me to deflect your faux pas... won't work..

the reading public won't buy it...

so lets go back to the subject at hand so you don't get the satisfaction of derailing this thread from the issue at hand....

we are pretty smart here boohoo..


Again, this is not about you or your intelligence. Daniel asked a question, I answered. I will wait for him to reply if he does. Otherwise have a great day.

Thank you boo I'll take that as an apology.

Now if you could take the time to provide further evidence of your accusations.

Your original comment intrigued me but so far the only example you've given hasn't convinced me, as it has been pointed out by many of us.

Perhaps you could take the time and give a few more solid, concrete examples for us to evaluate...

I don't think until you do produce a more solid argument of this blogs "lies" Daniel needs to reply to you... IMO

Sorry boohoo.

The very document to which you gave a link is entitled 'Requirements and Location List'. Describing the ''specific criteria that will be judged" as 'requirements' is reasonable. To say otherwise seems rather like semantic "twisting the truth to make a point."

boo, just admit you are John Ross.


Mike said: "...against the requirement by vendors to source organic and/or fair trade food stuffs for their cart businesses."

That clearly states that organic/fair trade food is a requirement. It is not. Big difference. Words matter. They are very important.

The document you refer to is titled 'requirements and location list' because submitting the form is a requirement. But which boxes you tick for your score is optional. You are NOT required to do this or that specific one.



Semantics cubed !!!!
...we’re just trying to have a little change management committee, for f**k sakes.

you are right words matter... and Gregor's words will come back to bite him...

You might want to look at the 'tip sheet' as well as visit Jeff 'Civic' Lee's blog that was written on this topic at the time.

A quote from James Tabbert who was on the panel, and quit:

'The food cart program has become an incestuous relationship between organic food suppliers, high end culinary collectives and faux overpriced “farmers’ markets.” I am disgusted with the correlations I found just by searching the panellist’s information online and cross-referencing it with the shortlisted 52 vendors.”

you are correct Max...hummm poor boo...doesn't know who he is up against..

One of the 8 grading criteria the COV employs for use of 'fair trade' products and ingredients.

From COV Food Vending Application:

"Applicants can provide a list of fairly traded ingredients and / or menu items and where possible, the certification system used (e.g. International, US, Canada) OR a plan for what types of fairly traded food will be sourced and from what sources."

For an alternate point of view regarding the benefits (or lack of) for fair trade certified products - see the article below by Lawrence Solomon of Toronto's 'Green Beanery'

Douglas, Max,

I still fail to see where organic food is required. Is the whole idea stupid? Maybe. Is the process flawed? Maybe. But organic food is not a requirement. That's what Mike said, and it's not true. That's all I'm arguing.

it is pretty clear the point system states that organic food is one of the points that will lead you to your chances of getting a permit...the more points the better your chances..

You are derailing this post which was your objective...

VIDEO: Local organic regulations restrict Vancouver food carts

Listen to Councilor Deal's comments...

great video Max... and as Councillor Deal states they had to step in and decide what was good for us...

as I stated earlier.. boohoo does not know who he is up against.. you're very good!!

The first thing we had to show the new guy was where to get changed. If you want to sniff around, have a look at all the new "supply Managers" we have imported from the Olympics.

@ boo - I do not address the semantic argument playing out. I posted an interesting side piece relative to the merits, or possible lack of, of fair trade products as outlined by the owner of 'Green Beanery' in T.O. that's all - something for others interested in learning more about fair tradeI thought it a good opportunity to raise the issue to raise awareness of the certification process.

Check out!

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