Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Council rival demands that Vancouver mayor's role be part of review

A Canucks fan throws a bottle at a screen showing the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup at Hamilton Street and Georgia Street soon after riots broke out in Vancouver, Wednesday, June 15, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail/Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says he was in regular contact with Police Chief Jim Chu about policing matters, as downtown crowds grew significantly for live site viewing of the Stanley Cup finals.

"We spoke regularly about police readiness and very frequently throughout the finals," Mr. Robertson told a raucous session of city council Tuesday that turned into a verbal donnybrook between the mayor and his declared mayoral opponent, Councillor Suzanne Anton of the rival NPA party.

The mayor has been under fire by some critics for not being more hands-on in police preparations for Game 7, and for being unable to solicit from Chief Chu the precise numbers of police deployed the night the riot erupted.

Story continues below advertisement

But Mr. Robertson said: "Any concerns of the chief were voiced to me around what would happen during the playoffs. … We discussed them thoroughly, and that is why I made sure anything the VPD needed, with respect to city resources, was delivered."

The meeting was council's first since the June 15 riot, and Ms. Anton wasted little time pressing her attack on Mr. Robertson. She demanded that his role be part of the provincially funded, independent review and the city's own internal review of the riot.

"This was your event. It was run out of your office," she declared, speaking directly toward the mayor. "[And]it was an event that went terribly wrong. … You need to be part of the review [process]"

When Ms. Anton went beyond her allotted five minutes to ask questions of city manager Penny Ballem, who was updating council on the city's own review of the riot, Mr. Robertson cut his rival off. He suggested she do her "political grandstanding" outside council chambers.

The two clashed again at the end of Ms. Ballem's presentation. Ms. Anton demanded more time to ask questions. Mr. Robertson said no.

"You, yourself, were heavily involved," the NPA councillor retorted. "There should be no limit to questions on an important issue like this, one of the most traumatic events in our city's history."

Calling the riot "a critical incident," meanwhile, Ms. Ballem said staff is already amassing information on decisions leading up to Game 7 and the riot. She said the city's corporate management team will be conducting an "internal audit" of events and deciding what can be learned from what went wrong.

Story continues below advertisement

The review is being headed by deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston.

"Everyone is committed to finding answers to ensure that this doesn't happen again," Ms. Ballem said. "We are reviewing the deployment of our staff that day, how we organized ourselves, and so on."

She added city leaders would sit down with the co-chairs of the separate, independent review to ensure that the many reviews going on do not operate at cross purposes.

"A lot of learning can come out of this. It was a terrible catastrophe, but it is also an opportunity for us to learn a lot of lessons very quickly," Ms. Ballem said.

Councillor Ellen Woodsworth disclosed that she phoned the mayor's office shortly before Game 7 began, to express her concern at the mood and size of the crowd developing in the live-site fan zones.

"I could see something was building. People were trapped behind the fence, and hundreds more were pouring in. It seemed like nothing could be done," Ms. Woodsworth said.

Story continues below advertisement

Councillor David Cadman questioned the decision to have the huge video screens for watching the games concentrated in one area.

"You could tell by 4 p.m. that trouble was brewing. Maybe there should have been a number of viewing areas, like the Olympics, instead of just one," he suggested.

Outside the chamber, Ms. Anton continued to attack Mr. Robertson for his role ahead of Game 7.

"He invited 120,000 people downtown, and he had no plan," she said, charging the live-site celebrations were run out of the mayor's office, instead of arising from a council decision.

Asked why she had not raised these concerns before Game 7, Ms. Anton said she did bring the matter before council.

Report an error Licensing Options
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.