Archive for the ‘News and Politics’ Category

Ever had lunch on the City Hall lawn?

Yeah, me either.

And yet Mayor Gregor Robertson is in trouble for proposing to turn some of the municipal HQ’s lawn space, which is currently lined up for improvement, into a community garden.

It might be just me, but isn’t turning it into a garden an improvement, and a good one at that? And also, it seems a little hair-up-the-nose to pick a procedural slapfight over a chunk of land none of us have ever really considered let alone enjoyed.

Photo by Dave Ho

Photo by Dave Ho

Coming on the thematic heels of Herb’s recent post, in a town filled with community gardens, isn’t it a good idea to promote the idea on the most high profile lawn around? And do we really want the mayor spending even a half hour debating this in council session, all things considered? Which is to say, isn’t this a non-issue?

Looking back on Sam Sullivan

Though Sam Sullivan has been out of office for a week now, he’s been in our hearts and minds.  Well maybe he’s not been in either of those, but I presume his wife still loves him so that’s one person.  He was one of Vancouver’s most controversial mayors of recent years, from the manner of his election victory to his controversial decision to invade Iraq…

Wait that was the other guy.

Though there is no one defining photo-op of Sam Sullivan’s time as Mayor, no pile of rubble for him to pose atop or banner to pose under, there have been moments that have come close.  Accepting the Olympic flag on behalf of Vancouver in Torino, a clear symbol of the diverse and accepting makeup of our city was probably the high point.  It can’t be easy to be sandwiched in between a Mayor who had a television franchise based off his life, and a fruit juice magnet.

But yet there’s on indelible image I think that all Vancouverites are going to have of Sam Sullivan’s time in office.  One thing we’re all going to remember him for.

Roll clip.


The noise outside my window means Harper’s in town


Prime Minister Harper is in town doing the campaign thing.  I didn’t realize this until I tried to go home after work and found a man holding a very large sign that linked Harper with big oil.  I went up to my apartment and within three minutes someone had set off a very loud alarm across the street which continued on for about forty minutes, stopping only so that the same sound system could play “Amazing Grace”.

The protesters unfurled a banner, wore a polar bear costume and generally… well protested.  What they were on about, apart from the environment is good and Harper is bad, I’m not sure.  The news networks leapt all over them, so I’m sure their manifesto will be broadcast this evening just before the NHL pre-season scores.

Remind me to tell my Stephen Harper story later this week, the one where I had to interview him while drunk.  I was drunk, he presumably was sober.

Pictures of the protest, taken from my balcony, can be found here [fkr].  Please respect the Creative Commons do-dad if you want to use them.

Hey Vancouver, make sure you’re registered to vote


While it might not be as sexy as the election going on just an hour south of us, we’ve got our own federal election coming up and it’s a pretty important one.

While the election isn’t until October Elections Canada is out and about making sure everyone is registered to vote. I saw them at my local Urban Fare yesterday, and they’ll be there again today, so if you haven’t gotten your voter confirmation card in the mail head over to the Elections Canada website [ec] and see what you can find out about getting yourself on the voter list.

Mow down air pollution

CAF’s Megan Bennett and Environment Minister Barry Penner 3, originally uploaded by DBarefoot.

Tip from Darren Barefoot [db]:

If you’re looking for a few ways to be a little extra environmentally friendly this year one place to start is by taking a look at what’s in your garage. No not your car, that’s obvious, but your lawn mower. That’s right, if your lawn mower is an old gas powered model it can be doing a fair bit of polluting every time you trim your grass.

If you think it might be time to be getting a new mower, then this is a good time to trade it in since The Clean Air Foundation [caf] is running a trade-in program called Mow Down which is offering a $100 instant rebate if you bring in your old gas powered pollution machine to Home Depot and buy a “new push-reel, electric, rechargeable or low-emission alternative mower or trimmer.”

The program was launched with a photo-op staring Barry Penner, Provincial Minister for the
Environment on April 17th and is going on until the 27th.

Port Expansion Roberts Bank BC 2008 04 12

It may be a really stupid idea, given that the US economy has gone into a tailspin, US freight and container imports in particular having been in decline for the last two years. It has also miserably failed any objective environmental assessment. And the port is actually under utilised at present. But the construction of new container berths at Deltaport continues.


A story in this morning’s Vancouver Sun emphasizes why this development has to be stopped.

An international team has discovered why half the world’s western sandpipers touch down on a specific tidal flat just south of Vancouver every spring. The secret is in the mud, more specifically in the snot-like “biofilm” coating the mud.

The tiny shorebirds, weighing about 30 grams each, suck a remarkable 20 tonnes of the sticky slime off the mud every day as huge flocks swoop down to refuel during the spring migration, the scientists estimate.

This is not a trivial issue. The port expansion has always been dubious from an environmental standpoint. Now it stands condemned. The response from the federal government (ports are a federal not a provincial responsibility) should be firm and swift.

Wired on Vancouver bait-car program

free room and board, originally uploaded by Rebelr@t.

Wired Magazine’s website has a very interesting article up on Vancouver’s long running bait-car program, which apparently is far more of a novelty than I thought [wm]. Truthfully I figured every major city had a program similar to it, but apparently it’s pretty cutting edge.

Sprawling, exurban Surrey used to be one of the car-theft capitals of North America, with 8,000 vehicles stolen in 2003. The government responded by forming the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team, or Impact, a squad armed with infrared-camera-equipped helicopters and license-plate readers that pick out stolen cars in traffic. Impact recruited detective Scott Cooke, who had started a bait-car program in Vancouver in 2002. Since he got this larger version running four years ago, auto theft in Surrey has declined 50 percent.

It has been a strange week in Vancouver


and I don’t just mean the weather. Quite unexpectedly, after an overcrowded protest meeting in Pitt Meadows, BC Environment Minister Barry Penner announced that there would be no transmission lines in Pinecone Burke Provincial Park. This put paid to a series of proposed run of the river hydro projects on the Upper Pitt river, and was widely applauded, except, of course, by its proponent. But if you thought that might indicate a change of direction in Victoria, you would be wrong. Equally controversial, and almost as unpopular was the province’s decision to use park land to settle an aboriginal land claim. Though this was a regional park and not a provincial park, the Metro Vancouver directors were not pleased to learn that they could do nothing. And not because the use of park land seemed to violate an earlier promise by the premier (we have all given up expecting him to keep his word) but the absence of any compensation.

We also learned this week that the Ministry of Transportation has responded to all those comments on the Environmental Assessment of the Port Mann twinning Highway #1 expansion. They did that in December, but kept quiet about it. No doubt because they had actually not responded at all, simply repeated stuff from the original submission. But the whole premise of the Gateway now seems to be in doubt as the US economy has tipped into recession, and railways, truckers and ports are all reporting a decline trade. Not in BC of course. In the US – whose trade we were supposed to be taking a bigger share of in the future. I don’t think so, Kevin

Richmond Council votes for ALR exclusion for Garden City Lands

No surprise here really. As the accompanying opinion pieces made clear, the general feeling was that they had no choice. But perhaps is more interesting, simply because it is so unusual is that Linda Reid, the local MLA is taking an independent view. She has always opposed lands being removed from the ALR and this site, which is in her constituency, is no different. She even points out that for many of the things the City wants to do like parks and community gardens, exclusion is not even necessary, although the ALC would still need to consent. The problem is that the deal does not allow for the lands to be split – so it is all or nothing as far as exclusion goes. The other two MLAs for Richmond are busy distancing themselves from Reid, but I admire her for stickling to her guns and representing the wishes of the people who live here.

Food security is going to be a big issue here, as oil prices rise and water shortages start to threaten the areas in the US where we currently get most of our vegetables from. And many people who have no real choice but to live in high density apartments and town houses would love to have a small plot they could work. Their health would really benefit from fresh air, exercise and fresh vegetables. In fact if people became more physically active we might even begin to tackle the frighteningly rapid rate of growth in our “healthcare” budget which is about treating diseases which are easily preventable.

Vancouver made game turns children into tiny terrors

Wii Bully

As you all remember the world ended in 2006 with the release of Rockstar’s Bully [mbv].  It had gay kissing, fighting, running from teachers and some more fighting and we all knew that it would destroy civilization, as it did.  Add to that the fact that it was made at Rockstar’s Vancouver studio and you had a recipie for disaster.  I for one have been living in a cave defending my stash of food with a stick and I’m pretty sure everyone else’s lives have been just as devestated.

Or perhpaps nobody’s lives were affected other than those people who saw a chance to get themselves some attention and appear on the television.  Now the teachers unions are wanting to get their screen time as Vancouver’s teachers are joining with seven other teachers’ unions from around the world to have the game banned [cbc].  Not just banned from schools, but banned from existing. 

Which of course is the best advertising that Rockstar can buy, better in fact from their own PR.  I mean until I read about their attempt to have it banned I didn’t know that Rockstar had released a special edition version of the game this month.  It also proves that local teachers are shockingly stupid and kind of mini-Nazis. 

Stupid in that the game’s not going to be banned, because at its core Bully is a fairly innocent game.  Compared to most games it’s so light hearted, I mean you get into trouble you go to detention.  You fight bullies.  You don’t murder, kill or cut anything off of anyone.  These people are supposed to teach our children, and part of that is to teach them about freedom of speech and not that freedom of expression is only meant for when we agree with what’s being said.

Vancouver teachers, enjoy your time on television.  I won’t be watching, I’m in my cave trying to survive the apocalypse brought forth by a game with kids punching each other.

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