Tory leadership hopeful touches down in West Vancouver

Appeared in the North Shore News – January 27, 2017

Agent 6ki4nsP is one of my shrewdest agents. He also describes himself as more right-wing than Genghis Khan.

So it was revolutionary when he announced admiration for Justin Trudeau, whose character and decency impressed him in personal contacts when Trudeau lived on this coast.

One year after Trudeau’s October 2015 election victory, 6ki4nsP and I met in full prediction mode. His forecast: “After two years in government the Liberals will implode (i.e. in autumn 2017).” Mine – ever the light-hearted lad – was: “The Liberals will hold the centre and move both left and right, pushing Conservatives and New Democrats to the extreme margins, and the Liberals will rule forever and ever. Ah, men. And women.’’

Some would say Agent 6ki4nsP erred by a year – that Trudeau’s honeymoon resoundingly crashed late last year. Not me. I’m not that optimistic.

• • •

That said, Conservative leadership candidate Michael Chong touched down at a party gathering at former MP John Weston’s West Vancouver abode this month. Both spoke exceedingly well – to this jaded ear, measured and thoughtfully. Leavened with wit: Weston, introducing Chong, rolled out his attributes, turned to wave him on, then faced back: “I forget to mention, he can also walk on water.”

Water-walking aside, and without my pressing the flesh of the 13 other aspirants, Chong looks almost straight from central casting for the leadership. To cite only the superficial: Bright but revealing only a fraction of his brightness (classically Canadian), Hong Kong father and Dutch mother, small-town Ontario background. Had the rare jam to resign from Stephen Harper’s cabinet, opposing its motion to recognize the Quebecois as a distinct nation in a united Canada. Electable – unlike, say I, temporary media fave Kevin O’Leary.

• • •

It’s late, but happy birthday – her 105th! – to Mrs. Ann Reynolds, mother of peerless West Vancouver chronicler and former councillor Carolanne Reynolds. The birthday girl, in good health and wheelchair-bound only in the last year, was able to get out for dinner on the big day, Dec. 29, at the Sutton Place Hotel.

• • •

Correction: It’s Corus Entertainment, not Chorus, as misspelled in my last column. Embarrassing. I own Corus stock. Unfortunately.

• • •

The deaths days apart of Gary and Carol Troll, whose always packed restaurant is Action Central in Horseshoe Bay, had a local history dimension – they were collectors. The restaurant walls are enriched by syndicated caricaturist and delightful character Kerry Waghorn’s depictions of prominent personages of West Van and beyond. They amused countless patrons waiting for a table and for Troll’s signature fish and chips.

• • •

It’s lonely up here.

Every West Vancouver councillor voted for it. Not one council candidate in the November byelection questioned it. The West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce cheered it.

So, like the man in the blues song who couldn’t dance, who “don’t have rhythm/so nobody’s with him,” I’m the loneliest man in town in slamming the Dispiriting Trail link from 13th to 18th Street. Concrete planters separating two-wheelers from two-leggers on the 13th Street end of Argyle were erected almost on the day of the byelection. What a coincidence.

I asked WV town hall last year how beach-bound families would cross the trail: Tiny tots with sand buckets in hand, the old and unsteady of foot … I hope I’m breaking your heart. Silence. I suspect the boosters suppressed the fact as bad for their hype. The answer is: Zebra crossings (!), which the hearty kind of recreational cyclists will obey, as they do stop signs, red lights, and any impediments to their spandex speeding. Yeah, right.

More than 100 parking spaces lost. Businesses hurt. Relaxed strolling and neighbourly chatting replaced by regimented lines of pedestrians and show-off cyclists. Prediction: Some cycling packs will choose Bellevue and its motor traffic rather than share the bike lane with meandering cyclists and pedalling kiddies, as many do when slowed down on the trail’s present easterly link from Park Royal to 13th – they spill onto the dedicated motor lane, smiling at annoyed drivers.

And how many cyclists did you see on Lions Gate Bridge in the recent cold spell? In snow and ice, even those who regularly cycle to work – skilled, properly equipped and observant of traffic laws (applause for them) – have to use other transportation. Excuse the personal testament: I delivered telegrams in my mid-teens, and a Christmas holiday stint navigating icy Ontario streets lives in memory. I never slid, slipped, flipped. Angel-watched.

Gregor Robertson can preen until green as Ireland about his agenda, but Vancouver’s clownish mayor can’t overcome the bicycle’s limitations concerning riders’ age, strength, and physical ability or disability, let alone weather, terrain, and more.

© Trevor Lautens, 2017

When an election promise isn’t a promise

Appeared in the North Shore News – December 4, 2015

In a less Justin-besotted Canada, a “Trudeau promise” would enter the language – an oxymoron, like “military intelligence.”

You’ll recall that in November Liberal leader Justin Trudeau bid up compassionate Canada’s offer to accept Syrian refugees – handily out-caring rivals Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper. Aspiring prime minister Trudeau declared his government would take in 25,000 refugees by the end of this year.

Well, it was Canadians who were taken in.

Election out of the way, some nervous shuffling of Liberal shoes, a bit of throat-clearing, transpired. Processing, admitting, housing 25,000 stressed foreigners in less than two months was … well, a stretch. So the end of February was the new goal.

Hold on. Would any PM without that grand head of hair, those gorgeous high cheekbones – throw him a guitar, he’d make a credible Elvis Presley impersonator – get away with that? Say, S.H.? Never ever.

Surprise! Trudeau didn’t lose stature! His popularity soared! Canadians lapped it up! And the usual suspects, including most of the fawning media punditry, hastily revised history. We knew all along the goal was unrealistic. He meant well. “A” for effort and all that. A Vancouver Sun editorial wedded comedy with kowtowing at heights beyond the reach of telescopes.

“Partisan critics,” harrumphed that journal, might see this “as an abandoned campaign promise. It’s not. It is simply a common-sense response … .”

When is a promise not a promise? Cue Hollywood mogul Samuel Goldwyn, famed for wildly creative contributions to the language: “If you can’t give me your word of honour, will you give me your promise?”

Having knocked the media – of which I’m evilly one, of course – I praise Matthew Fisher, Postmedia columnist, who wrote some eye-opening stuff from Lebanon. His sampling showed many refugees couldn’t locate Canada. Didn’t know it was cold. Knew nothing of hockey.

More important: The better educated, more prosperous refugees scorn  Hungary, Poland, even France. They jumped at Sweden and Germany for their rich social programs. And Canada, Fisher wrote, will get some of the poorest, least educated.

My view: No bad thing. Like many past newcomers, they’ll gratefully take lower-paid jobs and work their way up. I’d welcome them over any young intellectual nationalists and the devoutly religious wanting Canada to adapt to their culture, not vice versa.

• • •

Now the only angle that really matters – the West Vancouver angle. How many of the 25,000 will the local government sponsor?

None. Nada. Zero.

Wait. You may find Mayor Michael Smith’s logic reasonable. Even impeccable.

“There are no concrete plans I am aware of for the district to do anything on this issue,” Smith answered an email question. “It makes no sense to house refugees at public expense in the most expensive housing area in the country. Paying for housing in less expensive places seems more logical, as you could provide many more spaces at a more reasonable cost.”

West Van individuals with house space can open their doors, Smith suggested: “We have hundreds of legal secondary suites. … Both the district and the board of education have programs to meet the needs of new residents from outside Canada and these could be expanded if needed.”

West Vancouver communications director Jeff McDonald added that, like other new arrivals, refugees “can get connected through programs at community centres and at the West Vancouver Memorial Library” – where director of library services Jenny Benedict is actively involved. “Libraries are tailor-made places for people to not only get information but create attachments to their new communities.”McDonald acknowledged: “However, West Vancouver has not been ‘assigned’ government-sponsored refugees.”

Town hall has no information about private sponsorships or their sponsors. What is known at this writing, reported in these pages, is that seven United Churches on the North Shore, for which Rev. Michael Gaveney of West Van’s St. David’s United is a spokesman, are sponsoring a family of seven. Look for fresh news.

• • •

Extra, extra: Hot air above Paris – Earth’s temperature rising 50 per cent by end of next week! Huge damage to planet as 150 state heads fly in, environment-saving attendees stay at luxury hotels, eat rich, talk a lot, feel good – don’t save a blade of grass!

If there were any available credible technology that would control climate – it would be out there. That’s why chanting planet-lovers at Vancouver’s Library Square make shiny photo-ops but change nothing.

By the time hard work on solar power produces a third of present needs, for example, many of today’s protesters will need electric blankets. Sorry.

• • •

It wouldn’t affect many, but those affected would feel it a lot. TransLink has put the West Van Blue Bus 258 UBC Express on death row. I’ve squirmed to mention its threatened demise because of self-interest. It may end – term’s last class this very day – a sterling academic career that began the week the Second World War started, leaving me still under-informed at age 18. Oops, transposition there.

The 258 Express runs September to April weekdays at 7, 7;30, 8 and 9 a.m. from Marine at 25th, and from the UBC bus loop back to 25th at 3:08, 4:08 and 5:08 p.m. Bottom line: TransLink’s bottom line. Blue Bus and TransLink can’t even agree on ridership figures.

Aforementioned West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith has long ripped TransLink. The average West Van household kicks in $800 a year in taxes for TransLink, Smith calculates, and gets back service like a flat tire.

Smith was one of only three Metro mayors who publicly opposed this year’s transportation referendum. Coincidence, no doubt.

© Trevor Lautens, 2015

Trudeau losing his post-election lustre

Appeared in the North Shore News – November 20, 2015

I’d say Justin Trudeau fell from the honeymoon bed.

Possibly a matter of coitus interruptus in his post-election love affair with an adulating public and media. The CBC must be heartbroken. Even Mother Corp’s loyal radio arm noted Trudeau’s awkward pauses answering questions at the G20 meeting in Turkey soon after the terrorist attacks in Paris. (Will CBC newspeak now stop describing terrorists murdering innocents as ‘‘militants’’?)

Truly, I sympathized from afar with Trudeau. How many people would be composed, fast on their feet, quick with their tongues, under such pressure? Even, or especially, a 43-year-old brand-new prime minister? He’s just not ready.

Who would be? Stifle that man at the back of the room muttering, ‘‘Where is Stephen Harper, now that we really need him?’’

Trudeau’s fall from the honeymoon bed caused three bounces:

One, in the absurd auction – or was it poker? – in which Tom Mulcair out-Canadianized Harper’s promise to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees over three years: ‘‘I’ll admit 10,000 immediately!’’ followed by Trudeau’s ‘‘I’ll admit 25,000, by the end of the year!’’

Sheer logistics made fulfilment of this campaign vow highly unlikely. The Paris attacks made it approach cuckoo-land territory.

If letters to the editor accurately reflect quick public reaction, Canadians abruptly woke up to the consequences that Ottawa, posturing about Canada’s famous compassion and generosity before an international audience that barely notes or cares what we do, would be dumping on the unprepared provinces and cash-strapped municipalities. You know – taxpayers.

Premier Christy Clark’s suggestion that B.C.’s northeast could accept the Syrians – suddenly discovered as mainly Muslims, even a very few of them terrorists? – triggered an immediate hostile petition from the economically pressed people who merely live there already. Let’s not speak of the refugees’ cultural shock. Saturday night in Fort St. John could be alarming.

Two: When Paris was struck, Trudeau’s promise to withdraw our (six) Canadian planes striking ISIS targets in Syria, in favour of increasing our present (69) military advisers on the ground training soldiers, looked untimely at best. But he stands by it. The shock of the attacks – which are nothing compared to France’s leftist uprising in 1968 – will wear off (in Monday morning’s Globe and Mail three business reporters predicted markets collapsing; in fact Toronto and New York roared ahead more than 200 points).

Three: How now, Trudeau’s ambiguous support for, and promise to amend when in government, Bill C-51, the evil, uncaring  Harper’s law to tighten the screws on real and aspiring terrorists? Well, the lawyers absolutely love ambiguity, and the immigration lawyers adore defending bad apples committed to destroying our vaunted, and, to ratchet my skepticism down a notch, deservedly protected Western values.

Chief JuCstice Beverley McLachlin and the Supremes, who so obviously detested Harper and Harper law, may look more kindly on Trudeau’s tweaking of C-51. What the great unwashed are feeling, post-Paris, though of course ignorable by the high-minded liberal elites, may be different.

Speaking as one who could use a shave and a clean-up myself: I delight in gloomy, gasbag-puncturing wisdom, and here is a timely shard of it, in light of French President Francois Hollande’s declaration that France is at war against ISIS: National Post columnist George Jonas, a Hungarian Jew aged 80 who lived through Europe’s horrors, has written that war is fought not to make the world a better place, but to keep it from becoming a worse one. A late Remembrance Day thought. Think it. Canadians may need it in days to come.

 • • •

A contrarian footnote to the above: Last January’s Charlie Hebdo affair, a backdrop to last week’s attacks, is surrounded by hysterical champions of free speech – few knowing anything about the magazine issue and its “cartoon” that caused death and chaos.

Tariq Ali, a big 1960s radical, wrote a sombre corrective in the leftist London Review of Books: Henri Roussel, founder of Charlie Hebdo’s predecessor, denounced editor “Charb” (Stéphane Charbonnier) as reckless for running the cartoon that infuriated Muslims.

And with good reason. Roussel describes the cartoon – which I nor most fanatical “Je suis Charlie” free-speechers haven’t seen reproduced – of Mohammed in words which I would not write, and this paper, properly, would not print. It is revolting, scurrilous, reprehensible, and led to deaths not just of damned fool Charb but of magazine staff that Roussel knew well, leaving him “both angry and sorrowful.”

Yes, reader, there are two sides to every story. Even the seemingly morally one-dimensional. As I too wrestle with.

 • • •

Scoop! Ralph Sultan, popular Liberal MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano, will run again in the far-off-but-nearer-than-you-think May 2017 election – at a dewy 82.

His slightly party-outsider reputation notwithstanding, Sultan broadly thinks Christy Clark has it right, considering the complexities of running a $45-billion-a-year operation. And, speaking of emails, in case you were, Sultan replies to constituents in hand-writing. His.

© Trevor Lautens, 2015

Trudeau the Younger acquitted himself well

Appeared in the North Shore News – October 23, 2015

I have been standing back admiring the brilliance of my prediction that the Conservatives would win Monday’s election.

The logic was impeccable, though not unique — just more genially expressed. It follows.

Liberal Justin Trudeau and especially New Democrat Thomas Mulcair were as zealous campaigning to one-up each other as they were to bury the common foe, Stephen Harper, who you will remember was Conservative prime minister (how quickly the political history books open and coldly snap shut).

While they exhausted themselves clawing and mauling one another over which was the more worthy regicide, King Harper would soar through the blue skies in a coach drawn by two noble steeds, reduced from the usual four for the economy’s sake, back to his well-deserved throne.

This theory was rooted in samplings of popular support showing Mulcair as front-runner before the formal campaign began — the heady prospect of the first Sussex Drive socialist — and Trudeau the Younger a lame third. But incrementally Trudeau got back his legs. He strode up mountains real and metaphorical, a chip off the paternal block, at least for the Liberal spinmeisters’ ads. He found his tongue too. He acquitted himself well, possibly better than he dared hope as bearer of the profound burden of having a word-skilled father.

And in the last dozen days or so, a Trudeau dynasty emerged. Mulcair was the big loser, partly due to so-called strategic voting. Trudeau sold the product.

For what is a democratic election all about if not politicians selling themselves in a milieu where faking sincerity is a prime requirement, where actors play not their own fallible, privately frightened selves, but someone more confident, astute, wise and caring, to an anxiety-ridden audience yearning for leader authenticity and gullible enough to believe in words—– which, as the Greek said, have horns and forked tails?

So if my theory of Conservative victory was wrong, as it lugubriously was, clearly Mulcair and Trudeau were spooked by a nightmare variant of it too — that a Liberal resurgence could lead to their virtual second-place tie. Harper, his crown slightly askew, would then resume a brand of governance that they hated and feared, being largely successful in substance and unfashionable in style.

Of course by any global terms most Canadians are so incredibly spoiled that, as my old mother would say, they don’t know they’re alive. And it will be fascinating to see how Trudeau handles his vow to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees; the nation’s military commitments; the inevitable terrorist attacks on our soil; and the citizens’ equally inevitable demands for business to create more prosperity, more social services in a shaky global economy. Such are among Harper’s bequests to him. A poisoned chalice?

In the interests of all Canadians, including petty self-interest, I certainly wish Trudeau well. He will need no lessons in Canadian history about the long slope down from the deliriums of election night to the disappointments and fractiousness of actually governing: Making choices, shifting money from pickable pockets to favoured ones — the top priority for skilful governing.

How Brian Mulroney was viscerally hated as prime minister by many, and how wonderfully Mulroney spoke Monday night: Gracious, witty, philosophical, good-natured, self-mocking. Only a consummate actor could pull that off.

• • •

A fast-off-the-mark reader emailed me: “I hate to tell you how far off you were on your prediction.” My reply: “Thank you for this. Many will not ‘hate’ to tell me — they will enjoy it immensely.”

• • •

This may not be a bad opportunity — how many remain? — to muse about columnists and such making election predictions. Flatly, I’d rather be wrong than timorous. Afraid of flying and crashing? Get out of it. My newspaper roots go back to meatier times when columnists were expected to shoot their mouths off. Yes, and argue rudely with one other, sometimes across the page.

The judicious thumb-sucker doesn’t engage me.

• • •

As for the two-and-a-half North Shore ridings — red from end to end to end — I asked the mayors for their election reaction.

West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith: “I look forward to working with our new member of Parliament, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, as she understands the issues facing local governments around getting adequate funding for infrastructure. She also knows the unique challenges we face in West Vancouver and I’m sure she will serve our community well.”

District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton praised previous MPs, especially citing “Don Bell (Liberal) and Andrew Saxton (Conservative). … Jonathan Wilkinson has good role models as predecessors, and we have every belief he will serve well. … Saxton was a class act in his appearance at the Liberal victory celebration, offering strong support for Wilkinson in the transition.”

No criticism of North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto — long an open New Democrat — for not responding on very short notice before my deadline.

© Trevor Lautens, 2015

Behind council’s sober second thoughts

Appeared in the North Shore News – August 15, 2014

Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow was bloodier, but West Van council’s U-turn on its slamming of proposed liquefied natural gas tankers on Howe Sound was quicker.

Councillors at the Aug. 4 meeting volubly backed off their unanimous decision two weeks earlier when they had asked Ottawa to ban Asian-bound tankers from waters uncomfortably close to the western shores of West Vancouver.

I pause. Let’s be fair. This is what politicians should do more often, right? – have sober second thoughts, admitting mistakes first time around.

By this measure, Mayor Michael Smith deserves praise for the frankness that slick politicians avoid when they give a 3,000-word, non-answer to an unwanted interview question.

At the second-thoughts council meeting Aug. 4, Smith commendably took full responsibility for the July 21 decision.

“All blame lies at the feet of the chairman of the meeting,” Smith was quoted by News reporter Jeremy Shepherd. “My legendary impatience sometimes gets the better of me after over an hour of going around in circles on a debate. You get desperate to call a question, any question.” (If you can recall any time that former mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones publicly admitted to her blunders, jog my memory.)

On that point – what the hell did we agree to? – Coun. Craig Cameron was equally candid: “I didn’t know what we voted for.” His only vote he’s been embarrassed about in three years on council, he confessed.

Returning now to my usual sunny cynicism: Why council’s hasty retreat?

Wild guess: Largely because John Weston, MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country – the LNG tankers would sail through the population heart of his riding – wacked council’s motion, the way it was passed, and its timing. Otherwise he’s OK with it, one might drily say.

Strange. Does Weston carry such clout? Another wild guess: Yes, if he’s the messenger boy for the big guy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and by proxy for an equally agitated Premier Christy Clark. (As indispensable Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer recently noted, Clark vowed in 2011 that the first LNG export venture would be “operational by 2015.” Not.)

If my take is correct, Harper, Clark and the oil and gas industry don’t need the distraction of yet another protest.

The Howe Sound LNG plant, a subsidiary of Pacific Oil and Gas, owned by a Singapore billionaire, would be small potatoes compared with the proposed Northern Noway Gateway project. But it’s our small potatoes. The issue hits close to home.

So was council’s first decision correct? Or its second? Or will it be its third, next month? Coun. Michael Lewis expects more information will uphold council’s original decision opposing the project.

Predictably, industry leaders say LNG is safe. Predictably, opponents, including chemistry doctorate Eoin Finn, cite the worst case: An LNG tank explosion destroyed a square mile of Cleveland and killed 130 in 1944.

Extraction industries are locally popular, generating prosperity and jobs. Unless something goes hugely wrong. Hello, Mount Polley.

Agent 7p2sd4g angrily writes: “Just as dear old Dal Richards was about to sign off on his delightful Harmony Arts concert at John Lawson Park (Aug. 7), who should enter, accompanied by 100 or so (mostly) female followers, right at the foot of the stage, but Justin Trudeau. Absolutely tasteless, and downright rude. Poor Dal looked shell-shocked.”

Or was Dal willingly cooperating? We may never know.

Also speculative: Lisa King’s front-page photo in the Aug. 7 News was a great shot – worthy of an award-winner – of Justin Trudeau dancing in a steamy, almost orgasmic clinch with Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, John Weston’s Liberal opponent in next May’s federal election. But was it winning politics? My guess is that it turned off as many voters as it turned on.

Agent C8tt0j4 reports “turmoil” at CKNW. Right, vertigo must be swirling in management/ownership heads – dropping its best and most loyally listened-to segment, Cutting Edge of the Ledge, with top Victoria-watchers Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey, hosted by Bill Good. The Three Wise Men, I called them.

Except for sharp Mike Smyth, NW is wildly shuffling the deck, conscripting mostly affiliate Global TV staffers as temp fill-ins replacing

Good and Philip Till – it’s radio’s new Amateur Hour. Complete disclosure: I hold parent company Corus Entertainment stock. I sell my shares, you guys could be done like dinner!

Closing in Ambleside: Familiar, colourful and long-established Amadeo, and Redfish Kids Clothing, consolidating its business at its Hornby Street store after only two years in West Van.

One of my most respected Agents, Y8c5scu, conjectures what town hall will never admit about the delay in a joint police-fire department building: The police and firefighters don’t like each other (not a unique wariness). The plan for a “combined safety building” in fact showed two separate edifices joined only by an atrium.

© Trevor Lautens, 2014

Still watching him: FLQ crisis was Pierre Trudeau’s finest hour

Appeared in Business in Vancouver – April 22, 2014

I would have attended Justin Trudeau’s Vancouver Board of Trade speech except for previous engagements with Voltaire, Beaumarchais and Brecht. But it inspired me – to celebrate his father’s role in the Quebec election.

But Pierre Elliott Trudeau is deceased, you will protest – haven’t you caught up with the newspapers? (No, but that’s another story.)

Alert readers will grasp my meaning. Canada and Quebec were both changed and unchanged by Trudeau, our most annoyingly interesting prime minister. (Mackenzie King was Canada’s most annoyingly uninteresting prime minister, until after he died.) The separatists have now taken a third beating since the 1960s Quiet Revolution (wait, they’ll demand a best-of-seven series). Would the recent Quebec election as a province, not a republic, have occurred had it not been for Trudeau? He is indeed with us yet.

He incited bitter quarrels. He made Canadians raise their voices. Acrobatic physically and politically, he airily swung around the extreme poles. As manager of the national economy, he was not so much incompetent as absent, leading some to argue that for all his mostly youthful socialist chin-ups he was so offhandedly confident of capitalism’s strength that he could safely leave its operation to capitalists. (A pretty good insight at that.)

But mostly Trudeau ran Canada as a kind of gigantic, sullen, not very bright political science class. And he was no gentle professor. He was a hard marker. As he proved in the toughest test that the nation faced, and for which he deserves, to coin a cliché, our undying gratitude.

That of course was the October Crisis of 1970 – can it really be pressing toward half a century ago? It is so indescribably important that on the obvious anniversaries it is strangely almost ignored. Or not so strangely. It is still too sensitive. A scab not to be picked.

It began with the emergence of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) in 1963. Hundreds of bombings followed. This long prelude of terror is overshadowed by the kidnappings of British trade commissioner James Cross and Quebec labour minister Pierre Laporte, who was murdered and is conveniently forgotten by café intellectuals and others who, the graveyard safely whistled past, tastefully chat about Trudeau’s dreadful assault on civil liberties.

That was his imposition of the War Measures Act. Two or three years ago, in a university history class where only one person, including the professor, was old enough to remember the crisis – and perhaps see it beyond the detachment in which history cloaks flesh and blood – the dramatic CBC television interview was screened.

That was Tim Ralfe’s exchange with Trudeau on Parliament’s steps. Trudeau first toyed – Toronto Star columnist Richard Gwyn’s accurate word – with Ralfe about soldiers patrolling Montreal streets. How far would he go to crush the FLQ? Trudeau coolly replied: “Just watch me.” The words still clutch the remembering heart.

The revisionist take on the crisis absurdly downplays the threat. The terrorist core was small. But Quebec’s far and not-so-far left were cagily ambiguous, including one nervous René Lévesque – not the only prominent Quebecer unsure which way to jump if the deterioration continued (journalist Claude Ryan mused about forming a “provisional government.”) A young premier Robert Bourassa was a shaking reed. But prominent leftists Frank Scott and Jacques Hébert supported Trudeau’s declaration.

Civil rights zealots – and apologists like Globe and Mail writer Michael Valpy and Brian Moore, who wrote a novel from the FLQ point of view – make much of Trudeau’s supposed overreaction. Too bad. They can bay at the moon. This was Pierre Trudeau’s finest hour. Canada endured. What awaits Justin?

© Trevor Lautens, 2014

Poverty is not the mother of terrorism

Appeared in the North Shore News – April 26, 2013

SO I sat down, sucked a thumb, and wrote an ingenious screed that could have been titled The Hinge of Western Democracy: British Columbia’s Provincial Election…

Which I’ve scrapped. Important though our election is to us, it shrinks to a local play on a small stage in light of the events of the last couple of weeks.

If you’ve been a long way out of town, they are: First, the let’s-blow-up-something-big amateur terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon by two young Muslims apparently acting on their own but driven by hatred’s borderless handbook.

Second, the stymied plan by harder-nosed suspects with al-Qaida connections to derail the VIA Rail-Amtrak passenger train between Toronto and New York City, which likely would have murdered more people than the Boston bombs.

It was not a good week for critics of the RCMP, the FBI, the close embrace of the U.S. and Canada when the going gets tough, and the surveillance cameras and airport security checks that are the gloomily necessary price for protecting our lives and freedom in a dangerous age.

It was also not a good week for the fresh, youngish leader of the federal Liberal party (how did he get to be 41 so fast?).

Asked about the Boston murders, Justin Trudeau gave the off-the-shelf response of armchair academics and their lesser, usually leftish acolytes: You’d have to look at the “root causes,” an intellectual odyssey that makes for interesting seminars and dispassionate histories of events like the French, Russian and other revolutions long after the human flesh ingredient of them has been torn apart and the blood washed away.

For my part, I abandoned the grade-school sympathetic take on the French variety years later, partly upon learning that after Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine a doubtlessly poor “root-cause” workman rolled her head between his legs and ate lunch. Further muddying the good-guys-bad guys theory, the kindly revolutionaries handed over the young lad in line to be Louis XVII to the mercies of a terrifying monster who would have been a model for today’s child killers.

The crazed belief, motivating all terrorists, is that if you can just murder certain individuals or classes of people and bully the rest, you will release the poor from the chains of “root causes” and enthrone them in the seats of power. This is one of those delusions that the great George Orwell had in mind when he scorned some idea with the phrase “you’d have to be an intellectual to believe that: no ordinary person would be so stupid.”

The poor very rarely foment revolution. Genuinely poor people don’t lead it. The suspects in the Boston and VIA Rail cases evidently didn’t come from the ranks of the abject poor. They’re privileged, living in the West, able to travel, one a Tunisian doctoral student in Canada on a student visa and reportedly credited with academic publications.

As for the good news, apart from the news that would have been much, much bigger without the sharp work of the oft-criticized police, it’s heartening that important information about the VIA Rail plans came from within the Muslim community itself. No one knows the value of freedom and the rule of law – flawed and disputed as they are in grumbling Canada – better than the immigrants from many countries where those qualities are conspicuous by their absence.

. . .

Get angry, West Vancouverites, if you want to preserve the Ambleside Beach strip from 13th to 18th as a park.

What devious council and busy town hall bureaucrats want for the strip is nothing more than crude commercial exploitation. And, as flagged by Rob Morris in his April 21 letter to the editor, not just the thin edge of a wedge – a fat edge, with more certain to come. Californication.

Restaurant. Bar. Equipment rental (cabanas, beach chairs, swimsuits?) and food concessions. Child care centre. Arts facilities. And “a ferry dock and terminal” (shades of the shot-down scheme for a marina proposed years ago by George Walker). Some “preservation” of the beach.

. . .

B.C.’s almost pietistic Conservative party isn’t immune from the erring-candidate disease. Jeff Sprague resigned from the race in Liberal Naomi Yamamoto’s North Vancouver-Lonsdale riding after what the party called “an unfortunate personal incident,” at this writing unidentified but, according to News 1130, involving an alleged drinking-driving incident.

. . .

Reader Judith Berg drew my attention to the all-party standing ovation Joan McIntyre, retiring Liberal MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, received in the last sitting of the legislature. I note it here for my sins, having chided McIntyre for lacking the visceral political gene that more combative types have – and, many would say, a good thing too.

© Trevor Lautens, 2013