S'no Intelligence out there

Once again, the Lower Mainland has been smothered by a suspicious white powder, and the locals are engaged in a small struggle to navigate it until it's flushed away with the next rainfall. It's the kind of the thing that makes people in other parts of the country, where "real" winters take place, snicker at Vancouver and our lack of preparation. This page is not about to advocate that Starbucks starts selling snow chains, but I do have a few suggestions to ward off the nasty weather with one's reputation intact.

-If you are using your own vehicle to commute, resign yourself to the fact that even though that mound of snow fell on the roof of your car, it is not yours to keep. Clear it off immediately before getting in your car and driving away. This page sees a multitude of drivers with rolling snowpacks stuck to their vehicle roofs like some kind of trophy they hunted down and are taking to a nearby taxidermist. It's enough snow that could cause a mini-avalanche on your windshield at precisely the wrong time, i.e. when you're running into something, or someone.

-You are not some kind of hero for leaving your vehicle at home and availing yourself of the services of the Coast Mountain Bus Company to make your commute. Heroes would not neglect to familiarize themselves with such overwhelming details as the correct route, the fare, and where to get off the bus and possibly transfer BEFORE insisting that the driver provide this information as you hold up other passengers who are running later than you.

-This page appreciates the struggles of small businesses, and the challenges of keeping costs under control. However, the last time I checked, one could still purchase a snow shovel for under twenty dollars. Some of us are healthy enough to walk to our destinations, at least until we slip on an unattended patch and injure ourselves. Any retailer or service which wants our businesses should be making it as safe as possible to come through their front door.

-If you are a large University which is located at the farthest western point of the largest commuter corridor in Metro Vancouver, remaining open while every other educational institution closes because of the weather is an exercise in masochistic futility. Nothing will endear your students to their alma mater like a treacherous 2 to 3 hour commute for a lecture their professor has cancelled. This page is also sure that your support staff greatly enjoy having to scramble for last minute child care (because their kids aren't going to school) and risking their personal safety because you 'expect' them to show up for work.


Alberta's ED MIA on Climate Change

This page, as regular readers are aware, grew up in the province of Alberta, the land where progressive change goes to die. Having been removed for almost a decade now, I don't give much thought to Albertans' sense of selfish exceptionalism, which rivals only their Red State American cousins from which they take one too many cues. Why can there be no sales taxes, unions, same-sex marriage, affordable housing, rats, cops wearing turbans, changes of government, an end to health care premiums, or sharing resource wealth with the rest of the country? The non-answer to these and other questions, which has mollified two generations of Albertans under the 'Progressive' Conservative dynasty is this: It's because we're Albertans, and this is Alberta. End of discussion.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is using this rationale, complete with the usual fear-mongering about carbon taxes and a second National Energy Program, to end any effective discussion on Climate Change among Canada's premiers here in Vancouver today. As much of this page dislikes Gordon Campbell and considers the B.C. government's plan to substantially expand public transit and build the Gateway Project disturbingly counterintuitive, the B.C. Premier does deserve some credit for taking a modicum of leadership on reducing Greenhouse Gases.

Stelmach's walking away from these talks is nothing more than disgusting political posturing on the part of another Alberta Premier with his head so far up the oilpatch he can't see the forest for the trees which were shredded by the likes of Syncrude or Suncor. "Honest" Ed also faces a provincial election, and can't be seen imperiling the roll of good times brought on by oil priced at $100 a barrel. At one time, Alberta Premiers would at least make an attempt to hear their peers out, but Stelmach has opted to follow suit with a decade of Ralph Klein's demagoguery, and will take his toxic fossil-fuelled ball and go home. Shame.

Growing up in Alberta, this page heard repeatedly from friends, family, and co-workers about a far away province that was not happy to be part of this great nation, and how their leaders always felt the rest of the country threatened their people and their distinct way of life. As it turns out, that province, which from Vancouver is pretty far away, is in fact, Alberta.


Not a Good Deal

"I don't believe in tearing up Collective Agreements."
-Gordon Campbell, Hospital Employees Union (HEU) Newsletter, November 2000.

Eight years later, and British Columbians are finally close to seeing how much the Premier's mishandling of the truth is going to cost him and his B.C. Lieberal administration. The government has finally reached an agreement with the HEU over Bill 29, Campbell's health care privatization law which saw many of its provisions ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada last year.

Unfortunately, the agreed price for the Lieberals exercise in union-busting and eroding public health care amounts to approximately $85 million. That may pay for a respectable compensation and retraining package for HEU members, but this page doesn't see that amount as much of a deterrent. For a government committed to completely destroying public infrastructure and services in British Columbia, spending that amount of taxpayer's money to rip up contracts and kneecap any Union that gets in the way of that goal may just be a price they're willing to pay.

For working families in British Columbia, the price will be the loss of quality jobs, the continuing disintegration of communities, higher taxes and user fees to pad the margins of corporate contractors, and the crippling of democracy as public institutions are no longer accountable to the public. All for just $85 million per shredded contract. A great deal for shareholders, and the shItty short end of the stick for the people.


The Manley Thing To Do

The report from John Manley's independent inquiry into Canada's mission in Afghanistain is in. Judging from the commentary surrounding the release of the Manley report, this page is left with the impression that nobody comes out of it looking that terrific, particularly the architects of this enterprise, the Harper administration. What this page finds annoying is that while media outlets will repeat the revised mandate for Canada's military presence in Afghanistan as 'buidling democracy', nobody's picked up on the Strategic Counsel poll taken last week which shows only 17% of Canadians support continuing a combat mission in Afghanistan (pg. 23). If the Harper government is serious about showing Afghans about how to govern according to the will of the people, now would be a good time for a serious discussion with Canadians rather than telling us to shut up and Support our Troops (tm).

The key points in the Manley report appear to be 1. Our government hasn't been straight with us about what's going on in Afghanistan, and 2. Simply pulling out of Afghanistan is harder than the critics think. This page is a critic of the current combat mission on principle: I think war is a moral failure of diplomacy and humanity that shouldn't be inflicted on anyone. However, I also realize that Canadian forces have also been involved in peacekeeping and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan which shouldn't simply be abandoned by bringing the troops home.

At this point, the best thing to do with the Manley report is for to sit on it, for two reasons. One, this is not Canada's mission in Afghanistan, it's NATO's. Canadian forces went in with the Allies to overthrow a government that sympathized with Al-Qaida and was sheltering Osama Bin Laden. Unless other NATO countries are willing to take up a combat role, there is no reason why Canadian soldiers should be put at risk in perpetuity. As for reason two, whatever happens in Afghanistan is going to revolve around what happens in November's U.S. Presidential election. The McCain administration may be prepared to live with whatever thugocracy is running Afghanistan as long as they promise secure pipeline access from Iraq. The Obama administration might want to push the War on Terror (tm) into Pakistan where most Al-Qaida forces are actually based. Either way, the pieces on the board will have changed or knocked all over the desert floor, and Canada will need to come up with a new plan.

Running the Afghanistan mission on misinformation and polarizing patriotic bombast might let Stephen Harper beat the Liberals, but it's not going to beat the Taliban or Al-Qaida.


Cops do the Craziest Things: Capital Punishment Edition

It appears that the hijinx from the Boys in Blue are not confined to the Lower Mainland after all. Victoria Police have some explaining to do after Willow Kinloch broke a three year silence about being taken from her home, handcuffed, hog-tied and tethered to the door of a padded cell. The BC Civil Liberties Association says that Kinloch's treatment by officers in BC's capital city amounts to torture.

This page is calling a TKO fro the BCCLA - Victoria Police were questioning Kinloch (15 years old at the time) while she was forcibly restrained and traumatized. My skimming of the Geneva Convention says that trying to get information from people while subjecting them to physical hardship is torture. I appreciate that the nylon strap restraining device is used as an alternative to a taser (some breaking news for the Richmond RCMP), but if Kinloch had been allowed to come down from her episode before they started pumping her for information, I don't think the Victoria Cops would necessarily be seeing her in court this fall.


#16 for 12th and Cambie?

A recent CKNW polled asked the question: Who would you like to see as the next mayor of Vancouver? The results were:
8.63% Sam Sullivan
14.15% Carole Taylor
5.22% Gregor Robertson
5.31% Christy Clark
5.72% Philip Till
55.41% Trevor Linden
5.52% other

This page says why not? Stop laughing and making that circling motion around your ear: seriously, why not?

After the brutal, divisive, and polarizing term of the NPA's Sam Sullivan draws to a close, Vancouverites will be looking for a figure to bring us together, which Linden does repeatedly: not only as the de facto captain of the Vancouver Canucks but also through the extensive work he has done for community groups and charities in the Lower Mainland. Sullivan's failed mayoral term will be defined by an approach to City labour relations which gravitated from aloofness to outright hostility. By contrast, Linden served as President of the National Hockey League Players Association during the 2004-05 lockout, and pulled out a number of stops to get an agreement with the league, including circumnavigating his grandstanding business agent to get negotiations back on track.

This page isn't exactly certain what Trevor Linden's politics are. However, this page does know that during the NHL lockout, the NHLPA was certified as a trade union in British Columbia to keep the league from putting scabs on the ice. I also know he's a member of the Order of British Columbia for his humanitarian work, which puts him in some fairly prestigious company. At the least, Linden would probably be as qualified as the owner of a juice company (i.e. before Gregor Robertson went to Victoria) to seek election as Mayor.

One thing's for certain, Sam Sullivan's number isn't going to be hanging from the rafters any time soon.


Meet me at the counter

A few weeks ago, RevMod Don posted his reaction to a study comparing the number of fast food restaurants in a city and the city's corresponding obesity rate. What's not apparent from the University of Alberta study is how many of those restaurants in the study have a drive-thru. Drive-thru customers not only face the possibility of obesity, they also suffer from acute stupidity and a complete disregard for their environment. At one time, Don and I both lived in Calgary, where we both were witness to carloads of cretins who would order food from a drive-thru, then eat it in the nearby parking lot.

I doubt if many of these people (and their fast food multinational enablers) realize the volume of greenhouse gasses their idling vehicles are spewing into the atmosphere, nor the amount of trash that's left behind in the neighbourhoods where fast food restaurants are located. This page lives near a section of Main Street in Vancouver which has a Burger King, a McDonalds, and a car dealership between the two of them - it's kind of the 'f**k you block' heading south just before the vegetarian restaurants and bus stops of the Broadway Corridor. For all the people who are scared to visit East Vancouver for fear of stepping on a used needle, trust me, if you come down Main you can easily insulate yourself in burger wrappers, french fry boxes, and not-so collectible cups.

That being said, I'm heartened to see that North Vancouver's City Council is thinking about banning drive-thrus. Land is expensive and scare in the Lower Mainland, and it can certainly be better used for something other than cheap dining options built to a vehicular scale. It's a step in the right direction, and hopefully along the way Metro Vancouver's local Councils consider giving the boot to other purveyors of crap and free parking: I'm looking at you, Wal-Mart .


That Old College Why

The University of British Columbia wants to take its athletic programs out of Canadian University Sport (CIS) and bring them to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Much has been made in the sports pages over the last couple of weeks as to how this move will stem the 'jock drain' to U.S. schools, rake in revenues from TV coverage and merchandizing, and give alumni the outside chance to brag to their grandchildren about how the Thunderbirds won the Final Four and the Bowl Championship* Series in the same year. How likely is all of that to happen? Given that the T-Birds would be relegated to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (Division II of the NCAA) and face an ongoing feud with the CIS schools they leave behind, Rapid Transit will arrive at the UBC campus long before any substantial athletic honours do - and they'll be serving free drinks on that gold-plated SkyTrain too.

If anything, joining the NCAA would give student athletes at UBC and SFU a bit of break by playing against schools in the Pacific Northwest, allowing more time for study rather than perpetually trekking over the Rockies in the Canada West conference. UBC's baseball team already plays against Northwest Schools in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the second tier of U.S. College Sports, as no other Canadian schools have a baseball program. After an easier travel schedule, the tangible benefits drop off dramatically, and are tied to a school qualifying for the NCAA's coveted Division I.

Don't get this page wrong, I love my sports, but I'm also aware that in this country, Universities aren't run by their athletic departments, nor do they try to shake down the school or nearby taxpayers. From what this page has observed of the 'big-time' Universities in the NCAA, those would be the only tangible 'benefits'. There are some notable jockrider wannabes among UBC alumni (our Olympic-obsessed Premier for one) who might favour the NCAA in our collegiate playground, but Vancouver is still far better known for making videogames about sports than for any substantial sporting accomplishments**. This page is thankful that Canada doesn't have the well-oiled army of boosters who fuel the NCAA's corrupt recruiting games, slip the occasional performance-enhancing substance to a student athlete, turn a blind eye to cheating on exams, or shell out 100 grand to get a football coach fired.

Besides, if this page wants to see NCAA competition, I have to look no farther than the nearest TV. It's not like cable sports channels in this country give the CIS that much attention.

*Warning: not a real championship.
**Except for Roger Bannister and John Landy breaking the four-minute mile at Empire Stadium in 1954.


God hearts Huckabee?

Mike Huckabee remains in the mix for the Republican Presidential nomination, which has much to do with his appeal to Evangelical Christians. This page, like most Americans, doesn't have a problem with people who think that Man was made in God's image. Where I have a problem is when Mike Huckabee starts talking about re-making the Constitution in God's image.

For those of us north of the border who might be scoffing at Huck's attempt to slap Krazy Glue on the Separation of Church and State, don't forget whose constitution begins with the words Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law... Given how the Religious Right have rallied around Canada's Conservative Party, all it would take is for a Stephen Harper majority to have them take advantage of the back-handed head start Pierre Trudeau and the Premiers gave them in 1982.


Concentrated Disappointment

This page would have been celebrating if yesterday's CRTC ruling on concentration of media ownership had been what the CBC and a number of other sources had reported. However, upon further review, the Commission has opted to keep the status quo in place, which may yet see this page subject to an offer he can't refuse from Bell Globemedia or CanWest Global.

For those of you scoring at home, CRTC stands for Canadian Regulators Too Chicken. Restricting media conglomerates to ownership in two of the three conventional media (i.e. radio, television and newspapers) won't do anything to stop the erosion of media diversity. CanWest can still own both newspaers in Vancouver. Bell Globemedia can still have plug your basic cable service with its grab-bag of channels.

Mind you, a good chuckle can be had from the editorial page of today's Globe and Mail, which features a spirited renuncication of a ruling that's anything but spirited. Now, back to waiting for my cheque from the Aspers...


Talk - Action = $14 Billion

Spending $14 billion to improve public transit in BC, particularly in the Lower Mainland, is a good idea. Unfortunately, good ideas, let alone new ones, are few and far between in the Provincial Transit Plan. First of all, Victoria is only putting up $4.75 billion of that $14 billion, the rest of it comes from Ottawa, Municipalities (most in the Lower Mainland) and Translink (which used to be run by Lower Mainland Municipalities until Kevin Falcon stripped control and handed it to an unelected 'technical' board). At least Falcon won't have to threaten holding his breath and turning blue like he did when the old Translink Board kept rejecting the RAV (now Canada) line.

The Canada Line is actually included in this 'new' plan, despite the fact it's only a few months away from completion. So is the Evergreen Line, which is projected to serve the Northeast Corridor and would have been built years ago had the Canada Line not jumped the queue in a fit of pre-Olympic hysteria. The province will spend $1.4 billion on the Evergreen Line, which uses cost-effective LRT technology. By contrast, they're willing to shell out twice as much for a SkyTrain line to UBC, which this page guesses is to impress the NIMBYs in Point Grey so they'll bitch a little less - they have a thing for big ticket items. In addition, a handful of rapid bus services are featured, which will be serviced by 1,500 new buses - something of a surprise, given that transit activists have been lobbying for 500 new buses for the past couple of years to deaf ears at Translink and the Ministry of Transportation.

If this plan actually does come together, it will mean that there will be a lot fewer single-occupancy vehicles on the road. That would also mean a lot more room for commercial truck traffic on routes like, just for the sake of argument, Highway 1 across the Port Mann Bridge. That being the case, why do Kevin Falcon and Gordon Campbell still feel compelled to impose the Gateway Project on Metro Vancouver, which will only increase traffic congestion and increase greenhouse gas emissions? Is $14 billion the price tag for hypocrisy these days?


Oscar doesn't live here anymore...at least not these days

This page has, to be honest, not that affected by the Writers' Strike. I tend not to watch a lot of the marquee offerings on network television, opting instead for the news, movies, and sports channels. I'm pretty much oblivious to the unreal life struggles of characters in Lost or Grey's Anatomy, so I wasn't really clued into how big a deal this was until I realized the producers of Smallville, Battlestar Galactica, or Reaper hadn't slipped a note under my door for some time. (I live near an industrial park that's a favourite location for movie & TV shoots in Vancouver, which make a lot of noise and take up parking spaces).

However, just because I'm not as worked up about this labour dispute as say, the Vancouver civic workers strike (just ask my relatives and neighbours I'm no longer on speaking terms with), it doesn't mean that there aren't people I'm seriously disappointed with - Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, I'm looking at you. Both of these 'progressive' comedians are members of the Screen Actors Guild, and the Daily Show built much of its hipster audience when Comedy Central was offering it up for free on RealPlayer back in the day. What, does Stewart now have no problem with his writers not getting paid for online work?

It didn't escape my notice that yesterday's Golden Globe Awards were reduced to a press conference, and that the ongoing strike, and there is a very real chance that the Academy Awards may not be presented in the style that America's entertainment industry and its multitude of devoted consumers are accustomed to. Does this mean that the couch potatoes of America will devote their dwindling attention spans to a more important competition, like who will serve as their next President? Or will they smile and nod while their corporate overlords double up on Super Bowl ads?


Today's Forecast: More Bullsh*t

If you are planning to buy a new condominium in British Columbia, there is a very strong possibility that the developer is going to lie to you about your future home. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I'm locked into a real estate market that doesn't know the meeting of the word 'sensible' with no recourse.

Having lived in British Columbia for over seven years now, that doesn't come as much of a surprise to this page: nothing gets done in this province without some kind of manipulation, misrepresentation, lie, deceit, or outright assault on the truth. Health Care workers were told by the Leader of the Opposition that he "doesn't believe in tearing up Collective Agreements". Small business owners along Vancouver's Cambie Street were assured that the Canada Line wouldn't disrupt their business because a 'deep boring' tunnelling method would be used. The referendum on the Olympic bid passed because the bid committee promised that social housing would be a priority. Translink repeatedly promises improved bus service while nodding like psychotic bobbleheads at Kevin Falcon's porky megaprojects.

Given that the Real Estate industry bankrolls the NPA and B.C. Liberals, why would a missing closet or low ceiling be any kind of a surprise? These people trade on stabbing people in the back, and it's reflected everyday in the policies of the growth-at-all-costs governments they support at the municipal, federal, and provincial levels. My prediction is that in Vancouver, the lying will finally stop sometime after the rain does.


White (Wo)men Can't Jump: So What?

Canada's female ski jumpers are outraged that their sport won't be included in the program for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This page is tossing this one on the boo-fricking-hoo pile. It's not that Katie Willis, her Mother Jan Willis, and her 'fellow' athletes don't have a case: It's hypocritical of the IOC to claim that Women's Ski Jumping requires two world championships be staged before 2010, while at the same time the Women's Marathon had only one world championship before its inclusion in the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Mind you, in the era of tit-for-tat Cold War boycotts, the Olympics was probably looking for a few more higher, faster, stronger bodies to put in front of the TV cameras.

Jan Willis filed a Federal Human Rights complaint, to which Ottawa smartly told the athletes to take it up with the IOC. This page isn't exactly optimistic with their chances in persuading an organization which was ruled for decades by one of Francisco Franco's lieutenants, and lets the Olympic Torch be carried to the site of Tiannmen Square Massacre this summer. Human Rights and the Olympics go together like Oil and the Bush Administration.

The plight of Women's Ski Jumping puts the 'con' in controversy - this non-issue is meant to distract the audience from the REAL human rights issues surrounding the 2010 Olympics: the eradication of social housing, the criminalization of homelessness, the ongoing blind eye to sex tourism, the expansion of military and police power (which resulted in the death of Harriet Nahanee in a Vancouver prison cell, whose only crime was wishing to preserve Eagleridge Bluffs from a bulldozer), and the outright lack of accountability in the planning and construction of the various Olympic megaprojects.

The lack of Women's Ski Jumping at the 2010 Olympics is a sporting and political issue, and will be resolved by the 2014 Sochi Games. Jan Willis and her ilk should take it as an inconvenience and not some kind of tragedy. The real human rights issues of the Olympics will be with us much longer.


Need a Bigger Crown

Upon further review, Carole Taylor has decided not to seek the Mayor's chair in this fall's Vancouver election. Either Ms. Taylor has been paying attention to this page's musings, realized her political trajectory should be pointed towards Ottawa rather than 12th and Cambie, or she just got too creeped out with Larry Campbell repeatedly telling her what a MILF* she is.

Since the coronation has been cancelled, the field now opens up significantly for challengers to the myopic thug rule of Sam Sullivan and the NPA. Hopefully, COPE and Vision Vancouver can agree to play nice - David Cadman, a great a Councillor he is, should have learned from the past couple of years that the most time on Council doesn't necessarily equate to the best Mayor. This page would rather see a Raymond Louie or Gregor Robertson driving the fortunes of the centre-left in November rather than allow Sullivan to scream about the unionized barbarians at the gate again.

*"Mayor I'd like to ...." Frankly Senator Campbell, this page doesn't see the appeal.


E Pluribus Virgin

America's electorate will be riveted to today's New Hampshire Primary, as it has become more than apparent that the 2008 Presidential Election will be a historical watershed, or at the least a nifty little boathouse. In only 11 months, The new President is almost certain to be the first of his or her kind to reach the Oval Office, but which kind will it be? Let's take a closer look:
If Hilary Clinton wins, she will be the first Woman elected President.

If Barack Obama wins, he will be the first African-American elected President

If Mitt Romney wins, he will be the first Mormon elected President.

If Bill Richardson wins, he will be the first Latino elected President.

If Mike Huckabee wins, he will be the first Arkansas Governor NOT married to Hilary Clinton elected President. He will also be the first Huckabee elected President.

If John Edwards wins, he will be the first character from a John Grisham novel to be elected President.

If John McCain wins, he will be the first Non-AWOL American pilot from the Vietnam War who actually went to Vietnam elected President.

If Fred Thompson wins, he will be the first Law & Order cast member to be elected President. Not to worry: if he doesn't make it, there are more than enough Law & Order shows on TV that someone in that cast will reach the Oval Office in our lifetime.

If Rudy Guliani wins, he will be the first shameless, self-promoting 9/11 exploiter to be elected President. For those of you scoring at home, Bush was already President on September 11, 2001, and who ever said he was elected?

Wow, there really is a first time for everything! As for the people of New Hampshire - here's hoping they'll be gentle...