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HomeNewsExclusive video: Why did Vancouver’s mayor meet a party donor on a Saturday in May 2015?

Exclusive video: Why did Vancouver’s mayor meet a party donor on a Saturday in May 2015?

Bob Mackin

What was the Mayor of Vancouver doing at the office tower of a prominent developer and party donor on a Saturday afternoon in late May 2015? 

Saturday, May 23, 2015, to be precise. 

Cell phone video given to theBreaker shows Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Westbank Projects president Ian Gillespie at the Shaw Tower. Westbank developed the once-tallest tower in Vancouver and it remains the company’s headquarters. 

The video shows Robertson entering the main floor at 3:09 p.m. with Gillespie, where a bag was deposited at the security desk. They were also photographed at 4:48 p.m. near the street.

A developer visiting city hall on a business day would fall within the realm of dog-bites-man. But a mayor visiting a developer and major party supporter on a Saturday, at the developer’s office building, meets the man-bites-dog test of newsworthiness in real-estate mad Vancouver. 

  • Why were they meeting?
  • What was discussed?
  • What was the outcome? 

    Robertson and Gillespie, May 23, 2015

Nothing improper is implied, but those are the three simple questions that readers of theBreaker deserve to know. Neither Robertson, Gillespie nor their representatives responded to repeated queries from theBreaker

In November 2014, Robertson won his third term as mayor and Vision Vancouver retained its city council majority, with help from Gillespie. Winter and spring 2015 were especially busy on several fronts for Gillespie, downtown Vancouver’s titan of tall towers. 

Were they discussing items on the agenda for the May 26, 2015 city council meeting? 

That was when Robertson and the Vision Vancouver-dominated city council voted to send the proposal for a video screen on the west facade of Westbank’s Telus Garden tower to public hearing. 

At the public hearing on the same day, Robertson and city council voted to remove the restriction on office uses on the ground floor of Telus Garden, and allow a “retail use continuity agreement.” 

Were they discussing the city council-granted neighourhood energy monopoly for Gillespie’s Creative Energy?

City hall inked a memorandum of agreement with Creative (formerly Central Heat Distribution) on Nov. 29, 2013 and voted to amend the enabling Northeast False Creek and Chinatown bylaw on April 28, 2015. 

Last September, however, the B.C. Utilities Commission sent city hall and Gillespie back to the drawing board when it rejected the proposed monopoly. 

Were they talking about the rezoning of Gillespie’s property at 1754-1772 Pendrell Street for a 21-storey tower? 

Westbank filed an application on Jan. 26, 2015 and city council gave the rezoning on Sept. 15, 2015. It withstood a court challenge in Feb. 2016. 

Were they talking about party fundraising? 

Gillespie was a Vision Vancouver bagman during the 2011 election and threw a big fundraising party on Oct. 25 that year at the Westbank-developed Fairmont Pacific Rim tower. That just so happened to be a week after city council approved in principle Telus Garden, the new headquarters for B.C.’s biggest private sector company.

Post-election filings show that Westbank gave $11,705.70 in 2011 and $15,000 in 2014. 

Westbank donated just shy of $150,000 through 2015 to provincial parties ($121,000 to the BC Liberals and $28,574.88 to the NDP). But we do not know how much Westbank (or any other company, for that matter) gave to Vision Vancouver (or any other municipal party).

That is because the law does not require municipal parties and politicians in B.C. to disclose donations they receive in non-election years. 

Similar to provincial parties and politicians, there is no limit to the dollar value or source of donations to local government parties and politicians in B.C. 

Westbank launched sales of its next Vancouver tower project, called Alberni, on March 18 in Singapore.

theBreaker will let you know if Robertson or Gillespie break their silence about what they were doing at Shaw Tower on May 23, 2015.