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