Occupy movement costing Vancouver taxpayers dearly

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

39 comments

protestsquat.jpg
The front cover of 24 Hours Vancouver asks a very good question

UPDATE @ 6 pm: Several media outlets are reporting that the costs related to Occupy Vancouver are approximately $500,000 for the first week alone...with no end in sight. Check out Frank Luba's story to be published in Friday's Province newspaper.

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You knew it was bound to happen. After almost a week of camping out on the front lawn of the Art Gallery, people are starting to ask questions regarding how much Occupy Vancouver is costing taxpayers. It's a legitimate question considering the fact Mayor Gregor Robertson has laid out the welcome mat and told squatters they can stay there as long as they want.

The Seattle Times reported yesterday that the cost to their city taxpayers related to the "Occupy" encampment was $104,869. Most of those expenditures came in the form of overtime costs paid to city police. What the Mayor didn't quantify was the non-overtime related expenditures. As you can appreciate, there a lot of city staff working on the Occupy Seattle file who don't show up in overtime bills.

North of the border Vancouver's encampment will be celebrating its one week anniversary on Saturday. There is no sign this group is moving out anytime soon. In fact, quite the contrary. Reporter Andrea Woo was tweeting out yesterday that even more supplies were being dropped off to help fortify the encampment. She stated:

#OccupyVancouver got two truckload of palettes to put under tents in preparation for rain lockerz.com/s/148587950

When the media asked Mayor Gregor what the squat was costing taxpayers he appeared completely clueless. Here is what 24 Hours Vancouver reported this morning:

Robertson said he doesn’t know the taxpayers’ bill for city, fire and police staff to monitor the tent camp around the clock.

Despite the fact Robertson had been poorly briefed on this file, it appears city staff were not. They told 24 Hours Vancouver that it costs upwards of $2000 per day for engineering staff alone! Then you have to add the costs for police and fire department staff overtime. I have no doubt the squat is costing taxpayers a minimum $35K-40K per week (both fixed & incremental costs). Just imagine how many anti-graffiti programs you could fund with this kind of cash.

Now that the Chair of the Vancouver Police Board has said the squatters can stay indefinitely, his Police Chief is waving the white flag. He's telling the media that 24/7 police presence for months on end will result in his department being over budget for the first time in seven years.

The Vancouver Courier asked Mayor Gregor what would happen if Occupy Vancouver did in fact push the police department into the red. Here is an excerpt:

If the VPD runs a deficit, the mayor said it would likely be covered by a city contingency fund. But what’s the consequence to the VPD of going over budget?

“That’s a good question,” Robertson said. “It hasn’t happened under my watch and for several years before, so it’s obviously something we’ll look closely at what next steps and proactive approaches we can take so the police can address an extraordinary year like this.”

Wow, that was reassuring!

Whether or not the squat eventually becomes an issue or not is anyone's guess. However, a hard hitting editorial from CKNW's Bill Good yesterday might help to provide some insight into what the media are thinking as we near the final stretch of the civic campaign. Good stated (mp3):

But by last night the occupation had fallen off the news cycle. Occupy Vancouver has been reduced to a handful of young people clearly out of step with mainstream society. Pitching tents on of the grounds Vancouver Art Gallery and the Mayor [Gregor Robertson] seems ok with it. He said yesterday as long as it doesn't generate into violence it can stay indefinitely. Really? What's next? A tent city in Stanley Park. Can you gather some friends and set up a tent encampment at Jericho beach? Who gets to cross the line? And is it the mayor who decides? We are spending a lot of money policing this week...to watch over the campers at the Art Gallery [pause]...indefinitely.

Other influential media types like the Globe and Mail's Gary Mason are also beginning to weigh in on the issue of costs related to the squat. He states in the following two tweets:

The mayor's let-them-stay-for-awhile position may be noble, but taxpayers r footing the bill and deserve to know what the end game is here.

NPA Suzanne Anton today asking legitimate questions of Mayor Robertson re: costs related to policing #OWS tent city at art gallery.

Despite knowing for weeks that the Occupy Vancouver encampment was coming, the NPA have been relatively quiet up until a few days ago. Mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton perhaps sensing she may have finally found her campaign issue has now come out swinging - sort of.

Here is what she told 24 Hours Vancouver:

Gregor has said they can stay as long as they want. Like the riot, this was decided on the back of a napkin in the mayor’s office.

The NPA also posted the following statement on their website:

NPA Candidate for Mayor Suzanne Anton is calling on Gregor Robertson to answer questions about time lines and the growing cost of policing relating to the ever-expanding tent city that has been set up in front of the Vancouver at the Art Gallery.

“Vancouver taxpayers are not an endless source of funds,” Anton said. “As Mayor and Police Board Chair, Gregor Robertson needs to tell taxpayers what this tent city is costing us. The police chief has said that the extra policing is hurting the police budget.”

At the same time, the general public has lost use of the Art Gallery plaza, and local hotels and businesses are suffering.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Anton asked a number of questions about the city’s handling of the Art Gallery tent city which Robertson refused to answer or debate:

  • Is the city failing to enforce established city bylaws regarding the construction of structures on public land?
  • How much is it costing taxpayers each day to police and service this site since Saturday?
  • How long is the Mayor prepared to allow this tent city to exist?

“When will this public space be returned to the public?” asks Anton.

This story continues to change by the day and we'll keep you posted with any new developments.

39 Comments

So NPA policy is that the city should crack down on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and spend the savings on graffiti removal? Great plan. You'll have to offset the "savings" against the legal costs you'll incur in the Charter challenges. My guess is you'll come out behind in terms of dollars, and way behind in terms of upholding Charter rights. In the words of the mayor, you're a bunch of fucking hacks.

Are we supposed to vote for Ms. Anton because she asks questions? Does she not have any answers? What would she do differently? Does the NPA believe protesters have the right to assemble (as guaranteed by the charter) or would they round the lot up and send them to jail?

There are plenty of arguments against the Occupy Vancouver protests, but "Oh noes! Protest is expensive!" is not one of them.

Monied interests - in this case, the Shaughnessy set and the real estate lobby - have as much corrupt influence over Vancouver as Wall Street has over the government in Washington.

This is more than temporary, charter-guaranteed assembly of protest. This is a prolonged campout exercise, accidentally yet willingly (?) funded by the City, which is actually you and me, i.e. the taxpayer (whether you live in Shaughnessy or Collingwood Village).

Have you ever tried to close off a major arterial (i.e. Georgia St.) for a community event? Or get the City/FEST permits? Prove you have adequate insurance? Or negotiate the policing costs for crowd control, road closure or traffic diversion? Much less TransLink's transit diversion costs? We're talking tens of thousands of dollars!

If you want to organize a family-oriented event, parade, or ethnic food festival and close a major commercial street in any City neighbourhood, you'd better show up to City Hall with some $$$$ or major sponsors to pay the bill -and six months ahead of time. Why do you think we're seen as a 'no fun city'?

Don't get me wrong. There are very good reasons why all of these things should be properly done, but the double-standard at play here absolutely stinks. Why can Occupy Vancouver get away with it, but Community Group X cannot?

We had to get a permit for a block party!
In fact, we were told one year we couldn't have it because it was more than one block and it would disturb the neighbours. The street would be closed.

HUH?
They were all coming to the block party.

I am all for legitimate protest, I am not for chaos.

I was downtown today on business and drove (oops) down Howe past the VAG. What a mess.

If we could get a clear understanding of what the complaints are so we could identify solutions that would be one thing... but I have yet to see or hear any sort of statement that is not a moving target.

Westygrrl is absolutely right about the unequal application of city regulations and who gets handed the bill for costs.

So is the NPA and candidate Anton willing to go on the record as to how she would respond to Occupy Vancouver? What exactly would she propose? Mike, I would be happy to have you answer this as well.

@Steven. What is your solution? Should taxpayers just keep footing the bill forever? Are you prepared to cut recreational programs to pay for it? How about we jack up the taxes on your house, and the homes of everyone else who supports this stupidity. Not a chance, you would scream blue bloody murder.

We have LOST it in this city! Simply lost it.

Is it any wonder that people feel they can burn cars and smash windows in a hockey riot when the mayor says it's okay to break the law. He's a joke and he's LOST my vote.

The question of how the Mayor intends to deal with an immediate situation demands an answer. Anton's answer is hypothetical only and would have no immediate impact on the situation whereas Robertson's response and action taken, if any, has immediate results. For him to give no response and/or plead ignorance, while understandable given his lilliputian intellect, is irresponsible and indicative of his poor leadership. Gregor, if you support them say so. Take a stand. After all, you will get the votes of that vast 99%. BTW, are these folks immune to the smoking bylaws?

Funny that the comment about camping in Stanly park was mentioned..

Before the occupy started, on their website it was discussed that the Art Gallery has a legal commitment to a film company in November to shoot the Superman film..

The protesters/organizers discussed that they could move to Stanley Park for that period of time..I found that interesting..but I believe that would mean that the smoking by law would have to be respected..

Maybe but the greed that caused the world economic crisis that they are protesting has cost taxpayers much more.

@ Voice of Reason
Your handle is an incredible misnomer. You prefer Robertson's solution of doing absolutely nothing? Gregor Robertson - not a leader.

Ironic that the "Voice of Reason" would be one of the few if only postings I have seen on this site to revert to using the F word. I wonder how Gregor would react to my protest of bike lanes. Let's say I took my little pup tent and camped out in the middle of the Hornby Street bike lane. Slapped down a porta- potty smoke some weed and bellowed out my complaints with a bullhorn. Bet I would be in handcuffs in a heartbeat. The protesters surely have the right to communicate their message and to display their disdain for the stupidity of the root causes of the financial crisis. However, the right of freedom of expression is not a right that trumps all others. It is not an unfettered right to trespass and deprive all members of society the use of public space or to ignore a multitude of city bylaws. Inaction on this, even if the action was simple negotiations with the protestors to limit their incursions of the law, is so emblematic of Gregor and Meggs and the VV crew. Similar to the inaction on traffic disruptions caused by critical mass rides or the lazy attitude towards the growing eyesore of graffiti throughout the city.

@Steven Forth:

You said:

"So is the NPA and candidate Anton willing to go on the record as to how she would respond to Occupy Vancouver? What exactly would she propose?"

She was quoted in the Sun and other media today. From the Sun:

"Suzanne Anton, a Non-Partisan Association councillor running for mayor in the Nov. 19 municipal election, said the tents should not have been allowed to be set up.

Now that they are up, it is very tough to get people to move, she said. “There’s a real failure of leadership by Robertson on this. He’s pretty much given them carte blanche to stay there as long as they want.”

Anton is not opposed to the protest, and said she is not advocating forcing the tents down."

Costs have been reported as $500,000 for the big crowds on the weekend, primarily policing. They are now reported to be about $1000 per day. That seems low to me.


Thanks Jeff

Not allowing the tents to be set up - sounds easy doesn't it. I do not believe that this is what she would have done, and if she had ordered the police to do so I think she would have ended up with a worse mess.

Protest in public space is part of the cost of a democratic society. I hope this protest (i) shifts reasonably quickly to constructive conversations and (ii) is managed on all sides not to be overly disruptive. The former will be difficult with an election coming up and as most of the issues go well beyond the municipal, provincial and even federal span of control. The latter will require good will and moderation by all.

Of course our spineless Mayor won't do anything about the squatters because the parasites and freeloaders of society form the majority of his electoral support base.

Here is Melbourne's response to Occupy movement breaking of their by-laws.

Notice reference to "Violent clashes". Aren't the Occupy folks committed to peaceful protests?

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Anti-capitalism protesters will reconvene in Melbourne's CBD on Saturday in defiance of police, following violent clashes after they were evicted from their City Square camp.

Almost 100 people were arrested on Friday when scuffles between Occupy Melbourne protesters and 400 police officers spilled into city streets after officers forcibly removed them from the City Square, dragging many writhing and kicking, and carrying others.

Most have been released without charge.

http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/occupy-melbourne-protesters-to-reconvene-20111022-1md1s.html

"Aren't the Occupy folks committed to peaceful protests?"

That's certainly what they say.

And many of the rest of us say that we live in a democratic society with a tradition of allowing peaceful protest. Whether we agree with the protest or not. And even if we can't quite figure out exactly what they want.

The best data we have so far on dealing with a week long peaceful Occupy (insert city) protest that involves tents in a city square, and what our various politicians should do in our case, may be from Melbourne:

"Premier] Ted Baillieu and Robert Doyle have made a huge blunder by sending in the police, turning a week-long non-violent protest into a site of confrontation, Mr Bandt said.

Cr Doyle told a radio station yesterday morning the protesters had been allowed to make their point and 'the time has come for us to return City Square to the people of Melbourne'."

More details here: http://www.smh.com.au/national/occupy-protest-turns-violent-20111021-1mce9.html

So they had 100 protestors (similar to Vancouver) forcibly removed by a riot squad, mounted police, and dog squad. Leading to a renewed determination on the part of the protestors to come back and continue. Great. Time for plan B, whatever that is.

Letting it continue, while ensuring health and safety standards are met, with a continual monitoring of costs, may be the most prudent action.


I don't believe the $.5 Mill figure. We need to see the #'s. It is speciously designed to foment dissent amongst the majority of the population who are observing. Pure Machiavelli. How much did the Bush/Clinton show cost to protect in Surrey? How much did they waste on that Furlong riot-analysis scam? How much was wasted in marketing costs alone trying to coerce the people into keeping the HST? Was propping up and now holding the bag for the Olympic Village more spend-worthy then legitimate, sorely needed Democratic protests?

Even if it can be proven that the Democratic statement known as "Occupy" currently going on downtown has legitimately cost $500,000, that alone should not vilify it to the point where it is quelled by force.

Should note here that Baillieu is the Premier, Doyle is the Lord Mayor, and Brandt is the MP for Melbourne. The Green Party MP. Bet that will go down well here. Not sure if he is one of those 'communist' Greens, an 'eco-fascist' Green, or just a regular green Green, lol.

Why doesn't the mayor know what the protest is costing the city per day? That's as ridiculous as him not knowing what the VPD's plan was on Riot Day!

The city press release announcing the costs came out the same day as this blog post. Read it here:

http://vancouver.ca/mediaroom/news/detail.htm?row=131&date=2011-10-20

Melbourne is a pretty good example of how not to handle these protests.

" the parasites and freeloaders of society form the majority of his electoral support base" And how do you know this? If he wins the election will your position be that the majority of the electorate be " the parasites and freeloaders of society."?

" How about we jack up the taxes on your house, and the homes of everyone else who supports this stupidity."

Interesting idea. People vote for specific actions and only the people who vote for them have to pay for them. Could lead to a lot of free riding though, and discourage voting.

Suppose there is a violent police intervention and the situation escalates. This could be far more costly. Are you prepared to pay for this with selective higher taxes?

I doubt that the Melbourne approach has been cheaper than the Vancouver approach.

C'mon. This is the usual VPD pushing overtime and over-billing.
We really need a metro police and to close the VPD down

Same climate, same groups are only $100,000 in Seattle.

" The Occupy Seattle protests have cost the city $104,869 in overtime through last Friday, according to figures released Wednesday.
Police overtime -- $97,200 -- accounts for most of the expense. The cost to Parks and Recreation reached $5,936 with the Finance and Administrative Services Department totaling $1,733 in overtime.
Mayor McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus said the totals are estimates dating back to Oct. 1, the first day protesters gathered at Westlake Park to call attention to corporate greed and the widening gulf between rich and poor.
"This is part of city business -- accommodating free-speech events," Pickus said."
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/text/2016552714.html
Seattle Time Thursday, October 20, 2011 - Page updated at 03:30 p.m.

Actually the real issue is:

How many police were on regular duty in the Seattle area?
They would have been policing anyway.Able to move to the protest.

Our issue is that we don't have a lot of police on patrol and anybody needed for extraordinary events comes out of officers able to come in on overtime.

Why is this?

Because so many of the VPD are officers who are investigating crimes, filling out paperwork for courts, etc.

Task for complainers:

Find out how many patrol officers are in the City.

For all the districts.

@Jeff L:

Those $1,000/day add up - and at what cost to other programs?

Or are you adopting Penny Ballem's philosophy of it being a 'drop' in the bucket'?


I observed policing at the old courthouse from day one, and took pics of 14 bicycle cops standing around Artigiano, drinking coffee and ch$5atting. Another 8 partied on Hornby, while a 5 parasite crew manned a video position. Then there were the 20 traffic cops, and dozen mingling through the ruly crowds. \

Good planning? Nearly 100% of the 1500 US "occupation" arrests resulted from passive resistance. Hence, a huge police presence would only have been necessary to remove people.

Why the $500,000 in costs? Inspectors rake in $320 per hour at those events; regular cops get $152 PH. Robertson indulged unnecessary expenses because he wanted to show that he is a champion of public safety. Really? City police - and that parasitic department is NOT a legal entity - employ a scant 600 "patrol officers' while 800 briefcase slugs "work" 9 to 5 in worthless "specialty units." Each new unit means another wage bump up to the City's unlawfully politicking "chief"; who Extorts over $350,000 in wages while taking his 6 figure 25 year pension.

The UK's head of policing - Dennis O'Connor - recently admitted that only "11%" of UK cops "work" in direct contact with the public. Result: their cop-lobby is fighting plans to reduce cop numbers by 10%.

Since this type of post elicits squacks from the shit-eaters, let me ask them this: at any given time, how many persons are served by each "response team" entity? I say: 1 overpaid, underworked and seditious slug per 7,000 taxpayers. Hence, "work" product of: 1 convicted target per month; 1 incarcerated target per year (beyond remands). And Robertson pals with City police's cockroach-one.

According to the COV press release costs to date are$390k for VPD, $50K fro RCMP tactical unit support, and $87K for miscellaneous COV departmental costs. Thus the total to date is $597k. The presser also states that costs have stabilized at $1000 per day. Note that those are city costs and no mention is made of policing costs so it is potentially misleading and understates total taxpayer costs to support this act of civil disobedience. So we are the hook for the cost and Gregor has stated that this will be funded from one of the reserve funds the COV maintains which in total are $471 million according to the last COV annual report. So which fund? The affordable housing fund? The greenlinks reserve? Quite ironic that the protesters are being supported by money otherwise earmarked to fund the causes they support. Essentially taxing the homeless and green initiatives to fund health and safety of squatters.

No doubt the right to dissent and express that dissent is primary. But the expression must lead to something other than squatting in public space and violating any number of bylaws while taxing reserve funds for the benefit of all citizens. The mistruth in the COV presser that protest is lawful is evident to those who walk by every day. I doubt that 99% of the protestors understand what it is they actually oppose but rather responded to some social media call originating from the US to gather for the pup tent flash mob in the middle of the city.


Max, you are assuming that if the riot squad was sent in and all the protesters were arrested, it would somehow be free.

If the $1k per day is accurate, it will take 19 months to equal what was reported to have been spent primarily on additional protest-related policing costs last weekend alone.

I made no references to drops or buckets. I simply said that letting it play out for awhile may be the cheapest path forward. Why not wait till half of them have left, and then arrest the rest, for example? Or see if the rain has any impact? Or see if they come up with any protest messages other than occupation? Or see if someone forms a counter-protest to take back the art gallery? There are lots of ways to handle it other than with force. And waiting for a bit doesn't mean that force can't be used later.

I really think that contrary to some reports, Rome isn't burning here.

@Joe Joe:

"Why the $500,000 in costs?"

Because we had a hockey riot, and some tried to hang all the responsibility on the mayor and police chief, instead of on the rioters themselves. So, the next time something similar is a possibility, we get an over-reaction. Coining phrases like 'Robertson's Riot' has increased our level of response, and our collective costs, IMO.

I guess this is the price of democracy.Its to bad its seems to be wasted and lost in an unclear message and to many jumbled causes.If its the banks and corps.their angry with maybe this recently published paper might shed some light on the protesters as to why their there.For only 147 companies the numbers are certainly eye opening. http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1107/1107.5728v2.pdf

Funny Jeff L:

Point out where exactly I suggested sending in the riot police.

$1,000 per day over any period of time takes from other programs/services that the city should be offering all citizens and of which programs have been cut due to 'no money'.

The Stanley Park petting zoo was shut down due to no funding, children's programs where shut down - no funding, the lockers for the homeless' carts at the Union Gospel Church were not funded by the city this past year - no funding, their is a cry out for the HEAT shelters of which the city has no money to fund, yet, we can some how afford to cover off the costs of allowing 'protesters' to tent indefinitely on tax payer owned property. Protesters that seem to have no jobs, pay no taxes, yet expect to have us working people support them.

And what is with them digging the VAG lawns to allow the water to drain - so they are causing destruction of guess what, our taxes have to cover off.

Okay, so the only people not expecting the hockey riot were:

The Mayor

The Police Chief

Penny Ballem

and Jeff L.

I was away for business this week and the riot topic came up - a lot. The Vancouver business people all fingered the Mayor (perhaps because he is the head and supposed leader of this city) and the US business people were stunned no one has been charged to date.

Regardless, it was embarrassing all around.


'Robertson said he doesn’t know the taxpayers’ bill for city, fire and police staff to monitor the tent camp around the clock.'

Wow - this sounds familiar. It is the Riot 2011 conversation all over again.

'I know nothing.....'

I mean, what the hell is his job description? Robertson want to hit the big time, he can replace Alicia Silverstone in the movie remake - 'Clueless'.

Fine Max. Don't use a riot squad. Just explain your plan to get all the protestors are going to leave. And do it for no incremental cost to policing.

Suzanne Anton had a suggestion. She said in the papers that she 'wished they all would leave'. Yeah, that'll work.

What does a cop do on an average shift. Vancouver City police cover up that data, but Toronto's authoritative "policing environment survey," consistently reports that the average cop delivers only 1 "response" call every 2 shifts. As few as 1% of Public "complaint" calls are investigated. Once a cop meets their microscopic "rate making" quota, they will openly threaten crime victims who disagree with their unlawful street level usurpation of the court role. "You know; I could arrest you," is standard slug mantra. Obstruction of Justice falls on cops who defeat Justice when a Rights-bearer reports a substantiable crime complaint.

It seems you haven't had much exposure to patrol officers.
I haven't met many 'slugs'
I'm sure there are some who don't work as much as others, but that's true of any profession.

I'd suggest you actually talk to a patrol officer and find out how many people they interact with daily.
Some with very valid problems, others not.

I'm not sure what you mean by rate making quota.

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