Council swearing-in a taxpayer-funded Vision victory party

Mayor's guest list included the Condo King, yoga pants tycoon, luxury car dealer and an ex-con

Mayor takes oath, Dec. 8, 2014
Mayor takes oath, Dec. 8, 2014

The guest list for the swearing-in of Vancouver city council on Dec. 8 was a who’s who of the Vision Vancouver backroom and donors’ list.

The ceremony at the Creekside Community Recreation Centre in the Olympic Village was estimated to cost $14,250. It was also the venue for the $14,395.41 swearing-in of 2011. Both paled in comparison to the $84,198.55 spent for Vision’s Sunset Community Centre inauguration ceremony on Dec. 8, 2008. That’s more than $112,000 that could’ve been spent housing the homeless or feeding hungry schoolkids. The post-election pomp and circumstance could’ve been staged in the cozy confines of city council chambers at 12th and Cambie, but there wouldn’t have been enough seats for party donors and backroomers to see their favourite politicians swear the oath of office and a speech that was supposed to be the roadmap for the next four years.

While the four NPA and Green councilors had their friends, family and supporters in the room, the attendance was dominated by friends and insiders of the majority Vision Vancouver, according to the list below that was released to me by city hall.

David Aisenstat was the biggest donor with an invite to the swearing-in. He gave $100,000 to Vision, plus $40,000 from his Keg Restaurants and $75,000 from Charles F. White, according to the party’s Nov. 6-released list of 2014 donors-to-date. That list showed $2.25 million of Jan. 1-Oct. 31, 2014 donations.

Invitees from the real estate development scene also included: Francesco Aquilini ($60,000, Aquilini Development); Terry Hui ( $40,000, Concord Pacific); Bob Rennie ($26,000 Rennie Marketing Systems); Bruno Wall ($15,000, Wall Financial); Ian Gillespie ($15,000, Westbank Corp.); and Gary Pooni ($5,000, Brook Pooni).

Other notables: Lululemon founder Chip Wilson ($75,000), Bob Penner of Vision pollster Stratcom ($20,000), Vision board member Dean Alexander ($39,200) and party bagman and Hollyhock honcho Joel Solomon ($5,000).

Paul Faoro, secretary-treasurer of CUPE BC was an important name on the list. The union that banks dues from more than 5,000 of the city’s outside workers and Pacific National Exhibition workers contributed $226,000 of the $320,000 in union funds Vision received. (The biggest story of the election was the $102,000 donated after Geoff Meggs, Niki Sharma, Trevor Loke and Raymond Louie spoke at the Oct. 14 CUPE Local 1004 membership meeting.)

Kyla Epstein attended in her role as a Vision-appointed member of the Vancouver Public Library board. Epstein was both a member of the CUPE Local 1004 Political Action Committee and the OneCity party committee, which fielded OneCandidate in the election. Mike Jackson, who was ousted as CUPE Local 1004 president in May 2013, was on the Mayor’s guest list again.

Interesting that ex-NDP leader Adrian Dix’s name was on the same guest list as the folks who made the infamous BC Liberal “Weathervane” TV ad that helped ruined his dream of becoming B.C.’s Premier in 2013. And the “Weathervaners” are… Hogan Millar Media partners Don Millar and Eric Hogan, plus account executive John Manning. When they’re not in Christy Clark’s BC Liberal backroom, they’re in Gregor Robertson’s, er, Mike Magee’s Vision Vancouver backroom.

Another invitee? Vision videographer Mark Vonesch of Tides Canada-funded Reel Youth.

Easy question. What mode of transportation is synonymous with Gregor Robertson? Quick! If you answered bicycle, you win a golf clap.

Which is a long way of saying that I’m not sure why luxury car sales magnate Ajay Dilawri was on the Mayor’s guest list.

Vision’s official troubadour Dan Mangan was the entertainment for the swearing-in. The Mayor wore a kilt, but, oops, forgot his tuba. No duet. Nettwerk singer Wanting Qu was on the guest list. So was the Mayor’s favourite drag queen Joan-E, aka Robert Kaiser.

Karri Schuermans, the Chambar restaurateur, was on the list. She gave Vision $1,292.98. In late September, she was appointed by council to the Vancouver Economic Commission. Schuermans was also a supporter of the Feed Democracy campaign coordinated by veteran Visionista Mira Oreck, who now works with the Broadbent Institute. The get out the vote campaign was officially labelled non-partisan, but some of the people involved and their Vision political leanings are worthy of at least one eyebrow raise.

Robertson campaigned with his mother two days before the election. He is separated from wife Amy, who showed up anyway at various campaign events. His three children (Hanna, Terra and Satchel) participated in a photo op on election day. At the Wall Centre celebration, unlike 2011, none of his family was onstage and he didn’t mention the children by name. But all of them were named on the guest list, along with Jinagh Robertson, who is also known as Jinagh Navas-Rivas.

You might remember that Robertson called Jinagh the “birthday boy” at the Nov. 19, 2011 election victory party. Nobody was celebrating when the foster son of the police board chair was sentenced March 13, 2013 to three-and-a-half years in jail on guns charges and six months on drugs charges after he was caught in a dial-a-dope gang.

The guest list also included the usual Vision disciples, many of whom were on the party’s nomination papers, like: Lesli Boldt, Martha Burton, David Eaves, Caissin Elliot, Jacob Hunter, Suzanne Hawkes, Justin Kaiser, Brittney Kerr, Theo Lamb, Heather Libby, Marcella Munro, Tory Pearson, Lyndsay Poaps, Mike Soron, Denise Taschereau and Stepan Vdovine.

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