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Gregor Robertson’s right-hand man quietly bows out of city hall

Mike Magee helped build Vision Vancouver into a political force
mike magee
Mike Magee said he would be returning to Convergence Strategies and Communications. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s longtime right-hand man, who was the architect of Vision Vancouver’s three city council majorities, worked his last day at 12th and Cambie on Sept. 30.

In an Oct. 5 Facebook post, Mike Magee said he would be returning to Convergence Strategies and Communications, his home-based company that continued to exist while he was chief of staff and, more recently, a special advisor to Robertson. Kevin Quinlan was promoted from deputy to chief of staff in May while Magee remained on the payroll as Robertson’s special advisor to lobby Ottawa for housing and transit funds and to oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

“It’s been a complete joy to serve Vancouver and work with such committed and selfless leaders,” wrote Magee, who was paid $144,547 in 2015. “The list of what we have achieved together for the city is long and globally recognized. I know the coming years will bring even more success based on this foundation. I’m proud of this and of the whole team.”

Magee founded Convergence almost 15 years ago and it was Vision Vancouver’s first headquarters when the party was formed after the 2003 COPE split.

“I’ll continue to advise the mayor and the team on critical issues and major projects as needed, particularly with opportunities for building partnerships with our new colleagues in the federal government,” Magee wrote. “And I’ll continue pursuing my passion for bringing people together and creating positive, tangible change in the world, working on national urban issues, business investments in the clean economy, and initiatives in other cities as well as some international projects that I’ve been wanting to pursue for a while.”

Convergence’s website is undergoing a redesign. A cached version said its services include strategic finance and philanthropy, campaign and communications planning, branding and focus groups. The website listed more that 50 clients, including Tides Canada and Renewal Partners, several American foundations, BC Hydro, EcoJustice, various First Nations groups and “several anonymous donors and investors.”

At his 2008 swearing-in, Robertson vowed: “I will not let you down on making city hall more open and accountable,” yet the Vision Vancouver city hall still has no lobbyist registry, was slammed for cosy relations with developers and found to have repeatedly broken freedom of information laws.

Magee admitted to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in early 2015 that he mass-deletes his email. An OIPC investigation released last June found city hall delayed information inappropriately, deliberately missed deadlines, lost documentation, released incomplete responses and discriminated against reporters who sought public information.

A judge turned down a 2014-filed B.C. Supreme Court petition that alleged Robertson was in conflict of interest over the lease of a civic building to Hootsuite. But the case included evidence that Magee used his Convergence email account for communicating with Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes while the deal was under negotiation. The OIPC has said that public workers are not allowed to use private email accounts to subvert FOI laws.

With Magee at the helm, Vision raised a record $3.416 million for the 2014 re-election, including almost $2.26 million from corporations and $385,450 from unions.

Before the election, the party unsuccessfully lobbied the BC Liberal government to ban corporate and union donations, but Vision did not place any limits on its own fundraising. It did bow to pressure from opponents and media and released a preliminary list of donors during the campaign.

In 2015, Magee positioned Robertson as a supporter of Justin Trudeau’s victorious Liberal election campaign in the wake of Robertson’s failed leadership of the Yes campaign in the TransLink expansion plebiscite.

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