Deciphering Gregor Robertson’s puzzling endorsement of communism

Maybe this is what Gregor meant by communist "party"?

In Tuesday’s papers we’re seeing Gregor Robertson back in town and on the front lines of a disaster, looking positively Rudy Giuliani-esque as everyone tries to figure out why toxic fumes are billowing out of the basement of the Electra building. Someone commented to me that if the Mayor thinks that attaching himself to a problem where the City is potentially liable, he must really be desperate to "change the channel" after the disastrous media he received during his economic junket to China.

Now Mayor Gregor is saying his comments about communism’s advantages over democracy in dealing with the environment were a "poor choice of words", and what he really meant is that governments back home need to step up in their efforts to reduce the threat of climate change. On this matter the Mayor and I are in full agreement – it was a terrible choice of words.

For the Vancouver Economic Development Commission and the business representatives, the Mayor’s careless comment have the effect of undermining their costly overseas PR exercise. When you spend $120,000 of taxpayers money to prove that you are an economic visionary, then blow it by saluting an authoritarian ideology over hard won democratic liberties at home, it’s the political equivalent of flushing those dollars down the drain.

The bad ink Robertson earned for his China mission significantly outweighed the positive press. Today Gary Mason gave his analysis in the Globe & Mail, yesterday Jon Ferry gave his, and both The Province and G&M editorial boards blasted Vancouver’s Mayor. Newspaper website commenters under the blanket of anonymity rarely hold back, but the reaction to Robertson’s "pro-communist" views garnered the kind of reaction that would keep the Mayor’s aides awake at night.

Many of us know thanks in part to’s investigations that Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver are heavily funded and guided by groups and individuals driven by the mantra of "systemic social change". It’s a vague expression that could mean whatever the person using the expression wants it to. Certainly, "Social Change" is code. It’s a term that suggests that you’re either with us, or you’re with the non-believers.

Social change for some on the extreme end of the environmental movement expresses itself in a new fascism, a new authoritarian movement which dictates that the preservation of the planet is our highest and only calling. While Robertson hardly calls for a jackboot to come down on the West, his naive comment has whiffs of a world vision espoused by enviro-radicals.

Writer Micah White is a contributing editor with Adbusters, the anti-consumerist movement founded in Vancouver, BC, and he wrote a column for The Guardian warning us off a "new wave of ecofascism". White opens by saying that "mainstream environmentalism has failed to prevent climate catastrophe" and that this has opened the door for extremists.

He points to James Lovelock, a British sciencist who discovered the presence of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. Lovelock said

that democracies are incapable of adequately addressing climate change. "I have a feeling," Lovelock said, "that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

White goes on to cite a more extreme eco-kook from Finland named Pentti Linkola, a fisherman and "ecological philosopher". Like Lovelock he also suggests that we must curtail democracy. These ideologues believe that our world is headed to a place that looks like the post-apocalyptic landscape in The Road.

Linkola may be a minute voice, but in today’s indy media world everyone can have their own YouTube Channel. The Finnish fisher’s prescription is pretty bleak:

His bold political programme includes ending the freedom to procreate, abolishing fossil fuels, revoking all international trade agreements, banning air traffic, demolishing the suburbs, and reforesting parking lots. As for those "most responsible for the present economic growth and competition", Linkola explains that they will be sent to the mountains for "re-education" in eco-gulags: "the sole glimmer of hope," he declares, "lies in a centralised government and the tireless control of citizens."

Which brings me back to Gregor Robertson’s "poor choice of words". Does our Mayor deep down think that curtailing human rights is really the way to preserve our air, land and water? I hope not.

However, I do think his suggestion was a product of lazy thinking and an unwillingness to fully grasp the tools that democracy provides us to reduce our impact on the planet. For example, I think Robertson’s golden opportunity to lead the country and ally with regional and senior levels of government has devolved into symbolic stunts and boasts of being the greenest somethingorother.

In his article, White sums up the problem of the environmental movement advocated by Robertson’s ilk:

Environmentalism is currently marketed as a luxury brand for guilty consumers. The prevailing assumption is that a fundamental lifestyle change is unnecessary: being green means paying extra for organic produce and driving a hybrid. The incumbent political regime remains in power and the same corporations provide new "green" goods; the underlying consumerist ideology is unquestioned. This brand of environmentalism only emboldens ecofascists who rightly claim that shopping green can never stop the ecological crisis. And yet, ecofascists are wrong to suggest that the suspension of democracy is the only alternative.

Vision’s backyard chickens, city hall garden, beehives and the Mayor’s vain self-promotion are now Vancouver’s "luxury brand for guilty consumers". In 2011 I hope voters exercise those democratic rights and send a message to Robertson about what they think of his lacklustre leadership.


STRIKE A POSE! Robertson’s image-makers made sure that great photos were taken of him on his overseas trip and submitted to media, including this Zoolander-like shot of Hizonner standing in front of the statue of his distant cousin Dr. Norman Bethune. A common practice, the "submitted photos" were used widely in local and national coverage, as this short slideshow shows.

– post by Mike

Olympic Village decisions defined political differences
Cadman deserves credit for gutsy motion

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  • Glissando Remmy

    The Thought of The Day
    “‘Et tu, Mikeus?’How can it be a ‘poor choice of words’ when it’s…the only choice of words!?”
    This mayor’s political career started with hypocrisy, continued with arrogance and as Solomon would say to his Comrades up there on Cortes,’Marx my Words!’, he will finish with contempt.
    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • In Burnaby

    “How can it be a ‘poor choice of words’ when it’s…the only choice of words!”
    The best single phrase I’ve read in some time.
    Boy, am I glad I don’t have to put up with Robertson and his guys in the City of Vancouver, from a ‘tax collection’ point of view. It would feel like I’ve been robbed. Still, I work in Vancouver and I have to say, driving into and parking on a daily basis in Downtown is a bitch. Excellent point, Glissando Remmy.

  • RealityCheck

    The comment goes beyond just undermining his little junket. His comment undermines Canadian foreign policy in China. It undermines the work that human rights groups undertake there. His comment will also be trotted out by the Chinese dictatorship every time a western environmental group tries to hold China’s feet to the fire on it’s smog or 100km long traffic jams.
    His comments are easy for him to laugh off, but they will impact anything we do there for decades to come.

  • klem

    I think you Vancouverites should do what they do in Europe for trafic. That is, they charge fees to drive and park downtown. The closer to downtown the higher the fees. They already do this in Quebec City. Everyone is happy, the city makes more money and only the wealthiest can park downtown. The further away you park, the poorer you obviously are. It works very well in big conjested cities in Europe. I used to live in Vancyoover and I can tell you traffic is only going to continue to get worse. You may have no choice but to do this. I’m so glad I do not live there anymore. Lol!

  • The lastest on the Electra nightmare from the Sun:
    “VANCOUVER – City of Vancouver officials were trying to determine Tuesday just what was in a mystery underground vault in the crippled Electra Building, the former head office of BC Hydro.
    The sealed vault was punctured last week by Surrey-based True North Concrete Lifting, which poured 700 litres of expanding foam into the hole, generating heat that triggered an underground fire.
    There were concerns that the vault, which is under the plaza of the downtown Vancouver building, could have held PCBs used in cooling transformers at Hydro’s adjacent Dal Grauer substation, or other materials.”
    “City manager Penny Ballem said she had asked BC Hydro executives for assistance as early as Sunday, and they had sent over thousands of pages of documents. But they did not provide quick answers.
    “We know that the contractor drilled down into the vault and the foam went in there,” Ballem said.
    “Everybody is aware of the possibilities and the kinds of things we should be looking for in an old Hydro building. [But] we do not have all the information about what was or is still in that vault. … [Hydro is] trying to track down people who may be able to give us more information.
    “Frankly, we don’t have the time to deal with 10,000 pages. We need help now,” Ballem said.”

  • It was a nuclear fallout shelter underneath.

  • Mira

    Ballem & Johnston, two Vision Hollyhock ‘management’ implants at the City of Vancouver. They already rejected themselves through their own incompetence, the question is not who is going to pull them out, but when? Enough damage done to this city. The Olympic Village electrical situation during the Games, the disastrous Hornby Demolition, the useless but expensive bike lanes, and now the Electra building chemical fiasco. It’s like we are governed by the Village Idiots. What a bunch of overpaid, arrogant, self appointed gurus!
    It’s time for them to go.

  • Just Sayso

    speaking of city contractors, whatever happened to the public inquiry that Anton was calling for a few months back. Here is the full story from the Straight.
    By Charlie Smith, June 12, 2010
    Vancouver is gaining worldwide attention for a downtown demolition error, thanks to YouTube.
    Different video versions of the blunder at the corner of Helmcken and Hornby streets have been seen by thousands of people on the popular video-sharing site, which troubles NPA councillor Suzanne Anton.
    This evening (June 12), she e-mailed a news release to media outlets calling for a “full inquiry by an independent investigator” after debris from the building fell on a car on Hornby Street. Anton claimed that the video footage is being witnessed by 100,000 people per day, harming Vancouver’s reputation.
    “A serious accident that nearly resulted in injury or death like the one we saw on Thursday should be investigated,” Anton declared in her news release. “It’s incumbent upon council to ensure that the people we allow to build in Vancouver are taking every safety precaution in the book.”
    Anton added that she’s prepared to bring a motion forward at the next council meeting calling for a “full inquiry”, with the results being made available to the public.

  • Funny that people forget the last time that Gregor saluted communism. Back in 2005 NDP candidate Robertson regularly sang the praises of Cuba’s universal health care system, calling it “a model”. Here’s a video where he says it, after fumbling with his NDP platform notes.

  • daniel

    Seeing as how you are posting interesting videos of Gregor, how about this one where he addresses Critical Mass. Worth taking a few minutes to see how candidate Gregor was courting these folks to win the Vision nomination.
    PS did Gregor really say in the video you posted that he thinks all dental care should be covered by BC taxpayers. Is he for real?

  • George

    Gregor should not be allowed to speak publicly.
    I like the comment he “doesn’t like polls because the information gets skewed…

  • RealityCheck

    Today, imprisoned Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his human rights advocacy in China.
    Perhaps the City of Vancouver should recognize this event and send a congratulatory message?