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May, 2015:

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.

Amateur hour hits a new low at Global News BC

I have a very different view of what “news” on television is supposed to look like than (apparently) many people, and I have criticised TV news anchors and reporters for calling their news broadcasts a “show”. I’m sorry, a “show” is something that is supposed to entertain me. I do not watch television news to be “entertained”; I watch to see who has been bombed, blasted or burgled in the last 24 hours. OK, that’s not really my motivation, but I certainly don’t watch to see dog-and-pony shows between the glorified teleprompter readers (“anchors”) and the sports and weather talking heads. I appreciate that people at the Global BC TV station like Kristi Gordon, Chris Gailus and Robin Stickley look pretty and (as far as I can tell) have senses of humour, but really? Do we really have to watch them and Squire Barnes (whom, you will notice, I did not include in the list of people who “look pretty”) tell inside jokes to one another, live on air? Give me a break.

At Global BC my heroine on the news desk is Samantha Falk. She just delivers the news … just the facts, ma’am. No emoting (just a slight lowering of tone when delivering news of a death or deaths), no hand gestures, no sad faces, no big smiles, no snide or under-the-breath-type editorial remarks after a news story. She may or may not be the most fun at a party but, as far as I’m concerned, she is the consummate professional journalist on air. Bravo to you, Samantha. Please don’t give in to anyone who might tell you that you need to project more feeling when you’re reporting. Don’t even get me started on her diametrical opposite: Randene Neill (who seems to have taken on the heart-tugging role of the now-departed Deborra Hope). How is this woman higher in the pecking order at Global than Samantha Falk? It boggles the mind.

But back to the point of this post. Anyone who watches the News Hour at 18:00 on Global BC (and probably their other news broadcasts too, considering this is their “flagship” news programme … er, “news show”) is aware of the fact that first year journalism students at BCIT could do a better job of producing the programme than the jokers at Global BC. You know, I hate to be gratuitously critical — and lord knows I am not in the business and wouldn’t do a better job myself — but come on, there are some days it’s a complete gong show. However, the gong show doesn’t usually extend to the actual journalism. I’m not saying that the journalism at Global BC is top notch, that’s for sure — the aforementioned little editorial comments by the teleprompter reader … sorry, “anchor” … at the end of a story really irk me — but on 19 January 2015 there was a particularly puzzling incident.

Watch for yourself and note the second story (which comes after the first weather interlude) which starts at 3:51. At the very end of the story, at 5:19, the reporter (John Daly) concludes his report (presumably filed sometime before the start of the broadcast) by saying that the subject of the story (a man wanted for failing to return to a Vancouver halfway house) has been arrested in Parksville. At that point I reflexively asked out loud, “So, what was the point of the big build up? In fact, was this really news if they got the guy?” I suppose I answered my own question above: this is a “show” (after all), and it’s all about the suspense, which was broken in the final seconds by revealing that this guy isn’t, at this very moment, roaming the streets of Vancouver looking for his next victim. This should have been several reports down the list on this broadcast.

But that’s not the bizarre part. About twenty minutes later the teleprompter reader (Chris Gailus) interrupts the broadcast with “breaking news”! Seems that the missing con has been located and has been arrested in Parksville! Stands back in amazement!

Now, either this is utter incompetence on the part of the journalism staff and the teleprompter reader, or it’s a blatant attempt at misleading sensationalism. Leave the sensationalism to the American news stations, Chris; they have more helicopters buzzing the city chasing every emergency vehicle than Global BC has. Oddly, that “breaking news” is not in the online version of the News Hour, but then they have managed to compress an hour of “news” into less than sixteen minutes. Imagine how much less time we could waste in front of the boob tube if they could just get it over and done with (minus the advertising and dog-and-pony nonsense) in sixteen minutes! (I usually turn it off after the first half hour anyway.)

But one more complaint about “news” that doesn’t (at this point) merit a separate post. Read my lips: Weather is not news! The fact that it rained hard, or snowed heavily, or blew strongly in some part of the world today is not news. It is if a state of emergency has been declared as a result in the area where the news is being broadcast, but if some other part of the world is having weather, it’s just not news. At the very least, please don’t lead with a weather story, for god’s sake!

This has been an editorial. It is not an attempt at journalism!

But I will admit that I find this kind of stuff highly amusing, even entertaining!: