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Politics Local opponents turn Vancouver riots into mudslinging

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, left, and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark tour Granville St. in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday June 16, 2011.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The whiff of tear gas was still in the air when politicians began weighing in on the riotous mobs that ruled downtown Vancouver streets under a full moon on Wednesday night.

Mayor Gregor Robertson's e-mailed statement was in first, decrying the violence, as befits the mayor of the city where assaults, arson and ransacking reigned.

An hour later, just as police were declaring the situation under control, mayoral candidate and Councillor Suzanne Anton issued a statement demanding an "immediate inquiry" into events leading to the riots.

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The next morning, Mr. Robertson's scheduled walkabout with Charles Gauthier of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association was crashed by Premier Christy Clark.

Although she is neither a police officer nor a judge, Ms. Clark vowed the hooligans would be tracked down and punished severely for their million-dollar crime spree, as opposed to all those who want them to get away with it.

Vancouver council candidate Joe Carangi, running for the municipal opposition NPA, didn't need to wait for the inquiry called for by Ms. Anton, who is also with the NPA. Mr. Carangi's mind was already made up.

Mayor Robertson's "lack of foresight" was responsible, he quickly concluded, notwithstanding that all operational decisions, including the number of officers deployed, were made by Police Chief Jim Chu.

Then NDP leader Adrian Dix weighed in with a solid statement, but couldn't resist veiled criticism of the governing Liberals. Apparently referring to NDP accusations that the governing Liberals are underfunding the justice system, he promised his party will continue to insist "that our justice system has the resources" to hold those responsible for the destruction to account.

Provincial Conservative leader John Cummins was more blunt. Despite the Premier's tough talk, Mr. Cummins predicted rioters may never serve any time, because of $14.5-million in cuts to court services. "Even if these criminals are arrested, they may never be prosecuted."

Is a reminder necessary that municipal and - likely provincial - elections are coming up before the end of the year? Fancy that.

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In the partisan world of politics, it didn't take long for the Vancouver riots to become just another blame game and lure for a headline to score some points.

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