Brace yourself. Here come the fall city election slogans.
It’s already clear that the city’s traditional voice of the business class, the NPA, will be campaigning hard against hockey hooligans. The party’s mayoral candidate, Suzanne Anton, has made it clear that one of the centerpieces of her campaign, when she’s not going on about bike lanes and backyard chickens, is going to be an attempt to make the current mayor take the blame for the post-Stanley Cup street violence she has dubbed “Robertson’s Riot.”
Alternative explanations for the riot include the mass marketing of sports violence, too much alcohol, a pro-business attempt to bring crowds and dollars onto downtown streets and the incessant public celebration of hockey violence by that notorious anarchist agitator Don Cherry.
Nevertheless, the NPA has clearly decided that the mayor should carry the can for all those Stanley Cup broken windows and burning cop cars. “Robertson’s Riot” has a nice alliterative ring to it, and the slogan may well help Anton and her colleagues re-take the commanding heights of the city government for the Board of Trade crowd. Will we see photo-shopped images of the mayor in a black hoodie, brandishing a Molotov cocktail?
Not that Robertson and his Vision team have done so badly by the city’s natural rulers. Despite the NPA’s preferred version of Vision as a terrifyingly radical blend of socialists and green fanatics, the city’s current government has been, on balance, like most others in civic history, cheerfully co-operative with property developers and gambling interests. It makes more sense to think of Vision as NPA Lite than as Leninism on a bike.
Nevertheless, the interests that drive the NPA are restless and want back into power, so we’ll be hearing a lot about Robertson’s Riot.
Fair enough. Politics is a proverbially dirty business and no one is on oath in developing campaign slogans. But if Vision is going to have to contend with the slogan about the riot, perhaps Anton will have to deal with questions about Suzanne’s Scabs, and I’m not talking about a bike rider’s skinned knees. I refer to Anton’s refusal to sign a letter endorsed by the rest of city council to Peter Armstrong, the politically well connected owner of the luxury tourist attraction the Rocky Mountaineer train, a letter that read in part: “Your firm has not only locked out these loyal employees but immediately replaced them with strike-breakers, an act that would be illegal under provincial law. We do not believe we can build the tourism industry with a strategy that treats customer service reps as little more than disposable people, to be used and discarded.”
Typically, pro-business writers call folks brought in to replace unionized workers on strike or lockout “replacement workers.” Others prefer the more pungent and censorious term “scabs.”
Anton’s refusal to sign the anti-scabbing letter is no surprise. Armstrong, after all, heads up the NPA’s campaign committee. Robertson’s name was also missing from the letter, and his media spokesman could not tell me whether the mayor had been invited to sign or, if invited, why he didn’t, saying the mayor was on vacation and unable to comment. A cynic might speculate that the mayor, currently polling ahead of Vision, took a pass on the pro-labour letter in order to position himself to the right of his party.
Would an Anton administration widen the use of scabs to break other strikes in Vancouver, or was her refusal to sign on to the anti-scabbing protest letter a one-off favour for a political backer? In either case, her move will worry Vancouver voters who value a level playing field in labour disputes, and we may well be hearing as much about Suzanne’s Scabs as Robertson’s Riot in the run up to the fall election.