The Cedar Party of Vancouver has informed CityHallWatch that they are moving out of their election campaign headquarters at 3444 Dunbar Street, under pressure. A lawsuit initiated by the Cedar Party could result in Vision Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson being ejected from public office for conflict of interest. Looking at the chronology and circumstances of the situation, is this a case of politically-motivated harassment of the Cedar Party and leader Glen Chernen by the City of Vancouver? UPDATE: By coincidence, today B.C. Supreme Court, Christopher Hinkson dismissed the conflict-of-interest case. We will cover the story later, but for now, here is a Georgia Straight article, the Court decision (PDF), and a statement by Chernen (PDF), all dated today.
- 14-Feb-2014: Mayoral candidate and Cedar Party leader Glen Chernen file a case in BC Supreme court alleging incumbent Mayor Gregor Robertson was in a conflict of interest in a deal with social media company HootSuite. If the courts find that he was in conflict of interest, Robertson could be ejected immediately from public office. See our story here: Lawsuit alleges Vancouver mayor in conflict of interest over HootSuite lease. See further below for more details of the legal case.
- 18-Feb-2014: Mayor Gregor Robertson is served notice of the case.
- 21-Feb-2014: A City of Vancouver building inspector makes a surprise visit to the Cedar Party, in response to an “anonymous complaint,” and spends a considerable time taking detailed photographs.
- A short time later, the Cedar Party receives a notice that the premises are not in compliance with several permit requirements — relating to alterations, bathroom, storage room, lighting fixtures, extension cords, etc. (The office was being subleased, and the building has operated for many years as an office and in recent years as a furniture store.) Cedar Party spent nearly four months working to resolve the issues.
- 12-Jun-2014: The City’s Building Inspections Branch issues a letter listing more work to be done, mostly relating to wiring, and that “until all required permits and approvals have been obtained, 3444 Dunbar Street may not be occupied.”
- 20-Jul-2014: Weighing their options, aware of the risk that the slow City processes in issuing permits and approvals could take months, and aware that only four months remain until the November 2014 election, the Cedar Party finds no option but to move out of their current campaign office, effective immediately, and seek other premises.
Looking at the facts, this question arises: Are political motives driving the sudden special attention the City staff have placed on Chernen and the Cedar Party? Is this selective enforcement of bylaws and action by the City politically motivated? Is it retribution for the lawsuit during this high-stakes civic election? Whistleblowers, write us at citizenYVR@gmail.com.
Legal Case Against Gregor Robertson (summary by Cedar Party)
The Mayor was accused of voting on a business venture in (June 2012) for the City to sell a three and a half (3.5) year “option to purchase” on a former police station for one ($1) dollar. The deal allows the purchaser the freedom to delay full payment and completion of the deal until March 2016 for the remaining discounted $9.3 million dollars. The purchase option is assignable to any investor without penalty, and so far the purchaser has made a one million dollar profit at the City of Vancouver’s expense for his one dollar investment. The purchaser can walk from the deal at any time up until 2016 without completing the purchase for any reason. The City never offered this deal to anyone else and never advertised it. The option was sold in a quickly-arranged, secret vote, to a supporter of the Mayor, without disclosing the relationship. The option to delay payment 3.5 years is worth as much as $1 million dollars or more, which the City has not acknowledged, and has been brought up in Court.
The City has vigorously fought Mr. Chernen in their attempt to hide these facts, blocking Chernen’s bona fide request for the information under the FOI Act until the Provincial Privacy Commissioner’s Office forced the City of Vancouver to finally provide the information to all those who had requested it.
We wonder where this is headed. Citizens should watch this case. Is it possible that our local government is actually engaged in political harassment? It may be difficult to prove yes, but conversely, it is difficult to prove no. Spokespersons for the Vision Vancouver political party, and for the municipal government, are likely to have their narrative, denials, and justifications for the inspections targeting the Cedar Party. The public and the media may not have all the facts. But seeing the nature of the lawsuit and the chronology of events, it is difficult to deny the potential that this is indeed a case of strategic harassment by the regime that wields absolute power. And if our civic government is being used as a tool for political ends and targeting political opponents, this precedent would not bode well for democracy in Canada.
Note that this is not the first time surprise inspections have resulted in hardship. In December 2013, the historic Ming Sun at 439 Powell Street was subject of a sudden inspection and demolition notice. Many of the circumstances and claims made by the City were challenged. The building was targeted for demolition and redevelopment, but rapid mobilization by the community stopped the demolition, and efforts are still under way to protect and preserve the building.