CityCaucus.com paid a visit to the illegal encampment a few days ago
Only a few weeks ago pundits were writing about how the upcoming civic election in Vancouver was a snoozer. There were no real issues that would galvanize voters to come out and vote on Nov. 19. All that changed when about 150 people decided they wanted to permanently camp out for free on the front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Known as Occupy Vancouver, the encampment has already cost taxpayers well over half a million dollars. With news that Mayor Gregor Robertson is providing squatters with free electricity and 24/7 security, the bill continues to mount.
The encampment quickly turned into a political nightmare and is now even threatening Robertson’s tight grip on power. That’s because His Worship’s position regarding the squatters has been, shall we say, a tad unfocused.
Initially, he said the campers could stay “indefinitely” as long as they were peaceful. But then Robertson did a colossal flip-flop after his political opponent Suzanne Anton said she would give the squatters no more than seven days to pack up their tents if she were elected mayor.
Suddenly, Robertson then wanted the tents down, but he refused to provide us with a firm date as to when that would happen. He merely hinted the squat should be over prior to Grey Cup festivities, which commence in late November.
Clearly in damage control, Robertson even went so far as to claim the city doesn’t have legal jurisdiction over the land the art gallery sits upon. That’s because it is technically owned by the province, but is leased to the city as part of a 99-year agreement.
In an interview with CBC Radio’s Stephen Quinn, Robertson was asked to provide clarification regarding this bizarre interpretation of who has legal jurisdiction over the art gallery.
Quinn asks “Sorry I’m unclear here then. This is provincial property; therefore, the city by-laws don’t apply. Is that what you’re telling me?”
“That’s right,” responded Robertson.
Well actually, that’s wrong. Within 24 hours of that interview, city officials were forced to clarify that the city does in fact have legal jurisdiction over the encampment.
Quinn then grilled the mayor regarding whether he thought the squatters were actually breaking any laws. Robertson responded,“In terms of how we interpret the bylaws, they are not right now.”
The mayor must either have blinders on, or is willfully ignoring what is going on at Occupy Vancouver. During my visit there earlier this week, it took me less than five minutes to photograph three separate by-law infractions.
Something tells me that the mayor, after initially welcoming the protesters to camp indefinitely, is beginning to regret that decision right about now.
- Post by Daniel. You can follow us on on Twitter @CityCaucus or you can "like" us on Facebook at facebook.com/citycaucus. This column first appeared in 24 Hours Vancouver on Thursday, October 27, 2011.