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Late on 9-11, Ladner attacks Robertson over Rotary debate

The Summer-of-Love phase of the contest between Non-Partisan Association mayoral nominee (and former hippie) Peter Ladner and Vision Vancouver nominee (and former hippie) Gregor Robertson came crashing to the ground on the evening of September 11.

At 9:08 p.m., Ladner launched an attack on Robertson that, given its timing and trajectory, may come to be regarded as the political equivalent of smashing a Smart Car into the Arbutus Club.

Ladner wrote on his campaign blog:

Gregor Robertson and I were scheduled to have our first community-sponsored debate on Friday, September 12, sponsored by the Arbutus Rotary Club.

I am extremely disappointed that my opponent has decided to back out of this debate and break his commitment to the Rotary Club. How many others does he plan to miss? What is he doing that is more important than this?

I think it's an insult to the citizens of Vancouver and the democratic process if Vision is planning to reduce this mayoralty campaign to photo opportunities, public greeting appearances and poster images.

The mayor of Vancouver can't be afraid to come out in public and express his views. What does he have to hide? What questions is he afraid of?

Ladner plans to speak to the Arbutus Rotary on Friday, sans Robertson.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the Ladner campaign tried to peddle this story to The Hook on Thursday morning. Maybe I missed the point. Or perhaps I shouldn’t have skipped breakfast. For whatever reason, I think I mumbled something along the lines of:

“A Non-Partisan Association candidate is speaking to the Arbutus Rotary? Stop the presses!"

Due solely to such sloth and torpor, I failed to leap at that opportunity to call the Arbutus Rotary during business hours. And in the interest of propriety, I chose not to phone late in the evening. Sadly, their side of this vital story must wait.

But there really are no standards of social etiquette that apply to campaign spin-meisters. So I phoned Vision Vancouver spokesman Ian Baillie at 10:27 p.m.

Baillie was at the beach, opening a bottle of wine.

“Yeah, we got a couple of e-mails from them. We said we wanted to do something at the Arbutus Rotary Club. There was some back and forth, but we never agreed to appear,” Baillie said.

“Then, a few days ago, we received a very different e-mail. They said, ‘OK, so you’re coming on Friday.’ We said, ‘No, we are not.’” Baillie continued. “The Ladner campaign obviously has friends in the Arbutus Rotary Club who are happy to fan this charade.”

When pressed about whether there was any correspondence that could have been interpreted as an agreement for Robertson to appear, Baillie replied:

“Never. Never, ever, never. Never, never, never, never, never.”

I think I heard a cork pop. Or maybe it was a poor mobile phone connection. I’m not sure.

Baillie said Robertson has agreed to “something like eight or ten” debates and forums with Ladner. “There are going to be several substantial debates,” he said. “We have agreed to a debate sponsored by The Vancouver Sun, another by The Vancouver Courier.”

Ladner’s blog post includes a list of nine debates to which he’s committed: Langara/Shaw TV (Oct. 1), Vancouver Courier (Oct. 8), Leadership Vancouver (Oct. 9), Vancouver Sun (Oct. 22), Langara/Shaw TV (Oct 29), a multi-faith (Oct. 30), Dunbar Council Candidates (Nov. 3), Downtown Vancouver Association (Nov. 6) and CBC Radio (Nov. 12).

Ladner concluded his 9-11 post: “I am prepared to debate Gregor Robertson anywhere, any time...”

“I think this is ridiculous,” Baillie said. “I mean, come on, they want to use a Rotary Club luncheon as a wedge issue?”

Monte Paulsen is editor of The Hook.

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