CALGARY, Alta. Aug. 21, 2016/ Troy Media/ – One of the great sources of amusement in visiting Vancouver is once again to be reminded that it is no longer the place where I went to school and was a happy UBC undergraduate.
To a commonsensical Albertan, B.C. was always a bit eccentric. For example, when deer wander from Stanley Park onto the mean streets of the city and get smacked by a car, the park board undertakes obsequies regarding their “tragic passing.”
Even stranger, instead of being a source of moderation, today the mayor of Vancouver incarnates the epicentre of its weirdness.
Under the leadership of Mayor Greg (now Gregor) Robertson, the City of Vancouver has encouraged restaurants to install more communal tables. Following the recommendations of the 22-person Engaged City Task Force, Robertson says Vancouverites need to get more “engaged.”
Why? Well, according to the report, rising sea levels and the looming Big One will ensure disaster if the locals are unable to “engage” with one another. Dining with strangers will address the engagement deficit.
Bike lanes without number afflict the city. Cars are clearly unwelcome. To help ensure fewer cars, Vancouver has increased the price of parking permits in the West End from $80 a year to $700. There are 16,000 vehicles registered in that part of the city and 22,000 private off-street spaces. In response, Mayor Robertson supports a city-subsidized bike-rental program.
In addition to pledging to make Vancouver the greenest city on the planet, Robertson also seeks to rid it of homelessness. This is not connected to the notorious 15 per cent additional tax that offshore property purchasers have to shell out, but a measure to ensure the indigent population mainly living in the Downtown Eastside are out of the rain.
For many years the Portland Hotel Society, named for a landmark short- and long-term residential hotel, was at the forefront of providing space to the homeless. After receiving more than $20 million in government funding, the society spent a handsome sum sending the co-executive directors, married to one another, on a pleasant cruise down the Danube, along with a trip to Disneyland and a relaxing time at the Plaza Hotel in New York.
On the green front, under Robertson’s gavel, I am pleased to report that Vancouver beaches are less polluted with e-coli this summer than last year and the year before when both English Bay and West Van were closed to swimmers. Unfortunately, party-pooper hotels still provide visitors with “no swimming” advisories and instruct visitors to check the bacteria count.
Robertson’s main pseudo-achievement to date is saying “no” to the expansion of Kinder-Morgan’s pipeline to Burnaby: “There’s nothing the company can do to make this acceptable to the West Coast.”
He also opposes building new coal export infrastructure in the Port of Vancouver. Coal has been transported through this port for a century. He was joined in his opposition to Kinder-Morgan by the mayor of Burnaby, Derek Corrigan. Kinder-Morgan has been operating in Burnaby for 60 years.
Neither of these self-promoting municipal politicians mentions that shipping resources through the port supports nearly 100,000 jobs and $6 billion in earnings. They don’t care. They have a higher calling.
More recently, Mayor Greg, a graduate of Colorado College – full disclosure, I have taught there and think CC is a great place – played the anti-American card. Kinder-Morgan is not a major contributor to the B.C. and Canadian economy, but “a Texas oil empire,” self-evidently a bad thing.
Calgarians may have their doubts about Mayor Naheed Nenshi, but for the most part – and bike paths aside – he is still in touch with reality.
Barry Cooper teaches political science at the University of Calgary.
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