Woodfibre LNG thumbs-up no real surprise

Appeared in the North Shore News – November 18, 2016

West Vancouver council voted unanimously against it. At least 9,000 people signed a petition damning it. Hostility toward it bristled at three public meetings.

So, no surprise, the Woodfibre liquefied natural gas project on beautiful Howe Sound got the thumbs-up, ultimately from the only thumb that counts, the prime minister’s or his proxy’s.

Right, the premier’s thumb also chimed in – why not mix metaphors, just for laughs? And the First Nation thumb will be on the scale, once its benefits are successfully negotiated.

Obvious. After the obligatory ritualistic bow to the environment, the human race’s relentless expansionism, the project’s corporate dollars, jobs and politics will always trump nature. (Hmmm, I’ll look for a better verb than trump.)

So the public consultation was the usual charade. I’d wager my record as a trained skeptic that the decision to go ahead with the relatively small $1.6-billion project was a fait accompli at the highest levels – the only impediments being the long-depressed price of LNG and international competition.

As Constant Reader will recall, my conscience is troubled by this area’s bland acceptance of tankers, pipelines and so forth – elsewhere. Not in our million-dollar-and-up backyards.

All credit to Liberal MLA Jordan Sturdy – this is his riding, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky – for up-front honesty. While opponents raged, Sturdy supported the project, partly for its tax benefits. A yawning contrast with the area’s MP, the federal riding confusedly called (couldn’t a less overlapping name have been chosen?) West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.

I’ve been on the Pam Goldsmith-Jones watch for years, and once again I’m fascinated by, even admire, her non-stick political record as West Van mayor, her survival smarts, and her agile ascent to higher levels. I’d roll out that record again, but space is limited.

Teflon Pam repeatedly ignored my emails last spring soliciting her opinion on Woodfibre, yea or nay; adroitly chaired three heated open houses on the matter without doing so; and, cornered at a meeting at Gibsons whether she’d heard anybody favouring the project, responded: “There are definitely people in favour. That’s why this is so difficult. To be honest – and depending on where you go – it’s 50/50.”

Which raises the question: Where, exactly, had she gone?

Indefatigable Woodfibre opponent Eoin Finn stated that her 50/50 claim “beggars belief,” citing 9,000 signatories to the (Save) Howe Sound Declaration and the B.C. Environment Assessment Office process, reflecting more than 90 per cent opposition. Finn noted that the approval coincidentally occurred days before the provincial Liberal annual convention. Tsk tsk, what a cynic. Finn declares opponents of the project aren’t giving up.

• • •

The Old Frenchman, so often quoted here, mused: “Les extremes se touchent,” which my learned readers will easily translate as “the extremes touch” – more broadly, “the extremes resemble one another.” Hitler and Stalin claimed radically clashing ideologies. But they were tyrants united by mass murder.

On a fortunately milder matter, Donald Trump and his sore-loser detractors similarly share a bond: They’re fair-weather friends of democracy. On side when they win elections, outta there when they lose them.

Trump’s most reprehensible, even unprecedented, campaign turn wasn’t the sex thing or even predicting prison bars in Hillary Clinton’s future. It was his zero-evidence accusation that the election was rigged, and – as calmly as a psychopathic killer – his declaration that he’d wait to see the results before accepting them. He won. His “rigging” allegation instantly vanished.

The protesters? Hey, why the bellyachin,’ guys? The Republicans won the presidency (by the weird rules), the Senate, the House of Representatives. Democracy.

But Trump championed the forgotten (and more), and only a bull could smash the cosy Washington china shop – D.C. voted 90 per cent for Clinton, four per cent for the vulgarian  – which Trump is. Or was? In a trice, knives sheathed, Trump made statesmanlike noises, and Barack Obama and, briefly, Clinton rose graciously to the moment. They’re politicians. Actors, you know.

It’s a gamble writing about this shifting surrealism. All could change by the time you read these words. As for the overwhelming media bias for Clinton, it recalls the apocryphal son who was ashamed to tell his mother he was working in the news business. So he told her he played piano in a house of ill repute.

• • •

I can’t and wouldn’t want to recommend a candidate for councillor on the eve of West Vancouver’s very important byelection tomorrow – when there’s no time for rebuttal. Just get out and vote.

© Trevor Lautens, 2016

Candidates’ nomination papers provide a snapshot

Appeared in the North Shore News – November 4, 2016

The Old Frenchman said that a man is better revealed by his possessions than by anything he says, or claims to think or believe.

So here is a taste of the possessions of the 12 candidates in West Vancouver’s Nov. 19 council byelection – on which millions of private and public dollars may hang by the thread of a single vote (think Grosvenor) – from their required nomination papers.

Note: “Property” doesn’t include a principal residence. “Assets” and “corporate assets” are, murkily, separate entries; I’ve lumped them together. “Income” means remuneration for services – other income, from stock etc. not included. “Liabilities” don’t include residential property debt or money borrowed for household or personal living expenses. So a candidate could have a $3-million home mortgage and $75K credit card debt, not required to report. That said, here’s the list:

David Ayriss. Own financial agent. No liabilities, no income. Property: Whistler; 70 Mile Creek. Assets: shares in 22 Canadian and 11 U.S. companies and funds.

Farzaneh Bamani. Own financial agent. No assets, liabilities, income or property.

Joanna Baxter. Financial agent: Michael Preto. No liabilities or property. Income: owner, Joanna Baxter Design; employee, Hive Management Inc.

Tom Dodd. Own financial agent. No liabilities. Owns jointly with wife 466895 BC Ltd, DBA Grantham Publishing. Income: part owner/director of Grantham. Property: 2065 East Second St., Vancouver.

Tara Haddad. Financial agent: Lorana Mangali. No assets, liabilities, or property. Income: director, Aspire Math Academy and Jackson & Co. Chartered Accountants; employee, Royal LePage Sussex.

Rosa Jafari. Own financial agent. No property. Liabilities: StudentAid B.C., M. Seraj. Income: business consultant, self-employed. Assets: Rimex International Trading Co. (“not active”).

Jon Johnson. No liabilities, property or assets. Income: employee, Clairmont Camera Inc.

David A. Jones. Own financial agent. No liabilities or property. Assets and income: owner, president, Jones Custom Framing Inc.

Andrew Krawczyk. Financial agent: Robert Patterson. Assets: six bank funds. No liabilities, income or property.

Peter Lambur. Own financial agent. No liabilities. Assets and income: Peter Lambur Architect Inc.

Vernon Pahl. Own financial agent. Liabilities: left blank. Property: 5504 Marine Dr. (home address). Assets: pension and three funds. Income: partner, Guild Yule LLP.

Carolanne Reynolds. Financial agent: George Pajari. No liabilities or income. Assets: “Various corporations via mutual funds.”

Moving on: Why did the WV Chamber of Commerce schedule its meeting only three days before the election, little time for letters to the editor or other reaction?

Why is attendance only by RSVP – arguably allowing nimble factions or special interests to (already?) pack the meeting?

Ha, a mind corroded by journalistic suspicion! Leagh Gabriel, C of C executive director, crisply and quickly replied: “We chose the date because that was when Kay Meek was available.  …  Being a byelection we have no idea how many will attend so the request for RSVP is to give us an idea. If it’s a small turnout we will host it in the small studio downstairs.”

• • •

The U.S. presidential election: The undersigned fears for America’s next four, eight years – whoever wins. Scenarios:

Hillary Clinton wins. Elite Washington breathes easy. Major crisis triggers civil chaos. A young charismatic white firebrand emerges, championing angry whites and promising to restore order and make America greater than Donald Trump ever mouthed off about.

Donald Trump wins. Trump moves toward the centre, disillusioning his furious core constituency. A young, charismatic etc.

Second possibility: Trump begins carrying out his agenda – and can’t control the beast he’s unleashed. A young, charismatic etc.

Alarmism? Hope so.

U.S. columnist Ilana Mercer – who began her career in Canada, as she often acknowledges, and in this very paper – is a true original, a self-described paleolibertarian. Google “Disenfranchisement of Poor Whites Under Hillary.”

Among the points in Mercer’s blog post: Fashionable ideology considers all whites privileged. It ‘‘overlooks the descendants of poor white Southern sharecroppers who did not own slaves …  and with respect to education and income mirror those of the region’s African-Americans, with one distinction: poor whites are barred from affirmative action programs.”

Mercer isn’t alone. Under the head The Original Underclass, the September edition of The Atlantic – which passionately backs Clinton – reviewed White Trash: The 400-Year-Old Untold History of a Class in America by Nancy Isenberg.

Last words: Investment adviser Richard C. Young predicts Americans will elect Trump: ‘‘They have questions about Trump, but they know exactly who Clinton is.’’

What if a renewed FBI investigation confirms they didn’t know all? Nightmare: She’s elected. FBI recommends charges. Already the “i-word” – impeachment – has emerged.

© Trevor Lautens, 2016