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Deconstructing the in-camera meeting minutes for the Olympic village

January 17th, 2009 · 12 Comments

My pal Jeff Lee over at the Sun had an interesting story in Friday’s Vancouver Sun with details about the in-camera meeting back in June 2007 where the Non-Partisan Association majority voted in favour of the $193-million loan guarantee and completion guarantee for Fortress, so that Millennium could get its financing for the Olympic village.

Jeff has the full documents, which he’s provided pdfs of on his blog. I can only presume that this is all courtesy of Daniel Fontaine, Mayor Sam Sullivan’s chief of staff, who started shopping the story earlier this week that Raymond Louie had actually moved the motion recommending the completion guarantee, presumably with the goal of “proving” that the Vision councillors had dirty hands in all this.

** Additional note: Daniel just called me to clarify that he is absolutely not the person who gave in-camera documents and Jeff Lee has posted on his blog that it is not Daniel and you can read his post here. Contrary to what Jeff thinks, I was not trying to “smoke” anyone out, nor was I trying to blacken Daniel’s reputation. It was a logical guess, given that Daniel had hinted on Bill Good and his blog that a Vision councillor had moved the motion, waving a red flag for people to follow. Jeff seems to indicate the in-camera docs came in a brown envelope (he says if anyone wants to send him “another” brown envelope, here’s his address), although maybe I’ve misinterpreted that, but it’s pretty clear that it’s someone on the NPA side who has, as they say, the motivation and the means to leak those documents from the June 2007 meeting. Just as I would guess that it’s someone on the Vision side who had the motivation and the means to leak the documents from the October 2008 meeting that Jeff quotes from today in his interesting story on the back, which has Jody Andrews’ ill-fated assessment of the Millennium project. (This would help counter the negative backlash they are likely getting over the resignation of Mr. Andrews, who was very well liked at city hall.) And just as I would guess that it’s an ally of Estelle Lo’s who has been leaking some stuff to Gary Mason at the Globe.  Geez, people, these leaks have to be coming from somewhere and, as history tells us (Watergate et al), the people who leak them usually have a mix of motives, one of which is self-interest.

Okay, back to continuing with my original post.

The motion stuff is a bit of a red herring, since the Vision and COPE councillors really did vote against this motion in the end. Yes, Raymond moved it in one of his too-clever-for-himself manoeuvres, where he was moving it so he could amend the guarantee down to $50 million instead of the staff-recommended $193 million, knowing that the NPA would never vote in favour of it anyway, but wanting to make the point that he was more fiscally prudent than they were. He’s not the first councillor in the world who’s moved a motion that’s really the other side’s, but with amendments to try to modify it. But he might have thought about how it would all look when it was leaked. Wouldn’t you?

No, what’s really interesting about this story is two other things.

One is how much discussion is reported about the warnings that there is a lot of risk involved in this deal. There seem to be a number of quotes from former city manager Judy Rogers about this. (That seems to be different from the perception that she was telling everyone that things were just dandy.)

As well, this story doesn’t contain an interesting nugget that Raymond told me as he was discussing the whole in-camera, who-moved-the-motion thing. He said he hadn’t been that concerned about the completion guarantee at the time because he was told that there was only a $150-million difference between what the city was already committed to by the bid book and what it was now committing itself to with the Fortress completion guarantee.

While $150 million isn’t peanuts, it’s not $500 million or whatever number planted itself in people’s brains when Mayor Gregor Robertson said the Fortress guarantee committed the city to having to finish a way more expensive athlete’s village than the bid-book guarantee did.

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