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2015 Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite

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I finally delivered my ballot yesterday, choosing to deliver it directly to a Plebiscite Service Office rather than entrusting it to the useless Canada Post Corporation at this late date. To get there I drove a car; I suppose I should have caught a bus, but there are only so many hours in a day.

At this late date I won’t be the first to pontificate on this subject but, if the “no” vote wins, the powers that be need to be aware of the fact that a no vote is not a vote against all (or any) of the wonderful goodies that are listed on the ballot. The greater Vancouver area certainly does need all of those things; we absolutely should have a “world class” (a term overused to describe the rather self-centred provincial town of Vancouver) public transit and transportation system. What we also need — conspicuous by its absence on the ballot — is intelligent and accountable management of our regional transportation system and the funds needed to run it.

This plebiscite is a boondoggle for several reasons, not the least of which are:

  • It is an abrogation of the responsibility of the officials we elected to make these decisions for us. (I’m looking at you, Christy Clark and co.) I am all in favour of democracy (even some measure of direct democracy), but we’re already paying elected politicians to run our cities, region and province, so why are they spending the money required to mount this plebiscite to offload that responsibility onto the people that elected them? I know why: It’s so that they can blame us (like Jim “Look in the Mirror” Prentice of Alberta fame) when we complain down the road about something to do with regional transportation or transit. The fact that this is being presented as a “take it or leave it” proposition by these shirkers is particularly galling.
  • We already pay taxes. The trend in recent years has been to make government “smaller” (or so politicians claim) by introducing “user pay” schemes — e.g., bridge tolls — so that those people who don’t use bridges don’t have to subsidise those of us wastrels who do. However, taxes still stay the same. (Someone should run that simple mathematical formula past your average numerate child and see what he or she has to say about it.) The fact is that governments take taxes from us. It adds up to a lot of money, and the citizenry needs to see some collective benefit from these taxes to feel that they’re justified. Increase the tax rate by half a percent here and half a percent there and you’ll soon find out at what point there’s a tax revolt. What service that we’re already paying for will the next plebiscite be about?
  • Taxes don’t go away. We all know the apocryphal story about how the first tax was a “temporary” measure. Even if the politicians promised that this tax would end on some specific date in the future, if nothing else a yes vote simply shows the politicians that there is room to increase taxes, and on that date (or shortly after it to allow a cooling-off period of unrestrained joy amongst the populace) the provincial tax rate would be raised to equal the former combined rate. What pet project would we be paying for then?

So, yeah, it’s probably not difficult for you to determine which circle I selected on my ballot.

Come clean, Christy Clark

As a tax-paying British Columbian, I should love Christy Clark. I should. But I don’t.

She is a divisive character in BC politics. She’s not the first, that’s for sure, but you’d think that people would learn. Not “we the people”, but the politicians themselves. Nobody likes a divisive leader. They didn’t when Bill Vander Zalm was around, and they don’t now, so what does Clark think she’s gaining by her divisive style of leadership that Vander Zalm didn’t back in the late 1980s? If she’s gaining anything, it’s only with her cronies in the BC Liberal Party, not with any members of the voting public. Is that really putting “[BC] Families First”?

I’m moved to write about this at this time because of the dispute between theĀ BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and BC’s public teachers. I could point fingers at both sides in this dispute for various reasons, but Clark particularly stands out for rebuke. I say that because no member of the British Columbian public really sees this as a labour dispute between a monolithic employer that doesn’t actually employ any teachers (the BCPSEA) and theĀ BC Teachers’ Federation; it’s Christy and her sidekick of the moment in the education portfolio (Peter Fassbender as of this writing) versus the teachers. It’s an open secret that sealed court proceedings accidentally revealed by the NDP show that the current BC government — strongly led by Clark, so there’s no doubt who is driving this — has a policy to provoke a strike by BC teachers. Imagine! Any thinking leader — especially one with an alleged “Families First” agenda — would not set out to “provoke” anything, never mind the total disruption of the lives of BC’s families!

This won’t be a long post because I really want to get to what I believe is the crux of the matter here. This won’t address issues such as liveable wages in one of the most expensive places to live in the world, and a little thing called inflation. It also won’t address Clark’s contempt of the courts and her preference for fighting and defying their rulings on the legality of her actions dating back over a decade, actions that would get you and I thrown in jail!

Let’s look at Clark’s record with the education system. As Education Minister in the early 2000s she implemented changes that were unpopular with school boards and teachers. While it’s not my contention that popularity is the measure of success, popularity is the basis of democracy. And here we are, over a decade later, and the school boards are still struggling to provide services that are expected by the public and the provincial government on the pittance provided by the latter. Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the dedication of those people on the ground — teachers, administrators and school board employees — the BC public school system would collapse. With her own child in a private school — a privilege affordable for only 11% (2012 figures) of BC pupils — one really can’t help but wonder if this is actually Clark’s intention.

But enough about that. It’s widely known that Clark’s father was a teacher, and one can reasonably assume that she herself attended at least some school. And here is where I get to the crux of the matter as I see it, and it’s the seldom asked question (at least publicly) on the tips of the tongues of just about anyone I talk to about the war between Clark and the teachers: What formative experience did Clark have — either with her father or one of her own teachers — that seems to put her at perpetual odds with educators? (By “educators” I include more than just teachers.) I’ve heard the term “daddy issues” used often enough to wonder if this premier’s divisive style of leadership — if you can call it “leadership” — is personally-driven rather than based on arguable ideology or coherent policy.

Is it, Christy? Is it time to come clean and excuse yourself from any involvement in the negotiating strategy with the BCTF or, for that matter, any of your government’s education policies that so negatively affect families and the education of their children? Is it time to put your son in a public school — like 89% of your constituents in this province, who feel their children are being used as pawns in a fight between grown-ups who should know better — and suffer with them through this labour strife that you have intentionally provoked?

The fickle American voter

As someone who doesn’t get to vote in American elections, I chastised friends and acquaintances for jumping on the Obama bandwagon back in 2008 and following it all on TV like it was some kind of daily serial. I do realise that what happens in America influences a lot of non-voters; just ask the Iraqis. However, there’s a difference between academic interest and fanaticism. But I was neither for nor against Obama; he may have said some thought-provoking things, but I am extremely cynical when it comes to politicians.

But if it wasn’t so serious, I’d laugh at the American voter. Here they elect a guy on a wave of popularity not seen, I believe, in the lifetimes of most American voters. Then two years later, because he hasn’t changed the world, brought about universal peace, cured all diseases for evermore, and put a million dollars in everyone’s bank accounts, they vote for the party that is diametrically opposed to him. Huh? Am I the only one who thinks this American voter is an idiot?

But it just starkly illustrates much of that’s wrong with the American political system. Black and white, for us or against us, commies and capitalists, red and blue, flip and flop, and simply no possibility of middle ground. Almost makes the Canadian two-and-a-half-party system look like paradise.

And I’m going to say something I never thought I’d say, because too many politically-correct people are too quick to blame something like … oh, let’s say, race … for one thing or another. But I do have to wonder if they all voted for him back in 2008 just because he is (half) black, and I do have to wonder if the Tea Partiers were so vocal and so successful for the same reason.

The American voter is both fickle and short-sighted. Then again, they’re no better in British Columbia, where the provincial government is trying to bribe people with promises of a cheque for $19.17 per month to vote in favour of the HST. And you know what? People will buy that … or rather, I should say, will be bought by that.