Contributors choose their Vancouver newsmakers for 2011

Contenders included Cup riot, Occupy Vancouver and civic election

The Courier asked a range of Vancouverites to choose their Vancouver Newsmaker for 2011 from six possible contenders: social media, the Stanley Cup riot, the civic election, Occupy Vancouver, the Canucks Stanley Cup run and the casino proposal. Here are their choices, including selections from contributors not included in the print version of this story. We thank all for their thoughts and ideas.


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Social media has affected all of the topics but most markedly, it has shaped and fuelled the course of events for the Stanley Cup riot and Occupy Vancouver.

The real story behind the Stanley Cup riot is not the violent destruction and looting of property, but the use of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and so forth, to observe, document, and react to vandalism and theft. Some form of hooliganism was to an extent expected, but the surprise was how citizens used social media to hunt down offenders and organize clean up crews. Social media clearly facilitated the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement and in turn, Occupy Vancouver, but more important is how it is being used for social change as a real-time medium to observe, document, organize and negotiate.

Social media is a tool for greater participation in civic life. It begins with passive observation of events or news, what is termed lurking online. Retweeting or liking a Facebook post is a simple action, but it is a step towards engagement with content, and it leads to the real-world active form of social media: participation at events in person. The Stanley Cup riot and Occupy Vancouver are just two examples of how social media has played a key role in civic life in 2011.

Zoe Li, Woodwardsmile blogger

What made 2011s headlines about gambling, billion dollar developments, big league sports, riots, political campaigns and demonstrations unique is the new way we chose to discuss them.

The year began with the rancor around a development on the north end of the Cambie Street Bridge. The proposal for an expanded casino next to the renovated B.C. Place stadium had been quietly worked on for years by the time it came to public hearing.

But a grassroots campaign led by former and aspiring politicians rose up in opposition at the eleventh hour. Unlike the casino proponents they crafted their media campaign over blogs and sharp exchanges on Twitter, an evolving and immensely powerful communications tool. They turned public opinion against the expansion with city council approving a zoning for a new, larger casino facility, but without additional slots and tables.

Twitter couldnt help Luongos net-minding skills during the Vancouver Canucks playoff run. But thanks to the #Canucks hashtag (a phrase combined with a hash, or number, symbol added to a Twitter post, or tweet) our hockey success became an even more collective experience.

The social signals were plain as day in the lead up to the Stanley Cup riot on June 15th. One only had to heed the Twitter hashtag #Riot2011 to know trouble was brewing.

As Election Day approached and the #OccupyVancouver movement took over the VAGs front lawn, it seemed the most fulsome debates were happening online, 140 characters at a time.

For these and many other reasons, Twitter is my Newsmaker of the Year.

Mike Klassen, former NPA city council candidate and blogger

Curse you Netflix!

I remember the sign in the window of the Independent Flixx video store on Denman when it closed earlier this year.

Social media is the story of the year because it is entrenched in all stories. It is embedded in our economy, our social justice, our everyday lives.

Stanley Cup rioters are vilified and identified using photos and videos posted to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. The police even create a website for ease of identification. Twenty-five people are charged with 61 offences.

Bill Tielmans No BC HST Facebook page attracts more than 125,000 followers. The No HST camp uses a website to gather and connect volunteers and organizers. The HST is rejected by 54 per cent of voters in a landmark referendum in August.

The Occupy movement spreads worldwide within days of the Wall Street protest. Within hours, photos of people holding up makeshift signs with messages of solidarity with the 99 per cent pop up all over social media. The movement uses Twitter to communicate with its worldwide supporters.

Consider that the main voice opposing city hall for the last three years has come from, an online blog. And in the recent election, Vision Vancouver ran their successful e-day campaign relying solely on smart phones and web-based portals to pull their vote.

Vision also likes to host telephone town halls, a relatively new political tool, with Mayor Gregor Robertson.

The explosion of social media in our civic lives is constantly progressing. If you dont get on board, you may be left behind cursing the outcome.

Christine Ackermann, president, West End Residents Association


The story of the year should probably be the Stanley Cup riot. It had everything. It had aspects of sports excitement and fanaticism, it illustrated cultural pride in the post-riot cleanup, it brought to light issues about policing, municipal authority and the legal system. It also illustrated the "thin blue line" separating a civilized society from anarchy and demonstrated just how easy it is for people to give in to their uncontrolled passions.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver

The riot had a profound impact on our community. The news and analysis went on for weeks. The shock was followed by shame and anger that, in some ways, continues to this day since few charges have been laid. Watching the riot scene we quickly forgot about the quest for the Stanley Cup, which had united us hours earlier. This event will long affect how we view and prepare for large-scale public sports celebrations in Vancouver.

While the riot revealed a dark side to our community, it also yielded a moment of optimism. The spontaneous cleanup afterwards, by hundreds of young people, demonstrated what can happen when we love our community and come together for the common good.

Faye Wightman, President and CEO, Vancouver Foundation

I hate to write this, but without a doubt, the Stanley Cup Riot must be the Couriers Newsmaker of the Year. It represented both the worst and the best of our city, and was a story heard around the world.

I was in Valencia, Spain when the riot began and watched it develop over the internet. Like all decent Vancouver residents, I felt sick as media broadcast reports of police cars being burned, windows being smashed and stores looted.

As the rioting expanded, I could not help but think so many of the positive 2010 Olympic impressions of our city were being replaced by terrible events normally associated with far away continents and places.

But the riot also showcased city residents who cared enough to help clean up downtown streets, and loudly condemn what had happened.

Sadly, despite thousands of visual images, to date none of the rioters have been convicted or sentenced for their disgusting acts. While the police and courts promise that they will eventually be dealt with, this will mean we will have to re-live this terrible 2011 story well into 2012.

Michael Geller, architect and planner

The clear and offensive dereliction of duty by our mayor and our police chief make the Stanley Cup Riot the hat-trick winner as the Vancouver Newsmaker 2011.

First shot: The riot was predictable. This is a young and sophomoric town. We are not a world-class city, not by several blue lines. We are scrappy adolescents proud of our grubby denims and hoodies. Too many bicycles and chickens will make you miss this important point.

Second shot: Total bewilderment from our leaders.

The clincher: The Great Stall. Just as Gordon Campbell did with Basi-Virk and Jean Chrétien did with the sponsorships, Mayor Gregor Robertson and VPD Chief Jim Chu continue to drag out the charges or arrests or punishments for this detestable mayhem.

The riot was not an aberration and it said way more about our culture than we care to face.

David Berner, a journalist and executive director of the Drug Prevention

Network of Canada

On June 15, I observed the Stanley Cup final game from the collective efforts of wide-screen TVs and laptops. Although many of my friends had opted to watch the game downtown instead, I had never been a fan of oversized crowds and long commutes. So it was through BBM that I received the message: Theres a riot! Then the statuses, tweets, and photos flooded in. My initial reaction was one of shock, disbelief, and ultimately anger.

I believe the reason that the Stanley Cup riots had such a profound effect on Vancouver was simply because of the rarity of these occasions. Vancouver is generally regarded as a fairly peaceful, and all-in-all, docile city. It was also what led me to such surprise upon hearing the breakout of a riot.

On the Vancouver apology walls, I saw comments such as this is why Vancouver cant have nice things. With the riot being profiled in prominent international papers such as The New York Times and The Guardian, one could say that the prestigious reputation built up from previous events such as the 2010 Winter Olympics had tumbled down in a matter of hours.

I later participated in a student forum where youth participants expressed that our image on the international platform should not be one of great concern; what we should be concerned about was the renewal of our own city.

The key role of social media, lack of civil education, and substance abuse are all precedents. In ways, the Stanley Cup riot can be seen as the product of some of our societys greatest problems.

Leah Bae, Grade 12 Lord Byng secondary student and president of Vancouver District Student Council

The Stanley Cup riot was overwhelmingly the highest profile, locally and internationally as it spun around the globe on both traditional and non-traditional (social) media. Also, it had sustained attention over many days. Then, when the rest of the world moved on (Think Athens riots; Dublin riots; elsewhere where there were meaningful things about which to have civic unrest, such as in Egypt), it lingered on the local scene (not unlike a bad black eye that has healed, and everyone else no longer notices it; yet internally you feel you are still walking around with a visible black eye).

Rick Antonson, president and CEO, Tourism Vancouver

I would choose the Stanley Cup riot as Newsmaker of the Year because it was widely covered by media in North America and many parts of the world. The indelible TV images of burning cars, smashed windows, and half-drunken people posing for video were shocking to see, to say the least. A riot borne out of material abundance and celebratory good times just seemed so baffling and pointless. With the success of the outdoor live sites during Vancouver's 2010 Winter Olympics, we thought we could handle the crowds and they would act responsibly. We were wrong and the outcome was disappointing indeed.

George Chow, former Vision Vancouver city councillor who retired this year after two terms on council

While the riot was, of course, very significant, my top news story of the year is the spirit of Vancouver as evidenced by the many remarkable people whose combined effort ended the riot and restored our city. Im thinking of the police officers, firefighters and first responders who stepped out that night to care for our community members and spaces and who worked to bring the riot to an end swiftly and without unnecessary violence. I recall the committed city staff who worked overnight to clear the streets and secure the storefronts. And I remember, with great emotion even now, the hundreds of residents who showed up the next morning to help clean up. It was an extraordinary and heartwarming display of civic dignity and pride. These people are my real Vancouver and, for me, the top news story is what the character of these residents and city staff members say how about extraordinary our community is and what we can accomplish when we work together.

Sandra Singh, chief librarian, Vancouver Public Library

On the second day of Vancouvers 2010 Winter Games, a group of masked anarchists marched downtown and took their frustrations out on the windows of some of the Olympics corporate sponsors. It was not without some irony that those same exact windows would be smashed just over a year later by disgruntled Vancouver Canucks fans.

While the Olympic protesters railed against the symbols of corporate greed, the Canucks rioters celebrated itsnatching up all the high-end consumer goods they could fit under their arms. And while the media had denounced the Olympics protesters as thugs, it was forced to reconcile that the Canucks rioters werent the anarchists that Mayor Gregor Robertson called them, but apolitical, middle-class kids from the suburbs.

It was as though each smashed window became a broken mirror that reflected Vancouvers distorted view of itself back onto the city.

The citys attempt to come to terms with the riot hasnt been prettyvindictive bullying, excessive apologetic overtures and misplaced shame. But because the rioters were wearing hockey jerseys instead of balaclavas, Vancouver was at least forced to ask why.

As if on cue, a few months after the Canucks riot, the same frustrations born of the Olympics rioters descended onto downtown Vancouver again as part of the global Occupy movement. But this time the predictable simplistic accusations came with some attempt to examine the reasons behind the protest.

It was far from perfect, but the reactions to the Canucks Riot and Occupy protest signalled a shift in the city to try and dig deeper and explain what these outbursts actually meant. As both the protesters and rioters find themselves now off the streets and in the courts, hopefully Vancouver will continue to carefully contemplate these events and not just sensationalize them.

Sean Condon, executive director, Megaphone


The municipal election in Vancouver was the top story for me this the year because it proved to be a local testing ground for an emerging and growing political consciousness among our nations young folk. I propose this new consciousness partly in light of the rapid evolution of the way we now communicate. The evolution of how we mobilize people and communicate was especially apparent during this election. The intermixing of social media, unconventional protest, parades, live onsite video streaming of actions, Occupy Vancouver's general assembly, bike rides to the polls, Twitter hashtags (#vanelxn), Twitter town halls, direct action, live-ins, and broadcasted face-to-face conversations to the Net are just a few examples of the explosion of non-hierarchical and open source ways in which folks are organizing and educating each other. All this is to say that there is a surge in youth engagement in the public life of our city. Prior to the election this past November, I wondered, as did many Vancouverites, no doubt, if any of the momentum from the lead up to the federal election with the scores of vote-mobs and social media campaigns could be built on locally. The short answer is yes! There was a lot of qualitative evidence of increased youth engagement wherever Get Your Vote On was stationed on voting day. Our volunteers encountered many people who were voting for the first time and who were out voting with their friends. Our goal was to provide young people with the resources to decide who best represented their values and provide on-the-spot information on how and where to vote. We also sometimes give them bike rides to the polls!

A truly democratic society needs more than just voters. The ballot box is just the beginning. The fact that voter turnout actually reversed its downward trend since 2005 and on Nov. 19 3.5 per cent more people came out to vote is really promising. Things tend to snowball, a change in momentum is afoot.

Adrian Sinclair, coordinator, Get Your Vote On, and co-director, Transformation Projects

The last civic election was an important turning point politically in Vancouver.

And its not because Mayor Robertson and his Vision party won a second mandatethat was never in doubt. Its a watershed because the two long-standing civic parties, COPE and NPA, must now reinvent themselves or wither away.

Take COPE. While the left-wing partys predicament may appear the most dire, COPE has a very viable future, even with only one person elected to school board.

COPEs core voter base and activist community will continue to be valued by Vision. COPE brings an additional 20,000 votes to their more electorally successful partnerthe crucial difference between winning and losing civic majorities.

How COPE chooses to exercise this power and what it will obtain from Vision in exchange for its continued support (and that of its voting base) will determine its fate come next election.

For the NPA, the options for renewal are much, much tougher.

As the saying goes parties don't win elections, governments lose them. However, Vision is not looking like it will lose anytime soon.

The NPA needs a Plan B. To regain power in the city, they must provide an alternative vision to Visionsone that is embodied in a credible mayoral candidate and inspiring to Vancouverites. No mean feat.

Otherwise, if the NPA continue to be pre-occupied with chickens, wheat and bike lanes come 2014, Visionwith COPEs helpwill once again take majorities across the board. And if Vision contests all 27 seats, the NPA might as well consider turning out the lights for good.

Neil Monckton of ThinkCity; Monckton ran COPEs campaign in 2002 that saw Larry Campbell and COPE win a landslide.

It just goes to show you that when you say what you're going to do, how you're going to do it and then deliver, people will support you. That's what happened this past civic election, my choice for newsmaker of the year.

On Nov. 19, we saw the re-election of a Vision Vancouver majority. Sadly, the coalition with COPE will be missed once we get down to business. Those progressive voices have been replaced by the NPA, famous for their reactionary, Tea Party-style politicking, hopefully now minus the chicken suits.

Even the NPA and Suzanne's Anton-ics couldn't use the Occupy Vancouver movement to their advantage. They tried to insert a significant wedge between Vision and voters but voters could see the reality: that Mayor Robertson and city staff were handling it carefully, respecting the spirit of the protest, and setting an example to the rest of the country how it's done.

Vision promised to continue building affordable housing, increasing bike and pedestrian safety, and making this the greenest city in Canada. That platform resonated with voters.

Vision has many challenges ahead, but I believe they're up to the task. We'll miss COPE's voice, but the voters recognized the achievements of Vision's first term, and supported the commitments for a second term. I believe we've elected a majority we can all count on. For our union, we look forward to working with Mayor Robertson and city council to make the public services and programs in our city even better.

Paul Faoro, president, CUPE Local 15


Newsmaker of the year depends on whether the newsmaker is the story that objectively receives the most coverage, or subjectively creates the most interesting stories.

If its an award for column inches, then there would be a tight battle between the election and the riot. Well funded public relations professionals on all sides (Canucks, police, provincial government, Vision, NPA) and great visuals for these issues generated endless stories where, often, there were no stories, or where it was the same story repeated. They both filled newspapers.

But if its an award for creating multiple and unique stories for journalists to cover, a small group of people who, without any budget, without any organizational structure, without any leader, who weretowards the endpredominantly homeless and marginalized, commanded the news cycle in Vancouver for a month and a half.

At the micro level, marches, union support, black bloc, fire bylaws, court processes, free speech, government jurisdictions, public space uses, policing tactics, biting, shoving of journalists, the art gallery membrane and storage area (who knew?), street youth, and drug overdose created endless stories for the period that the occupation continued.

At the macro level, Occupy Vancouver caused the premier to express concern for the shrinking middle class Thats why I went to Asia!; conservative Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente to pronounce that corporate greed has run amuck; and many people to consider whether the current arrangement of environmental priorities, economic priorities, and social priorities in Canada are the right ones. Now thats a newsmaker.

David Eby, executive director B.C. Civil Liberties Association

Today, Dec. 9, we were occupying Dundas and Wall Streetakin to the concept of the worldwide Occupy movement.

The Occupy movement is a ground swell of people in over 90 cities in over 80 countries wanting their municipal/provincial/federal governments to address economic and social inequality.

Today, we worked together and people stepped up to help. Yes this is but a local example but it is days like this that show what can be done one day at a time.

Today was the totem pole raising at the Aboriginal Mothers Centre on the East Side of Vancouver. This was an event attended by a diverse group of hundreds of people.

Standing next to Mayor Gregor Robertson helping to lift the pole into place under the direction of Mike and Miquel Dangeli, I realized that here I was in the midst of community.

We acted in unison, working together with a common goal with the support of the broader community. People came together today in a positive way to support the efforts of the Aboriginal Mothers Centre in addressing economic and social inequality of Aboriginal people in this city/province/country.

Indigenous peoples around the world and in this country continue to fight for the right to occupy their lands free from the continued economic/social/political/spiritual/cultural assimilation by colonizing governments.

Luugigyoo Patrick Stewart, chairperson of the Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee.


To find a parallel to the Casino Campaign of 2011, city watchers say to look back to 1967, when citizens organized a fight against plans to run a freeway through downtown. Their victory forever shaped Vancouver's urban landscape.

In the same vein in 2011, city planners recommended that Council pass a casino development next to BC Place stadium. With 2.6 acres of 24 hour a day casino operations, the proposed Edgewater would truly have been a Las Vegas style mega-casino in the middle of Vancouver's densely populated residential downtown.

Vancouver Not Vegas, the little coalition that could, set about to turn the tide against the casino development. Initially dismissed, within weeks VNV had built up overwhelming and sustained public opposition of historic proportions.

One of the longest public hearings in Vancouver history commenced in February, running until April. Submissions included statements from retired judges, senior academics, the Vancouver Medical Health Officers, 18 senior organized crime policing experts, urban planners, and a huge turnout of citizens, including many employees of the casino.

In the end there was no political wriggle-roomthe casino had to fail. Vision Vancouver kicked off the fall election with a promise of no mega-casino downtown.

Yet in a bizarre twist, in its final lame-duck session on Nov. 29, council enacted a rezoning by-law permitting the casino floor at the requested dimensions of 2.6 acres.

What looked to be a convincing and lasting victory in April had suddenly, post-election, become a major question mark hanging over Vancouver for 2012.

Sandy Garossino, key person in the fight against the mega casino proposal and unsuccessful independent council candidate in the civic election


For the better part of two months, the Vancouver Canucks took us on a rollercoaster ride of emotions that could only be compared to the 1994 Stanley Cup run and this city's spectacular hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympics capped off with the gold medal victories of both the women's and men's hockey teams. 2011 was destined to be the year that the Canucks would hoist the Cup to celebrate its 40-year franchise anniversary. The sports pundits predicted it. So did Electronic Arts with its game simulator. The Canucks had won the President's Trophy. No one doubted that we would win, at least not in British Columbia, especially after the Canucks had eliminated our nemesis, the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks in game 7 in the first round.

The Stanley Cup run featured prominently in media coverage throughout the months of April through mid-June. As a spokesperson for the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), I did countless interviews with local and national media on topics such as the economic impact for our business members as a result of the Cup run, the public viewing areas that attracted thousands of fans to downtown, and how our association and our members were planning for the Olympic-size crowds.

For a brief time, the Stanley Cup riot overshadowed what was a spectacular Stanley Cup run and an amazing record-breaking season for the Vancouver Canucks. We were one win away from the Holy Grail. The last time we made it this far into the playoffs was 1994. For all these reasons, the Stanley Cup run deserves to be the Newsmaker of the Year. The Stanley Cup riot and those who instigated and participated in it deserve to be in a Hall of Shame.

Charles Gauthier, executive director, Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association

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