To be 'Frank', he sounds a lot like Brian did

Canada's Ambassador to the U.S., Frank McKenna, gave an interview to the American political cable channel C-SPAN yesterday. In the interview, McKenna refuted claims ranging from rampant anti-Americanism in this country to terrorists filtering south across our border.

The bulk of the interview focused on trade issues, and on the issue of cattle exports, McKenna made this interesting comment:

"If this blockage continues on the border, we're increasingly going to develop our own processing industry in Canada and we're going to increasingly invest in the science that will lead to universal testing or perhaps something short of (that) If we do that, it will mean processing jobs will move from the United States into Canada. And that's not where we want to go."

"...jobs...move...into Canada. And that's not where we want to go. "

Astonishing! If Canadians started processing their own meat, it might not be long before things degrade to the point where we're processing our own raw logs. Thank goodness our man in Washington is speaking up to save unsuspecting Canadians from the evils of economic diversification and gainful employment. Thank you Ambassador McKenna, we can all go back to hewing wood and drawing water - at least if we can get it past Customs...


Whistling in the Dark

An SES Research poll released yesterday indicates that only 17% of Canadians trust the federal government to spend their tax dollars fairly. 33% per cent trust their provincial governments, while 32% put their faith in City Hall.

SES also did a poll which I haven't seen anywhere else since seeing it on Broadcast News yesterday which had 42% of respondents claiming that Ottawa was still running a deficit, a response that flies in the face of almost a dozen consecutive balanced budgets from Paul Martin. Don't get me wrong, balancing the budget on the backs of students, the unemployed, and our health care system is not something I approve of, but the fact of the matter is, the books are balanced.

Political debate in this country would be a lot easier if we had a few common terms of reference, like, the truth. Memo to the media: Telling a story repeatedly until someone believes it is not the same as telling people what's actually happened.


The following takes place between page 1 and page 24.

24 Hours, the second of Vancouver's commuter dailies, made its debut today, going head to head with the Canwest/Torstar freebie Metro. 24 Hours is a joint venture of Quebecor/Sun Media and the Pattison Group.

Since the early 70's Sun Media has wrote the book on tabloid journalism in Canada, concocting a high-octane blend of populism, polemic, and sensationalism, with a generous dash of T&A on page 3. It's not a coincidence that 24 hours looks as much like it fits in the 12 items or less aisle as it does on the 99 B-Line.

What might really set 24 Hours apart from the other paid and unpaid subscription dailies in Vancouver is that despite being a major bagman for corporate B.C., Pattison actually has a few populist sensibilities and is willing to hire talent regardless of its ideological markings. Bill Tielman, a former NDP insider who uses the Liberals for a punching bag in his "Political Connections" column in the Georgia Strait, is a 24 Hours columnist. Also, the biggest former NDP insider of them all, Glen Clark, is President of the Pattison Group's brand new "News Division".

Yes, you read that - Glen Clark is now a media mogul. And Rafe Mair is now a journalist.


A Good Friday for Bear...206

Heading to Seattle this weekend for the Hops on Equinox spring beer festival, some Sonics NBA action vs. the New York Knicks, and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. Probably won't see Spike Lee at courtside, but I do get to check out Paul Allen's collectibles.

A shout out to the over 100 of you who have fed the Bear! Tell your friends and enjoy your long weekend! See you back here Tuesday!


I Hate "Visible Minorities"

By 2017, over half the population of Toronto and Vancouver will be made up of visible minorities.

I'm not a visible minority today, but if I had shown up in this country 100 years ago I would have been. In those days, there were the "Children of the Empire", and then there were the 'Krauts', 'Bohunks' and 'Spics' (among others) who either worked for them or were taking up the crown on their generous free land offer. Was that inflammatory and racist? As historical commentary, I don't think so. What I do think is inflammatory and racist is the continued use of the term 'Visible Minority' long after an ethnic or cultural group has established themselves in Canadian society, and in some areas ARE the majority.

Two years ago, I moved into the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood in Vancouver. According to a recent City of Vancouver census, Visible Minorities make up 65% of my neighbours. That struck me as odd: I thought the people around me were Chinese, Indian, Fillipino, African, and Latino, not some kind of pod people the state needed to itemize to make them visible. What's even more odd is that if a government homogenizes these wonderful amalgamations of culture and DNA into a 'minority' category, how can the 35% of us remaining in Mount Pleasant be any kind of 'majority'??

Maybe this country would stop having issues surrounding minorities if we stopped believing in the cultural imperialist fantasy of 'the majority', and actually accepted our diversity instead of "us and them".


Prince Rupert is the Pauper

Here's a BC Liberal TV ad you won't see: An aerial shot of the northwest coast panning over an entire city with its hand out. When a city council has to do everything from selling the local campground to laying off firefighters, just how much of a 'Golden Decade' is it?

About 26,000 people live in the Prince Rupert area, which, like the rest of Gordon Campbell's so-called "Heartlands", took a serious beating when the Liberals applied their unique brand of C.P.R. - Cuts, Privatization, Raw Log Exports. The Liberals are planning to investigate how the municipal shortfall happened, but does anyone think they'll start with the people who shut down Skeena Cellulose, then laid off the hundreds of public sector workers from the court house to the hospital, whose taxes might have been propping up the town?

Of course not - that would require looking in the mirror.


Venal Equinox

This week marks the First Day of Spring and Easter. It's also close to the end of RRSP season and the income tax deadline.

I am by no means a religious person, but do you ever notice how the Baby Boomers who lament how Xmas became too commercial are the ones who turn the palest shade of white over their portfolios once the flowers start coming out? They bitch the most because they have the most: they're the ones who hand-hold their kids through university and scream for tax cuts instead of frozen tution fees. They're also the ones who plan to winter in Arizona or Florida while clinging to this country's medical benefits.

Or Tuscany - I didn't see that CIBC ad with the couple who look like Adrienne Clarkson and John Raulston Saul with the sound on until a few weeks ago. I had thought that she was crying tears of relief because he didn't have prostate cancer, and that whole estate plan wasn't necessary. Guess I don't understand the importance of lording one's wealth over those who would otherwise be content to spend our twilight years taking long walks in the park or playing Yahtzee.

Depending on one's beliefs, this used to be a season of renewal, redemption, and a connection to life and the natural world. This is one of those rare times I wish I was a religious person, because I'd love to remember the name of that guy who kicked the moneychangers out of that temple...


Letters from our editors

It's become apparent from recent correspondence that people are visiting this site and reading my pithy little diatribes: maybe I should get a hit counter. Today I'll respond to some of the recent feedback. Note: any resemblance to these letter writers and actual persons living or dead is purely your own damn fault.

Lorne in the West End writes: "Dear Bear604, you are nothing but a malicious sock puppet for big labour and the NDP. If I find out who you are I'll sue your ass off!"

Dear Lorne: If a guy waits three days to call the police because he's afraid of an underfed bum, how's he going to take on a malicious sock puppet?

Peter in Surrey writes: "Dear Bear604, Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals have turned around our economy and our leading this province towards a Golden Decade of prosperity. Most major media outlets in British Columbia have been telling the good news stories about the New Era, Why aren't you?"

Dear Peter: I'm still waiting for the Canwest Global people to leave the briefcases filled with nonsequential unmarked bills at my secure location. Until that happens, the Liberals get what they deserve.

Adrienne on the Sunshine Coast writes: "Your site is sorely lacking coverage of the Green Party! Your readers deserve a closer look at our party and its plans for the 2005 election."

Dear Adrienne: You're absolutely right - my readers DO deserve a closer look at what an opportunistic, union-hating, vote-splitting suck-up you are. Thanks for the great advice!

Spartacus in East Vancouver writes: "Professional sports are little more than the bread and circusses of the American corporate empire. Your frequent mention of them in your blog brands you a hypocrite".

Dear Spartacus: Does this mean you're not doing any Mariners' games with me this season? Damn it, who do I split the jumbo garlic fries with now?

The Editorial Board of National Lampoon writes: "Letters from our Editors is our gag. Cease and desist, or we will be forced to take legal action."

Dear Board: I'm sorry, I can't make out your message, and now I gotta go...


What did you expect? It's the Supreme Court of British Columbia!

Like my anguished neighbours on South Fraser, you're probably scratching your head (or beating it against a wall) as a result of yesterday's verdict in the Air India Trial.

I don't have anything that profound or comforting to say. What I do have to say is this the same BC Supreme Court who in the past few months have:

-Let Todd Bertuzzi walk with a slap on the wrists after brutally assaulting Steve Moore in front of 18,000 paying spectators and hundreds of thousands watching on TV, because Bertuzzi's a star with the hometown Vancouver Canucks.

-Allowed the malicious prosecution of former premier Glen Clark to proceed with evidence that was way more suspect as that which was dismissed in the Air India Trial.

-Refused to disclose information about the December 28 Legislature Raids to the public for fear it will interfere with the upcoming provincial election - the court didn't seem to have a problem holding up Glen Clark's case during the 2001 provincial election.

As we say in the labour movement: "The law is never neutral". Those seeking justice in the Air India case might be wasting their time asking themselves what went wrong, the more pertinent questions may be "Who did we fail to appease" and/or "Who did we cross?"


Taylor-made in Langara...stay tuned.

CBC President Carole Taylor has stepped down to run in Vancouver-Langara for the BC Liberals.

After the resignations of moderates (at least among BC Liberals) like Christy Clark, Gary Collins, and Geoff Plant, it appears that the Drunk Driver is looking for someone to give the impression it's still a 'liberal' party.

For Taylor, she can't lose: the CBC is cruising towards a huge fiscal iceberg with the ongoing loss of Hockey Night in Canada revenues, making it the perfect time to jump ship. If the S.S. Campbell runs aground on May 17 (or shows any signs of liability in the upcoming Basi trial), Taylor becomes an instant front-runner.


Metro: start out, sell out

As it's first edition arrived in bright green newspaper boxes across the Lower Mainland today, the Vancouver edition of Metro has already discredited itself at this page by selling a one-third stake to CanWest Global Communications. It appears that either Metro took advantage of the smell of fear from CanWest (who obviously realized that they can't charge 75 cents for the pseudo-news in the Province when someone's giving it up for free at every bus stop) or Canwest just bullied the new kids on the block into submission. "Gawd forbid some up and comer with visions of Pulitzers (or a staff job) dancing in his head gets something subversive printed, it's bad enough we have to put up with these punks on the internet!"

This move flies in the face of work that Metro did with local focus groups months prior to today's launch: polls repeatedly show British Columbians distrust the mainstream media more than any part of the country, largely due to the fact Canwest owns almost all of it, and the rest of it is stifled by their incestuous relationship with the BC Liberals. Can you think of anywhere else in Canada where the Premier's brother is a leading columnist in the paper of record? Or where the major independent weekly is arbitrarily threatened with trumped up charges of tax evasion?

We may have wanted something convenient, and I'm sure many Vancouverites will like having a print version of City TV. However, since the Globe & Mail has taken a pro-Liberal editorial position (thank's to parent company Bell's 2010 Olympics sponsorship), this city remains without an objective and accessible daily. Metro had an opportunity to take that corner all for themselves, instead they're being pimped by Canwest on every corner in town.


Hurry Hard!...but I don't get it.

I don't consider it coincidence that Don's new job in Edmonton starts the same week as the Tim Horton's Brier. I'm not as hardcore about curling as he is, but I do enjoy watching occasionally.

The Brier, like the Grey Cup and the Memorial Cup, is a national sporting treasure where people show up for the love of the game, not to be seen making an idiot of one's self (see: Indy, Molson), follow a media bandwagon (see: Vinsanity), or both (see: Red Mile).

What I don't get about The Brier is this: Why do they call it The Brier? the tournament was originally sponsored by MacDonald Tobacco in 1927, but since 1980 the title sponsorship has been in the hands of Labatt Breweries, Nokia Electronics, and now Tim Horton's. Some lucky rink could have walked off with "The Keg", "The Pager", or this year, "The Crueller".

Mind you, the trophy originally donated by Lord Stanley of Preston for the amateur hockey champions of Canada back in 1893 is now the property of American corporation with no intention of presenting it to anyone this year. Shows what I know.


Channel Surfing the Volcano

My after work TV viewing was interrupted yesterday by the breaking news of steam and ash emanating from Mount St. Helens. In the middle of a stressful week, this turned out to be ideal entertainment: lots of speculation if it would erupt the way it did in 1980 to build curiousity, just enough of an element of danger (the FAA enforced a no-fly zone to prevent ash from going into jet engines) to build suspense, and just close enough (about 3 hours from where I was watching) that if anything really blew up, nobody would more than likely be killed and I'd get a little souvenir to sweep off my deck.

The really entertaining part, however, was flipping through Seattle TV stations to see how they were responding to this demi-crisis. The talking heads at CBS affiliate KIRO were buzzing nervously as they kept reporting that they were unable to contact the Seismology Department at the University of Washington, implying that something serious was going on...

If it was serious for anyone, it was for KIRO's producers, as over on KOMO (ABC) the anchor team was engaged in a lengthy phone conversation with UW's resident Seismologist. Waiting at his office door was a reporter from KING (NBC). KCPQ, content to stick with the Fox network's tradition of hard-hitting journalism, talked to their weather guy.

Something may erupt yet, stay tuned. Too bad it didn't happen during sweeps last month....


Your Tax Dollars at Work....Until Thursday

The BC Liberals will cut off debate on the budget and adjourn the legislature on Thursday.

If anything, this move gave Joy MacPhail one last swing at Gordon Campbell's outright contempt at parliamentry tradition and the democratic process, but is anybody really that surprised?


Root for the home team

Today's New York Times features some interesting group dynamics from Benedict Carey.
"social scientists who have studied group performance under pressure say that often it is decentralized groups (like the Yankees) that prove more resilient than strongly connected ones (like the Red Sox); they are better able to weather outside criticism and internal quarrels. "

Reading this piece reminds me of another dynasty that was in spring training last weekend. Like the Yankees, these guys don't always get along, they're always surrounded by controversy, but still come out on top more than their fair share. They grab a lot of free agents from other teams. Switch "Alex Rodriguez" to "Scott Brison", or "Randy Johnston" to "Ujjal Dosanjh", and you'll get Carey's point even if you don't know baseball.

However, if you're a New Democrat who knows baseball, we could discuss a suitable analogy for when Pierre Truedeau jumped from the CCF to the Liberals...


Reefer Madness Kills Four

Over at the mother ship, Don is at a loss to understand what happened yesterday to four RCMP officers in Rochfort Bridge, Alberta.

Killing cops is wrong. That being said, sending in raw rookies to tangle with a caselot of known drug and firearms issues, just to enforce this country's antiquated marijuana laws, is also wrong.

Marijuana is an issue that shows the cultural divide between British Columbians and our immediate Eastern neighbours. In Alberta, if they're doing something illegal, no matter it is, put the boots to 'em straight away. In BC, we want the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency spooks kicked out of Vancouver. We lift our middle fingers skyward at the Homeland Security helicopter making regular orbits out of Bellingham, to the tune of the "4:20" song on the local rock radio station, sponsored by Advanced Hydroponics.

We just don't have the love affair with cops that Albertans do. Calgarians rage when a Richard Sonnenberg is killed, by demanding 24-hour helicopter surveillance backed by an avalanche of donations. Who cares if it's primarily used to harass what passes for a gay stroll in Cowtown? Vancouverites rage when our boys in blue drag people to Stanley Park in the middle of the night to beat them death, or play Kristalnacht in the Downtown Eastside every few months to squeeze money out of City Council.

To sum up, and the crass opportunism of Marc Emery and the BC Marijuana Party aside, none of us here really care if you're holding, and few of us do if you're growing.

If you're packing, that is just not cool, damn it.


Wow. And I thought I was hard on Mayencourt....

Memo to Vancouver Panhandlers: punch harder.

If this actually happened and isn't another one of Mayencourt's rough tricks/publicity stunts, this could be the first time this page advocates violence against an elected official. I hope Mayencourt wasn't seriously hurt, but I also hope he was hurt enough to make the realization that if you bash the poor long enough, the poor bash back.

I'm actually somewhat surprised: after his threats of slap lawsuits, refusing to meet with the BC Lung Association about Liberal plans to erase smoking regulations in bars and restaurants, willfully standing by as his West End constituents lose their homes to runaway rent increases, being the openly gay MLA to ever be chased out of the Pride Parade, trying to start a shoving match with the entire NDP caucus in a legislature stairwell, I would have thought someone would have taken a swing at the guy a long time ago.

Maybe Mayencourt should go back and hide in his constituency office (which is outside Vancouver Burrard), keep the door locked (which he always does), have the police deploy the mounted patrol in front (like he did at the last First Night Festival, an event attended by hordes of small children), and wait until May 17 when Tim Stevenson can take the job back from him.


Comments on Comments

As pointed out by Rob Cottingham, re: Monday's edition, Jagrup Brar is also seeking re-election in Surrey-Panorama Ridge. Sure, he's only been around since the byelection last fall, but how could I miss the guy? He played for India's Olympic basketball team! At the Lunar New Year Parade he towered over every other elected official strolling down Pender. If he makes it into the cabinet, the first question for him in Question Period will be about the weather up there...but seriously, I missed a guy who handed Mary Polak and Gordon Campbell their collective ass, and is primed to do it again in six weeks.

I didn't watch the Oscars, so I didn't see the British Columbia Teachers Federation TV spot until yesterday. While I was getting a chuckle, Homeless-Bashing Fag Uncle Tom (and Burrard MLA) Lorne Mayencourt stood up in the House and accused the teacher's union of exploiting children. Funny Lorne, but I'm at the BCTF office all the time these days, and I don't see any 12 years old working there like YOUR government is encouraging.