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Municipal Politics

Vision’s Louie, PoCo’s Moore Openly Court Jobs with Developers

‘Maybe some paid gig’: Councillor and mayor ponder post-politics future at industry event.

By Geoff Dembicki 25 Sep 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee. His work also appears in Vice, Foreign Policy and the New York Times. His 2018 municipal election reporting is supported by Tyee Builders.

After 16 years on city council, Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie is preparing for life after politics. Among the options he’s considering is a “paid gig” with the development industry. Louie shared his plans at an event hosted by the Vancouver-based Urban Development Institute, an industry group that has “over 750 corporate members” and “represents thousands of individuals involved in all facets of land development and planning.” The group refers to itself on its website as “the premier voice of the B.C. real estate development industry.”

“What’s next, Raymond?” UDI president and CEO Anne McMullin asked Louie near the end of the event, “What’s next for you?” Louie replied, “I think I’m going to take a little time off with my family.” After that, Louie said he’d like to “get back in the game.” That could involve “maybe some paid gig with some of you,” he said.

“Ditto,” said outgoing Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore, who was also part of the UDI panel. “We want to try to bring value to the development process. We know what it’s like to sit at this side of the table and what politicians are thinking going through that process,” Moore explained. “So I think there’s something there.”

Louie didn’t respond to multiple phone calls and an email from The Tyee asking what exactly he meant by the phrase “paid gig.” But in a post-event phone call with Moore, he explained, “Raymond and I have both been elected since 2002… So for ourselves, and myself, going into the consulting world, I have a lot of value to add to that discussion.”

Moore went on. “Not only does it help the developer so they can move forward with their process in a more streamlined approach, but I also I think it helps with the community because we’ve sat on the other side listening to residents.”

I asked Moore if he worried that some of his constituents would consider him a sell-out for going to work with developers. “I have no doubt people will say that, I think it’s unfortunate,” he said.

The purpose of the UDI event, which also included outgoing North Vancouver mayor Richard Walton, was to stoke a lively discussion about the upcoming Oct. 20 election and housing affordability. It took place at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel’s Waterfront Ballroom, which is described on its website as “a ballroom with style and elegance.” It has “four grand doors” and “beautiful crystal chandeliers.”

UDI had encouraged the politicians who appeared on its panel to “speak candidly about their experience in office and share some practical, but maybe not so popular, advice to address challenging regional issues.” The panelists did not disappoint.

Louie predicted “this election campaign’s going to be just a horrendous mess.” He warned the room: “Anti-development sentiment has been brewing for a number of different years." He added, “There’s a right-wing party in the equation right now that is absolutely anti-development and certainly on the left side of the equation as well.” I asked him at the event if developers should be worried. “I think they should be,” he said.

Moore was equally forthcoming. At one point in the talk he said public hearings on new development projects are “awful,” prompting loud cheering from the several hundred people in attendance. The public, said Port Coquitlam’s three-term mayor, “Get to participate every four years in an election, don’t they?” He added, “In all seriousness, I think we need to get rid of that whole process, we need to start from scratch.”

Louie also critiqued the public hearing process on development: “It is flawed and I would scrap it. There’s very little value as a result of this small group usually who have weaponized the public hearings process against the project or city council.”

“The [development permit] process is the same,” he argued. “The Chinatown rezoning is probably a good example.” Louie later clarified to me he was referring to the debate over Beedie Development’s 105 Keefer project, which was rejected by the city’s Development Permit Board following protests by housing activists and Chinatown residents concerned about the gentrification of a low-income area.

Developers were furious. “We have never seen anything like this before,” the UDI’s McMullin said last November. “I mean, what message does that send to anybody trying to do business in the City of Vancouver? That you can follow all the rules, do everything that’s right, follow all the recommendations and, at the last minute, they say no.”

Louie told me he saw protests leading to the Keefer decision as misguided. “People have said it will destroy Chinatown. It’s unfair to this single project,” he said. “It’s important for people to express themselves, but I think the public hearings process is perhaps only drawing the negative comments. It’s not, I think, giving full enough opportunity for people who might be in favour of the project to come forward.”

Moore told the crowd that developers have nothing to be ashamed of. “I think the development industry needs to illustrate how important you are to our economy. You’re probably the biggest employer in most communities but nobody knows it.”

He continued, “That’s an important conversation and people need to know that or else it’s just ‘the greedy developer.’ I know that’s not the case, but you know that’s what the conversation is in a lot of places.”

At one point, McMullin asked Moore whether he planned to advocate on behalf of the industry once he leaves office.

“If I get paid, you all know what that’s all about,” he said. “We’re the least paid in this whole room.” Moore was apparently referring to himself, Louie and Walton. The room erupted in laughter. McMullin also laughed. “That is very true,” she said.  [Tyee]

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