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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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