Wednesday, July 17, 2013

HouseGate: The logical mind asks - Is freedom of the press under attack from the Vancouver Mayor's Office?

Last Friday Frances Bula said:
Okay, this is Friday fluff, but whatever. I feel I must contribute to the ongoing deep investigations into Mayor Gregor Robertson’s change of abode... No one seems to see Robertson’s move, from a single-family house near Emily Carr elementary in central Vancouver to a smaller place in Kits near the beach, as symbolic of the prototypical Vancouver downsizing. Instead, it seems to have turned into massive theory-building about how it has something to do with the Point Grey bike lane. Or his federal-election ambitions. Or something.
This seemingly vacuous controversy spawned from our original post which simply made note of the fact that the Mayor's home was on the market.

It's important to note that in that post we only mused on whether our not his worship was cashing out of our City's massive housing bubble.

So how did this morph into a political controversy?

It was the Mayor's office who transformed this story into something to do with the Point Grey bike lane.  They responded the next morning with this press statement that directly tied the issue of the Mayor moving to the Point Grey bike lane:

Our post was made on Tuesday night.  The next morning, with lightening speed, the Mayor's office issues a press release confirming that the house was for sale and that the Mayor had already purchased a new house.

The Mayor's office then specifically linked the new purchase to the Point Grey/Cornwall bike corridor. So serious was this tie-in that the press statement came complete with a legal opinion from the City Solicitor and an admission that this announcement had been weeks in the making.

Then came the next domino.  The press release stated:
They recently purchased a new home in Kitsilano within a block of York Street. For security reasons we don’t disclose the specific location.
Security reasons? Naturally a media frenzy erupted trying to root out these reasons. Within hours Business in Vancouver newspaper was out with breaking news via this tweet:

BIV released a story which profiled the exact location of the Mayor's new house.

It was news because the location revealed that the Bike lane controversy was even greater than originally reported.  He wasn't moving "somewhere in Kits a block away from York Street." The Mayor was moving right next to the most contentious area of the Point Grey/Cornwall route - Point Grey Road - and it appears this info was known in advance of the public opeen house.

This was huge news.

News which the Mayor's office not only created, but compounded by waiting to reveal it.

Why had they waited to acknowledge what they themselves had deemed would be a potential conflict of interest weeks earlier?

Was this news held back so it wouldn't come out during the public information open houses meetings on the Point Grey/Cornwall Bike route proposal?

Was the news only acknowledged in response to our blog post because the Mayor's office hoped they would never have to actually acknowledge the moveuntil long after the fact?

The exact location of the Mayor's new residence has been transformed into an important component of the conflict-of-interest debate specifically because the Mayor's office was not forthcoming with the  news until they were forced to reveal it.

As such, the newsworthiness of the precise location of his new residence was deemed important enough by the media to outweigh any individual privacy concerns.

Thus BIV ran their story.

But then a curious thing happened to that BIV piece (hilighing a phenomenona that could never happen in the era of print of journalism).  

Did anyone notice?

On July 11th the online version of BIV's story was suddenly and quietly redacted.  All reference to the specific location of the Mayor's new residence eliminated.  Even reference to the general location was removed. 

Why redact the general location at the nexus of York/Stephens/Point Grey Road?  That's the heart of the whole story!

Was BIV pressured into censoring these details? Or did they remove that info of their own accord?

Curiously, despite the apparent censorship by BIV, the author of the article - Bob Mackin - published all pertinent details on his own blog: (see this screen shot taken on July 11th - we've blacked out the specific address)

This seems to indicate the censorship did not occur internally at BIV, at least due to any legal concerns.

If there had been legal concerns, presumably Mackin would have been advised of them and he wouldn't have posted those details on his own blog just as his own paper was censoring them.  

But then there's another twist, Mackin's article was updated July 15th and the specific details of the Mayor's residence removed:

So what gives? Several serious questions are raised here.  

The reasonable man/woman logically wonders what triggered BIV into censoring their original story.  It's also logical to wonder if the Mayor's office played any role.  

Before the move to Kits was even even announced by the Mayor's office (MO), the MO were citing 'security concerns.'  What security concerns?  There couldn't have been any documented issues prior to the press release because the news hadn't even been announced yet.

Was our Mayor was already receiving threats at his old residence at 912 West 23rd Avenue?

As we noted in our original post, the Mayor's home address is a matter of public record, available in online documents available from city hall. If there have been prior threats, why haven't we been told?  There is no place in our society for threats against our elected officials.  Whatever your position regarding our civic political debates, the idea that our Mayor may be at risk is totally unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. If there have been prior documented threats, was Chief of Police Chu notified? And what has he done to address them?

But there doesn't appear to be any record of prior threats, just concerns about what 'might be'.

And why wasn't just the specific address removed?  Why were all references to the general area of York/Stephens/Point Grey Road also pulled?

Various sources have suggested it might be extremely enlightening for the media to ask two specific questions:
  • Why did BIV pull their story, and 
  • Did the Mayor's office pressure a Vancouver news outlet to censor their reporting?
Anyone care to enquire with these two entities directly for the answers?


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Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.


  1. I see the Mayor's new address in both screenshots from Bob Mackin's blog. It's also still visible at Are you mistaken, or am I missing something?

    Whisperer, you do good work, but you often veer into hyperbole. Muckraking can serve an useful function (especially given the state of traditional media). It can also slide into crass sensationalism. I suggest you think about the image you want to project, and cultivate that image deliberately.

    This isn't the first time this has come up on your blog: you were criticized (validly, I think) for overstepping when you went after MAC marketing employees personally.

  2. I didn't think Whisperer crossed "the line" with the MAC mouseketeers whatsoever....those people were borderline fraudsters (Chris Lee and her "sister" Amanda) and no real explanation has been offered by Cameron McNeill other than the usual boilerplate bullsh*t...."mistakes were made, never happen again, investigation ongoing...blah-blah-blah"

    The Mayor's real estate deals may or not be any cause for concern, but those MAC Marketing a$$holes didn't even get a slap on the wrist....

    1. Kabloona, the MAC story should have focused on corporate malfeasance. Yes, MAC employees acted unethically. That's bad, but in my mind, not the problem. The story is that this kind of unethical behaviour is condoned (encouraged? at least tolerated) at a corporate level, across an entire industry. The industry sets the tune, and employees (especially inexperienced ones) march to it.

      My criticism (actually, Makaya's) is that people need to be really careful when tracking down people's personal information on-line. It's easy to kick off a witchhunt, and the consequences can be severe.

      Anyway, it's a distraction to mention the MAC thing here. I brought it up since Whisperer deserves much credit, and a little criticism, for blazing trail on the story. I also mentioned it to forestall the suggestion that I'm somehow on the mayor's payroll (I've never met the man.)

    2. Point taken....

      Back to the Mayor: to me the funniest part about this whole episode is that he didn't actually "cash out"....instead he turned right around and paid $1.5 million for half a duplex!! Should've taken his 2 million and rented...

  3. It is Whisperer's blog however, it is a bit disappointing there has to be this crossover from real estate to meh....


  4. Individuals make up corporate actions and hiding under "corporations" is how we got this way in the first place. There is nothing wrong with pointing out the actual PEOPLE behind FRAUD. If you are innocent, then you are innocent. But doing something because you are told to even though you know it is wrong - it not innocent.

  5. Great story. I smell a rat. I think Mayor Gregor should step down until a full independent investigation can be done.

    1. Why stop there? We must dissolve the city of Vancouver immediately, relocate the NPA to a safe place (I propose Vichy) to form a shadow government, and commence water-boarding until the master plan is revealed.

    2. Lets start with Gregor answering a few questions. What does she have to hide?

  6. Both the Mac and Gregor scandals have been presented fairly. If you want regular media spin then go elsewhere. Well done again Whispers. Us voters want to know the real story.

    Can anyone verify who purchased Gregors house for 30% above assessed when other houses on the West side are selling for 10% below assessed? A Vancouver developer looking to pay off Gregor maybe? No wonder they wanted this sale kept a secret.

    1. Agreed! Or, who sold the house to the mayor at a depressed price?

  7. I value the Whisperer's blog as most enlightening and refreshing reporting. If you want news reporting that is censored and inaccurate please go somewhere else. This blog excels as the best reliable investigative reporting. Nothing wrong with Mac employees? "consequences" of tracking the Mayor's personal affairs? Witch-hunt? Corporate Malfeasance?Are you stupid? Or related to Chris, Amanda, or Gregor? You want fluff, I hear that Perez Hilton has a blog.

  8. Residents of Vancouver, you have no idea how lucky you are to have a resource like Whisperer. The City of Montreal sure could have used one.

  9. On a side note....5840 Granville Ave, Richmond Listed since June 2012 for $1.9888, after many price reductions sold for $1.53 today.
    Purchased this property for $953,000 in Feb 2011. Assessed at $1.853.
    I think the builder took a loss on this one.
    You see bulls, real estate isn't all sunshine and rainbows.

  10. the mayor listed his home way to high and a realtor group bought it with hopes of this story getting on the news as a way to make people think the market is hot

  11. Good reporting, comments and observations. The picture gets clearer. Mayor used as a pawn/active participant in this saga. The original purchase price of the house (the corporation through which he bought it), the high sale price, the speed of it, the shady manipulation of the information release. None of it looks coincidental. Either an execution of a grand soul/universal plan or someone is plotting something.

  12. "However, some residents living elsewhere in Kitsilano fear the area is being turned into a park for the wealthy, where home values will skyrocket as traffic is forced onto neighbouring streets.

    The $6-million construction proposal would block off the road from Macdonald Street to Alma Street, diverting an estimated 9,700 commuter cars each day."

    Read more:

    1. Whats happened to the blog...has Gregor got
      some techie friends!!!...or is "the whisperer" in jail?

    2. It is summer. Chill till the fall.

  13. Whisperer has been silenced. He is no longer whispering?

  14. "Do not menchion zee vhor"

  15. Vhat vhor...?

    Oh....I zee.

    Seriously, we need a new thread topic...

    OM: "I CANNOT sign zee papers!"
    OM: "BECAUSE you have broken BOTH MY HANDZ!"

    Hope you haven't been coerced into silence... louder than a whisper.

  17. This post has sure been absent for the summer and I'm not sure why. When was the last time there was relevant info? From Friday fluff to just fluff. Disappointing for sure. I'm I the only one who feels this way???

  18. we miss the whispers!

  19. Whisperer is not a he...


  20. "It's important to note that in that post we only mused on whether our not his worship was cashing out of our City's massive housing bubble."

    The irony is the lack of awareness in your muse, the one you have confused as a fact- "our City's massive housing bubble."

    Keep it real.

    I have been a reader and commentator of your blog for sometime now. Your writing is strongest when you try to objectively provide your readers with the facts and add your opinions sparingly.

  21. The Province: $300 Million for Olympic Village... Vancouverites: "just add it to my tab! We've got equity."

  22. The debt fueled party in Canada is alive and well.

    Check out the top line in both of the following data tables from the Bank of Canada

    Latest household credit numbers in Canada to the end of June 2013 from the Bank of Canada:

    Latest business credit numbers in Canada to the end of June 2013 from the Bank of Canada: