The sign on the stage said Legacy Celebration.
But it was really the Vision Vancouver farewell party.
With only one candidate elected in the Oct. 20 election (Allan Wong to school board) and the retiring Mayor Gregor Robertson (an organic juiceman beyond his best before date) passing the chain of office to Kennedy Stewart on Nov. 5, hundreds of Visionistas gathered at the Seaforth Armoury on Burrard Street on Nov. 2. A bittersweet soiree for a party that self-destructed.
A small cluster of bicycles was parked outside by the purple-lit tented entrance. Food trucks were parked inside, with a concert-style stage at the opposite end.
It was a who’s who of the NDP/Liberal coalition, the COPE splinter group that drifted to the right. It was COPE stalwart Tim Louis that famously called Vision the “NPA, only with bike lanes.”
Michael Davis, the former NPA president who defected to Vision in the 2014 election was there. So was Bob Ransford, the NPA strategist who joined Vision during 2011’s campaign. Peter Ladner, the NPA councillor who lost to Robertson for the mayoralty in 2008, was featured in a retrospective video.
Also in attendance: Lobbyist Bill “No to Proportional Representation” Tieleman and NDP Advanced Education Minister Melanie “Don’t Know Proportional Representation” Mark; Stratcom pollster Bob Penner; Duncan Wlodarczak, the ex-Vision staffer who joined developer Onni as chief of staff; lobbyist and ex-Vision strategist Marcella Munro; ex-Vision and BC Liberals social media strategist Diamond Isinger (who recently quit the Prime Minister’s Office to join the B.C. Council of Forest Industries); columnist Sandy Garossino of the Vision organ National Observer; Reliance Properties president and Urban Development Institute chair Jon Stovell; Janice MacKenzie, the former city clerk who oversaw the 2014 civic election; Mike Magee, Robertson’s ex-chief of staff, was seen, sitting in the shadows, on the opposite side of the room from where Kevin Quinlan, his protege and current chief of staff, was standing; University of B.C. professor and Offsetters carbon credits salesman James Tansey; and PR agent Lesli Boldt.
Two videos by Hogan Millar Media, the Vision and BC Liberal ad agency, were exhibited. The first, heavy on comments from Robertson. The second, riddled with testimonials from folks that benefitted from Vision decisions.
David Suzuki called Robertson “goddamn handsome…”
Prime Minster Justin Trudeau: “You might deserve a break, but I’m confident your hard work will continue.”
Premier John Horgan: “He did a spectacular job, in holding fast to his principles and values despite the naysayers that come and go. He stuck with it. He did a tremendous job.”
Billionaire Jimmy Pattison: “In my opinion he has been a good mayor for Vancouver the last 10 years and certainly has raised the image of our city to a place that it’s never been before.”
Former police chief Jim Chu, now a vice-president with the Aquilini family: “The city is much safer because of your contributions.”
Longtime Vision bagman and Hollyhock honcho Joel Solomon: “The world needs politicians like you.”
Hootsuite boss Ryan Holmes, whose company worked on Vision campaigns and scored a lease in a city-owned building: “You’ve set an amazing foundation for the city.”
Then it was time for the man himself, who ad libbed his speech and feigned being uncomfortable in front of the adoring crowd. “First and foremost this is not about me, OK? This is about all of us.”
Then he took credit for leading the “most progressive government elected for the longest time in a major Canadian city.”
“Those 10,000 City of Vancouver staff owe us incredible gratitude,” he said. “We owe them incredible gratitude as well, we give them the jobs as taxpayers. They do an incredible job.”
Robertson implored supporters to “lift up the most vulnerable in our city, and stop the opioid epidemic and get people housed…
“We have so much going for us, so much wealth and privilege,” he said, also urging supporters to care for the planet.
“I just encourage you all to dig a little deeper going forward, keep the pressure on the new mayor and council to be even better, delivering more for this community. Let’s take it to the next level.”
Then Robertson, and Vision veterans Raymond Louie, Heather Deal, Patti Bacchus, Tim Stevenson, George Chow, were piped off the stage by a Seaforth soldier in a kilt.
The faithful began to leave. Some turned left toward the supercar sales showrooms on Burrard, passing by the 39 Brigade tank/Afghanistan war monument, where a man was found dead of an apparent overdose on a Friday evening in July.
Others turned right, walking past the Molson Brewery, now owned by luxury condo specialist Concord Pacific, and onward over the Burrard Bridge. The bridge that Vision gave a vehicle lane to cyclists before finally heeding engineers’ advice to reinforce the aging structure.
Underneath the bridge, some of the city’s homeless.
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