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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.

No fun BC

Car burns during Vancouver Stanley Cup riot, 15 June 2011. © Copyright 2011 Craig Hartnett.

Car burns during Vancouver Stanley Cup riot, 15 June 2011

So just about everyone in Canada east of the Rockies got to imbibe at some inhumane hour of the morning during the Olympic gold medal ice hockey game between Canada and Sweden on Sunday. West of the Rockies though, the no-fun police were demonstrating their true colours: Public establishments in British Columbia were not allowed to serve alcohol, even though in other provinces rules had been relaxed for this special occasion.

A few years ago I’d have been critical of this “no-fun” policy. But in 1994 and 2011, Vancouverites proved that they can’t hold their liquor when they trashed the city in riots following the losses of their hockey team in the Stanley Cup finals. Of course, this time “we” won, but winners rioting is not an unheard of phenomenon either, and the infantile population of Vancouver had already proven twice they were quite happy to riot at the drop of a puck and therefore can’t be trusted.

Of course, not every resident of Vancouver and its environs is infantile, but as is always the case it’s the minority that spoils it for the majority. (In fact, Vancouverites spoil it for the whole province.) Most of us wouldn’t turn into raving criminal maniacs if we had a beer or two with breakfast at four in the morning, even if our team lost. Unfortunately, it seems we’ll probably have to wait a generation before those in charge will trust us enough to test that hypothesis.

Only in Vancouver …

… will you be approached outside a Starbucks by a guy plugged into an iPod begging — “pretty please” — for a dollar to buy a coffee.

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.)