Vancouver riot review: John Furlong's balancing act
Woodsworth has called for him to step down from the riot review.
Balancing personal relationships and non partisan requirements
Woodsworth first told the Globe and Mail that Furlong's capacity to review the riots was compromised by his "close relationship" with Peter Armstrong, the campaign chair for the Non-Partisan Association. Armstrong is the CEO of The Rocky Mountaineer and appointed Furlong last March to the board of Rocky Mountaineer.
Woodsworth later told VO that the two men socialize, and pointed to Armstrong's Facebook profile photograph. In it, the men pose side by side, cheering on the Canucks in Chicago (see top photo.)
In addition to Furlong's connections with the NPA campaign chair, Woodsworth questioned the closed-door methods used to appoint Furlong to the riot review.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she had a "chance meeting" with John Furlong and offered him the post. Woodsworth said that the City had been consulted about the appointment of Doug Keefe to the riot review, but were not consulted about Furlong's appointment. For Woodsworth, a red flag went up when she went to Armstrong's Facebook page after reading an article by Vancouer civic reporter Jeff Lee. Then she said, she looked further and found that Furlong had joined the Rocky Mountaineer board.
"If he disclosed his position, it may have been okay, but the fact is that nobody knew," Woodsworth said.
Clark declined to comment on whether she was aware of Furlong's connections with Peter Armstrong prior to the appointment.
"My take on it is that it's like many things she has done since Christy’s been premier: she just didn't think it through properly," a political watcher who asked not to be named, told VO. "I don't think she was trying to deliberately hurt Gregor (although some may, and that’s possible), but she made a bad call in putting Furlong on there, just because he asked to do it at some social engagement.
"Whatever he does now, it's going to be tainted with the fact that he is politically biased, definitely close to the NPA (and the provincial Liberals) and key figures in it, and he is not favorable to Gregor as everyone knows.
"Furthermore though he is not qualified, he's not a lawyer or a judge or an expert on policing, investigations or inquiries or crowd control.
“(The review) is going to be tainted with the fact that he is politically biased, definitely close to the NPA (and the provincial Liberals),” he said. “And he is not favorable to Gregor, as everyone knows.”
He also dismissed Anton’s argument that the city would “run out of people” if it looked for someone who was not politically connected. “That’s simply not true,” he said. “Most people aren’t connected politically, but John Furlong most definitely is. It’s a mistake that will hurt the inquiry.
"The smart thing would be to have him gracefully step down, but there haven't been too many smart things since she's been Premier, so I don't expect it this time.”
However, Furlong assured Vancouver Sun reporter Jeff Lee of his objectivity:
"If I felt conflicted at any point I would have declared that to be the case -- I don't feel conflicted."
Peter Armstrong is not only the NPA's campaign chair, he also donated $265,486.00 to the B.C. Liberals between 2005 and 2010. The NPA courted Armstrong to run for mayor, according to Globe and Mail reporter Frances Bula's May 30th blog, but he apparently declined as NPA Councillor Suzanne Anton decided to run instead.
Furlong's presence has created a perception of bias against the Vision Vancouver mayor, Woodsworth said.