Thursday, December 29, 2005

Radio Haney in South Africa

Radio Haney is currently on assignment (see "having a good time on the beach"). Your correspondent will be back in Haney on January 17 2006 with tales straight out of Africa.

All that we can report to date for sure is that travellers to Cape Town should avoid Frankfurt Airport at all costs - this is not a good place.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The children of Azania

2006 marks the 30th anniversary of one of the saddest days in South Africa’s history. In June and July 1976 the African children of SOWETO, the now well-known township that sprawls south west of Johannesburg, rose up against the Apartheid regime in protest at being forced to learn the Dutch tongue of Afrikaans, a language associated with the repression of the indigenous peoples of South Africa. What followed was the whole-sale slaughter of some the country’s most important treasures, its children.

30 years on, and the slaughter of our children continues unabated; Baghdad, Darfur, Palestine, India, Pakistan, China, the United States, Canada, Europe, the world; no corner of the planet offers safe haven to our children.

Looking back now it seems that moment in SOWETO somehow defined all that is wrong with our species. At the same time that event, carried out in the bleak streets of SOWETO exposed once again the courage which we as humankind are capable of.

“Azania is the name that is used by a broad section of African revolutionaries and progressive forces who support the Azanian Revolution and are working for the overthrow of racist South Africa. Azania means a blackman’s country. ‘South Africa’ on the contrary is the name that was given by white settlers to the southern tip of Africa to consolidate their political, economic and military suppression of the indigenous black population –the owners of the country– Azania.” David Dube, THE RISE OF AZANIA The Fall of South Africa, Daystar Publications Ltd., Lusaka, Zambia 1983

In today’s so-called ‘post-apartheid’ era the majority of South Africans would in all likelihood disagree with David Dube’s reasoning for a name change; and for many practical and economic reasons this probably just as well. Anyone who has changed the something as simple as a company name, will no what it takes, in terms of time and money. Doing the same for a country would be challenging indeed. None the less, to have named a country based simply on its geographical location was a somewhat lazy way out. On study, the name South Africa also reflects uncertainty as to ownership. None of the early settlers thought to call it New Lisbon, or New Rotterdam, New England or New Holland in the way that we see in for instance New Zealand. There is no country known as South America, it is a continent, not a country. Azania therefore, it seems to me, may not be found to have an actual or traceable reason for the being the legitimate name for South Africa, but is a name which impacted sufficiently for me to refer always in the poetic sense to South Africa as ‘Azania’.

So it was that in October 26th in 1976 that the horror of the SOWETO children’s uprising that I decided to for once and for all my Azania. It had become too much for me. Reflecting now on those times it seems that my decision to leave Azania in 1976 may have been the action of a coward or worse, a witness to an unspeakable crime apartheid– who fled the scene rather than remain to help the victims. Coward, frightened witness or perhaps just an act of protest, I fled nonetheless. With my bags packed I wrote my farewell to Azania, before leaving for Johannesburg airport.

Azania the poem is a reflection, a snap shot of my feelings on the October 26th, 1976. It expresses disappointment and fear, but mostly disappointment. The author could be accused of being under the influence of any one of the mind-bending drugs available at the time; the images are a composite of reality and fantasy and pay no heed to form or sequence. To some readers the poem may be meaningless, to others pointless; a few will get the drift.


Soon to leave blood sobbing shores in sad failure's disgrace
Where the feet of a million virgins` dispair slowly stamps out
The black face staring down from the stars in Shaka's grave
Looking on with stones for eyes and rich deep soil for thought.

Fingers of lethal sweetness curl about the bravery
Strangling by greenfields, murder in full sight by day.

Soon to cast a one last look at gravel paths to heaven
Where the overseer's home above Wynberg's crippled camp hovers
In lonely sacrifice to Humanity for Mankind's sake once more.

See how cities vanish when tears cover them in sin
How nations slide beneath the quicksand of lust.

Waving from the light that takes me away blind with fear
Yet knowing fully all-aware
With thoughts of Azania still roughly hewn in my future.
Azania's arena, where bold as granite faces turn from the reality
Rotting in this country's streets smelling only of faint hope
Like excreta disguised in rose's faces held up to the white goddess.

Filled with departure like bursting pigs we flee to innocence and security,
The illusion no human fails to possess in yet his mildest dreams

We go Azania
We stay Azania
We pray with mouths of seeds that
Never sought the chance to sprout
Nor ever will in this barren debate.

Soon to leave the green and undulating blue sea-sweet mountain
All along a vacuum filled only with the coming of Azania
Racing down through history like an eagle on the prey.

Africa wears its soul in Azania, a man hanged upside down
And loudly tortured by knives, he spills a threatened truth
All over the history hazard and our silly misconceptions.

Though we were doubtless happy landlords in this land a while
It crumbles now in ghetto neglect as we with trembling guilt
Face the committee of black black suffering now breathing in our skin.

Mumbling schoolboy excuses we call out like fading waterfalls for help
Saying 'but I thought, sir` to Azania
In vain, pleading naivety

Soon to leave the shaded drives of ambition's crumbling greedy road
Where our friends like paper thieves hang dead from the silent gallows,
Happy once in ignorance, relieved now of oppressions load.

CA 26/10/76

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Freshly baked one-liners

Somwhere in Maple Ridge, British Columbia

"There once was a girl from Ibiza

Who said that sex

was beneath her."

"Money is the loot of all evil."
"The pun is mightier than the pen."
"Art is the inventory of the soul."
"So, I met this fisherman. I said.......I said, what's your net worth?"
"I had this rabbit. I called him Anthony Hopkins."
"Pantaloon" def. Canadian trouser-wearing duck.
The Houdini Union for Escape Artists - "Untied we Stand."
"It is not slaves who should be abolished, it is their masters."
"Panhandlers are a catalyst for change."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Canada's Problem is that it has no problems

Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Bloc or Green?

Which of these parties shall I vote for?

And why?

Is there something I don't have that they can provide?

Do I need a home? Nope, got one of those? How about a car? Nope. What about a bigger car? Well, frankly I'd prefer a smaller one; smaller gas bills, lower insurance costs and less maintenance. What about food and clothing then? Well, not really. In fact I had to get rid of some of the clothing that's being cluttering up my home. Food,? No thanks. Anyway, last week the doctor told me to loose weight. How about medicare? As I said, the doctor told me to loose weight. Do you need a job then? Are you kidding me, I'm trying to cut back on work.

So, is there anything I can do for you at all, Mr. Voter? Do your kids need education? No, I think we've got that covered for the moment. Nothing at all then? No. Are you sure?

Well, there is one thing. What's that? Could you just leave me alone for a year or two. That would be nice. Let's have some political quiet time. In fact, go to your room. And don't come out until you can think of something useful to say and, who knows, perhaps even do.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Canadian Federal Elections January 26 2006 - Strike One

Harper, in this humble conservative's opinion, has just made the first mistake of the campaign. I only hope it is not fatal. Only two strikes left. Why do we insist on making it so easy for the Liberals. Economy, economy, economy is the name of the game. Forget the moral window dressing.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A foggy calm settles over Maple Ridge

Almost since the night he was elected, a foggy calm has settled over Mayor Elect Gordon Robson's Maple Ridge. Yeterday, for the first time in days, the fog lifted, as did the mood of the residents of this hamlet on the Fraser. With a population of 73,000 'hamlet' may be too romantic a description.
Just yesterday, November 24th 2005, I received a call from someone outside our community who 'had heard that we had elected a can-do mayor' and that things looked rosy for the development community. Things also look rosy for the addicted community, if the press has it right. And things look rosy for commuters and job seekers too. It seems we may be living in Nirvana. There are reports of travellers spotted in the distance who have heard of this place called Maple Ridge, a modern-day Shangrila, nestled quietly below the northern mountains of the Fraser Vallley on the banks of the serpentine, silt-filled Fraser River.
Less certain are the prospects for an Albion-sited First Pro and Wall-Mart (those evil twins of the retail world). The headlines on the front-page of the NEWS on November 23 say it loud and clear "Don't hold your breath First Pro." Mayor Robson, while publicly unimpressed by the Wall-Mart and cousin First Pro, may privately be turning the prospect of a big box presence in the Albion Flats over in his head. Council will be divided; here's my prediction: For BIG BOX: Daykin, Dueck (for sure); Against BIG BOX King, Speirs (for sure); On the fence: Stewart and Hogarth (not sure). Robson should stay away from the debate if he has any political sense; so far he has shown that when it comes to political sense he may have more than Maple Ridge has ever witnessed in a novice mayor.
The fog has lifted now, replaced by (surprise-surprise) rain. Sunny weather is in the forecast. But that's to be expected in Shangrila.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What follows putting your money where your mouth is?

It is commonly heard of government critics that if they have so much to say for themselves they should themselves stand for election. Mayor, yes Mayor Gordon Robson has done just that.

He complained and whined for years, suggested that he could do a better job, and was willing to spend an awful lot of money to make his point. It is safe to say that he made his point quite handily on November 19, 2005.

Some will be shocked by his win, some will do back-flips with glee, and some will wait and see. The first and most striking difference between pre-mayoral life and mayoral life that Mr. Robson will be aware of, is that he is no longer a one man show. Whereas he once required only one vote of approval to move forward, he will now be bound by a minimum of of four. It is obvious to many political aficionados that he unlikely to be met favourably by King and Spiers. And he will have to convince the other four members of council if he has particularly strong sentiments on any particular issue. And persuasive as he may be in his private life, or as a citizen, he may find that getting it done the Robson-way in chambers will require skills hitherto latent in his armory of not-to-be-underestimated unlearned talents.

I would expect a calm and measured demeanor from any incumbent. Riotous behaviour from the masses beyond the palace walls in what democracy, by its nature, invites. The chaos of public opinion needs to be countered by maturity and contemplated judgment within the palace court. It remains to be seen whether the next three years will be like partying in a mosh pit at a Green Day concert (poor choice of band, under the circumstances) or a pleasant stroll down the boulevard of sensibility.

Tempting though it is to pre-judge, the best policy by far is to hang on to the public end of the rope and let it out slowly as the statutory term progresses. The masses, riotous and eager as always are keen to line the road to the gallows. For the moment, however, they will need to show some restraint. The same restraint that we expect from Mayor Robson, yes Mayor Robson.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Listen for the thud of gloves hitting the forest floor

The Whonnock all candidates meeting is behind us.

On reflection, the Whonnock affair was pretty tame (probably due to the candidates' fear of upsetting the moderator), but Hammond saw the temperature rising as a de facto curtain raiser for the ECRA meeting held last night, Thursday November 10th, 2005.

As a seasoned moderator - Whonnock was my first - I have some advice for the moderators of the Hammond and ECRA meetings. In future don't waste the public's and candidates' time with long introductions and self-promotion, but for God's sake get on with the business at hand. The ECRA organizers meeting seemed very poorly prepared from almost every angle. When the moderator spends the last five minutes of the evening telling the participants that they only have five minutes left, the whole thing starts to take on the appearance of Monty Python or Fawlty Towers.

With hostilities breaking out all over the place it seems to me that the gloves will be coming off by Monday 14th when the action switches to the next scheduled meeting at Websters Corners. At the last election three years ago I recall that the proceedings were organized by the Robson Gang. If that is true this time around, then Monday night will amount to a Home Game for the Gordster, Gordy, Gord, Gordyflops or Gordzilla, whatever the current title may be. If you think he's been feeling his oats (among other things) in recent times, wait till you see Monday's show. How many goons he has planned for asking questions of the apparent left-wing slate of Hartley, King, Gordon and Challenger (Speirs is not included as he was benched last night) is anyone's guess. I imagine that Richard's-Hackers will come to his aid with another bunch of filched emails and printouts from hijacked internet packets.

Last night I thought that Speirmint was going to drop the gloves on the shrill little fellow from atop Thornhill who wants to save the world from too much Green Zone and the dratted agricultural land that keeps spoiling the aquifer, or something like that, it is often hard to keep track of the logic. This whining wannabe developer's outburst was met with the same incredulity that he discovered ever-present in the crowd at the OCP hearings.
Jaques Richard always seem to follow closely on the heels (the Thornheels) of the pro-development crowd on the hill.

Speaking of the foster guy, it seems he has been fostering more than just children. Rumour has it he is also financed through a series of numbered companies that can be traced back to his old friend at Harvey's Building supplies and that other unsuspecting candidates are receiving a steady stream of $250 donations from a series of numbered companies. Robson is being truthful when he says he does not accept money from numbered companies. On the contrary, he is instead said to be providing funds to well-known companies who in turn fund numbered companies who in turn fund Robsonesque (I thought I'd keep the french theme going) candidates. Faye Isaac is French. So if you are French (or think you are French) and are running for council or Mayor, and if you happen to be receiving cheques for $250 at a time from a nombered compagnie, the chances are that you will one day stand accused of being a Wall-Marting, First-Proing little you know what. Of course, I don't believe a word of it. But there are those that do - many, many Scottish people, for instance, do believe that Robson, far from being supported by Wall-Mart is actually paying Wall-Mart and First Pro to support the Robsonites. Robson is more powerful than Sam Walton - holy smart growth, fire up the bong and call me dopey.

Speaking of which, I hear that Perry has hired the firm of Cheech + Chong as his defence team and assistant fund raisers. Where does this leave those slutty little slate devils recently concocted by the Fearsome-Speirsome - he certainly scared the pants of the moderator last night, who was about to ring the bell for crosschecking. With so many people hanging their hats on the OCP (Overtly Complicated Proposal) it will be interesting to see who the panel of council and mayor will be, sweating it out over weeks' of deliberation at the next OCP public hearings. I won't be voting for Robson as Mayor, but there is part of me who would love to be on the speakers list with him in the hot seat. Mmmmm, relish the thought. The rumour, by the way, that I am Robson's love child, simply isn't true. Yes, my mother was a tight-rope walker in the Ringaling Circus, but she told me categorically that she never clowned around.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More manure than the ALR can take

Given the truckloads of freshly contrived manure being distributed around Maple Ridge during these weeks leading up to the 2005 municipal elections, is this the right time to be removing agricultural land from our limited ALR, I ask? What with that much mud flying around it is little wonder that our streams are showing signs of contamination. The developers, for just a brief moment, should not be held accountable for the environmental chaos that follows municipal campaigns. Clearly it is muddy thinking that is the cause. Mud and manure emits from, and is delivered to, the candidates in such quantities that were it not for the absorbent qualities of our triple-sheeted electorate we'd all be up that excrement-saturated creek without any idea of where to put the voter's paddle. Who makes all this stuff up?

Morse backed by Wal-Mart? It makes a great story, but seriously undermine's the credibility of the accuser. Frankly, its all getting a little stupid. Hopefully, the candidates are cashing all their 'stupid cheques' now so that when they enter the chamber anew it will be with only smart ideas and wise decisions, with the idiotic innuendos and BS discarded along the campaign trail, hopefully where no further environmental damage can be caused.

With land use the only real issue it is quite amazing how the candidates expand their powers far beyond what is normally regarded local government influence. It must be the Kryptonite in the lemon ice at Marina's Gelato Parlour - now that will leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

Some of the candidates seem to be fans of Law & Order and having nothing else on their minds, but taking the streets back. Looking at the state of some our streets, I'd be quite happy not to have them back at all. When, for instance, are we going to get some lighting on our streets. Fighting crime with a flashlight is so, well, twentieth century.

The grayness of election month is never kind. Can't we have elections in July or August? Make a party of it. Being forced to choose a Mayor in the cold and rain of a typical Ridge November is not made any more cheerful by the weather; knowing as one does that at least two more miserable Novembers will follow before one can correct the mistake, should any be be made. We have yet to reach that point in political technology where one can walk into chambers with a big white out stick on any Tuesday evening and give it a quick swish around the room, removing those who fail to keep their promises. Trouble with that is we'd clear the room, gallery and all. Keeping promises is just as tough for voters as it is for the candidates.

What I hope for is a Mayor and council who can bring calm to civic life for the next three years; we do not need grandstanding over petty issues. Maturity would be great (says he, that's rich). As Churchill once said: "Everything is important, but nothing is frightfully important." So it is with towns like ours. It is all important, but not important enough to spill your Starbucks over; or move to Pitt Meadows for; or not show up at an all candidates meeting for. Elections are (weather permitting) a lot of fun really; a chance for all us to speak out and show that our communal voice, while not always in harmony, still makes us the unique society that we undoubtedly are. We're fantastic really; lets remind each other of that now an then.

I'm beginning to think we'd be better off just leaving the job of running Maple Ridge to staff. Politicians make for good entertainment and give us something to talk about. In the meantime we need to get on with creating a pleasant place to live. The candidates are not making it any easier.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Gambling with children's future

During the 2005 teachers' job action in Maple Ridge some parents reacted to the suggestion that School District 42 and First Pro had secret plans to turn Kanaka School in the Albion Flats into a 24 hour casino.

SmartGrowth on the Ground traffic calming methods

One way of calming traffic in the future being tested above.......traffic slows to a crawl while motorists figure out the meaning of road signs in Maple Ridge. The "08 kph" and "no kraping" will be particularly effective as will "first hour kraping free"

Climate change

Introduction Earth's climate is a fundamental part of our life support system. It shapes the way we can live on this planet. Yet the way we live, work and play is inadvertently changing the climate.

Human activities release air pollutants, most of them by-products of our use of fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — to provide mobility, heat, industrial production, and wealth for regions which produce these resources. About 90 per cent of the world's commercially produced energy, and about 70 per cent of Canada's, comes from fossil fuels.

The World Energy Outlook (OECD, 1998) forecasts global energy demand will grow by 65 per cent and CO2 will increase by 70 per cent between 1995 and 2020, unless new policies are put in place. As fossil fuel use continues to rise, the consequences become ever more costly. Greenhouse gases from fuel combustion accumulating in the atmosphere continue to raise global temperatures. The increases are greatest in northern latitudes, including Canada.

The effects of climate change are numerous and while we may have some benefits from warmer temperatures, we will also face a number of costs. A warmer atmosphere is more active, prone to weather extremes, such as floods, droughts and violent storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Warmer weather also brings ecological changes, moving species, including insect pests and disease-carrying organisms, further north. Hotter summers produce a variety of stresses and changes in the natural water cycle accompanying climate change will affect farmers, hydroelectric producers, tourist operators and many others.

Canada, along with many other nations, has signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which includes a commitment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Like most other nations, it has failed to curb pollution increases. This pollution is closely linked to economic development and increased personal consumption of energy, particularly through the growing use of larger motor vehicles.

Moving to more sustainable forms of development will require more efficient use of energy and a shift to sources of energy that have fewer harmful side effects. Greenhouse gases Greenhouse gases act like a one-way mirror in the atmosphere, letting in much of the sun's light but trapping some of the infrared heat radiated by Earth.

For millions of years, natural greenhouse gases have made our planet 33 degrees Celsius warmer than it would otherwise be, and thus able to support life as we know it. Since the mid-1800s, carbon dioxide concentrations (which account for about 75 per cent of the enhanced greenhouse effect caused by human activities) have increased by more than one quarter. Most of that increase was in the past half century.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that if current trends in fossil fuel use are not changed, in this century CO2 levels in the atmosphere will double from those before the industrial revolution causing a rise in global temperatures unprecedented in 10,000 years. Canada's emissions of greenhouse gases Emissions grew by 13 per cent from 1990 to 1997 and continue to rise. By 2010, emissions are projected to be 105 megatonnes (19 per cent) higher than in 1990. By 2020, they are projected to be 203 megatonnes (36 per cent) higher.

The primary sources of these increases are population and economic growth, coupled with low energy prices and a shift to fossil fuels, particularly, natural gas, for electricity generation.

Model Principles for Sustainable Communities

Source: Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy

A sustainable community is one which:

Recognizes that growth occurs within some limits and is ultimately limited by the carrying capacity of the environment

Values cultural diversity

Has respect for other life forms and supports biodiversity

Has shared values amongst the members of the community (promoted through sustainability education)

Employs ecological decision-making (e.g., integration of environmental criteria into all municipal government, business and personal decision-making processes)

Makes decisions and plans in a balanced, open and flexible manner that includes the perspectives from the social, health, economic and environmental sectors of the community

Makes best use of local efforts and resources (nurtures solutions at the local level)

Uses renewable and reliable sources of energy

Minimizes harm to the natural environment

Fosters activities which use materials in continuous cycles.And, as a result, a sustainable community:

Does not compromise the sustainability of other communities (a geographic perspective)

Does not compromise the sustainability of future generations by its activities (a temporal perspective).

Source: Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Through the moderator's lens

The political actor, his audience and the amateur behavioral scientist

An all candidates meeting for mayoral and council candidates running in the 2005 District of Maple Ridge local elections was held at Whonnock Community Centre on Thursday, November 3rd, 2005 from7:30pm to 10:00pm. This meeting was aimed at providing all the candidates an opportunity to present themselves to the electorate and for the public to ask brief questions on specific issues that concerned them.

This was the first of several all candidates meetings scheduled be held in various areas of Maple Ridge prior to election day on November 19th, 2005. The organizers asked if I would act as the moderator. I explained that I had never done this sort of thing before and as I heard myself speaking these words of modesty I thought to myself hang on, being a virgin moderator makes it all the more exciting. "Sure, let’s have at her," was my final answer.

The role of moderator, albeit in the arena of local Canadian politics, has added new knowledge to my life as a political observer. In the past, as an audience participant and frequent interrogator of the candidates, I found that the subject of my own questions filled my thoughts and it was often hard to concentrate on the questions posed by other participants, let alone follow the answers from the candidates. If one is a newcomer to an area it often becomes hard to follow some of the questions without knowing the history. Maple Ridge, for instance, has a population exceeding 70,000 souls and yet every public gathering is attended by a small band of hard core residents, numbering no more than between 200 and 400 at the most. In one sense, the 70,000 are saying to the few hundred go ahead and mold our future because we are too busy going about our daily affairs, and besides which there is little we can do to influence the affairs of our community, what will be will be. In many other countries this is not the case as seen when thousands not only wish to be heard, but take things into their own hands through mass civil action. Thankfully that is a rare occurrence in Canadian political life, excluding of course job action.

The candidates at an all candidates meeting come mostly prepared for the meeting. Preparation means writing a speech that concisely articulates the key reasons for wishing to be elected. It may also means anticipating certain questions that may be directed at one for historical reasons or perhaps for reasons linked to more contemporary events. In British Columbia we recognize from observation that the meat and potatoes of local government is the determination of land use. Pick any District or City in British Columbia and subject it to time and task study to determine the amount of time devoted to discussion on all matters that could be described as falling under the category of land use and it will come as no surprise to learn that in local politics land is the only issue. All other departments of civic management beat a hasty path to Planning Department in any given district. The reason for this quite simply is that the land provides the cash upon which all other activity is based. Maple Ridge is no different. The entire community relies on property taxes supplemented by hundreds of subsets of income-sources such as all those that fall within fees-for-service. Candidates, knowingly or not, when making their pitch, are first and foremost asking the voter to be allowed to care for or husband and nurture the one asset that keeps a District healthy; land.

There are other many important issues too; community plans, financial plans, transport plans, governance, environmental protection, inter-government relationships, public safety and crime prevention, economic development plans, providing education at every level and all the detail that these major categories imply. Most candidates recognize the need to address each of these issues at some point in their campaign, but will focus on those specific issues that are closest to their personal beliefs (a good idea) or those issues that are most likely to assure them of a successful outcome (a better idea, if getting elected is the goal.)

The difficulty arises when the personal beliefs of the candidate cannot be matched to the issues most likely to win them the required number of votes to win a seat. How does a candidate make himself or herself sound passionate and convincing when speaking publicly about a subject that truthfully is only of passing interest to the speaker? Moreover, how well-equipped are the public in Maple Ridge when it comes to detecting sincerity and conviction? Many of them will provide the answer that they are extremely well-equipped and knowledgeable when it comes to municipal affairs. Certainly the 200 or so participants who attended at Whonnock Community Centre can claim that they know more than most citizens when it come to what's cooking in the Ridge.

The moderator is the one person in the room, along with the timekeeper, who has to follow the words of every question and the words to every answer without loosing focus. For one as distracted as I, this meant an enormous challenge. To the effort of simply following the words one has to add what I can only describe as the RGB-factor. That is to say the red, green blue factor. When speaking, the candidate’s words are coloured much like a photograph, by layers of personal history, external and internal events, time and circumstance, background, upbringing, education, experience, character and personal beliefs. The observer, for his part hears and views of the speaker simultaneously through the lens of his eyes and ears, assembles and analyses the information and responds either inwardly to himself or outwardly through a counter or agreeing statement. It is challenging enough for most of us to focus on a single conversation over short periods. Doing so over a long period deepens the challenge and things get really difficult when we set up public conversations between twenty or thirty people on one side and say 200 or 300 people on the other, as in the case of all candidates meetings.

Another aspect attached to the moderator's lens could be some knowledge of the candidates themselves. This moderator, on this evening in Whonnock, could claim to have some degree of knowledge of each candidate either through private or public discourse. Not wishing to sound in any way corny or patronizing when this moderator looked across at the seated candidates it was with a sense of warmth, brought about perhaps by the knowledge that the candidates for the most part were prepared to offer themselves up for public scrutiny in a quest for bettering our community. The differences of opinion took then and always will, second place to the basic desire to help. So, from the solitary tripod of this lens, what did the moderator see?

Nervousness was tangible in each candidate, moreso in the mayoral candidates than in the council encumbents and hopefuls. It is interesting to observe what passes for outward comaraderie in public and then having to listen to the scuttlebut on the street which paints and entirely different picture of what the candidates think of one another. It is curious too that, once the election has passed, the seven elected ones will be forced to spend three years in civil and polite debate, notwithstanding the drubbing and backstabbing they may have had to endure from another during the campaign. Our capacity for being two-faced and double-dealing is never more evident than in politics. And no, it is not a trait that shows up exclusively on the left, right or down the middle. Duplicity is omnipresent in political life. It also makes the words of politicians hard to follow. And the words of lawyers, journalists, salesmen and so on.

The Maple Ridge 2005 campaign occurs in the same year that the public became engaged in the longest public hearings to ever be devoted to that central and illusive document known as the Official Community Plan ("OCP"). Perhaps more than any other public document the OCP touches the lives of us all and perhaps that is why is has become such a heavily discussed document. Ostensibly the public will have the final word on the OCP and it will go before the new council in 2006 for approval. He who makes sense of the OCP makes sense of Maple Ridge for many years to come.

The candidate speeches could be divided into those that were critical of past actions and those that spoke postively of future actions, normally in the shape of countermands. "I will correct past mistakes." countered by, "What mistakes? Look at all the achievements." The public will decide on November 19 whether mistakes were made and improvements can be found through displacing the existing team with new candidates or perhaps the public will take the view that we are doing OK and lets keep going the way we are. We all know there will be casualites and victories; we just don't know where they will occur.

Through the moderator's lens it seemed that those candidates who personalized their speeches came across less electable than those who simply stuck to the issues. The voter could care less about the travails of the candidate. Oddly, it seems quite often that the voter could less about the triumphs of the candidate. The voter, like the candidate, cares frequently only about himself. You would need a moderator's lens to see this. There is ample evidence however that both the public and the elected officials in this community care greatly for the place where we live. The way we express our care though can be be confusing. Good government should have clarity as its goal. Clear thinking is what this moderator will be looking for over the next two weeks so that a clear decision can be made and a clear future planned.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

There is work to be done in Zimbabwe

In full view of the world's international community, over many years, the southern African country of Zimbabwe has been allowed to slip into a state easily comparable to the dark world of anarchy depicted in Francis Ford Apocalypse Now.

The film became a metaphorical backdrop for the corruptive madness and folly of war itself for a generation of Americans. In the case of Zimbabwe today, the lives of millions of people in that country is far from metaphorical. The starvation, human abuse, derprivation and death thrust upon the country by Robert Mugabe is real and will eventually come to be recognized as one of history's worst crimes against humanity by a single individual. With so many recent events of similar gruesome indifference, it is beyond belief that the United Nations, along with every unifying, peace keeping and aid agency on the continent of Africa has turned its back on the peoples of Zimbabwe.

The question is: who will take on the mission to terminate the dangerously-lawless and insane Mugabe, who behave now no better than a warlord and self-appointed god and ruling a band of thugs through favouritism and cronyism.

I was recently sent a survey by the association that promotes the United Nations here in Canada. It asks a predictable set of questions all aimed at improving the United Nations and improving Canada's contribution to the United Nations. While surveys such as these give comfort to the administrators of our world agencies they do little to acclerate the urgent attention needed by helpless communities such as we now have in Zimbabwe. It is no exageration to say that in the time it took me to fill out the survey 100 or more Zimbabwean men, women and children died.

My appeal is to Canada to influence the United Nations and Zimbabwe's closest neighbour, the Republic of South Africa, to simply move on the Zimbabwe gangster regime, with force if necessary, to save the man in the street from becoming another corpse on yet another dusty road in Africa.

Gomery's Canada

Gomery puts blame on Chretien

November 1, 2005

"Ottawa - Former prime minister Jean Chretien will get hit with a finding of blame by Mr. Justice John Gomery today, but Prime Minister Paul Martin will not, The Globe and Mail has learned. Among those receiving a negative finding alongside Mr. Chretien will be former bureaucrat Chuck Guite, former minister of public works Alfonso Gagliano, Liberal fundraiser and Chretien supporter Jacques Corriveau, and Mr. Chretien's long-time chief of staff, Jean Pelletier."

The Gomery Report names a handful of questionable characters as being at the root of this larceny. What really is in question is Canada. From coast to coast Canadians must assume responsibility for this scandal for they after all have fostered the systemic and political conditions through the electoral process which have engendered this outrage.

Radio Haney

Monday, October 31, 2005

Whonnock-Thornhill "All Candidates" Meeting

An all candidates meeting for mayoral and council candidates running in the 2005 District of Maple Ridge local elections will be held at;

Whonnock Community Centre
Thursday, November 3rd, 2005
7:30pm to 10:00pm.

This meeting is aimed at providing the candidates an opportunity to present themselves to the electorate and for the public to ask brief questions on specific issues that concern them. It is the first of several all candidates meetings that will be held in various areas of Maple Ridge prior to election day on November 19th, 2005.

All residents of Maple Ridge are welcome to attend.

Monday, October 24, 2005

At dawn at sea


Before any objection is uttered
Joe flicks
The lights off from behind the counter
And hollers last call;
That’s all boys.
Stumble into the main bar, straining
Into the smoky old night;
Looking for some stray while finishing
Saturday night’s last pint.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
And sleep well.
For I
Am off
To sea.

Three-thirty amen;
This most comfortable Kalk Bay hour.
Here, now, is a moment not shared by the
Few who would sooner stab you to death
Than humiliate you.

Safe? Me? Oh yes.
But the humiliation is as long-lasting
As life.
A knife in the back would put an end
To that humiliation.
What a pity, no knife.
Life carries him, you, I, some of us –
On in pain.

Through beer-bleary eyes I see a boat alongside the quay.
Through gossip-deafened ears I hear a night-dark voice.
Kom jy saam? I make no reply.
Are you coming with?
Sorry Hosein. In the half-light
I though you were white.

We roll out towards a patchwork black-grey sea.
From out of the soft-deep dark the lights can be seen
From Bailey’s Cottage to Glen Cairn and Simonstown.

Yet to the crews aboard Colleen, White Rose,

Ang-Jerry, Ivy Doreen, The Star of the Sea,
Tajmahal and KB Fourteen, all is dark.
These souls simply feel each other’s presence

through the sea below
That manages, somehow, to communicate a way of life.

Sammy, Baba, German, Langa and Shaka
are in unison with this day
As their souls, mostly unconscious,
rise with the sun.

The staccato flash of a rising fish turning in the depths;
Coiling round and up and up, to the stern face of his captor.
Shaka smiles with his blood-shot eyes –
The young snoek cracks into the stillness of the boat.

Oom Janie asks the skipper. Where is the Lucky Star?
Ag man, hulle slaap.

The whole world does.
At dawn, at sea
The very universe, it seems,
Is locked in sleep.

Edited October 24 2005
Originally published in 1974
Claus Andrup

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Vote for a mix of preventionists and curists on November 19, 2005

"The only real power that councils have [in British Columbia] is landuse."
Vancouver Sun, Saturday, October 23, 2005.

Local politics anywhere in the world tend to reflect the larger world beyond. As a species we have moved quietly from hunter-gatherers to agrarians, traders and then industrialist consumers to this point now of informationalism.

Language and thought has enabled our species to differentiate between physical things and abstractions. We have defined humankind as being believers or non-believers, warlike or peaceful, unkind or kind, educated or uneducated, prosperous or poor, superior or inferior, valuable or worthless, fearless or fearful, helpful or helpless, productive or non-productive, giving or receiving, compassionate or uncaring.

Over history we have organized our communities, not always by design or intention, into groups. We have discovered as we did so that groups could not function without leaders; leaders who were entrusted with the primary responsibility of eliciting consensus from their groups. In time groups grew in number and as larger communities found it necessary to share physical and intellectual wealth. And here we are; planet earth 2005.

Most men and women will agree that we live in a complex place, where nature and our influence on nature and our neighbours make life no simpler. At some point a philosopher or early thinker must have caught sight of himself reflected in a river or lake and noticed for the first time the binary nature of nature. He would have been struck by the fact that he had a left side and a right side; on the left a hand, on the right a hand, on the left a leg, on the right a leg. The first nuance in the democratic process had been laid.

Thousands of years later we are so conditioned to the left and right that no community exists that is not defined thus. We have named them Republican and Democrats, Tories and Labour, Conservatives and Liberals, Capitalists and Communists, or Socialists. We have also, perhaps with excessive facility, come to associate right and left with characteristics by which we define them. We are seemingly inclined to believe that the characteristics of the left are uniquely left and not transferable to the right. Nor for that matter do the characteristics of the right seem transferable to the left.

From time to time ‘middle of the road’ politicians will emerge with centrist policies designed to appease and appeal to voters on the right and left. Seen by supporters of the left and the right as a tepid philosophy, middle of the road or popularist political innovations are generally short-lived, overcome eventually by either followers of the left or the right. A natural tension exists between left and right. And nature insures that neither side is ever allowed to dominate too long; thus nature itself becomes the ultimate middle of the road political force, swinging as it were from one side to the other, in a very measured way.

When the citizens of countries, or the electorate of provinces and states or, as is the case of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, the residents of a small Canadian town, go to the polls, they are essentially electing men and women who are regarded as being left or right or, perhaps middle of the road. One frequently hears the word ‘balanced’ when it comes to middle of the road politicians, an adjective which appears to elevate them to some snooty plateau from which they can look down on the unbalanced left or right candidates. The trouble with being balanced is that voters, rather than viewing balance as an asset, quite often interpret it as being tentative, unsure and wishy-washy. Consensus seeking, as a result, has pitfalls of its own.

A fully functioning and effective council with a consensus-seeking mayor is all the voters ask for. Council, almost like physicians, can provide cures and preventions for all the ills that may befall a community.

It is probably just as hard to look down the road ahead and spot those issues that can be prevented as it is to provide cures for those issues that previous council failed to prevent. Maple Ridge needs preventative measures as much as it does cures.

Vote for candidates who are likely to prevent: traffic congestion by promoting public transit; the proliferation of violent and drug-related crime; the degradation of air and water quality; the loss of agricultural, rural and natural land.

Vote for candidates who can find a cure for: affordable housing; homelessness; Sports-fields; local employment; care for seniors; better parks; forthright public consultation; and an effective and responsible Official Community Plan.

Vote for candidates who: recognize that local shopping opportunities are not the only solution to economic development.

In all of this: take to heart the fact that once you have public safety in the streets you have the basis for a healthy and successful community.

And focus on youth: today’s skateboarder is tomorrow’s leader.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Drive slowly through Maple Ridge or......

In the end the residents of Maple Ridge got so fed up with car thieves and drug dealers speeding through town and endangering the innocent that they took things into their own hands.

And tired of studies, petitions and delegations to the Mayor and Council they began pondering solutions to rid the town of train whistles.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Just the job - occupation best method to choose a candidate

News views: Election protocol (NEWS Wednesday, October 19, 2005) Michael Hall's scolding of Maple Ridge's political warlords and their foot soldiers is commendable in that it demonstrates journalistic and editorial maturity and elevates him above some of his predecessors.

As November 19 looms the criteria by which candidates are chosen should include the maturity factor. This would reduce significantly the number of incumbents and challengers, making it simple for voters to make mature choices. Maturity as demonstrated by the young Michael Hall is not exclusively determined by age. So voting for older statesmen or women candidates will not guarantee mature decision-making from our next council.

It is years since I voted in an election based on the candidates stated views on a particular issue. This is because a candidate's ability to make good on what he or she promises is severely limited by what others may want council member or mayor to do once they are in office; and more often than not a candidate's well-meant intentions become pipedreams once nature and fate show up during the 3-year tenure. Words, effective tools that they are, can be misleading during an election campaign.

Words can also be impressive; after all that is one of the roles of language, to impress [usually upon others]. Yet, impressive as they are, they are no match for action. What a person does for a living may therefore be a more reliable indication of what one can expect from candidates once elected, rather than what they are prepared to say in order to impress voters of their competency through the use of the spoken or written word. There are more novel ways to select a hopeful citizen to high office.

Looks can be a fun way to vote, but really cruel for the candidates who don't make it. Furthermore there is every chance that the candidates who do make it will have even greater difficulty fitting their Sunday bonnets over their heads if they know they have been elected on physical appeal alone. Voting by weight could be fun.

We could hold the election much in the same way they used to hold public hangings. The electorate could gather in the town square for a weigh-in. Would we vote for the heaviest or the lightest candidates? I'll need to think that one through. Would there be a men's division and a women's division? Not much point really; men and women have always been divided.

The distressing issue for voters is that they are desperate to vote for something that either smacks of novelty or flat-out compliments their own backyard. The alternative is to vote for the usual tired old list of issues or at the very least vote against issues that may disrupt their backyard. It seems that the only reliable science a voter can apply is to study what the candidates do for a living and go from there.

Peter Barnes: Security guard; former senior correctional officer. He will protect us we presume.
Simon Challenger: Water distribution system operator. He will insure we do not go short of fresh, clean water, no dirty aquifers up at Thornhill, or muddy waters flowing into our creeks off worksites in Silver Valley.
Mike Davies: Emergency co-ordinator. He will be good when the BIG ONE does finally hit, or when the Albion Flats disappear under the Fraser River.
Ernie Daykin: Building administrator. Administrators always come in handy when it comes to advising other administrators.
Tyler Ducharme: Program co-ordinator. From time to time the Administrators need to be coordinated (or would that be co-ordinated?) with emergency services and water distribution operators (if in doubt take a look at the Hurricane Katrina debacle).
Judy Dueck: Occupational health/safety consultant. Being elected to council or mayor may result in the need for consultation with an occupational health and safety consultant.
Candace Gordon: Community kitchen coordinator (note the omission of the hyphen in co-ordinator whereas other candidates choose the hyphen. Grammatist voters will be on the look out for discrepancies such as this). We will always be assured of food if we re-elect (is that reelect?) the community kitchen councilor.
Jon Harris: Notary public (could he be a public notary perhaps? - the NEWS has him as 'notary public'.) This notably public public notary will see to it that no further illegal documents are signed up at the hall.
Al Hogarth: Realtor. No point in building them if can't sell them.
Faye Isaac: Safeway Cashier/Customer Service. More food for thought. More thought. Better customer service for the community.
Linda King: Teacher/counselor. Nice to see at least one counselor running. Someone who listens then counsels.
Joe McCamley: Electrical contractor and former assistant to MLA Bill Hartley. Please sir, can we have electricity in Maple Ridge. The kind that we use to light up the streets with proper lighting that prevents the elderly from getting killed at pedestrian crossings, and cars and motorbikes from crashing all over the half-lit streets (stolen or legitimately driven). Not too bright though, we don't want to wake up the homeless, snugly tucked up on our neglected inner city lots.
Graham Mowatt: Albion ferry captain; president, Conservative electoral district association. Finally we have a candidate who understands essential transport, in a conservative sort of way.
Dan Olson: Travel consultant. Finally, we have a candidate who understands fun transport.
Robert Prince: Publisher. Communicators are what some people would call an "essential service" when it comes to being a councilor.
Jaques Richard: Internet marketing; former policeman and underwriter. He will help put Maple Ridge on the map with his marketing skills while protecting us from the drug lords of Maple Ridge and just to be safe will underwrite all our homes and belongings - multi-tasking is an important skill for any candidate.
Chum Richardson: Retired; director Fraser Information Society. Information is the cornerstone of all civic management.
Lorne Riding: Property manager, semi-retired. The District of Maple Ridge has a lot of property to manage and needs all the help it can get in this department.
Mike Sands: Registered nurse, Riverview Hospital. This candidate has skills which have always been lacking on council. If elected he should consider running for mayor next time around as he is uniquely qualified to manage council.
Craig Speirs: B.C Liquor Distribution Branch employee. Another distributor of liquid; clearly Canadian, this candidate may form a coalition with the Water distribution system operator and dilute the opposition.
Ken Stewart: 'Occupation' in the NEWS is noted, rather oddly we thought as, 'former Maple Ridge MLA, councilor. Elder statesman? Getting-on-with-his-career statesman? Perhaps just statesman?

Incumbent mayors and challengers come with a different set of rules, driven as it were by the desire to lead.

Who shall lead Maple Ridge for the next 3 years? The 'who' becomes really, really important when one considers the '3 years' part of the equation. Yup, 3 years, so think carefully about these leaders before making that mark.

Kathy Morse: Auntypreneur. Bill Hartley: Entrepreneur artiste. Gordon Robson: Entrepreneur extraordinaire. William Perry: Entrepreneur extreme.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Official Community Plans 101

Official Community Plans in the context of The Community Charter

Passed in January 2004, The Community Charter is a new piece of legislature that replaces in part the Local Government Act. As it now stands The Community Charter gives municipalities in British Columbia a broader range of powers and consequently greater responsibility for their future.

The Community Charter states that the purposes of a municipality include “fostering the economic, social and environmental well-being of its community.” What, one wonders, could be simpler than that?

A major document required to bring The Community Charter to life is the Official Community Plan [OCP]. It is, according to none other than The Social Planning and Research Council of BC [SPARCBC] in its newsletter, Fall 2005 Volume 22 Issue Number 4 described as “…..a document that sets out the general policies and plans for where and how land-use and infrastructure, like sewers, parks, and transportation, will develop in the future. The creation of an OCP legally requires public input and it cannot be changed without public consultation.” Of interest to this observer is what follows: “All bylaws created after an OCP is adopted must not contradict the plans and policies of the OCP.”

The hierarchy which underlies all policy and planning in our communities in BC then looks like this:

1. The Community Charter
2. The Official Community Plan
3. Policies
4. Plans
5. Bylaws subsequent to adoption of the plan

There is no room for interpretation of any of the statements set out in the charter. What then prompted the public outcry and rejection of the Maple Ridge OCP in the summer of 2005? What lessons will the district staff, council, the various interest groups and the general public come away with from this debate, which ranged from pleading to vitriolic? Municipal politics can heat up from time to time, but it is rare to see neighbour pitted against neighbour, friend against friend in so public an arena.

Today, out of curiosity, I visited the Maple Ridge Public Library where I knew I could find a copy of the OCP 2005 Review. I also knew that I would find there copies of all the previous OCPs going back to 1995. As I began flipping through these thick, data-laden books, with no specific agenda in mind, it struck me that the 2005 OCP was prepared with The Community Charter as its guide, whereas all previous attempts at wrestling our future into a document came under the influence and guidance of the Local Government Act, that is to say pre-2004. This meant, though it was not really significant, that strictly speaking neither the authors of the 2005 OCP nor its critics were comparing apples with apples when it came to the DNA of the previous OCP and the current rendition.

Continuing my idle flipping through the OCPs of today and yesterday I thought I’d take a peek at the “introductory” pages of all these documents. What I was searching for were the words: “…..a document that sets out the general policies and plans for where and how land-use and infrastructure, like sewers, parks, and transportation, will develop in the future. The creation of an OCP legally requires public input and it cannot be changed without public consultation” and, of course: “All bylaws created after an OCP is adopted must not contradict the plans and policies of the OCP.” In no OCP ever prepared by the district tcould I find set out the definition of what exactly an OCP is, as stipulated by The Community Charter.

It is little wonder that the public become frustrated with legislators when they come to review government documents that fail to state their purpose at the outset. In defence of the authors of the 2005 OCP, the planning department did use language that in its opening remarks on the first day of the public hearings stated that the OCP was a "guiding document." By then however, it was too late. The public, having had the opportunity to read the document for several months ahead of the public hearings had not spotted the omission by the authors and consequently read the document believing that it was, as one speaker put it, cast in stone. Nothing could be further from the purpose or from the definition. Had this very fundamental difference been made clear from the beginning, the likelihood is that Maple Ridge would have had its OCP passed prior to the forthcoming municipal elections.

The lesson? Daniel Hill, President of SPAR BC, in the same newsletter quoted above, offers some clues. He says in his President’s Message Finding community in language: “….language is the foundation of culture and communication, one of the cornerstones of civilization. But language ―and indeed the way we think― is imperfect, and sometimes inadequate, and its mastery the work of a lifetime and more.”

Satisfying 70,000 people in a document as complex as the OCP needs thought. The first thought however, should be to tell the reader what it is they are about to read.

In today’s world, where corporate jargon has spilled over into government, government is at risk of loosing its way and perhaps forgetting its role as described so eloquently and an neatly by the authors of The Community Charter: “…….“fostering the economic, social and environmental well-being of its community.”

Words such as aims, goals, drivers, vision and mission statements are useful to the extent that they have become easily recognizable to followers and practioners of business, and when used are bound to illicit that knee-jerk reaction which may thrill a vice-president of marketing. Peppering documents such as an OCP with the same terms can however distract from the purpose of a document such as the OCP. To frame it in retail language, one could call this practice, “overdressing the window.”

The temptation is strong for government to want to be seen as hip and relating to the market sector by adopting phrases such as going forward, value-based, strategic plan and core beliefs. Hip it may be, but if it results in accusations of obfuscation and lingoism (a cousin I thought perhaps of jingoism) then government officials should think again before committing documents with this me-too language to publication.

In order to smooth the passage of policy-making, writers in government at all levels should give a wide berth to the showboating tricks of the market sector when it comes to documents such as the OCP. There is nothing novel in this suggestion; it is the subject of hundreds, if not thousands of books and academic publications. Once in a while however, a perfect storm will form in one community or the other, such as the one Maple Ridge was forced to weather during the summer of 2005. A tempest that reminded us that words omitted can be as damaging as words uttered. We wish the skippers, navigators, mid-shipmen, deckhands and even admirals of this little ship of ours called Maple Ridge, a smoother passage in 2006.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The relationship between bylaws and plans


Over its short history the Province of British Columbia has grown from a pioneer land of plenty where lumber, fish, precious and base metals, and in later years fossil fuels have been the economic base from which towns large and small have grown. Compared to many other regional communities in North America growth has been steady, but modest.

As a community that had its start in the modern era British Columbia, and for that matter Canada, appears to have benefited from cherry picking the apparently good elements of government while eschewing the seemingly negative aspects. Canada has, in a sense, had the advantage of going to school on the mistakes of older communities on the European continent and even political systems less distant, such as the United States.

Whether or not all the choices made by Canada's founding political leaders, venture capitalists and technicians were the right ones or not, are hard to gauge. The fact remains that through daily federal, provincial and local government discourse, the debate over the future of Canada is waged throughout the country formally and informally on the streets, living rooms, and kitchens coffee shops from west to east and north to south. Indigenous peoples and settlers from every era do as all citizens around the world do; they discuss the issues of the day. When words fail, benign or violent action combined with threatening or aggressive language is the last resort.

To some extent informal debate is the incubator for formal debate. At the same time it is reasonable to suspect that formal debate, more often than not, can be traced back to a formal source. For example, a cabinet minister, member of parliament and member of the legislature or any branch of Canada's many levels of government could choose to initiate discussion on an issue which they would like to see debated and perhaps brought into law. An individual within the formal structure of government with enough influence and a good idea may also see his or her idea come alive in formal debate.

Informal debate, for its part, remains the medium of the general public and the electorate. It is stimulated by innovative thought, either conciously or by accident. It is common for instance for informal groups to gather and look for ideas on how society can be improved. Recently government itself, encouraged by canny politicians, has learned to be the instigator in bringing together such groups under the banner of 'government for the people by the people.'

Commonly referred to as 'public consultation' this model is often seen as the safest and most democratic model for getting things done in government. Moreover, the public process provides government officials and politicians a prop upon which to lean in times when critical debate is at its highest pitch, election time. Public opinion, briefly, transforms from informal to formal. A chat over a doughnut and coffee suddenly shows up as a tick or an 'X' mark in a box opposite a candidate's name. No turning back once the candidate has been selected and the ballot is slipped into the box; well not until the next election anyhow. But it may be too late by then; Republicans in the Bush era may wish to reflect on this one day; sooner rather than later, if they get the chance.

Within each grand political structure or mechanism lie all the sub-structures and subsets which enable those unfamiliar with a specific political region to better understand the inner workings and aims of local communities.

Government departmentalizes and compartmentalizes itself for purposes of function, access and comprehension. The public can see how government works, has the ability to access government and therefore is able to learn about and comprehend government. In so doing the public comes face to face with itself as it is the public that is the ultimate arbiter of government. Imagine for a moment creeping around a haunted house looking for some unknown monster and then as you round a corner in a darkened hallway you are shocked to find yourself staring back at you. That is, for all intent and purpose, the truth behind government.

“That is why we should not vote only for any politician who says, for instance, there are no quick fixes more than three times a year. Punish her (or him) for banality and the contempt for us [the voters] that it implies.” So writes Don Watson in Death Sentences, Viking Canada, 2005. Government, perhaps more so in Canada than any other country, with the exception of the United Kingdom from which the Canadian system has evolved, is the in the business of the slow fix. Politicians and staff mandarins see nothing, but benefit slowing the process of government to an imperceptible crawl. To begin with it reduces the chances of making mistakes which may become public knowledge. Second, the longer someone takes to do something which they are essentially responsible for, the longer their tenure and security can be guaranteed. By reminding the public each day at federal, provincial and local levels that, there are no quick fixes our elected and hired officials can sleep soundly each night knowing that a long, but safe road lies ahead of them.

Against this background the current Maple Ridge Official Community Plan is an oddity. Odd because there appeared an urgency in its preparation, and odd because there seemed an eagerness on the part of the District’s elected officials to have the OCP put before council for approval and oddly too, several members made clear their endorsement of the OCP, notwithstanding the protestations over five days by 145 speakers from the public and perhaps over a 1000 emails and letters contesting one or other aspect of the staff-drafted report. Finally, the politicians were persuaded to relent and ask staff for a new report; and a great deal of time in meetings was spent to hammer out what the major complaints from the public were that needed addressing. The results of staff’s report and redrafted OCP proposal will surface in yet another round of public hearings in the spring and early summer of 2006.

While the OCP is designed to project the community into a forecasted future and is based on data and information gathered from professional consultants as well as in-house advisors, it is as well to try to understand in what context the OCP itself is seen. Where does the OCP reside in the context of national, provincial, regional and local landscape? How is it influenced from the structures above it and how does it influence the structures below it? The OCP, without going into any great detail, falls under what is commonly known as the Livable Regions Strategic Plan. Each district in the Province of British Columbia is required to have an Official Community Plan and to revise it regularly to insure that it meets current urban planning practices and is based on newly gathered, assembled and analyzed data.

The OCP is a complex document, to say the least. In some respects it acts as the DNA of the community and deserves the attention it receives. The document provides a wealth of detailed information about Maple Ridge; it would make an excellent candidate for inclusion in the district’s time-capsule as it says so much about Maple Ridge, its fears and its hopes.

The question that still lingers is one that was touched on lightly, often by implication rather than through direct finger pointing. The question is; what certainty surrounds the OCP? Is the OCP purely a guide or is it, to frame it in the words we hear so often set in stone (concrete)? This may seem an innocent enough question, but it is hard to imagine government providing a community plan that is set in stone or one that provides a quick fix. If the public is looking for certainty it would be better off reading the bylaws. The ever-present problem and I expect we will see it this summer is when the public and local government is forced into the arena of public process to debate formally what elements of the OCP are certain and which are not. If we cannot be certain of our plan, why do we have one? If, on the other hand, the plan is a guarantee of certainty set in stone, how will it effect our decisions in the future if it is not flexible? The question of Thornhill springs to mind.

Since the early 1980s the area east of 240th known as Thornhill has been designated ‘urban reserve’ and a target for future expansion of the district. In 2005 this aspect of the OCP does not sit well with many residents of Thornhill as well as other members of the community who favour limiting sprawl and protecting the Agricultural Land Reserve and Green Belt. Some local landowners, developers, realtors and speculators see it otherwise. Their contention is that growth is inevitable and based on the theory of inevitability (all things will come to pass) they had purchased this land in the recent past in the hopes of profiting from its disposal and or development. They base their decisions on the fact that earlier OCPs stated very clearly that Thornhill would one day be a target for new subdivisions to house an expanding population, driven eastward from the Greater Vancouver Regional District as it coped with its own expansion problems i.e. a land deficit.

The fundamental question then is; are we to regard the OCP as a flexible document which makes no promises either way and should not be relied on for speculation? Or is the OCP a mandate for speculators, fixed, as it were, in stone?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Ghost Busters 2005

Kathy Morse (incumbent), Bill Hartley, Gordon Robson, William Perry
Candace Gordon, Craig Speirs, Jon Harris, Ernie Daykin, Judy Dueck, Faye Isaac.
Peter Barnes, Simon Challenger, Mike Davies, Tyler Ducharme, Linda King, Joe McCamley, Graham Mowatt, Dan Olson, Robert Prince, Lorne Riding, Mike Sands, Ken Stewart.

The only thing that is certain in the Maple Ridge 2005 local elections is that all of the incumbents and all of the challengers are very nice people; in Simon Challenger's case of course, he is not only nice and a challenger, but he is as it were, a challenger twice over. The other thing, and this is why we have politicians, is that all of the issues, while timeless, are not all very nice.

Some issues are downright ugly. With Haloween preceding the elections by just a few weeks it is tempting to compare the issues with the ghouls and ghosts that haunt the imagination of all our citizens. Why not expand this concept by adding the notion that the candidates for mayor's job and the hopefuls in the race for council bring to the chambers, those spooky chambers up at Haney Place, special ogre, ghoul and ghost busting skills. Skills that will help to rid the town of Maple Ridge from the unspeakable horrors that threaten the civility of life in a modern (to some degree) mid-sized Canadian extension of Transyl-Vancouvia.

Topping my personal list of course is the Vinyl Monster. Slayers of the Vinyl Monster monster are lining up to be elected: Craig Speirs, Candace Gordon, Linda King will line behind Bill Hartley to slow the progress (not everyone would use the word 'progress')of the Vinyl Monster as it slashes its way eastward. A door in the downtown district proclaims in dull-coloured graffiti the words of a homeless prophet 'Onwards and Downwards.' Wish I'd thought of that.

Street-gossip gleaned from those 'in the know' suggests that Morse, Harrison, Dueck, and Daykin see the Vinyl Monster as no monster at all, but rather a saviour or at the very least a sort of Dr. Evil, who will add funds to a treasury that seems to demand, like that plant in the Rocky Horror Show, ' feed me!' Feed me with tax dollars.
Faye Isaac rings up another parking spot, smiles, thanks everyone much to everyone's dismay, and we move to the next item on the agenda.

The Drug Demons. Who shall slay them? Self-styled meth-master Gordon Robson is on the case; and a good thing too. While he is at it I wonder if he will rid Maple Ridge of its famed crop of grow ops? 'Come to Maple Ridge and watch your children grow op' - just another piece of graffiti to be found in the hood.

Wonder what William Perry's stance is on drugs?

Job-junky Joe McCamley has taken up the often-heard call for 'more jobs near to home.' Where will we house these jobs if we are not prepared to give up a little of our Green Giant?

The BIG BOX BOGEY MAN stalks the neighbourhoods too. A forensic team from the ever-present GVRD has been studying footprints left by the BIG BOX BUGGER in the silt along the banks of Kanaka Creek. Seems the beast, in the shape of FirstPro Chairman Michael Gold(b)ar swam up the Fraser River from the FirstPro head office in Richmond and crept up on the Albion Flats bearing gifts for landowners, they say. Someone found a note in the reeds which read 'is Maple Ridge open for business?' If by business he meant the kind that the Vinyl Monster indulges in, then the answer would be 'yes.' All depends on who is asking the question; and, of course, on who is answering the question.

Then happily, we have Casper the Friendly Ghost, he just wants everyone to be happy, happy, happy, happy. Plenty of green trees, plenty of undisturbed agricutural land and natural habit, a smile on every fish's face, a grin on every Grizzly's growl, the chirping of birds rather than the chipping of trees, clear water rather than the Starbucks-coloured stuff that runs off Silver Valley's slopes these grim winter days. He does not want agriculture turned to agriclutter. Who, one wonders, will slay Casper? Perhaps the sly FirstPro ghostbusters will can Casper.
But FirstPro will need strong allies in powerful places in order for the BIG BOX BOGEYMAN to drive the friendly little ghost from the Albion Flats. Michael Goldbar [real name Goldhar] will have his henchmen parked on Thornhill, binoculars aimed at Maple Ridge hamlet, eagerly awaiting the outcome of what promises to be an inelegant race.

The forces of evil abound, migrating down every homeless alleyway, snoozing in the neglect of another absentee landlord's nestegg. A protege of Gotham City? Or a wunderkind spawned by West Vancouver? Dormitory or dive?
Vibrant, verdant and virile? Stagnant, stultified and sterile? Stupendous perhaps? Perhaps.

A town of 70,000 is not a small town. It is, simply put, a responsibility. The 'magnificent seven' as one commentator recently called them are really only temporary custodians of the Distirct. They know that, as do we all. Nonetheless, the decisions they make during their tenure can have lasting effects; and misguided decisions can be hard to reverse. Try undoing the Haney Bypass for instance. Or undoing the town core. There's a thought.

Once houses have filled the slopes of Thornhill all the way to Whonnock, Ruskin and Mission it will be hard to win back the land they once occupied. Hard to imagine isn't it. But not so hard for those who already have it on their drawing boards.

A healthy economy, a green boundary, secure streets, planned growth, social integrity, care for the aged, care for the young and (uniquely Canadian) care for the careless and the uncaring. Care even for the ghouls and ghosts, the demons and devils, the ogres and zombies, the fears and the threats that inhabit, from to time, the voters' minds. Just pretend you are in Iraq, or Zimbabawe, or North Korea, or Chetchnya, Kabul or Darfur when you go to the polls. In these place people vote for their lives, not simply a better life.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Andrup, Adams, Fugard and Frank

The reason I posted that particular letter is that it came back to me undelivered. My life-long teasing of Perseus comes from the fact that he is a hypochondriac, but of course the one thing that we all share with hypos is that while their ailments may be imagined it makes no difference as we will all go the same way one day. Hence the poem "Oh my God I'm Dying"; it is an ode to Perseus. He may indeed have passed on by now. His drug of choice has always been a cough mixture called "Collis Brown". Very much a William Burroughs character he suffers(erd) from paranoia and used to carry a gun called 'Rupert' which was to protect him from the right wing in South Africa. In the 60s he traveled through Africa down the Nile with the world famous playwright Athol Fugard and continually bitched at me (why me I'll never know) that Athol dumped Perseus somewhere in the heart of Africa (I think was Khartoum) to travel on alone. Most people would have dumped Perseus as early as Cairo, but Khartoum must have presented the first opportunity for Athol. Athol and his girlfriend (Yvonne Bryceland) went on to become very famous, writing probably the most well-known piece of theatre to come out of South Africa known as 'Bosman and Lena' - look it up on the net and you'll see all the other works of Athol. I think Athol spent time in Hollywood and is now back in South Africa. Yvonne played a nurse in the original Beverly Hills Cops. Athol, Yvonne and I would meet now and then at the Elizabeth Hotel on the beachfront in Sea Point, Cape Town and suck back a few beers.

Perseus matriculated (Grade 12) when he was 15. He had qualified as a teacher before he turned 20 and was a noted English Teacher in his early days. His Dad before him was a well-known school principal of (I believe) Wynberg Girls High School. My mother and lived in Wynberg and Perseus' ailing parents lived there too at the time. Wynberg village as a hotbed of poets, writers, playwrights, painters and sculptors in the 50s, 60s and 70s. My parents and I were deep in it. Many examples of the work to come out of the period are in my house, as you know.

Another aspiring artist who used to hang around Perseus was a fellow called Basil Frank - now and then I used to drugs from him in the 60s. He seemed to have an abundant supply of methamphetamines and a variety of other stimulants none of whose names (surprise, surprise) I can remember. Basil's dad was a doctor, so it did not take an lawful lot of imagination to know where the drugs came from. Sons and daughters of doctors and pharmacists were very popular with their contemporaries in the 60s. In poor Basil's case it made not an iota of difference to his popularity. He was never popular, no matter what. He did however find in Perseus another hypochondriac and paranoiac; and so began a lifelong relationship. Athol forever on the run from Perseus, Perseus forever on the run from Basil and me, well I guess I just saw it play out in front of me, joining in now and then, in the hope that I would get to bed Yvonne Bryceland, but alas, she was on the run from me.
So now we are all over the world; London, Israel, South Africa and Canada and Basil, it seems is now popular in the broader sense.