Will Conservatives pay a political price for handing over Granville Island to Port Metro Vancouver?

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      Today, Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham has written a column declaring that Port Metro Vancouver is going to take over operations of Granville Island.

      Bramham has not quoted any sources by name, but her article is probably accurate, given her track record. 

      It's worth noting that Port Metro Vancouver's legal name is Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

      It has no legal ties to Metro Vancouver, whose directors are municipal politicians.

      Granville Island was once a heavy-industrial zone but was reclaimed in the 1970s as an arts, food, and tourist attraction by the federal Liberal government.

      It's anchored by the Granville Island Public Market.

      Food and drink establishments include Dockside Restaurant & Brewing Company, Granville Island Brewing's retail store and taproom, the Sandbar Seafood Restaurant, and a Keg Steakhouse & Bar.

      The Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus is also a major tenant until its new facilities open at False Creek Flats.

      Vancouver TheatreSports League, which performs at the Improv Centre, and the Arts Club Theatre's Revue Stage are on the island. It's also home to the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, the Vancouver Writers Fest, Touchstone Theatre, the Playwright Theatre Centre, and the Ruby Slippers Production Company.

      From this list, it's clear that whoever oversees Granville Island has a huge impact on many people's lives as well as on the cultural fabric of Vancouver.

      It's managed by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation with input from an advisory body called Granville Island Trust.

      The status quo is far from democratic. There are not the same accountability mechanisms of a municipal government, which has a legal requirement to hold public hearings and faces rules around when it can go in-camera.

      However, members of the trust have expertise in real estate, legal affairs, the nonprofit arts sector, and social housing, so they bring something to the table.

      Port Metro Vancouver's primary objective these days seems to be turning this region into North America's largest coal exporter. That has the potential not only to accelerate climate change, but also to undermine Vancouver's efforts to enhance its reputation and attract investment as a centre for clean, green technology.

      Meanwhile, Port Metro Vancouver's desire for a new bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel will likely siphon provincial transportation spending from more pressing priorities, such as improving the Lower Mainland transit network.

      That's why the port authority has riled some transit and environmental activists.

      Bramham suggests in her article that one of Port Metro Vancouver objectives in taking over Granville Island is to brush up its public image.

      If the Conservatives are going to transfer control to the unelected Port Metro Vancouver board, they can expect a backlash from those who oppose what it's doing in other areas.

      It's too early to say if this will become a federal election issue in 2015.

      But given the proximity of Granville Island to the new riding of Vancouver Granville, it could influence voting intentions along nearby Fairview Slopes, at the very least.

      Prime Minister Stephen Harper shouldn't underestimate the creativity of those who are fighting the port's oversight of coal exports.

      Groups like Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, Kids for Climate Action, and UBCC350 tipped the balance against Premier Christy Clark in Vancouver-Point Grey in the 2013 provincial election. Green-minded voters also helped the NDP's George Heyman defeat Liberal cabinet minister Margaret MacDiarmid in Vancouver-Fairview.

      And there's nothing stopping these activists from targeting whoever runs for the Conservatives in Vancouver Granville in 2015.

      On the face of it, Vancouver Granville should be a good bet for the Conservatives, given that the riding includes many of the city's wealthiest and conservative citizens.

      But a determined get-out-the-vote campaign from those who oppose a Port Metro Vancouver takeover of Granville Island could create a headache for Harper and whoever becomes the Conservative candidate in Vancouver Granville.

      It's surprising that the Conservative government would even contemplate transferring authority of Granville Island to Port Metro Vancouver just a year before the next federal election.

      The only possible explanation is that the government has other plans for CMHC, the Crown-owned housing agency.

      New president and CEO Evan Siddall is a former investment banker. He has not confirmed rumours that he might support the introduction of risk-based mortgage insurance.

      Meanwhile, Harper insisted back in 2006 there is no move afoot to privatize CMHC's mortgage-insurance business.

      But the calls for privatization have continued in recent years in national newspapers.

      The speculation about who might be the landlord at Granville Island is bound to create uncertainty for its many tenants.

      The sooner the federal government clears the air, the better.



      What's going on here?

      Jul 3, 2014 at 12:07am

      The New Owner are probable going to take Granville Island back to the late 1960's. City Hall must be running out of plots of land to sell out for. Late term pocket lining going on here????? Could this be our new "Coal Harbour?"

      Alan Layton

      Jul 3, 2014 at 7:56am

      "If the Conservatives are going to transfer control to the unelected Port Metro Vancouver board, they can expect a backlash from those who oppose what it's doing in other areas.

      It's too early to say if this will become a federal election issue in 2015."

      I don't think it's going to be on the radar come election time. While it's fun to imagine all of these guerrilla tactics to thwart the conservatives, I think there are plenty of other reasons why the Cons could get their butts kicked in Vancouver next election. Given that Granville Island had 10 million visitors last year I can't see anyone messing with such a successful formula.


      Jul 3, 2014 at 8:21am

      I am deeply disappointed that this change in ownership is happening. I love visiting Granville Island when we are in town.


      Jul 3, 2014 at 8:23am

      Port Metro takes over granville island and CP is doing work to reopen the arbutus rail line to granville island. Interesting.


      Jul 3, 2014 at 9:29am

      It almost makes sense in some warped conservative plan. Close Kits Coast Guard station, giving this to First Nations so they can build condos under Burrard bridge then install new landlord for Granville Island for future favours, nothing the conservatives do makes sense to normal rational people.


      Jul 3, 2014 at 9:29am

      It almost makes sense in some warped conservative plan. Close Kits Coast Guard station, giving this to First Nations so they can build condos under Burrard bridge then install new landlord for Granville Island for future favours, nothing the conservatives do makes sense to normal rational people.

      Alan Layton

      Jul 3, 2014 at 9:44am

      P - CP is just reminding the public and city council that they own that rail line, which has become part of Vision's transportation strategy. They want to put in light commuter rail a long that line to join up with the proposed Broadway Skytrain project that ends at Arbutus. They are not going to convert Granville Island in to a coal facility or any other shipping facility. The waters around there are dense with pleasure boats and it's days as an industrial area are long gone.

      Also, any increased shipping will come out of the current port facilities in Burrard Inlet. Along with the commuter overpass being built on Powell St, over the current rail line that runs from the Grandview Cut, they are also adding an extra rail line. Vision said a year or two ago that they are going to increase rail shipping, as an alternative to trucking.

      Larry Silverstein

      Jul 3, 2014 at 10:37am

      Three weeks before the twin towers came down the New York Port Authority signed a lease agreement with Larry Silverstein. This was the first time this had happened in the 30 year history of the towers.
      Curiously enough, Silverstein's office was closed on that fateful day....

      Tom F

      Jul 3, 2014 at 3:46pm

      How could they pay a political price for the decision? There hasn't been a Conservative/Alliance MP in that area of the Lower Mainland for decades. The Conservatives gain votes from suburban and rural areas. As long as the Conservatives keep the resources flowing out of the country and keep rural people working and the suburban people happy, they won't be leaving the HOC anytime soon. And they sure won't care what environmentalists, artists and the like think of them because these aren't the voters they're trying to appeal to.


      Jul 3, 2014 at 3:59pm

      The Cons should convert the operations of Granville Island into a Crown corp. That way they can control the outcome, invest further in the maintenance of the infrastructure and get thanks from Vancouverites and some dollars into federal coffers for their efforts. A Crown corp management would create a well oiled incentivised machine
      The big concern is that some folks will want to hand over some of the land to developers on which to build more condos. No wonder the C of V wants to take it over. Better start asking lots of questions before that happens. Hope Ms Braham is wrong