To Gord MacDonald, presenter and host on CKNW

Dear Mr. MacDonald,

As a member of the news team for CKNW, I'd like to thank you for all the work you and your colleagues do to keep British Columbians informed about what is going on here. You are, overall, a rich source of information, and in general you discharge your responsibility to do so admirably, as your team's steady stream of awards appropriately confirms.

In regard to the one year anniversary of the sinking of the Queen of the North, there was one aspect of your coverage in the open line session that disturbed me, and if you were to give second thought to the things you were saying, perhaps they would give you pause as well. Before saying more, let me state that I share your frustration, that of all other BCers, even more those of the families of Mr. Foisy and his companion, and of the community of Hartley Bay who face an environmental disaster in the making with the 240,000 L of various oils still at the bottom near Gil Island, at the utter lack of candor on the part of the standing watch at the time of the sinking. It seems unthinkable that with two lives lost and a large cache of underwater diesel the consciences of these folks would not drive them to saying clearly and distinctly what was going on. But that is the state they are in, and if they persist in that state, ultimately they will be reprimanded by their employer and who knows but that they will face charges of negligence causing bodily harm or death eventually.

My concern is the zeal with which you were enjoining the Fourth Officer and the Quartermaster to abandon their rights to due process, implying even a moral obligation to doing so. I would remind you that if you yourself were accused, truly or falsely, of acts that could conceivably result in your imprisonment or significant loss of opportunity to earn income in your trade, that right to due process might be your only safeguard against unjust application of any penalty, or in the case guilt of a lesser offence, of an excessive penalty. These rights to due process are one of the most precious benefits we receive as citizens and we should not encourage others to abandon them, nor make them seem ridiculous or unduly cumbersome. I know individuals who have lived in regimes where these benefits are not bestowed on citizens -- some as citizens who have escaped, some as expatriates who saw co-workers harassed and were themselves expelled unjustly.

Your station's status as the primary source of local news in Vancouver give you a special responsibility, not just to hold the feet of the powerful to the fire when wrong-doing has been done (as seems clearly to be the case in this instance at some level or other), but also to honour and safeguard, in every possible way, these freedoms which keep us from living at the mercy of authorities who are free to assume that we are guilty at their whim and are already under serious threat in the low-level insanity North America has bought into in the aftermath of 9-11 as well as in the face of regular perceived breaches of justice that trouble the public when otherwise guilty persons get let off on technicalities. Those technicalities could very well defend one of us, you or me, from false accusation on some other occasion and we would do well to remember that when we -- and especially you, in this position where thousands of people listen to you and take what you say very seriously in forming their own opinions -- are tempted to deride these protections when they seem to obstruct us from finding out "what really happened" in some contentious situation.


Two Earthquakes -- Ireland and Québec

Yesterday was a huge day. I woke up to pictures of 11th hour meetings with Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley at the same table promising to form a power-sharing executive in six weeks. In this matter I have more praise for Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams than for Paisley, but not very much more. For the unionists, I understand that thirty years of conflict make them gun shy, and I understand that there's less of an official connection between the DUP and the so-called unionist, so-called militias than there was between Sinn Fein and whatever body the "volunteers" became in the last decade, but... It seemed petty to me that in the face of a hard, legislated deadline, the DUP could dig their heels in and threaten further unrest in the face of what some folks in the six counties could only interpret as double-charging on water. Good on Sinn Fein for acting to prevent the collapse. But both these parties are still working off of very different dictionaries. Until they can agree on what the end game will be (and their founding documents contain absolute contradictions there -- to join Ireland or to remain a province of the UK), any agreement will be in constant jeopardy. But I have more hope for Ireland than I did. No matter who holds the reins, all parties have to feel that they are full citizens in their own country, not systematically discriminated against regardless of how they identify themselves.

And then, in my own country, I had no idea what to expect in the results of Québec's provincial election. I turned on the telly just before supper and saw the ADQ in the lead and I've been shaking my head ever since. No sovreignty referendum for the next little while I think. Whew! What Mario Dumont is going to do with his huge rump is anyone's guess: echoes of the Reform Party sweep of the west after Mulroney stepped down as Prime Minister of Canada. It also remains to be seen what "Autonomism" (Dumont's idea of what Québec's relationship with Canada should evolve into) means and how easily it may transform, transmute, revert to "Soverigntism" (the Parti Québécois's position that the province should separate from the rest of Canada). I wonder, too, what this means for electoral results in Québec in the next Federal election which can't be that far away.


Panasonic Fluorescent Bulbs

So... according to Panasonic, Home Hardware carries these bulbs (regardless of what the packaging shouts about "Gen IV" etc, they're known within Panasonic as "EFA" bulbs). But before you go running down to your local branch, phone ahead. My closest store bought stacks of them when they first came out but they didn't sell well. He can order them in but they're not necessarily in stock just yet.

Also... I mentioned to the person I talked to at Panasonic, Canada, that the 23W bulb was a little too dim, that a brighter one would be nice. She said their supplier had chosen not to produce anything brighter. Perhaps there's some technical problem still to be overcome.

And... if you do go in for replacing your bulbs at home with any kind of fluroescent bulbs, you should be aware that they contain mercury and should really be recycled in some other way than through the trash (unless of course you want mercury in your local water table some decades from now). Not that any municipality that I know of has that kind of recycling infrastructure in place yet, but it's something that somebody should be doing something about.


Canadian Federal Liberals the new BC Protest Party?

I laughed long and hard when I heard the story.

For years, federally, British Columbians have tended to vote Progressive Conservative, Reform, Alliance or now, again, Conservative -- in part because the party in power, the Liberal Party of Canada could be trusted to ignore BC, to pour largesse on Québec, Ontario, even Manitoba but never on BC. We neither had a large population whose employability needed to be shored up (Ontario), nor a tendency to question our future within Canada (Québec). We even had an unnecessary recession in the 90s because of fiscal policy that was good for everyone east of the Rockies -- well, in deference to Alberta, everyone east of Lloydminster.

Yesterday, the minority Conservative government tabled their 2nd budget (a small wonder in itself), during which speech the MInister of Finance, the Hon. Joe Flaherty, betrayed his (and his staff's) oblivion to their being anything Beautiful in BC when he proclaimed that the Rockies were the country's westernmost beauty spot. Then he went on to lay out a budget which, while I as the head of a single-income household with three children will benefit from, shortchanges BC on several fronts, especially in federal infrastructure dollars towards better public transportation. Less than a fortnight ago, $1,000,000,000 was announced in spending for Toronto's system. So, perhaps we, as the 3rd largest city don't quite deserve that much but, no further money at all? I was surprised.

But I was not as surprised as I was to hear about a Liberal MP from BC loudly complaining about how the budget had abandoned BC. Hearing that, I laughed and laughed and laughed. The barefaced hypocrisy stunned me. Where were you, Mr. Liberal MP in the Trudeau years, the Chrêtien years, even the Martin years? Were you in the back of caucus meetings being sat on so that your constituents' reasonable requests got ignored? Actually, I think this MP is a relative newcomer to parliament but certainly other members of the Liberal contingent from BC were there before their current stint in the minority. Where were your voices then? Why should we take your calls for redress seriously, as in, "if only we vote for these guys, BC will be better off next time."?

And I laughed but my laughter was hollow. I don't suppose that trying to leave confederation will help BC much, but our population is growing and we have a similar unemployment rate to that of Powerhouse Alberta. Still, I think we would do well never to expect anything from Ottawa, save appeals for votes, even from parties that unseat the current government after years of promising us a better deal, if only we vote them in next time. Proportional representation in the Commons would be a better idea, but I see no political will for that among the haves: Conservative, Liberal, NDP. That might not fix things either but it might enable BC to have a stronger voice, a unified contingent, willing to become part of any and every ruling coalition, so long as the next government takes BC's needs seriously, instead of having them look west, see a scary Alberta and ignore anything from beyond that point. If BCers care less and less about Canada, Canada will have nobody to blame but successive Winnipeg-and-east-thereof governments that have treated BC as no more than that vacant lot beyond the Rockies. I like the idea of Canada and I hope things don't continue to develop along that vein.


Fluorescent Bulbs I Can Live With

It's happened. I never thought it would, but I have found a replacement fluorescent bulb whose light bulb doesnn't feel like a refugee from some under-lighted cavern, far from warmth or "real" light. It's a "Panasonic - Gen IV Light Capsule" -- UPC in Canada is 92281 09308. It uses 23W and puts out what feels like 45 or 50W incandescent worth of light. And it's a nice warm reddish colour. Much preferrable to the harsh fluorescent panels in the ceiling.


Translink Re-org

There have been a spate of things I have wanted to write about these last few weeks but have been unable to grab a moment here or there. So, there's a compile going on and I have a moment to mention this story that greeted me when I picked up the paper this morning. I wish I felt any confidence that this was going to improve transit and transportation in the Lower Mainland. The revised governance and the expanded sphere of responsibility is good. The missing link is still funding. Where is the funding for all these projects going to come from?

One aspect of the announcement is that public-private partnerships will be fostered by revised zoning and encouragement to develop around transit hubs in return for the private sector building certain parts of the transit system. Great. But where does infrastructure improvement that doesn't have a built-in opportunity for development get its funding from?

It's time, it's time, it's time for governments to admit that the steady stream of gasoline tax already being collected belongs not in general revenue where it's currently being sent, but in paying primarily for better transit, secondarily for better roads. Using that money for any other purpose is an illegitimate redirection of those funds that is tilting the playing field up hill for any sensible transit policy and downhill for whatever else it's being used for.

I despair of that conclusion ever being reached by the people who could make that idea a reality.