It's been over a week since Mayor Gregor unveiled his costly, yet uncosted green plan for the City of Vancouver. The 162-page report included a myriad of "green" measures that will make doing business with the City of Vancouver a heckuva lot more expensive. Just how expensive remains left to the accountants who will undoubtedly pour over the numbers in the coming weeks.
Last Thursday a chorus of supporters showed up to Vancouver council to praise Mayor Gregor and his Vision caucus for their greenest city plan. At first blush it appeared as though these people just read the report and decided to show up to provide their endorsement. However, based on what we've been told, that does not appear to be the case.
CityCaucus.com has learned that City staff were directed by Vision councillor Andrea Reimer to drum up warm bodies to attend the public meeting and praise the Mayor. Instead of simply writing the report and presenting it to the public for feedback, staff were pressured to beat the drums and encourage as many "friendlies" to show up to the meeting and say good things in front of the media.
We've chosen not to reveal the identity of the staff person involved, but she wrote the following note to someone on the Greenest City Action Team (GCAT):
Andrea [Reimer] has asked that I get in touch with you to see if you might be interested in/willing to speak on the Greenest City plan at Council tomorrow? The meeting starts at 2.
What's interesting about this is the fact that Vision Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer is personally directing staff to get warm bodies out to speak in favour of the plan. In the past, this type of partisan activity would have been frowned upon by senior management. The staff person goes on to write:
Hi [identity removed],
We're just looking for people who have been involved in the process to come and speak about their involvement, and their thoughts about/level of support for the plan. We're always looking to hear about what the business community thinks. I think a letter would be fine too, if that's something you are able to crank out today - probably better that given your role on GCAT.
I wonder if City staff were also encouraged by Reimer to speak to opponents of the green plan? I somehow doubt it. Perhaps the lopsidedness of the meeting was why Globe and Mail contributor Frances Bula sent out this tweet:
No-one but the choir here at city hall praising Greenest City Action Plan
Bula may be on to something when you review the video tape from that public meeting. Amazingly, it appears some people showed up to the Planning and Environment Committee and didn't even know they had been placed on the speakers list.
For example, one woman looked puzzled as she came up to the podium and told the civic politicians:
I know I emailed but I didn't know I got on the speakers list.
Huh? How could she not know she was on the speakers list? Then another young man was called up to the podium by Reimer and he stated:
I did not expect to speak today. That's kind of a surprise.
If these people didn't know they were on the speakers list, it begs the question just how they got on it in the first place? Did staff or politicians just arbitrarily put them on? If they did, that's a real "no-no".
After spending 2 1/2 years writing and researching the GCAT plan, it took all but 48 hours to fall off the media radar. With the exception of the Vancouver Sun, which ran the story front page, none of the other mainstream media have provided the story with much coverage.
The one exception is the Vancouver Courier which ran a thoughtful analysis on Mayor Gregor's green plan. Mark Hasiuk, who thankfully provides a bit of balance on that paper's editorial page, has weighed in on what he thinks of Gregor's plan to paint City Hall green. He states:
...last Thursday’s vote represents a fulcrum in Vancouver history, perhaps the most important political moment since incorporation in 1886. If followed, the plan will transform the city and help Robertson realize his wild green dreams. Environmentalism will trump all other city priorities. It’s why he ran for mayor, everything else was incidental. In many ways, the plan mirrors Robertson’s mayoralty. Enthusiastic but naive. Ambitious but myopic. It’s elitist to the core. Only a man of Robertson’s privileged background and political good fortune could present this plan with a straight face.
He goes on to state:
It targets developers, homebuilders and construction companies, prescribing stringent environmental standards and “higher permit fees” for “less energy efficient projects.” It’s a regulation blitzkrieg that will discourage development and investment, inflate construction costs and increase housing and rental prices. If you thought it was expensive to live in Vancouver in 2011, wait until the plan kicks in.
And one more excerpt for good measure:
Aware of the potential for revolt, the plan is one part policy, one part public relations. City officials must reach out to “new immigrants,” “faith communities” and folks of “different classes/incomes.” Tailor a green message for the Chinese community because “the way the green movement is being marketed with romanticism of going back to nature, may not resonate with cultures that have worked to distance themselves from nature.”
So as you can see, not everyone is buying into the Mayor's green flavoured Kool-Aid despite the back-patting that took place when Vision/COPE passed the green plan.
Only time will tell if all of Robertson's 2 1/2 years of greenwashing efforts will pay off in the ballot box come this November. Something tells me the return on investment might not be quite what he was expecting.