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The Vision Vancouver annual fundraiser: a precis

December 4th, 2013 · 29 Comments

For those who missed my scintillating tweets on Monday night, when I was at the Vision Vancouver fundraiser at Floata, here’s a recap, plus a bit more about the 650-person event, which included some singing by the Jewish contingent and people imitating salmon swimming upstream at a certain point. Designated talking point of the evening seemed to be: “We still have lots to do to make the city better.”

(It used to be, by the way, that civic political reporters always attended these to get a sense of the temperature of various parties. But I was the only one there — possibly because it wasn’t publicized to the media? And no word yet on whether the NPA, which used to have the powerhouse annual dinners, is organizing anything.)

Who was there?

Yes, lots of developers. (And I hear there was a pre-party for VIPs beforehand, where it was almost exclusively developers. One developer there wondered why Vision would even do something like that, given that it already has the rep of being in developer pockets.) The ones I spotted were: Onni, ParkLane/Wesgroup, Century Group, Concord Pacific, Anthem, Beedie Group. Interestingly, the two developer types whom developers themselves consider to be getting the best deals from Vancouver council, Wall Development and Westbank (Ian Gillespie), were not in sight.

Who else was there?

Politicians and political types. NDP MLAs Mike Farnworth and Spencer Herbert, Liberal Senator and former mayor Larry Campbell (sporting a silvery beard), former Christy Clark executive assistant Gabe Garfinkel (now with lobbying firm FleischmanHillard), former Vision president Ian Baillie (now a lobbyist, doing a lot on liquor issues these days).


Various tables were labelled as “Friends of” someone or another — a sign that people were genuinely buying seats because they were friends or someone had bought a lot of seats and these were seat-fillers, I don’t know. Some of the Friends of: Narinder Chinna, Adrian Le, Deal Alexander, Dana and Joel Solomon, Latin Friends of Vision. Also spotted: Liz Evans and Dan Small of PHS Community Services; a table from Perkins + Will architects, CUPE secretary-treasurer Paul Faoro and city hall’s new CUPE 15 president, Leanne Toderian; John Teti of BarWatch; VAG director Kathleen Bartels, at her most warm and outgoing; Cultch director Heather Redfern; and an extremely good-looking guy I met in the elevator who said he works with the Bollywood industry.

The message?

Vision seems to have learned that half-hour speeches from the mayor and introducing every single politician doesn’t make for the best evening out. So that was limited and the mayor’s speech was short to the point.

It felt like Gregor Robertson was testing out the campaign messages for the next year. (And the slogan that kept appearing on the TV screens through the night — “5 Years of Vision/More Work to Do” — seemed to boil it right down.)  What did I hear?

– “We represent that entrepreneurial, caring, compassionate, creative voice in the city.”

– A direct attack on the NPA: “We brought fiscal responsibility to city hall” after years of tax hikes and the Olympic village train wreck. (Negative campaign ad No. 1?)

– “The population of people sleeping on the street is down by two-thirds … but there are still going to be people sleeping on our streets tonight.” (And more needs to be done.)

– “We have a bold agenda. Going forward, we’re not even close to getting our big list done.”

– Lots of mentions of addictions, homelessness, the Broadway subway line, better bus service, and “standing up to protect our water, our air, our land, making sure we take on a greater role in tackling climate change.”

– Again, “we’re just getting started. We feel like we still have a lot to do.”

– Interestingly, no mention of bikes, bike lanes, bike share, etc. Also not a lot of emphasis on the efforts to create affordable housing or to bring in new city plans or to create park board universal pass, even though these are all the issues where the Vision council has been expending the most of its political capital and taken the subsequent beatings.

The mood?

Relaxed and party-like. People seemed to be willing to hang around longer than usual at these events and schmooze. The evening did start with a YouTube-worthy scene of people at various tables getting up and imitating fish swimming upstream (or possibly spawning, I couldn’t quite figure it out), initiated by the First Nations woman who opened the official part of the agenda. (Sorry, didn’t catch her name, but she performed a near miracle getting some of that crowd on its feet.)

It also felt a little more insider team. I didn’t see any COPE people, the taxi drivers, other union members, the theatre and arts groups that I’ve seen in the past.

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  • boohoo

    Pigs at the trough. Ban these ridiculous parties and the mindless partythink they spawn.

  • PeteFry

    I’m confused by the proposed Owelympic Village attack ad.. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Larry Campbell ink the deal to develop NE False Creek in the first place?

    Seems to me the first in a series of mistakes on that project was underwriting the development and building “atheletes housing” to serve as condos on prime waterfront land rather than the logical affordable housing opportunities they could have provided.

    But I digress, thanks for the update on who’s backing the Vision machine these days..

  • Yuck!

  • RudyR

    My City property taxes are up 41% under five Vision years–29% in previous five. As for the Olympics, politicians of every stripe were supporting signing of blank cheques.

  • Rebecca Campbell was the singer Did you notice the Rabbi didn’t light the candles with the first one, despite the prior poetry?

    As an unexpected last minute attendee, I’ll second your summary. Friendly mood, “more to be done” message. Pretty young room too I thought?

    I thought the 3 messages we were being primed with were:
    – fiscal responsibility / pro-entrepreneurs
    – ending street homelessness
    – bashing the province for the broadway line

    Our table spotted the missing bikes too. Probably a good move, frankly: us two-wheelers are in the bag.

  • rf

    Poor RudyR. His property has appreciated significantly faster than those in other parts of the city.

    poor poor RudyR. What used to be worth $800k is now worth $1.9 mil. Poor RudyR’s net worth is up over $1mil but he has to pay $6,000 in property taxes instead of $4,300.

    When we will find more social assistance to the struggling millionaires of Vancouver?!

    Or maybe we can just send him pamphlets on how property taxes are calculated?

    Poor poor, RudyR.

  • Tim Latanville

    There were a lot of businesses there, not just developers. Developers were actually a small number in the room by comparison. It was a very diverse crowd, something that no other party could likely claim. And Frances, the taxi guys were out in force, I was there with their table. I was impressed with the cultural groups that were present. I have never seen so many Rabbi’s at a vision event. It was an impressive night that showed all the faces of the city. Impressive. I would like to see whether NPA or COPE could put something like that together now.

  • This is a crude form of bribery and cronyism: surely the system has grown beyond that?

  • jenables

    We still have more to do
    Now THAT is frightening! I was emailing meggs, and the last thing I asked him, to which he did not respond, was, “do you think Vancouver is a better and more affordable place to live and start a business than it was five years ago?

  • jenables

    I should point out that it was an email exchange where he did reply previously. He was probably feeling a little attacked by the last one, in fairness, but I don’t think any of them could answer yes to that question without feeling like big fat liars.

  • jenables

    Oh, and this fiscal responsibility they brought also got our credit downgraded, did it not? Taking in record amounts of money and still having a 13 million dollar budget shortfall? I guess those are just pesky facts getting in the way of progress. K, nuff said by me.

  • F.H.Leghorn

    Council approves millions of dollars (from taxpayers across the city) for Portland Housing Society, then the directors of the Society kick some back at a Vision fund-raiser.
    It has a very Montreal flavour. Any sign of the larger construction firms?

  • Ned

    I second boohoo #1
    “Pigs at the trough. Ban these ridiculous parties and the mindless partythink they spawn.”
    But at least now we know who the Vision hacks(or opportunists) are, in more detail… people like VGA’s Bartels (huge beneficiary of public monies), from this blog… neil21, Tim Latanville… lots of Rabbis !? Go figure.

  • Kenji


    ‘Better’ and ‘more affordable’ are not necessarily synonyms, but I know what you are trying to say.

  • Terry M

    The way I see it… party goes on the HMS Titanic Vision.
    Creme a la Creme of the highest Vancouver’s jerks denomination, excuse me, as I just puked inside my mouth. 🙁

  • Silly Season

    @CKNW reporting that Mayor admits there may need to be some form tax on…ahem…luxury homes.

    Whatever could it all mean? 🙂

    Foreign UK Homebuyers To Be Subject To Capital Gains Tax

    (Perhaps he’s also been reading the South China Post, too?)

  • waltyss

    It’s kind of fun when Mme. Bula throws out the red meat and the usual suspects growl and roar. Well, some puke all over themselves (thank you for that, Terry M).
    So long as you have elections and parties, you will have fund raisers that those who either support the philosophy of that party or those who feel they have been well done by will attend.
    In a lot of cases, people attend because they have calculated that this party will win. Why a lot of busiinesses attended many NDP fundraisers before the last election and won’t before the next one.
    Far more interesting that who attended Vision’s fundraiser (who did you expect?), will be who attends COPE’s and the NPA’s fundraisers. With COPE, will the unions support someone who may split the centre-left vote. With the NPA, will the developers think they should hedge their bets and throw some money its way or will it remain largely the vanity project of its president.
    Unless something big happens in the next little while, this election may turn out to be a major snore fest and, notwithstanding the usual collection of Vision haters on this blog, that will not be good for the CoV. At a minimum, we need more and better opposition candidates. Elizabeth Ball is a non entity and Affleck is still a bit green at the gills although one day he may make a decent candidate. The Green Councillor will also win re-election handily.

  • Your penchant for making the unreasonable, “In a lot of cases, people attend because they have calculated that this party will win.“, unreasonable+ is so typically Dunbar!. Isn’t that, waltyss @ #17, the point?

    Why else would “. . . lots of developers” and . . . “. . . Dana and Joel Solomon ” and . . . “a table from Perkins + Will architects (can the Henriquez’s be far behind?) put out? Lacking any vestige of talent that may contribute to an amelioration of a sagging unban content all the usual suspects feed at the trough!

    Also spotted: VAG director Kathleen Bartels, at her most warm and outgoing . . . “, until, I suppose, the city comes to its senses.

    Then there are the not so usual suspects . . . “I have never seen so many Rabbi’s at a vision event. Tim @ #7 Huh! Are we about to be Nakba-ed?

    boohoo @ #1 Oh how true, how so tragically true and the coal trains continue to roll on and on and on . . .

    As for the mayor’s “bold agenda.” You haven’t a clue Mr. Mayor . . .
    . . . you haven’t a clue! And I’ll bet none of the experts on this blog, Frances, the works, know and Waltyss sure as hell doesn’t!

    So who the hell cares who was at the party?

  • teririch

    @Sully Season #16:


    Now, Robertson’s house that just sold was owned by a US company/corp. of which his wife has family ties to in some form or fashion.

    How did that effect ‘taxation’ on that property?

    (What was paid, and what wasn’t.)

  • waltyss

    teririch: do you know something (unlikely) or are you just engaging in your usual evidence lacking innuendo?
    Are you talking about property taxes? The distinction on tax rates is between whther it is used as a residence or a commercial property. The answer to that I assume is clear.
    The other form of tax is whether on sale it can be claimed as a principal residence in which there are no capital gains taxes payable but no deductions can be made or it is not treated as a principal residence in which case deductions can be made but taxes are payable on the net gain. One is determined by the Vancouver Charter which is provincial legislation while the other is federal income tax legislation.
    And of course, there is your usual distasteful snoopiness. Unless the mayor or anyone else is doing something unlawful, or there is a conflict of interest, what business of yours is it how he or anyone else runs their private affairs?
    I won’t hold my breath waiting for an answer.

  • Everyman

    @rf 6
    Just curious, do you pay any property taxes?

  • brilliant

    And right on cue Gregir’s number 1 fan arrives, no doubt panting from the exertion of wiping the great man’s….brow. It must be painful to realize your idol is nothing more than a developers’ stooped. Bowing and scraping for donations so he can build a few more bike lanes. In reality he’s nothing more than a shill for condobuilders, destroying neighbourhoods as he pedals on his merry way

  • F.H.Leghorn

    Philip Owen gave an interview to the Province last week:
    “Owen said he believes an “absolutely wrong and unhealthy” blending of politics and bureaucracy occurred as soon as Robertson was elected, and abruptly fired former city manager Judy Rogers and hired Ballem. a provincial health bureaucrat.

    “The place is totally toxic, it is totally controlled starting with Penny Ballem’s office,” Owen said. “They prearrange these public hearings all the time. All the senior staff people are in cahoots with the politicians.”

    In the middle of the interview, Owen reached into his pocket diary and pulled out a quote that is attributed to Robertson’s chief of staff, Mike Magee.

    Owen read the quote: “‘My thing is to try to empower Penny Ballem as much as possible,’ says Magee, ‘but we’re very insistent that the bureaucracy take directions from the politicians.’”

    “That quote tells you a lot,” Owen said. “Staff shouldn’t be off in some secret office developing policy under the direction of the city manager and Mike Magee … I mean, Penny Ballem and Mike Magee are running the whole show, they’ve got total control. Gregor Robertson cuts ribbons and gets handed little slips that tell him what to say.”

  • waltyss

    Nice to see, Foghorn, that you are quoting Phillip Owen, who was not exactly the sharpest knife in the mayoral drawer.
    And with due respect to Mr. Owen, aren’t bureaucrats supposed to implement policy set by politicians. Isn’t that how the system both works and is supposed to work? I have yet to see a city manager openly disagree publicly with his/her political masters. Should they give them honest advice? Yes. However, if the dissonance between what they see as right and what the politicians have ordered, then the proper thing to do is resign.
    Now, whether the bureaucracy is to support the partisan positions of the politicians is something else. They are not. And there, I will grant you, this administration is, at best, very close to the line.

  • gman

    Welcome to Wally World.

  • F.H.Leghorn

    With all due respect to waltyss, Philip Owen “not exactly the sharpest knife in the mayoral drawer”? Compared to who? Bill van der Zalm? Larry Campbell? Jennifer “Wannabe” Clarke? Sam Sullivan? Never mind other cities.
    Politicians don’t set policy. They do as they are told by their donors. Bureaucrats do as they are told by the politicians. If not they are dismissed, Vision -style (see the replacement of the SMT at CoV). And why not? It’s not like the severance packages come out of the politicians’ pockets.

  • brilliant

    @Fhl 23-not really a surprise. Gregor was never anything more than a telegenic puppet for the Hollyhock crowd. It’s not like he usurped Louie’s spot at the top if the Vision ticket due to his keen intellect. And now developers have found him to be a willing marionette as well.

  • Terry M

    FHL 26 and Brilliant 27
    Full agreement with both of you.
    Nothing more to add.

  • teririch

    Another ‘flattering’ article..

    ….”Vision” means never having to listen….