Watch the NDP government rely on Vision Vancouver tactics to destroy the B.C. Liberal brand

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      Premier John Horgan's most significant political move since the election was appointing Geoff Meggs as his chief of staff.

      It's not only because Meggs, a former Vision Vancouver councillor, has authority to ensure his trusted confidants will fill key political posts. 

      It's also because Meggs played a key role in destroying the brand of a municipal party that held power in Vancouver for decades.

      Expect him to do the same to the B.C. Liberals.

      The Vancouver Non-Partisan Association, a.k.a. the NPA, was formed in 1937 and elected 11 mayors. The last was B.C. Liberal MLA Sam Sullivan, who left civic office in 2008.

      The NPA is one of the most successful political organizations in Canadian history.

      Yet since 2008, Vision Vancouver has retained control over council and the mayor's chair.

      So how did Meggs and Co. demolish the NPA brand after it had won so often in the past?

      The beginning of the end occurred when a civic and library workers' labour dispute was branded as "Sam's strike".

      It laid the blame for the lack of municipal services squarely on the NPA mayor, Sullivan. 

      From that point on, Vision politicians repeatedly reinforced a message that the NPA was backward-thinking, not in tune with the times, and, most importantly, a rotten manager of public finances.

      The overarching strategy was to convince voters that NPA politicians were too stupid to be trusted with control over the civic government. 

      To a large extent, it worked.

      NPA politicians once ruled the roost in Vancouver, but that came to an end in 2008.

      Vision loves blaming the NPA

      In the early days of Vision's rule, park board chair Aaron Jasper would bring up NPA incompetence in virtually every interview. Vision councillor Raymond Louie spoke repeatedly in the council chamber about the ineptitude of the NPA.

      Barely a week passed without the NPA being held responsible for any current problem facing the Vision-controlled council or park board. 

      In those days, it wouldn't have surprised some city hall observers if Vision politicians blamed the NPA if it was raining or if the bus was late or if the Canucks lost. 

      Even nine years after Vision Vancouver has held the reins of power, Louie is still blaming the NPA for homelessness.

      Nowadays, there's a lot of talk about how campaigning is a permanent feature of the political landscape.

      Vision Vancouver was running a permanent campaign with ruthless efficiency from the moment it took control of Vancouver city hall.

      Stephen Hui

      Olympic Village was prime example

      Meggs himself was a masterful campaigner as Vision Vancouver's point man in dealing with the Olympic Village development.

      The project was put in jeopardy by a global economic meltdown, resulting in a New York-based lender refusing to advance any more funds. Because it was the Olympic Village, the developer wasn't allowed to do any presales to generate revenue.

      After Vision Vancouver took over, city manager Judy Rogers was fired. The deputy city manager who oversaw the Olympic Village, Jody Andrews, was also sent packing.

      The new senior staff answering to Vision Vancouver politicians repeatedly brought forward reports about poor oversight of the project in the past.

      In 2009, the Vision Vancouver-controlled city government took over the loan.

      Politicians then cited a report, written by their bureaucrats, which claimed that this move saved taxpayers $110 million.

      Vision Vancouver's city manager at the time, Penny Ballem, regularly used PowerPoint presentations to show how brilliantly the city had acted to avert a disaster.

      There were always lots of bar charts and graphs to drive home the message.

      Former deputy city manager Jody Andrews didn't last long after Vision Vancouver took control of city hall in 2008.
      Charlie Smith

      The following year, the city pushed the Olympic Village project into receivership after it had been completed and as it was being marketed.

      That ensured fat fees for the receiver. But one bankruptcy trustee, David Bowra, told the Straight that it was “a very good question” whether this should have occurred at this point.

      “I think you will discover that in all likelihood, the benefits were far fewer than the cost," Bowra said. "I mean, the project was finished.”

      Vision Vancouver politicians, on the other hand, constantly declared that had the city not ridden to the rescue, it would have been a financial calamity for taxpayers. 

      In 2014 just months before the last election, the city triumphantly announced that it had paid off the debt by selling its share in the last 67 condos to the Aquilini Group for $91 million.

      It was a brilliant political performance, orchestrated by Meggs, that left voters convinced that NPA politicians were financial amateurs.

      As Vision Vancouver's executive director, Stepan Vdovine played a key role in convincing local voters that the NPA couldn't be trusted to run a city government.
      Charlie Smith

      History repeats itself

      Two close associates of Meggs at Vision Vancouver, the party's executive director (Stepan Vdovine) and his partner and former NDP candidate Mira Oreck, are now ensconced in key political posts in the NDP government.

      They're in a good place to put the boots to the B.C. Liberals in the same way that Vision Vancouver hammered the NPA.

      As the director of stakeholder relations in the premier's office, Oreck, in particular, can call on third parties to appear at news conferences blasting former B.C. Liberal government decisions and policies.

      On the first Monday in the first full week of NDP rule, Attorney General David Eby released an Ernst & Young report. It indicated that under the B.C. Liberal government, ICBC was left in a precarious financial state.

      The confidential report somehow got into the hands of a reporter on the previous Friday. This ensured it received wide publicity in the Saturday Vancouver Sun.

      The ground was laid for convincing voters that a financial crisis was left unattended by the B.C. Liberals. This showed up in the pages of a paper read by many B.C. Liberal voters. That's likely no coincidence.

      Similarly, confidential financial reports about the Olympic Village situation somehow made their way to the Globe and Mail's Gary Mason in 2008, though the source of these leaks was never identified. Those reports of NPA financial incompetence were covered extensively in a newspaper read by right-of-centre voters.

      In speaking with reporters on Monday, Eby offered assurances that the doomsday scenario outlined in the Ernst & Young report wasn't going to happen under his watch.

      The NDP was going to clean up the financial mess created by the B.C. Liberals.

      Sound familiar?

      I expect we'll hear a nonstop series of these stories over the next several years.

      There is no shortage of subjects to explore, including B.C. Hydro deferral accounts, Site C contracts, the financial situation at B.C. Ferries, poor forecasts for electricity demand, misplaced traffic forecasts and underwhelming toll revenue on the Port Mann Bridge, sell-offs of public land, and on and on and on.

      No doubt in a few of these instances, the B.C. Liberals were poor financial managers. Projects were launched for dubious reasons to reward financial contributors.

      Former advanced education minister Andrew Wilkinson likely won't go unscathed in NDP government reviews of B.C. Liberal policies.

      LNG could be case study in incompetence

      The former premier certainly missed the mark with her predictions for the LNG industry.

      The Christy Clark government also leaned on postsecondary institutions to modify their curricula to train young people to work in this nonexistent industry.

      This was bad public policy. It amounted to political interference in the postsecondary sector and likely misled some young people into choosing the wrong career path.

      That could be the basis for a report discrediting former advanced education minister Andrew Wilkinson, should he decide to enter the B.C. Liberal leadership race.

      In fact, anything that required business smarts on the part of the B.C. Liberals is ripe for being exposed as an example of financial incompetence.

      Christy Clark and former cabinet ministers such as Mike de Jong, Rich Coleman, Todd Stone, Mike Bernier, and Wilkinson won't be spared.

      Expect these reports to be spaced out to let each financial horror story sink in with media outlets that reach large numbers of right-of-centre voters.

      The B.C. Liberals have always marketed themselves as good financial stewards. That brand is about to be eviscerated in the eyes of the public.

      It's the Meggs way.

      Welcome to the permanent campaign, B.C.-style.