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

Van’s unhappy rules of engagement

Appeared in the North Shore News – February 1, 2013

So, West Vancouverites, are you happy with the iron rule of the Garbage Gestapo and Trash Marxists?

You may have quickly detected I’m not. You got that right.

Garbage in West Van will be collected only every two weeks starting April 22. On collection day it must be placed at the curb in the narrow window between 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Not before 5. Not after 7:30. Or the heavy hand of the bylaw bullies will strike you down.

The worker who comes home after midnight must set his/her alarm to groggily tramp down the driveway, in moist darkness six months a year, bearing gifts to appease the Trash Gods. Or, since few people in the Best Part of the Best Place in the World actually work in any sense recognizable to the toiling masses, he/she struggles home after a hard night of partying or attending opera to do likewise – maybe choosing to put the trash in the BMW and back it down the driveway, rather than hoist the obligatory four (!) separate categories of waste manually.

Imagine the frail older West Vancouverite, perhaps taking medicine that encourages deep sleep, being nudged awake by Rick Cluff’s or Philip Till’s gentle radio voice at such an uncivilized time. Add rain or snow and there’s a threat to life and limb.

And don’t expect mercy from the bylaw bullies. This is the department that didn’t haul back its hyper-zealous officious officer who several summers ago made lightning strikes on about 500 astonished dog-walkers. Some old people wept at the meetings then-Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones called to soothe them. The ticket-writer’s boss backed him up unreservedly, and her boss coincidentally retired. She later moved on to lucky Surrey. (The officer’s contract ran out – whereupon he quietly got a less visible job elsewhere in the town hall empire.)

Has much changed? Ken Prescott related in a letter to the editor Jan. 15 that he parked in the library’s two-hour lot for 20 minutes, then returned later to drop off another item, parking 15 minutes. Fined! Yes, $35 for parking twice in the same day in the sacred library lot! That’s an offence! Who knew? I doubt that even super-informed council-watchers Carolanne Reynolds and George Pajari were aware of this grotesque bylaw.

Stalin’s apparatchiks couldn’t have dreamt up a more oppressive regimen of trash rules than those laid out in a glossy brochure by the environmental ideologues and their bureaucratic henchmen at town hall. A taste:

“Limits per home, per collection day: Two 77 L garbage cans or bags. Max weight: 20 kg (45 lb.) per can or bag OR Two 121 L cans containing one 77 L bag each. Max weight: 20 kg (45 lb.) each OR One 121 L can with no more than two 77 L bags. Max weight: 40 kg (90 lb.). . . .

“The use of bungee cords/ straps, rope or string to tie lids is prohibited and will result in your garbage or Green Can not being collected. Place Blue and Yellow Bags next to your Blue Box (not inside). . . . Cut cardboard down to fit inside the Yellow Bag or neatly tie in bundles measuring no larger than 60 cm x 60 cm x 15 cm high (2′ x 2′ x 6″ high.). Tie securely with biodegradable string. No wire or plastic strapping.” I’m taking university courses easier than remembering this stuff.

In the 1960s, Lonnie Donegan famously warbled “My Old Man’s a Dustman” – British-speak for garbageman. Now everybody’s old man is a dustman. Give Dad industrial scales and measuring tape for Christmas.

As for the every-two-weeks collection: Pray for a cold summer – for the bears’ sake too.

. . .

Speaking of George Pajari: Former councillor Shannon Walker asked WV council to waive a community amenity contribution (CAC) of $750,000-plus for a redevelopment of the family’s Walker Building on Bellevue Avenue, its floor area ratio (FAR) planned to expand from 1.44 to 2.16. Town hall staff backed her.

In a footnote-loaded presentation, Pajari alleged “questionable and misleading information” in the application. Coun. Craig Cameron picked up on Pajari’s claim that staff had misled councillors. Council was convinced by Pajari’s detailed objections and agreed that the CAC should apply – an implied sharp rebuke to the bureaucrats, and, I’d say, raising a serious question of confidence.

. . .

A big loss to Park Royal Shopping Centre: One of its liveliest businesses and a bright spot in the south mall, The British Newsagent, left for lower-rent premises at 3195 Edgemont Boulevard in North Vancouver, where it was scheduled to reopen today. It offered British foods, sweets, tea, soccer team mementoes and such, had a brisk sale of lottery tickets, and its huge racks displayed far and away the biggest range of magazines in West Vancouver. It leaves an amenity hole not easily filled.

. . .

One of journalism’s joys is interviewing smart, intriguing people like Jordan Sturdy and Robin Smith, seeking the Liberal nomination (Feb. 15-16) in retiring Joan McIntyre’s West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding. Profiles planned. Rumoured aspirant: Geoffrey Cowper, author of a major law reform report and tipped as a future attorney-general. Abodes? Pemberton, North Vancouver (“just over Mosquito Creek”, the riding border) and Bowen Island respectively – none, note, in West Van.

Buzz about former TV anchor Pamela Martin and past WV mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones has faded.

© Trevor Lautens, 2013