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Vision insiders question the Olympic village message

January 16th, 2009 · 29 Comments

A little bird called me today and read out an email from a Vision board member that has somehow escaped to a larger audience than intended.

The email, from Marcella Munro, went out this morning to the rest of Vision’s tight communications team, which frequently debates how well they are doing on their message. That included: Mike Magee (Gregor’s current chief of staff), Bob Penner (the polls guy who worked in tandem with Magee on the campaign), Bill Tieleman (blogger, communications guy), Ian Baillie (campaign organizer), Mike Wilson (not sure who he is — sorry, Mike), and Kevin Quinlan (wonderkind doing communications in the mayor’s office). I don’t have it word for word, since it was read out to me, but here’s the general gist.

“I think we’re overswing on the Olympics stuff. I don’t think anyone believes the city’s going to have a one-billion-dollar bill at the end of this. It feels like we’re going too far in blaming the NPA. Geoff [Meggs, now a councillor] is being too much of a pitbull, he’s using this too much for political purposes. We promised a different tone of city hall. But instead of being focused on the problem, we appear to be focused on destroying the NPA.”

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  • eleanor

    An inadvertent addressee (or an oops ‘reply all’) in an email list is one of those nightmare blunders in the communications game.

    No surprise that Geoff Meggs is pushing exaggerated rhetoric on the Olympic Village file. He found a winning formula during the election and he just can’t let go. Its hard for a tiger (or pitbull) to change its stripes. As a duly elected member of council his job is to serve citizens of this city not persist in reputation- shredding backroom machinations, his sly specialty.

    The NPA is already down for the count…no need to continue the pummelling – its unsportsmanlike…where’s the ref?

  • spartikus

    This is good advice. The truth is damning as it is.

  • Scott

    Messaging? John Q. Public now seem to think that VV is doing a cover-up of its own particpation in the Olympic Village mess and they don’t believe what has been said so far… and that perhaps there is a wider cover-up.

    Even the head-line story on today’s Vancouver Sun was situate above the “Vancouver Sun” logo. Can’t recall that happening very often. And on the “completion guarantee” in-camera meeting we have Raymond Louie taking about:

    1. “Introducing the motion to guarantee the athlete’s village”
    2. “Being “tactical”
    3. “Trying to fake the NPA”
    4. “Not knowing the importance of a completion guarantee”

    It almost wants to make me up-chuck.

    VV seems to have destroyed any political capital they had coming into office.

  • T W

    Proper disclosure is now entirely appropriate.

    Massaging the message for partisan advantage, appears to most people like more of the same mess that was generated by the previous council. Can we have, for once, an admission that the elected representatives just got it wrong through their failure, as far as we can tell, to ask the questions of staff and themselves that we expect them to ask as custodians of the public interest – or have we fallen so far from the ideal?

  • mm

    Does anyone actual beliee Raymond Louie? This guy is such a weasel.
    And Meggs! Larry Cambpell comes out supporting everything the NPA did, but his old right hand man is the chief pit bull attacking the thing. Doth think he protest too much.

  • LP


    Tell me I’m wrong now….

    AGT., is it time yet for you to come over to my dark side?

  • Dawn Steele

    Time to put this out to an independent third party/enquiry. Taking this on themselves is a lose/lose proposition for VV.

    Whatever they do…

    – a whole bunch of people are going to think they’re going overboard playing the blame game to score political points against the NPA

    – the rest of the people are going to think they’re not going far enough because they’re trying to cover up for their own guys.

    As to the messaging re the billion-dollar bill, I think that relates to ambiguity surrounding the phrase that’s been used repeatedly in all this about “being on the hook…”

    I’ve always understood that as meaning total exposure or outlay, not eventual net profit/loss – the mystery figure that no one can pin down yet. Perhaps that needs to be clarified if others understand the term differently.

  • LP

    From AGT’s column:

    “But shoot the messenger; crucify St. Gregor for telling the truth. The last word goes to Robertson himself: “I’m not going to sugarcoat it, Alex. The public deserves to know that as a city, we are responsible for delivering an $875-million project. There’s no way around it. Yes, we’ll be able to sell the units to recover costs, and the city owns a valuable asset, but we’re in uncertain economic times.”

    Although I agree with AGT on many fronts, believing these hollow words, I will not.

    It is very easy for the mayor to continue his path looking like the Saint, as AGT calls him without a hint of sarcasm I might add, while the political games are being played by the likes of Meggs, Louie, and the NDP backroom.

    Call me asinine if you shall, we can agree to disagree in a respectable manor on this front. I believe AGT will change your tune in due time.

  • Dawn Steele

    …and on the NPA-bashing issue, VV would probably score more just sitting back and letting guys like Ladner do it to themselves (as with his priceless BIV editorial today!)

  • Scott

    Here’s another just released article of a perceived VV cover-up from Charlie Smith:

    “The reality, however, is that the city agreed on November 14, 2002 to take on full responsibility for the Olympic Village.

    Two of those same Vision Vancouver politicians—Louie and Stevenson—failed to warn the public about taxpayers’ liability on the Olympic Village prior to the city’s plebiscite in 2003 on hosting the Games.
    Once the public gets wind of this, are Vision Vancover politicians going to try to blame Connell, who signed the agreement?
    One thing is certain: Vision Vancouver politicians will never get in front of a microphone and say, “Hey, we’re sorry for fucking things up and probably causing your taxes to increase by not reading the fine print in the Games Facility Agreement before the 2003 plebiscite.”

    I guess what goes around… eventually comes around.

  • A. G. Tsakumis


    Happy to oblige. I know every single on of the people on that distribution list.

    And particularly coming from Marcella, I am not surprised that such a sensible tone is being called for.

    As for my comments, I won;t change one. Gregor’s comment to me was entirely correct. We are responsible for delivering the project period. But we are not, as Gary Mason and others have written, on the hook for a billion dollars. There are significant variables that mitigate that figure…

    As for Geoff, I said it once, I’ll say it again…he is s very bright fellow who is overstating the case by a mile. Different from the Mayor, whose messaging is lost by Meggs’ unnecessary pummeling of the NPA, who with Suzanne as mouthpiece are impoverished beyond words.

    I still maintain that the Mayor had a responsibility to tsay what he said the way he said it, but his message is being diluted, badly, by Raymond’s defensiveness and folly and Geoff’s apparent utter contempt for accurate historical record.

    This was a VERY bad deal. Now, people who were responsible are paying the price with their jobs, as did some politicians who are no longer around.

    But I’d LOVE to hear from ALL those councillors who were part of the deliberations from day one. What were they thinking?

    Look at the details of the amt of hand holding this deal reqd!!!! And thus potential exposure.

    My three year old daughter would have voted against that.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Sorry, just reread my post and am in a rush…Gary actually suggested that that the billion dollar pay out was Gregor’s contention, and that’s just not the case…there, that’s better…

    Gregor’s point is that we have to deliver an $875 million project and that is a CORRECT statement. But the notion that he said we needed to come up with that kind of money is incorrect.

  • jaymac

    Haven’t you guys figured it out yet? It’s called MEGGLOMANIA!

    As for Raymond Louie who was “just playing games with the NPA” on a critical vote affecting what VV and Cope now call a billion dollar boondoggle. That’s just a perfect example of the crappy politics we have in this province; where it is more about scoring points (cheap ones too) off others than dealing responsibly with the public’s business.

    Shame on you Louie. You are not worthy.

    Shame on the Mayor for not speaking up on such issues and showing some leadership by keeping his troops in control. Clearly, the reverse is happening.


  • LP

    Where I disagree is how the message was delivered in the first place.

    I’ve never suggested he shouldn’t be honest and tell taxpayers the real deal, but what is now obvious is how every message that has come out is intended for political fodder, which so many others (try to continue) to deny. The first line of that quote speaks volumes with regards to the first public statement made by Gregor.

    For a guy who was capable enough to launch a company, then capable enough to become a prov mla, then capable enough to become mayor, surely he is more politically savvy then he is given credit for, and you’re giving him a pass on the politics being played here.

    He’s the public leader and face of a party that is playing politics and shouldn’t be given that pass because Meggs and Louie are the ones coming off as asses.

    The email today may in fact show he’s asked some to tone it down, although the email’s intent isn’t saying “hey, this isn’t the path I want to go down”, its intent is to say, “hey, we’re starting to look bad, better cool it for now.”

    Also I find it curious as to why certain press, including yourself hasn’t spoken out on the hiring of Penny Ballum. It seems I can’t read a paper or a blog that doesn’t complain about Gordon Campbell’s buddies getting contracts, and richer along the way.

    Yet, she was hired without a process, without vetting other candidates, and while in the Ministry of Health had given contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gregor’s buddy and now chief of staff’s private company.

    This was Gregor’s hire and yet nothing. Frankly I don’t give a crap about the contracts, or the perceived conflict of interest, only the hypocrisy of calling Gordo on the carpet and not the juice king. He pulls that crap with his first hire and probably most important hire, please.

    He is no saint, but he is the king of playing politics in this town with or without Meggs and Louie. The sooner everyone realizes that, the better off we’ll all be.

  • slow joe crow

    the truth often hurts when a skilled politico speaks.

  • Sophocles

    You know I once sat across from Alex T. at an event and I recall a very similar long winded discussion about the “people he knows”. Man was that tedious to sit through! You really need to give your head a good shake. You have backed the wrong horse. No question. The Vision folks have created a stink that is taking on Orwellian proportions at City Hall. I think we are facing the exact paradigm that Mr. Orwell outlined in the “Animal farm”. Wow, its really quite sad that you can’t see this. They have done some very sneeky underhanded things and at the same time espoused the importance of transparency. Rather than coming to the “dark side” I strongly suggest that you just lay down in the pig farm you have helped create and have a good long roll.

  • Shepsil

    The NPA, Suzanne Anton and their supporters are getting their just desserts. VV got voted to power based on the closed door, backroom dealings that we the majority did not approve of.

    I hope to see the NPA decimated in the next couple of years and hopefully from their ashes will appear a new party even better than our current VV .

  • mano

    If only we could see the full email from Marcella and the replys. I’ve seen them. They aren’t pretty.

    The Earnscliffe lobbyist should learn that she’s not as smart or as great as her overinflated ego thinks she is. She need not email every thought that jumps into her head in an effort to make herself look good. Geoff and Raymond have done nothing wrong. It’s the NPA who have screwed the public. Marcella should stop the holier-than-thou stuff.

  • paul


    You, like the mayor and his strategists, need to pay attention. Public sentiment is turning sour on our brand new Mayor incredibly fast. This negative interpretation of his recent posturing is all over the blogosphere and editorial pages already.

    All this “NPA screwed the city out of a billion dollars” stuff probably plays like sweet music in the VV backrooms, but in the public realm, we want real leadership from a city hall! Not useless partisan finger pointing – been there, done that with the SS. In our heart of hearts, we care less about whodunnit and more about what we’re going to do about it.

    You should be reminded that while Sam et al are gone, the “civic opposition” who should have blown the whistle on this long ago are sitting right next to the mayor in council!

    This OV thing is MegGregor’s first big move (it overshadows any of the HEAT stuff) and he’s making Sam look like a more prudent leader (perish the thought).

    It’s really really disheartening for those of us who thought we could get something different out of Gregor. The last mayor did not use the city’s woes to fight the battles of Victoria.

    So don’t shout down the voice of reason in the backrooms, because it just might be telling you what you all need to hear.

  • Bob h

    Yes, things are certainly screwed up at City Hall, and may well get worse. But I find it difficult to express any sorrow for the City’s taxpayers, because most of them voted for Gregor and his fellow travelers. They now have what they asked for. Good luck.

  • jesse

    The hypocrisy, from my point of view, is not admitting a general “groupthink” amongst all councilors and many city staff as well. Admitting that VV councilors had their hands in the pie, at least in part, all along the way would do well for Robertson’s credibility. Pulling up the bridge on the partisan moat is a sure way to draw suspicion.

    It’s a simple question: why was Meggs chosen as the “pit bull” on this issue when other councilors should be commenting just as much? Louie, Stevenson, and all need to take their lumps like everyone else.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    As I repeated before, perceptions of me or others notwithstanding, Marcella Munro is a sensible and careful strategist, who understands that the manner with which this is being done is nonsensical. I, too, have seen the emails…

    The reality here is that the message that the OV deal is a complete fiasco is the point. Yes, there are many who will share the blame…

    But listening to Anton and Louie beak off about this project, in the most (faux) pious, partisan slides, is a kin to having Jack the Ripper address a safe community forum.

  • LP

    “Rather than coming to the “dark side” I strongly suggest that you just lay down in the pig farm you have helped create and have a good long roll.”

    Sophocles, I think you misunderstood what I was saying to AGT. I’ve referred to “the dark side” as those who see through the “Gregor is such a good guy” hoopla, as we seem to be in the minority. Minority = dark side, because they think they’re the ones who see the light.

    I’ve never been a Sam fan, even when AGT supported him in the early days, I was aghast. I viewed Sam though as the lesser of two evils, the other being good’ole boy Jim Green. I had to vote for SS, not because I liked him, but who his competition was.

    Anton as well can do no good for the NPA at this stage, so others and the average joe out there need to be active in their opposition of VV and the mayor.

    As for Louie, just a few months ago he wanted to be mayor, and probably still does. I believe AGT in a column even recommended that people vote for him. I’m not sure based on his comment above if he has now changed his opinion on him yet – it sounds like he has.

    Maybe I’m wrong, however it is quite obvious at this stage Louie as a mayor would have been worse than Anton as mayor, if not a dead heat.

    The tide though is turning on VV and their handling of this plain and simple. Previous council et al, definitely need to take a beating here. VV could have just let the cards play themselves and they chose not to.

    That said, if Gregor was the stand-up guy everyone says he is, all of this could and should have been handled better than it has been. He doesn’t get a pass from me and now a whole lot of others.

    I’ll be waiting to see how long it takes for AGT to get fed up and join the chorus that some of us have already started.

  • A. G. Tsakumis


    What I recommended was a vote for Raymond for councillor. Based on his previous record, that was a fair endorsement.

    However…and you’ll be pleased I’m thinking of clearing my throat (I’m quite a singer you know…weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc)

    In all seriousness, Raymond should be ashamed of himself for playing politics with such an important decision like how much coverage the guarantee should entail. That’s idiotic. And, frankly, I’m surprised at him.

    And I agree the churning by suzanne and Raymond is about even money…with Geoff in a class all by himself…

    However, that does not take away from the fact the the Mayor has been issue specific; has gone out of his way not to box the prov in; told Carole James that he is not disposed to the political football that some of his former colleagues might see fit to commit to; and has been upfront about our exposure.

    It is refreshing to have a Mayor who tells it like it is. It’s been too long.

    Now, if Gregor decides to fall into the same trap as some of his colleagues, then I’ll ask you to send me a song sheet…an step back a few feet…

  • Sophocles

    LP – I just want to clarify. You mentioned in another blog what you were imbibing last light so maybe you are a bit confused yourself. I have no concerns whatsoever with whether you yourself stay in the dark or in the light. All I was suggesting is that Alex stays exactly where he is in the pile of #### he helped create. If you feel like joining him in a little mud wrestling that is most certainly something I would pay good money to see.

  • Sophocles

    I must confess maybe I am turning into a bit of a “last word freak”. Oh well, I sense I am in good company.

  • tommi

    Looks like Carole James has been getting debriefed by Greogor Meggs based on her very partisan, divisive rant yesterday that completely mirrored the NPA smear campaign going on here locally. She even made an indirect pot-shot at the NPA: “…a culture of government secrecy and arrogance — at the city with the past government…”

    There’s no doubt to me that the NDP has their hands all over our local government, and they plan on using the Olympics for political gain just as Vision/COPE have been doing.

  • Bang the gong

    I just want to know a couple things.

    Did anyone notice Bill Tieleman on the distribution list of the email by Marcella Munroe who is a director of Vision? Why did you not identify him as a columnist for 24hours Frances? Are you covering for Tieleman?

    Think back to Alex Tsakumis exclusives with the Robertson camp and that he outed Gregors’ resignation. No one in the media got more favors and stories from Robertson and Vision. And he endorsed him for mayor instead of his buddy Ladner.

    So how does 24hours say they are a paper with a good reputation? Both of their two top columnists are in bed with Vision! Fire these goofs and get some impartial writers.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Bang the gong:

    Please change your handle to ‘Embrace the Bong’!

    1) Any exclusive I received on The Mayor, through the Vision mayoral campaign and into the election, I did so from ‘other’ sources. I have NEVER been leaked anything from Gregor’s camp. I have only received confirmation of stories I already had. In fact, while true that I jumped onto the resignation announcement first, it put the Robertson camp (and Carole James) in some immediately uncomfortable territory…how is that favouritism?? How is that working hand in glove with anyone?

    2) Get your facts straight, please: I did not endorse Gregor for Mayor. I did not endorse anyone for Mayor. I could not endorse Peter for his unproductive and backward stance on the Olympic Village (which he continues to push) and I could not endorse Gregor because his people would not give me a straight answer on what they plan(ned) to do to get treatment, first and foremost, into the addiction equation–and have unfortunately backpedalled further since.

    3) 24hrs. is a FIRST CLASS operation and I’m sure I speak for my highly respected colleague, Bill, when I say that it’s a pleasure to work there. On behalf of our editor and publisher, thanks for the employment suggestions, but neither of us is going to be fired and the reason we have two of the most popular and most read columns in the city is precisely because we are impartial and fair. 24hrs has almost a quarter of a million readers per day and ranks in B.C. only behind the Sun and Province in daily readership…and our trendline has always been on the up…