It was Christmas Eve at 12th and Cambie, and the lights were dimmed and thermostat turned low. Mayor Gregor Robertson had just finished signing Festivus cards to Michael Bloomberg, and to his Rockefeller Brothers Foundation Facebook friends.
He was daydreaming about his upcoming weeks on the beaches just outside Havana when his exasperated chief of staff entered his office.
“The press release on the homeless count just went out, your worship,” chattered the chilly chief of staff. “It is f-frightfully cold here on the third floor, and I was rather hoping I might take tomorrow off. It is just one day a year, after all.”
“Oh well, if you must,” mumbled the mayor. “But if any newsroom calls about the count,” he barked, “I’m now on vacation. Get Sadhu to do the interviews.”
And with that official business concluded, the mayor latched the big brass door of city hall behind him, lifted his 10-speed bike over the snowbanks and past the spun-out buses, and rode the freshly plowed bike lane back to his penthouse apartment.
He pushed his bike into the penthouse, past the coffee table strewn with Montecristo magazines and Wanting Qu CDs, and took off his helmet. He pulled some quinoa salad out of the fridge, and rocked himself in a chair next to his electric fireplace.
He had an early flight, so it was off to bed. It was to be a restless sleep.
Suddenly, the blast of the noon horn heard daily in downtown Vancouver rocked his penthouse. The mayor shot up in his bed and looked at his Blackberry for the time. “What gives? It’s midnight!”
Then an apparition appeared. “Joel, is that you?” the mayor said aloud, mistaking the ghost for someone from the Tides Foundation.
“I am the ghost of Christmas past,” replied the spirit. The ghost then compelled the mayor to grip the tattered blanket he wrapped himself in, and the pair were flung into the skies beyond the West End.
The mayor was whisked past scenes from his younger days. Making juice at his farm in Fort Langley, running as an MLA, then quitting as an MLA to run for mayor.
The pair halted at a parking lot in front of the Vancouver Museum, where a young candidate for mayor pledged to a cheering crowd of supporters to end homelessness by 2015, to make local housing affordable for families, and to make Vancouver the greenest city on the planet.
“Please,” begged the mayor to the ghost. “I have seen enough. Why trouble yourself with a fool such as I?”
But there was to be another visit that night, this time from the ghost of Christmas present.
The mayor and his new guide sailed across the city to witness small businesses shuttered by property tax increases and skyrocketing rents. They flew over the traffic gridlock, and past one-bedroom apartments renting for $2,500 per month.
The pair halted to watch a press conference near Clark Drive, where a city councillor and the Chief Resiliency Officer were announcing the city’s plan to open a waste incinerator to heat downtown condos cut off from natural gas.
The mayor became overwhelmed by what he had just seen. “I am sorry,” he remarked.
“Too late,” responded the ghost of Christmas present. “You already apologized and it got us nowhere.”
The noon horn blasted once again, and thereupon the mayor was visited by the ghost he feared the most — that of Christmases yet to come.
The mayor and the ghost ascended above the rows of skyscrapers lining Kingsway and Dunbar Street, then they plummeted to northeast False Creek. There a gigantic wrecking ball swung, sending huge chunks of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts flying.
The ghost pointed to the man operating the wrecking ball. “What is it you want me to see?” cried the mayor. He peered closely at the man he knew, wearing a hard hat with “Mayor Louie” stenciled on the front.
“Spirit,” he exclaimed while clutching the ghost’s robe. “I am not the mayor I was. Forgive me!”
And the mayor was as good as his word, becoming as good a man, as the good old city knew.
Right up to the election.