Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson's praise for Premier Gordon Campbell, and his handling of the controversy it caused, has cost him the support of a former top-ranking party member. In an email sent to the mayor and his council colleagues on May 7, Mike Bruce announced he would be quitting the party and encouraging others to do the same.
He also ripped Mr. Robertson for not being "responsive" to the civic association's left-wing base and criticized the flattering introduction he gave the premier at a March conference on sport and the environment.
During that conference, the mayor told attendees the premier - who had "left a legacy of good decisions" from his time as mayor of Vancouver - was going for a "three-peat."
And he praised Mr. Campbell for "his leadership on the environment, including overseeing BC becoming the first jurisdiction to introduce a Carbon Tax in North America."
Councillor Geoff Meggs subsequently told The Georgia Straight's Carlito Pablo the mayor regretted the language he used was "was a bit unguarded."
But, in his email, Mr. Bruce - a former Vision Vancouver executive member - went further, writing Mr. Robertson's actions have given the impression it's "simply OK to turn a blind eye to Campbell's litany of offenses simply because the Carbon Tax takes a symbolic step towards our shared goals of tackling climate change."
Specifically, Mr. Bruce stated the mayor didn't respond to an earlier message he'd sent expressing concerns about the statement.
Nor has Mr. Robertson, according to Mr. Bruce, publicly addressed the issue or explained himself to the party membership as a whole.
And that "indicates a tremendous disrespect" for those members as well as "an incredible lack of leadership and a respect for your colleagues."
Although, in April, Globe and Mail contributor Frances Bula did quote Mr. Robertson on her blog as saying, "I was over-exuberant in introducing the premier to an international audience"¦There have been people interpreting it as a political statement and it's not."
And a spokesperson for the mayor said Mr. Robertson "made it pretty clear on a number of occasions" - including radio appearances - that he wasn't endorsing Premiier Campbell.
Mr. Bruce - who resigned from the party's executive on November 28, 2008, citing a need to focus his efforts on the upcoming provincial election - wrote many of friends have already left Vision Vancouver because of the mayor's praise for the premier.
Until now, he's been reluctant to do the same because of the "faith and confidence that I have in the abilities, leadership and knowledge" of Vision Vancouver's councilors.
But, as a result of what Mr. Bruce sees as the mayor's silence, the former Vision Vancouver executive stated he has decided to leave the party - vowing to encourage others to do the same. In response, Kevin Quinlan - the mayor's executive assistance - acknowledged Mr. Robertson wasn't able to answer Mr. Bruce's earlier email.
"In a perfect world, the mayor would have flipped him a note back saying, "˜Hey, thanks for writing in. I totally hear your concerns. Here's where I'm at. But we're going to have to agree to disagree. But that didn't happen. So Mike sent in his email. And that's his choice and right to do so."
As for Mr. Bruce's accusation Mr. Robertson hasn't been responsive to Vision Vancouver members, Mr. Quinlan said, "The mayor did meet with both the co-chairs of the party to discuss a number of things - particularly engagement. And I think you're going to be seeing more of that in the coming weeks and months."
Meanwhile, for his part, Mr. Bruce - the communications director for the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378 - declined comment when contacted.
The following is a complete copy of the May 7 email.
From: Mike Bruce
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 1:09 PM
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: Carolyn; Jang, Kerry; Reimer, Andrea; Meggs, Geoff; Louie, Raymond; Chow, George; email@example.com; Stevenson, Tim
Subject: Cancellation of Vision Vancouver membership
I wrote to you several weeks ago regarding some of my concerns as a Vision Vancouver member and activist regarding your recent exuberant comments in support of Gordon Campbell.
What I had hoped to accomplish with this letter was to seek some sort of answer from you as to why you had made these comments and what actions you were going to take in order to repair what appeared to be a series of very offensive remarks to a large number of your party's members, supporters, donors, and voters.
I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond before I myself took any action. I know that such remarks can sometimes be taken out of context and that reactions can sometimes be disproportionate. I thought that this would be the respectful course to take before deciding what, if any, action to take myself.
You have not responded.
Ultimately, I am not entirely surprised. To date, you have not appeared to be a leader who is particularly responsive to your party's membership, nor particularly concerned about remaining in contact and consultation with your base.
Parties are democratic organizations that are driven by your members, and I would suggest to you that very, very few of your party's members would fine any common cause with your fawning remarks regarding Gordon Campbell. The fact that you have done nothing to communicate with the membership following from this mistake indicates a tremendous disrespect for the membership of Vision Vancouver.
At this point you are no doubt aware that you have been quoted as a validator in the BC Liberal platform. This is in writing. Public. This gives you an opportunity to publicly repudiate this, and I very much hope you do. In fact, I would entirely reverse my course of action if you do this.
I would also suggest that your remarks, and the lack of any public clarification, also indicates a tremendous disrespect and contempt for the Vision Vancouver Councillors. These Councillors, most of whom I have had the pleasure to work with, have never indicated anything close to the support you voiced for the Premier. While it might be easy to become disconnected from your party and the membership, I would have hoped you would show more consideration to your caucus.
I appreciate the remarks that Geoff Meggs made clarifying your statements. However, these remarks only make me respect Councillor Meggs more. Your silence speaks even more volumes in the wake of this, and your willingness to let the Councillors give tacit apologies on your behalf, instead of making them yourself, denotes an incredible lack of leadership and a lack of respect for your colleagues.
Many of my friends and colleagues have taken what they believed was a necessary step in leaving Vision Vancouver. I have reluctantly chosen to do the same. My reluctance comes from the faith and confidence that I have in the abilities, leadership, and knowledge of the city of the seven Vision Vancouver Councillors, and the support that I wish to show them in their roles.
Your inability to even respond to my letter and your refusal to publicly clarify your remarks and distance yourself from the Premier's politics and polities have left me with no choice.
While I will continue to work with and support the great work of all the Vision Vancouver Councillors, I will not do so as a member of Vision Vancouver.
I will be encouraging other members to do the same and leave Vision Vancouver.
You, however, have lost my confidence and my support. This is not solely because of your remarks surrounding Gordon Campbell. Instead, my decision is based on the tremendous disrespect and contempt that you have shown to these councillors, the Vision Vancouver membership, the good people who are working on the Vision Executive, and the people who voted for you.
Again, I sought answers and clarifications from you myself, and you have offered none. From what I can gather, the Vision Executive has had none. We are now in the end game of a provincial election and you have done tremendous damage.
As I mentioned in my letter that you did not respond to, I of course understand the absolute necessity of you as Mayor having a productive and respectful relationship with the Premier and his cabinet. I also understand the political benefits of appearing bi-partisan. However, your remarks very clearly and publicly crossed a line from being bi-partisan, to being partisan on the wrong side of the values of the people who elected you.
Vision Vancouver, like all political parties, is a coalition. It is a coalition that has been inspiring and demonstrated that activists and partisans from different sides of the political fence can work together to achieve a progressive government. However, at no point in the work that I have done with various facets of this party have I ever heard anything approaching the support you voiced for Gordon Campbell.
Gordon Campbell's government has been hugely destructive to our province, and our city. Regardless of personal support you might have for climate change initiatives, Mr. Campbell has led a government that has shown a revolting disregard to the people of this province. The list of offences is far too long to complete here, but in particular I would have thought you would consider such issues as Campbell's draconian cuts to women's' services, the revolting disregard for aboriginal peoples as shown through the referendum on aboriginal rights, the contempt for local democracy and city councils like yours via Bill 30, the removal of TransLink from any democratic legitimacy, the gold rush to develop private power for export, and even the issues that you yourself worked so hard on surrounding compensation for Cambie Street merchants.
You must realize that any work that you have done in the past on the right side of these issues becomes quickly negated by your effusive praise. You must realize that your failure to clarify your own remarks, even to the Vision membership, gives the impression that you have done an about-face politically, and that it is simply OK to turn a blind eye to Campbell's litany of offenses simply because the Carbon Tax takes a symbolic step towards our shared goals of tackling climate change.
cc: Carolyn Askew, Co-Chair, Vision Vancouver
Vision Vancouver City Council Caucus