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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.

RCMP hypocrisy: The video lies, the video tells the truth

The gall! The unmitigated gall!

As anyone who paid the slightest bit of attention to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police killing of Robert Dziekanski knows, the RCMP did their level best to (first of all) hide the video evidence, and then completely discredit it. Despite the fact that any private citizen (i.e., non-cop) caught on video breaking the law would get a one-way “do not stop, do not collect $200, do not pass go” ticket to jail, no expense or red herring was spared by the RCMP in trying to sell to the public the snake oil that the video didn’t tell the real story, and that Mr. Dziekanski really was a great and credible threat to four burly cops as he brandished his weapon of mass destruction: the infamous stapler. The video, they claimed, was less than useless. (This in addition to all of the lies about Dziekanski and the incident itself [not to mention the post-mortem collusion] that they spewed to the media and the Braidwood Inquiry.)

Yet this week, after the editor of the Osoyoos Times related an incident during which he felt he was humiliated (Google cache, local cache) in a guilty-until-proven-innocent road side stop by RCMP Corporal Ryan McLeod, the Officer in Charge BC RCMP Communications (Superintendent Ray Bernoties), gleefully offered video evidence (local cache, now that the RCMP have apparently deleted this press release) which he essentially claims makes a slam dunk case that refutes the claims of editor Keith Lacey. He even smugly adds, “This is the type of transparency British Columbians expect from the RCMP.”

The hypocrisy! The sheer, bald-faced, fucking hypocrisy of the murdering RCMP!

You might almost think the guy was trying to make a sarcastic joke, or the press release was written by Monty Python, if it wasn’t so serious. Yes, Supt. Bernoties, we do expect transparency from the RCMP; one day I hope we’ll see some.

The hypocrisy continues: “This police officer, who you so freely defame using your position …”. Excuse me while I splutter my morning coffee all over my computer screen! The record shows that the RCMP themselves used their position and access to the media to “freely defame” Robert Dziekanski before the video evidence and the testimony of bystanders came to light, and is a textbook example of why we can’t take as gospel what police officers say in support of a charge. (Being a grammar nazi I can’t help but point out that this cop — the top cop for “communications” in BC — doesn’t even seem to know when to use the word “whom” instead of “who”, and later also uses the word “slander” when he should refer to “libel” — a double blow for someone who is supposed to be proficient in both communications and the law. Actually, the whole “letter” reads as if it was written by an eight-year-old getting a D in English class.)

The hypocrisy concludes thusly: “If there was one positive to your negative article, it was a reminder to me of the many baseless and malicious allegations our members must constantly face while carrying out their duties. Fortunately, in this case, the video removes any doubt that the police officer’s actions were professional and respectful.”

Wow. Poor baby. “[B]aseless and malicious allegations” my foot. Before the outrage set in, I was just left dumbfounded.

Keith, you are wrong about one thing in your editorial. You state, “This is a free country, not a police state.” Sorry, but clearly you haven’t noticed that this is no longer true, especially the moment you drive a car onto a public road.

 


 

Updated, 14 August 2015: Linked to local cache of RCMP press release, seeing as it has either been deleted from their website or moved.

Invincible and invisible cyclists

Cyclist dressed in black. Photograph by Mark van Manen, PNG.

Cyclist dressed in black. (Mark van Manen, PNG.)

The front page story in The Vancouver Sun on 29 November was Cycling’s most dangerous intersections: 10 places cars are most likely to hit bicycles in Vancouver. Illustrating that story was one of the pictures you see here. (For some strange reason, the Sun has two identical versions of the story [here and here] on its website, but with different pictures.)

Now, I realise that the photographs were no doubt posed, but they beautifully — and ironically — illustrate exactly why so many cyclists (and pedestrians) are getting mowed down on Vancouver streets. Note the following:

  • The cyclist is dressed entirely in black, and
  • The picture is taken at night.
Cyclist dressed in black. Photograph by Mark van Manen, PNG.

Cyclist dressed in black. (Mark van Manen, PNG.)

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been driving in Vancouver on a rainy night — which, as you will know if you live in this part of the world, account for about 300 of 365 nights — and a cyclist or pedestrian has almost literally appeared “out of nowhere” and narrowly avoided becoming one with my car. You can point the finger of blame at me if you want, accusing me of not paying attention. But really, even if there was no car traffic on the roads (besides me) and so I didn’t have to be swivelling my head this way and that to look out for them (especially at intersections, which is what the Sun story is about), I’d be hard-pressed to see a damn nearly invisible person (and bike) until my headlights are reflected in the whites of his or her widening eyes. Besides, if I’m doing such a poor job of paying attention, how come I don’t have these close calls during the day in good weather?

Add to that cyclists and pedestrians who think they are somehow exempt from both the laws of the road and of physics — or have a death wish — and you have a recipe for disaster. The onus is on everyone on the roads to do their part to keep them safe, but jeez, if you’re the one likely to be on the losing end of a collision, don’t you think you should invest a little more effort and thought in keeping yourself alive before you even walk out the door?

(Copyright note: These photographs are the copyright of, presumably, Mark van Manen of the Pacific News Group [PNG]. They are used here without permission, but I assert that their use here is in line with the concept of “fair dealing” under Canadian copyright law, in that this article is a criticism of the content of the works themselves and the news story to which they are attached rather than simply being a reposting of a news article. To the best of my knowledge, non-copyrighted versions of these photographs are not available. In any case, these are the pictures the public has seen, so my creating my own similar pictures would negate the nexus of this article.)