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Campaign pressures strip some of the veneer off mayoral candidates LaPointe, Robertson

October 25th, 2014 · 8 Comments

It’s tough to be on the political stage. A real testing ground where previously unknown (to the public) aspects of someone’s personality come out. Some critics say campaigns are a terrible process for deciding on candidates, since they’re scrutinized for the smallest and sometimes most picayune things. On the other hand, the campaign crucible does show how they respond to pressure, whether it’s over serious issues or ridiculous non-issues. I’ve always wondered whether I would survive intact, given my numerous personality defects, including the short fuse.

In this campaign, we’re seeing how both of the main candidates are dealing with that. We also see how well they defend some of the statements they make. This campaign has been rife with some gigantic whoppers or unprovable generalizations from various candidates. As the weeks go on, reporters are getting less patient with those manipulations of the evidence.

With Gregor Robertson, the public and reporters have some sense of that already because he’s been through a few election cycles. But this is the one where he’s clearly a lot less loved (putting it mildly) than in previous campaigns and he’s a guy who doesn’t deal with criticism well.

So far, it’s been much of the same we’re used to: repetition of stock lines, a heavy amount of eye-rolling (very much on display this week at the first debate) at criticisms, some strange-sounding denials.

For examples, take a look at how he did in the debate held at Langara College last week. Some key questions were from Charlie Smith, asking him if he was involved in any way with the last-minute decision to dump 15 towers into the Grandview-Woodlands plan. (Absolutely not, he said, to the disbelief of many). From Langara student Ash Kelly, asking him about the difficulty accessing city hall to get basic information. From me, asking him about how the city’s policies, which allow developers to pull down old but cheap rental housing and replace it with new and expensive rental housing. (Current examples are rife along Main Street, where redevelopment signs are sitting in front of a string of beat-up looking old fourplexes and small apartment buildings.) I pointed out that, although renters are told they can move back in with some discount on the new rent price, it’s unlikely most (or any) of them can afford that new rent, even discounted. Not the greatest answers to any of them.

But of course, it’s always more interesting to watch the newcomers. And especially someone like Kirk LaPointe, who has been on the other side of the digital recorder, notebook, and camera for most of his life. As some of you may know, he lost it a little bit at the end of a news conference this week, declining to respond to a question from me, saying he didn’t have an answer for it and that it was a “bit of an empty question.” It came at the end of a newser where he’d been challenged quite a bit by several reporters and clearly he had kind of had it.

Mike Howell from the Courier and I had questioned him on who all these federal and provincial and regional politicians are that he claims he’s talked to who say that Robertson has “alienated” them. Emily Jackson asked him why he seemed to be pooh-poohing a regional plan that all the mayors had come up with. Someone else asked what he thought of the mayor’s new name for him, a “negative nellie.” Others probed him about other contradictory or undefined pieces of his announcement on the NPA’s transportation plan.

Then my question: “One of the things I don’t get as I listen to you about some of this regional stuff. You’re blaming Gregor Robertson for coming up with the carbon tax. It was actually Dianne Watts who was pushing the most for this. You’re blaming him for what’s in the 10-year plan. These are regional strategies. Why do you make it sounds as though he’s the only person who thought of these?”

I’m not going to link to the video that Vision is gleefully circulating  (karma will get them when the video gets posted of some of the mayor’s responses to various questions), but I will say the exchange was unusual.  And it’s not the first time he’s lectured a reporter in the last while. In a video interview he did with Mike at the Courier, Mike asked: Given the incident with the Russian tanker in Haida Gwaii and the problems with a response there, “If a tanker were to go adrift in English Bay, how quickly do we respond and what is the city’s role in that? Do those kinds of things not concern you?” To which LaPointe responded: “That’s a nicely loaded question, thank you for that.” Earlier in the scrum that day, he said we reporters should be doing our jobs by phoning up provincial, federal and regional politicians to find out who he is referring to when he says the mayor has alienated them.

LaPointe came up to me later that week, said he had misunderstood the question and apologized.

He’ll probably take more care in the next three weeks, with all of the reporters he’s being quizzed by. But it was an interesting crack in the veneer for someone trying his hand at this politics thing for the first time. More evolution to come, I expect.





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