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Vancouver seeking peaceful end to Occupy camp: mayor

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday September 1, 2011.

Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press

As mayors in other cities move against Occupy camps, Gregor Robertson says he is holding off on such measures in Vancouver unless there are "life-safety" issues.

Five days away from going to the voters to seek a second term, Mr. Robertson said he has spoken to mayors in other West Coast cities and is mindful of what he called deteriorating, unsafe conditions in many camps.

But he told the editorial board of The Globe and Mail on Tuesday he will rely on a BC Supreme Court hearing this week to seek an injunction to bring about a peaceful end to the occupation at the art gallery.

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He also said he isn't ruling out action ahead of the court process. "We will not hesitate to intervene if there are threats to life safety," he said.

Mr. Robertson said ongoing "vexing" concerns about fire-safety on the site "strengthens the case of the city at the supreme court on the next stages of the injunction."

On Tuesday, a half-dozen members of the fire department roused some Occupy activists at their tents and demanded their sleeping quarters be moved to comply with court-backed safety orders. A number of police looked on.

The fire department has been expressing frustration at the lack of consistent compliance with a number of orders to ensure safety at the crowded site.

Mr. Robertson said his goal remains a quick end to the encampment.

"It's really a question of how we best do that without provoking conflict. We've seen a lot of problems in other cities with approaches that provoke problems.

"We're steering a course we hope will resolve this in the very near future, enabling a protest but taking the tent camp out of the mix."

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On other issues, Mr. Robertson said:

- The 31 per cent voter turnout in the 2008 election was part of a "disturbing trend in civic politics" he hopes to reverse with eventual online voting. "It would have undoubtedly helped the turnout this year," he said, though he noted advance polling has been solid. Online voting will have to be approved by the province. Mr. Robertson said he would like to see it in place for the 2014 municipal election.

-If he wins a second term, Mr. Robertson said he is committed to "more community engagement and consultation" on development in Vancouver.

"It's just a question of having the best possible process for that. We haven't had that in our history. It's been always a source of tension for city council, and it was these past three years."

He said the whole consultation process has to be redesigned, with earlier notice, more work between the developers and the community. "The city's process historically has been fraught with problems."

-While he wants to see all seven Vision candidates seeking council seats elected, he is prepared to take a "collaborative approach" if the Non-Partisan Association makes gains beyond the one councillor they have had.

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"My approach has always been to take a collaborative approach to politics and keep it positive. That's what I'll continue to do. Vision is a big tent party," he said.

"We need to take the high road and find common ground wherever we can and implement the best ideas across the city and I am hopeful that, whoever is elected to council, everyone is committed to that."

-He does not feel overshadowed by high-profile Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

"I think Canada benefits from having a number of powerful cities that can make their case for attracting economic activity and being among the world's most livable," he said.

The Vancouver Police arrested a man Tuesday morning at occupy Vancouver during a routine inspection by the city's fire and rescue services.

Around 11:30 a.m., a lone man decided to sit in the middle of the Georgia and Howe Street intersection, said Lindsey Houghton, the Vancouver Police media relations officer. The traffic created concern for his safety and officers repeatedly asked him to leave, Constable Houghton said. The man refused and indicated he wished to be arrested.

Officers arrested the man, whose name is not being released, for breach of the peace.

"I think he was trying to make a statement," Constable Houghton said. He has since been released from custody.

But, the arrest created a negative mood at the encampment, said Cory Seger, a security volunteer. The occupiers claim to have filmed the incident and say it will be posted to YouTube by the evening.

With a report from Aleks Sagan

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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