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HomeNewsAnalysis: While housing and drug crises raged, Robertson spent two months traveling on the taxpayer tab in 2017

Analysis: While housing and drug crises raged, Robertson spent two months traveling on the taxpayer tab in 2017


Bob Mackin

His nickname is Mayor Moonbeam. But it really ought to be Mayor Sunwing, like the travel agency. 

Since leading Vision Vancouver to power in 2008, the tuba-playing Gregor Robertson has toured the world like a rockstar on civic business for the equivalent of almost an entire calendar year. 

Expense reports analyzed by theBreaker from 2009 (his first full year in office) through 2017 (his last full year in office) show Robertson spent 331 days traveling and visiting other cities, for a cost to taxpayers of $126,534.23. 

Robertson (2nd from left) with environment minister Catherine McKenna at a Loblaw’s promotion in Toronto. (Twitter)

Last year was Robertson’s most-expensive: 14 trips totalling 59 days at a cost of $27,554.11. The total discretionary travel expense in 2017 for the Office of the Mayor, including travel for Robertson’s aides, was $41,819.88. 

Vancouverites paid Robertson $168,055 in 2017. He traveled on civic business for almost two months during a year that deaths from opioid overdoses and the affordable housing crisis dominated headlines and caused his own supporters to turn against him. 

Robertson also billed for 59 days of travel in 2015, when he spent $22,038.85.

Six of the trips in 2017 were to advance Vision Vancouver’s green agenda, including the European Forum Alpbach in Germany ($2,057.11, Aug. 27-30) and Environmental Grantmakers Association Conference in Seattle ($739.99, Sept. 27).

Robertson has not shied away from flying to conventions around the world on polluting airliners, despite being one of Canada’s most-prominent climate change alarmists.  

theBreaker emailed Robertson, his chief of staff Kevin Quinlan and spokesman Tony Chen to ask for comment about the costs and reasons for all the non-essential travel. No one replied. 

The travel expenses report for city council was tabled at the April 17 meeting without discussion or debate. It indicates that Robertson visited Ottawa three times in the first half of the year — once to attend the Juno Awards and twice for the Big City Mayors’ Caucus.

The most-expensive trip charged to taxpayers for 2017 was $6,524.02 for Robertson’s May 3-7 junket to the New York Smart Cities Conference with Quinlan. Robertson was accompanied to Brussels by his operations director, Shea O’Neil, to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy board meeting from June 22-28. That was more expensive at $6,690.77, but $5,918.80 was paid by a third-party that was not identified in the report to city council. 

Robertson also traveled to Beijing, Shanghai, Sydney and Chicago; he also made a second trip to New York in September.  

The China/Australia junket, which included aide Naveen Girn, cost $4,922.04. 

Vancouver’s mayor sandwiched by the ex-president and his ex-chief of staff.

Robertson’s staff did not issue a news release before he left for the September China trip, which was billed as a Vancouver Economic Commission trade mission. They only confirmed to media that he was in the Middle Kingdom on the day before his itinerary concluded in Shanghai.

The visit to China was his fourth as mayor. 

In Chicago, Robertson posed for a photograph with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and ex-President Barack Obama at a climate summit for mayors last December. In 2015, Robertson went all the way to the White House with ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but only met Secretary of State John Kerry. 

In August, Robertson charged taxpayers $518.01 to fly from Cortes Island, home of the Hollyhock new age retreat, to Vancouver for a speech outside city hall on Aug. 19. A fringe anti-Islam group from Alberta had planned to protest immigration policies, but the leader cancelled at the last minute. Images of Robertson speaking and glad-handing were among several thousand counter-protesters was captured for potential use in his 2018 re-election campaign. He flew back to Cortes to continue his vacation. 

In early January, Robertson revealed he would not seek a fourth term in office. Officially, Vision Vancouver is not planning to field a mayoral candidate for the Oct. 20 election. Shauna Sylvester, a former board member who is close to both Robertson and Vision bagman Joel Solomon, announced a run earlier this month as an independent. 

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