The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Saturday, June 12, 2004


All candidates, all the time.

Decided to swing by an all-candidates' forum in Vancouver Centre today while bouncing between various bike month events in the city. As it turned out, it wasn't a complete waste of time. All the big hitters showed up to debate each other; so did a fair number of purported Vancouver Centre voters, be they there through partisanship, boredom, or the crappy weather. It was a strictly downtown debate, focussing more on social issues, the environment, and the perpetual health-and-education concerns rather than the tax 'n crime talk that sells out in suburbia. In a tightly spaced, tight-knit urban riding, a local candidates' debate does make a difference -- even if only a few hundred people attend, word gets around.

NDP candidate Kennedy Stewart and Liberal Hedy Fry seemed to have the broadest command of the issues. Fry pointed to her human-rights record (though people in Prince George will quibble about that) fighting racism, discrimination against gays and lesbians, and breaking ranks with her own government over a House resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide. Stewart hammered away on urban issues and democratic reform and accused the Liberals of having moved away from the ideals of Trudeau and Pearson that the Grits still trade on. Conservative Gary Mitchell stuck to a few points for the most part; Adscam, the gun registry, and crime (apparently a Liberal product) were his favourites. Mitchell also generally railed against corruption and waste in Ottawa; Fry shot back with the fiscal messes that Conservative governments in Saskatchewan and Ottawa left their successors in the early '90's. Both Fry and Stewart took their shots at the Conservatives on gay rights, the environment, and Stephen Harper's support of Canadian involvement in the latest Iraq war.

On gay and lesbian issues, all the major party candidates expressed support for same-sex marriage and protection for gays from hate crimes, although the heavily Liberal crowd wasn't buying Gary Mitchell's attempts to sell them on the Conservatives' policy of holding free votes. The thinking seemed to be that in a party with a lot more queer-bashin' fundies like Stockwell Day and Myron Thompson than urban liberals like Mitchell or Vancouver Quadra candidate Stephen Rogers, a free vote was as good/bad as a policy against gay marriage.

Yes, the subject of coalition governments came up. Kennedy Stewart made it clear that a move to proportional representation was the sine qua non of NDP participation in a governing coalition. The others avoided the scenario -- for now!

Fashion police: Oh, Gary; oh, Gary. You're the gay guy in this race; you should have the best damned fashion sense of the lot. So what was with that faux-casual outfit? Jeans with a sports jacket? How early-'90's CEO of you! Don't you recall that Hank Scorpio invented that look? Not a good choice if you're trying to convince people that you have no plans to take over the world and/or rule their lives...

Plants? Almost everyone had 'em, and we're not talking about those multicellular land-dwelling photosynthetic life-forms, either. The crowd at the West End Community Centre was more Liberal than anything else; a contingent of Conservatives stood and clapped on cue in one corner, NDPers spread around the room. The Liberal and NDP plants got more questions in to the candidates than the rest; Conservatives generally tossed loaded questions at Hedy Fry; the lone Communist tossed a softie at his candidate.

Christian Heritage candidate Joe Pal has guts, I gotta say. Running for a party rooted in fundamentalist Christian theology in downtown Vancouver is harder than being a New Democrat in Calgary. Most of the boos and hisses lobbed Pal's way were half-hearted in recognition of the fact that the CHP is no threat to win a single seat. Attendees generally ignored Pal after the debate which was preferable to some sort of shoving match.

As expected, billions of rhetorical dollars were tossed around in a way that would make an accountant gag. Good thing that I'm not an accountant -- I was merely free to scratch my skull and ask, "Are you tryin' to pull a fast one on me?" Kennedy Stewart spoke of a $50-billion EI surplus as if it were sitting there just waiting to be tapped. That's going to be mighty tricky (impossible?) as that figure comes from the difference between EI premiums collected and benefits paid over the last decade. Meanwhile, Gary Mitchell tried to portray the gun registry as costing $2-billion (its projected cost over the first decade), rather than the $133-million annually that it's actually costing, and that scrapping it would magically free up money to pay for Conservative spending promises. Then you had the Canadian Action guy's talk about monetary policy, which should cause me to dig out my old macroeconomics notes on money, banking, and the fallacy of "financing the debt." Oh, did I mention that there was a Communist running in Vancouver Centre?

The debate's true hero? The moderator, hands down. She knew what morass all-candidates meetings often degenerate into and was damned and determined to make sure it doesn't happened. She cut off questioners trying to give a speech followed by a question. Rambling answers didn't get too far. Partisan plants were allowed to speak, but invariably bitch-slapped for trying to ask loaded questions or toss softballs at their candidates.

Finally, nobody was told, "we've cleaned out your cage."

General assessment of the candidates:
Kimball Cariou, Communist: Revolting as always (or at least plotting one), the indefatigable People's Voice editor is a bit like a living museum exhibit, but an articulate defender of a discredited belief system. Had to take off early, which diminished the shindig's entertainment value.
Alexander Frei, Canadian Action: Severely out of place; had trouble answering even simple questions of sovereignty. Zoned out completely on a couple of questions. Regularly heckled by the crowd to "shut up and pass the mic."
Hedy Fry, Liberal: She might not be able to travel east of the Pitt River or south of the Fraser without armed guards, but she knows her riding and how to charm her constituents. Strident and unapologetic for how she's performed her job.
Robbie Mattu, Green: A bit out of his depth. Able to answer questions on social and environmental issues, but fuzzy on economic and foreign affairs. Merely saying that "the green economy will create jobs" doesn't make it so.
Gary Mitchell, Conservative: Testy and feisty; seemed to suffer from a case of Short Man Syndrome. Oozed antipathy towards the rest of the candidates and unfriendly audience members; a lot of his supporters seemed to have the same hard-edged attitude. Ducked everything but the parts of the Conservative platform that sell in the heart of Vancouver.
Joe Pal, Christian Heritage: Stuck to his notes and slogged through the sneers. Above-average effort if nothing else.
Kennedy Stewart, NDP: Forget the stereotype of the tweedy socialist academic. Stewart was almost folksy on stage, peppering his responses with real-life anecdotes about real government support for job retraining rather than just relying on tax cuts, or about the real impact of federal action or inaction at the street level in Vancouver. Simultaneously knowledgeable and plain-spoken -- a pleasant surprise.

In infinitely more frisky matters, the Vancouver Nude Bike Ride was somewhat hampered by inclement weather. Several dozen cyclists participated, far short of the hoped-for 250, and many participants decided to emphasize the clothing in "clothing optional."
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