it’s almost impossible for even a week to go by without some new demonstration of the serious level of confusion and arrogance represented by the premier and cabinet of the B.C. Liberal Party.
Nobody in this province was exactly thrilled by the Vancouver hockey riot in June. The post-riot scenario, however, has been something else, a bit of a disgrace in its own right.
Given the embarrassment of the high-profile, fully televised riot itself, the subsequent erratic performance of the city of Vancouver, the Vancouver police and the Liberal government in taking action to pursue and punish the rioters has, sadly, made the city a laughing stock.
The promised provincial investigation (to shuck off any blame?) has been a nightmare of poor decision- making along with out-and-out patronage, made even more personal by premier Christy Clark.
After all it was Clark who was front and centre on TV promising swift action and speedy justice.
While the Attorney General’s office appears to have placed mountainous and almost insurmountable speed bumps in the way of under-achieving police chief Jim Chu in pursuing swift retribution for those to blame – identified by the mayor, Gregor Robertson, as “anarchists, thugs and villains” – the report, The night the city became a stadium, is both unrealistic and unhelpful. Its recommendations were, of course, predictable.
Turns out most of the close to half-a-million dollars already spent by the government in “getting to the bottom” of the riot has wound up in the pockets of friends and relatives of friends.
All above board and explainable, of course – but it truly smells bad to me, on top of the fact that progress and charging the people who caused an estimated two million dollars in property damage and perhaps another two million at least in loss of business by various enterprises damaged by the riot, is so far, nonexistent.
The friends were Olympics supremo John Furlong and former Nova Scotia deputy attorney general John Keefe who co-chaired the provincial investigation at a cost of $313,000.
And then hired the husband of one of Clark’s aides, former Vancouver Sun deputy general manager Stewart Muir, spouse of Christy Clark’s deputy minister for corporate priorities (whatever that is) Athana Mentzolopolous, to ghost-write their thoughts for an undisclosed sum of money.
The co-chairs charged some $70,000 for “support staff” to produce the report.
This “independent” riot review was over and above the 30-man investigation unit the police employed and a couple of other reviews, one by the city.
What did they find? Well, it wasn’t fans to blame, it was the “thugs and villains and the people who cheered them on,” according to Furlong at a press conference.
Really, the report suggested, it was all the fault of the NHL for not having a strategy to ensure fan behaviour or working with the host municipalities to “deal with the challenges (Vancouver) faced later that night.”
I’m not sure we needed to spend $313,000 to learn that.
But to me as a hockey fan, sitting in Kitimat watching the game and the fall out, what I saw and we all watched was the very disappointed and unruly Canucks fans in their regalia and face paint, breaking windows, fighting, setting fire to cars and streaming out of looted businesses with oodles of break-in goodies.
The police reaction was slow and appeared unco-ordinated, even surprised.
If surprised by the turn of events, they were the only ones.
It was in fact incompetent and under-manned.
Okay, maybe some of the “fans” were drunk, even drugged, but still felt entitled and acquisitive – “if we can’t have the Stanley Cup, we can have a watch, a smart phone or an iPod.”
How the National Hockey League could have a strategy to control that is beyond me.
So, Vancouver police, months later, are still briskly investigating. They don’t want to get it wrong.
Too late, it’s already horribly wrong.
But it’s where the police seem to be headed that is raising taxpayer hackles: more officers, more equipment, better training, more money and more surveillance cameras (look how well the CCTV cameras worked for the British police.)
Substantial charges and court cases are still weeks, months, maybe more away and everybody will soon be distracted by a new hockey season.
I bet however, there will be a great deal less demand for 155,000 people piling in to watch the games on big screens downtown with alcohol loosely controlled and with minimal supervision and crowd control.
But, my betting says more cameras will be the final focus. Wait and see.
Big brother is really around the corner … or is that “big sister?” There’s little shortage of money when the government wants it.