One of the unfortunate disappointments of COVID–19 has been the cancellation of a party of a dear friend. For two years George Taylor has been planning to invite 90 of his friends and family to his 90th birthday celebration. Because his wife Marsha and I are the same age, born two days apart, I’ve piggy-backed on some of the parties he’s planned for her, like her 50th when he filled their West Vancouver backyard with food stations and live music, including the “Spice Girls” (Marsha’s playful ‘sistas’ Marie and Elaine and her friends Gina and Corrine). George knows how to throw a party and would have loved to see each you at his on October 23! Consider this blog his virtual birthday party!
We first met George at conferences in the 1980s, when he in Vancouver and Spice in Calgary were part of an international business travel company. Spice and I liked his forthrightness, keen interest in politics (he was instrumental in Vancouver’s TEAM and “a backroom boy” provincially for years), his engagement with people and sense of humour. In the 90s he married the convivial Marsha and the four of us began drinking wine together around the world, trying to forget our golf scores at Lahinch and Big Sky and trying to remember the names of towns we loved in Cinque Terre and Tuscany.
Always a leader and organizer, George was elected President of The UBC B. Comm. Class of 1955. Alumni and associates from that period include Former Canadian Ambassador Maldy Thomas, Jimmy Pattison and Robert Lee.
Having put himself through university working as a butcher at Jackson Meats, it was a giant step forward to Crown Zellerbach, where he was featured in their recruiting ads. “Soon, as a full-fledged representative, George will make his first solo sale, make his first tough decisions. Then he will win his next degree–Master of Opportunity.” One transfer he didn’t enjoy was to Calgary, where he found driving the winter roads across the prairies to make sales calls particularly frustrating. When management caught wind that he was considering resigning, they transferred George to San Francisco where he observed the new age of political activism.
After returning to Vancouver, he became active in civic politics. In 1967, a group of executives held regular Wednesday noon luncheons in the Grosvenor Hotel, intent on unseating the NPA and Tom Campbell who had the reputation of being everything a mayor should not be: anti-intellectual, contemptuous of citizen participation and committed to private profit in civic development. A nucleus of key people held their first “official” meeting at the home of Art Phillips and their second one around George’s dining-room table. In March 1968, “The Electors Action Movement” (TEAM) publicly emerged with Art Phillips as interim president.
TEAM was a reform group seeking to reverse certain policies of the city in order to preserve and protect the features that make Vancouver a beautiful and pleasant place to live, work and raise a family. In December 1968, TEAM elected Art Phillips and Walter Hardwick to council.
The election in 1972 brought TEAM to power, with the party electing the mayor (Phillips), eight of the ten aldermen, eight of the nine school trustees and four of the seven park commissioners. In his two terms as mayor of Vancouver in the 1970s, Art Phillips and TEAM set the foundation for Vancouver’s later emergence as a model for downtown density and neighbourhood-oriented communities. From reversing a plan to run a freeway along the city’s waterfront to saving the Orpheum Theatre and developing False Creek’s south shore, Phillips sought to create a city that integrated livability with growth. The Orpheum Theatre is the home of the Vancouver Symphony of which George was a director for many terms. On a side note, during this period, a future political powerhouse, Gordon Campbell, was the executive assistant to Art Phillips.
George joined Simons International Corporation as a senior executive under the leadership of Thomas A. Simons. It was a group he loved working with and as Head of Human Resources, he had challenging responsibilities in hiring and transferring professionals to foreign assignments. Failure to do this exceptionally well would be demoralizing for the assignees and their families. George was parachuted into the agency Simons used for their travel to redesign the interface and processes. Simons subsequently took over the agency and made George its president. Atlas Travel became the largest independent business travel agency in British Colombia under the leadership of George, who hired two exceptional executives to assist him, his daughter Jennifer and son Keith! He ultimately bought the agency from Simons and with impeccable timing sold it just before his clients migrated to making their own online bookings.
In 1984, George joined the NPA supporting Gordon Campbell’s team. Campbell was elected to council and then Mayor of Vancouver for three successive terms from 1986 to 1993. Notable events in civic politics during that period included development of the Expo Lands, re-development of Yaletown and the foundation for residential development of Coal Harbour. One of the most significant projects of his term was the new Vancouver Public Library.
In 1993, George followed Gordon Campbell into provincial politics and became president of the Liberal Party. He preferred to work behind the scenes, forming strategy and coaching campaign committees in individual ridings. George is proud of his role in helping Gordon Campbell and the Liberals win the 2001 election and hold power until 2011.
On our first move to Vancouver in 1988, we asked George for his advice. “You’ll hate the politics, but every time your plane lands, you’ll kiss the ground and love to be home.”
With their interest in others and broad perspectives, travel with George and Marsha is always enlightening.
Dec 31 2000—Tofino
Oct 2003—Cinque Terre/Tuscany
Vancouver Civic Politics, 1929-1980* Paul Tennant