Appeared in North Shore News – August 20, 2010
More summer smiles, silliness and sobriety:
I trust every North Shorean read Peter Oates’s intelligent and soberingly candid Aug. 7 letter to the editor in The Vancouver Sun, refuting the gospel according to B.C.’s big business interests concerning the Harmonized Sales Tax.
Oates is owner/operator of Carmelo’s, one of West Vancouver’s top restaurants. He responded to a smug opinion piece by Jock Finlayson, a very decent man possibly shoved by a forked stick in his Business Council of B.C. role to act as blocker for Premier Gordon Campbell on the HST.
B.C. Chamber of Commerce president John Winter is also a very nice man — his son and mine played baseball together — and he too is running interference as surrogate for the premier, explaining that the business community’s last-minute lunge to stop the anti-HST petition was simply due to that disparate community’s disorganization. Sort of like the B.C. Lions.
The HST issue moved to the Supreme Court of B.C. Monday, and, courts moving at their own majestic pace, a ruling may take weeks or months. Whatever the result, six business groups support the tax, and they will be punished with Campbell in the court of public opinion.
Back to Finlayson’s piece. The headline said it all: “After a month of HST, the sky hasn’t fallen.”
Oates advised him that it was doing so. Finlayson apparently is standing under an undetachably secure part of the sky. Carmelo’s gross last month was the worst July Oates has experienced, $5,000 less than the previous worst July, in 2003.
Interestingly, his restaurant has proven something of an economic bellwether: Business fell two months before the recession, and rose two months “before the all-clear was sounded.” If Carmelo’s were a brokerage, I’d sign up. Best I can do is to lunch at Carmelo’s once I’m back from overseas.
Oates sounds like a pretty frank and fair employer. He’s consulted with his staff. He’s “already cut labour to the bone” — serving as pizza cook himself some days, waiting on tables others. He is evidently pained by letting staff go — 10 shifts lost.
The premier and Finlayson should assure those dismissed workers of the infallibly staunch security of the sky, perhaps bringing along meteorologist Mark Madryga to explain the technical points.
We are all tiny pieces in what looks like a major global economic dive — such an abstract phrase to describe felt hardship, including hunger — already begun in some smaller countries like Greece.
It would be nice to hear more from the optimists. Now who was it who said that hope makes a poor guide, but a good companion?
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Still on West Van retail, I know one family regretting that Gulliver’s — an inventive travel accessory store for almost 30 years at Park Royal Shopping Centre — and nearby Eddie Bauer are being evicted to make space for a giant Swedish international store. That can be done under the terms of their leases. Who knew?
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And furthermore regarding the HST, here’s what’s called anecdotal evidence, often as accurate as a royal commission: There’s an accelerated flurry of small business all-cash, “off-the-books” transactions being offered out there since the HST kicked in, and I’d wager that the tax police aren’t too eager to track them down because of the HST’s huge unpopularity.
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Furthermore even some more on the HST, this is an overlooked underlying (oxymoron?) testament to how far out of touch even the most astute and well-informed can be regarding the public temper:
CKNW’s Cutting Edge of the Ledge segment on Fridays is a must-listen discussion among host Bill Good, Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey, smart media people who probably know provincial politics better than most MLAs. Good was only half-joking when at the start of one session he advised political Victoria: “Start your tape recorders.” It’s that influential.
Short months ago the Three Wise Men, as I call them, were treating former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s anti-HST petition as an amusing diversion, a tilting at windmills sure to end up with a blunt lance. (Me too.)
But the ever-upbeat Zalm, impossible to dislike personally, and HST activist Chris Delaney did the wildly unlikely, and on a shoestring: They gathered the signatures of more than 700,000 voters furious about the HST — well above the required 10 per cent in each of B.C.’s 85 ridings.
All that you know. But regardless of where anyone stands on the HST, it’s been seriously under-appreciated that this was the greatest populist feat, the greatest organizing of ordinary people around a cause, since the 1972-75 movement to bang the heads together of the rival “free enterprise” parties in order to form a single party — Bill Bennett’s Social Credit — and defeat the incumbent New Democrats.
Credit where due: I’d say Vander Zalm was the only one, with Delaney’s tireless organizing work in the trenches and an army of great anti-HST volunteers, able to pull it off.
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It’s appalling what party ideology can do to the political tongue. The New Democratic Party ferry critic ascribed the Queen of Nanaimo’s recent hard landing at Mayne Island to “the legacy of privatization.” Spare me.
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It’s a small world, as they say — but this small?
Bill Vaughan attended Carolanne Reynolds’s Royal Tea celebration on the B.C. Day weekend — snappily turned out in white trousers, sharp jacket and straw boater.
Notable on Bill’s hat was some kind of insignia, and I was about to jest that perhaps it was his old school crest when, reading my mind, he animatedly stated that indeed it was — the school being Witgift, in England.
But, as Jack Wasserman used to say, that isn’t the item. The item is that a woman passing by not only instantly recognized it — but declared that she had actually worked at that very school.
The odds for that must resemble the odds of winning the Lotto Max.
© Trevor Lautens, 2010