The grand opening of this city’s newest skyscraper, 69 stories of twisting glass, five-star hotel rooms and multimillion-dollar condominiums, seems to have left some Canadians embarrassed by its excesses.
“I couldn’t afford to go in there,” red-haired Max Baker, a cook from nearby Surrey, said Tuesday as he and his girlfriend stood outside and craned their necks to study the curving edges of the $360-million tower. “I wouldn’t if I could, anyway. I’d feel like a traitor to Canada.”
No problem, Max. The mayor didn’t show, either. Neither did a number of top city officials despite the developer’s deep-pocket investment that produced the city’s second-tallest building, its first new hotel in almost three years, and 300 new jobs.
The problem they have with the hotel are the big brass letters across the entrance. They spell “Trump.”
The inauguration of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver promised to be a “momentous and exciting day,” as Eric Danziger, the chief executive of Trump Hotels, told guests and visitors gathered inside Tuesday.
Likening the building to Canada’s winning the hockey gold medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, he told a few people, “We hope this twisted tower will be a milestone too.”
Outside, police kept watch over about 100 protesters.
More than 50,000 signatures appear on a petition to scrub the U.S. president’s name from the tower. The petition organizer, Taleeb Noormohamed, said letting it remain allows “a name now synonymous with ignorance, intolerance and hatemongering to shine above our city.”
One poll found that more than half of Canadians want the Trump brand removed from the tower and a property in Toronto.
In other words, Trump apparently didn’t win the popular vote in the Great White North, either.
The Canadian backlash began last year as Trump became increasingly controversial for his campaign attacks on Mexicans, Muslims and others. Almost half of Vancouver’s population today is foreign born.
City Councilman Kerry Jang called the hotel a “beacon of racism … intolerance, sexism and bullying” that is out of touch with the city and “over the top [in] glitz and glamor.”
“It's not our thing,” he said.
Trump doesn’t own the building. His hospitality company leases out the family name through a licensing deal with the hotel developer and runs the147-room hotel on 15 floors.
The developer, the Holborn Group, is led by Joo Kim Tiah, a scion of one of Malaysia’s richest families who has said in interviews that he became uncomfortable with Trump’s divisive tactics during the campaign.
He was at a point of no return, however, he said Tuesday during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Tiah said he stuck with Trump because the New York billionaire brought “a new level of sophistication” to Vancouver. Tiah said he was also glad to see the project completed because it turned out to be the “last masterpiece” of the architect Arthur Erickson, who died in 2009.
Among Trump’s harshest critics in Vancouver is the mayor, Gregor Robertson, who said the Trump name and brand “have no more place on Vancouver's skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world.”
Although Vancouver is known for its “steadfast commitment to diversity, equality and freedom from discrimination and hatred,” he wrote in a letter to the developer, Trump tries to “remind us all of much darker times in our world’s past.”
The mayor planned to pass up the hotel opening events Tuesday and would not be giving interviews, his representative said.
The president’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr., brought along other family members to see the hotel this week.
Donald Trump Jr. said it takes the industry “to the next level, doing something that’s never been seen before.” Amenities include a champagne lounge, signature restaurants and a pool-bar nightclub.
The Trump sons are now officially in charge of Trump hotel properties, with the president saying he has turned over his businesses to them.
The president was in Washington on Tuesday, set to address Congress that night. But Donald Trump Jr. channeled his father’s growing disdain for the media.
“I’d like to thank the press,” he told attendees at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Pausing to silence, he then piped up: “I’m just kidding!”
Anderson is a special correspondent.