NEWSPAPERS STILL DELIVER, HOWEVER DIMINISHED….

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The trend is not good for newspapers. Ad revenue is down, circulation is down, the number of stories are down, employment is down. Newspapers are starting to look like vinyl did when shiny new CD’s showed up. So old-fashioned, a refuge only for fuddy-duddies and luddites.. Record buyers everywhere ditched their collections for the convenience and allegedly better sound of the compact disc. But, of course, vinyl is suddenly storming back in popularity. Having kept my hundreds of beloved vinyl discs, I suddenly find myself back in fashion. (My checked, polyester pants await a similar return…)

Now, it’s the turn of newspapers to be shunned as “oh, so yesterday’. As attention spans shorten and the seductive appeal of social media sucks increasingly more of us into abandoning “the daily rag”, they are struggling to maintain their long hold on public attention. While it’s often forgotten that newspapers still have millions of readers every day, there are fewer than there used to be. Even more worrisome, advertising revenue, which basically pays the bills, is on a steady decline.

Having worked on mainstream newspapers for 40 years, no one has to remind me of their faults. Yet, for all that, we will lose something valuable, should they cease to be. Access to good stories won’t disappear. The citizens of Kamloops can still go online and find great, wondrous tales from all over the world with the ease of a click. But who is there to tell them about goings on in Kamloops? Who is holding the local powers-that-be to account? Bloggers or websites with followers in the hundreds? I think not.

Your daily newspaper still provides news, information, good writing, analysis and opinion in a single, easily-digestible package. It’s far from perfect, but at its best, it tells you things you’re glad to know, with a fair and accurate context. I also like the fact that you don’t know what you’ll get when you turn the page. Sometimes drivel, but sometimes terrific stories on a subject you might ever have accessed online, where we tend to cherry-pick. Most days, I feel better informed about my community and my country after reading the Sun and the Globe, however much they are not what they used to be. In the rush to embrace “the new”, and I love the Internet, too, I think we sometimes forget there is still great value in “the old”.

Apologies, this is a day late. I’m still not good at operating without a deadline, hehe. But here are some stories and columns I’m glad I read in Thursday’s Sun and Globe. I hope they’re not blocked by the paywall. J (also note, these cover only the local news sections. There was also lots of good stuff in other sections, even the Business pages.)

1. This tragic story continues to haunt me. That poor woman. Please, somebody, do something to end the complete lack of accountability and secrecy of the all-powerful Canada Border Services Agency. http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Mexican+woman+lived+like+ghost+Vancouver+despondent+after+CBSA+arrest/9444735/story.html

2. A very powerful story by the Sun’s veteran sports writer, Mike Beamish. This is the first time the much-loved former Canuck Gino Odjick has opened up about the trauma he faced acting as the team’s enforcer. Haunting. http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Canucks+Algonquin+enforcer+Gino+Odjick+opens+about+post+career+concussion+related+struggles/9446707/story.html

3. A useful update on a continuing, positive story. (Also covered by the Globe’s Mark Hume, too). http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Conservation+groups+timber+companies+reach+deal+protect+more+Great+Bear+Rainforest/9445245/story.html

4. Interesting. http://www.vancouversun.com/travel/Canada+first+boutique+hotel+designed+with+Aboriginal+arts+open+Vancouver+this/9446454/story.html

5. Good information. http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/Arcade+Fire+Eminem+expanded+2014+Squamish+music+festival+lineup+with+video/9444790/story.html

6. Interesting update on a controversial project. http://www.vancouversun.com/business/rise+developments+eyed+Oakridge+Transit+Centre/9446412/story.html

7 An excellent column by the Sun’s treasured Vaughn Palmer. http://www.vancouversun.com/Vaughn+Palmer+education+time+Liberals+stepped+back+from+brink/9446678/story.html

8 An interesting opinion piece that argue that LNG is not the road to follow to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Opinion+favour/9445418/story.html

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And now the highly-esteemed B.C. section of the Globe and Mail, where I toiled in the vineyards until last July. I also note that the Globe is a national newspaper, so the B.C. section makes up only three pages of the entire newspaper.

9. Sunny Dhillon continues his vigorous investigation into some highly questionable activities of the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/its-easy-perhaps-too-easy-for-bc-authorities-to-seize-property-worth-less-than-75000/article16601751/#dashboard/follows/

10. Good story by Frances Bula on east side property speculation (referred to by Toronto headline writer as the “east end”).

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/developers-scooping-up-east-end-properties/article16600708/#dashboard/follows/

11. Strong column by Gary Mason on the absurdity of the province ordering the infamous transit referendum and then demanding the mayors come up with the question.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/on-transit-lower-mainland-mayors-cant-do-it-all-themselves/article16599761/#dashboard/follows/

And, of course, I’m not arguing one whit that the Internet isn’t the most marvellous of inventions. It is truly wonderful. But a better world, in my humble opinion, is the Internet, with newspapers, rather then the Internet, without newspapers. Long may they live!

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PETE SEEGER, 1919-2014.

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For the longest time, I thought Pete Seeger would live up to the refrain of Earl Robinson’s famous song about Joe Hill: “I’ll never die, said he.” Seeger seemed to go on and on forever, his lean, beanpole frame, bobbing Adam’s apple and increasingly raspy voice somehow immune from elevation to the great Hootenanny in the Sky. Just last year, there he was at Farm Aid, age 93, getting everyone, including Willie Nelson and Neil Young, to sing along to Woody Guthrie’s evocative classic, This Land is Your Land. Ever the activist, rickety Pete tossed in a new verse about fracking. Yet the sad, inevitable news came late Monday night that Pete was no longer keeping on and had finally passed over to the great beyond.

What a long, amazing life. During his 94 years, Seeger touched every era of post-World War I America, a part of so many pivotal events. He hung out with Woody Guthrie, knew Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy, sang on picket lines during the Dirty Unknown-1Thirties and post-war Forties, organized the seminal, union activist folk group The Almanac Singers which evolved into the famous Weavers, who, much to their anti-commercialism shock, became huge stars, selling millions of records, was blacklisted into a decade of oblivion, godfathered the folk music revival that gave us Bob Dylan, spearheaded a prolonged conservationist campaign to clean up the Hudson River, famously threatened to use an axe to cut the sound during Dylan’s barrier-shattering “electric” performance at Newport, marched with everyone, including the recent Occupy Wall Street folks and never lost his life-long drive for peace and justice. Inscribed on his battered, old banjo were the words: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”

The legions of those who celebrated Pete Seeger ranged as far back as Carl Sandburg (“I would place [him] in the first rank of American folk singers.”), through Dylan (“He had this incredible ability to look at a group of people and make them part of the song, and it would be beautiful.”) to Bruce Springsteen (“He saw himself as a citizen/activist. He believed in a song’s ability to empower, and that’s the power of Pete Seeger.”).  President’s Obama’s tribute was particularly apt: “Over the years, Pete used his voice – and his hammer – to strike blows for workers’ rights and civil rights, world peace and environmental conservation. And he always invited us to sing along.”

Seeger was a radical, but once he shunned the shackles of the American Communist Party, he spoke out far more effectively on a myriad issues without an ideological strait-jacket. Through it all, he remained an incurable optimist, forever convinced that somehow, if we all got together, preferably by singing, we could yet create a better world. His fight for that kind of universal change died only in that New York hospital bed. He really did hammer all over this land.

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Amid his activism and singing so many songs of others, Seeger also found time to write some terrific songs, himself. You’ve heard it a hundred times, but Where Have All the Flowers Gone remains a masterful composition of message and poetry. This is a particularly lovely version.

While I don’t have the Pete Seeger memories of some, I was in the crowd at Stanley Park when Pete and Woody’s son Arlo sang together as part of a free concert to raise money for Downtown Eastside residents evicted by unscrupulous landlords hoping to cash in on visitors to Expo 86. The concert, which also featured a vintage, acoustic set by DOA, was hastily arranged once Seeger, who was slated to play with Arlo at Expo 86, learned of the evictions.

More significantly, I was also present for a celebrated Pete Seeger moment at the 1989 Vancouver Folk Music Festival that has become lore among those who were there. Pete’s appearance was a dream come true for Festival founder Gary Cristall, who brought so many great artists to Vancouver, but, until then, never the great man Cristall had loved since he was knee high to a grasshopper.  I can attest to that from personal experience. Life being what it is, my family happened to be living upstairs from the Cristall family for a time in Toronto during the 1950’s. Young Gary was a rambunctious little sucker, but he loved folk music, and most of all, he was crazy about Pete Seeger. When Seeger showed up to play at Camp Naivelt, the legendary, left-wing, Jewish summer camp near Brampton, Gary was beside himself. He met his hero, and, I believe, secured his autograph. If only he had stopped talking about it….but I digress…

At that year’s folk festival, it rained. Really rained. By the time Seeger took part in a Sunday workshop with Billy Bragg, the area in front of the stage was a sea of slick, wet mud. No one wanted to sit down in the goo, so we all stood, much to Pete’s annoyance. People at the back can’t see, he complained. No one moved. Finally, Pete noticed a great big puddle on stage. You people out there seem to be afraid of getting a little wet, so I’ll be first, Seeger said. Whereupon he plunked his butt right down in the middle of the puddle. Seeing this 70-year old folk legend getting soaked shamed us all, and down into the mud we went. It was a wonderful, spontaneous gesture by a guy who had been sticking up for those at the back all his life. The 1989 folk fest has been known as The Wet Ass Festival ever since.

For the first time in nearly a hundred years, there is no Pete Seeger on this blessed earth, crusading to make it better. But the death of a 94-year old, even one as valorous as Seeger, is cause for sadness perhaps, but not for sorrow. Besides, he’s probably already hanging out with Joe Hill and Woody, organizing the angels and getting them to sing along, too.

RIP, Pete. It’s been a hell of a ride.

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P.S.  I’d forgotten this: Pete Seeger’s concert at the Orpheum in 1986 on behalf of the Haida struggle to preserve Lyell Island.  This is a great look back at the event by organizer Janos Maté, which includes an illuminating exchange between Seeger and, of all people, Jack Munro.

TOP TEN LIST OF GOVERNMENT CLANGERS, CONT.

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Herewith, the next two items on my year-end, Top Ten List of ‘baddies’ by the B.C. government. First instalment here. If it’s all just too gloomy, you can still access my list of good deeds by that same gang we voted in.

3. Democracy in this strange century is fragile at the best of times, but B.C. Liberals seem to have taken us into a new realm of non-accountability. What else to say about a government that has presented itself in the legislature for a grand total of 36 days over the past year 20 months.

While Premier Clark’s vow that B.C. would lead the country in job creation floundered long ago, it turns out we are still leading Canada in at least one category. Yep, when it comes to number of days failing to put bums in legislative comfy chairs, we’re number one! Cue the Seahawks’ seismic roar.

Despite the many issues and controversies that have cried out for accountability in recent months, B.C was the only province in all the land not to have a fall sitting of its legislature. Not surprisingly, Canada’s third most populous province ranked dead last in days when their elected assembly was in session, trailing even Mike Duffy’s brief nesting spot, mighty Prince Edward Island, with its 140,000-strong population. B.C. was also at the bottom of the provincial table in 2012 with but 47 session days. Cross-Canada totals here. 

So, Premier, what happened? You used to love the legislature, so.  (For the quotes that follow, I am indebted to the incomparable Vaughn Palmer, whose political recall easily outshines “the Google”.)

In 2005, during her “farewell to politics” speech, Clark waxed eloquent on “this chamber that I’ve loved so much”.  Added she: “I have a profound respect for the work that this legislature does….The work that we do here is so important….I love question period. I love debate….I’ve loved every minute of it. I hope the MLAs who occupy this seat after me love this place even half as much as I have.”

Six years later, in 2011. after her “return to politics”, Clark’s passion for the legislature seemed undiminished. As newly-minted Liberal leader and Premier, she said could hardly wait to get back to where she once belonged. “As you know, I love question period and I hate to miss it,” she told nodding reporters. “Premiers in the past aren’t always tied to Victoria, but I want to be [there]. This is where decisions are made…”  After winning a by-election to re-gain official admission to the exalted chamber, she proclaimed how “excited” she was to return. “[It’s] familiar territory for me.”

Alas, Clark’s long ardour began to fade with the reality of married life. Within a year, the relationship was off the rails, and the once-gushing bride was professing a loathing for the “sick culture” of Victoria and all that that entailed, her change of heart set off, no doubt, by one too many “positive” questions from Adrian Dix or perhaps the mere sight of Harry Lali.

So the fickle leader waved goodbye to the precincts she once adored and set sail for B.C.’s wide-open spaces, where seldom in heard a discouraging word and folks appreciate a beaming Premier in a hard hat. According to Ms. Clark, she is serving the province better by “meeting with the people” than spending time in Victoria doing the people’s business before those actually elected to represent them. But it’s a shabby, self-serving version of democracy that recalls the bad old days of W.A.C. Bennett, who  disdained the legislature and those pesky opposition MLAs.

Meanwhile, a majority of MLAs continue to receive their $1,000 monthly stipends to defray accommodation expenses in Victoria, despite the paltry 36 days the house was in session. And backbenchers and opposition members struggle to find things to do to justify their $100,000 annual salaries. I hear some are finally reading War and Peace. Nice work, if you can get it. At the same time, veteran scribes report that cabinet ministers these recent months have rarely bothered to show up at all in their cobwebbed Victoria offices. Government by cell phone and email is so much easier. The ghost wandering the parliament buildings in Victoria is no longer Francis Rattenbury. It’s speaker Linda Reid, and she has a lot of spooky company.

Photos from Vale Farms on a Monday evening after a day of rain.

4. The Agricultural Land Reserve, policed by an independent land commission, is one of this province’s great treasures. Not only has it saved the Lower Mainland from the appalling urban sprawl that has gobbled up good farmland and ruined the landscape outside so many North American cities, it has helped preserve vital agricultural acres across the province.

Before the election, the B.C. Liberals appeared to recognize that. Backroom strategists produced a pre-election document for caucus members that included the winning message: “Unlike the NDP, we have never politically interfered with the independence of the Agricultural Land Commission.”

Once the election was safely past, however, the tune changed. Bill Bennett, the rambunctious Energy and Mines Minister from East Kootenay, mused openly about all the land “covered by rocks and trees” that “flummoxed” land-owners can’t get out of the ALR. It got scarier. Given the task of directing the government’s core review of public services, Bennett quickly served notice that the sacrosanct ALR and the ALC were in his sightline.

Then we learned cabinet documents had been prepared proposing to erode the independence of the ALC and include government “economic priorities” as a valid reason to remove land from the ALR. All very, very worrisome.

Oh, by the way, in case  you wanted to check out those positive words about the ALR that Liberal caucus members were told to hammer home during the election campaign, you’re out of luck. The B.C. Government Caucus Information Resource, dated March 7, 2013, has disappeared from the web.

To be continued….

TOP TEN LIST OF BC GOVERNMENT CLANGERS

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Whew, good old Mickle the Grouse is back.

After my year-end Top Ten list detailing good deeds by the Christy Clark government, it’s time for the much meatier list of its worrisome doings since the Liberals’ triumphant re-election. (Speaking of which, where is the premier, anyway?) In fact, there seems to be such ample material I’m going to spread it out over several Mickleblogs. You know, the way Dickens did with Great Expectorations, or whatever it was called. Be still thy beating heart, o reader.

Here’s the first installment, with items in no particular order.

1. One otherwise peaceful Sunday during the campaign, a guy named “Mike” called in to CKNW. “Mike” wanted station listeners to know: “The NDP is running a candidate in Richmond by the name of Frank Huang, who can’t really communicate in English.” Nice guy, that “Mike”. Of course, the caller wasn’t “Mike”, at all. It was, of all people, Dr. Kenneth Fung, an associate professor with UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.

When his subterfuge was uncovered, the worthy Dr. Fung was by no means apologetic. Rather, he continued his bizarre onslaught against the NDP candidate, accusing the Chinese immigrant of being a member of the Chinese Communist Party, which has had virtually nothing to do with any kind of communism since Mao died in 1976. He further hinted that Huang might be a spy. This time, however, Dr. Fung at least used his real name for his canditorial red-baiting. Progress of a sort, I guess.

None of these shenanigans seemed to bother the Liberals’ Advanced Education Minister, Amrik Virk, however. The rookie minister thought so highly of “Mike”, er Dr. Fung, that he appointed him late last year to UBC’s Board of Governors. Of all the possible appointees in all the land, he had to settle on this one.

I can see it now. Maybe Dr. Fung, with his talent for impersonation, could pretend to be UBC president Stephen Toope at a BOG meeting. “Hi, I’m Steve.” Or he could complain that too many students on campus can’t really communicate in English. In the meantime, let’s hope Dr. Fung doesn’t find out that students from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea) have been attending UBC. Real communists! Spies, for sure.

By the way, if you’re wondering how Dr. Fung came to the minister’s attention….According to an email he sent to the National Post, Dr. Fung applied for the Board of Governors vacancy, himself. Oh, what a lovely appointment.

2. Among the worst policy decisions made by the Clark government continued its non-merry way, as the months went by. I’m referring to the coming referendum on funding public transit in the Lower Mainland. In fact, the cock-eyed pledge by the Premier got even worse, when Clark pulled the rug right out from under her new, hard-working Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who had taken his responsibility for the ill-advised vote seriously. After Stone revealed his preference for a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, adding that he would campaign strongly in favour of a ‘yes’ vote, the Premier gave the Globe’s Justine Hunter her own chilling view. The referendum would not be ‘yes’ or ‘no’, at all. Instead, voters will be offered a variety of options, with the government taking no position, Clark told the Globe, in a year-end interview.

“People will need to do their homework to make sure they get the answer that is right for them, but I’m not going to try to decide for people what their answer should be,” Clark said.  Wow. Now there’s a sure-fire formula for clarity. Guaranteed to convince the 85 per cent of voters who don’t use public transit to support more taxes to provide service for the 15 per cent who do.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the premier has meddled in critical public transit matters. In 2011, she blundered into a funding deal former Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom was trying to broker with Lower Mainland mayors, who wanted a small gas tax increase. Clark publicly frowned on the idea of motorists paying more. In this case, Lekstrom stared his leader down, and she quickly issued a statement “clarifying” her comments.

One can only hope a similar result evolves here. So far at least, Stone is sticking to his guns. “It is imperative to get this right, to win this referendum,” he insisted, after his boss’s remarks. Meanwhile, the premier might take her own advice to Lower Mainland voters and do a little “homework” herself on how referenda are won, plus the dire implications if this one is lost. She could start by asking the man she appointed to the transportation portfolio.

(Incidentally, being the cheeky kind of fellow I am, I can’t resist re-publicizing this observation by the then Mayor of Langley, Peter Fassbender, on an even earlier transit funding scheme by Lower Mainland mayors that was kiboshed by Premier Clark, without even talking to them. “I’m never surprised at things the Premier says. I think she makes decisions in isolation,” the perturbed mayor told reporters at the time.  Fassbender is now the province’s Education Minister.)

TO BE CONTINUED….

A LAST FAREWELL FOR BIG JACK MUNRO

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Hundreds turned out on a brilliant sunny Saturday afternoon to say a final farewell to Jack Munro, who died last November, after as full an 82-year life as could be imagined.

I’ve already written a lot about Big Jack, but I believe it’s merited. (Here’s my obituary on Munro.) When was the last time a leader of a trade union was as prominent in this province as Munro was for 30 years? It was unheard of even then, when labour mattered, and that prominence is highly unlikely to be repeated for any current or future labour leader. As Vancouver Sun photographer Steve Bosch acutely observed, after hearing excerpts of some fiery Munro speeches that were replayed at the memorial: “We may be the last generation to hear that kind of talk.” Heck, there aren’t even any labour reporters in the mainstream media to celebrate big time union leaders, even if there were any. The peril of this dearth of expertise was amply illustrated by one newspaper account of Munro’s memorial, which said the gathering attracted “union brass and the working class”, as if they were separate categories.

In the case of Jack Munro, the clichés fit. He really was larger than life and one of a kind, towering over other personalities. Yes, many things about him were controversial. He was no angel. He could be a bully, particularly in the days when he was drinking. And his relatively moderate approach to many issues attracted criticism from activists and the so-called “left”. He believed in deal-making over confrontation. That’s one reason he was respected by many on the company side of the ledger. “Hey, a union leader we can do business with…”

But there was never any doubt which side Munro was on. He represented workers. To his dying day, he believed in the virtues of trade unionism and the integral role they play in society. “He made us proud, proud to be workers, and proud to have him as our leader,” said Harvey Arcand, who used to head the IWA’s Williams Lake local.

Munro’s final years were spent spearheading efforts by the Labour Heritage Centre to collect and promote union and worker history as a way of ensuring that their contribution to building British Columbia would not be forgotten, amid all the celebration of politicians and corporate pioneers. After more than half a century in the labour movement, it was hardly something he needed to do. But he never lost his fire in the belly for the importance of trade unions to the province’s economic and social justice fabric.

Saturday proved a good send-off, attracting a diverse crowd, including ex-premiers, current politicians, business representatives and  a wide-cross section of the labour movement, from leaders to the rank-and-file. And of course, there were yet more stories about a guy who was more colourful than a Ted Harris paint store. I never tire of them.

Fighting back tears during his eulogy to the man who mentored him, Ken Georgetti told of a time Munro was down south in the United States during an IWA organizing drive. As he sat in a small town café for a bite to eat, Munro heard the owner lay a verbal licking on one of his employees. “The employer was white, the employee was black, and Jack saw red.” He stood up, all 6’5”, 250 pounds of him, and demanded the owner apologize. When he resisted, Munro tossed him out and locked the door, until he complied. “Jack reminded us the world can be a better place, if we dedicate ourselves to the fight,” said Georgetti.

Harvey Arcand recalled a case before BC Labour Relations Board chairman Don Munroe (note the ‘e’). Jack Munro started berating a company witness from the back row, prompting Don Munro to ask for a little decorum. “What the hell do you know about decorum?” the IWA president hollered back. “You don’t even know how to spell Munro!”

Angela Schira, former secretary-treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour, remembered sitting beside Munro during a speech at a Fed convention by the eloquent Stephen Lewis. The blunt-speaking Munro was not impressed by Lewis’s rich vocabulary. “Why do we have to have a speaker that you need a dictionary to understand?” he wondered out loud.

Another time, Schira related, Munro was chairing a Fed convention, as a speaker on Mike Four droned on, reading from what appeared to be a leftist tract. When Munro reminded him his allotted time was nearly up, the speaker complained that the interruption caused him to lose his place. “I’ll help you out,” said Munro, from the podium. “I recognize the brother on Mike Five.”

In addition to the speeches, there was a good video of Big Jack’s life, with some wonderful examples of Munro in full god-damn verbal flight. Ah, the memories. The video ended with the chorus of John Lennon’s terrific, albeit bitter, song. “A working class hero is something to be.”

At the conclusion of the memorial, emcee Stephen Hunt of the Steelworkers, which absorbed the IWA in 2004, announced that the union’s building would now be known as the Jack Munro Building. Well done.

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TOP 10 LIST OF GOOD DEEDS BY BC GOVERNMENT

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Happy New Year, Premier Clark, wherever you are!

On such a bright, sunny, wintry morning, it’s hard to cast ill-will towards anyone. So, in the spirit of rare, Mickle positive thinking, here is my Top Ten list of good things done by the provincial government since May, when 44 per cent of the voters decided they should rule over us for the next four years. I’m sure I will recover soon and produce a more customary list of Top Ten baddies by the same Gang of Forty.

Anyway, here goes. Peace.

  1. After cynically accusing Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson of “playing politics” over the very real mental health crisis in the city, Health Minster Terry Lake came to his senses and announced some worthy, initial steps towards making a difference. These included a new psychiatric assessment and stabilization unit at St. Paul’s, plus funding for more, badly-needed outreach workers in the troubled Downtown Eastside. The Health Minister must know, however, that this “action plan” is hardly enough, so it’s also welcome news that a multi-pronged committee has been struck to map out more long-term solutions.

2. Kudos again to the ex-vet from Kamloops for standing up to Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose, after her ideologically-driven, mean-spirited decision to cut off access to heroin for fragile patients enrolled in a special, harm reduction study. “We have to think outside the box sometimes,” Lake observed. “I know the thought of using heroin as a treatment is scary for people, but I think we have to take the emotions out of it and let science inform the discussion.” Well said.

3.  The recent five-year, exceedingly-modest, tentative agreements covering about 25 per cent of the provincial government’s public sector work force are astounding, and the first of their kind in B.C., a province once renowned for labour militancy. Union leaders decided the tiny wage increases were a worthwhile trade-off for the security of no reductions in pension and benefits until at least 2019. Whatever one thinks of the contracts, no one forced the unions to sign them, so it’s a big win for a government obsessed with its bottom line. And they weren’t even mean about it.

4. Okay, obviously no one knows how long the Clark government will continue to oppose the Enbridge pipeline. But, as of this moment, a bitumen conduit through B.C. and thence by super tanker through B.C. coastal waters to Asia is a non-starter for a premier who opens and closes cabinet meetings with incense and soothing chants of the mystical word ‘El-En-Gee’. Quoth Environment Minister Mary Polak, after the National Energy Board’s non-surprising “green” light for the proposed pipeline: “We are not yet in in the position to consider support for any heavy oil pipeline in B.C.” You hear that, Mr. Harper? No amount of googly eyes at Christy Clark is going to change that.

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5. Social housing remains a plus for the Liberals, with Mr. Mover and Shaker, Rich Coleman, seemingly still fired by determination to fund living space for “the poor”. As such, he has one of the strangest cabinet portfolios in the history of Canadian politics: Natural Gas Development and Housing. Thousands of new units of subsidized housing have been financed and built under Mr. Coleman’s caring watch, many in the Downtown Eastside and vicinity. Here’s a recap of what was done on the file in 2013. Of course, it’s never enough, but there is no sign of the pace slowing down in the year ahead.

6. Thank you, Christy Clark government, for finally agreeing to cough up the dough for a seismic upgrade of Vancouver’s historic Strathcona elementary school, more than 80 years after my mother dodged death by attending the earthquake-prone house of learning.

7.Um….

8. Er…..

9. Let me see….Anyone?

10. Oh well, there’s always next year….

(Suggestions welcomed to aid my trouble-ing mind.)