When Rabbit Pie Helped Save a Nation

When my first wife and I packed our modest earthly acquisitions in 1948 to head halfway ‘round the world in search of a future with promise, food rationing was still being strictly enforced in the UK. It was one of the major factors in our family debate, “should we stay, or should we go.” A soon-to-be second mouth to feed tipped the scales when, one month, we gave up our meagre meat ration for a double ration of bottled orange juice for Joyce. We left with some heavy concerns for our future.

It was 1954 before rationing ended in the UK and we enjoyed everyone of them, but eased our guilt by sending modest food parcels home pre-Christmas.

While far from being gourmets or diet conscience diners, our income (read lack of) precluded over-indulgence. But we could, if we spent cautiously for a few days, afford a decent Sunday roast once in a while and pretend we were rich. And after a while we didn’t even miss what had been our faithful fill-in during those meat deprived war years – rabbit in pie or roasted, in stew or sliced and stuffed between two slices of unbuttered bread.

To ask a Victoria butcher if he ever got any rabbit was to invite a strange look, and a head shake. I understand it’s a little different these days, but not much. You can find rabbit if you can find a good butcher. But it’s easier to find lamb chops.

So, it was with a mild degree of surprise a few days ago to view my evening dinner menu at Berwick Royal Oak and read that “Rabbit Pie” was one of the two dinner choices. We live well at Berwick with a main dining room, a Bistro and an in-house “village pub” to feed us, each with a different menu. The main dining room is full service; the Bistro casual “build your own stir fry or pizza;” the Shield and Dragon pub is casual with fish and chips as good as you’ll get anywhere.

Rabbit Pie: If you are of British Islands birth and lived through the troubled years 1939-1954, when we survived on a tough government imposed and enforced diet, you may remember the old ditty the BBC used to play endlessly when imported meat supplies were diverted to the military – or were lost in transit by the shipload courtesy of the U-boats.

On the Net readers can find a painful and I think ridiculous explanation of the ditty made popular by The Crazy Gang and designed to boost British morale when we thought air raids would never end. The “jingo” interpretation has the farmer as a German, the rabbits as the English running away presumably to be able to fight again another day. I prefer my theory that it was an effort by people of goodwill who thought there were better ways to feed a hungry nation in dire distress than by killing rabbits.

I remember that on wartime Saturday afternoons I would spend two or three hours helping small farmer Bill Dellahay “harvest” rabbits, skin them, clean them and wrap them in a soft damp cloth to take home to my mother who had assisted the local midwife in the delivery of Bill’s firstborn son. Bill was convinced my mother’s post-natal care saved his wife and son.

When I got home on Saturday evening with a suitcase full of dirty laundry and clean, well-wrapped rabbits, my sister would be dispatched to bring three neighbouring wives around. Each would be presented with a plump rabbit leaving two for mother.

While today that might seem overly kind, my modern readers should understand our fridge was a walk-in pantry. Shelf life was short. A walk down Bottrill Street around 2 p.m. on a given Sunday would tantalizingly confirm that three rabbit pies or casseroles were approaching perfection in coal-fired ovens while a fourth simmered in what would eventually be rabbit stew.

And the Berwick Rabbit Pie? A little embarrassing, so let’s keep this to ourselves. Fighting an attack by my old enemy gout, I sat pre-dinner with the offending foot elevated watching depressing news and fell asleep. Dinner was long over. My home-made sandwich could not be described as great. And my friends tell me, gleefully, the rabbit pie was “pretty good.”

But I’ll wager they could never be as good as Bill Dellahay’s wartime treats when we briefly laughed at rationing.

Snake Oil and Democracy

In customary style on June 12, The Guardian columnist, Polly Toynbee, succinctly described Boris Johnson’s appeal to Great Britain’s Conservative Party to elect him their new president and thus, automatically, UK Prime Minister. It was delivered, she wrote, with “charm, the magic; the charisma was well polished.”

And then, before Johnson supporters could reach for their ballot papers, she added: “His snake oil of choice is optimism so miserably lacking in politics now, radiating out of him like sunshine. All fake, all sun-ray lamp that turns off in private, but it outshines his rivals and dazzles anyone willing to ignore everything we know about his rotten-to-the-core character.”

In the UK and online, The Guardian and its reporters and columnists support the old and proud philosophy of honest journalism; “get it fast, get it first, but first, get it right.” (For the record I’m a Guardian subscriber, but am not on the payroll and never have been. I think that online or in print, it’s among the best in the world. And, I’m happy to be able to read it for a few pennies a day.)

What attracted me to the Toynbee column and a few days later (June 24) a piece by Max Hastings, former editor of the Daily Telegraph and the London Evening Standard, was the similarity, although never mentioned, in the public portrayal of Johnson with USA President Donald Trump.

Here’s Max Hastings on Johnson: “There is room for debate about whether he is a scoundrel or mere rogue, but not much about his moral bankruptcy, rooted in contempt for truth.” And later in the same article: “Dignity still matters in public office, and Johnson will never have it.

Yet his graver vice is cowardice, reflected in a willingness to tell any audience whatever he thinks most likely to please, heedless of the inevitability of its contradiction an hour later.”

Substitute Trump for Johnson and nothing else need be changed.

The same rule can be applied to Hastings’ note that Johnson, like Trump, has had a “lurid love life.”

Hastings: “We can scarcely strip the emperor’s clothes from a man who has built a career, or at least a lurid love life, out of strutting without them.” He forecast that, if Johnson should win the PM’s job, “the experience of the premiership will lay bare his absolute unfitness for it.”

For Canada, stuck between “absolute unfitness of Trump” ruling just to our south and the pending possibility of an “absolutely unfit twin” in charge of our mother country, life could be about to take another interesting but unhappy turn.

The UK, once the mightiest of Empires will soon to be Brexit divorced from Europe; Scotland is still fretting for full separation; Wales must wonder if it should leave or stay; Ireland might ask if anyone is interested in a homecoming for the northern counties. And England would be a small left – alone country in a world where what we call western democracy wobbles on its foundations in the old world and the new.

In “the old country” the once world power is considering asking a man with a well recorded embarrassing conduct record to shuffle it off stage. In “the new world” United States of America Republicans have already made one bad leadership decision and are considering repeating it, believing a man whose main interest in life appears to be his own fame and gratification can win back lost leadership respect.

Quo Vadis? is all we can wonder.

Righteous Anger Is Hard To Find

“Anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to become angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way—this is not easy.” Aristotle 384-322BC

I was reminded of the old philosopher’s thoughts a few days ago when chatting with a gentleman just back from an extended visit to Ottawa and Toronto. He had, he said, never experienced, so much outspoken criticism “of the West—especially Alberta—for its hunger for ever-larger pipelines to export oil.”

While the criticism of “western cowboys who don’t give a damn for the rest of Canada” was irritating, it was the anger with which the words were spoken that really disturbed him. And, it wasn’t just one or two people, he said. “It seems everywhere I went, I ran into the same anger, the same bitterness.” Nasty, and for a Canadian born native westerner, disturbing. “They were angry with me, suggesting we might like to separate from Canada.”

It was back in 1960 that Quebec started talking of splitting from Canada—in anger and because it felt it was getting a bad deal from the rest of the country. The Parti Quebecois was formed, but it took until 1980 before a first vote was held on separation. It failed, and the Parti Quebecois tried again in 1995—and failed again as Quebec voters opted to remain in Canada.

Four months ago, Angus Reid conducted a poll in Alberta to measure how serious the electorate was on burgeoning talk of separation. Fifty percent of those polled were in favour of breaking free from what they regarded as Ottawa’s unjust demands (supported by BC) on the development, sale and shipment of one of Alberta’s natural resources.

Pollster Reid said Albertans felt they were not being listened to; that their interests were being ignored. Many felt it was time to leave the family. But, at the same time, he urged observers to “slow down before drawing parallels” with the old Quebec situation.

I’m sure that appeal included cooling the rhetoric when debating how to best involve Indigenous original landowners in the extraction of natural resources; how to safely ship the product to market; and, how to ensure environment protection, a fossil fuel extraction and shipping issue that tends to inflame Canadians outside Alberta.

Only when we shout “fill ‘er up” at the gas pump do we accord respect to this now cursed natural resource, which a hundred years or so ago brought us freedom of movement we had never dared dream of; it made it possible to stock our grocery stores with the freshest and the finest foods and every other kind of store with everything we need to maintain decent life standards.

The need for fossil fuel to power transportation will pass; indeed, it is diminishing every day. We can urge greater speed to bring an end to the internal combustion engine. But, when we feel a need for angry confrontation, we should make sure we have picked the right target, the right time, right way and right purpose.

And always remember when challenging another’s point of view:

“Non semper ea sunt quae videntur.” Google will translate.

Relax,Listen,Consider and Pray

When it comes to local public project spending, there’s not a lot of good news these days. We seem doomed to cost overruns whether we’re replacing an antiquated sewer system or a rusting bridge spanning a modest harbour waterway, or re-designing and building a new intersection on Vancouver Island’s lone north-south highway.

It has become a depressing fact of life that original estimates will often close to double when the final tallies are made public. The most recent announcement that the new intersection on the Island Highway on the outskirts of Victoria will cost at least $10 million more than initially estimated was received with mumbled grumbles, tempered by relief that the provincial and federal governments will be sharing the cost.

Native Vancouver Islanders, especially South Island dwellers with mild winters, early daffodils and cherry blossoms the envy of Japan, appear to believe that Canadians who don’t live in the southern island banana belt are generous people who will happily send them financial tax relief when projects rocket into the red.

They seem to have difficulty believing my old, oft-quoted, friend Pogo who said he had seen the enemy, “and it is us.” “Us” are the various publicly-funded governments who pay the original “estimated cost” plus the “unanticipated” $10 million more in overruns.

Canada’s governments – municipal, regional, provincial and federal – have only one source of income … we, the people. Whether we own big companies employing a thousand workers or run a one-person cottage operation, we make payments to those we elected to guard, protect, collect and distribute our taxes, our collective earnings.

Governments, minor and major, seem to forget that in the months and weeks leading to an election we think about the taxes we pay, and we decide whether to trust our government leaders with another mandate and unrestricted access to the vault.

We have one of those decision days coming in October when we could give the Liberal Party another four years of control of the vault, or give the keys back to the Conservatives we fired a few years back.

We could indeed take wild leaps into the unknown with the Greens or the NDP in charge of spending while, hopefully, the economy continues to expand. But, only a long-shot, reckless gambler would consider taking that chance.

What can we anticipate between now and election day?

The Liberals: Still in control of spending, they will be doing a lot of just that … spending. Every time they announce that the government will generously support a long-awaited project, we need to remember that the money comes from … we, the people.

The Conservatives: They will be making many project promises across the country. Remember that each promise must be accompanied by “if elected” because they don’t yet have a key to the vault. And, from experience, we know that campaign spending rhetoric without our cash is rarely binding post-election.

The NDP: We have to wait and see what emerges as a clear-cut platform. At present, we have a horse with a jockey that isn’t sure which way he’s supposed to run on the track.

The Green Party: It will be interesting to hear a clear-cut industrial climate change policy that would not create massive plant closures and job losses; and, what projects they would create to replace the lost businesses, jobs and tax contributions their present plans appear to eliminate.

It’s going to be a long hot, promise-filled summer. Relax. Listen. Consider the realities. And Pray.

With All Our Faults We’re Better Than We Were

“I think that those who report politics, and by and large that would be members of that group of journalists called the lobby (in England; the Press Gallery in Canada), I think they are a very inward-looking, very incestuous bunch of people, who are overly preoccupied with process rather than policies.”

It is something President Trump would like to say today, but his vocabulary can only get him as far as bleated “fake news.” It was the well-known Brit politician Peter Mandelson who voiced that razor-edged criticism in a parliamentary speech a few years back – and he was just re-echoing William Windham, Minister of War in the UK in 1798, who had lamented the quality of press reporting on a war with France.

It was a time when parliamentary proceedings were not supposed to circulate beyond the walls of the debating chamber but were being “smuggled” out to unscrupulous publishers of news sheets.

“Newspaper writers are not the best judges of political affairs,” said Windham. “Their reports are evil in nature” but are being believed as true “by a great mass of readers who are not the most discerning class of society … newspapers are being carried everywhere, read everywhere by persons of very inferior capacities, and in common alehouses and places frequented chiefly by those who were least of all accustomed to reflection, to any great mental efforts …”

Oh dear, oh dear, what a bad bunch my forefathers in the news writing business were, “scattering poison where they could, bringing virtue to discredit … teaching the ignorant and credulous to despise every man and every measure that was respectable …”

Windham said he could not look at a man “of low condition with a newspaper in his hand” without comparing him to “a man who was swallowing poison under the hope of improving his health.”

There are more than 200 years between Windham’s tirade (1798), Mandelson’s scalpel slice-and-dice (2002), and the childlike trumpeting of President Trump to please his base support. But the theme remains unchanged. The masses – the people – could never be expected to understand what politicians were doing or why. And reporters should never be trusted to properly explain a government’s thinking.

For a hundred years or more, the contents of parliamentary debate were confined to parliament. MPs could not publish their speeches without special permission of the House. It was resolved in 1641 that “no Member of the House shall either give a copy or publish in print anything that he shall speak here without leave of the House.”

Lord Digby was caught distributing a printed copy of one of his speeches and reprimanded. All copies of his speech were collected and ordered destroyed by “the public hangman” as a gentle warning of what could have been much tougher justice for publicizing a parliamentary speech without permission of the House..

A year later, Sir Edward Dearing had a collection of his speeches printed and in the process of distribution when he was apprehended, expelled from the House, and imprisoned in the Tower “for acting against the honour and privilege of the House.” His speeches were bundled and “the public hangman” ordered to arrange another bonfire.

But the need for the censorship created to keep the King from punishing MPs who spoke against him was slowly diminishing. In 1660, parliament passed a licensing act for regulating printing and printing presses, though debate reporting was still not allowed.

It wasn’t until 1771, after riots, arrests, hasty trials, and imprisonments of printers in the Tower, that the Commons caved and parliamentary reporting as we know it today was established. The House of Lords followed in 1775.

It’s called one of our greatest freedoms – freedom of the press, but one thing has never changed: the lingering suspicion that “the press” can’t really be trusted; that reporters, columnists and editorial writers are told what to write by never-seen editors and publishers once described as “holding power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”.

It isn’t true,but the doubts linger. Not a perfect arrangement, but as De Tocqueville wrote in defence of democracy and our free press: “In order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberties of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils that it creates.”

(Andrew Sparrow’s Obscure Scribblers –a history of Parliamentary Journalism, is an entertaining read – if you can find a copy.)

Free Speech – But Be Careful

Thursday, May 30, 2019, should be circled on anniversary calendars, the day 38 members of the Legislative Assembly rose in succession on personal points of privilege to condemn the conduct of Speaker Darryl Plecas. And, failed in their mission.

One or two of the protesting MLAs altered portions of a prepared text, but the majority stayed with an unprecedented flood of identical criticism with most stating he or she had been personally offended. They intoned: “I have become aware of behaviour and conduct undertaken by the Speaker with respect to senior officers and employees of this Legislative Assembly that I believe to be improper and compromises the ability of those officers to independently do their duties.”

The actions referred to had been made public hours earlier with the revelation that Speaker Plecas had authorized the seizure of hard drives from senior staff computers. A seizure, Plecas claimed, he had the power to make anywhere in the Legislature precinct for “security reasons.” He had been reported as saying in interviews earlier that he had the authority to walk into offices and request hard drives from all over the Legislature.

The massed chorus of Liberal MLAs challenged that power with: “I believe that activities undertaken by the Speaker, including the seizure of records including electronic records … constitutes improper conduct with respect to my right as a member of this assembly and impedes my personal freedoms as a member of this House.”

In their final assault, they accused Plecas of the serious offence of breaching “the individual and collective privileges of this House and contempt for this House.”

And, that is just about the most serious charge any MLA can level against another member – or anyone in the public for that matter, including news reporters, pundits, editorial writers, and even lowly bloggers who may slip from fair comment to “bring into contempt” the democracy we all claim to cherish, but hardly understand.

Standing Order 26 in the rules governing conduct in the BC Legislature is brief when it first mentions “privilege.” It simply states: “Whenever any matter of privilege arises, it shall be taken into consideration immediately.” That’s it. No messing around.

Plecas brushed aside the 38 repeated charges and the House adjourned and MLAs began their summer barbecue break.How could he do that?

Immediacy is not the only requirement when dealing with “privilege.” In George MacMinn’s Parliamentary Practice in BC, Volume 3) there’s an advisory note following the actual order. It reads, with a note of despair: “To give a concise definition of privilege would be impossible … There are thousands of Speaker’s decisions on privilege throughout the Commonwealth and an abundance of decisions on the subject in British Columbia.”

He then provides several pages of advice on procedures to be followed “on raising a matter of privilege” and supports that advice with a special 46-page appendix detailing with debates and findings over the years when abuse of privilege has been charged.

Back in the early-90s, an unnamed newspaper ran a lead editorial accusing the Speaker of partisanship. The matter was raised in the Legislature and a motion put forward, mildly stating “this Legislature regrets the publication of the editorial in the newspaper.” A mild rebuke only, but with Speaker Norman Whittaker sounding a warning bell that harsher punishment could have been applied.

He said while no offence could be taken by a newspaper’s attack on government policy, the charges of partisanship against Speakers “of this Legislature … and what it is pleased to call ‘the progressive decadence of the membership’ is unacceptable.”

“The freedom of the press is a precious thing, but newspapers have a responsibility not to exercise that responsibility in such a manner as to bring into contempt our democratic institutions and systems of government.”(BC Journals,Nov 28,1938)

He echoed the warning note that while the House had held back from “calling the author of the article before the Bar of the House” it was an option – and remains an option today – if the Speaker, with support of the Legislature, ever decides to play hardball with “the press.”

Does this mean the Speaker has free reign; that any criticism of his actions could be construed as a breach of privilege in the form of a smear on the House? Speaker Whittaker seemed to think so. He said he was quoting “from a recognized authority on parliamentary practice’’ when he ruled “the Speaker is the representative of the House itself, in its powers, it’s proceedings and its dignity … And reflection, therefore, on the Speaker is a reflection on the House itself …”

Today’s Speaker remains in office until voting day in the next general election. He can only be challenged by “substantive motion” which some experts say could include a non-confidence vote.

But didn’t we witness 30 plus non-confidence votes on May 30? Not really. There may have been numerous attempts to do so, but the Speaker apparently decided they technically failed to meet the specific criteria demanded by the rules – and his ruling cannot be challenged.

And be warned, as you mutter or rage against the goings on under the Big Dome of the Legislature, do not use words that impinge on the dignity of the Speaker or a rank and file MLA. They are “privileged” and protected and the bar of the House is a fearful deterrent.

Stay tuned. Remember the day will come when you can tell them what you really think of their dignity and their decisions with a series of simple ticks on a ballot paper.

Fondness for Power and Calibrating Justice

They promised transparency in 2016 when the New Democrats gained a fragile mandate in British Columbia after the once-floundering Green Party won three seats and pledged to support the NDP in the Legislature. It turned another general election defeat for “the left” into a one-seat majority victory.

Premier John Horgan and his round table of newly appointed cabinet ministers pledged transparency and clear-cut decision making. No more flamboyant promises with hidden or deceptive meanings. No more double entendres. Just the facts. Precise, clearly spoken or written, easily understood. All the facts. Nothing buried accidentally or deliberately.

And then last Sunday (May 26) my local newspaper, The Times-Colonist, published a report on events leading to Dulcie McCallum’s final days (1992-99) as Ombudsman of BC.

I am leaving readers to find their own way to McCallum’s version of “transparency, 1999; the dark glass version” (Comments, Page A11, May 26, 2019) while I ferret from the same article her thoughts on the more recent report of former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin on the recent eruptive events at the Legislature.

McCallum does not question McLachlin’s findings or recommendations. She just notes that “when the McLachlin review was announced, Government House Leader Mike Farnworth said the report would be made public … But when the report was completed, government reneged … parts of the report had been redacted.”

It’s what they call “transparency through a glass darkly.”

McCallum, who now resides in Nova Scotia, writes: “After the McLachlin report was completed, the government tabled a motion in the legislature (which was passed) to seal all of the evidence submitted during her review and released a redacted report. The motion to seal the evidence may be justifiable, but not the redactions … British Columbians are entitled to see the complete report.”

She then tosses in a phrase that intrigues and demands sharper focus. The italics in the quote are mine, and so is the guess at what she meant. “Government did the right thing in taking this matter seriously with the appointment of the former chief justice. But fondness for power sometimes has a funny way of calibrating justice. Government has to finish the job by doing what’s fair and just: Release the full report.”

“Fondness for power?” Was that what McLachlin was suggesting when, in her report, she was critical of Speaker Darryl Plecas? She wrote: “It is not entirely clear why the Speaker did not bring his concerns to the attention of the clerk and sergeant at arms forthwith, as one would expect of a supervising officer, or in any event before taking the dramatic action of having them publicly expelled from the Legislative Assembly building.”

Plecas,sounding as bellicose as Donald Trump, has responded that he would have done nothing differently and Premier Horgan has refused to consider a Liberal call to replace the Speaker.”We have a Speaker,” he said during the latest flare up over Plecas’s conduct. “Darryl Plecas is the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and he will be until such time as he decides not to be.”

Could that be a case of a fondness for power being a funny way to calibrate justice? Just asking.

McLachlin was not as supportive in her report: “What emerges from the evidence is that the Speaker viewed the matters that concerned him through the lens of a police investigation and criminal prosecution rather than the lens of an administrator. He seems to have seen his task as having to build a credible criminal-type case … rather than promptly confronting and correcting the administrative practices that he questioned. He focused on an investigatory line of inquiry at the expense of his duty to ensure that the affairs of the Legislative Assembly were properly administered on a current basis.”

Will the Legislative Assembly, the only “boss” the Speaker has, understand the warning McLachlin appears to voice when she reminds Speaker Plecas that he is where he is to “promptly confront and correct questionable administrative practices” not act as investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury.

His/her Standing Order 9, first rule is clear:”The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum.” Without them even a Premier protected Speaker becomes as “sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.”‘

And, may all politicians, whichever flag they follow, one day come to understand that voters can be trusted with fully transparent reports and revelations. We’re not really dumb come election time. We can even remember your names and the promises you could and should have kept.

A CLOUD OF GOLDEN ????’s

Well, we had hardly finished British Columbia’s annual flower count when “thank you” notes from Ottawa started arriving.

We don’t get many of those out here in the golden west; not even when we send bunches of freshly picked daffodils to friends and families still locked in ice and snow. Sometimes, especially from old friends or loving family members, the thanks are strangely expressed in photos of a single finger threateningly extended.

This year, on the day the capital city Victoria celebrated the old Queen’s birthday, a chap from Ottawa, Marc Miller, flew into town and handed us a cheque for $15.3 million. Mr. Miller was introduced as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

He said the money came from the Disaster Mitigation and Adaption Fund and would be used to update, replace and refurbish water, sanitary sewer and storm drain collection systems. With existing systems up to 100 years old and climate change and global warming in these parts accelerating at twice the speed of the global average, there is an urgency to the project.

Mr. Miller never did say how Crown-Indigenous Relations came to be supervising the hand-out. But, wait for a few more paragraphs before rushing to judgment because on the day Mr. Miller handed over the $15.3 million, Tourism Minister Melanie Joly was in Montreal announcing a cash transfer of $58.5 million to help Canada programs designed “to boost international visits to Canada during non-peak seasons.”

We haven’t seen this amount of “gold” flashed around in these parts since the great gold rush when Victoria was the main city of supply for the dreams of Klondike.

And, hey, pay attention. That crazy early spring flower count with millions of golden daffs crowding eastern flower shops is reasonably solid evidence that BC, from Whistler to the gardens of Vancouver Island – amateur and professional – will have claim to funding from the $58.5 million funds.

Then, there was another bonanza confirming the arrival of the handout season. This one from the man himself – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – announcing an $11.7 billion (yes, it’s a “B”) to build a brand-new Coast Guard fleet. That will see 18 ships built at Seaspan, Vancouver, and Irving Shipbuilding, Halifax.

Time now for full confession on Victoria’s flower count and its influence on monetary decisions in Ottawa, which is – none. So what else could spark the sudden generous, money launch?

Simple. There’s an election due in October, and they’ve just brought out the honey wagon a little earlier than usual. Expect more in the coming weeks as the government disperses all the sweets it can while the opposition cries foul and responds with promises it can’t keep.

Two things to remember as we dream on summer beaches of National Government philanthropy. (1): the only money government has is money donated with heavy complaint by the people. It now, to stay in power, offers back bundles of cash we once owned.

And (2) we politely say “thank you” as we recall one of the few President Ronald Reagan quotes that deserve replaying when politics are front and centre as they are now until October: “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

Far, Fast and Tiring

Just a note to explain to faithful readers that I’m taking a bit of a weekend off after two days travel to spend one day visiting family on the south-east border of British Columbia.

A small town named Kaslo to be precise. You can have fun finding it on a map, not far from Nelson and nestled in the mountains surrounding Kootenay Lake. A tidy, well groomed, well cared for community. Clean, wide streets, bright store fronts as inviting and as friendly as their staff.

The Kootenay Hume’s occupy a chunk of land a walkable distance from town – a generational family with first names of Nathan,his wife Ashley and their two sons Joseph,5, and Micah,3. and a patriarchal elder,my second son Timothy, cooperatively tend a small flock of sheep,three or four horses, a multitude of chickens, four Yaks, and enough pigeons to provide pleasant background murmurings on a sunny day.

I’ll take you there as readers some day, but not this weekend as I just gently re-adjust my aging body (and mind) from sweeping views of highways wide and narrow, endless streams from small to large; streams that tumble down mountainsides sides and go roaring off through canyons till they reach calmer, wider rivers and feed into the multitude of lakes.

From where I live in Victoria it’s a one hour and forty minute ferry ride to the BC Mainland. And from there to Kaslo it’s an eight or nine hour drive, depending the number of stops required for fuel and food, and the requisite stops nature demands.

With two sons, Mark and Andrew sharing the driving we took a little over eight hours outward bound last Wednesday, a shade less coming home on Thursday after a day on the farm.

The only reason I’m checking in is because I haven’t missed a weekend chat since I stated blogging in March 2016. And I’m not yet ready to break that pattern.

On a precautionary departure note. My copy is usually fact-checked and improved by two seasoned editors who kindly protect me from self inflicted wounds. This weekend it arrives unedited. Scary..

A Win For Apathetic Voters

It might be a good idea if the Green Party of Canada muted their victory trumpets slightly until October when a parliamentary seat won will have real significance.

The Green seat won in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection on May 5 rates a feeling of optimism, but no more. It’s like being ahead by a couple of goals at half time; it’s a nice, confident feeling but there’s still 45 minutes to play.

I am not raining on the Green parade. Out-playing the always powerful New Democrats in one of its strongholds is great. But you only get to keep this by-election trophy seat for six months – and the goals scored in the first go-round don’t count in the general election finals scheduled for October as (dreadful thought) the leaves begin to turn.

While the Greens earned the right to sip victory toasts, a few among them took time for a more sobering look at the numbers which tell cautionary tales for winners and loser, for political activists and our “don’t give a damn” citizens.

In the 2015 general election, Paul Manly attracted 14,074 votes for the Greens but was defeated by New Democrat Sheila Malcolmson with 23,651. Malcolmson resigned her federal seat and won a January 2019 byelection to succeed Leonard Krog as MLA for Nanaimo. 

On May 5, Manly increased his vote to a shade over 15,000, and Bob Chamberlin carrying the NDP flag crashed to 9,392. Among the 2015 general election “also ran” Liberals and Conservatives were close, with 16,753 and 16,637 respectively. On May 5, John Hirst, Conservative, slipped to 10,093 while Liberal Michelle Corfield flamed out with 4,478.

The only columns with no surprises were those recording eligible and actual voters. In 2015 some 95,200 were registered to vote, but only 71,399 bothered. On May 5, the registered voters’ list had grown to 99,413; those who bothered dropped to 40,711 or just over 40 per cent.

Such staggering indifference to the right and privilege of participating in a free and secret vote should be more than enough to stifle any rejoicing by a person or party ignored by 60 per cent of the electorate. In fact, it could be argued that the main reason for the Green victory was voter apathy.

Maybe the “second half” to be played out in October will give the Greens a stronger claim that they are surfing a durable wave of popularity, rather than the strength they are now claiming from a byelection ripple. Maybe they will be able to persuade the thousands of New Democrats who failed to vote in Nanaimo a few days ago to vote Green in the fall and justify triumphant trumpeting.

But it’s far more likely that many Canadian voters will stay home on voting day this October and contribute nothing to the vital process of electing a government. In that event any trumpet playing should be as a mournful dirge for the democracy we don’t really care about. Sad, but honest.

(Comprehensive election statistics can be found on Elections Canada and Wikipedia.)