Seven Year Bitch

Today marks the seventh anniversary of this page officially taking residence in Vancouver. Given the dearth of trick-or-treaters in my budget-priced condo, I have time to reflect on the past seven years in "The Best Place on Earth" tm. First of all, it's not - Vancouver is a city that puts to rest the notion that there's a better place for you out there, because for every positive there's a negative lurking to cancel it out. Much is made about the beautiful ocean and mountain scenery, which is pleasant until one notices the traffic snarled in the middle of it because of a woefully misplaced sense of vehicle entitlement. A false sense of superiority is also fuelled by the Canwest-dominated local media, who regularly indoctrinate the locals to wage class warfare on the behalf of the elites against the homeless, union members, and anyone else who refuses to take a "Golden Decade" tm shower.

If Vancouver had a Facebook profile, it would be in a multitude of groups and have a lot of fun applications, but very few, if any friends. There's no sense of homegrown identity like an Edmonton or a Minneapolis, and we don't have a tangible product identity like Starbucks, Boeing, and Microsoft give Seattle - It's like we're still working through the aftershocks of the Hong Kong migration of the 1980's & 90's, the fascist electoral temper tantrum of 2001, and we're scared of more rumblings as 2010 approaches. The Liberal wars on unions and social housing have dashed any notion of people who work in Vancouver being able to afford living here, and driven any real sense of community to this city's underrated East Side.

We are a collection of NIMBYist old money neighbourhoods, politicized ethnic groups, indifferent urban hipsters, and hordes of background extras for B-movie shoots and oblivious cruise ship patrons. We go to hockey games to be seen rather than to see hockey. We treat the windblown trees in Stanley Park with the same concern as we do the beaten down homeless radiating from Oppenheimer Park to the Carnegie Centre. We complain about the insanity of the real estate market, and label garbagemen crazy and unrealistic when they try to bargain for a raise.

Is it worse than anyplace else? No, it just isn't any better, and accepting that makes it that much easy for this page to call Vancouver home.


Fun with numbers

Here's a little stick to beat the 'Believe BC', 'Best Place on Earth', 'Golden Decade' fools into submission: a quick and easy comparison of the 'atrocity' of the Fast Ferries to how the Liberals are screwing over taxpayers with the new Vancouver Convention Centre.

Estimated cost of Fast Ferries: $210 million
Final cost of Fast Ferries: $454 million
Cost overrun on Fast Ferries: $244 million*

Estimated cost of Vancouver Convention Centre: $495 million
Current cost of Vancouver Convention Centre: $883 million
Cost overrun on Vancouver Convention Centre: $388 million and counting

The difference between the NDP and the Liberals? The NDP was at least $144 million smarter than the Liberals are today. Oh, and unlike the slave labour, small business-killing P3 sinkhole that the RAV/Canada Line has become, the NDP's mass transit line was finished on time and under budget too.
*Not including the sale of the ferries to the Washington Marine Group by the Liberals in 2003 for $19.4 million, after Washington Marine had offered $60 million.


Who gives a grab bag...

A few items that grabbed this page's attention this week, like so many squirrels zipping by my living room window to tease my cat into slamming his head on the window frame before I can let him out....

Dumbledore is gay - This page still hasn't read any of the Harry Potter books, but I know enough about them that Dumbledore is also dead, and contrary to the mesmerized fans base of the J.K. Rowing tomes, a fictional character. I expect that being completely out of ideas, Rowling will sleep on a mattress filled with royalties and whenever she's starved for attention will drop juicy tidbits about other characters.

Islamofascism Awareness Week - Speaking of fictional creations, I can't tell if Anne Coulter simultaneously agitating for human rights for Muslim women while at the same time fantasizing about repealing the suffrage of American women is really funny or really creepy. This page encourages David Horowitz to keep giving her enough rope so that the fantasy of sensible Americans tired of Ms. Coulter's antics will finally come true.

The NFL in Toronto - The Buffalo Bills want to play a couple of games per season at Toronto's Rogers Centre, a stadium with capacity for about 55,000 people, and is still being paid by taxpayers. Ted Rogers and Paul Godfrey are salivating at the prospect of having the Bills relocate to Toronto after the Bills' octogenarian owner Ralph Wilson dies. The NFL prescribes a minimum seating capacity of 70,000, so unless the plan is to suspend fans from the stadium's retractable roof, a new stadium will need to built. Guess who gets stuck with the tab? Besides, REAL football arrived in Toronto this year, and it didn't seem to damage the CFL's Argonauts.


Alberta bound...and gagged

Anyone in Alberta who expected Premier Ed Stelmach to seriously address oil & gas royalty rates in his televised address walked out of their living rooms disappointed. This page is by no means surprised. One of the myriad reasons I abandoned Alberta almost a decade ago was the Conservative government's indentured servitude to Big Oil, and the crass manipulation of that dysfunctional relationship to suppress citizens' aspirations. Ralph Klein and his cronies would promise anything and everything to elect themselves to another stupefying majority, and after the votes were counted, the Tories would claim they couldn't follow through because somehow, energy royalties might drop.

Nothing has changed: the Oilpatch runs the government and the government is to scared to cross the oilpatch. Instead of abiding by a groundbreaking report issued by his government's own commission to substantially jack up the rates on the greasy thugs who have turned Northern Alberta into the surface of some inhospitable alien tar-sands world, Stelmach is spouting weasel worlds and sitting on his hands. Shame.

In the weeks since the report was released, Alberta's Petrocracy screamed bloody murder on the editorial pages, shipped their employees to the front door of the Legislature in Edmonton for phony rallies (complete with blue hardhats for boys & pink for girls), and threatened anyone who would listen about pulling up stakes and taking their noxious business elsewhere. B.C.'s Liberal government was quick off the mark to suggest that B.C. could simply hold the line undercut Alberta royalty rates, but does anyone seriously believe that the Petroterrorists would get the same free ride here if they tried to establish a Tar Sands sequel or worse, lobby for offshore drilling?

It disgusts this page that for all of Albertans' deluded mythology about Ottawa's attempts to 'steal' their prosperity through such initiatives as the National Energy Program or a Carbon Tax, they don't seem to have any problem with oil companies using a puppet regime in Edmonton to rob them blind. Albertans will simply re-elect the regime, take the economic, social, and environmental abuse from the greasy puppet masters, and meekly beg them not to go.

*Update @ 10/26 6:04 AM - That's a little better. Still a long way from Hugo Chavez, but a little more removed from Dick Cheney.


Scorching Arrogance

Residents of San Diego more than likely consider the wildfires burning around them and creating substantial property damage a tragedy. This page considers the real tragedy to be the arrogant, smug, and racist comparisons between San Diego coping with the fires to how New Orleans residents saw their lives destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. To quote a soldier on the scene who was also deployed in New Orleans after Katrina: "Here? There's no fear, no pushing, no fighting. Everybody is calm. It's just a completely different situation."

He's right - those people in New Orleans should have know better about being poor, black, and living in a city that's doesn't have major U.S. military installations or thousands of exploited illegal immigrants to do the heavy lifting. They also should have done something about not having an influential Republican demagogue as their Governor. FEMA rep. David Paulison says "Nobody does disasters better than California". Of course, California doesn't have to wait three days for the National Guard to show up.


Frank and Gordon can go f**k themselves

Tyee chieftan David Beers says that Vancouver Eats Its Young. This page has observed that it's not just Vancouver eating its young, the young in Vancouver are eating themselves. Earlier today, while sipping some jasmine tea at Pacific Centre to soothe my post-dental appointment nerves, I overheard a conversation between two 30-something managers (one with little man issues, the other being follically challenged) from a nearby telecommunications dealer (hint: it's the one with the spokesbeavers) which included such vicious pearls of wisdom as:

"We seriously need to put a scare into these people"

"I don't care what she thinks. I'd tell her if she tries that not to come into work again."

"We have to go in there in kick some ass."

The apparent crisis according to what I heard was that two of their staff wanted to take vacation days at the same time. Rather than investigate further as to why they needed the vacation time, try and negotiate a reasonable compromise, or read what the Employment Standards Act of British Columbia has to say, these two were obviously so strung out on their employer's corporate rhetoric about "competitiveness", they simply assumed that the best approach to dealing with their underlings was one of aggression and intimidation.

Hindsight being 20-20, the major reason why the B.C. Liberals, Vancouver Board of Trade, and their media toadies went Krystallnacht on the NDP in the late 1990s was probably because Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark had fixed the B.C. Labour Code enough so that young workers at places like McDonald's and Starbucks could organize unions and fight their way out of a dead end. Today, thanks to living in "The Best Place on Earth" (tm), young workers in B.C. are treated to a starvation minimum wage, an out-of-control cost of living, and deliberately dehumanizing and abusive work environments like the one the two bullies in the food court were trying to engineer.

For those of you scoring at home, people have a right to what's promised to them in their contract, and The Apprentice is just a TV show.


Greens pick new leader, still exist

Esquimalt City Councillor Jane Sterk is the new leader of the Green Party of British Columbia.
This page congratulates Ms. Sterk and expresses the hope that perhaps with new leadership, the Greens in BC will look to reclaim a balance of environmental stewardship and social responsibility, rather than the party's current organic fertilizer of union bashing, dominionist social policy, and sucking up to the Liberals, who share the Greens delusion that the invisible hand of the market will save the planet.

Revulsion with the Jim Harris/Elizabeth May/Adrienne Carr wing of the Greens aside, this page doesn't necessarily agree with Mark Hume when he talks about rank-and-file Greens switching to the NDP. I am not so partisan that I can't contend that a major reason for the NDP's substantial improvement on environmental policy is because a vocal Green party has emerged to challenge the NDP on environmental issues. Yes, vote-splitting from the Greens cost this province an Official Opposition in 2001 and a progressive government in 2005, but the Greens also made it possible for the NDP to show the likes of Dan Miller the door, and shove the IWA to the far corner of the party's convention hall, right next to the door.

The Green vs. NDP animosity is more than apparent from online discussion boards, but as my Sensei once told me, our enemies are often our greatest teachers.


Step away from the vehicle

VANOC wants Lower Mainland residents to get out of their cars during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

When it comes to transportation policy, this is the first thing that anyone connected to the Olympics had said that makes sense since Vancouver won the 2010 bid over four years ago. It's disgusting to see how the Olympic transportation plan was hijacked by developers and their Liberal government allies into an orgy of privatization and unnecessary highway construction. Originally, we were going to have passenger ferries sailing from downtown Vancouver to a transfer in Sqaumish where we would board a train to Whistler. Instead we end up with either a Sea-to-Sky freeway for the upper crust ski & snowboard set, or an apres-ski parking lot that will perpetually trigger demands for more lanes to be added..

Urging people not to drive during the Olympics is too little to late. If the powers that be could have wrapped it around their fuel-injected ideology a few years ago that driving is a privilege and not a right, Vancouver would have a public transportation infrastructure where VANOC wouldn't have to beg people to keep it in park.


Oh No! Stop me before I vote again!

Stephane Dion and his Liberal Party of Canada claim to believe that:
  • Canadian troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2009.
  • The Kyoto Accord is the most effective approach to reducing greenhouse gasses.
  • Further reductions to the GST will destabilize key government revenues.
  • Rehabilitation and prevention are the keys to preventing violent crime.

Apparently, these beliefs were some of the conditions the Liberals insisted that Stephen Harper and his Conservatives respect or else the Liberals would let Harper's government fall. One would think that as Leader of the Opposition, and being confronted with a Throne Speech that essentially spits in the face of those 'core' beliefs, Dion would seize the opportunity and actually oppose the Harper agenda by forcing an election. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way with the discredited shady oligarchy that is the Liberal Party of Canada. When Stephane Dion says "Canadians don't want an election", what he really means is "Liberals can't win an election". It's childish and gutless, particularly when polls show that Canadians side with the Liberals on their alleged 'core' issues.

Of course Canadians don't want an election - we don't want to pay our taxes, recycle, eat our vegetables or get a prostrate exam either, but we do these things because they're good for ourselves and good for the country. Is the Leader of the Opposition actually telling Canadians that we want to be denied the fundamental expression of our democracy because he can't control the results? Dion's surrender reveals the Liberal Party of Canada in all its manipulative, opportunistic 'glory'.

Note to Mr. Dion: stop obsessing about the results of the next election, there's about 15 million Canadians who will take care of that for you.


The Buck Stops Where?

Vision Vancouver is calling for an end to Corporate and Union donations to municipal election campaigns.

Why it should happen: Vancouverites already suffer through the stupidity of the 'at-large' system, which stifles individual and community participation in the democratic process. The only candidates that can run are those who can afford city-wide campaigns. That means NPA candidates sucking up to every real estate developer and potential contractor that crosses their greedy, deluded path.

Also, centre-left candidates from COPE and Vision Vancouver are not as indebted to so-called "Big Labour" as the media wants us to think - union members can tell which parties represent their interests without headquarters cutting a cheque. However, the $70,000 CUPE gave to Vision Vancouver in 2005 ended up being a deposit for the mean-spirited, anti-union revenge politics of Sam Sullivan the NPA, which culminated in three months on the picket line for Locals 15 and 1004. Three months and counting for Local 391.

Why it won't happen: Any changes to Vancouver's electoral statutes requires approval from Victoria. While the Opposition New Democrats only received token funding from the Labour Movement in the 2005 Provincial election, Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals would have been ground into an impoverished paste without the cash transfusions from their corporate pipeline. If Victoria bans institutional funding for municipal elections without imposing the same ban on themselves, the Liberals will be hard pressed to find enough 2010 - inspired 'Best Place on Earth' propaganda to fill that credibility gap.


Stick it

This page spent a three-day weekend out and about around the Lower Mainland, and something caught my attention. First of all, I'm reluctant to chip in on the furor surrounding placing 'Support our Troops' decals on emergency vehicles. My take on it is that really have no place on ambulances, given the number of Muslims from places like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman who work as doctors in the hospitals where the ambulances inevitably end up. As for police squad cars, the police are most likely to identify the most with the military, so telling them not to have 'Support our Troops' decals is not going to go over well. Besides, the police have a lot of guns too.

However, 'Support our Troops' decals have no business going on unmarked police cars. How can it be an 'unmarked' police car if the car is marked with the same sticker as regular police cars? I saw a few police cars like that in Vancouver over the weekend, which would have been a nice tip if my recreational activities were somewhat less legitimate. Patriotism may be the last refuge of a scoundrel, but sometimes it can make it a little easier for the scoundrels to take refuge.


Standing 8-Count

This page is still somewhat shaken from the recent flurry of hate mail and vicious falling outs with family and friends as a result of my position on the Vancouver civic workers strike. As a result, my writing is more than likely going to be shaky as well, but let's stumble around until we find our feet and move on, shall we?

In response to Gary Mason's Globe & Mail column yesterday, I think somebody needs to tell him that 'polarization' isn't some kind of magnetic effect if one drives too far north (or south). The shrieking mock outrage and anti-union diatribes at the end of this strike are no different from the ones which littered open-line shows and letters to the editor at its beginning. It's the same overstimulated chimps throwing their same right-wing crap. As for his assertion about CUPE's political agenda that the union has a political agenda to restore the centre-left to power in Vancouver, it's not borne out by material fact. Vision and COPE councillors voted for the Foley recommendations, Locals 391 and 1004 either voted against or not enough in support to adopt those recommendations.

I think what has seriously pissed me off over the duration of this strike is the number of people who want to argue with me about it, yet are completely gutless about where they really stand. For all of you who try to qualify your hatred of union workers with such ass-covering rhetoric as "I'm not anti-union, but..." or "I'm not really right wing, but..." just say what you really mean or shut up. Why do I prefer Conservatives to Liberals? The Conservatives are bastards, but at least they're up front about it.

Anyway, I may need to warm up for a few days before returning to form, so stay tuned.



This page is on an emergency hiatus as a result of a series of harrasing and threatening e-mails I have been receiving with respect to my position on the Vancouver civic workers strike.

For those of you scoring at home: I don't have a problem with you bashing me on babble. I don't mind you bashing me in my comments section (at least until you whip out the 'babykiller' stamp). I do however, draw the line at people tracking me down and trying to confront through my e-mail account at work. My union, and my employer take that quite seriously.

At present the appropriate people are investigating. Hopefully, regular programming will resume soon.


Take your baton and...

Rather than admit that trying to stage concerts behind a picket line at the Orpheum was a bad idea, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is citing 'union intimidation' as its rationale for cancelling its upcoming shows. Either Bramwell Tovey and the VSO board are overreacting to a single isolated incident at last Saturday's Sarah Chang concert (which happened to involve a single CUPE Local 15 member) which has yet to be heard before the courts, or they really do believe that striking workers exercising their democratic right to picket their employer constitutes a 'threat'.

This page hopes that for a serious crescendo of blowback to the VSO's exercise in class warfare. Already some union members who regularly go to the symphony are telling the VSO that after being branded a 'threat', they will be taking their entertainment dollar elsewhere. Note to CUPE 2950 member Bill Pollard (who's interviewed in the linked story): I don't know how much you know about your own Local, but did you think of mentioning that the VSO could have moved their shows to the Chan Centre at UBC, where your own members work?

Cancelling the concerts only plays up to the West Side, NPA-voting, blue-haired season ticket base who are aghast about rubbing up against the ghastly hoi polloi who take their tickets and serve their drinks outside the Orpheum's front door. How dare they publicly state they have a right to their dignity and some of this province's apparent prosperity! It's not 'union intimidation', it's trying to intimidate the union by sucking up to their City Hall landlord and scapegoating CUPE in the media.

Maybe Mr. Pollard could join this page in taking out a restraining order against the VSO. At the least, the VSO should be barred from playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, i.e. 'Solidarity Forever' or Aaron Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man again.


Short week

Busy, busy, busy - this page will return with a new episode on Thurday, October 4.