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Mayor Robertson’s marriage becomes a political football that wreaks havoc everywhere

July 7th, 2014 · 92 Comments

I realize almost everyone reading this blog has probably read ALL the stories already about the decision by Gregor and Amy Robertson to separate, which has turned, in this season of elections and social media, into a strange gothic novelette of its own.

Here’s my story from today’s Globe, which largely focuses on why Vision Vancouver chose to kick back so hard at the gossip and rumours about why the two have decided to separate. (Full version appended below for those who don’t have a Globe subscription.) It also has a statement from the Facebook post that Kirk LaPointe, the NPA’s supposed mayoralty candidate but who hasn’t been formally announced yet, put up on the topic in response to my question to him. For those who have Facebook accounts, it’s here.

I feel compelled to add a few more details to all of this, as there is a lot of strange stuff circulating. I don’t claim to know everything. But at least I can provide details on the little corner of the room I do know.

People who cover city hall regularly were called by various people from the mayor’s office the weekend of June 7/8 to get the news about the separation. I assume others asked the same question I did — is there anything more to this? Because if there is, I assured my contact, the mayor is going to get drawn and quartered if something comes out later. No, nothing more. I assume everyone talked to their editors, as I did. News editors in the MSM, at least in Canada, aren’t fond of doing stories about private lives unless there appears to be obvious problem: a relationship that is a conflict, that reflects very badly on the character of the person involved, that is inappropriate, whatever. As there was nothing like that apparent, no one did any stories.

A couple of weeks later, Rob Macdonald sent his email to the mayor, copied to Geoff Meggs. I also got a copy. I have to say, I don’t think this was part of any masterminded, general campaign when he sent it. Rob gets upset about things; he says stuff; he sends off emails. Whether that’s true of others involved in this story, I can’t say. Again, because there was nothing that was remotely supported by evidence beyond gossip, no story. (His email reprinted below.)

Then last week, I heard that a reporter from a television station called Amy Robertson, repeating a rumour that was even wilder and more bizarre than what was in Rob Macdonald’s email. I understand other media were calling. As well, stuff was starting to circulate on social media — a blog, twitter, Facebook posts.

That’s when Vision decided to go with the nuclear option, making not just a statement about the separation, but releasing Rob Macdonald’s email and accusing the NPA of a smear campaign.

All in all, not a great moment in Vancouver civic political history. Hope we can move on to other things.


From: Rob Macdonald <[email protected]>

Sent: Monday, June 16, 2014 6:14 PM

To: Gregor Robertson

Cc: Meggs, Geoff

Subject: Re: Kinder Morgan and a Broadway Subway

I don’t think I can make it. I have been asked to go to a different meeting to discuss some terrible gossip that I find very disconcerting if correct:

1) Gregor ‘s philandering;

2) Gregor’s being thrown out of his house by his wife and now moving to a condo downtown ;

3) Gregor phoning Jeff Lee at the Vancouver Sun to suppress the story;

4) Gregor’s house in Kit’s being sold for a substantial profit after the City engineered him having a quiet Street with little traffic ;

When I was thinking of running for Mayor, Gregor’s Chief of staff Mr. Mike Magee sent two separate emmisaries to tell me that he was going to destroy my reputation and one of the disgusting things they were going to leak to the press was a ridiculous accusation of philandering. Of course, this kind of rumour mongering is despicable and I will have no part in it. But I find it somewhat poetic that the now Magee gets to deal with Gregor’s widely rumored philandering.

Anyway, Gregor always has a friend in me if he wants a shoulder to cry on.





Getting into a big, messy brawl in the media about Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s separation from his wife wasn’t how the city’s ruling party planned to kick off its election campaign.

Vision Vancouver went on the offensive over the weekend against its main opponent, the Non-Partisan Association, claiming the NPA is behind a campaign to spread false rumours about the mayor’s life.

“It’s not really how I wanted to start,” said Marcella Munro, Vision Vancouver’s communications director, speaking about the party executive’s decision to go to battle over something that Mr. Robertson and his wife of 30 years, Amy, had hoped would remain private.

But, said Ms. Munro, the party isn’t going to sit back the way the NDP did during the provincial election and let its candidates get trashed by the opposition.

“This kind of stuff can shift the way candidates get covered,” said Ms. Munro, who also worked on the provincial NDP campaign last year that saw then-leader Adrian Dix go from an almost guaranteed victory to one of the most unexpected defeats in recent political history. One of the most effective tactics the B.C. Liberals used was to remind voters about a memo that Mr. Dix had fabricated about the casino scandal under premier Glen Clark, 15 years earlier.

Ms. Munro said that drove home the point that parties can’t afford to let anything negative go unchallenged.

“We’re not going to sit by quietly while the NPA [the main opposition party on the civic scene] or their allies run an underground campaign of gossip and lies.”

So, in an unusual move, the party released an e-mail that NPA vice-president Rob Macdonald sent to city hall that made several unproved allegations about how and why the two separated. The party also issued a brief news release from both the mayor and his wife about the separation, saying it was mutual and amicable.

That set off a bizarre round of back and forth between various spokespeople and supporters of the two over the weekend, providing an indication of how combative the next four months of election campaigning is likely to get.

It also demonstrates how social media and the eternal life of e-mails make it difficult for mainstream Canadian media to keep to the practice of avoiding stories about the private messes of prominent figures, unless those messes directly affect the public.

Mr. Macdonald told one radio station, via e-mail, that “The NPA is not involved in any personal attacks on Gregor Robertson, nor am I. I think very highly of Amy Robertson who has been very kind to my son, and I wish her all the best.”

Supporters have made the case that the e-mail sent to city hall was private and isn’t evidence of any campaign. As well, they say, Vision seems to be using the mayor’s personal situation for its own political purposes.

Vision called on the man who is widely expected to be the NPA’s mayoralty candidate, journalist Kirk LaPointe, to repudiate the NPA’s tactics. And a Vision supporter, Bob Ransford, went on Twitter opining that Mr. Lapointe wouldn’t want to “associate himself with a political organization devoid of policy and dedicated to a rumour-filled smear campaign.” That appeared to take the Vision defence into new territory of trying to get NPA candidates to abandon ship.

Mr. Lapointe, who noted he is still not a declared candidate, responded to The Globe and Mail through a Facebook post, saying that Mr. Macdonald’s e-mail was private, adding: Nothing positive comes from the discussion of personal issues. Respect for public life includes a respect for private lives.

“As a journalist, I have had many opportunities to report on the private lives of public figures. I long ago concluded that, unless there is an impact on duties, those matters are irrelevant.”

That view reflected what Vancouver news editors had concluded a few weeks earlier. Reporters who regularly cover city hall were called at the beginning of June by people in the mayor’s office to let them know the mayor and his wife were separating and that the mayor had moved to a condo in the West End.

Pressed for details about why, the mayor’s staff talked only about a long marriage and the couple’s four children being grown and out of the house. But reporters were told Ms. Robertson would continue to provide the same level of support for the campaign in the fall that she always had.

Follow Frances Bula on Twitter: @fabulavancouver

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