Appeared in North Shore News – February 18, 2011
Are you getting off on the drooling orgy of nostalgia on the anniversary of Winter Olympics 2010?
Oh, you’ve guessed I’m not.
Television retrospectives? Special sections in the dailies? Oily hype and self-congratulation? Whenever Vancouver talks big-city, it’s small-town.
Yes, it was a grand party. But:
Not much ink on the disappointing number of out-of-province visitors.
Or on the narrowness of benefit to retail and hospitality industries beyond a tight geographical area. Do the six families that threw in several hundred thousand each to bolster West Vancouver/North Shore attractions believe their (probably tax-write-off) philanthropy made a substantial difference?
Or on the unpaid bill — more than three-quarters of a billion dollars — stuck to Vancouver taxpayers by a desperate city hall to backstop the overpriced and underwhelming Olympic Village condos built by overstretched Millennium, which had to go to obscure, hard-eyed, high-interest lenders because the financial mainstream (cannily, in retrospect) wouldn’t touch the project.
Or on John Furlong’s pained confession that due to an unfortunate lack of cash in the till he couldn’t keep his word — a moral if not legal obligation — to Olympic staff of expected bonuses, held in trust.
Journalist Bob Mackin is the media expert on that issue: VANOC, the organizing committee, stated in a Dec. 21, 2009 report that the trust held $17.744 million. In its post-Olympics Dec. 27, 2010 report, mention of the trust vanished. Days later staff learned by email they wouldn’t get the final bonus instalment.
“It’s no surprise that the bonuses went bust,” Mackin wrote for Toronto-based Sun Media — no link with the Vancouver Sun, an Olympics sponsor. VANOC revealed a $187.8 million taxpayer bailout, required to show a balanced $1.884 billion budget for operations, which were solemnly pledged not to need taxpayer money. That’s where the bonus went. Vancouver didn’t have its own variant of Montreal’s “Big Owe” for its 1967 Olympics, eh?
No question, though — a fun time. See Roman history, subhead: Bread and Circuses.
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Expect Joan McIntyre to get perks, perhaps a minor cabinet post, if Kevin Falcon takes the leadership prize and premiership when the Liberals meet Feb. 26.
The other three North Shore Liberal MLAs — Minister of State for Building Code Renewal Naomi Yamamoto, North Vancouver-Lonsdale; Jane Thornthwaite, North Vancouver-Seymour; and Ralph Sultan, West Vancouver-Capilano — are backing Shuswap political scientist and berry farmer George Abbott. West Vancouver-Sea to Sky’s McIntyre supports Falcon.
McIntyre helped Falcon — largely by her silence — when the Eagleridge environmental protest raged over “improving” (did it?) the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler as a sop to the Winter Olympics 2010 machine. Nothing new; the International Olympic Committee is a quadrennial dictatorship before which even the mightiest host nations and cities kneel, quake and suspend rights to attract and mollify.
Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones’ council overturned her predecessor Ron Wood’s council commitment to try to protect Eagleridge. That left some protesters, including some principled and respected West Vancouverites, high and dry. Some stuck with it and were fined or went to jail for their ideals.
Falcon was then highways minister. McIntyre, when asked, claimed she’d heard from only a couple of people opposed to the destruction of the bluffs and its sensitive waterways. Which, if true, bluntly suggests she didn’t have enough profile or wasn’t worth contacting.
She’s a perfectly nice woman and Gordon Campbell loyalist from the Liberal backrooms (a pollster in real life) who in two terms has made no discernible imprint, and — these are compliments — lacks hard political edge and naked ambition to win.
Prediction? If the Liberal delegates in their hearts dislike and resent Christy Clark, not too difficult a chore in my view, but have read the public opinion polls and swallow their misgivings, she’s in. But factor in the women’s vote, and my sense is a lot of women aren’t Clark fans.
In leadership debates Falcon has had the sharpest, most concrete facts and figures in his head, and a ready tongue to disseminate them. I’d predict Falcon. And, of course, big business likes him.
CKNW’s Jill Bennett violated an unspoken media truth last weekend: She declared the contest bored her. Sure, but we have to pretend.
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Speaking of democracy and all that, this observer cringes, hides, even takes a stiff libation, when the Western world applauds and lectures lesser and poorer nations about free elections and all that.
Western media have gushed barrels of ink and electronic bites about the recent unpleasantness and bright hopes for democracy in Egypt. It seems Hosni Mubarak was a dictator.
Who knew? Who cared? Until weeks ago, no one much. Most of the world’s 190-odd nations are dictatorships or oligarchies of some stripe. In the cool light of the new dawn, some Western drumbeaters are waking up to the essential fact that Egypt’s so-called cold peace with Israel is pragmatically more vital to more people everywhere than Egyptians marking Xs on ballots.
From the start, this observer kept remembering the Shah of Iran. He was a very useful dictator. When his usefulness ended his American and other Western friends despicably dumped him. The pious Jimmy Carter didn’t want him. Overthrown, terminally ill, the Shah died in exile. And far worse followed in Iran.
But enough of that. Egypt need only look at distant British Columbia for a model of democracy. Like massive sign-ups of instant party members. Including a cat. A hockey team. About 40 people with the same address, a restaurant.
Another democratic party’s legislative minority staged a (bloodless — at least we do that) coup overthrowing a good, morally as well as politically, woman leader thought to not have the right stuff to win the next election. Quixotically, one of the party’s top three executives is required to be a woman — a ridiculous quota brought to light by a solid party man (good on you, North Vancouver’s David Schreck).
Just call us, Cairo. We’ll give you tons of democratic theory, free.
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West Vancouver chief administrative officer Grant McRadu was scheduled to meet this week with library officials over the dispute that won’t die — concerning George Pajari’s stand on the library and library foundation’s budget facts and figures.
Good initiative by McRadu. It says here this is a serious matter of public trust. Town hall must not let this “he said/we said” argument remain hanging inconclusively in the air.
Reminder: It’s an election year.
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Soon after beginning a distinguished journalistic career marked by integrity, loyalty and humility — on Oct. 9, 1953 to be exact — a young proofreader began reading the columns sent from distant Vancouver bearing the amazingly funny words of one Eric Nicol.
The other readers competed in thumbing through the long strips of proofs to be first to have their chuckles in a dark night.
Nicol was a master of language, comparable to Blondin, you know, the highwire gent who repeatedly walked on a tightrope across the foaming Niagara River Gorge, on stilts, carrying his manager on his back, once pausing to make an omelet.
The shy Nicol possibly avoided such heights but he rose to similar dizzy levels of verbal gymnastics. He won numerous awards, including three Leacocks. When a play of his flopped in New York, he wrote a book about it with a splendid title — A Scar is Born. He never quit. The last of his books, 37 by my count, was published just months ago.
Nicol died recently aged 91. When West Vancouver’s Jim Taylor phoned CTV to tip it to Nicol’s death, the response was a cautious: “Help me.” Another generation. Nicol’s appreciative readership through nearly 65-odd years had slowly expired.
It happens. The young break through the earth and blossom. I can’t recall a review of a Nicol book in the Vancouver dailies for years, while the book pages hyped new writers — interesting how many were female and photogenic — who, lacking a fraction of his genius, usually vanished quickly into the void.
Multiple hall-of-fame sports writer Taylor gave Nicol’s eulogy at a service that whimsically began with something of a last laugh. Nicol was a football fan. His service started at 3 o’clock — the exact time the Super Bowl began.
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Had it not been for certain well-reported stumbles, I’d bet the farm, tractor and cattle that Kash Heed would have been in the Liberal leadership race, thus possibly the next premier of this province. Think of it, and be horrified and cheered.
© Trevor Lautens, 2011