Mayor Sim and ABC’s Backroom Activities Exposed

Greens working hard to keep City Hall honest and accessible

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After the Mayor converted a well used civic asset into his personal hangout space, and despite his best efforts at secrecy and spin, it blew up spectacularly this week when he got caught. 

We've been highlighting serious transparency and accessibility issues at City Hall since ABC took power, but it took a cheeky tweet and the mayor's backpedaling on his stationary bike to bring them to light.

On June 19, I arrived at an empty Councillor office area. For the first time in six months, a usually locked door was wide open. Early in the new year, the locks were changed after ABC approved budget increases for the mayor's office. A dedicated board room where Councillors did city business, had been expropriated and repurposed to support “regular operations of the Mayor and his office team.” The open door revealed that vital meeting room had been converted to a messy, ad hoc personal workout space.

I took a photo and texted Adriane Carr. We planned to question this at our next Council meeting, regarding a reallocation of  $80,000 from the civil service to the mayor’s political office, adding to additional $100,000 in December and the 40% growth in that budget since Sim was elected. Despite his campaign promises to reduce partisan activities and spending, the mayor had hired more staff and increased secrecy.

Information from the mayor’s office is selectively distributed, non-ABC councillors are often uninvited to events, and ABC appears to make significant decisions in secrecy and defiance of the principles of open government. The mayor’s office budget, nearly $1.5m, is the highest in Vancouver’s history, with additional discretionary funds pooled by ABC councillors.

Since ABC took power, Mayor and Council budgets have been combined into one line item. It makes it harder to immediately discern how much is being spent in the Mayor’s Office, and how much is taxpayer funded political activity. Our team took to the City’s Open Data portal and discovered that  over the last two quarters, the mayor's office had paid almost $80,000 for strategic advice from Wellington Advocacy, a firm led by a former staffer to Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, and Alberta’s United Conservative Party, founder of the “Energy War Room” known for attacking environmentalists and discrediting climate change science. 

Armed with this information, we demanded transparency and accountability. However, at Tuesday’s council meeting, the mayor and his team evaded questions, using procedural rules and the force of their majority to shut down discussion and vote on the item as-is. This explicitly  denied and avoided an amendment seeking more accountability for the mayor’s spending.

That evening, I expressed my frustration on Twitter, highlighting the mayor’s sense of entitlement and disdain for good governance by evicting elected colleagues for his personal use. Within hours, the tweet became national news with memes about Ken’s “mojo dojo”  and serious questions about the danger of this administration if left unchecked. 

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Rest assured though, we are working hard to hold ABC accountable and put public interest first, your support keeps us going.

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