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….