Month: August 2017

Saved From The Twilight Zone

Items found. While looking for something old, I stumbled across something new. Make that “new for me.” I was searching for background on events 150 years ago leading to the eventual creation of a new country – Canada. It was during a pre-Confederation meeting in London, England, that delegates from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and, what we now know as Ontario and Quebec, decided to name the new country Canada – but it wasn’t the only name under consideration.

Wikipedia (https://wiki.org) doesn’t tell us the names of the delegates who advanced Canada and seems a little uncertain as to whether it was a Nova Scotia or New Brunswick delegate who would claim the honour. It does note “Canada” was unanimously accepted after little discussion, though other names were suggested. “Kanata” was a local First Nations word for a settlement or village and had been easily adopted as Canada by explorers and early British and French settlers in Upper and Lower Canada, and what became the British Province of Canada in 1841.

What intrigued me was the note “other names were suggested” before Canada was chosen unanimously. Wikipedia provides the list for edification, few chuckles, brief consideration, and thankfulness that the authors of Confederation listened to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

So – the names our forefathers rejected: “Anglia” was discarded quickly for sure. “Albionoria,” or “Albion of the North,” sounds silly today but “New Albion” was the name British explorers wrote on their maps when they discovered new lands but didn’t have the time or means to explore them. If Albionoria was a little too fancy, New Albion was a recommended alternative. Both were discarded quickly

“Cabotia,” in honour of John Cabot, the early explorer, disappeared speedily, as did “Colonia” – whatever its root. Then there was the delightful “Efisga” – which sounds like a rude expletive until Wikipedia points out it’s the all-embracing acronym of English, French, Irish, Scottish, German, and Aboriginal. Also on the list were “Ursalia” – “place of bears”; “Vespatia,” “land of the evening star” and “Victorialand.” I wonder if Amor de Cosmos, one of British Columbia’s contributions to the weird political leaders’ club, proposed that one?

I’m skipping “Laurentia,” “Norland,” “Superior” and “Transatlantica” to give a little space to three specials:

“Mesopelagia” – “The land between the seas” was derived from mesopelagic and by dictionary definition “the middle pelagic or twilight zone” that extends from an ocean depth of 200 to 1,000 metres. Think of presenting a “twilight zone” passport at a Homeland Security checkpoint.

“Tupona” – To honour the United Provinces of North America and affirm staunch rivalry with the United States and resistance to sporadic attempts by the USA to absorb the fledgling country.

And last on today’s list: “Hochelaga” – Listed by Wikipedia as an old name for Montreal. When Hochelaga and Tupona drifted back to Ottawa, poet, statesman and fearless debater MP Thomas D’Arcy McGee rose in the House of Commons to “… ask any honourable member of the House how he would feel if he woke some fine morning and found himself, instead of Canadian, a Tuponian or a Hochelegander?” They never again appeared in debate.

We have much to be thankful for. “Oh, Hochelgander, our home and native land” just doesn’t inspire; “Oh, Tupona” is as bad; and “O ,Mesopelagia” can remain where our founding fathers hopefully placed it … forever sealed in a heavy lead box in the twilight zone, at maximum depth.

And, we can thank those old bearded guys who trekked back and forth across mountains, prairies and oceans in maximum discomfort and with great family sacrifice, to give us a strong foundation and the name to go with it.

(A footnote for history fans: D’Arcy McGee was assassinated on April 17,1868 by an Irish Fenian fanatic with opposing ideas on “the Irish question.” He was the first of three prominent political figures to be murdered in Canada. The other two were George Brown, March 2, 1889, and Pierre Laporte, kidnapped October 10, his body found October 17, 1970.)

Are We Canadians or……..?

So, what are we first – Canadians or British Columbians? Not a question to be answered in a hurry – and not easy to answer honestly, even after due and ponderous consideration.

It was Dave Barrett back in the early 1970s who first posed the question to me while sitting in the lobby of some obscure motel in the Interior chatting about nothing in particular and everything in general. “How do you think of yourself? As Canadian first and British Columbian second, or the other way ‘round?”

When I opted for Canadian first he said he did too, but that it was sometimes difficult when talking to Ottawa about things that could be of benefit to Canada, but not so good for British Columbia. His predecessor, W.A.C. Bennett, had run into the same problem once lamenting that BC was a goblet being drained by a ruthless federal government. But, complaining loudly, he never wavered in his loyalty to the greater good.

I’ve been thinking about that old conundrum since new BC Premier John Horgan announced his government would use every tool available to deny Kinder Morgan and Alberta oil access across BC to a Pacific port outlet. The federal government – Canada – has already approved the project, and next door neighbour Alberta and its NDP government are begging for the project’s economic boost in the toughest of times.

But, political brother and sisterhoods notwithstanding, British Columbia’s New Democrats are saying that while they understand the benefits that could accrue elsewhere, the project presents a serious threat to British Columbia’s rugged, but beautiful coast line. They argue that First Nations’ rights have not been fully addressed and increased oil tanker traffic in the relatively confined waters from Vancouver to the open ocean would be a clear and present danger to BC.

Andrew Weaver, leader of the three Green hitchhikers who promised Premier Horgan a road map to power if he would guarantee them a say in key environmental matters, has categorically forecast the result with the boast: “The pipeline will never be built.”

With Weaver’s sword of Damocles (the Green Party’s controlling votes in the Legislature) hanging over his head, Premier Horgan is seemingly being instructed that Green desires will take precedence over national government policy – or else!

When Canada became a country 150 years ago, our First Prime Minister John A. Macdonald told new Dominion of Canada statesmen: “Let us be English or let us be French – and above all else let us be Canadian.” It was advice we all heeded a few years ago when a few Quebec politicians decided they wanted out of Confederation, but the people of Quebec – with rest of Canada pleading with them not to break our country apart – rejected the separatists’ plea. They were Canadians first, Quebecers second.
Premier Horgan has said his aim is to get the best deal for British Columbia. That is an objective to be praised and supported as long he remembers, as should we all, “above all else” to be loyal to the province we call home, but remain Canadians first.

Learning a New Language

It isn’t going to be easy for the British Columbia’s New Democratic Party to change attitudinal gears in their first weeks behind the steering wheel of the vehicle called governance.

For years they have been back seat drivers – calling, often shouting, critical advice to the driver they have now replaced. Their back-seat advice was always sharply critical; often harshly and seemingly hastily spoken without careful consideration about accuracy.

When driving from the back seat, wordy advice comes easy and can be offered carelessly, but that all changes when the back seat critics take advantage of a stalled election campaign and, aided by three wavering Green hitchhikers, haul the driver from behind the wheel and take over. Words that could once be flung about without care must now be examined, vetted and polished before being declared in public. Denunciation, once proclaimed without hesitation, must now be checked and checked again before being proclaimed and released to media as fact.

Confirmation that old habits die hard was demonstrated a few days ago when newly minted Minister of Jobs Bruce Ralston announced with undisguised pleasure, that Gordon Wilson, hired by the former Liberal government to promote its Liquefied Natural Gas program, had been fired. He gave reasons: Wilson, with payment set at $150,000 a year, had yet to file a single report on his work.

Premier John Horgan was quick to support the dismissal and Ralston’s claim there had been “no reports in months.”

Alas, alack, Mike Smyth – enterprising columnist for The Province newspaper, checked the records. Wilson had filed regular reports with at least one extensive study and most of them were posted on the NDP website and had been since they were requested by the party months ago.

Embarrassing.

Premier Horgan was quick to apologize, so was Ralston. Horgan’s apology as reported by CBC contained some interesting words: “I’ve known Bruce Ralston for many, many years. He is a man of the highest integrity. If he believes he misspoke, I support that. I offer a similar apology to Mr. Wilson. I hope we can all move on.”

Okay, apology delivered although I’m not sure what “support” for “misspoke” (“to speak inaccurately, inappropriately, or too hastily”) entails. Whatever the inference, the premier suggests we move on. I’m all for that if he’s now asking his cabinet to shake this one off and remember they are now in the driver’s seat and no longer need to be always in ‘Liberal search and destroy’ mode.And let it be noted that an apology delivered is not necessarily an apology accepted.

In September, we shall be presented with a Throne Speech and shortly after that a budget. I can, and do, wish Premier Horgan success in moving beyond the NDP’s tedious negative rhetoric – and earnestly hope the Liberals don’t try to fill the vacuum with an echoing chorus equal to the worst of NDP’s perpetual crocodile tears.

And, I hope above all else that the Throne Speech and Budget bring some immediate benefits. I favour wise long-range planning, but The Book of James (Chapter 4) suggests we shouldn’t make moderate language and carefully stated facts a long term project: “Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow: What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes … Do not boast about arrogant schemes … such boasting is evil … (And) if anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it … it is a sin.”

That’s a few thousand years old advice, but hope, as always, springs eternal, especially as we wait for new direction and a budget from a less than robust government trying to shake off back seat driver habits.

Pick-a-Park Weather – and Thank the CRD

It’s pick-a-park weather on Vancouver Island with a long list of getaways to choose from. It is a list grown longer every year since the 1960s when the Capital Regional District was new – and much maligned.

The CRD has been harshly criticized over the years as it has tried to meet its mandate and bring neighbouring municipalities together in common cause. Regardless, it has never seriously wavered in its ambition to create one of the greatest local park systems in Canada.

At last count the CRD had 33 parks on its roster comprising some 13,000 hectares ranging from East Sooke, with 50 km of trails and choices of tough or easy hiking, to Coles Bay on the west side of Saanich Peninsula with 3.63 hectares of easy walking and warm swimming.

It all started in the late 1960s when Hugh Curtis was chairman of the board, Bill Long was the executive director and Tony Roberts was the planner. They had a never-ending list of lands to be acquired for parks. All three are now lost to the communities they served so well and I doubt if the thousands enjoying their six-decades-old efforts are aware to whom they owe their pleasure.

Tony was the idea man; Long was the guy who stickhandled a proposal through technical and budget channels; and Curtis was the politician responsible for getting majority approval from the directors of the board. They were a good team, not always agreeing at a first proposal, but all firmly on side once Tony won his sales pitch.

The CRD maintains a comprehensive list (Google: CRD Regional parks and trails) with thumbnail descriptions, hiking advice that trails are “easy, moderate, or challenging,” and approximate hiking times. Local readers thinking of tackling a wilderness hike within a 30-minute drive of Victoria should be sure to check online for trail conditions and wild life activity. There is a daily update if cougars or bears are wandering about.

Don’t be silly and go wandering off on your own. If it’s marked wilderness, that’s what it is. Travel with a companion and let a friend or neighbour know your plans.East Sooke and the Sea to Sea Regional Parks are for serious hikers although East Sooke at the Aylard Farm end is all-ages oriented.

If your family is on the young side you can enjoy a multitude of smaller parks scattered between Greater Victoria,Port Renfrew,North Saanich and the start of the Malahat. And, if you would like to include a brief ferry trip, the Gulf Islands have many offerings. Check the list for Duck Creek on Salt Spring –“a cool shaded creek and open meadow provide a lovely field and stream hiking loop –approximately a 45 minute walk….”

Sounds about my pace, although one of my favorites for a not too stressful walk on the tame side is the Devonian Regional Park, “tucked in between Metchosin farmlands, this small nature sanctuary offers a quiet refuge … a gentle walking trail through mixed woodland and along a winding creek…easy to moderate.”

I leave the rest of the long list for readers to cherry pick while the sun shines. Wander around the CRD website and be sure to check “What To Bring.” It’s just a common-sense safety list that need not include money; our CRD parks are free.

If you do visit a park, large or small, pastoral refuge or strenuous wilderness, remember who set this land aside for you over the years. Politicians don’t do a lot to make us happy, but every few decades or so they produce a winner.

And, for those brief, but pleasing moments in CRD parks in perpetuity, we should be thankful.