Vision/COPE questions Furlong: Pot. Kettle. Black.

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Is it appropriate for Penny Ballem to be judge and jury regarding Robertson's Riot?

It was another crazy week in civic politics last week as the Vision/COPE coalition went on the attack against a man some refer to as "Saint John". The person I'm referring to is John Furlong, the former CEO of the successful 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

It was Coun. Ellen Woodsworth who was first off the mark accusing Furlong of being in a conflict of interest when it comes to his role regarding the Robertson's Riot review. He was appointed by Premier Christy Clark to co-chair an independent review into the riot.

Woodsworth says that Furlong is in a conflict because of his appointment to the board of directors for the Rocky Mountaineer railway company.

Peter Armstrong is the Executive Chairman, Founder and a principal of the Armstrong Group, owner and operator of Rocky Mountaineer. He is also a supporter of the NPA and is currently helping to raise funds for them to fight the next civic election. Hence, Vision/COPE see Furlong's connection to Armstrong as a conflict of interest.

I find it a bit rich for Vision/COPE to be accusing Furlong of a conflict of interest when their own hand-picked city manager has been tasked with reviewing her own actions related to the riot.

It's a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Vision/COPE don't see a problem with city manager Penny Ballem overseeing the City's internal review process, even though her own actions should face scrutiny from an independent source.

Over at the Vancouver Sun, civic reporter Jeff Lee also weighed in on this topic this week with a blistering post on his blog. I'm sure it has the Mayor's office staff pulling their hair out. He states:

While we're on the issue of accountability, I wonder why the city didn't appoint an independent person to conduct its own internal review. In addition to the provincial one, City Manager Penny Ballem is chairing an internal review of how the city's various departments organized and dealt with the fan zones created for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Police Chief Jim Chu is also doing one for his own department.

But is that such a kosher idea? After all, it was the city itself that promoted the idea of building bigger fan zones to accompany the one created by the CBC.

I mean no disrespect to Ballem or the mayor, but how will this review be unbiased? If management or the mayor's office made mistakes, will the city manager hired by the mayor be willing to be critical?

Traditionally this sticky wicket problem is solved by hiring a retired judge or independent counsel, such as is the case with the Furlong/Keefe review. Their mandate won't delve into the internal workings of the city's departments but take a much higher-level look.

So for all the carping about Furlong's potential conflict, aren't there also optics issues for the city's management and politicians?

I've been saying for weeks now that Ballem is in a conflict. That's because unlike the 1994 Stanley Cup riots, the Mayor's office and the City of Vancouver were hosting the 2011 event. As a result, the actions of both the City Manager, the Mayor and his staff should be under independent investigation as well. As it stands, they are not.

Despite repeated requests from NPA opposition leader Suzanne Anton to conduct an independent investigation, Robertson/Ballem have brushed off those demands. Rather, a few politicians are out on the attack trying to discredit Furlong instead.

When he's not busy spending almost $1M in tax dollars to study the future of fully functional viaducts, Coun. Geoff Meggs is firing zingers at Furlong. He tells the Vancouver Sun:

It is not about John, it is about the independence of the review. I think if a business associate of the mayor was appointed, or one of the mayor's firms was appointed to the review, people would quite rightly raise their eyebrows. I think John may not realize that optically it is about the perception as well as the reality, and I think there is a problem there.

Rather than attacking Furlong, perhaps it might be more productive if Vision/COPE spent a bit more time making sure they cleaned up their own back yard first.

If they want to have their complaints about Furlong taken seriously, they should immediately remove Ballem as head the head of their internal investigation. They should then appoint an independent investigator agreed upon by all members of council.

A second important step would be to assure the public that the actions of the Mayor's office will is also be under investigation.

It's rather doubtful the Meggs or Woodsworth would be willing to take on their Mayor and challenge his authority in that way. As a result, their whining about conflicts of interest should fall on deaf ears.

- Post by Daniel. You can follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus. Or you can "like" us on Facebook at


It was another crazy week in civic politics last week as the Vision/COPE coalition went on the attack against a man some refer to as "Saint John".

Classic set up. Now that "Saint John" has been canonized, any criticism of his position is political sin. Though I assume that the "some" who refer to him this way is just you and erstwhile NPA candidate Mike Klassen, when you were calling for him to run for mayor under the banner of the NPA.

You don't read much, do you?

If you did, then perhaps you would realize that the title, 'Saint John', was coined during Furlong's time with the Olympics.

Brenton, you and other Vision faithfuls sure have a hard on for Mike Klassen, why is that?

I am not a huge fan of Ballem or Furlong but it sounds like they both are impartial so let's get on with the Review.

I try to read a bit. I used to read more newspapers, but I find myself reading news exclusively online now. I use Google Reader to organize my RSS feeds; very helpful. I read some periodicals (the Economist, Geist), some light summer reading (I love Ian Rankin's Rebus series, though it tends towards the darker side, so not sure it qualifies as "light"), a Booker Prize winner here and there, and the occasional classic. I tried a Jane Austen book last year, couldn't really get into it. It wasn't Northanger Abbey, but something from the same era. Maybe her first. Something about a vacation town, high society, etc. I don't mean to derail this comment section with a discussion about literature, but I can't help but wonder if I had tried one of her more accessible works whether I would have enjoyed it more or not. A difficult question to which I welcome feedback and advice. My latest passion is nonfiction essays by fiction authors: Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, Michael Chabon, etc. All very excellent. DFW (as some fans refer to him) has such an amazing intellect and sense of wonder tempered by a sometimes caustic wit. His essay on attending the Adult Video News awards (the Oscars for porn) is well worth your time. And if you're a fan of tennis (which I am), you should check out his essay on the 2005 US Open final between Roger Federer (at the top of his game) and a resurgent Andre Agassi in the New York Times. Breathtaking writing. His fiction is a little more difficult to get into, though.

Back to the task at hand:

Interestingly, a quick Google search of "Saint John" Furlong Olympics (the limits of which I'm sure we are all aware) doesn't show one result for "Saint John" Furlong in the first ten pages. It could be I missed the grassroots phenomenon of people on the street calling him Saint John. Or that published instances of the moniker never made it onto the internet. Or it could be a clever rhetorical tool.

A hard on for Mike Klassen? I could just as easily claim you CityCaucus faithfuls have a hard on for Gregor Robertson, and ask why. It's a dead-end question as a discussion starter, though I do understand that it fits in with the ad hominem attacks (carried out ad nauseam) on Gregor and Vision and the at times near-hagiographic treatment of Misters Klassen and Fontaine.

@Brenton. You may want to put your Google check through a virus scan. Have a look at a passage from Jeff Lee's blog entry that I linked to:

"Anyone who criticizes Furlong is risking a public drubbing. His handling of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and the miracle he wrought in energizing a nation around the Games has almost made him a saint."

Numerous people have used this term both publicly and privately. I wish I could claim "Saint John" as my creation...but no luck.

Your Humble Editor

Fair enough. My use of quotations, in order to find the quoted "Saint John", restricted the results.

Correction: The DFW essay on Roger Federer starts with a description of a moment at the 2005 US Open final but is actually about the 2006 US Open final between Federer and Nadal. I'm rereading it right now, and it is fabulous. All sportswriters should be forced to read it.

@ JZee

Whaaaat???? Ballem??? Impartial????

You mean the same Ballem that WILL NOT let any report go to council without her doctoring it first.

You mean the same Ballem who is THE worst micro-managing blight to ever step foot into City Hall ????

You mean the same Ballem who has every single employee from exempt management to union staff despising her very presence???

Impartial ?? Impartial to anything that will make the Propeller Head Mayor look foolish???

Think again.

John Furlong is not trying to get elected to anything. Gregor and Company are.

I figure that pretty much separates partial from impartial.

I see the VO is following in the footsteps of the Tyee...which by the way, gets $$ from Tides Canada.


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Linda Solomon
Posted: Jul 4th, 2011

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Gregor Robertson has been one of Vancouver’s most popular mayors and a month ago, he was said to be unbeatable. Then came the riots and NPA’s City Caucus blog jumped all over it, attempting to pin the blame on the mayor by calling the incident “Robertson’s Riots.” That same ardently anti-Vision blogger is running for City Council, and the NPA’s mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton has said she’d rather go down in flames than endure another city council as the lone opposition member.

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Brenton, when I use the term "Saint" John it is strictly ironic!

When reading the books of the Blessed Jane remember that irony is her stock in trade. There is an excellent book 'Jane Austen's Novels' by Andrew H. Wright which gives a deep insight into her work. It may be quite hard to find, though, as it was first published in 1953.

Austen is one of the few writers that I find I can re-read with unreduced pleasure. Her stories may be romantic, her language always elegant and sometimes archaic but she is no lightweight. To me they are commentary, allegory and symbolism combined. I hope that doesn't put you off! Why not start with the best known, 'Pride and Prejudice'?

There is a line in that (from memory) "...there is no limit to the impudence of an impudent man" that I often think of when listening to some our local politicians!

The Thought of The Day

"Thinking of it.. City Council Chambers, Ten Councillors, One Mayor, Penny Ballem as Juror No.12 ... Lumet's "12 Angry Men" & 1 Naughty Riotous Vancouver Boy."

"Is it appropriate for City Manager Penny Ballem to be Judge and Jury regarding Robertson's Riot?"

Not quite accurate...

"Is it appropriate for PennyBallem to be City Manager?"

My point exactly! I wouldn't let her do my physical either! Or my laundry, or prepare my sandwich, or make my bed, or show me around, or pour my drink...these are real jobs for real people, not perks for phonies.!/glissandoremmy

Ballem is as qualified to judge anything, city related, as I am qualified to judge a She/He ugly prostitute in Tangier accused of double role playing.

Is It A Plane? Is It A Bird? No..It's....Superpenny!

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.


Question for Penny Ballem
'It hurts when I do this...but I have to ask...does it hurt to be You?'

The Thought of The Day

"Loved your love for Jane!"

You were quite right in your comment and also your memory serves you well, here:

"Wickham was not at all more distressed than herself, but his manners were always so pleasing, that had his character and his marriage been exactly what they ought, his smiles and his easy address, while he claimed their relationship, would have delighted them all. Elizabeth had not before believed him quite equal to such assurance; but she sat down, resolving within herself to draw NO LIMITS IN FUTURE TO THE IMPUDENCE OF AN IMPUDENT MAN. She blushed, and Jane blushed; but the cheeks of the two who caused their confusion suffered no variation of colour."
Jane Austen, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Chapter 51, pg 143 (in my book)

I'll go even further and I'll have your passage translated in Vision's Mother Tongue:

"нет пределов в будущем наглости из наглым человек."

Don't bother explaining too much, as I suspect for Brenton... "Pride and Prejudice" might mean a 31st of July Parade happening in Vancouver in 7,6,5,4,3,2,1...

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Perhaps the most offensive Vision conflict is the appointment of Meggs to the Greater Vancouver Labour Relations Bureau. Meggs is formerly an executive director of the BC Federation of Labour, his communications business derived its revenue primarily from trade unions and trade unions were significant contributor to his election campaign. Like many Vision, COPE and NDP politicians he is behoved to organized labour however, to have him directly responsible for labour matters and privy to confidential labour relations information is grossly irresponsible.

And you forgot to add that his life partner is a former vice-chair of the BC Labour Relations Board

Daniel, your attempt to be overly fair to Penny Ballem is not useful. She is a person actively involved in the planning for the street celebrations, and as a more emotionally secure (and mature) person than Gregor, she could have and should have seen the need for more police on the streets as crowds massed way beyond Hamilton and Georgia. So, is she neutral? Not very likely. Will her review be credible? Not likely.
Furlong on the other hand has impeccable credentials. His work experience prior to and especially during the ten year period of Olympic planning and execution. He personally took responsibility for the death of the Georgian luge athlelte, when that tragic accident was not really the fault of the organizing committee. When have we heard either Robertson or Ballem stand up and accept blame for even one of the many civic screw-ups while Vision had the Mayor's chair. I think you would say "Why none actually". So for character, and honesty and impartiality there is NO CONTEST here.

When Mr. Furlong was appointed to conduct the Provincial Riot Review several weeks ago, Mayor Robertson expressed complete confidence in his qualifications.

Therefore, what took Councillor Woodsworth so long for to object to Mr. Furlong’s ability to be impartial? Does Mayor Robertson now agree with Councillor Woodsworth?

If Councillor Woodsworth is concerned about “politicizing …in an election campaign”, why isn’t she objecting to Mayor Robertson and Penny Ballem’s roles commanding the City’s Internal Riot Review? Is this not putting the wolf in charge of the hen house? With Robertson and Penny Ballem in control, the City’s Internal Riot Review will have no credibility whatsoever. Much more, it is likely to be a deliberate cover-up of any shortcomings and failures of the Mayor himself, his political staff, Ballem, her handpicked staff and Vision appointed department heads.

I found councilor Woodsworth’s criticism of John Furlong’s appointment disingenuous this past week. Shouldn’t Councillor Woodsworth also be concerned about Mayor Robertson’s in-camera replacement of City Clerk, Marg Coulson, with his choice of Janice Mackenzie, the Assistant Clerk? These matters are linked together.

The City Clerk has been the Chief Election Officer with few exceptions. Based on precedent and the intent of the Charter, any change to this practice must be publicly justified. Is Councillor Woodsworth really concerned about “politicizing …in an election campaign”, or is she trying to cover for Mayor Robertson?

The Assistant Clerk and other staff can do the heavy lifting, but with respect to ensuring a fair and impartial election, the buck stops this time with the Clerk, the senior civil servant responsible for ensuring the City’s business is fairly and evenly managed generally as well as during elections. That is why the charter specifies same. Given this responsibility it is not surprising Penny Ballem may well have contributed to Marg Coulson’s recent leave of absence.

Based on what is known today there is no reason whatsoever to replace the Clerk as the Chief Election Officer. If there is, why was this done behind closed doors with no attempt by Vision to provide any rationale whatsoever. This has all the appearances of a continuation of the deliberate politicization of the City’s civil service. Our democratic system of open, transparent and fair government cannot function in such an environment.

Interesting that Ballem has also appointed Mackenzie as the point person to spearhead the internal riot reviews. The city clerk has been told this is a no go for her.

MSM asleep again! Do we need to spell this out for you? Do you damn jobs already. Is investigative journalism truly dead?

Genetically this woman is a bully so she cannot be neutral to anything. Penny Bully.

"Is it appropriate for PennyBallem to be City Manager?"

the answer to your question we know NO!
But when you have friends that appoints you, I guess is good to be Penny Bully.

Also Bill McCreery,
"Based on what is known today there is no reason whatsoever to replace the Clerk as the Chief Election Officer. If there is, why was this done behind closed doors with no attempt by Vision to provide any rationale whatsoever."
That's a good point. Not a chance in hell to find out though.

And of course the MSM is asleep. They should simply fire themselves.

Inside da hall
Have you considered sending Alex G Tsakumis a private

That is a good idea George.

Check out!

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