"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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

In my books, the biggest city issue is....

City Council gave unanimous approval to the first readings of the 2017 budget bylaws this past Monday. The Tri-City News' coverage (most of which is not yet online) focused on our policies and usage of reserve funds. My focus, however, was on a more pressing issue. Here is the text of the speech I delivered.

Graphic: City of Coquitlam
The first readings of the budget bylaws are traditionally accompanied by statements from the mayor and councillors about the general state of affairs in the city and the specific level of such things as tax rates and municipal spending. The mayor has very adroitly covered all of this ground and more in his address.

And I want to declare now that I agree with him that the budget before us tonight is well worth supporting. I am especially pleased that, for the eighth consecutive year, the rate of increase has declined; this year it’s 2.17 per cent, the lowest in 25 years.

While there are parts of it with which I don’t agree, on the whole it strikes a commendable balance between, on one hand, provision of needed services and amenities, and, on the other, the sort of fiscal responsibility that our residents expect of council.

I am proud to be part of a council that takes its duty in this latter area seriously. Ours is a council that, unlike so many other political bodies, works hard to avoid political gamesmanship, posturing and pandering; instead, it really does focus on doing the best for the whole community – making decisions based on principle and strong policy, rather than on prejudice and political pressure. And that’s a very good thing.

I must point out, however, that, while having sound budget policies and practices is absolutely central to the work that we do here – and, moreover, that it is, in fact, the foundation upon which is built the entire edifice of services that the city provides – it actually isn’t the single, most pressing issue that concerns me…. and confronts us all.

The issue isn’t the tax rate; it isn’t the level of government services; it isn’t the numbers of workers on city payroll; it isn’t parks, arenas, tennis courts, artificial-turf fields or a museum; it isn’t laying more pipe and filling more potholes; it isn’t water quality, air pollution, or safe streets, either.

Those are all areas of importance. But, surely, the most pressing issue is one that affects us, literally, where we live. It’s housing affordability.

The measures that council has taken over the past few years --- and will, one hopes, continue to take in the years to come – will be a critical part of this council’s legacy.
This council has long stated that the primary responsibility for providing “deep affordability” rests with the two senior levels of government. Nevertheless, through adroit use of the city’s re-energized Housing Affordability Fund, the city is set to do its part in this crucial area. Especially noteworthy is our support of the Talitha Koum housing project.

To be clear, though, housing affordability has always been an issue for lower-income individuals and families. On the other hand, the now fully-emerged crisis that is upon us now is a more contemporary phenomenon – the large gap between what middle-income earners can afford and what the market demands they pay.

Consumers have had to adjust their expectations. Many looking for a single-family home have had to set their sights on a townhouses or condo. Those who might, in a more affordable market, be looking to buy a condo now might, instead, look to rent. And so it goes.

The single most important thing the city can do to assist those in the market is to facilitate the construction of new housing, whether it’s for sale or for rent.
That has certainly been a main focus of mine over the five years I have spent on council, and I am pleased to say that, in most cases, it is a focus that is shared by the majority of council. Whether it’s approving townhouse developments on Burke Mountain, Condo Towers in the city Centre, rental projects in Burquitlam, or subdivision of lands in Maillardville, this is a good thing.

Yes, amelioration of adverse community impacts must always remain a concern, but I believe our paramount responsibility in the face of an unprecedented crisis is – and must continue to be -- to keep a clear focus on making good land-use decisions that lead to the creation of more places that people, young or old, poor or rich, single or married, can call home.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Lafarge tour underlines scope of work, reveals surprises

Looking south across lower part of reclamation site.
The four-wheel-drive pickup truck works its way slowly up a steep, rocky road, as a group of Lafarge Canada executives and I tour the company's huge pit area off Pipeline Road in Coquitlam.

It's clear the landscape has been considerably altered by the decades-long extraction of gravel from the site, and that Lafarge's current reclamation project is a massive undertaking.

How massive? Costs for security alone, including a 24-hour-a-day, two-person crew, are $1.5-million a year. Overall costs are a company secret.

As we trundle up the rough road, Nick Leuzinger, Operations Manager, GVA Aggregates; Chen Mei, VP Aggregates, Greater Vancouver Aggregates Division; and Patrick Dobbyn, Land & Resource Manager (and the man who arranged this early-December tour), point to areas where work needs to be done: hillsides have to be stabilized to the extent that, ironically for a site from which thousands upon thousands of truckloads of aggregate were extracted, structural fill has to be trucked into the site.

Coincidental to my tour (which was sparked by the wrapping up of the Coquitlam River Aggregate Advisory Committee, which I had chaired), the company's request for a Conservation Permit, to facilitate its reclamation work, will be before Council on Monday, Dec. 5. Please click here to read the report.

Operating as Coquitlam Sand and Gravel, Lafarge Canada Inc. was, for many years, one of the major aggregate-industry operators along the Coquitlam River. However, after costs to operate the company's 37-hectare pit on Pipeline Road became too high due to the high level of fine sediments in the gravel deposits, the company decided to cease operations on the site.

Lafarge is now in the midst of a major reclamation project at the site, one whose goal is to stabilize the site and return it to a safe, natural state, removing all general structures and roads, disposing of fuels and other toxic materials, delineating the watershed and improving drainage, and instituting a re-vegetation plan.
Entrace to "hidden valley" of reclaimed main pit.
The company's plan is to complete the reclamation by 2018 and, after monitoring to ensure that the reclamation is successful, return the 87-hectare site to the Crown in 2021. After that, it may well become an attractive destination for hikers and mountain bikers. Views from the site to Burke Mountain (to the east) are spectacular, and the terrain -- natural and man-made alike -- is most interesting.*
Hillside of reclaimed main pit: Look closely to see four deer.

Of special note are two features. First is the new Mantle Creek watercourse that Lafarge is constructing. Designed to mimic natural flowing patterns, the new watercourse will be built to handle the most extreme rainfalls. Especially impressive are the extensive rock-works (aka rip-rap) and holding pond at the base of the new course.

Second is the Main Dig Site in the upper (southwest) corner of the site. Lafarge's extraction of millions of tonnes of material has created a massive, crater-shaped, amphitheatre-like valley which, now that it has been re-vegetated, is already home to a herd of rambunctious black-tailed deer.
At base of new Mantle Creek.
The only easy way to get into the valley is via a single roadway through a gap in the valley, which gives the visitor a rather dramatic and sudden view of this otherwise hidden gem.

One can imagine that, decades in the future, the valley will be a favourite destination for picnickers or maybe even the site of al-fresco concerts, with thousands of spectators lining the valley slopes.

For now, though, the entire site is off-limits to the public. Movie-goers will, however, have a chance to see some of the site's spectacular, steep and forested lands next summer when the latest Planet of the Apes instalment, War for the Planet of the Apes, is released; the production spent several months shooting on location this past summer, going so far as to build a fort at the top of a steep ravine that forms part of the future Mantle Creek watercourse.

*Long-term plans for the site are uncertain, as the property is outside Metro Vancouver's urban-containment boundary and, as such, is also not part of Coquitlam's Northwest Burke Visioning process.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Looking forward to new assignments

At the end of each year on Council, we decide among ourselves which Council members will sit on which committees and boards for the following year. Two of my long-time duties -- chair of the Coquitlam River Aggregate Advisory Committee and chair of the Evergreen Line Public Art Task Force -- have now ended because both bodies have completed their work, so I am looking forward to some new duties in 2017. Here's what I will be up to:
Metro Vancouver: New for 2017, I will be Mayor Richard Stewart's alternate on the Metro Board. I will also be a member of Metro's Performance and Audit Committee.
Culture Services Advisory Committee: I will continue to sit on the committee for the sixth consecutive year, but will be moving to the vice-chair position, with Councillor Towner taking over the chair.
Multiculturalism Advisory Committee: Continuing for third consecutive year as vice-chair, with Councillor Brent Asmundson continuing as chair.
Sustainability and Environmental Advisory Committee: A new responsibility for me, as I will be chairing the committee, with Councillor Chris Wilson as vice-chair.
Thanks to my Council colleagues for supporting me on the above!
As well, I will be continuing as the Mayor's Designate (City Rep) on the board of the Coquitlam Foundation.
Please click here to see the full list of committee, board, panel, partnership, roundtable, and task-group appointments.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Budget plan, pen in hand

Every autumn, Council sits through several days of meetings dealing with the city budget for the next year. I must admit that my mind occasionally wanders, which this past month led, not to doodles, but to a poem. Enjoy! ("P&D" = "Planning and Development"; "PRC" = "Parks, Recreation and Culture").

Paradise Cost

From P and D to PRC
And all things in between,
Our GMs point to future work--
The planned and not foreseen.

Coquitlam looks to jobs ahead,
The projects pushed to max.
As always, though, the big concern
Is final hit on tax.

To balance wants with actu'l needs--
Which voters' have to pay--
'Tis thus a job of great import
On which we work this day.

So talk away and please don't stop
Til figures do display.
Then decide, we must, on budget plan
That won't cause much dismay!

    Dedicated to Sheena MacLeod, retiring GM of Finance

And, yes, we finally wrapped up our budget deliberations this past Tuesday. I am hopeful the result "won't cause much dismay."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

'Our protection is in our fraternity'

With the worrisome turn of events in the U.S., it was great to see a recent newspaper story describing Prime Minister Trudeau's defence of open, cross-border trading between nations.
If only the president-elect of our neighbour to the south had the same sentiments as does Trudeau -- and, for that matter, as did the 29th President of the U.S., Warren G. Harding, whose words in celebration of the unique relationship between Canada and the U.S. are engraved on a monument in Stanley Park (near Malkin Bowl).
I stumbled upon the monument this past weekend and transcribed Harding's words, which were among his last public pronouncements, as he died the following week in San Francisco. Here is what he told an estimated 50,000 of Vancouverites in 1923:
"What an object lesson of peace is shown today by our two countries to all the world. No grim-faced fortifications mark our frontiers, no huge battleships patrol our dividing waters, no steal-thy spies lurk in our tranquil border hamlets. Only a scrap of paper, recording hardly more than a simple understanding, safeguards lives and properties on the Great Lakes, and only humble mileposts mark the inviolable boundary line for thousands of miles through farm and forest.
"Our protection is in our fraternity, our armour is our faith. The tie that binds more firmly year by year is ever-increasing acquaintance and comradeship through interchange of citizens and the compact, not of perishable parchment, but of fair and honorable dealing which, God grant, shall continue for all time."

To learn more about Harding's visit to Vancouver and his speech, please see:http://www.vancouverhistory.ca/archives_harding.htm. And here's a link to the story about Trudeau's defence of open trade:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/…/trudeau-ap…/article32947380

Our curling decision made for wider benefit of the community

This past Monday, I was part of a solid majority* of Coquitlam Council members who voted in favour of a series of recommendations from our Parks, Recreation and Culture Department that, foremost among many measures, will see the amalgamation of Coquitlam curling with the Port Moody club. Here is part of the speech I made in explanation of my decision:

A large audience that attended Council on Monday.
I want to thank the scores of curlers and hockey families who contacted me, both in person and by email, to let me know about their opinions on the plan before us tonight. Thank you. Thank you because those contacts certainly demonstrated to me that there are many people in Coquitlam who are passionate about sport, and want – as I do --  to see it grow and thrive.
As well, the volume of communication certainly underlines the importance of the decision we will make tonight – a decision that must be made not just for the benefit of curlers and skaters but also for the benefit of the wider community to whom council is ultimately responsible.
Also noteworthy is the fact that the curling-amalgamation plan has developed into the Number-One issue of the year. This certainly speaks to the high level of well-being we have in this community. We are extremely fortunate to live in a place where the sort of problems that ravage so many other parts of the world simply don’t exist. This gives us the luxury to spend time and effort on things like our sport and recreation policies.
This is not to diminish the passion and interest that the curling community has shown over the past several weeks, but I mention this in order to more properly frame the issue—an issue which is ultimately about how best and how fairly to allocate resources among a prosperous populace.
It was the great Irish statesman and orator Edmund Burke (after whom Burke Mountain is named) who said, “All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.” I think he’s correct. And, in the final analysis, the decision, on how to allocate ice-rink resources by facilitating the merger of Coquitlam curling with Port Moody curling, centres on this concept of compromise.
It’s important to note that this concept carries within its meaning the idea of cooperation, and of give-and-take. Of course, we don’t compromise our principles. They are resolute. But we should always be prepared to re-evaluate our policies and practices in the light of new information and changing circumstances.
And, as I’m confident that those of us who have been involved in successful negotiations have learned, a spirit of generosity or even magnanimity can be key to success.
And so, with all this in mind, I will cast my vote tonight for what I think will be best for curling and hockey, to ensure that they remain strong and vital activities in our community -- and that curling, especially, has the critical mass needed to propel it well into the future. I will also cast my vote for what I think is best for all our city’s residents, to whom we on council are responsible, and from whom we receive the charge to make the best use of their hard-earned tax dollars.
My vote will also show that I support co-operation between communities, economical use of scarce resources, and fiscal prudence, while at the same time setting a path that, I am confident, will help build a better Coquitlam.

*Council considered four motions; votes on some were 7-2 in favour, and on others were 8-1 in favour. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Property-tax boost for transit?

I was a reluctant supporter of the transit referendum last year. Reluctantly in favour, not because I was a big fan of the sale-tax increase proposed by the referendum, but because I was afraid if the proposal failed, there would be pressure to increase property taxes to fund the transit improvements. And, given that there is little relation between one's ability to shoulder tax increases and the value of one's home (the value upon which property taxes are levied), I definitely oppose piling this sort of thing onto the backs of homeowners. Yet, here's the news that I feared we would inevitably see. Yes, it's a small increase, but I fear that this proposal may set a precedent.

Metro Vancouver mayors support property tax increase to fund transportation plan

Vancouver, BC, Canada / News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver's News. Vancouver's Talk

Despite firm rejections in the past, Metro Vancouver mayors are supporting property tax increases as a way to pay for transit improvements.
A property tax increase of $3 per year, a transit fare increase of two to three per cent per year for three years, a fee for new developments, and selling off surplus Translink property.
That’s how Metro Vancouver mayors want to raise the regional share of funding for its 10-year transit and transportation plan.
Mayors voted almost unanimously to move forward with its draft investment plan for phase one.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who was formally opposed to a property tax increase, is asked why he changed his mind.
“Well I think in this case it’s a very small property tax increase relative to the overall investment, and we are seeing a massive investment from the federal government. We are seeing signifcant dollars and hopefully more coming from the BC government.”
It includes a 10 per cent increase to bus service, 50 new SkyTrain cars, five new West Coast Express Cars and a new SeaBus.
The plan now goes to the public for feedback before a final decision is made in November.

View image on Twitter

Friday, July 22, 2016

Some context, please, Mr. Horgan

Housing affordability and its associated issues, including "demo-victions," comprise one of the most pressing economic and social issues in the Lower Mainland. Little wonder, then, that the opposition New Democrats have mounted a campaign for more government action on the problem.
BlueSky's proposed development on Foster, east of Clarke.
It might help their cause, however, if they picked a more suitable example of demo-viction malfeasance than the one they highlighted in Coquitlam earlier this week.
In fact, the example they showcased, the big BlueSky Properties Inc. development on Foster Ave. in Burquitlam, could and should be held up, not as a dramatic example of corporate greed and provincial government inaction, but as a heartening example of corporate responsibility, successful community engagement, and enlightened municipal policy.
Here's the story.
As part of its housing-affordability campaign, the New Democrats staged a press conference earlier this week against the backdrop of the aging apartments in Coquitlam that will be demolished to make way for the BlueSky development at North Road and Foster Avenue.
Supported by NDP MLA Selina Robinson and one-time NDP candidate and current Coquitlam Councillor Chris Wilson*, NDP leader John Horgan pointed out that the apartments are slated for demolition to make way for condo towers that are coming as part of the densification of Burquitlam now happening in anticipation of the arrival of the Evergreen Line early next year.
With reportedly scant reference to the specific details of the BlueSky redevelopment, Mr. Horgan declared, "People and families are scrambling to find affordable rental housing here in Coquitlam and across the Lower Mainland, and they aren't getting any leadership from Christy Clark. People want to know why the Christy Clark government has not acted to protect renters and increase the number of rental homes in this overheated property market."
Fair enough comment on the provincial level. But, on the municipal level, the suggestion that old rental buildings are demolished with little regard for the future of the tenants is completely off base.
In fact, the BlueSky development is notable for the developer's care and attention to ensure that the renters in the existing 112 units are cared for. The company's commitment to this was so thorough that the development proposal won the support of both the Burquitlam Community Association and the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group.
The 873-unit project will eventually comprise three condo towers boasting 816 for-sale units (many of which will, of course, be put on the rental market) and a purpose-building, five-storey, 57-unit rental building, in which rents will be similar to the rents in the existing complex. (Please click here to read the full Coquitlam staff report on the project.)
Furthermore, with Coquitlam's Transit-Oriented Development Strategy and (then-old but since-updated) Housing Affordablity Strategy guiding them, city officials worked with BlueSky to ensure that several other important steps were taken to assist in the relocation of the existing renters who would not find space in the new rental building or one of the condos. The company:

  • Hired an on-site rental relocation coordinator.
  • Instituted ongoing communication and meetings with tenants, including relocation information.
  • Provided tenants with a six-month eviction notice, rather than the provincially required two months.
  • Promised to waive multiple months' rent, rather than the one-month required by law. Two months' rent would be waved if the tenant relocates within four months of receiving notice; three months' waved if relocation takes place between four and six months after notice is served.
  • Offered any tenant or member of their immediate family the opportunity to purchase a unit within the BlueSky, or any Bosa Properties development, with 12 months' worth of rent going towards the down-payment on their new home.

The press release accompanying Mr. Horgan's news conference said he believes, "fair tenant relocation policies are needed, and the province should lead. Standards for requiring relocation plans for tenants and replacing demolished units need to be in place around the province, not just in some communities."
Fair enough.
But it would have been infinitely more informative (if somewhat less dramatic) for him to have pointed out that the "fair tenant relocation policies" he is calling for already exist in the very community in which he chose to voice his concerns.

(*Unlike Mr. Horgan, Mr. Wilson provided some contextual background to at least one news outlet, as evidenced by this story.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Just say 'no' to prejudiced hirings & appointments

Progress since 'secretarial pools.' (women2.com)
Today's Sun carries a front-page story about Vision Vancouver's desire to impose a gender-equity quota on the city's advisory committees. I don't usually comment on another city's policies, but since this idea and its sister idea -- employment quotas -- have the potential to spread to other cities, including Coquitlam, I think it's important to say clearly and as soon as possible that I don't believe this is a good direction. Let me explain.
My first response is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And, since no evidence has been presented – and, moreover, I don’t see any evidence of my own -- that the administration of the city or the workings of its advisory committees, is hobbled by present recruitment (and hiring practices), I see no need of change.
I believe in equality of opportunity, not of outcome.  And, if we set quotas for women, then why not any of a number of other categories, from visible minorities, religions and IN-visible ethnic groups, to age classifications, gender orientations, and levels of physical ability. What a menacing melange of criteria that would be!
I believe in merit, not quotas. Consider the current situation in Coquitlam: the Evergreen Line Public Art Task Force and the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee (both of which I chair) are composed overwhelmingly of women. Since, a "fair" gender quota would have to apply both ways (and if not, what a travesty of inequity that would be!), it would thus deny many qualified women the opportunity to serve.
Instead of gender quotas in committees and employment, I believe in a system:
*Where employees and appointees will have the certainty that they earned their position because of their talents, and were not handed it because of an intrinsically-biased criterion.
*Where employees will have the opportunity to grow in experience and confidence, earning the respect of their fellow employees, who, in a gender-quota system, might otherwise conclude that their new colleague did not earn the job on merit.
And, anyway, who are we to tell women what they should want -- what levels of involvement and employment they should seek? The big, bad old patriarchy used to preach that. Let’s allow women to choose freely, and not dictate outcomes that aren’t supported by free choice in their area of interest.
More broadly, I support a society in which we view someone, not through the narrow lens of the nature of their sexual organs, but through a wider lens that considers their whole person.
Let’s embrace the current system instead of a system, which, when enacted at the federal-cabinet level recently, was justified by the prime minister’s dismissive invocation of the year in which we live.
So what does living in 2016 actually mean? Unconsciously or consciously, most of us equate the advance of the years with progress.
But I can’t see how an embrace of employment or appointment prejudice – that is, judging someone’s suitability for a position on the basis of their sex -- can be seen as progress.
Let us not look backward; let’s move forward with a re-affirmed commitment, not to empty and harmful prejudice, but to excellence in city government.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Much-needed playground upgrades coming soon

The news, made public at last Monday's Council-in-Committee meeting, that Tanglewood and Hampton Park playgrounds would have their equipment replaced this year, at a cost of $50,000 and $25,000 respectively, was certainly long-awaited and much-appreciated.

These photos, which I took last weekend, show the sorry state of repair into which Tanglewood, for one, had fallen. I am sure the neighbourhood will be very pleased to learn of the coming upgrade.
You can view the full report on Parks Infrastructure by clicking here.  That report also has some exciting graphics showing the design concepts for the new playground at Como Lake.

As well, you can find additional photos of from Tanglewood and Hampton.

Looks like our parks crew will have a busy spring and summer (as usual)!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A rare award to honour a remarkable man

Consul-General Fluery and Mr. Cumbers with colour guard.
It was with the greatest appreciation that I attended a remarkable ceremony this morning, during which Coquitlam's John (Doc) Cumbers received France's highest honour, the Knight of French National Order of the Legion of Honour. Presenting the medal was France's Consul General in Vancouver, Jean-Christophe Fleury (the text of whose stirring speech is reproduced in full, below).
The ceremony took place at the RCMP's Coquitlam Detachment headquarters next to Coquitlam City Hall in recognition of the fact that Mr. Cumbers is still active in the community as a volunteer at the RCMP's Ridgeway Avenue community office.
According to those in the know, the Legion of honour is the highest national order of Frances and illustrates the country's profound gratitude towards its recipients. "It is awarded in recognition of personal involvement in the liberation of France" during the Second World War.
Sergeant "Doc" Cumbers was a tail gunner with the Royal Canadian Air Force, and is described in historical archives as "a most resolute and gallant air gunner." (After the war, he served in the Canadian Navy, as well.)
The archives continue: "He has taken part in very many sorties and has played a worthy part in the successes obtained. On a recent occasion, when returning from an operaton against Villeneuve-St. Georges, his aircraft was attacked by a fighter. As the attacker closed in, Flight Sergeant Cumbers delivered a burst of fire which struck the enemy aircraft, setting it on fire. His coolness and determination were charactertice of tht which he has shown throughout his tour of operational duty."
Here is the text of Consul-General Fleury's speech:

The medal moment.
Dear President of the Legion,
Soon to be Honored Veteran, their family and friends, Distinguished guests:
It is a real pleasure for me to be given the opportunity to present an award to John CUMBERS today. 2014 marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, and for this occasion, the French government has organized a series of events that have taken place in France.
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and three provincial Premiers have travelled to Normandy and were officially received by our President, Fran├žois Hollande.
To celebrate this anniversary, the French government has decided to bestow awards upon some of the living Canadian veterans who participated in D-Day operations.
The Legion d’Honneur is the highest decoration that France can bestow and, as such, it is equivalent to the Order of Canada.
The law that brought the Legion of Honour and its governing organization into effect was passed in the Legislative Assembly on May 19th, 1802, during the reign of Napoleon. It rewards the outstanding merits of individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their respective social, economic, hereditary or even national backgrounds.
A number of prominent Canadians have been awarded the Legion of Honour, such as: Former Governor General Michaelle Jean, Prime Minister William McKenzie King, Rear Admiral Leonard Murray (Commander in Chief of Canadian Northwest Atlantic), former Premier Jean Charest.
There used to be 20 of them, and by the end of the year, there will be over 1,000.
To the best of our knowledge, there are more Canadian D-Day veterans still living in Canada, but what is happening now is part of a truly unprecedented two-year process. This process required a lot of human resources.
And it would not have been possible without the support of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs in Ottawa.
The French President signed all the decrees to have the Legion of Honour awarded to 1,000 D-Day veterans, some of whom are living in BC. The campaign is now closed as our human resources do not allow us to continue this very lengthy process.

Now that I have explained the procedure, let me say a few words about the meaning behind all of this.
The destiny of all of us is to leave this world. But there is no rule in this universe that says that a human being should be deprived of his or her freedom.
It’s good sometimes to come back to the basics so let me quote the very beginning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Whereas disregard for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people, the United Nations proclaimed that (…)
Art1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”.
Many people in this world made the ultimate sacrifice to allow their friends and relatives to remain unchained.
This is the sacrifice that more than 45,000 Canadians made during the Second World War.
The D-Day was this very first step that enabled liberty, justice and human dignity to break through. Canadian soldiers were on the front line, and it is with extraordinary bravery and sacrifice that they landed on Normandy beaches that brought peace to the continent.

As a young man John, you left your family and home to cross the Atlantic and participate to the some of the fiercest battles in modern history, on a foreign soil, far away from your country, to help the people of Europe to free themselves from the terror and tyranny. Your accomplishments during the Second World War are a vibrant reminder of the profound and historic friendship that binds France and Canada. Our two countries owe each other their very existence as free nations and this indeed creates a special relationship.
The French people will never forget the act of bravery that accomplished Canadian soldiers during Normandy Landing to help restore our freedom.

Sadly, if I may say so, this fight for freedom is not over: I think you are aware that more than 200 innocent people were killed in France last November after 17 journalists, cartoonist and Jews have been killed in Paris before because of their belief and because they exercised their freedom of expression. Similar events then happened in Danemark and elsewhere in the world.

Your Premier Christy Clark wrote this to us:

“For centuries, France has been a beacon of light and example for the world, and remains one of our closest friends and allies. Tonight, all Canadians stand with them, both in grief for those who were killed, but also in resolve. Those who commit such acts of violence want to change us, and our shared values. They will fail. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and with security personnel who put their lives at risk to keep others safe. Vive la France.”

Once again, Canada is on the side of France, and once again, I owe you all my gratitude. Therefore, thank you Canada for being on the side of France against the Islamic State in Iraq. And if I may add: Thank you Canada for being on the side of the freedom in Ukraine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Michael Moriarty at the Coquitlam Grill

A very familiar man walked into the Coquitlam Grill just before noon today. It took me but a second to recognize him as Tony-Award-winning actor Michael Moriarty, former star of stage, screen and television, the latter medium providing him his most enduring success in the role of District Attorney Ben Stone in the original cast of Law and Order.
Here is the text of a story I wrote about him for the Western Standard several years ago: 

Actor Moriarty

Michael Moriarty’s reputation precedes him as he shuffles through a standing-room-only audience at a Vancouver nightclub. Moriarty, who appeared in such films as Bang the Drum Slowly and The Last Detail before rocketing to fame in the early 1990s as assistant district attorney Ben Stone in the Law and Order television series, is today more famous for his turbulent personal life than for his once-considerable dramatic skills. Indeed, it has not been his acting, but his boozing and multiple court appearances—both as accused and victim—that have kept the lanky American actor in the public eye for most of the decade or so he has lived in Canada, the last five in the Vancouver suburb of Maple Ridge.

On this balmy mid-summer’s evening, however, Moriarty is playing neither drunk nor brawler. Instead, having sworn off booze, specifically red wine, a year and a half ago, a thoroughly sober Moriarty takes a seat behind a piano and starts to play some jazz. He’s very good. He blends his music—standards and original compositions—beautifully with that of his two sidemen; his face brightens as the audience erupts in applause after a particularly deft solo. It’s no wonder the trio is working on a new CD.

It’s not the big screen or the Broadway stage, but it’s just about all Moriarty has these days—that, a Screen Actors Guild pension, some residuals, and a knot of close friends, including his manager-cum-common-law wife, Margie Brychka, whom he met in a bar in Surrey, B.C., and Hollywood icon Burt Reynolds, both of whom are in the audience this night. In fact, Reynolds eventually joins Moriarty in singing a duet of “Ain’t Misbehavin’”

In an earlier interview, the 64-year-old Moriarty recognizes that his Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning days are behind him. The permanent, booze-induced slur that muddies his once-crisp voice has seen to that. He also uses a cane to walk. And the boyish good looks that helped win him so many top roles have now abandoned him. But he insists his mind is sharper than ever and that he still has one more big role to play. “I’ve got to complete my run for the presidency,” he declares. You heard that right. Michael Moriarty wants to act out his final, great, real-life role at centre stage in the Oval Office. He wants to be President of the United State of America. Really.

Moriarty also thought about running for the presidency back in 1994. That was the year he left Law and Order following a meeting with then attorney-general Janet Reno. He alleged he was dismissed after he threatened to sue Reno, whom he accused of trying to censor the show. But he has said the departure had at least one positive effect: it transformed him from a liberal into a conservative. He soon resettled in New Brunswick (a woman, who became his third wife, drew him to Canada) and publicly mused about running for the leadership of the old Reform Party of Canada. Nothing ever came of it. This time, however, he says he means business. His strategy will be to get on the ballot in the state of Florida, where he aims to garner five percent of the vote—enough to give him some leverage to make a difference in what has, for the last two elections at least, been a tightly-contested state.

But while he says he has opened an office in the state, Moriarty suggests his campaign, which will be run under the banner of “Realists 2008,” is as much poetic pie-in-the-sky as political reality. In fact, asked about his campaign’s infrastructure, he says he will organize his bid with the help of “divine intervention and a very proven skill at capitalizing on the authentic arrival of angels.” He also admits he hasn’t raised any money yet, and has just a handful of supporters, only one of whom is actually qualified to vote.

Nevertheless, he likens his candidacy to something in between the quixotic campaigns of the late comedian Pat Paulsen, who ran for the presidency five times, and the more serious efforts of consumer activist Ralph Nader, who ran twice for the Green Party. Unlike Paulsen, however, Moriarty has some serious policies, a fact that becomes apparent as he spells out his unique political beliefs in a long, oft-times disjointed but nevertheless compelling soliloquy at a Vancouver restaurant.

Moriarty announced his candidacy in May on the conservative Web site Enter Stage Right (www.enterstageright.com). He has stated that his primary goals in running for the presidency are to reduce the power of the U.S. Supreme Court; to overturn that court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion; and to take the U.S. out of the United Nations. In his interview with the Western Standard, it became clear that Moriarty’s beliefs spring from a deep conviction that collectivism in all its forms is evil. In fact, he suggests that the modern world is a vast battleground between communist and individualist philosophies.

In between alternating sips on a coffee and Diet Coke, and drags on his Export A cigarette, Moriarty’s ideas arc out like sparks: sometimes brilliant, sometimes distracting, sometimes irritating. Here’s one of his typical insights: Pierre Trudeau was the diabolic mastermind who first fused communism and capitalism though “dialectic materialism.” This fusion, he once wrote, is related to “the slow and barely discernible transformation of [the] American Republic into a socialist federation.”

There’s more: Bill Clinton is a Marxist and Hillary Clinton is a Leninist, under whose direction “the feminist arm” of her husband’s “third way” presidency “literally expropriated the Supreme Court.” On terrorism: “Big picture on terrorism, all of it—Jerry Adams is not an Irish Catholic. Yasser Arafat was not a Palestinian. Osama bin Laden was not Islamic. They are communist, agent Leninist provocateurs. This idea [communism] will not work without terrorism.”

On why anti-abortion activists should not despair: “Sir, sir, the anti-slavery movement was just as lost….But, in the end, God, reality, put Lincoln into the Oval Office, the way God put Ronald Reagan into the Oval Office.” On why the UN headquarters should not be in New York: “No, it should be in Paris. And I’ll order it. If Reagan can order Moscow to tear down that wall, I can order the United Nations to move it back to Paris, tear down [Napoleon’s] vainglorious tribute to himself, the Arc de Triomphe, and put Napoleon’s real achievement [there], which is the United Nations.”

On whether he is still a practising Catholic. “No, no. I pray all the time in my own inimitable way. My Christ is not your Christ or anybody else’s Christ. And in the end, we come into an intimate association with Our Lord. Our Lord shapes himself to you, not the other way around. Now, there are certain basic Christian fundamentals. Golden Rule. Honoring our father.” His mouthing the word “father” immediately throws his thoughts into a new direction. Without so much as a one-word segue, he declares, “The situation where the Church of the United Nations, they’ve told us, with the help of the environmentalists, that there is no male divine principle in the universe. Mother Earth impregnated herself.”

His speech impediment doesn’t make it any easier to follow any of this, and neither does his southern-gentleman’s accent, which catches the interviewer by surprise, given the fact Moriarty grew up in Detroit and was educated in the northeast U.S.  What’s with the drawl, then? “Since I came to Canada, and its increasing anti-Americanism,” he explains, “I get more and more southern American, because that’s the most identifiable American accent, it’s southern.” So he does it on purpose, then? “I am not going to be made ashamed of being an American,” he continues. “And for me to try to hide it, and don politically correct Canadianese, I ain’t going to do it.”

The interview ends with Moriarty taking a drag from his cigarette and once again denouncing Janet Reno. Maybe he’ll finally get his revenge when he becomes president.

(Photo from www.pbs.twing.com)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kwikwetlem formally claim Riverview, Colony Farm

You might have heard or read that the Kwikwetlem First Nation has, this week, formally claimed a portion of southeast Coquitlam. The KFN announced last summer that it intended to claim the Riverview lands, and now it has followed that up with a formal claim, filed with the Supreme Court, for Riverview, Colony Farm and other associated areas.
I don't plan on commenting on the claim, but I thought it would be useful to share the exact text of what the KFN is saying about its claim. So, here is its press release:

Kwikwetlem First Nation title case aims for fair relationship

VANCOUVER, Feb. 9, 2016 /CNW/ - Today, Kwikwetlem First Nation (KFN) filed an Aboriginal title and rights and Charter claim with the Supreme Court.
KFN has filed this claim as a part of KFN's continuing efforts to ensure its title and rights over key areas in its traditional territory are properly recognized and protected.
KFN is a small community, with a traditional territory based around the watershed of the Coquitlam River. KFN's traditional territory has seen significant development over many years, which is expected to continue.
"Our community has worked hard to be consulted and meaningfully involved in decisions about the planning and management of our land for years," said KFN Chief Ron Giesbrecht. "Although governments have taken some steps to involve us in making decisions about how our lands will be used, we do not feel our title and rights interests are being taken seriously. Given there are limited processes for resolving Aboriginal land claims for a small Nation like ours, this claim is the next logical step."
The claimed title areas in the case filed today amounts to less than 1% of Kwikwetlem's core territory, and includes the following lands, and their surrounding areas:
  • Colony Farm Forensic Psychiatric Institute Lands. The Province of BC is the fee simple owner of this area, and it is managed by Shared Services (previously administered by the British Columbia Buildings Corporation).
  • Colony Farm Regional Park. The Greater Vancouver Regional District operating as Metro Vancouver - is the registered owner of this area.
  • Riverview Hospital Lands. The Provincial Rental Housing Corporation is the fee simple of this areas. It is managed by the British Columbia Housing Management Commission.
KFN believes that the case will help to ensure it is meaningfully involved in decisions made about its lands, a process highlighted by the Supreme Court of Canada, which called for a consent-based decision model in its 2014 Tsilhqot'in decision.  Chief Giesbrecht stated: "We hope that the government will follow the advice of the Supreme Court of Canada and negotiate a fair and respectful resolution to our claim, which will allow us to build a strong future for our community."
Support from other organizations
BCAFN Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson
"Our First Nations have always hoped by supporting a meaningful consultations, that it will build a bridge of understanding towards reconciliation and partnership. Our Aboriginal title and rights should be respected and the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations supports Kwikwetlem First Nation and urge BC Government to build a relationship that benefits true reconciliation." 
President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
"I applaud Kwikwetlem First Nation's declaration of their inherent Title and for protecting their Rights. It is vitally important for KFN to be truly involved in the management of their territory not as an interested stakeholder but as respected Title holders. The BC Government can no longer pretend KFN Title does not exist nor treat our inherent constitutionally-protected and judicially-recognized Aboriginal Title and Rights as an inconvenient checkbox of doing business in our respective territories."
SOURCE Kwikwetlem First Nation

For further information: Media contacts, CopperMoon Communications, Laura Taylor, laura@coppermoon.ca, 604 336 8771; Richard Truman, richard@coppermoon.ca, 778 929 1662

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Let B.C. info be more completely free

The B.C. government has struck a special committee to review the province's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The public has been invited to submit its input into the review, and so I've taken advantage of the invitation and have just submitted my thoughts, which I've reproduced below. If you are also interested in the subject, the deadline for submission is the end of this week--January. 29, 2016. Click here to access the committee's webpage, which has all the information on how to submit.

My submission:

Summary: To adhere to both the spirit of the freedom-of-information movement and the stated intent of the B.C. FOI legislation, Section 22.1 of the Act should eliminated.

Detailed submission: Triple-deleting of emails, lengthy delays in responding to requests, redacted information dealing with finances and a general reluctance to share information: these are the sorts of provincial-government actions and attitudes that have sparked the most public concern during the current statutory review of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
All such concerns seem to be legitimate and need to be addressed. But there’s at least one more outstanding issue that, if left unrectified, can only lead the public to conclude that the provincial commitment to freedom of information is an illusion. I will detail this in a moment.
First, though, a reflection on the importance of freedom of information (FOI). We in the democratic West take it as a given that FOI is an absolute “good,” both in principle (as an integral part of a free society) and in practice (as a necessary way for the public and politicians to obtain the information to make good decisions).
Indeed, this belief is now widespread among advanced nations. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, for example, has declared, “The free flow of information and ideas lies at the heart of the very notion of democracy and is crucial to effective respect for human rights.”
But, of course, this understanding has not always been widespread. And, alas, it is not a value to which many current governments subscribe.
The enactment of B.C.’s FOI law was a long-awaited and much-celebrated fulfillment of the aspirations of those who believe transparency in government, as manifested by a citizen’s right to have free access to government records (as long as such records do not trample on the privacy rights of other citizens), is integral to a more-democratic government.
Such a noble sentiment arose in the West at a time of great intellectual growth. Consider these words: “The freedom of a nation cannot be upheld by laws alone, but also by the light of the nation and knowledge of their use.” They were written in 1763 by Anders Chydenius, an Enlightenment thinker and politician whose work helped inspire the first freedom of information law, in Sweden and Finland in 1766.( www.freedominfo.org.)
Two hundred years later, John F. Kennedy observed, “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is afraid of its people.”
Yet, British Columbia’s FOI law has, since 2001, contained a censorious and anti-democratic provision that seems to embody President Kennedy’s dark vision of a nation afraid of its people. I refer to Section 22.1, “Disclosure of information relating to abortion services.”
Under this section, the law makes it illegal for “The head of a public body…to disclose to an applicant information that relates to the provision of abortion services.” The effect of this provision is to make it illegal for authorities to disclose information about the number and type of abortions being performed in the province, even though these abortions are funded by the public and often take place in public facilities.
One might appreciate the value of this section if and only if it prevented the release of personal information that would best be left private. But this is not the case. Indeed, no one is suggesting that personal information would be ever divulged.
Rather, the section was made law simply to stifle the free flow of information about a legal, taxpayer-funded procedure which was and remains the subject of legal, medical and moral controversy in the community.
This is certainly contrary to the purpose of B.C.’s FOI act, which is “to make public bodies more accountable to the public” and to give “the public a right of access to records” while also protecting privacy.
The censoring of such information has the deleterious effect of limiting informed public discussion on such important, specific subjects as sex-selection abortions (usually of females), late-term abortions, and abortions based on the results of medical or genetic tests.
Further, any informed discussion and debate on the larger and more general subject of the provision of abortion services is also strangled by the censoring of this information.
Therefore, I would urge the committee to recommend the lifting of the abortion-information ban; this is a simple matter that can and should be enacted by amending the legislation to eliminate Section 22.1.