By: Benjamin Mussett
With Trump comes controversy. The same can now be said for the opulent buildings which bear his name. Following a fairly rocky development stage, the official opening of Vancouver’s Trump International Hotel and Tower is now upon us. As expected, a large anti-Trump demonstration is slated to welcome the president’s sons who are now heads of the Trump Organization, Eric and Donald Jr. The official unveiling is scheduled for Tuesday, February 28
The confrontational greeting should not come as a surprise to the Holburn Group, the Vancouver-based company that developed the 69-storey skyscraper. The project has been a significant point of contention among many in the city who feel that Trump’s controversial and occasionally divisive politics should not be represented in Vancouver. By late 2015, a petition requesting that Trump’s name be removed from the building had gathered over 50,000 signatures.
In fact, following Trump’s now notorious campaign proposal to prohibit Muslims from entering the US, Mayor Gregor Robertson also spoke out against Trump’s involvement in the project. In a public letter, which Robertson addressed to Joo Kim Tiah, the president and CEO of the Holburn Group, the mayor said, “Trump’s name and brand have no more place on Vancouver’s skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world.”
Despite the backlash, the Holburn Group chose not to cut ties with the Trump Organization. After the uncovering of an audio tape which appeared to feature President Trump boasting about groping women without consent, the company released a statement distancing itself from the controversy, albeit not the Trump brand. “Holburn, a company that has contributed immensely to the growth of Vancouver, is not in any way involved in US politics. As such we would not comment further on Mr. Trump’s personal or political agenda, nor any political issues, local or foreign,” read the statement from Joo Kim Tiah.
Aside from the local implications, the Trump brothers’ upcoming visit to Vancouver involves a larger controversy concerning the excessive cost of protecting the president’s sons as they promote his brand and attend hotel openings around the world. Instead of divesting his business holdings or putting them in a blind trust to prevent possible conflicts of interest, the president chose to place his two eldest sons at the helm of the Trump Organization.
As with the rest of the president’s close family members, Eric and Donald Jr. are now continuously protected by the Secret Service. The cost of protecting the jet-setting businessmen has proven excessive. According to The Independent, the security expenses for Eric Trump’s trip to Uruguay last month alone cost taxpayers nearly $100,000. All of this has raised significant ethical concerns regarding the intersect between the presidency and Trump’s private business. Should public money be used to defend Trump’s family members while they promote and profit from the Trump brand?
Tuesday’s official opening will be the third time that activist Vancouverites have come out to protest Donald Trump in just the last few months. Nonetheless, the Holburn Group has decided to stick with the Trump brand and all that it represents. The company has stated numerous times that they are under contractual obligation to keep the Trump name and dropping it would entail “enormous financial and legal ramifications.” Still, there is an advantage to this type of attention: plenty of publicity and profitable curiosity.
For anyone interested in Tuesday’s planned protest, more details can be found here.
With files from the Georgia Straight, CBC News, Global News, Forbes, the Independent and the New York Times.