For the Georgia Straight’s 18th annual Best of Vancouver issue, our editorial team has spent months on the lookout for good deeds, weird urban details, and various howlers to highlight. Here’s our contributors’ picks for Best of Vancouver 2013.
Best local political spin
While representing his constituents in the riding of Port Moody–Westwood–Port Coquitlam, Industry Minister James Moore has become a master of the sound bite. When asked why he supported U.S. telecommunications giant Verizon’s entry into the Canadian wireless market, he responded by talking about automobiles. That’s right. Automobiles. He asked whether consumers only want a choice between General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, or would they prefer to have the option of buying Toyotas, Hondas, and BMWs. He has a way with words, which is why he is on the escalator going up in federal politics.
Best B.C. political ad
NDP Leader Adrian Dix as a wobbly weathervane probably sealed his party’s defeat on May 14. Launched at the very end of the campaign, the ad reinforced perceptions that Dix would shift his positions at a moment’s notice. It didn’t matter that the B.C. Liberals ripped off the idea from the U.S. Republicans. It worked.
Best disputable definition of affordable housing
City councillor Kerry Jang got a lot of flak when he defined affordable housing in an August 19 interview with CKNW’s Simi Sara this way: “Well, you know, affordable housing is something that somebody can afford.”
Best example of a patient civic politician
Now in his fourth term on Vancouver city council, Raymond Louie—the man then–outgoing mayor Larry Campbell predicted in 2005 would be mayor someday—is going to run for council again in 2014. It’s not that Louie doesn’t want to become mayor. It’s only that incumbent mayor Gregor Robertson doesn’t seem to want to go away yet. Responding to a Straight query about his plans, Louie said: “I think that’s a question that needs to be asked when it becomes more evident that the mayor has decided he’s not interested in the position any further.”
Best fighting call to First Nations activists
At an East Vancouver conference last year against the expansion of the oil and gas industries in mostly Native territories in B.C., Ta’ah George, an elderly woman of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, issued this challenge to cheers from an overflow crowd: “It’s time to warrior up!”
Best withering post-election criticism of the B.C. NDP
Although maintaining that he remains a committed New Democrat, former Delta North MLA Guy Gentner unleashed the most devastating rebuke of the B.C. NDP after its unexpected loss in the May 14 election, saying: “The party lacks integrity.”
Best proof that you’re never too old to be an activist
After almost a year of delays and setbacks, a 70-year-old Victoria man embarked on a cross-country motor-home trek to protest the use of misleading telephone calls, or “robocalls”, during the 2011 federal election. Ted Musson arrived in Vancouver on June 15, about a month after hitting the road on Vancouver Island. The retired carpenter said he doesn’t mind if it takes him until 2015, the year of the next federal election, to reach Ottawa. He records his journey at electionfraud2011.wordpress.com.
Best synthesis of politics and Harry Potter
In the run-up to the coronation of Justin Trudeau as federal Liberal leader last April, UBC political-science professor Maxwell Cameron drew from Harry Potter’s world for an explanation as to why the young politician with a famous last name draws so much adulation. “Justin Trudeau is the Liberal Mirror of Erised,” the academic said. With its name being desire spelled backward, the mirror shows what anyone most wants to see, and just as Potter sees his mother and father, or Potter chum Ron Weasley sees himself as the champion of the quidditch team, Trudeau reflects what people desire for the Liberal party, the professor said. “Is it real or is it not?” Cameron asked. “That’s the question.”
Best example that politics is full of ironies
When John Cummins was still a sitting MP, the federal Conservative voted for the B.C. NDP candidate for Delta North in the 2009 provincial election. And after Cummins became leader of the B.C. Conservative Party, many of his party’s members in Vancouver-Kingsway not only resigned in protest but also announced that they had decided to endorse B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix as their candidate in the constituency.
Best example of misplaced ethnic umbrage
Vancouver architect David Wong wondered early this year why there was so much controversy over a planned hiring of about 200 coal miners from China to work in northern B.C. The author of the 2012 book Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America noted that, in contrast, there was silence regarding other foreigners taking over Canadian jobs. Wong cited a federal-government plan to increase the quota for young workers from Ireland by 1,000 spaces to 6,350 this year. That number for temporary Irish workers will rise to 10,000 starting in 2014. Where’s the outrage over that?
Best affectionate nickname for Gregor Robertson
Mayor Man Candy
Best city council moment
As city council debated measures to protect the Waldorf Hotel during a January 15 meeting, NPA councillor George Affleck stood up and began a preamble to a skeptical question. “Besides the mayor deejaying there, and Vision Vancouver using this venue as a fundraising venue,” he began. Mayor Gregor Robertson interjected: “Councillor Affleck, just to set the record straight, I have not deejayed at the Waldorf,” adding, “much as I might have liked to.” Affleck apologized for the mix-up before pressing on with his question about the difference between the Waldorf—the popular watering hole in East Vancouver that was sold to a development company last January—and venues like the Pantages Theatre, which was demolished. (Robertson did take to the turntables in another popular Vancouver music venue, the Biltmore, in December 2011, and at a pre-Pride Vision Vancouver event at the FanClub this July.)
Best reason to make use of “the Google”
Former B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins was in the hot seat during a leadership debate hosted by CKNW Radio in April in the run-up to the B.C. provincial election. Multiple fired Conservative candidates had led to questions about why the party’s screening process had failed to catch political hopefuls’ controversial views, such as fired candidate Mischa Popoff’s comments in a newspaper column about single motherhood. “We’ve gone back as far as we can on the Google,” Cummins said during the debate, according to Canadian Press. “We’ve had a huge number of candidates that we’ve had to check. You go back a hundred pages, or whatever the case may be. If somebody goes back 500, they may find something. We did the best that we can.”
Best reason to say hooray for Vancouver voters
Residents of this city, unlike those in Calgary, have never elected a right-wing buffoon like Rob Anders to Parliament. This guy voted against granting Nelson Mandela honorary citizenship. (And you thought we were going to say it’s because people in Vancouver–Point Grey didn’t reelect the premier.)
Best reason to resign from a political campaign
When Todd Hauptman stepped down from his position as campaign manager for Langley’s B.C. Liberal candidate, Mary Polak, just one week ahead of last May’s provincial election, critics speculated that he was making a high-profile flip to the NDP. (As chair of the Surrey school board in the late ’90s, Polak supported a ban on the use of three children’s books that depicted same-sex parents in a normal, positive fashion.) But the young man maintained that the move was for moral reasons. “The very base of voters who will likely help Mary get re-elected in just one week’s time are made up of individuals who hold hateful attitudes towards the community I am a part of,” Hauptman wrote. “It is knowing this that I simply cannot in good conscience support a campaign made up of people who think of me as less of a person because I am gay.”
Best reason why Margaret MacDiarmid might have been voted out of office
In the run-up to the May 14 provincial election, the B.C. Liberals eliminated funding for the Therapeutics Initiative, a renowned pharmaceutical watchdog based out of UBC. Then–minister of health Margaret MacDiarmid refused to explain why, declining five separate interview requests submitted by the Straight. She subsequently lost the vote for Vancouver Fairview. Four months later, the TI’s demise remains a mystery. We’re sure it’s not the case, but some people might wonder if that’s because MacDiarmid, herself a medical doctor, didn’t want to deliver answers that might fall on the wrong side of her Hippocratic Oath.
Best worst attempt to brag about thwarting a terrorist attack in Canada
A foiled “al-Qaeda–inspired” plot to bomb the B.C. legislature on Canada Day? It was a great victory for law enforcement, splashed throughout the media all over the country. But as time has passed and the public has learned more about the Surrey couple arrested, it’s looked increasingly like the RCMP was more involved in the terrorist threat than the supposed terrorists themselves. John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody have been exposed as a couple with questionable mental capacities struggling with methadone addictions. Meanwhile, a number of media outlets have questioned how involved the RCMP was in planning the attack and procuring the “weapons” that would have been used.