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Gregor Robertson's riot, part three

You've got to give the folks at City Hall credit: they run true to form. FOI releases occur on Fridays, usually late enough to make sure they won't get into the news until Monday.

The latest FOI release on the Stanley Cup riot, the "Third Proactive Record Release," came out on Friday, September 23, at 10:59 a.m.

These releases are in response to various queries about how the City of Vancouver did, or didn't, prepare for a potential riot.

The questions asked by various reporters, including me, are actually quite simple. In order:

Question 1: Did the city budget for policing? Answer: We know that they didn't: Chief Constable Jim Chu went to the city in late April asking for about $1.3 million on the assumption that the Canucks would go all the way to the playoffs. City Manager Penny Ballem apparently took the issue to City Council with the notion that the funds would come out of the City's contingency fund. Council didn't give Chu his funds, but only approved a $1 million payout for policing, broken VPD equipment, and damage to the city, after the riot. The money, not surprisingly, came from the contingency fund.

Question 2: If funds for policing were not available from the very same pot of money before the playoffs, why not? We still don't have an answer to this question, but it seems likely that city staff, e.g., Ballem, simply made a number of assumptions/hopes about how it would all spin out. When it didn't go this way, the city engaged in damage payment, and media spin damage control, by making funds available long afterwards.

Question 3: Did the city ask for money from the Liberal government in Victoria? The last blizzard of paper from City Hall answers the question. Contained in folder 5, burying within a 817 pages of electronic paper are four key pages (the rest contain correspondence from concerned citizens about the riot).

On June 4, 2011, Mayor Robertson wrote to Premier Christy Clark asking for some financial help with policing costs. Roberston noted that, "...we believe that extra financial resources from the Province are required."

We know, of course, from the work of reporter Bob Mackin, that the city and province were in the loop about a potential riot. On June 8, 2011, Clark writes back:

"Thank you for your letter regarding the cost of extra policing during Vancouver Canuck hockey games. I appreciate this opportunity to respond to you...We currently, however, have no plans to make further contributions to policing costs for special events."

In other words, no.

So, slowly, the pieces are coming together into focus: The city didn't want to take on the policing costs because they didn't want to go into their contingency fund. We still don't know why, or what shape the contingency fund is in. The province declined to help. Instead, both entities hoped for the best and gave Jim Chu squat. Chu did what he could within his own budget, which was minimal. The outcome: A riot, perfectly predicable based on prior crowd behaviour, happened.

The municipal election is coming and the campaign kicks off in mid-October. Vision can be predicted to duck and weave and blame anyone besides themselves. COPE probably won't raise it given their unholy alliance with Vision, although Tim Louis, one of the COPE nominees for council might. The Civic Green's Adriane Carr likely won't go into this at all. The NPA could make this a key election issue if they had half a brain, but the latter is far from a given. This leaves independents and maybe a rebooted Work Less Party to raise the basic issue of competence at City Hall.

What is certain is that someone should be making sure these events are in front of the voters on November 19.

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