Modern Life

August 22, 2013

One of the people I was speaking with last night was a young man who works on the docks and who owns a small place downtown.

He noted that his father was a longshoreman who managed to comfortably raise four children on the back of his single salary. However, the son noted that while he (the son) has a decent-paying steady job, he wakes up every day feeling flat broke.

How can this be considered progress?


Viaducts, Heritage and Beer

August 22, 2013

Had a marvelous time last night, wandering (certainly not aimlessly) around the Georgia Viaduct and neighbouring areas under the guidance of historian John Atkin and former Councilor Gordon Price.  The pair of them presented a walk for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation and about sixteen or so of us heard John tell some fascinating stories about the history of the viaducts, while Gordon filled in with semi-political, semi-urbanist context.

I had absolutely no idea, for example, that the car park on Georgia on the west side of  Main, is the very last surviving half-block section of what was once the original Georgia Street Viaduct from the 1910s. And that the half-arches you can see when looking east from the lower part of the car park were part of the City’s water system.


This is the last masonry remnant of that old viaduct and, as someone on the tour said, it is almost like our version of Roman ruins.

There was much talk of the pros and cons of demolishing the “new” Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, of whether of not they should be replaced with the new Pacific Street “highway”; and much discussion about the aesthetics of the viaducts, their landscaping (with lodgepole pines — vert unusual for Vancouver) and their relationship to the history of the automobile.

There was even more talk when, after two hours of walking, we headed to a Chinatown pub.  Gordon Price apparently drew the short straw and had to endure an hour of argument with me about ward systems, eastside development, and the (dis)functioning of the municipal party system,

It was a grand night and I thank the Vancouver Heritage Foundation for setting it up.



A lot of Gordon Price’s pieces last night were to put the Viaducts into the context of post-war Motordom as he likes to describe it.  That is fair enough, but there was an earlier attempt to link autos across Vancouver in the mid-1930s as I describe at “The First Avenue Viaduct“. Just as the 1960s push left us with free-standing viaducts, so to did Smith’s Grand Plan in 1938.


A Plea For Independents

August 20, 2013

In a conversation with someone yesterday, it was suggested that I had been described by a third party as a COPE supporter.  Obviously that third party doesn’t know me very well and certainly isn’t familiar with my writings.

I am not a COPE supporter. But I am not a COPE supporter in exactly the same way as I am not a Vision supporter or a TEAM or NPA or NSV or Vancouver First or Cedar Party supporter.

I believe that political parties should be banned from municipal politics, that City Council should be made up entirely of ward-based independents.  These independents will support and represent their constituents rather than any party.  They will make up their own minds on issues as they arise rather than blindly follow some manifesto or ideology. Issues-based ad hoc coalitions will drive Council decisions.

I believe in the people and not in parties. Independent ward-based Councilors, elected without corporate or union or other third party financing, will bring the common sense of the people to the Council table.  And the dangerous politicization of the City bureaucracy will cease.

So, if anyone else is asking, that’s where my support lies.

Lack of Vision in Point Grey

August 19, 2013

I didn’t write about the bike lane debacle on Point Grey Road while it was happening; I am neither a driver nor a cyclist, and I don’t ever visit Point Grey, so it seemed best to keep silent.  However, the letter to the Courier in last Friday’s paper entitled “Cyclist Disapproves…” is so perfect that I have to bring it to everyone’s attention.

The letter is written by Gerard Charlton, an avid cyclist who uses Point Grey Road frequently:

Mayor Gregor Robertson and his merry band of councillors, most of whom are indebted to Joel Soloman and his Renewal Partners and their ideas for using our city as some sort of petri dish for their vision of urban nirvana, are doing nothing but creating conflict between the cycling community (of which I am a member) and the driving community. Why is it that just about every new idea they come up with is highly protested against, yet still continues to pass in council? I believe Vision in its entirety is hearing challenged! There is nothing “green” about spending tax dollars on senseless ideologies, but that is exactly what Vision stands for. If an idea has merit, then bring it on; but, most of what Vision continues to ‘spin’ is nothing more than Renewal Corp. slowly destroying Vancouver -one bike lane, one outrageously developer friendly mega -development at a time …

We also used to have what was considered a world class city, and does anyone find it somewhat coincidental that our rankings have been in steady decline ever since these councillors took office?

Brilliantly true, and well said!

The Fight Goes On!

August 19, 2013

There was some marvelously public outrage this weekend over the City’s plans for rezoning in Marpole.  They have many of the same issues over process and lack of consultation as we have been fighting here in Grandview-Woodland.  It was great to have the Marpole folks at our GWAC meeting last week, and to see them in action this weekend is inspiring.


Stop Marpole Rezoning


On a different plane, my letter regarding Bob Ransford’s pro-development ideas finally made it into the Vancouver Sun today (8th letter), and Jonathan Baker has responded with much greater intellectual vigour than I did against last week’s pro-tower screed by Michael Goldberg.

Let’s hope the City recognizes that these protests are not going away!

To Be A Canadian

August 18, 2013


Twenty-seven years ago today I became a Canadian citizen. perhaps the proudest and most satisfying day of my life.  In about two months from now, I will have lived in Canada, in Vancouver, for thirty-four years — more than half my life.

These lengths of time seem strangely enormous to me looking back because I had had a quite long and interesting life (with wives and children and a career) in England and Europe before I ever came here.  And that previous life — during the fascinating 1950s, 60s and 70s — now seems like a necessary and irreplaceable prologue to what my life became afterwards.

There were seriously important people and things that I left behind; but I don’t believe in regrets because they have no value. Even if I did, I cannot imagine that my life was anything but greatly enhanced by moving to Vancouver.  I am still a proud Brit, an unreconstructed Londoner, but I am prouder still of being — by choice — a Vancouverite, of being Canadian.

Municipal Political Financing: A Question of Choice

August 16, 2013

Are you as tired as I am of listening to certain municipal politicians bemoan the current system where corporations pour millions of dollars into the coffers of their parties — and yet do absolutely nothing about it?  “Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” as that bald guy once wrote.

None of the municipal parties are obliged to accept the millions of dollars thrown at them by developers and others.  None of the municipal parties have to put themselves into the appearance of potential conflict of interest situations.

No. They choose to.

No doubt Vision Vancouver — though publicly bemoaning the current situation — would say they can’t take the lead on this because they couldn’t possibly compete in the next election against a corporate-funded NPA.  That is BS on so many levels:

a) Have you looked at the NPA lately?

b) It says that the electorate are so stupid that they will be swayed by advertizing rather than good policies.

c) It says their own supporters don’t have enough faith in them to donate what they need.

And so they accept millions of dollars from the same developers they will be doing business with and ruling on during their term. I’m not saying this is actually corrupt; but it sure looks like it could be.

This is a choice they have made.  A sad, lazy choice.  And it is Vancouverites who eventually pay the price, in bad governance and expensive unwanted condo towers.  Which makes their wailing and gnashing of teeth all the more distasteful.