Heather Place reality: a response to allegations by the Mainlander and the Vancouver Renters Union

The recent tweets by Vancouver Renters Union leader Tristan Markle, alleging that trade unionists and others crossed a “picket line” Tuesday night when they attended a Vision Vancouver fundraiser, require a response.

It’s necessary as well to set the record straight, once again, about the false, malicious and misleading statements from Markle and others about the future of Heather Place, a Vancouver affordable housing complex slated for redevelopment by the Metro Vancouver Housing Corp.

Markle, a member of the COPE executive and co-founder of the Mainlander blog on civic politics, demonstrated with others outside the Vision event at the Floata in Chinatown, seeking to block the entrance and obstruct access on the grounds they were “picketing.”

This is an escalation of tactics used by many of the same players during my recent bid for the NDP nomination in Vancouver Fairview, when COPE member Randy Chatterjee organized “pickets” at coffee shops, public forums and even the nomination vote with a view to “making [a] housing demonstration personal” and “embarrassing [me] directly and personally.”

(The quotes are from e-mails circulated by Chatterjee. The COPE connections of many of the players in this saga were set out in this article last year by long-time COPE executive member Paul Houle.)

Markle, Chatterjee and others who pick up a sign and “picket” private or public discussions with a view to intimidating or “embarrassing” participants have nothing in common with workers picketing in a labour dispute.

Real picket lines are carefully overseen by the BC Federation of Labour to ensure that this powerful tool is not abused, precisely in the manner Chatterjee, Markle and the rest have. It’s not a picket line just because someone says it is.

No doubt the latest demonstration will be celebrated on the Mainlander blog by Nathan Crompton, another COPE member and co-founder of the website with Markle, whose latest update on me is laboriously subtitled “A Brief History of Neoliberalism.” Crompton, Markle and others are leaders and organizers of the Vancouver Renters Union.

Crompton relies on falsehoods and malicious, libelous statements in an effort to buttress his case. He writes that Heather Place is “a social housing project which Meggs is currently seeking to replace with expensive market rental and condos.”

This statement is false. Heather Place’s affordable housing units will be replaced on a one-for-one basis because the MVHC board determined, after careful review, that this was the best way to protect this housing stock, which is leaking and requires very expensive remediation.  The project is expected to be phased to allow residents to remain on the site. The current plan contemplates market rental or an equity co-op on the rest of the site.

Crompton says I “failed to show up at [my] own campaign event” in October for fear of having to confront an anti-Vision protest. In fact, I had invited Fairview New Democrats to join me for coffee. Of course, when I learned Chatterjee wanted to confront me “directly and personally,” I moved the meeting. Who wouldn’t?

Crompton says I tried to disrupt an earlier Vancouver Renters Union meeting in Douglas Park regarding Heather Place and stormed out. This is false.

I distributed a fact sheet prepared by Metro Vancouver Housing Corp. before the public meeting. I tried to tell the gathering the fact sheets were available — Markle, the  meeting chair, who had just finished a lengthy denunciation of MVHC, refused to recognize me — then left as planned for another event. Markle and COPE executive director Sean Antrim pursued me out the door and asked me to stay, but I had another booking.

Crompton says that on another occasion I urged Heather Place tenants to “make the most of their eviction.” This is false. There will be no evictions. I have worked hard to ensure that tenants remain fully informed. I have encouraged tenants to take leadership in the renewal of the project, as other statements attributed to me by Crompton make clear.

Crompton, citing a Courier article, says Mayor Gregor Robertson and I endorsed Rich Coleman’s bid for the BC Liberal party leadership. This is false. The article says nothing of the sort and, in fact, I am not mentioned. The article appeared even before Gordon Campbell had resigned.

Crompton refers to “Meggs’ decision to demolish Heather Place.” This statement is also false and nonsensical. I am one member of a large board. It makes the decisions, not me. Heather Place is being rebuilt. All tenants who wish to stay will be able to do so in line with the MVHC’s existing policy on subsidy. Tenants with subsidies will still have subsidies.

Crompton attempts to tie me to the NPA council’s secret bailout of the Olympic Village, claiming that decisions made by the Vision council were to “save the greedy developer.” But the article linked to the claim about the “$100 million bailout” clearly refers to events on Oct. 14, 2008, before I or the Robertson team was even elected. During Vision’s term, the developer accepted a negotiated receivership under court supervision.

It is false, despite Crompton’s claims, that the “remaining units of social housing” at Olympic Village are at risk, nor do tenants face eviction.

The Aquilini Financial Group did not get a $35 million tax cut for its project at Rogers Arena, as Crompton claims, but was approved to build more than 600 units of rental housing rather than market condos, eliminating a $35 million community amenity contribution.

Would Crompton have preferred the condos?

Crompton declares I was “instrumental in shutting down the Occupy encampment,” on what evidence I can’t imagine. Chatterjee says I promised to “ram another RAV line to UBC,” “bankrupted Translink,” and “precipitated a decade of Liberal tyranny” when I worked for NDP Premier Glen Clark.

No wonder I’m tired.

More seriously, Crompton has directly accused me in another post of corruption and organizing kickbacks.

These statements are libelous. I urge him to withdraw them and apologize.