"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Monday, May 28, 2012

The RCMP contract squabble: A game of political chicken?

After a long day of in-camera meetings, public committee meetings, public hearings, public meetings and then a full council meeting, one of the final things on Coquitlam Council's agenda tonight is the policing contract with the RCMP. The Province has given municipalities until the end of this month to approve it. Failure to do so will be a de facto declaration that the balking municipality intends to set up its own municipal force, a la Port Moody and New Westminster. We'd be given two years to wind down the RCMP service and conjure up a local one.
Several of my council colleagues have been asking for more details about the contract and balking at passing it-- and in so doing have made some local headlines, as I pointed out in a Facebook post a few days ago. Nevertheless, even though those questions may remain unanswered, I cannot see how they can vote against the agreement tonight.
I'll be voting in favour of the agreement, primarily because contracting with the RCMP to provide local policing is demonstrably less expensive than the alternative; this is so because the federal government contributes 10% of the cost. And also because I know that voting against is tantamount to declaring that we should get rid of the RCMP, and that's just not something that I think is responsible at this (or, perhaps, any) stage.
But even if I were opposed to approving the deal today -- and wanted to keep open the option of setting up a local force of our own -- I'd still be voting in favour of it, for the simple reason that the City and its people are not at all prepared to go down that path yet. The comparison figures, between a local force and the RCMP, that we have are several years old. The mechanics of the change are unknown to us. And, for that matter, we don't even know what Coquitlam voters think about this option.
Moreover, agreeing to the deal today does not lock the city into the RCMP agreement for the full 20 years of its term. That's because all that a municipality has to do is give two-years' notice to end the agreement.
Therefore, it simply doesn't make sense for anyone to vote against the agreement tonight. If one of my colleagues is opposed to the deal, it would be precipitous to vote against it. My suggestion: vote for it, but then table a notice of motion asking for a new and exhaustive study, complete with extensive public input, into the pros and cons of opting out at a later date. That's the responsible thing to do.

Photo collage from rcmp-grc.gc.ca

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Essential fact is missing from Now story

Today's Coquitlam Now carries a front-page story headlined, "Kwikwetlem opposed to vote plan." The story describes how both Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland Local Government Association have voted in favour of a resolution asking the provincial government to pass legislation that would prevent residents of Indian reserves from voting in municipal elections.
The headline refers to the local Kwikwetlem band's negative reaction to the motions. The story also quotes my Coquitlam Council colleague, Selina Robinson, as saying she voted against the LMLGA motion because it came across as "a bit of bullying." She is further quoted, however, as admitting the current situation presents a problem. The story concludes with reaction quotes from PoCo Mayor Greg Moore.
Despite the several hundred words devoted to the story, one crucial fact is missing -- the reason Metro and the LMLGA supported the motion. It wasn't because local politicians want to deny Natives their rights; and it certainly wasn't because anyone was being mean-spirited or confrontational.
No, the motion springs from the very apparent injustice of the current situation. And that is that reserve residents, whether Native or not, pay no municipal property taxes, yet they still get to vote in civic elections. That's simply not right. And this fact should have been included in the Now story.
With reserve populations set to explode in the coming decades, because of enterprising band leaders' decisions to construct housing projects and the like on reserve lands, the injustice will only deepen.
I was proud to be part of the majority of LMLGA members who voted earlier this month in favour of justice and against the continuation of special privileges for reserve residents.
At the same time, I firmly believe that local governments, like the City of Coquitlam, have an obligation to continue dealing fairly with adjoining First Nations.Coquitlam certainly has a good record of doing that -- and has and will continue to provide services, on a contractual basis, to the Kwikwetlem.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

News from the Coquitlam Foundation

I was busy over the weekend writing promotional material for the Coquitlam Foundation's annual Awards Night, which is being held May 29. Here's what I've distributed to the media and put up on the foundation's website, http://www.coquitlamfoundation.com/. Hope to see you at the event next week!:

May 21, 2012

Foundation to distribute $56,000 in grants, scholarships and bursaries

COQUITLAM – The Coquitlam Foundation, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary as the charitable heart of Coquitlam this year, is proud to announce it will distribute in excess of $56,000 in grants, scholarships and bursaries at its annual Awards Night, May 29.

Community groups such as the Place Maillardville Society, the Burquitlam Lions Care Centre, the Tri-Cities Community Television Society and the Children of the Street Society will receive grants of $3,500 from the Builder’s Trust, one of two dozen donor-advised and foundation-directed funds administered by the Coquitlam Foundation.

As well, three Coquitlam students are receiving awards of $1,500 each from the newly established James Gordon Stewart Fund. In all, 18 students and 19 community groups will receive $56,427.90 in funding. See below for complete list.

“This is a special time of year for everyone at the Coquitlam Foundation,” says Executive Director Dale Clarke. “After all, helping worthy individuals and groups is the reason we exist. And by supporting these students and organizations, we help build a stronger community.”

The Awards Night is being held at the Evergreen Cultural Centre, 1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam. It will begin with appetizers and refreshments at 6:30 p.m., followed by presentations at 7 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by the SD43 Student Glee Club and the Children of the Street Society. Tickets are free, but attendees are asked to pre-register by calling 604.468.9598 or emailing info@coquitlamfoundation.com.

Over the past 12 months, the Foundation has established a record number of new funds, including the James Gordon Stewart Fund, the Coquitlam Centre Bursary Fund, the Community Diversity Fund, and the Coquitlam Public Library Living Legacy Fund.

Operating as the charitable “Heart of Coquitlam,” the Coquitlam Foundation has distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past two decades. It now manages about $2.2 million in foundation-directed and donor-advised funds.

The Foundation will be acknowledging the contributions of its founders and past directors, celebrating its current success, and looking ahead to its future at a special 20-Year Celebration Event on November 15 at the Red Robinson Theatre. Watch the Foundation’s website, www.coquitlamfoundation.com, for more details as they become available.

The Coquitlam Foundation is always pleased to accept donations, c/o P.O. Box 2, 1207 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam, B.C., Canada, V3B 7Y3, or through the Foundation’s website.The Coquitlam Foundation is registered with Canada Revenue as a charitable organization, No. 890762347 RR0001.


Executive Director Dale Clarke: 604.468.2077
Chair Colleen Talbot: 604.290.6128


Bursaries & Scholarships

Raymond A. LeClair Scholarship:
- award of $1,500 to Kayla Phillips

Brodie Campbell Memorial Scholarship:
- award of $1,000 to Connor Stroup

James Gordon Stewart Fund Scholarships of $1,500 each to:
- Kathryn Beck
- Jai Xin (Ivy) Tan
- Jamie Shorter

Coquitlam Foundation Education Fund
Bursaries of $500 each to:
- Kathleen Chu
- Helen Huang
- Derek Schaper
- Arturo Bustillos
- Maana Javadi

Mayor’s Community Fund Scholarships: (8 x $500 each)
From Pinetree Secondary - Ho Yi Kwan and Jihoon Choi.
From Dr. Charles Best Secondary - Danny Pavel and Jessica Park
From Gleneagle Secondary - Juanpaolo Mercado and Louise Hung
From Centennial Secondary - Erin Keltie and Cole Milton

Community Grants

Peter Legge Literacy Endowment Fund:
- a grant of $1,500 to the Friends of Coquitlam Library Society

Carleigh Rae LeClair Memorial Fund:
- a grant of $3,500 to Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland

Symington Endowment Fund:
- a grant of $1,000 to PoCoMo Youth Services
- a grant of $2,000 to Tri-City Movement Therapy Society
- a grant of $2,000 to Tri City Gymnastics Society

Johnston Fund – a grant of $1,500 to:
- Society for Community Development

Environment Fund – a grant of $500 each to:
- Watershed Watch Salmon Society, and
- SD#43 – Pinetree Secondary School

Community Wellness Fund - a grant of $2,500 to:
- Kateslem Youth Society

Cultural Fund - a grant of $1,000 to:
- Austin Heights Business Improvement Assn.

Heritage Fund – a grant of $1,000 to:
- Coquitlam Heritage Society

Builders’ Trust – awards as specified to:
- Societe Place Maillardville Society $3500
- Burquitlam Lions Care Centre $3500
- Children of the Street Society $3500
- Coquitlam Place des Arts Society $3000
- Vancouver Intl. Children’s Festival $3000
- Tri-Cities Community Television Soc. $3500
-  Theatrix $3075
-  Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation $2852.90

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An appeal from the heart of a hunter

A great many individuals gave well-researched speeches at the shooting-ban bylaw public meeting last night. Some tugged at the heartstrings. Some relied on facts and figures. But no one delivered a more passionate and reasonable appeal than did Chris Bradford of Pitt Meadows. Here, in its entirety, is what he said:

My name is Chris Bradford. I am a resident of Pitt Meadows, a husband, father of two, and I am an angler and hunter. Thank you for the opportunity to have such an open forum on this topic. 
This topic is always an emotional one for people, as some believe that there is no need for hunting in our “modern” society.  They will say that "there are butchers, so you can get your meat there.”  Fair enough. BUT, under that SAME thought process, I could propose that there are a number of other things our "modern" society can do without.
  Libraries for example.  ALL the info you could ever need is available online, and devices like a Kindle let you download and store all the books you want.
Museums are another.  Every artifact in a museum could have its picture taken and be downloaded for your viewing pleasure.
Little girls baking cookies with their grandmas. There are bakeries all over that sell all kinds of baked goods, and they are cheaper too!
  All of these are things are no longer needed in our "new" society. Now just think how absurd that sounds! Well, to those of us in the hunting community, so too does banning it.
  For us, the smell of neoprene waders, rubber boots and freshly poured coffee in a musty marsh, is the same as the smell of those cookies baking in the oven. The lessons of gun safety, ethical shot selection, proper game handling and preparation for the table is the same as the measuring and mixing of ingredients, the dangers of a hot stove and the greasing of a cookie sheet.
  The ever changing early morning light, filtering in and filling a frosted pre-dawn forest to reveal a fresh scrape or a rub is equal to the depth of the painter's brush stroke, or the light cast on a sculpture and the shadows created, revealing its true beauty.
  The pride that is on the face of the little "pig-tailed" girl as she hands you a homemade cookie, is the SAME pride we have all felt, and our children now feel, when we serve our legally harvested wild game to our appreciative family and friends.
  I believe that this council has the understanding to realize that eliminating hunting from this area, as development and nature collide, will only increase the amount of human and wildlife conflicts.
  A lesson taught to me by my grandfather, is that "the most dangerous bear in the woods, is the one that has lost its fear of man."
  I believe that creating a buffer zone for Pinecone Burke Provincial Park will allow all users to safely co-exist and maintain a healthy, non-threatening wildlife population.
  As has been previously mentioned, by this council, the correspondence with the hunting community has been respectful.
That is because hunting is all about "respect". Respect of the environment.  Respect to the conservation of a healthy animal population. Respectfully sharing the land with others and most importantly, respecting the game harvested.  As hunters, we are respectful that there will be those who do not like it.  We would ask not that you "respect" hunting, but rather that an open and objective mind be kept during these discussions.
  There is a misconception that hunting is about "killing", this is simply not true. The death of an animal, be it a fish, bird, bear, deer, cow, chicken or pig, is simply a "part" of the process to bring meat to the table.  Society just does not give the same "Disney" treatment to the last three. Make no mistake, "Fog-horn-leg-horn", "Porky Pig" and the "cow that jumped over the moon" are just like "Winnie the Pooh" and "Bambi". They are all fictional cartoon characters!
  Deer and bear are "wild" animals. Mistaking them as anything else is neither “safe” for the community, nor "respectful" to their wild nature.
  There is lots of area for us all to, safely use.  A buffer zone will work.  We can all safely co-exist.
  I hope that council will consider all information when making its decision.

"Goose Hunter at Dawn" photo from gunsandsupply.com.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Council swims with the sharks

Last night, after some spirited and informative debate, council passed a motion asking staff to prepare a bylaw to “ban . . . the possession, trade, sale and distribution of shark fins . . . and that staff provide a report on how to proceed with such an initiative especially focusing on the issue of compliance.”
The action is in response to the widespread revulsion being felt in response to exposes on the abhorrent nature of the shark fishery – fins are chopped off live sharks, and the beasts are then left to bleed to death, their carcasses sinking to the ocean floor.
Not only is this wasteful, but it’s cruel. On this, everyone on council agreed. In fact, we unanimously voted in favour of sending a letter to Ottawa asking the federal government to ban the importation of shark fins, whose primary use is in expensive soup favoured by the Chinese.
There was no unanimity on the motion to enact a local bylaw, however. Mayor Richard Stewart, Councillors Linda Reimer and Brent Asmundsen, and I spoke against the motion, largely because of two concerns we shared: That this is properly a federal matter; and that the action opens the door to countless other social-justice actions which are not properly in our mandate.
When it came time for the vote, however, Stewart, Reimer and Asmundsen did not raise their hands either in opposition or in favour of the motion, which left me as the only official opponent. So be it.
One of the points I made in my speech was that Councillor Mae Reid, the sponsor of the ban, often complains about downloading by senior governments of responsibilities onto the city. She invariably says cities need new ways to raises taxes to fund these new responsibilities.
It is ironic, then, that she’s now seeking new responsibilities that properly rest with senior levels of government – responsibilities that call for more expenditures, through compliance efforts, by the city government. Where once she opposed “downloading,” she is now in favour of its opposite – “up-grabbing” (a term I think I invented last night).
Also of note is the form of the motion itself. It doesn’t talk about exploring the issue, researching the facts, and confirming that these outrageous acts are actually taking place. No, unlike the simplest zoning bylaw amendment, for which we ask staff to present detailed background on everything from the impact on tree coverage and water drainage, to traffic congestion and noise, this motion seeks no information other than how it might be enforced. This just doesn’t seem right.
Moreover, the motion is rather contradictory. At first, it asserts that the city implement a ban on anything to do with shark fins, and then it asks that staff provide a report on how to proceed with such an initiative, especially how compliance might be achieved. But isn’t this rather like shooting first and asking question later?
I also suggested that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with using shark fins, and that, perhaps one day, shark fins can be “certified” by some international agency as having been obtained in a way that is neither inhumane nor wasteful. 
Another issue surrounding this has to involve the unfortunate precedent it sets. As I suggested in my Facebook posting last night, it opens the doors to countless other animal-welfare initiatives. Moreover, I have to wonder whether an even wider range of social-justice-type motions are now poised to be unleashed on us.  These might include a motion to ban the sale of iPads, iPods and iPhones, which some activists say should be shunned because of harsh working conditions at factories in China.
Or perhaps, we’ll boycott minerals from South America because of low wages paid to miners, or clothing from developing nations because of child labour, or products from Nestle because of a decades-long boycott campaign over its production of baby formula.
I’ve even heard of an international boycott on all global food conglomerates, including Nestle, Philip Morris and Unilever. Are we now poised to send the bylaw enforcement officers into Safeway, Save-On and the Real Canadian Superstore to purge these supermarkets are the products of these companies? I hope not, but the door is now wide open.
Let’s get one thing straight: the shark-fin fishery, as now constituted, is despicable. We humans are supposed to be good stewards of the environment and, at the very least, the shark-fin fishery is horribly wasteful.
That’s one of the reasons I called for the sending of the letter to Ottawa (a call which Councillor Reimer adroitly transformed into a formal motion) – a call to action that I am pleased council supported unanimously.
Shark image from tomorrowisgreener.com