My views on the 'dubious' year just past
I don’t mind. It earns me a few bucks, keeps my hand in, and allows me a curmudgeonly venting that maintains my sanity. So, without further ado, here are my ponderings about the year 2008. Of course, even the title is a blatant rip-off of the long-running Esquire Magazine feature that used to come out each January, and of which I was very fond. But, I assure you that all that follows is original. A lot of it is local and a lot Canadian, but I also attempt to go international with it, always. I hope you enjoy.
The following appeared in the Comox Valley Echo edition of Jan. 2, 2009.
Whew – what a year it has been! It started out well enough, but by the end of 2008 most people didn’t know if the finale was a bang or a whimper. Whatever the case, it wasn’t good, and whimpers can sometimes hurt more than bangs.
In that sense the Comox Valley building bubble was showing signs of stress by year-end, and economic woes were hitting the forest industry in all its manifestations. This is not welcome news for the community since the forest sector is one of the few employment options that had, heretofore, paid anything much above minimum wage in a community that doesn’t offer too many options for those who want to be gainfully employed and to earn enough to actually continue to live here.
But, to not dwell on the negative we still have been blessed with sufficient jesters and jackanapeses in the public realm to both infuriate and also to keep us amused. To be fair, some of those who direct our lives are as much victims of circumstance as the rest of us, but others deserve their lumps and we are happy to accord them in the 2008 version of the Comox Valley Echo’s annual Dubious Achievement Awards. Enjoy.
Boys (and girls) in the ‘Hood
God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board. (Mark Twain): It was not a year that ended well for the Comox Valley’s school board. It should have been obvious to all the trustees who embraced so-called reconfiguration and the closing of schools that hubris and ‘motherhood’ do not mix easily. May all the turfed trustees go on to bigger, better and ‘different’ things in their desire to serve their community.
Comox Valley: “Land of Plenty”: Turned out that some of our plenitude included ‘plenty of homeless folk’ in disproportionate numbers for a community this size. To give credit where it is due, however, a vast array of caring residents mounted an extensive homelessness survey, to which erstwhile Courtenay Mayor Starr Winchester lent her name, with a desire to ‘do something’ that might allow us to live up to that motto. A recent check in, however, indicated that no municipality has yet coughed up some land to actually build some low-cost housing. Talk and studies are easy, but the problem persists.
The times they are a-changin’: Some long-time Comox Valley politicians were cast out by the voters in November, including Courtenay Mayor Starr Winchester, RD rep Barbara Price, and some former politicians tried for a comeback, such as Dennis Strand in Comox and Don Davis in the same community, as well as Norm Reynolds and Erik Eriksson in Courtenay and Rick Grinham in Cumberland, but learned there sometimes are no second acts. But, maybe more importantly, some politicians didn’t get chucked out even though their ouster might have pleased many.
Some are just more dubious than others:
Thine and mine insurance company, ICBC, was pilloried for running what was, in effect, a chop-shop as a sidebar business. This is a practice that is deemed illegal in most quarters. So, the corporation fired a bunch of the perps, but also gave them big fat severance packages due to their (huh?) “dismissal without cause.”
Beastly Ferries: Aside from the Queen of the North debacle, which may or may not see any genuine blame levelled before the end of this century, there were the fare hikes, which rendered Vancouver Islanders virtual prisoners on this here rock. Then it was discovered that diminished numbers were actually riding the barges, so the fares declined – slightly.
VIHA, which seems to operate under the premise of “why not continue to give the public what it ‘doesn’t’ want; why break stride? Oh, that and the sensitive idea of distributing crack pipe mouthpieces to those poor souls suffering in Nanaimo. Without consulting Nanaimo itself about the matter, it might be added. Just don’t be giving those whining diabetics free needles, on the other hand.
Not the Everly Brothers, either: Just to clarify, Comox councillors Tom and Ken Grant are not the same person. If the ‘clothesline’ issue comes up again in council then scrupulous identifications will be vital.
Where are they now? Comox Valley MLA Stan Hagen is currently Minister of Agriculture and Lands, just in case you’d lost sight of where he was without a scorecard.
Déjà vu all over again: John Duncan was returned as MP for this riding. See Hagen and scorecard.
My Baby Takes the Morning Train: Actually, if my baby could take a ‘morning’ train the E&N might be put to even more practical use. However, the morning train leaves Victoria, arrives in Courtenay at 1-ish, and then carries folk south to Victoria just in time for all businesses and offices to be closing for the day. Oh, and the BC government has ordered a ‘study’ of the viability of the line. Don’t hold your collective breath. Bureaucratic studies take a while to prove something isn’t viable. We demand that they do find it viable. We loves us our little train.
Beyond the ‘Hood
Phew! Just when the motoring public was heading out to acquire torches and pitchforks from Canadian Tire after the Premier announced his (to the delight of drivers of overpriced hybrids and Greens who wanted to see somebody on their side who was actually in office) much-reviled gas tax, the insanely inflated price-fixed tabs at the pumps began to decline. Maybe that will save the day come spring, although the collapse of the forest industry just might sting a bit.
But, with an ally like this, who needs a platform? Gordo’s best friend in public office is the amazingly unprepared Carole James. If he can’t beat her, with her assorted gaffes and bits of illogic, he doesn’t deserve to win at all. We can be sure the NDP leader is a very nice lady. Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, wasn’t a very nice lady, but she did have actual leadership skills. Ms. James is, well, just nice and a virtual guarantee that the prov-Libs, as lacklustre as they’ve been in this last term, will likely squeak in.
The Dick Cheney school of PR: 2010 Olympics Grand Potentate John Furlong suggests that Vancouver simply close shop while the Olympics are on so that visitors to the games won’t be interfered with in their movements. That’s right, take a few days off work in a recessionary time to accommodate those who are coming to an event that 98.4 per cent of the people who will end up paying the bills when they are over couldn’t possibly afford to attend. By the way, tickets are selling for a fortune on EBay
Way Beyond the ‘Hood
So, the Vladimir Putin School of Human Resources Training Program didn’t quite work out: Canada’s recently re-elected Tory PM, Stephen Harper was not seen as Mr. Congeniality, especially by adherents to political parties that have little credibility this side of Thunder Bay. Many Westerners, on the other hand, are inclined to refer to Mr. Aloof as ‘Cuddles.’ Possibly humbled by the attempted coup, it may be that Harper has come to appreciate the folly of prodding a bear with a sharp stick.
So near, Smilin’ Jack; so near and yet still so damn far: Jack Layton really thought he would finally have his one (and likely only) shot at sitting in Cabinet with the enthusiastically-embraced Coup, pardon, Coalition concept. You know, the one he sucker-punched Stephane Dion into endorsing. Needless to say, Dion crony (sorta) Bob Rae showed his good NDP roots (all the while pretending to be a Grit) by practically wetting himself in his enthusiasm for the concept. Iggy? Not so much.
Stephane we hardly knew ye: Bizarre choice Liberal candidate polled fewer votes than most Rhino candidates did in times past during the last election. Grey in demeanor and professorially aloof in manner and a testament to the fact that lack of bilingual skills works both ways in this country. Of the Grits, one can only be moved to ask: What were they thinking? What country did they think this was?
I like McCain French Fries: But, McCain Presidential Candidate, not so much. The old warhorse fought the good fight but made a series of lethal miscalculations. The worst of which, of course, is deciding to find a female running mate who just might attract the distaff voters who would have voted for Hillary. So, he chose unarguable hottie and inarticulate reactionary beanbrain Sarah Palin. Huh? Now, Sarah did attract some voters, but not liberal-leaning females, but reactionary redneck males who, when they saw Sarah, immediately began thinking not with the teeny brains they were given, but with quite another brain.
Barack can walk upon water, I tell you!: Well, maybe not, but he is testament to the fact that people can set aside their prejudices and just maybe, just maybe, vote for the best candidate. After eight years of pillorying the Americans for their appalling former presidential choice, smug Canadians might want to take a look at the bozos at our helm and question just what we might be doing wrong.