Best unexpected meeting of hip-hop and politics
No, Justin Trudeau wasn’t spotted at a Drake concert. (Not yet, anyway.) Rather, a recently installed mural by local artist Nick Gregson featuring the faces of Eazy-E, Tupac, and former NDP leader Jack Layton is blowing us—and our list of fantasy collabs—out of the water. Written above the unlikely trio’s heads on the blue-tinted wall at East Hastings and Vernon Drive? “Welcome to Eastvan”. Boyz n the Hood, indeed.
Best reason to keep an eye on public plazas in private developments
Some of the privately owned spaces that provide refuge for residents and visitors downtown seem to be disappearing as more buildings are going up. In March this year, the small plaza with a grove of ornamental cherry trees outside the Grosvenor Building on Alberni Street was demolished. A high-end retail building will take its place. Likely next to go are the rotunda and square outside the Pacific Centre mall on West Georgia Street. A three-storey building has been proposed to replace the square’s benches and cherry trees.
Best way to piss off Facebook trolls
Write about how racism affects Vancouver real estate, and watch the comments roll in…
Best argument for a rental tax credit
It’s tough for many renters, especially in Vancouver. Rents are high and vacancies are low. One way things could be made a bit easier is if tenants in the city and elsewhere in B.C. could claim a tax credit on their payments. It’s being done in Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario. In Manitoba, a tenant can qualify for up to a $700 tax credit. With a provincial election coming up in 2017, perhaps B.C. politicians may want to take up this idea.
Best example of standing up for schoolkids
At the risk of being fired by the province, school trustees with Vision Vancouver and the Green Party decided enough was enough. They refused to support $21.8 million in cuts to administration, education, and maintenance services in order to balance the budget for the 2016-17 school year. Perhaps knowing that the board enjoys tremendous popular support, the provincial government blinked. Instead of firing the board, Education Minister Mike Bernier ordered an audit. Again.
Best political campaign to keep schools open
While some Vancouver MLAs appear to be snoozing over looming school closures in their constituencies, Vancouver-Kingsway legislator Adrian Dix has been rallying parents, students, and educators to save Gladstone secondary and Sir Guy Carleton and Graham Bruce elementary schools. Over the past few months, we’ve seen a student flash mob, op-ed pieces, a massive petition campaign, and a high-profile bus tour to the school-board office. A famous Gladstone grad, artist Ken Lum, joined the campaign, accusing the provincial government of imposing “collective punishment” on East Side kids.
Best sign of LGBT change in Surrey
After years of criticism for failing to fly the Pride flag at its city hall, Surrey came through by both flying the rainbow flag (in solidarity with Orlando) and holding its first Pride parade this year on June 26. Although Surrey has been the target of criticism, Richmond still has yet to have a Pride march.
Best Christy Clark flip-flop
In May 2015, the premier ruled out taxing foreign buyers of Vancouver homes, saying that moving them out of the market would cause housing prices to drop. Fourteen months later, the B.C. government placed a 15-percent tax on foreign purchases. Housing developers went berserk as the price of a detached home dropped 16.7 percent in August. But the unflappable Christy Clark wasn’t perturbed about that. “The prices were going up way too fast and if we helped slow that down, that’s good,” the premier told reporters. The runner-up in this category? Clark’s flip-flop on a four-percent hike in medical-services premiums. She hasn’t abandoned a $3.5-billion Fraser River bridge project or the $8.8-billion Site C dam—but with about eight months to go before voting day, anything is possible.
Best Vancouver protest
On June 19, queers and Muslims held hands outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower on West Georgia Street. It was their way of repudiating U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s efforts to pit gays against Muslims in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shootings. Trump claims that gays support his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States, but the message from downtown Vancouver on that day suggested otherwise.
Best new art for justice
A highlight of the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival this year will be the installation of an eight-metre-high monument celebrating human dignity. Called the Survivor’s Totem Pole, the work will be raised in Pigeon Park in November as a tribute to people who have endured racism and other forms of prejudice. The lead artist on the project is DTES resident Bernie Williams (also known by her Haida name, Skundaal), who was the only female apprentice of master Haida carver Bill Reid.
Best indication that MLA David Eby is the future of B.C.’S NDP
There’s a growing sense about what will happen if John Horgan fails to lead New Democrats to victory in 2017, that it will be the end for him and other NDP figures from the 1990s. It will be time for new leaders, and one name that is always talked about is David Eby, the rookie MLA for Vancouver–Point Grey. Even B.C. Liberals acknowledge this. During question period in the legislative assembly last May, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said this after a round with Eby: “I quite enjoy the exchange with the dauphin of the NDP.” Interjections followed.
Best step forward
After decades of doing its best to keep B.C. drier than a Utah Mormon, the provincial government last year allowed liquor stores to start opening on Sundays. To the chagrin of the Tsawwassen Temperance League, society hasn’t crumbled and the streets and alleys of Metro Vancouver don’t look like the set of Barfly. How positively civilized: you can now roll out of bed Sunday morning, pick up a quick mickey of Bombay Sapphire gin, and prepare for church with a Satan’s Whiskers cocktail. (Pour gin, Grand Marnier, sweet and dry vermouth, orange juice, and orange bitters on ice; shake; then strain into a glass.) Now if only we could join the rest of the civilized world by having beer, wine, and spirits available in grocery stores. Like, you know, Mexico, Vietnam, Cuba, America, Italy, Cambodia, France, Turkey, England, Holland, Spain, Thailand, Portugal, Japan, Costa Rica, and—well, you get the idea. One foot forward, the other still, sadly, ass-backward.
Best proof Santa came to town
Santa Ono became the University of British Columbia’s 15th president. The former president of the University of Cincinnati isn’t named after the famous Saint Nick—his name is short for that of a Japanese folk character Santaro. So no, children shouldn’t send their Santa Claus letters to UBC.
Best balancing act in the civic political scene
Even though she’s the only Green trustee, Janet Fraser is unmistakably the most powerful member of the nine-seat school board. Because Vision Vancouver and the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) have four seats each, Fraser gets to cast deciding votes. Following the 2014 election, her swing vote ousted long-time Vision school-board chair Patti Bacchus. The NPA’s Christopher Richardson succeeded Bacchus; later, again with her deciding vote, Fraser Ballantyne of the NPA became chair. In December 2015, Fraser’s vote led to the election of current chair Mike Lombardi of Vision.