Friday, September 03, 2004


Underbelly of Vancouver
Downtown Eastside


Well, you know news reporting is going to the dogs when an award-winning journalist sticks her neck out for the local Bully Boys. Yes, folks, did you see that dog-eat-dog piece written by Frances Bula in the September 2, 2004, edition of theVancouver Sun? Ms Bula, it appears, was more than happy to be used as a mouthpiece for the hard-done-by Larry and Curly duo at City Hall.

Once again, Mayor Larry Campbell and Councilor Jim Green of the ruling COPE party, unhappy about not getting their own way in their party, have resorted to public mudslinging in an attempt to bully COPE traditionalists into submission.

Will this desperate last-ditch attempt by Messrs Campbell and Green to blame their woes on Councilors Tim Louis, Anne Roberts, Ellen Woodsworth and Fred Bass in order to get their way, work? If I were a betting person, I'd say the COPE traditionalists of Louis, Roberts, Woodsworth and Bass are sitting in the driver's seat. Imagine how harrowing it must be for Councilor Green and Mayor Campbell to be riding in the backseat.

I'd say COPE Councilors Tim Louis, Anne Roberts, Ellen Woodsworth and Fred Bass are in a good position to carry on the COPE tradition of sound party policy if Larry Campbell and Jim Green jump overboard or are thrown??.

Already Councilor Tim Stevenson has abandoned ship and is seeking a return to provincial politics, however, it's uncertain whether he will win the NDP nomination in Vancouver-Burrard.

Councilor Green has sniffed opportunities of an undisclosed nature., However, one questions whether his floating the idea of a premature departure from civic politics has anything to do with prostitution-related concerns in Vancouver. An episode of Da Vinci's Inquest (fiction based on the real-life Larry Campbell when he was coroner), a highly rated television show based in Vancouver, BC, which had a storyline concerning a prostitute and a politician, might have stung Mr Green, as many watchers wondered if this had anything to do with Vancouver City politics. Perhaps, as some have gossiped, a book being released soon (October, 2004 written by Barb Daniel), which co-incidentally paints another picture with key themes of prostitution in Vancouver, BC, has been promoted by the Sun as a potential sleeper of the year!

Speaking of prostitution, Mayor Campbell, who, as Chief Coroner, examined many corpses of the horribly murdered Downtown Eastside sex trade workers, has floated the idea of himself running as an independent in the 2005 mayoral election. However, he claims the desire to do so is based on whether his good buddy Councilor Green will seek another term.

But officially, what is at the forefront of Larry Campbell's and Jim Green's plans is whether Vancouver adopts a ward system in October.

Vancouver citizens go to the polls in a referendum on October 16, 2004. At that time, the voting public will be asked whether they desire a new way of electing city councilors. The referendum could spell disaster for Mayor Campbell and Councilor Green if the voters choose not to change to wards. After all, independents are almost never elected in city-wide elections.

So what will happen if voters choose wards?. Well, for starters, Mayor Campbell will dump the COPE party and run as an independent, but only if his good friend Jim Green decides to seek re-election, or at least this is what Mayor Campbell claims.

So will Mr Green seek re-election if citizens of Vancouver vote to approve wards? Well, this scenario is less clear since insiders confirm that Mr Green would have to run in a ward and the certainty of winning in the DowntownEastside-Strathcona-Grandview ward, in which Councilor Green resides, is far from being a given.

Councilor Woodsworth, you see, also lives in that same ward and that district has a sizable lesbian and gay population. Ms Woodsworth is an out lesbian and her successful candidacy in 2002 was a result in part of the gay and lesbian community backing her. Mr Green might have difficulty fending off Ms Woodsworth if she decides she wants this ward for herself.

Compounding this issue is that in the Downtown Eastside, Councilor Woodsworth has taken a far more progressive approach to the social ills of the neighborhood. Councilor Woodsworth has an unblemished record in this community. She knows how to campaign and has stronger roots in progressive circles than Councilor Green.

It seems like Councilor Green is in a no-win situation. Either he challenges Ellen Woodsworth for a COPE nomination if Vancouverites adopt wards or, alternatively, he risks losing the election to Councilor Woodsworth, if he runs as an independent.

The other scenario of course is that Mayor Campbell and Councilor Green form their own little party with perhaps first-time Councilor Raymond Louie joining them. Moreover, Councilor Green could run in a ward in which he doesn't reside. In fact, surprisingly, he did this in the provincial 1996 election, when he ran in affluent Point Grey.

While it is not a surprise to see Councilor Green and Mayor Campbell blatantly attempt to paint their own troubles onto the backs of their colleagues. What is surprising, though, is that the general membership meeting of COPE a mere few months ago didn't solve the internal problems within the COPE caucus from publicly spilling out.

In fact, this latest article by Frances Bula, re-inforces the divisions in COPE. It also paints a desperate scenario of Mr Campbell and Mr Green flailing about.

Troubling in all of this is that Mayor Campbell and Councilor Green seconded an award-winning journalist to do their dirty work. Why Ms Bula would choose to act as a lapdog to these silly bull-dogs is beyond me.

Jamie Lee Hamilton
(604) 781-3361