Vision Vancouver operatives—hiding in plain sight as community volunteers—are active in neighbourhoods across the city.
They may not openly declare their ties to the ruling civic party, but their presence has been confirmed by Vision executive director Stepan Vdovine. Yet except for the West End Community Action Network, which Vision acknowledged in its City Notes newsletter as its “first neighbourhood committee”, Vdovine refused to identify other groups and the agents involved in them.
According to Vdovine, privacy laws prevent him from disclosing who sits on these committees, which serve as local branches of the party.
“It is the first formal committee,” Vdovine told the Georgia Straight about WECAN, “but we have people working. We have members in various other communities working, whether it’s in Grandview, Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant.”
Vdovine, a former Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows school trustee, asserted that it is “not unusual for a political party to have committees” that perform “various tasks in various neighbourhoods”.
“They provide feedback to the party, they organize events,” he said. “There may be minor costs associated with hosting an event where we pick up the food costs.”
As for making public their association with Vision, Vdovine said: “It is an individual decision to make a disclosure on whether they like to disclose that they’re a member of the party or not.”
The summer edition of Vision’s City Notes stated that party members Dean Malone and Duncan Wlodarczak formed WECAN. The newsletter noted that in April, the group held its inaugural event, where Mayor Gregor Robertson announced its creation.
An online profile of Wlodarczak lists him as a public representative on the city’s development-permit-board advisory panel, a former member of Robertson’s now defunct West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee, and a “community engagement” consultant for the proposed Oakridge Centre redevelopment.
WECAN’s Malone is also a former member of the mayor’s West End committee; he is currently cochair of the city’s LGBTQ advisory committee. Last September, Malone addressed council to support a staff recommendation not to delay consideration of a new community plan for the West End.
On October 24, he again appeared before council to back a multibuilding development by Westbank Projects on Howe, Granville, and Pacific streets. This includes a 52-storey tower at the north end of the Granville Street Bridge.
On that day, Malone—the CEO of Plum Living, a home-health-care-services company—wrote on his Facebook page that he was going to talk up the development. The next day, after council approved the proposal, Vision councillor Tim Stevenson replied to Malone’s post: “You spoke very well Dean as usual and you answered my question brilliantly!
“The development passed and in an answer I posed to staff they assured me the [sic] would be consulting the LGBTQ Advisory Committee as to how the monies would be spent on the Davie St. Village,” Stevenson went on. “And the development is amazing. It’s a win, win all round. Thanks for coming out Dean It was noticed by one and all.”
Malone declined the Straight’s request for an interview. In his September and October pitches before council, he didn’t identify himself as a Vision member. Stevenson didn’t reply to calls made by the Straight.
Before Malone spoke to council in September, he was asked by Randy Helten, a West End resident and former mayoral candidate for Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, to tell council that he is a Vision member. According to Helten, Malone responded with a “very cynical comment in return and just ignored me”.
“He said that, ‘Are you going to tell them that you’re a failed mayoral candidate for NSV?’ That’s almost a direct quote,” Helten related in a phone interview.
It was Helten who drew the Straight’s attention to WECAN and other unidentified Vision neighbourhood branches after Vdovine stopped responding to his inquiries about these groups. In one September 23 email to Helten, Vdovine stated: “All of our neighbourhood committees are volunteer run groups.”
Helten believes it’s important for both Vision and its agents to be transparent about their neighbourhood operations. “It gives a context for the statements of those individuals where they may be presenting themselves as well-intentioned neighbourhood activists. However, if they have political affiliations and you’re dealing with multimillion-dollar projects and major policy decisions, I think the public has the right to know their political connections.”