Appeared in the North Shore News – January 1, 2016
In snooty West Vancouver, where we think foreign relations begin at the North Vancouver border, it is novel to have a bona fide parliamentary secretary for the federal foreign affairs minister.
“I got to Ottawa on the Monday and found I was going to be the parliamentary secretary on the Wednesday,” Pam Goldsmith-Jones said, her laughter and 24-hour-a-day political animalism crackling over the phone.
The freshly-minted Liberal MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country got a kick out of going through the Lester B. Pearson Building, home of the Department of Global Affairs. She – and fellow new North Shore parliamentary secretaries, Jonathan Wilkinson for environment and climate change and Terry Beech for science, who will both be asked for interviews by the undersigned – were briefed on secretarial duties and given security checks.
The fun part of the job over, Goldsmith-Jones took the initiative in inviting this hard critic of her West Vancouver mayoral record for a bit of a talk and a forthcoming lunch.
Obvious topics: The proposed Squamish liquefied natural gas plant, the (long) proposed North Shore wastewater treatment plant, and the (equally long) proposed new West Vancouver art gallery, now named the Centre for Art, Architecture + Design (CAAD).
The LNG plant decision process is getting a fresh re-start in the next couple of months, making it the most immediate issue of the three. Would she take part on behalf of her constituents?
“I think I’ll be in the conversation – I’m not sure how formal,” Goldsmith-Jones said. “I would like to be involved in the process. I’ve always had a lot of faith in the design of the process.
“If we are serious about living in a carbon-constrained world, that’s a serious game-changer. … I think it’s fair to ask: Where is the Squamish Nation coming from? There seems to be a disconnect there.”
She didn’t signal a personal stand: “To be truly interested in hearing from everybody, without saying what you think – does that leave you wide open, or does it lead to a good conclusion?”
The proposed sewage treatment plant, cost $700 million or much higher, is at the other end of the controversy spectrum – it’s not stirring public interest. “People don’t call (politicians) because the treatment plant doesn’t need fixing,” argues Troy Vassos, a North Vancouver environmental engineer and wastewater treatment expert, as reported by North Shore News columnist Elizabeth James.
The municipal boundary-crossing nature of the proposed plant led Goldsmith-Jones to emphasize the new reality – solid Liberal red from North Burnaby to beyond Powell River on Vancouver Island. That embraces four MLAs and three MPs, or two and a half if you split hairs about Terry Beech’s constituency bestriding the inlet. The larger picture: a western Liberal caucus that zoomed from four to 32 in October’s election. I suspect Goldsmith-Jones sees personal opportunities there.
The CAAD project, which Constant Reader knows I deride largely because of its proposed location overlooking John Lawson playground – even more, as a reader pointed out, if it threatens the magnificent sequoia on the northeast corner of the site – isn’t an immediate issue for Goldsmith-Jones.
“Of course I support the arts. … I haven’t heard anything from (West Vancouver) council,” our former mayor said. “I don’t know if they’ve got a formal application requesting capital dollars. I would have to know what West Van wants in regard to federal government dollars in the first place. I don’t know exactly where it’s at.”
The art gallery/CAAD is needed, she declared, pausing to praise the Michael Audain gallery under construction in Whistler. “We will find a way forward. I’ve seen things go through iterations. It takes time” – she recalled that Maggie Pappas agitated for a new theatre in the early 1990s and it took another decade for the Kay Meek to be built. Location? “I won’t get involved in that.”
Rather, she’s interested in the broad arts issue.
You can soon talk to Pamela Goldsmith-Jones yourself: Her constituency office opens this month in the heart of Horseshoe Bay.
• • •
Goldsmith-Jones’s foreign affairs role reminds me that this crept into my small mind years ago: The West’s Syrian policy is wrong. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s is closer to right.
Putin backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad does what all leaders fighting civil war do: act ruthlessly, desperately. Not one of his antagonists looks “Western.” No viable alternative has emerged in Syria. We in the West are great at focussing on this boogeyman and then that. The bungling West is responsible for much of the Middle East’s chronic turmoil. Put aside our democratic airs: Sometimes – consider Libya, Iraq, maybe Egypt — it’s better to stick with the dictator you have.
If we want to choke off jihadist terrorism, and slow refugee flight from Syria too, look hard at Saudi Arabia. We won’t. That’s one non-expert’s opinion.
© Trevor Lautens, 2016