Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson wants Port Metro Vancouver to steer clear from a plan to control Granville Island after a media report called the transfer to the port a “secret deal that is all but done.”
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the federal agency that has controlled the bustling tourist attraction since 1972, has confirmed it is on the hunt for a new manager for the island, but the mayor does not believe the port is the right choice to run the hub of arts, culture, local food and small business, Robertson said in a statement Thursday.
“Local decision-making and operations are crucial to Granville Island’s revitalization and continued success,” Robertson said in the statement.
“The City of Vancouver is strongly opposed to Granville Island being controlled by Port Metro Vancouver, and we made our position clear to the port and the Government of Canada in discussions and correspondence over many months.”
The port is Canada’s largest, responsible for $184 billion worth of trade annually and more than 90,000 jobs.
But it’s expansion – it posted record numbers in 2013 – has created controversy in the Lower Mainland, specifically related to concerns over the health and climate impacts of coal exports and oil tankers.
Rather than hand the port control over of “one of Vancouver’s most treasured places,” Robertson would prefer the federal government lease or transfer the land to the city, or create an independent local authority to run the island that attracts an estimated 10 million visits annually.
It’s not clear whether CMHC is considering the city among its options for management of the island.
“At this time, we cannot discuss details around these options. It is too soon to speculate on any outcome,” CMHC spokeswoman Teresa Amoroso said in an email Thursday.
There is no timeline on the decision, which has nothing to do with Emily Carr University vacating its island home in 2016, Amoroso said.
“However, our goal is to ensure the long term sustainability and success of Granville Island… the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of Granville Island as being a people place and an important part of the local Vancouver economy.”
Port Metro Vancouver spokesman John Parker-Jervis refused to confirm whether the port has eked a deal to control the land, but he also refused to deny the Vancouver Sun report that pegged the port as manager-in-waiting.
“The CMHC has a process they’re going through considering different options through the management of the island,” Parker-Jervis said. “Unfortunately I just can’t comment on the process.”
Regardless of who controls Granville Island in the future, Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry questioned why the decision is shrouded in secrecy and isn’t considering public input.
“It is disturbing that the Conservative government continues to make decisions in secrecy regarding important regional institutions without consultations or input from MPs or their constituents,” Fry said in a statement.
Fry didn’t comment on these particular rumours, but said she is meeting with local business and community leaders to listen to their concerns.
“I will oppose any blatant major commercialization and privatization of the management of Granville Island,” Fry said.