Special Updates

Ultimate Arrogance

What a difference between the boastful truculence of USA President Donald Trump last Tuesday and the calm reasoning of President-Elect Joe Biden’s Thanksgiving message a day later.

President Trump, in a rare one-minute speech from the White House, wanted to draw attention to the fact that his bible, the stock market, was showing signs of a strong recovery in the past 24-hours – and it was entirely due to him.

And, of course, it was – but only a supreme con artist would have the arrogance to demand praise for an economic recovery sign which was, in fact, an open rebuke of his wild administration.

For days after his defeat at the polls, President Trump refused to admit his loss. People who count such things say he launched at least 24 legal challenges claiming the election had been hijacked by his rivals. Every charge was dismissed because when asked for factual evidence of forged, faked, or destroyed ballots, the president’s legal team came up empty.

Undeterred, the president stilled refuses to concede defeat, but after a flurry of firing department heads, who he felt had let him down, he did agree to remove obstacles that had prevented Biden from engaging in transfer of power procedures.

It was enough to indicate he knew that his days of issuing royal commands were fast coming to an end. And most a most appropriate happening for USA Thanksgiving.

Twilight for the man who wanted to be King

In the final agonizing days of President Donald Trump’s tenure in the Oval Office, a darkness is threatening to engulf what was once the greatest, freedom-loving nation on Planet Earth.

It did not need to be this way. A full measure of blame can be laid at the feet of Mitch McConnell – the Republican Senate Majority Leader in Washington, D.C. – who, four years ago, chose to remain silent as his then newly-elected president boasted wildly and falsely: “I am the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.”

That small dark cloud of Inauguration Day groundless bragging has since grown from childish bravado to the scale of a tragic opera, Trump’s version of the final act of Gotterdammerung – The Twilight of the Gods.

It will be well into January before we can add “former” to his title. And, there seems little doubt that he intends to make the wait as uncomfortable and chaotic as possible. If democracy suffers in the process, and the nation he promised to make great again loses all respect on the world stage, so be it. The fault will be the failure of others; never of his own bonfire of vanity.

Through centuries of repetitive world history, we are reminded that Nero fiddled and threw another party while Rome burned and its empire collapsed. It’s what the media has now tagged as Trump’s “scorched earth” swan song.

This brings me back to where I started with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republican senators who could have taught Trump the basics of democracy. They chose instead to let him become the ringmaster of his own sad political circus. They worried about his irrational behaviour but never voiced disapproval of his dubious acts until a few days ago

McConnell – his voice just above a quaver – was answering questions the other day in a media scrum, questions about the President’s latest venture into foreign affairs and military posturing which will create major headaches for President-elect Joe Biden. McConnell suggested that people in their final days of power “should not make earth-shaking” policy changes which Trump had just done with scowl and glower firmly in place.

Just a spark of truth. We shall see if McConnell and his Republican spear-carriers have the courage and integrity to openly denounce Trump’s “scorched earth” policy.

They can borrow a few words from Sir Winston Churchill when he faced a Nazi leader who brooked no challenge to his ambitions, a leader who thrived on mass rallies and muscle to control dissent: “If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.”

It’s late, but never too late to reach for that sunlit upland.

Officer and Gentleman

Peter Godwin Chance was wearing his “bum freezer uniform” comprised of “a short jacket open in front with a vest underneath … at the throat maroon coloured patches” proudly proclaiming he held the rank of Midshipman in Canada’s Naval Reserve. He was 18 years old; the year was 1938 and he was reporting to Division Headquarters located in Kresge’s department store basement at the corner of O’Connor and Slater streets in Ottawa.

Less than a year later Midshipman Chance was on his way to Halifax to report for duty at Admiralty House, in 1939 the Naval Officers Mess, Atlantic Command. In his book A Sailors Life, he recalls the sunny June day in ’39 “when I arrived in Halifax via the CNR Ocean Limited. The typical summer fog had burned off leaving the all too familiar pervading odor from the National Fish Plant not far beyond the railway station and the fumes from the Imperial Oil Refinery in Dartmouth across the harbour.”

Not that sounds and smells dismayed him. “I was young, I knew absolutely nothing – but, damn it, I was eager,” he told me a dozen years ago in the quiet comfort of his Sidney home. Eager enough to be excited when shown to his “cabin” equipped with “two iron beds, a small table, and a chest of drawers for each bed. There was a window, otherwise, it was pretty spartan.”

His cabin-mate was Surgeon Lieutenant Charles Best “like me a new boy … I remember him as a very kind man … and appreciated only later that he was one of the internationally famous pair of Doctors Best and Banting, the discoverers of insulin.”

That was in June of 1939. By September, Canada was at war with Germany, and teenager Chance was onboard HMCS St. Laurent making regular runs from Halifax to the Grand Banks on convoy escort duty. “This was before re-fuelling at sea was invented. We could only go as far as the Grand Banks then we had to run for home to refuel.” 

If accommodation at Admiralty House had been spartan it rated as luxurious when compared with the St. Laurent where “my hammock was slung in kitty-corner fashion over an oil fuel tank hatch and about six inches below a bright light that never went out.” 

Peter Chance survived the Atlantic and by 1940 was attending Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, England. In London, he tasted “The Blitz.” 

On completion of his courses, Midshipman Chance was assigned to the Royal Navy’s HMS Mauritius, a Colony Class cruiser. He was on Mauritius in Singapore on December 7, 1941, when the news broke that Pearl Harbour had been attacked. Three days later Japanese bombers sank the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse.

Other adventures were awaiting the young officer as he moved up the promotion ladder from midshipman to lieutenant to commander. He had earned his wings and served on HMCS Magnificent but is quick to point out “I never flew from her.”

He was on HMCS Skeena for operation Neptune on D-Day and later when she went aground and was lost. He served on many ships as a specialist in air control and command. He held 10 staff appointments including a period at Naval Headquarters, Ottawa, where it all started and where he retired with the rank of commander in 1970 to assume the position of Executive Officer at Osgoode Hall Law School. In 1974, he retired again, this time to Vancouver Island.


He still lives in Sidney as he awaits his 100th birthday on Nov. 24. And, if a cameo appearance on CHEK TV a few days ago is any indication, he can still recall with merriment details of high adventure that were far from humourous when they were happening. His most memorable ship’s doctor story was interspersed with chuckles when he told me of his first meeting with Surgeon Lieutenant Joseph C. Cyr who served on HMCS Cayuga when she sailed from Esquimalt for a 12-month tour of duty off the coast of Korea in 1951.

Lieutenant Chance had been suffering from a painful, badly infected, toe when “Dr. Joe” came aboard. His verdict on the new doc? “He examined, operated skillfully, the toe healed perfectly. We could have confidence in our surgeon.”

While on station in Korea, Surgeon Cyr earned respect from officers and men for his treatment of both crew and badly wounded soldiers evacuated from on-shore operations. Writing about it later in his memoir Commander Chance wrote: “Cyr calmly moved among the soldiers seemingly without a care in the world. He also won plaudits from Cayuga’s Captain – Commander James Plomer (cct) – for an emergency at-sea dental operation.

Fellow officers felt “Dr. Joe” deserved a medal and wrote a formal citation.

The response from Ottawa was received during a night bombardment of Korean coastal positions. It read: “Captain’s eyes only. Have reason to believe your Medical Officer is imposter. Investigate and report.”

The story made international headlines; the navy was embarrassed. Hollywood made a movie The Great Imposter; Tony Curtis played the lead and Ferdinand Waldo Demara – Surgeon Joseph Cyr unmasked – was invited to attend a Cayuga crew reunion a short time later. Waldo was dressed as a priest – and nobody asked if he was.

I end this short tribute with best wishes for Commander Chance as he closes in on 100. I thank him for his good humour and generosity of spirit – as “an officer and a gentleman.”

Is Just Remembering Enough?

Chaumousey cemetery is the last resting place for six RAF aircrew members shot down on the night of July 29, 1944. Five of the crew were English, the sixth buried in their communal grave was a 20-year-old Canadian – Flying Officer Peter Biollo, Edmonton, Alberta.

Chaumousey is a small village in what is known as the Vosges, deep in rural France. It is a short 18 kms from Epinal, where 5,255 American dead lie beneath seemingly endless rows of white crosses in mute, but powerful, testimony to the futility of war.

I was drawn to the gravesite of the young men resting in Chaumousey one sunny morning in the late 1970s. I had spotted the Maple Leaf flag flying above the treetops as we left the village. With a travel companion who delighted the natives with her French, we parked the car knocked on a cottage door to ask about the relatively new Canadian flag flying so proudly just up the road, and were plied with coffee and cake while we got a capsuled version of the events of 1944, then we were directed “up the hill” to the “Canadian” grave.

They couldn’t explain why it was called Canadian. Maybe it was because the English in the crew were next country neighbours while young Peter Biollo had come from the other side of the world to help liberate France from German conquest. They would have agreed with what RCAF Chaplain J.P. Lardie said a few years later: “Three thousand miles across a hunted ocean they came, wearing on the shoulder of their tunics the treasured name, Canada, telling the world their origin. Young men and women they were, some still in their teens. Fashioned by their Maker to love, not to kill, but proud and earnest in their mission to stand, and, if it had to be, to die for their country and their freedom.”

Over the years I have repeated the story of the Canadian grave and Maple Leaf flag at Chaumousey several times and probably will again if I live long enough. The last time was back in July of this year when I wrote about the courage of the villagers who, in defiance of the threat of German military interference, gathered in “a very large crowd and formed the funeral procession of these heroes whose caskets were covered with flowers and in spite of the interdiction of the Germans the big crowd followed to the cemetery…” The witness was Abbe Albert Mercier, the local priest.

I finished the July story wondering if the Maple Leaf still flew on special days in Chaumousey more than 75 years later. A week ago, I got an emailed answer from Stacey Adolph: “A flag is still flown at the crash site and another at the gravesite. A kindly family in France has taken on (the care) of the final resting place of my great uncle Peter Biollo.” She mentioned she had been in touch with the kindly French family.

Two days later paramedic son Nic spotted a note from a French gentleman named Benoit Howson seeking to contact me regarding an old article “about the crew of PB253 buried in Chaumousey.’’ He forwarded it to me, with copies to the sender in the hope that we can establish direct contact, which I’m sure we shall do in short order.

In the meantime, the note via Facebook tells me it is Benoit’s family that looks after the Chaumousey grave, that he’s written a “booklet” about the crew “written in French, but I’ll send you  a copy if you would like one.”  He writes: “My children have helped me tend the grave for years and they take part in the ceremonies that are still held.”

Which brings me to the end of another small chapter in my personal garden of remembrance. I remember these things, write about them, but I’d rather not be asked what I do in a practical way to make life easier for others.

How about you? Is just remembering once a year on November 11 enough?

Will Her Trust Be Unfounded?

 “We cannot manage to contain the (Covid 19) disease unless we change the way we live (and) have enough vaccines that are effective for everyone. We can’t just go into denial and wish our lives were back to normal. It is a once-in-a-lifetime natural disaster of catastrophic proportions

“It is just thoroughly shocking. When we think of Pandemics we don’t think well resourced high-income countries are going to fall apart at the seams – but that is exactly what we have seen.”

The quote is from Professor Raina McIntyre, an Australian academic specializing in bio-security. It is identical in intent to the message delivered by BC Public Health officer Bonnie Henry a day earlier – but only in intent. Bonnie Henry speaks softly but with the calm assurance of the velvet glove.

Prof. McIntyre is Aussie blunt. A glove but with a few nails sewn around the knuckles to make sure you are listening.

Up-over, if that’s an acceptable opposite to down-under, there is another view of Covid 19 in Britain where the first wave was grossly underestimated and the second wave is threatening the foundations of a once revered health care system.

“The first time around, it’s almost like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of medical challenge,” said Paul Whitaker, a respiratory doctor in Bradford, in northern England, where the second wave of virus victims is threatening to engulf the defenders. He likened the first wave battle to “the spirit of the blitz” – the time when mass air raids were part of everyday life and “stay calm and carry-on” was a determining morale slogan.

But the “blitz” feeling was lost to a large degree when the first wave was curbed but not subdued – and the curbs and restrictions were removed or reduced even as the second wave announced its threatening arrival.

The BBC reported: “Making matters even worse, hospitals are already receiving the usual wintertime stream of patients with influenza and other illnesses that can fill them above 95 percent of capacity even in a normal year.”

In France and Germany tight restrictions were also being relaxed – but quickly restored as the pandemic came prancing back with unfettered strength.

In Australia last Tuesday the city of Melbourne lifted the restrictions that had held the city in tight shut down for three months. There has been wide rejoicing – but with constant reminders from London, Paris and Berlin, that Covid 19 will not go quietly until scientists find a vaccine to force it to retreat.

While we are waiting, mask wearing should have been made mandatory – as requested by the all too few medical doctors and nurses and paramedics who stand between us and the invader. Health officer Henry seems confident the general public will volunteer to wear masks without command.

We can only hope her trust in us to do the right thing is not unfounded.

When Sharks Circle

“There are no true friends in politics. We are all sharks circling and waiting for traces of blood to appear in the water.”

The quote is from maverick British MP Alan Clark, whose death in 1999 at the age of 71 resulted in an obituary mix of high praise in many newspapers for his penetrating wit and outrageous condemnation in others for his less than savoury lifestyle.

I make note of the contrasts as I confess to cherry-picking my opening words from Clark’s “political scold” list of words to remember him by (New York Times, obit). 

For months, we have watched, heard, and read about great white sharks circling in the U.S. political pools. Sometimes we have been amused, at other times, shocked and dismayed at vicious exchanges designed to destroy a life – and/or family – rather than challenge a point of view.

Once in a while, present company included, we lapse into our friendly, warm and comfortable Canadian way of thinking that it couldn’t happen here; great white sharks are not acceptable in our gentler, more benign, political splashing pools.

By and large, we don’t have any really vicious political predators in our country. But, we do have a few smaller ones prowling the provincial pools – ever vigilant for the first trace of a wounded rival politician and a trace of blood in the water.

It is why we are trooping to the polls on October 24th for an election a year earlier than the one unanimously legislated by the current government to take place in October 2021. Premier John Horgan has insisted that the problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic and what he perceived as wavering Green Party support – that has propped up his minority government – made it essential for him to seek a majority mandate.

To be able to adequately fight the pandemic and the financial crisis it was creating, he needed the guaranteed support of a clear majority in the Legislature on every vote involving expenditures.

The premier had some cause for concern. His old buddy – and government sustaining partner – Andrew Weaver had up and quit his Green Party leadership, with “health factors” mentioned as the cause, but never detailed.

Weaver, sitting as an independent until the Legislature prorogued, discomfited old friends with words of support for Horgan and wisps of criticism for the party he once led so enthusiastically.

The BC Greens quickly elected Sonia Furstenau as their new leader in the hope she would have a year to prove herself before being tested in a general election.

Then Premier Horgan struck, falling back on the political instinct that seems to be part of every ambitious politician’s DNA.

Now we wait to see if he enhanced his reputation with his “it was essential” reasoning – or if the electorate prefers more truthful assessments and informs him we don’t approve of sharks in our electoral pool. 

Did Ronald Get It Right?

It was back in the 1970s that then president of the USA Ronald Reagan said: “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

A few days ago, I was reminded of the quote as I watched three politicians engage in open debate ostensibly designed to help voters in BC select a new premier and government on October 24th. The politicians vying for the job were BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson, BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau, and BC NDP leader John Horgan who retains his title of premier while waiting for the electorate to make a decision on the 24th.

Horgan has been an MLA since 2005, Wilkinson since 2013 and Furstenau a 2017 rookie and new party leader this past month. The NDP and the Greens have been convenient bedfellows since Furstenau’s predecessor Andrew Weaver signed a post-2017 election non-aggression pact with Horgan and the NDP.

In that agreement, the Greens promised to keep the NDP alive on close legislative votes if the Lieutenant Governor accepted the argument that, with the guaranteed support of the Greens, the NDP had a better chance of providing stable government than the Liberals who emerged from the election with a tissue-thin one-seat majority and no expectation it could survive even routine votes.

The Lieutenant Governor agreed; the new government would be NDP with Horgan as premier. The usually tumultuous legislature became an oasis of goodwill – or so it appeared.

The province was not without scandal, but the elected “residents” under the Belleville Street dome were exceptionally well behaved – to the extent of unanimously agreeing to lock general elections into a firm four-year cycle. No more elections would be called at the whim of party or leader for political one-upmanship.

It was unanimously agreed that the next general election would be on a fixed day in October 2021. It wasn’t written in stone, but it was firmly recorded as provincial law, which is as good as stone. Or should be.

Stumbling over the New Year’s threshold into 2020 – a wonderful number when applied to vision testing – we did not fare well viewing political decisions through the mist, make that fog, that so often clouds them.

We had hardly recovered from New Year’s festivities when in February, the first whispers began to reach us that a new and dangerous pestilence was threatening mankind in faraway places. A month later, the plague had leapt from the Far East to central Europe and from there back across the Atlantic to North America. And we all became familiar with its name – COVID-19.

To its credit, our legislature debated with urgency what should be done and, again with rare unanimity, agreed to establish a $50 billion-plus fund to meet grievous economic emergencies in March.

Andrew Weaver quit as leader of the Green Party and vanished from the front line with a puff of smoke and little explanation. With the ‘Weaver of Green dreams’ gone, the never robust party trembled but rallied, called for a leadership vote and elected Furstenau.

Before she could get her Cowichan office stationary changed, the premier ignored the existing statute and called for the vote a year earlier than legislated. A few days later, he announced relief payments of $1,000 for every BC family with moderate income; and $625 for singles.

In the debate a few days ago, Horgan insisted the election announcement and the cash awards were not politically connected: “I think we did it right. We got the right balance, and once the money started to go out the door … I felt it time to ask British Columbians where they wanted to go and who they wanted to lead them.”

Furstenau’s response: “We are not against you using it (funds from the $50 billion relief fund unanimously approved by the legislature) … we are against you using it as a campaign promise.”

That’s when I remembered what Ronald Reagan said in 1970.

Without Prevarication

The recent announcement by Premier John Horgan that every family in BC with moderate income or less is to receive a cheque or one thousand dollars, or singles a cash deposit of $500, rings a bell first chimed out west in 1957.

I heard its joyful echo as I read an opinion piece in the local newspaper penned by veteran journalist Les Leyne, whose writing seems to have found new energy since the general election bells rang in BC last month.

The Times-Colonist columnist, colleague and friend for many years was reviewing the latest wave of gracious government benefits bestowed on BC voters in a hastily called general election. Included in the election tsunami of kindness was a $1,000 cheque to every BC family existing on moderate income or less and $500 for individuals.

Liberal party candidates were quick to react with Jas Johal snapping “Onconscionable, it’s a naked attempt to bribe BC taxpayers with their own money.”

Which of course it is – as are all suddenly announced pre-election cash rewards from a government treasury stacked with dollar bills collected earlier from the now recipients of government largesse. Such “gifts” are received gratefully by an electorate so thankful to be getting cash relief of any kind, they forget it’s their own money they’re getting back.

When W.A.C. Bennett introduced the now treasured Home Owner Grant in 1957 it was the NDP who screamed the  election bribe protest – and kept screaming for years until it realised home owners loved seeing their taxes reduced annually.

That was close to 50 years ago. The Home Owner Grant survives untouched, unthreatened, protected by the electorate. It is the first thing they check when they get their annual residential tax notice; a quick glance to savour what the tax should have been – and the bottom line what it actually is with the grant deducted.

For decades, like the majority of home owners, I always knew where the grant money came from and received it without complaint. And watched as the electorate again and again re-elected WAC. No one confessed to having ever voting for him – but he was Premier for 20-years with many election promises.

Premier Horgan could have been dreaming of a similar response for his generosity, but he may have ruined any advantage his government’s gift to the people might bring by what was surely the unintended confession that his $1,000 per family was a hurry-up job hastily put together AFTER he called the election.

Writer Leyne, backed I am sure by tape recording, quotes Horgan: “We did not contemplate this until we were putting together the platform which was not until after the election was called. We put this together over the past two weeks,based on what we see as the needs of Briish Columbians.” The emphasis is mine.

Let’s consider the time frame. It was back when 2020 was a young year and Covid 19 was casting its first dark shadows across the world from China to Europe and Europe to North America and, what seemed like overnight, around the world.

Wise governments watched, worried and began to plan for worst case scenarios, Canada and most of her provinces among them. The situation was grave as the now declared pandemic shutdown economic activities. Governments world wide began to tremble but somehow found the billions of dollars required to help pandemic victims financially for job loss, and medically if stricken by the virus.

BC ranked high among the Covid 19 responders with admirable leadership from Chief Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry and the entire ministry of health. Up front health line workers from Paramedics to hospital staffers, from nurses to janitors, held the line.

When money was needed money was found. In March. With a rare show of crisis solidarity the BC Legislature endorsed unanimously a $5 billion emergency allocation fund.

Scroll back a few paragraphs to Premier Horgan’s confession that the $1 thousand dollar cheques now being made to families with modest incomes and the $500 for singles in similar circumstances was not considered back in March.

The Premier is quite clear about it. The NDP cabinet and presumably caucus did not discuss this $1.4 billion give away “until we were putting together the (election) platform which was not until after the election was called.” Again the emphasis is mine, although I hardly think it required.

It can be justifiably claimed the NDP are not alone in occasionally giving us back a dollar or two from the many picked softly from our pockets by a variety of taxes and “fees.”

But the Liberals and Greens, caught off base by the NDP decision to advance the previously set election date from October 2021 to now, can be forgiven for some clumsy promises. It is not so easy to justify the use of $1.4 million of the $5 billion approved by a unanimous Legislature last March suddenly tapped and announced as part of the NDP election platform.

Maybe Premier Horgan can tell us before the polls close and – please, without political prevarication – how he intends to raise the money.

The Loudest Shouter Lost

The great debate last Tuesday between U.S. President Donald Trump and his would-be replacement, former vice-president Joe Biden, achieved a major goal: It made Canadian politics, politicians and the election system used to grant the right to govern look sane in comparison to the system now playing out south of the 49th parallel.

In our constitutional democracy with its first-past-the-post electoral system, all Canadian voters decide which party (or parties) governs. We do not have a convoluted republic with an Electoral College system that weighs and allocates votes jurisdiction by jurisdiction. Our prime minister is not a directly-elected, all-powerful commander-in-chief. He serves as long as he can inspire the loyalty of his cabinet and his caucus and, in the case of minority governments, the House of Commons, thus the people.

Not for us, a U.S. federal election where a final decision on who will run our country can be made by the Electoral College – with an outcome that could well be different from the wishes of the majority of voters. (Use your favourite search machine to find How the Electoral College Works in Six Minutes.) It provides a better understanding than I could ever provide. I will confine myself to fair (or foul, if you disagree) comment on the non-debate between Trump and Biden with occasional asides on highly paid journalists who must have flunked the basic tests of elementary news reporting.

While trolling TV prior to the entrance of the gladiators, I sat fascinated and unbelieving as veteran reporters probed the minds of the men and women who, so we were told, had been part of the teams preparing Trump and Biden for the critical battle then just minutes away.

Such preparation is normal – and wise in these days when one wrong answer can be a disaster for political ambitions. The practice of having the participants face every type of question – sneaky or blunt, fast ball or slow ball, or a favoured curve ball variation of “have you stopped beating your wife, answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

So, I was amused more than shocked when I heard veteran reporters from the bottomless CNN vault of talking heads asking individual members of the Biden-Trump “advisory teams” the same questions, with one so dumb it’s hard to believe: “What strategy will your candidate (Trump or Biden) be using in the debate?” This is akin to asking a rival coach for a copy of the playbook before the game starts. It wasn’t surprising when the question went unanswered.

Some media prognosticators did get the thrust of the debate right when they based their forecasts on past performance and conjectured Trump would be unable to control his arrogant, spoiled, spiteful, childish, tantrum-throwing ways. He couldn’t. Within minutes Trump – his face florid and puffed with malevolence – rudely tried to domineer the moderator while he launched, unimpeded by any rules of decency or rules of order, his attack.

It was noisy, all sounding brass and crashing cymbal, but far from wilting under the often-untruthful assault. Biden kept his cool, smiled sympathetically from time to time as though feeling sorry for a president so out of control. There were a few flashes of return anger, but only one with voice raised when he told Trump to “shut up, man.”

When he denounced the president as a purveyor of lies and repeater of unproven gossip, he did so in a calm and articulate voice. When he talked of hopes and aspirations should he become the next president, he looked full face to the camera and spoke to his unseen TV audience with respect.

It wasn’t Franklin Delano Roosevelt nor John F. Kennedy, but it was a steady, calm and thoughtful voice in a time when calm and thoughtful leadership is required.

Most observers in the country – where opinions matter and winners of such debates are essential – declared Biden, the winner. I would align myself with them but with two footnotes:

1 – It would be fairer to say President Trump lost the debate with a clear revelation of his arrogant, bullying and boastful “I, I and I again” demeanour. 2 – And, I must repeat my opening thanks to the participants, politicians, pundits and TV networks that gave Canadians an inside look at the terribly flawed U.S. system and left me, and I’m sure many others, thankful for what we have in “our home and native land.”

It’s Not Political It’s ?????!

As long as we remember why British Columbia has – or had until last Monday – a legislated four-year general election date, we should also remember who made the sound decision to set the fixed election date in October.

The change from May to October was all about good governance. NDP Attorney General David Eby said: “Moving the fixed election date to the fall will leave time for a February budget to be debated and passed and year-end public accounts to be passed in July, which provides greater transparency and accountability.”

That was less than three years ago when a hobbled government, flying a patched NDP flag of dubious authority, was happy to negotiate in harmonious years of governmental stability.

With the pledged support of three Green Party MLAs, the Lieutenant Governor of the day had felt New Democrats were in a stronger position to govern than the Liberal Party which, although winning one seat more than the New Democrats, lacked Green support and could face defeat on any vote.

So, the Confidence and Supply Agreement 2017 promised sweetness, light, and harmony in the Legislature. Solemnly signed by NDP and Green leaders, things went fairly well for a while. 

There were uneasy times. For a while, the grand old Legislature rattled, as ever, with old fashioned rhetoric and anger, but it was mostly focused on the scandalous charges against a few public servants and was finally swept from public interest by the headline-grabbing threat of COVID-19.

By and large, things were moving along nicely for the minority government. Among its mini-triumphs was the sensible one about fixed election dates. For years the NDP, especially during the W.A.C. Bennett years, had complained about premiers who called elections when most expedient for the party and devil take the electorate. In W.A.C.’s day, the government’s mandate was for five years. Later it dropped to four, often shouted about, and occasionally tossed into public forums for debate with little done by way of change. W.A.C.’s favourite election time call was shortly after the introduction of beneficial legislation.They were unashamedly called at plotically opportune times.

Suggestions for change were always around and debated but no major changes were made until Premier Horgan’s government introduced legislation that would change existing dates from May to October and lock elections into a firm date for all future provincial general elections. They would be held “on the third Saturday in October in the fourth calendar year following the general voting day for the most recently held general election.”

Its unanimous approval was welcomed as proof that intelligent politicians could unite when a new statute so obviously served the common good.

It was gold stars all round until last Monday when Premier Horgan announced a snap election in October – a year earlier than the law states. The announcement was greeted with derision by political columnists in the Vancouver Sun (Vaughn Palmer) and Times Colonist (Les Leyne). Horgan blustered that his election call was not “political,” just strictly non-partisan and made necessary by a legislature slipping back into partisan ways. He said he needed a stronger majority to be able to fight the current battle to tame COVID-19.

Palmer described that reasoning as a “thigh slapper,” the colloquialism usually reserved for vaudeville. Leyne bluntly labelled Horgan’s announcement a “double-double cross.” 

Some thoughts come to mind, although I quickly confess I’m far removed from the trenches where the battle is being fought. That said:

1. Why did the Premier choose a quiet suburban street for his TV election announcement? To show he’s just an ordinary citizen – or to avoid a protest on the steps of the Legislature where his non-political election call would have been greeted with the raucous laughter it deserved?

2. The Greens have a new leader, Sonia Furstenau. She was just elected leader this month. Married, with children, she is completing her rookie term as MLA. Is Premier Horgan gambling she will crumble on the hustings with Green Party faithful flocking back to the NDP they abandoned when the Greens offered a more reasonable path to reach their conservation aims? Premier Horgan was quick to place blame for recent signs of unrest on the current Green-NDP agreement. When election rumours began swirling, it was Furstenau who suggested an election now would not be the best of choices. The premier responded like the Horgan of old – petulant that someone dared to say he was making a bad decision.

3. Could he be a little scared that he has made a bad call which will cost the NDP votes? Furstenau does have a confident posture in public and presents her views calmly and intelligently. She wouldn’t be the first underdog to score a major election upset.

And, should fate twist the election in that direction, Premier Horgan won’t be the first big name politician to pray, when destiny fails him: “O, call back yesterday, bid time return.”