Vision vs COPE catfight made for good reality TV

Coun. Stevenson: "That's a frickin' lie!" – see video

As Vancouver City Council winds up it’s last few items of business for 2010, we are truly entering what political watchers refer to as the silly season. What else could explain what happened in the chambers this week as elected officials and staff spent hours debating city-related items such as Maclean’s magazine articles and CRTC internet billing policy.

When they weren’t debating these issues, they found a few minutes to pass their one billion dollar 2011 operating budget. It resulted in a 4.2% tax increase for Vancouver residents and a 0.2 increase for businesses (a lot of media incorrectly reported it was a 2.2% increase). Over their term of government, Vision Vancouver have increased residential property taxes by over 16% in three years.

If all that wasn’t enough, a rather spontaneous cat fight broke out between COPE and Vision over what seemed to be a very innocuous item. Mayor Gregor had brought forward a motion to remove Councillor George Chow from the Metro Vancouver Board and replace him with Councillor Geoff Meggs. It seemed relatively harmless enough to me, however, that clearly wasn’t the case with COPE’s David Cadman.

Cadman got to his feet and complained about the fact Robertson was trying to make this decision behind closed doors at an in-camera meeting to be held later that day. In-camera meetings are not open to the public nor are they televised.

Coun. Cadman argued that Gregor's motion was out of order given these types of appointments are normally open to public scrutiny (there goes that openness and transparency thing again – who'da thunk). After a bit of consultation with his staff, Mayor Gregor finally agreed that his motion was indeed ineligible for a private debate.

All of this sets the stage for what became a nasty little blow-up between COPE and Vision in full view of the cameras. If you closed your eyes for a moment and just imagined that Larry Campbell was still sitting in the big chair, it kind of felt like a deja vu moment.

When the motion came up for debate, Cadman attacked Robertson (see video) for his decision to only appoint members of his Vision caucus to regional and city committees. Remember, it was COPE’s endorsement (Cadman’s in particular) of their coalition back in 2008 which gave Vision their majority government. It should also be noted that Metro Vancouver appointments come with very generous per diems.

Cadman argued that he and his COPE council colleague Ellen Woodsworth and the NPA’s Suzanne Anton shouldn’t be shut out of these lucrative appointments. Cadman argued council had a longstanding tradition of bi-partisanship in the chamber which was now being broken by Vision.

Not so, said Vision Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson! He then leapt to his feet in the Mayor’s defense and wagged his finger at Cadman accusing him of having a very short political memory. Stevenson (first elected as a COPE member before he abandoned the party to form Vision) reminded Cadman that back in 2002 when COPE was in power, they didn’t appoint a single member of the NPA to any regional or city committees. So there! Stevenson confirmed that COPE was equally as partisan as Vision when it came to appointments.

Stevenson continued to taunt Cadman and said it was funny how he never complained about the fact former NPA councillors Ladner and Sullivan were both left out in the cold back in 2002. Stevenson was cleverly pointing out Cadman’s obvious double standard.

Cadman sat back in his chair and was obviously fuming. That’s when Stevenson noted the only Mayor he was aware of that ever showed any kind of bi-partisanship was the NPA’s Sam Sullivan. During that term, Sullivan’s NPA caucus appointed Stevenson, a Vision Vancouver councillor to the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors.

Ouch. Ouch. Double ouch and meeeeow! It was truly a catfight.

Cadman then moved an amendment to Mayor Gregor’s motion asking that he be appointed to Metro Vancouver, instead of Meggs. This led some of the councillors to jokingly ask if Cadman was in a conflict of interest for voting on his own motion…I digress. In the end, the motion was defeated by Vision and Meggs is now Vancouver’s new representative on the Board.

I’m not sure exactly what was motivating Councillor Cadman, but his motion does raise eyebrows. Was he doing it to raise a point about the lack of democracy at City Hall? Did he want to take on an autocratic mayor who runs city hall like his own little sealed fortress? Who knows. However, what we do know is that by making it onto the Board, Cadman would have a much greater likelihood of getting back on the Metro Vancouver "gravy train".

As you may know, due to negative exposure in the blogosphere and MSM, the Board of Metro Vancouver has been a tad reluctant lately to fund non-Board members travel expenses to attend conferences and such.

Call me a cynic, but I somehow doubt what motivated Cadman’s motion was nothing less his own attempt at a power grab. Or perhaps it’s a man grasping at straws as he sees his political fortunes fading. Only a few months ago Vision’s Jim Green told CKNW radio:

You have a lot of new young energetic environmentalists that have taken over the COPE executive. I am hearing rumours that David Cadman is not going to win the nomination next time with COPE.

In the end Cadman has nobody to blame but himself for the mess he’s in. After all, it was he who personally endorsed the COPE/Vision coalition and facilitated a massive Vision majority. If Cadman wasn’t adept enough to realize that his endorsement should have included the guarantee of a few COPE appointments, then too bad for him. Given what’s just transpired, I’d suggest he enroll in a negotiations 101 course before the next civic election.

On a side note, our video also includes a special cat fight bonus feature. Check out Councillor Tim Stevenson’s reaction to NPA Councillor Anton’s allegations that he was behind her removal from a the only committee she worked on at Metro Vancouver. The good reverand called her a liar and looked overly agitated. Oh…just another day at Vancouver Silly Hall.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

- Post by Daniel

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