Appeared in North Shore News – May 13, 2011
Ready for the Parliamentary Channel switching to re-runs of Sesame Street?
How about a private member’s bill bringing acne into the Canada Health Act?
Think diaper boards in the washrooms will raise public respect for the Commons?
Parliament’s informal afternoon naps may be made mandatory, with taxpayer-funded teddys and dolls provided (why not, in the nanny state?). Could be a bit of a shock to see Pablum on the parliamentary cafeteria menu, though.
You’ve (now) heard all the jokes about the new, new BQ (Baby Québecois) party, the young New Democrats — five from McGill University — who trounced Gilles Duceppe and the Duceppetions in the May 2 election.
The youth wing’s tastefully gender-inclusive pin-ups are Pierre-Luc Dusseault, University of Sherbrooke politics student and youngest-ever MP at age 19 and 11/12ths, and Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who worked at Carleton University’s student bar and whose “campaign” was conducted from the fantasy world of Las Vegas — excellent preparation for Ottawa. She’d never even set foot in the riding, yet beat the incumbent by nearly 6,000 votes. Must be a lesson there somewhere.
There were more women elected too than ever before, almost a quarter of the Commons.
What a deliriously gripping election that began as a snorer. But sad. Parliament needs young blood. But unless party leaders and especially NDP leader Jack Layton loosen the screws, the heavy hands of party whips and Parliament’s grey ploddings will quickly turn them into young stuffed shirts. At first they may blurt out some alarming truths, or even their honest beliefs. Then they will be sternly taught that all Canadians enjoy the right of free speech except MPs.
The Conservatives got their welcome majority, almost a footnote in this shoot-’em-up Wild East election. As praised in this spot, Stephen Harper’s campaign was shrewdly dull. Now don’t overplay your hand, prime minister. Let Layton twist slowly in the wind of his probably unmanageable success.
A serious word. Our elections trivialize policy into trite slogans and dumbs-down candidates into puppets mouthing pre-programmed party bromides. I feel for Michael Ignatieff, who the media — I share the blame — treated like a losing goalie in a Stanley Cup game. Ignatieff and Layton hold PhDs, but in our political culture they have to disguise their learning, so that highest praise for Layton was the vomit-inducing mantra that he’s “the kind of guy you could have a beer with.” Bob Rae actually dared sound a rare literary note, quoting Kipling’s profound words on success and failure in the poem If.
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Has new B.C. Conservative honcho John Cummins got enough fire in his belly to make a real run at leading this province? Or have 18 years in Ottawa drained him of the sense of blood sport required in B.C. politics? Cummins, 69, deferred to the courtly tradition that challenging a seatless premier isn’t the proper thing. The New Democrats had no such scruples, and David Eby damn near beat Christy Clark. She’d have been whipped but for Cummins’ gentlemanly decision.
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Expect sky-high fireworks at Monday’s West Vancouver council meeting over a new issue with more permanent local ramifications than a mere federal election: infill or lane housing. Specifically, first reading of a bylaw sought by applicant Michael Geller that would rezone three Esquimalt Avenue properties (2031, 2047 and 2063, two 50-foot and one 60-foot lot) north of West Vancouver United Church to allow six townhouses, also described as half-duplexes, and three coach houses, “essentially laneway homes,” says consultant Ryan Wong.
And don’t think small, as in small is beautiful. Including basements, they range from a generous 1,758 square feet for the latter, estimated cost $875,000, and 2,475 sq. ft. for the biggest half-duplex. Top price for one of those is an estimated $1,315,000.
Geller — who volubly talked about the issue Tuesday on Bill Good’s show — would pay through the nose for the rezoning: In delicate townhallese, “a community amenity contribution” of $450,000. Consultant Wong hedged his estimates, because the project would be West Van’s first, “and there are no appropriate comparables.” Furious opponents claim the project is a quietly slipped-in thin edge of a fat wedge in West Vancouver.
Half-disclosure: I’ve half-mused about a lane house for my own Vancouver property, where one builder offered cottages (they’re pre-fabricated and 500 sq. ft.) for $165,000. The musing tended to stop dead: Vancouver’s fees for such a tiny edifice range from $30,000-$40,000, and BC Hydro’s hookup charge is jaw-dropping. West Vancouver property owners eagerly hoping Geller succeeds should check such costs before their golden dreams swell.
© Trevor Lautens, 2011