Vancouver Board of Trade CEO shares thoughts on future of Granville Island

Granville Island Vancouver skyline False Creek / Shutterstock

It was with great interest that I read Daphne Bramham’s recent op-ed on the future of Granville Island — a national landmark and one of the most iconic tourist destinations in our city.

However, I must say that I was taken aback by the negative tone of Bramham’s column, particularly her unwarranted characterization of Port Metro Vancouver.

In her op-ed, Bramham painted a troubling picture of a “secret deal that is all but done” for Port Metro Vancouver to take over the operation of Granville Island. What’s more, Bramham suggested the deal was entirely orchestrated by the Port, in a “cynical attempt to polish its terrible public image.”

Those are strong and sweeping condemnations that are simply inconsistent with the credibility and balanced stature PMV has earned through the decades.

But assuming Port Metro Vancouver is involved in such discussions, it is important to objectively think the matter through.

Well beyond its role as a cornerstone of Canada’s economy, Port Metro Vancouver is already a community leader in the Lower Mainland. As Bramham notes (albeit briefly), the Port currently manages operations of Canada Place — another iconic tourist destination — and by all accounts they are doing an exceptional job. This was demonstrated most recently by the most successful Canada Day celebrations outside of Ottawa ever.

Port Metro Vancouver also hosts more than 800,000 tourists a year through its award-winning cruise ship terminals. Thus, one should be cautious to so quickly dismiss the idea of the Port also managing the operations of Granville Island.

Historically, it was Port Metro Vancouver (then known as the Vancouver Harbour Commission) that first developed and administered Granville Island nearly 100 years ago — in 1915. In other words, the two entities already have a shared history that dates back nearly a century. Even when Granville Island was set up in its current form in the 1970s, it was based on three pillars of food, arts and maritime. They are, and continue to be, natural partners.

As noted in Bramham’s op-ed, Granville Island finds itself at a critical junction. With Emily Carr University slated to vacate its campus in 2016, the Island requires a steady hand on the tiller, strategic direction and financial certainty moving forward. As the Lower Mainland’s largest employer, Port Metro Vancouver is well positioned to provide that steady leadership for one of our city’s crown jewels — which is home to 275 businesses, employs 3,000 people, and attracts more than 10.5 million visits each year.

It’s important that we get this transition right, and thus should not exclude from consideration an entity like PMV with its history, proven credentials and legitimate stake in our waterfront.

Certainly, a fact-based discussion should happen regarding the future stewards of Granville Island. Dismissive commentary fuelled by recent political events at city hall, however, do not constructively contribute to this dialogue.


Written by Iain Black, the President and CEO of the Vancouver Board of Trade. Follow Iain on Twitter @iainblack_vbot.

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