September 16, 2022

Stanley Woodvine, Vancouver City Hall & the Spreadsheet Captains of Development

Viewpoint Vancouver has written about homeless writer Stanley Woodvine  and his extraordinary talent not only with writing, but remarkably finding in dumpsters and around the city items that are misplaced pots of political and planning gold. Until 2020 Mr Woodvine wrote for The Georgia Straight and had evocative interesting articles. 

In 2019 Mr. Woodvine discovered a  set of blueprints for the proposed new Granville Street rapid transit station  stamped by  architectural firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership (MCM) and building contractor PCI Developments. The drawings themselves detailed a five story mixed use building above ground with a curious six floors of parking for 332 vehicles below ground, completely out of keeping with the density of the project.  Mr. Woodvine surmised that the five stories being built above ground may merely be a platform or podium for a tower that will require this parking capacity as part of their development permit. And he thought that the building would be for 40 storeys, noting that the 40-storey condo tower at 1335 Howe included 430 vehicle stalls.

He was right.

The developer PCI had held the site for a relatively long time  above the proposed rapid transit station and the  City of Vancouver made the exception to allow  the developer to go ahead ahead of the Broadway Plan. Council approved a 39 storey building for the site this year. (Sources say that the site with the plans is now being shopped around to other developers.)

You can take a look at Stanley Woodvine’s blog for the details of his rapid transit station find. 

Mr. Woodvine also  has created  images that playfully straighten out twisty Vancouver House, showing his remarkable eye and graphic design background.

Mr. Woodvine discovered a new surprise this week that shows bending of another kind.

That is potential flexing of the election rules that were brought in by Elections BC limiting election campaign donations to $1,250 per donor and ensuring that salaried city staff do not work on municipal election campaigns.

Floating on a sidewalk near City Hall Mr. Woodvine found several spreadsheets outlining what appears to link members of Vancouver Mayor Stewart’s office staff with promoting donations  for his political party Forward Together from deep pocketed developers and publicity firms using the technique of “captains”.

Also troublesome was the apparent names of staff from the sitting Mayor’s office co-ordinating the fundraising, which is a no no. City staff cannot work on political campaigns.

As Vancouver city hall watcher Ken Ohrn ponders, while political parties do what they must do to raise campaign funds, using people on the City of Vancouver payroll is a serious ethical breach.  This could be reminiscent of the Federal Liberal sponsorship scandal where Federal advertising and sponsorship money appeared in Liberal party bank accounts 26 years ago.

Vancouver’s Integrity Commissioner and Elections B.C. have been asked to review the  claims city employees have been working on the mayor’s political campaign.

Mr. Woodvine posted images of his find on twitter:

There are several spreadsheets of names, most men, most developers.  But what was interesting is that while $1,250 is the amount that can be legally collected from each name due to Elections BC regulations, there appears to be a workaround.

Some of these prominent names are also called ‘Captains’ and have other large sums of potential donations way above the allowed amount of $1,250  written in beside their names. Those donations could be collected in a pyramid environment, where the developer would ask his family and friends to donate. Or those “Captains” could provide the funding in a potential bonusing at pay time to employees and have the employees send in donations in the maximum amount of $1,250 and receive a tax deduction to boot.

Of course this is all speculation, and maybe these names do have large amounts of cash hanging around and know how to give it to legally to  their political party of choice. But for developers donations would be  especially important this election year  given that Broadway Plan will allow for massive redevelopment opportunity.

It also appears from others’ research that similar funding from developers may be going to other political parties, and indeed this kind of fundraising and ‘captaining” is an American political approach.

The difference is they don’t leave their donor developer names in nicely folded spreadsheets outside of grocery stores, or use salaried municipal staff paid  by taxpayers  to fundraise for re-election.

Mr. Woodvine’s story has been picked up by several well regarded journalists, including the Vancouver Sun’s Daphne Bramham, (Vancouver Mayor Taps Captains of Development Industry to Finance His Campaign), The Globe and Mail’s Frances Bula  (Several Vancouver Developers Say They Have Been Asked to Contribute to Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s Re-election Campaign)and the Tyee’s Christopher Cheung and Jennifer St. Denis  (How a Sidewalk Discovery Could Change the Vancouver Election).

At Viewpoint Vancouver, we are just waiting to see what Stanley Woodvine discovers next.

You can take a look at the City News video below which features an interview with Stanley Woodvine.


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