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Municipal Politics

Please Advise! Why Is Vancouver’s Mayor in Qatar?

Don’t worry, Ken Sim is on the job. Or maybe you should worry.

Steve Burgess 24 Nov

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles here.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Newly elected Vancouver mayor Ken Sim has begun his tenure with a trip to Qatar for the World Cup.

Is it a good start for the new boss?



Dear Offside,

You don't understand. The mayor has his hard hat on. He's doing this for us.

Vancouver is set to host some World Cup games four years from now, which is why a delegation from our city was already scheduled to attend the World Cup. Did the mayor have to join them? It's true that good leaders know how to delegate, but there are times when you have to lead from the front. Apparently the World Cup is one of those times. Others might be researching a Taylor Swift concert or a perhaps a luxury cruise.

Lest anyone think that ABC stands for Anywhere But City (Hall), Sim assured Global News that his pre-planned trip to Qatar (which Sim is paying for) is all about getting the job done for Vancouver voters. “I'm a big believer in, 'You walk the shop floor,' so to speak,” Sim told the outlet.

Walking that particular shop floor might involve stepping over shallow graves — India’s Foreign Ministry has said that nearly 2,400 of its citizens died in Qatar between 2014 and 2021. But never mind. The main thing is, our mayor is there. What will he learn as he walks the walk? What lessons will he bring back?

Perhaps the trip will give Mayor Sim a chance to study Gianni Infantino close up. The FIFA president's lengthy press conference speech Saturday has already gone down as a classic example of... well, no one is quite sure. Perhaps the speech will stand as an inspiring example of how guests in a strict fundamentalist society can still find ways to get messed up on the weekend.

Among other points, Infantino expressed his annoyance at the West for criticizing Qatar, just because the country persecutes homosexuals and treated migrant workers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh like near-slaves (while reportedly providing Qatari nationals, Egyptians and Pakistani workers with air-conditioned rest areas).

“What we Europeans have been doing for the last 3,000 years,” Infantino said, “we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons.”

Wise words, which might carry more weight had FIFA not allegedly been paid dump trucks full of cash to say them. FIFA has been a morass of alleged corruption, bribery and money laundering for years, including specific allegations of bribery in the awarding of the event to Qatar.

Every defendant deserves a lawyer, of course. But the jury understands when you are pocketing a hefty fee.

FIFA might even be said to resemble the medieval Vatican, which once sold indulgences and dispensations for various sins and transgressions. If you were a priest who wished to keep a concubine, a noble who wanted to marry a first cousin, or simply someone who wanted to eat butter during Lent, there were fees for that. Is FIFA the same? There is certainly no evidence of the organization’s president pocketing bribes personally, but he is the official spokesperson. As such it would seem that once your World Cup bid has been accepted — after considerable expenditure — FIFA Pope Infantino will defend your sins and crimes before the world.

Watch carefully, Mayor Sim. This could be useful for Vancouver. We'll be able to get away with all kinds of stuff — perhaps an armed invasion of Bellingham? Also, with some money in the right places the Canucks can get into the playoffs automatically. Really, it is beginning to seem like the only way.

Sim can also learn from the example of the Qatari government. Despite a national prohibition against alcohol they promised to let visiting fans drink beer in the stands — until two days before the tournament, when they changed their minds. Bold! With Sim's promise of 100 new cops and nurses already in jeopardy he will surely be taking note. Easy come, easy go.

Many are unhappy that the World Cup has been awarded to a land of heat and drought and overpriced housing. But at least Stanley Park is nice. And when the games are in Vancouver, 2SLGBTQIA+ fans will be able to drink beer and hold hands. Assuming, of course, that Mayor Sim doesn't drink too much Qatari Kool-Aid. You've got to stay hydrated over there.  [Tyee]

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