Need to know everything about riot in under 2 minutes? See video
If you happen to be driving by Vancouver City Hall today around 2 pm, you can expect to see a few satellite trucks and TV cameras hanging around. That's because it's the first official council meeting since Robertson's Riot. You can expect that a few politicians and senior staff are going to be asked a few more tough questions.
However, despite Robertson's Riot, the first item up for debate is Mayor Gregor's latest green scheme (see video above). It's part of a larger $100,000 program encouraging people to grow wheat on their front lawns. His Worship was grilled about "Lawns to Loaves" at a news conference yesterday. Global TV reporter Aaron MacArthur cracked me during the news conference when he shouted out from the back of the room "Mr. Mayor, just one more question about farming in Vancouver."
Yes these are truly crazy days at City Hall. That's why the digital media department staff located on the 14th floor of our downtown offices decided to whip together a little creation. It's a short montage about the riot and wheat fields. I think you'll like it. But be sure to flip it around if you do! Our digital media guys (yes, it's only guys) love nothing more than watching one of their brainchild's go viral.
The Robertson's Riot story continues to have legs with Vancouver's media. After a rock solid story on Saturday, Gary Mason over at the Globe and Mail provides us with part two of his interview with Mayor Gregor. He references the fact that Robertson never spent a day in the Chamber before becoming Vancouver's top politician. Unfortunately, that's becoming painfully obvious:
Mr. Robertson is a young mayor who, in many respects, is still learning to run a big Canadian city. Certainly, nothing could have prepared him for the events of nearly two weeks ago. And so, to some extent, he did what many mayors with only two years on the job would have done – left policing matters to the police.
On one level that’s fair enough. The police have the expertise. However, if and when things go wrong, the mayor bears ultimate responsibility. It is he – in this case – who is answerable to his citizens when a violent event causes major destruction to property.
Mason goes on to express a bit of frustration that Robertson's didn't do enough homework prior to inviting over 100,000 (mainly drunk) people downtown for Game 7.
Therefore, before a pivotal Game 7, especially given its historical context, you might have thought the mayor would have sat down with his police chief and had a chat.
“Take me through your plan,” you imagine the mayor saying. “We could have more than 100,000 people downtown today. Tell me what you’ve got in the works if this thing starts to go sideways – starting with the number of officers you’ll have on the ground.”
Instead, Mr. Robertson admitted he “didn’t know any of the details.”
Oddly enough, NPA opposition leader Suzanne Anton is also starting to feel the heat. A few of the media are beginning to attack her for for not being tough enough on Mayor Gregor.
It's something akin to what happened to former BC Liberal leader Gordon Campbell back in 1997 after he failed to win the election the year prior. Every time NDP Premier Glen Clark did something "bad", the media jumped on Campbell saying he should be more vocal and keep the government to account. I can vividly recall people saying "if Gordon Campbell were a stronger leader, then Glen Clark wouldn't be able to get away with what he's doing."
I too would agree that the NPA needs to step up their game if they want to be seriously considered as the "government-in-waiting" this November. They will never be handed a more golden issue than Mayor Gregor's mishandling of Robertson's Riot. If I were them, I'd begin drafting the radio ads and social media campaign and get the campaign kickstarted in earnest.
Here is Mason's perspective on Anton's performance and whether Mayor Teflon will wear any of the riot going into the fall election:
So far, none of this appears to have hurt the mayor. His remarkable revelations on the weekend barely caused a stir in his sleepy hamlet. Suzanne Anton, the woman running against Mr. Robertson for mayor, didn’t even seize on the fact the mayor admitted not knowing what the police plan was for dealing with a potential Game 7 riot. Or that he backed down when his police chief refused to give him information that he requested. The media showed no interest in the revelations either.
No wonder Mr. Robertson laughed when I asked him if the riot could be his Olympic Village, a reference to the controversy that virtually wiped out the Non-Partisan Association in the last election and which paved the way for his victory.
He knows it won’t be.
As you can see, the riot story is far from over. I'm also not sure I fully agree with the Mayor's assessment that this issue won't become a factor in the fall election. It may well wrap itself in a the larger issues of accountability, competence and priorities.
Later today City Manager Penny Ballem will rise in the Chamber to provide her first update on what went wrong leading up to Robertson's Riot. One can only hope Anton will rise and use her former crown prosecutor skills to grill a few politicos (I include staff in that) about just what did and didn't happen on June 15th.
One more note on the riot. The BC Government has appointed Douglas Keefe to head up the independent review into Roberton's Riot. Our sources tell us he's never stayed at Hollyhock or visited Cortes Island. Hence, we think the review should be fair and unbiased. We all look forward to hearing the results.
As I've said many times before, this is Robertson's election to lose. But for the first time in almost three years, it's looking like there's a slim chance he just might.