Election 2006: 50% Less Grewal

Conservative Gurmant (Memorex) Grewal is bowing out in Newton-North Delta.

From what this page remembers, Gurmant's election (and his wife Nina's) in 2004 was largely the result of Paul Martin's whirlwind "Stop Stephie" tour of the 604 during the last week of that campaign. The PM argued voting NDP would elect more Conservatives. Enough NDP voters switched to the Liberals, and the Grewals come up the middle.

After remixing his duet with Ujjal Dosanjh, dishing out "free" advice to visa applicants, and skulking YVR for a mule, it didn't help that the NDP's fortunes South of the Fraser took a big leap forward on May 17, and that team will be in place for a federal campaign. It appears Grewal has heard the tape recording on the wall.

It's usually sad when a 'recording' career is cut short right after a snowstorm, but to Gurmant Grewal, this page says: I listened to the music of Buddy Holly. I watched the Buddy Holly Story. I used to have glasses that looked like Buddy Holly's. You sir, are no Buddy Holly.


Fear and Anger at the North Poll

This morning finds this page feeling somewhat ironic about about the Federal Election call for January 23. If voters in the Lower Mainland (where ridings could determine the stripe of a minority government) didn't know we were headed for a winter trip to the polls as of today, at least they do know that we're headed for winter. How did they get this ominous freak snowfall here on the first day of the winter campaign?

Accusations and investigations aside, the issues of this campaign are simple: either you're angry at the Paul Martin Liberals, or you're afraid of the Stephen Harper Conservatives. Si vous lisez ceci au Quebec, vous pouvez etre tous deux.

As for NDP supporters, these are people too caught up with things like fixing Canada's health care system and protecting the environment to understand real politics. That's why the NDP is only at 17% in the Strategic Council's initial poll, compared to 35% for Fear and 29% for Anger.

The next few weeks will obviously provide a wealth of material for Canada's blogosphere. As regulars to this page are aware, I started off as a guest blogger with Revolutionary Moderation. RevMod gained notoriety during the last federal election for the RevMod Gaffe-O-Meter (tm) which tabulated the pratfalls of party leaders and candidates, and prizes were awarded to readers who submitted gaffes. Don has brought back the Gaffe-O-Meter, so keep your eyes peeled for those juicy unscripted moments.

Oh...and the moments that are scripted just plain wrong. Don counts those too.


206 Spotlight: Seattle's One Track Mind

Both cars of the Seattle Center Monorail system collided with each other Saturday night, jamming the two cars together for what officials say could be days.

Putting the words 'Seattle' and 'Monorail' together has become something like putting the word "Bush" with words like "Iraq", "Kyoto" or "Solvency". While the mile-long stretch of elevated rail generated slack-jawed 'oohs' and 'ahhs' when it opened at the 1962 World's Fair, my recent trips aboard the Monorail generated more bumps, rattles, and ominous premonitions. Actually, those premonitions were already served by a variety of incidents, notably one during the 2004 Memorial Day weekend, when one of the trains conveniently caught fire right outside the studios of KOMO 4, Seattle's ABC affiliate.

That mishap shut down the entire system (ie. both trains) for about a month. The Monorail is neither part of King County Metro or Sound Transit, but the route does serve as a major tourist corridor, connecting Seattle Center attractions (like Key Arena) to Westlake Center (Seattle's major downtown mall), Pike Place Market, and the Waterfront.

This page asserts that the perpetual mechanical failures of the 43 year-old system (as well as massive cost overruns) were on the minds of a number of Seattle voters when they went to the polls two weeks ago, and in a vote that Vancouver's RAV opponents could only dream of, voted by a 2 to 1 margin against an expanded monorail system. I'm not sure if it's nostalgia, groupthink, or City councilors in serious need of some Lego, but people in their right minds don't drop serious coin on a monorail when ground has already been broken on a Light Rail Transit system for the area.

If anyone in the 206 sees Greg Nickels or anyone else hanging around Macy's asking Santa for a train set, let this page know. Santa, or Bill Bennett (I can't remember) gave the 604 a big monorail 20 years ago, and it's been nothing but trouble since.


And now...Sports

The 93rd Grey Cup takes place in Vancouver this Sunday. I was at BC Place last Sunday when the Edmonton Eskimos upended the hometown Lions 28-23 to punch their ticket for the big game. This page heard more finger-pointing and griping at Terry Fox Plaza than he did when James Green showed up on the ballot next to Jim Green.

For the band-wagon jumping masses that constitute much of Lions' fandom, the problem with the local gridiron concern can be summed up in two words: Wally Buono. It's not that Buono isn't a good head coach or a competent general manager, the problem is he's still trying to wear both hats and it's not working anymore. Buono the coach is loyal to a fault with his veteran players (ie. Dave Dickenson), which makes Buono the GM extremely reluctant to dump those veterans once they jump the shark.

Having followed the CFL in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Saskatchewan, I find the locals somewhat naive if not ignorant about Canada's other great game. I spent much of the second quarter chastizing a trio of would-be Krazy Georges about trying to start 'the wave' when the Lions had the ball. These jackasses (who brought their Canucks jerseys and fan etiquette from across the street at GM Place) had never heard of an audible, nor a snap count (neither of which can be heard over a roaring crowd), nor the stadium security rule about bringing in your own bottles of beer.

As for the rest of the faithful, I think a strong case of myopia set in when the Lions went to 11 and 0 and the Grey Cup sold out in the same week. Only three times since 1986 have home teams won the Western Final, the '92 and '98 Stampeders, and the 2004 Lions. All three of those teams had Wally Buono at the helm, so while it may be a good idea for David Braley to take one job away so that Buono can better focus on the other, it doesn't make sense to take away both.

Who is this page rooting for this weekend? I'll find out as soon as I buy my Grey Cup pool tickets.


A-Lorne and In Need

Almost unanimously, BC MLA's repealed a 15% pay increase and pension package yesterday.

It was almost unanimous because Vancouver Burrard MLA (and frequent BEAR 604 punching bag) Lorne Mayencourt voted in favour of keeping his raise. Rather than having this page jump to my own cynical conclusions about Mayencourt's reasons for wanting money the rest of colleagues were content to pass up, I'm going to let the audience decide.

So, did Mayencourt want to keep the pay increase because:

a) He remembers how close it was between him and Tim Stevenson on May 17, and he's grabbing everything he can get in case they count all the ballots next time?

b) He's getting ready for his third bankruptcy?

c) He's putting up a bigger purse for his next fight with a homeless guy?

Wow, it's almost like Fox News: I Retort. You Decide.


I Hate Vancouver

This page is feeling bitter and ill, so to be brief:

The bad news is, COPE was virtually wiped off the map. The good news is, so were Jim Green and Larry Campbell, who started the wiping in the first place.

Thanks to the support of self-serving, poor-bashing West Side NIMBY's, a media cabal who dutifully ignored what actually happened at City Hall over the past three years, and a suspiciously well-financed fringe candidate with the same name as his main opponent, Sam Sullivan and the NPA seized control of Vancouver Saturday night.

NPA supporters can once again delude themselves into believing their city is more Robson Arms than DaVinci's, run down cyclists in their SUVs, gorge themselves on cheap Wal-Mart trinkets, and turn a blind eye to pig farmers slaughtering hookers.

In the words of the great Idaho philosopher, Napoleon Dynamite, "Idiots!"


Hey, Victoria, raise THIS 15%!

Members of the BC Legislature have voted themselves a 15% pay increase, as well as a new pension plan.

Gordon Campbell (whose own salary increases by 21%) told reporters "there's never a good time to do this." After five years of practice, the Premier is getting better at lying. Tomorrow's civic elections not only act as a smokescreen for the raises, but will motivate the least tuned in of voters to cast a ballot for the most knee-jerk and reactionary of choices, who are more likely to play ball with the right-wingers in Victoria.

Also, the raises don't come into effect until April 1, when public sector unions start bargaining in earnest. While George Heyman and Barry O'Neil say that they have a pretty conspicuous benchmark for BCGEU and CUPE BC Members, watch that benchmark fade as the Liberals fabricate another economic crisis like they did in tagging the former NDP government with a "structural deficit". Falling commodity prices anyone? How about Olympic cost overruns? Come this spring, MLAs will still have theirs, while everyone else will be making do with strike pay.

This page got a sniff of how a once-again bare cupboard will play out in four months when he saw Global TV's Keith Baldrey harp about how much pay increases could end up costing taxpayers. With whatever respect is due, Mr. Baldrey, either take an Economics class or shut the fuck up. Unlike MLAs, of which there are only 79, there are thousands of public sector workers in BC who in the course of working, raising families, and participating in their communities, buy stuff and pay taxes. That not only creates jobs which strengthen the tax base, public sector workers, in reality, remit a portion of their salary back to governments in the form of the taxes they pay themselves.

As for Carole James and the NDP caucus, wow, do you ever have some serious explaining to do, especially after how your new piggy bank buddies across the floor slapped around some of your closest allies in the BCTF a few weeks ago, denying teachers a raise. In the meantime, I guess this little windfall means you won't miss the fact I didn't buy banquet tickets for next week's convention.


Picking Jim. Nitpicking Sam.

In a move that will no doubt have sub-microscopic consequences on the outcome of Saturday's election, this page endorses Jim Green of Vision Vancouver for Mayor of Vancouver.

Although Green turned his back on COPE and stood shoulder to shoulder with Larry Campbell on such unprogressive measures as a P3 RAV Line and expanded casino gambling, he stacks up against the NPA's Sam Sullivan as the far lesser of two evils.

Sullivan's campaign has appealed to no-one but the obnoxious, me-firsters who infect Vancouver who bitch about the growing number of bicycles on city streets and the lack of places their untrained attack dogs can run around and terrorize small children. The only "leadership" principles Sullivan appears to grasp are NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) and TINA (There Is No Alternative).

Voting for Green and the Vision/COPE candidates will equal MOTS (More Of The Same). This would be a City Hall that continues to try and juggle the competing interests of businesses and neighbourhoods while dropping the occasional ball, but at least everyone can watch the show and gets to be heard. MOTS isn't so bad, especially with a celery stick and a little vodka, and it certainly beats the taste of closed-door, pay-for-play politics that led Vancouverites to drive the NPA to near-extinction three years ago.

And Mr. Sullivan: if claiming that buying heroin for an addict doesn't mean you don't respect the law, what does putting NPA campaign signs up on public property (as this page saw along Great Northern Way this morning) in violation of municipal bylaws mean?


A Sad and Squeaky Wheel

Thanks to the twin distractions of a possible federal election and an imminent civic election, the BC Liberals have been relatively protected from any outrage being generated over the deaths of 80 children under government care, and the subsequent lack of investigation.

The only place this page saw any ongoing coverage on this issue was on the Broadcast News wire, and like most wire services, they only recap what happened that day at the Legislature. Fortunately, Family and Child Development Critic Adrian Dix was bringing it up during Question Period almost every day the House was in session.

The good news is that because of Dix' relentlessness, the Liberals are admitting there may have been a problem with axing the independent Children's Commissioner in 2002. The bad news is, the results of that decision may be even worse.


No ticket to ride

A five day bus fare strike in Vancouver yesterday, organized by the Bus Riders Union.

This page met up with BRU activists on the #20 (Victoria) yesterday. While Translink dismisses the protest, these troublemakers in orange T-shirts are getting their point across, regardless of whether or not particular individuals agree to withhold their fares. For those of you scoring at home, this page has an employer transit pass, so not showing it to the driver is more of a show of solidarity than actually participating in the strike. Except for one cantankerous crank who harped that "nothing comes for free*", everyone else on board the jam-packed trolley cruising along Hastings warmed up visibly to BRU's message.

Translink claims that Greater Vancouver's extortive transit fares can't be differentiated: the marginalized and underprivileged have to pay the same as "an executive who takes the B-Line to downtown Vancouver every day". If transit was properly funded out of the tax base like it should be, Vancouverites could be riding a transit system like the one in Boulder, Colorado, instead of trying to cope with longer waits for overcrowded buses.

*Unless you're involved with the P3s for the RAV Line or twinning the Port Mann bridge, then a lot of free stuff comes your way.


It's beginning to look a lot like...oh, crap...

Either the Paul Martin Liberals call an election for January, or face having parliament dissolved immediately, with an election during the holiday season.

This page is somewhat bemused by the concern about Canadians having to go the polls around Xmas. Except for when the Anglican Church successfully lobbied to have Thanksgiving moved back six weeks, separation of Church and State has been a given in Canadian society. I may be going out on a limb here, but I believe that people who don't celebrate Xmas, those who have to work during the holidays, and those who can still be counted on to put down the eggnog and cast a ballot constitute the clear majority in this country. If tens of thousands of Ukrainians could camp outside in downtown Kiev in December to achieve a democratic result, then flipping channels between the Leaders Debate and It's a Wonderful Life isn't asking for much.

This page is also entertained by the opposition's (particularly the Conservatives) desperation for an immediate trip to the polls. Traditionally, there is only one occasion when Leaders demand an election: when they think their party can win it. Is Stephen Harper better off running in December, when church attendance peaks and pastors can be counted on to remind the faithful how same-sex marriage makes Baby Jesus cry? Or is he better off campaigning in January, when Canadians are seething over their home heating bills and Ralph Klein is on the Conservative stump bellowing about the sanctity of Alberta's oil and gas revenues?

Either way, I don't see Stephie Wonder pulling off any Xmas (or a few weeks after) miracles. The only region of the country where the Gomery report is making any serious impact is in Quebec, and Quebecers will be happy continuing to vent their collective spleen through the Bloquistes. In fact, the Conservatives could end up with a few electoral lumps of coal if some voters, particularly in the Lower Mainland, are reminded that strategic Liberal votes against strong NDP candidates produced Conservative MPs coming up the middle.

The one reason why Canadians should be loathe to an Xmas election: Who wants to watch the "special" edition of the Royal Canadian Air Farce where they milk the Xmas election joke to death?


Election Fever - I must have had my shots

Next Saturday marks my second civic election since relocating to Vancouver five years ago. One would think given my keen interest in politics, any elections would have me volunteering, campaigning, and blogging furiously, but to this point, I am completely unmotivated beyond casting my ballot on November 19.

I can cite a few reasons for my lack of motivation. 2002 was a 'payback' election, in which Vancouver voters served up chilly plates of revenge not only to the NPA, but to Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals in Victoria as well. After subjecting commuters to a six-month transit strike, fiddling while the Downtown Eastside burned, and generally screwing over anyone unfortunate enough to live between Main Street and Boundary Road, Vancouverites latched onto Larry Campbell, the tough-talking outsider who inspired not one, but two TV series, and flushed the NPA. This time around, there may be a few outstanding issues (Highway 1, Wal-Mart) but there is no sense of being mad as hell and not taking it anymore.

It also doesn't help that many of us expected to contest this election using a ward system, in which we could focus in on specific candidates rather than oversized slates. I can't think of anything more undemocratic than some candidates winning elected office with neither a majority NOR a plurality of the votes cast. Given that COPE and President's Choice Memories of Larry Campbell (ie. Vision Vancouver) have patched up their differences (at least in front of the cameras), voters aren't left with much of a choice beyond these guys or the NPA.

Finally, given the amount of key municipal issues that are resolved at the regional level by appointed GVRD representatives, this page is often left wondering if civic elections in Vancouver actually matter. It's one thing to elect a Vancouver City Council that has strong public transit advocates, but it means absolutely nothing if they can't get appointed to the Translink board: or if they do, end up being shouted down by the likes of Doug (if it ain't moving, pave it!) MacCallum in Surrey.


Here Comes Ralph

As a Federal Election appears to be on its way sooner rather than later, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein has volunteered to stump for his ideological soulmate, Stephen Harper.

This is welcome news to anyone who is deeply concerned about the future of Canada. Since coming to power in 1993, Klein's Conservative government have imprinted their unique vision on this page's Alberta neighbours through such measures as:

-Promising public sector workers that a 5% wage rollback would prevent a 20% layoff, then proceeding with the layoff anyway.
-Threatening to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause to stop same-sex marriages in Alberta.
-Deregulating Alberta's electrical industry despite overwhelming public opposition, creating massive rate increases and power outages.
-Blowing up the major downtown hospital in Canada's fastest growing city.
-Refusing to pay compensation to mentally handicapped people sterilized against their will under government care.
-Refusing to sign the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child
-Burying a government report on auto insurance when the results showed the majority of those Albertans surveyed wanted a public system similar to the one in British Columbia which offers substantially cheaper rates.
-Passing Bill 11, which allowed for the establishment of private hospitals in Alberta, while several appointed board members of Regional Health Authourities held stock in American private health care firms.
-Siding with the Bush Administration on the Kyoto Accord and the Invasion of Iraq.

Klein's personality would also make a substantial impact on the Conservative campaign. During his tenure with the Alberta Tories, Klein has flipped the bird to environmentalists, screamed drunken insults at homeless shelter residents, and stormed out of press conferences huffing "I don't need this crap."

Indeed, for those who are deeply concerned about the future of Canada, we should greatly welcome Klein's overture to the Harper camp - the more involved he gets in the campaign, the more likely Stephen Harper never becomes Prime Minister.


Is Paris Burning? Really, is it?

While the French government declared a state of emergency last night concerning the riots around Paris, it appears that some Parisians may be in more of a state of denial.

European correpsondent T-Girl* reports:

Just a quick "hello" from me, in case anyone is wondering about my safety at the present time in Paris - and if "Paris is burning"....everything is all right in the heart of the big city. I wouldn't say the same about being a car in the outskirts...as torched cars seem to be the "raison d'etre" for teen molotovs, but near Quartier Latin all is quiet.

Funny thing when one doesn't have access to TV and newspapers in english, you'd really not know a state of emergency was just called. Excluded from the great media machine and CNN can be relaxing.

To recap, the riots don't affect people who speak English, and therefore, based on what we've been conditioned to believe by the mainstream North American media, simply do not matter.

*Not a real correspondent. A real person in Paris, but not a real correspondent.


To: The Hon. Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada
From: The Hon. Jack Layton, Leader, New Democratic Party of Canada
Re: Support for governing party in the House of Commons



It's not You, it's my Labour Council

At their October 18 meeting, the Vancouver District Labour Council (VDLC) denied endorsements to Green Party Vancouver School Trustee Andrea Reimer and North Vancouver Mayoral Candidate Darrell Mussato.

While the VDLC claims to speak for over 60,000 union members in the Lower Mainland, and everyone who checks in here regularly knows this page is as pro-union as it gets, I have my doubts. I suspect that if they're anything like the Labour Council of which I was an executive member a few years ago, they speak for the militant vanguard that also hold IWW cards and hold Gordon Campbell personally responsible for Ginger Goodwin's murder.

This page also has a problem, stemming from the Lower Mainland's Balkanized and Byzantine municipal governance, with people who can't vote in a jurisdiction endorsing (or not) candidates within that jurisdiction. Given that the endorsement votes were close, an important question emerges: were Van City VDLC delegates denied the right to endorse an Andrea Reimer because delegates outside Vancouver voted against her?

While Reimer's Green Party affiliation is cited as the reason for being denied the endorsement, it doesn't wash with this page. The VDLC may be supporting COPE candidates, but in turn, COPE has historically supported the Green Party by leaving room on Council, Parks Board, and School Board slates for Green candidates. Reimer's School Board tenure has seen her standing beside BCTF Teachers and CUPE BC Support Staff, while at the same time, standing against privatization and festering corporate culture in public schools. As a member of CUPE BC, I don't see a problem with that.

As for Mussato, this is a member of CUPE Local 873 running against one Barbara Sharp, who third-time charmed a successful vote on the RAV line, which, in the initial stages of construction, is already demonstrating the disastrous consequences of public-private partnerships. Mussato's failure to secure a VDLC endorsement has this page scratching his head until he can feel his frontal lobe. I've been involved with a number of Union-based political action committees, and Union activists seeking municipal office was always a no-brainer for endorsements.


Welcome Back to the Point of No Return - The Musical

Today I received a phone call from outgoing Vancouver Mayor/incoming Senator Larry Campbell. It was nice of him to call, I don't think we've talked since he told the Bus Riders Union where to get off. Before I could get a word in edgewise (also the same time I realized I it was a recording), Larry told me that I had to support Vision Vancouver because "we can't afford to let the NPA turn back the clock to when big money ran City Hall", or something like that.

This page finds this message ironic, given that Campbell led a million dollar fundraising drive that swept himself and COPE into power three years ago. "Shut Down the NPA"* also sounds a lot like Gordon Campbell's hit earlier this spring: "Back up the James Gang"**, a touching ballad about how "Big Labour" still owned the NDP. Unfortunately, it wasn't as big a smash as the Lieberals' 2001 chart-topper "Who Built the Fastcats?"***, and the Liberals subsequently lost 31 seats, including four in Vancouver.

The political time travel card has to be played with subtlety. Today I also received a letter from COPE City Councillor David Cadman, in which he points out where COPE had specific disagreements with the NPA (Four Pillars, Woodwards, the 2001 Bus Strike, Education Cuts, Tax Reform) over the past three years. That's a more coherent approach than claiming the Right Wingers have bludgeoned Sherman & Peabody and stolen their Wayback Machine.

*Sing it to the tune of "I Love Myself Today" by Bif Naked
**Sing it to the tune of "Back on the Chain Gang" by the Pretenders
***Sing it to the tune of "Who Let the Dogs Out?" by the Baja Men


Another BEAR 604 quiz: Spring Forward, Fall Back, or Run for Cover?

A few days into daylight savings time, there are some people who wish they could set their clocks waaaaaaayy back. Which of these do you think is the worst case of bad timing?

a) The Saskatchewan Roughriders playing their regular season finale in BC the same week 'Rider linebacker Trevis Smith faces sexual assault charges in a Surrey courtroom.

b) The first part of the Gomery Report being released two days after the 10th anniversary of the 1995 Quebec referendum.

c) Scooter Libby being told by the Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to expect a court appearance almost immediately after Harriet Miers was told by just about everyone not to expect any court appearance soon.


Unions & The NDP: Conventional Wisdom

Last weekend, the BCNDP's provincial council approved a reform package which addresses the longstanding issue of affiliated union memberships. Unfortunately, the package doesn't go far enough....for the Scampbell Lieberals nor their right wing media cheerleaders. They were looking for a fight on the convention floor in three weeks, pitting the "New NDP" vs. the "Old Guard" in the hopes that the party would be caught out as still being in the sinister clutches of "Big Labour". Unfortunately (for them), what they ended up with was another example of Carole James' common-sense, consensus building approach.

If the key resolution in the package is approved, the NDP will no longer grant affiliate memberships to Unions based on their total memberships. Instead, an affiliated membership will be granted to a Union based on how many members of that Union are NDP members. Not only does that grant more power within the party to individual members, it also rewards those Unions who work to support the NDP and sign up new members. I always found it strange that a Union like the IWA, whose history of playing along with right-wing governments dates from the Kelowna Accord to Bill 29, had more pull on the convention floor than public sector unions like BCGSEU or CUPE BC, who, by the nature of their members' work, are more often than not in lockstep with NDP policy.

If anybody still needs to see something ugly, tune in a few weeks later when James rises in the Legislature and introduces a Private Member's Bill to ban corporate and union donations to BC political parties. The simultaneous explosion of Lieberal heads will not be pretty.