11 October 2010

What Ever Happened to Civil Debate and the Exchange of Ideas?

This past week the Vancouver Sun published an Op/Ed written by former city counsellor Jim Green, in which he accuses public policy analyst and developer Michael Geller of being prejudiced against homeless people and the poor. This is yet another example of the drive by smear that is becoming too common in local politics; pundits and politicians who, rather than address the issues, choose to attack and besmirch the intelligence and reputations of those they disagree with. I don't doubt that Mr. Green and Mr. Geller have differing views on civic affairs, but Mr. Green, in a bullying and nasty piece, chose to attack Mr. Geller personally.

I know Michael Geller and admire him greatly. We probably do not agree on everything either, but he certainly is not prejudiced and to suggest so is not only unkind, but I believe, despicable. Michael Geller worked for many years with CMHC building homes for low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. He has very definite views on the Olympic Village fiasco, which he shares with anyone who will listen or read. He has the ability to translate complex planning issues into language most people can understand. He is a kind, honest and compassionate man and we here in Vancouver are lucky that he devotes so much of his time to public policy.

During the summer I too was at the receiving end of this kind of smear. The Chair of the Vancouver Park Board, Aaron Jasper, accused me of mischief and putting the Park Board at risk. He did not address the issue at hand but rather chose to attack my honesty and integrity.

It is little wonder that so few good people are drawn into public life, and that most people have such low opinions of politicians. When civil debate is not possible, public policy loses. When the exchange of ideas turns into an exchange of insults, people turn away. It is time that public figures were held to account. It is time to say enough is enough. Stop the personal attacks and debate the issues. There should be no place in politics for cheap shots and personal smears.


  1. Well said Stuart. Advice we can all take seriously as the elelction fever heats up.

  2. Stuart

    I agree with what you have said, that is if you have an opinion you may be branded as against the poor and homeless.

    When I think of Vision in power it seems that their priorities are the homeless, bike lanes, food carts, veggie gardens at City Hall and now Sunset Beach.

    At a time of a slow economy and with the cloud of uncertainty over our heads as a result of the Olympic Village fiasco this Council cut the Park Board budget
    resulting in a closure of a childcare facility in Champlain Heights.

    All while opening the Creekside Community Recreation Centre even though there is no community in place to serve!

    One can only hope that Jasper, Hundal and the gang get the boot come next election.

    Keep up the good work Stuart!

  3. Excellent comments Stuart,
    Jim Green owes Mr.Geller a sincere apology. It was a vicious attack on a man that did not deserve it.