Off the ‘cliffe

Visionistas' mouthpiece says hasta la vista to lobbying firm after election win

Vision Vancouver communications director Marcella Munro reported on her blog Nov. 17 that she has exited Earnscliffe Strategy Group, the lobbying and communications company from which she took leaves of absence to be the mouthpiece for Vision in 2011 and 2014 and the B.C. NDP in 2013.

“Earnscliffe has been an amazing firm to be a part of — smart, capable, and important in this county. But I’m looking for a new challenge — I want to have a lasting and meaningful impact on the world, and there’s never been a better time in my life to pursue it,” she wrote, two days after Vision’s Nov. 15 civic election win. “So I’ve decided to move on.”

A hint that Munro’s career was in transition came well before the campaign, on the B.C. Registrar of Lobbyists’ database. Her name was attached to 28 historical lobbying registrations, all of which were listed as “terminated.”

Breaking bread on a break from the Vision campaign.
Breaking bread on a break from the Vision campaign.

At one time or another, Munro’s all-star lobbying roster included: B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, Big Pharma (Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline), oil and gas pipeline company Spectra Energy, LNG company BG Canada, Croplife Canada (the GMO-friendly trade group including Monsanto), McDonald’s Canada and, ta-da, Chevron Canada (which got a $17.4 million fuel supply contract through City of Vancouver the day before the 2011 civic election, thanks to a committee headed by Mayor Gregor Robertson’s handpicked city manager Penny Ballem).

Those following Munro’s Twitter feed would have noticed her Tweeting get-out-to-vote and anti-NPA messages on election day like the one below, despite Elections BC warning candidates and their organizations not to do so.

Those following Munro’s Twitter feed would also have noticed that, on the penultimate Saturday night of the campaign, she was enjoying the Contemporary Art Gallery’s dinner auction with some interesting folks. CAG president Munro was breaking bread with BC Liberal executive director Laura Miller and her beau Peter Faist, veteran Vision Vancouver and BC Liberal propagandist Don Millar, Vision Vancouver and BC Liberal social media aide Diamond Isinger and her beau Ben Parsons.

A get-out-to-vote Tweet on election day, despite the rules.
A get-out-to-vote Tweet on election day, despite the rules.

Miller and Faist were subjects of an Ottawa Citizen story (“The gas plants report, minus the two star witnesses”) a week earlier. Miller was an aide to Dalton McGuinty when he was Liberal Premier of Ontario. Ontario Provincial Police believe Miller’s ex-boss David Livingston asked Faist to delete hard drives that may have contained important information about the politically motivated cancellation of two gas plants, a move that helped McGuinty win the 2011 provincial election but may ultimately cost Ontario taxpayers $1 billion.

According to the Globe and Mail’s Gary Mason, another Liberal Don was involved in the Vision Vancouver backroom: Don Guy, one third of Kool Topp and Guy and a key player in the Christy Clark BC Liberals’ 2013 win over Adrian Dix and the B.C. NDP.

Mason’s Nov. 17 column indicated Vision’s inner circle — campaign manager/chief of staff Mike Magee, Stratcom pollster/robocaller Bob Penner, party boss Stepan Vdovine, Robertson aides Kevin Quinlan and Braeden Caley, and Munro herself — sought advice from Guy. One of his previous clients, McGuinty successor Kathleen Wynne, employed strategic, manufactured apologies, including one about her predecessor gassing the gas plants. So Robertson made a non-specific apology in the Nov. 12 CBC debate after focus groups had indicated it might be a good idea to overcome gains by NPA challenger Kirk LaPointe that were detected in internal polls.

Vision Vancouver’s communications and campaign ties with Liberals inside and outside B.C. are intriguing, to say the least. Vision and the BC Liberals’ logos come from the same graphic designer, Kimbo. Kimbo’s 2014 summertime gig was the B.C. government’s anti-B.C. Teachers’ Federation website. BC Liberals’ website was redesigned last spring by Invoke, the digital ad agency co-founded by Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, Vision Vancouver’s favourite social media advertising/analytics company.

B.C. Supreme Court’s chief justice Christopher Hinkson decided in July that Robertson wasn’t in conflict of interest over his party’s close ties with Hootsuite (which included the untendered lease of a city building). Hinkson did, however, chide city hall for keeping the arrangements “shrouded in secrecy.”

With apologies to LaPointe (who called Robertson’s Vision “a mullet government: pretty in front, lots of weird stuff happening in the back”), the party may have NDP in front, but it has lots of Liberal stuff happening in its backroom.



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