Civic Vote 2008
Unless you happen to live in the nation of Quebec, you are finally done for awhile with elections, at least until next spring - here in BC.
Big Change in the Big Smoke
The capos of the Campbell Mob can’t be feeling happy this morning after watching their minor league municipal franchise, the NPA, get almost swept in Vancouver on Saturday. This is the same double ‘AA’ team Gordo himself played for on his way to the ‘AAA’ championship team that actually shows up in Victoria to hold sham sessions of the Legislature when it’s not too politically inconvenient (or is impossible to avoid). Of course they still have almost six months to spend taxpayers’ money on campaign style advertising extolling the paradise that is British Columbia under the benign and secretive dictatorship of the BC liaR* Party. Gordon and gang can also take solace in the fact that their volunteer, unpaid (by them) public relations firm – CanWest/Global is still in business and hasn’t gone completely belly-up yet, and can be counted on to keep the airwaves and newspaper boxes full of enough pro-Campbell drivel to bury any opposing views!
It remains to be seen how successful that Gregor Robertson and his council can be in addressing the very real problems of the majority of Vancouverites, the ones that are neither real estate developers nor speculators. Senior levels of government that control the access to funds that the city will need to implement progressive policies are likely to be part of the problem rather than any help. One tends to deny the existence of problems (i.e. Rich Coleman – “We have practically solved homelessness by buying out SRO slumlords”). While the other tends to ideologically disagree with proposed solutions (i.e. Steve’s Taliban in Ottawa and their fervid opposition to Insite and science in general). Since the Gordo Cabal has no support in Vancouver proper to lose, and seems at no risk of losing its goose-stepping Army of God in the ‘burbs’ and Fraser Valley, no matter how many ministers (of the church AND government) come under criminal investigation, the new mayor and council could be in for a rough ride.
On the positive side though, Vancouver did have a respectable turnout – almost two thirds of eligible voters- in spite of many of the punditcracy predicting half of that due to voter fatigue after so many elections. Since Gregor won by almost 20,000 votes and the NPA was almost taken out of its misery, the insular governments of both Harper and Campbell will ignore this mandate for change, in the third largest city in Canada, at their own peril.
'I keep stuff secret for your own good'
'and I speak the truth' - Peter Ladner
For those who remember stuff
- just a few days ago Mr. Ladner said this:
Media reports this week have said the city's chief financial officer, Estelle Lo, resigned because of concerns about the Olympic Village financing.
Ladner denied those allegations, saying she will be back to work in two weeks.
"Estelle Lo is on the city payroll now. She's away on holidays as she has done every year for the last 15 years to visit her mother in Hong Kong," he said.
"She will be returning Nov. 16. She will be at work Nov. 17. Whatever happens after that, it's a personnel matter and not something I know about or can discuss."
The trouble with the statement above is, well, today is November 17, and it is now been officially verified that Ms. Lo has resigned and is not and will not be back at work today.
Is it any wonder that when a politician speaks, people tend to entertain skeptism at best or as likely, tend to just ignore the noise that comes out of their mouth entirely.
A Surrey Note
While Vision Vancouver was performing a mercy killing or exorcism of the NPA in Metro Vancouver, Diane Watts was being re-elected in a landslide in Surrey, the second largest and fastest growing city in British Columbia. Her massive victory and those of the other women in Surrey, that gives women the balance of power on Surrey Council are perhaps both a victory for women, and a welcome loss for the macho old style confrontational, gotcha, dirty politics as usual.
Apathy in Orange County North
Meanwhile in the Okanagan things were completely different. For the most part the few voters who bothered to show up resoundingly endorsed more of the same old, same old lack of direction, lack of planning and denial. Kelowna itself, the poster child for the civic equivalent of a failed state, nearly had more individuals running for council than people who showed up to actually vote. This city which has virtually every conceivable problem of our times – major homelessness, lack of affordable housing (recently won the most expensive home price sweepstakes – nationwide), world class drug and crime problems, sprawl that challenges the real Orange County, Arizona and New Jersey, and the combination of the oldest demographic in the nation and a hospital that is the regional ground zero for a health system in crisis.
With all these issues, crying out to be addressed though, barely over twenty percent of the eligible voters could be bothered to come out and give the current see no evil, plan no progress incumbents a vote for more of the same, or in the slang of the times……WHATEVER_duh! A stereotype valley girl or genuine denizen of Orange County probably wouldn’t even notice they were in another country, until they perhaps decided to go to Disneyland, and noticed how far they had to drive to get there.
A Study in Contrasts – The Kootenays
I’ll be discussing mainly a portion of the West/Central Kootenays. The Kootenays are actually quite a large and spread out jurisdiction/area, and there are many local differences from the East Kootenay (Cranbrook, Invermere etc.) to the western fringes which, depending on who you ask, could go as far as Grand Forks, but definitely to, at least, Rossland. There is an amazing diversity in this region economically, geographically, demographically and ethnically.
The far east (Sparwood, Elkford etc.) is so affected by the
The three main cities of the central region embody the challenges of the 21st century in microcosm.
Trail is dependent on a huge old style “dirty” industry with what was once the largest smelter in the British Empire and it still operates, though with many less employees and much lower emissions, while its sister smelters to the south in Idaho have been closed permanently by the EPA decades ago. Though Canadians of Italian descent are liberally sprinkled throughout the Kootenays, in Trail itself they are concentrated to a level un-matched outside of Kamloops, Toronto, or Italy itself and thus, to this day, continue to contribute to the ambience of the city, in a positive way.
Castlegar, along with the Kootenay River/Slocan Valley stretching to the north has the largest concentration of descendents of the Dukhabors, who with the assistance of Leo Tolstoy came to Canada late in the 19th century to escape religious persecution under the Tsars. Those who moved west from Saskatchewan to this area picked up where the prospectors and miners left off and added their energy to the building of farms and communities in our valleys. Though it is the most central city in the Central Kootenay, and home of the main airport connecting to Vancouver and Calgary, it was the location of the hospital chosen for closure by the BC liaRs when they decided to “improve” the delivery of health services in our region. Castlegar must deal with the cyclic nature of the forest industry thanks to its largest employer the Sawmill/Pulpmill Complex just downstream from the Hugh Keenleyside Dam. It is a Cranbrook like combo of a quaint original old downtown/residential district, complemented by a Cranbrook Strip style mini/Maxi Mall type sprawl stretching halfway to Trail. Fortunately Castlegar is somewhat diversified by both its convenient access to Trail, Nelson and elsewhere and a college and the airport.
Nelson, the setting for the pretend town in Colorado for the Steve Martin movie “Roxanne,” is a unique town in transition. Up until the early eighties it was a thriving center of industry, services - both government and private - with a strong blue collar/union representation and an educational center with its own accredited four year university and School of Graphic Arts with the cultural and economic benefits that accrue to a college town. Since then Nelson has lost its major sawmill, various regional government administrative headquarters, including a major Forest Service hub, various federal agencies and offices, a CPR car repair shop and dispatch/switching center, both post-secondary schools and have had their hospital downgraded. Much of this is symbolized by the shiny white, mostly empty tower, that was formerly government offices and is now locally known as the “White Elephant” next to the Court House (with it’s own reduced services). Left with little other than its beautiful natural setting and the heritage buildings both commercial and residential that fortunately weren’t destroyed due to a serendipitous combination of foresight and economic stagnation, that prevented wholesale re-development, the Queen City has been struggling to redefine itself, with many successes and a mostly respectful and constructive style of debate guiding its way into the future.
A Tale of Three Villages
Kaslo, Silverton and New Denver share many similar characteristics and some significant differences. New Denver and Silverton are true sister ‘cities’ like Minneapolis/St. Paul or Springfield/Eugene (only very much smaller), while Kaslo is at once off by itself, yet somehow more entwined with Nelson, due to quicker shorter access by road, and the location of each on the same large lake. While a Silvertonian is as likely to go to Castlegar or Nakusp to accomplish tasks possible only in a larger center, the Kaslo resident will go to Nelson by default. Of course we all have to go to Trail, if not ‘Code Purple’ Kelowna, for medical services much beyond a pep talk and an aspirin.
The three villages really differ in the style of their politics. Though things are mellowing now in Silverton, it’s been a short time since it seemed that it was governed by litigation. During that period, Silverton council meetings were often attended with overflow crowds and attended by RCMP to escort those declared “out of order” out of the hall. In spite of this great interest, most issues of substance couldn’t be discussed, as they always seemed to be, in StoneWally Oppal’s immortal words – “before the courts.” With councilors suing other councilors for liable/defamation and sexual scandals being bandied far and wide and so many lawsuits pending, some with the village itself as either plaintiff or defendant - one needed a program (or one’s own lawyer) to simply keep track of the action(s). While it provided much entertainment to those in neighbouring communities, for the citizens of the village it only produced worries about if taxes would need to be raised to pay lawyers and dysfunctional governance in extremis. Now that things have been more sane for a term or two a resounding (81.3%) turnout renewed the mandate of moderation and the candidates associated with the times of turbulence and litigation were emphatically rejected by seemingly all voters not related by blood or marriage, and maybe even some of those.
New Denver, on the other hand, has been called by some familiar with civic governance – “The Best Run Village in British Columbia” and on Saturday managed to avoid complacency and two thirds of the electorate re-elected the mayor and all councilors who stood for re-election. Gary Wright, once the young mayor of New Denver, has now been mayor so long that adults who grew up here have never known anyone else was even allowed to be mayor. New Denver and Silverton have been also increasing co-operation in providing many of the required services that can be difficult for a small community with a shrinking and increasingly absentee tax-base to provide, to the mutual benefit of both communities. There are many contentious issues that arise in New Denver and natural/un-natural crises to respond to, such as the cell phone controversy, recent wildfire emergencies and power outages, road closures, loss of services, and competing interests of stakeholders over resources like water and forests, mining, development and how to deal with displaced bears. The village and increasingly its neighbour Silverton usually manage to work on resolving these issues in a respectful manner. Almost all are in agreement that the village is right to attempt, however successful/unsuccessful, to exercise some local control over local issues of importance to their lives – no matter how much the government in Victoria or telus Corporation thinks those decisions are theirs to make in Victoria or faraway corporate boardrooms, without neither consideration nor consultation with those who actually live there.
Kaslo is somewhere in between the erstwhile Silverton of Litigation and the productive co-operation of New Denver. Indeed, various groups in Kaslo composed of opposing factions on occasion even avail themselves of the services of the Mayor of New Denver to come and chair meetings concerining contentious issues involving the village, the Community Forest or other divisive matters. I suspect that the Kaslo vote was/is close, as even now, Monday morning, the results are still not posted at “Civic Vote 2008.”
Upddate:1:00PM Monday, November 17, 2008
In Kaslo, professional forester Greg Lay defeated the incumbent and also another previous former mayor for the mayor’s chair. Also the fourth council seat is currently a dead heat between two candidates and no winner has been declared as of this time. Only three winners are declared for the four council seats as of now. Just a smidgen less than two thirds of eligible voters exercised their ballot in Kaslo. Though I had originally thought both of Mr. Lay's opponents had served more than one term, I now realize that no one has been elected mayor of Kaslo for a second term since Jack Morris retired after a lengthy string of succesive terms back around the end of the 1980's.
Other Nearby Communities
Mayor Karen Hamling, who fought valiantly against Victoria’s scheme to allow the holder of the Arrow Lakes Timber Allotment to convert lands formerly designated Tree Farm Licenses, designed to provide local jobs, into fodder for speculation in recreational real estate, was returned by a 3 – 1 vote. She lost the battle to prevent the sales entirely, but did win significant concessions from the new Forest Minister, after the previous minister (in-law or relation of a TimberWest exec, the company that benefited from the stealthily done deal I call the Jordan River Scam) insisted it was a done deal and he could do nothing. Most importantly, the new holder has to use proceeds from any sales to pay off local loggers before sending the bulk of the proceeds, should the sales be successful, on to the same old crooks on Wall Street responsible for the current economic woes, who were to get it all, at the expense of the unpaid loggers in the original deal.
We call this Slocan City, because once it was a city, and to avoid confusion with the river, valley or lake. I’m not clear what the issues were there, but obviously the populace was engaged as they had a turnout of 75%. So far it has managed to remain one of the rare communities in the area with a working sawmill. Back in the seventies, almost every community had at least one, Kaslo alone had three (today Kaslo has zero).
Complete results for everywhere in British Columbia can be found at: Civic Vote 2008 The First Page deals with Lower Mainland races - click on link in upper right corner to search for other communities elsewhere in BC. Or here, then select the community you are interested in from the drop down list.
* I have a hard time using the name “Liberal” applied to the Gordo Gangsters, kinda like I do when people refer to Stephen Harper’s wing of the Republican Party as “Tories.” In both cases they are names that are used as disguises to help obscure the real agenda and bear no relation to the honourable traditions of Liberalism or real Tories. If I considered myself either a Liberal or a genuine Tory, I would consider suing for defamation and degradation of my brand. The BC liaR Party is much more appropriate for Gordo the Soup Nazi and his cabinet of crackers because it accurately implies that (1) they lie - and (2) BC liaR echoes one of their most famous lies, “I will not sell BC Rail (or liaR, spelled backwards).