Special Updates

Did Our “Yesterdays” Light The Way For Fools?

In a province with a tendency to boast about its education system, British Columbians were hard-pressed to find suitable words last week to describe the behaviour of students at the top of the learning tree at the University of Victoria (UVic).

The UVic campus overlaps three local municipal boundaries – Oak Bay, Victoria and Saanich – with Saanich police and fire services in closest proximity. They were first called on the night of Nov. 1st when multi-storey student residences became the playground of an unruly, often violent, mob.

The crowd, “several hundred,” was displayed in a large coloured photo on the front page of the Times-Colonist on Nov. 2nd. The photograph was taken from an upper residence room by a student who, fearing reprisal, didn’t want to be identified.

Saanich police media relations officer Const. Markus Anastasiades told the T-C an estimated 1,000 out-of-control revellers joined similar crowds on Friday, Nov. 1st and throughout Saturday and Sunday nights from dark to 4 a.m. He added: “What we are now seeing, we haven’t seen before. Some of them are students, some of them are not. The university is being seen as a gathering ground for young people.”

In the same story, UVic associate director of public affairs Karen Johnson endorsed the suggestion that many of the people massing on campus were not UVic students, that there are rules and regulations for student conduct. Violation of those rules could result in disciplinary action – including expulsion.

When I first read about the riots at UVic, I was dismayed that students at one of our highest seats of learning could (a) let themselves be taken over by binge drinkers from the back alleys of the city, and (b) stand by and laugh when alcohol-fueled “invaders” threw exploding firecrackers into the crowd. Surely, even the dimmest of brains has registered stories of people losing eyes or fingers when even the most modest of devices explode.

I tried to comfort myself by remembering Shakespeare’s warning that there would be times in our life when we have to walk part of the journey in uncomfortable company. Shakespeare’s Macbeth said: “And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / And then is heard no more. It is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.”

But, that would be cold comfort if not for the fact that Saanich police are planning an appropriate response. Concerned that the violence on the UVic campus will escalate each weekend, police will enforce the Trespass Act, the Liquor and Licensing Act and “any other statute that applies to those who are not lawfully on campus.”

A thankless task, but I’m happy we have someone to “throw the book at them.”

Once More We Hurry Up —and WAIT

The guidebook for York Minster – where I have been privileged to sit entranced many magical afternoons listening to the choir practice – tells us the magnificent Cathedral “since the 7th Century has been at the centre of Christianity in the north of England and today remains a thriving church rooted in the daily offering of worship and prayer. The Minster was built for the glory of God. Every aspect of this ancient building – from the exquisite, handcrafted stone through to the unrivalled collection of medieval stained glass – tells the story of Jesus.”

I confess to feeling a little unsure about claims regarding that first York “church” in the early centuries other than that it would have been a primitive shelter-from-the-elements meeting place for the first Christians in Northumbria. The early missionaries’ priority would have been keeping warm and dry while they prayed, remembering that their faith-founder, a young Jew named Jesus, had taught that “where two or three are gathered together in my name,” he would be with them in spirit.

It was only centuries later, as readers with a penchant for dates can discover with a leisurely Google of York Minster that the massive stained-glass windows of today were installed to tell biblical stories. Solid stone walls, window frames and strong foundations support the ever-higher bell towers built, presumably, to get the bells a little closer to Heaven.

I haven’t been able to find a total cost to keep York Minster in good shape for tourists like me to visit and enjoy. However, relatively modest maintenance in recent years cost £2 million to replace, repair and maintain its glorious organ, with another £11 million to dismantle and restore major stained-glass in leaded windows. At the time of this writing, £1 million converts to $1.7 million Canadian. And I’m sure anyone visiting York Minster would say it’s worth every penny. 

But a £13 million ($22 million) price tag to repair an organ and stained glass windows does tend to raise eyebrows and force us, reluctantly, to engage in the always-unpleasant debate on what a country, or community, can afford when ancient monuments start to crumble. This debate is particularly germane when the once-traditional beliefs of misguided church and state leaders leave a legacy of damage and despair that raises pressing questions about the inadequacy of our governments’ spending on Indigenous social programs.

We are facing that unpleasantness in Canada today as we wrestle with the findings and recommendations of our Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the ever-growing list of unmarked graves of children who died – some hastened to their deaths by poor diet, abuse and neglect – while forced to attend Indian residential schools.

Several church organizations were involved in the failed attempt to assimilate Indigenous peoples. Only one – the Roman Catholic Church – has failed to resolve recommended compensation payments.

CBC Television and the Globe and Mail have been reminding audiences and readers since early October of tangled negotiations. On Oct. 13th, CBC claimed it, and the Globe and Mail newspaper secured the release of hundreds of pages of documents “revealing new details of Catholic Church compensation for residential school survivors.” The same day, CBC stated that in 2012, some $300 million was budgeted nationwide for Roman Catholic maintenance and building projects. Included was $28 million for the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

In 2022, there is a hope that Pope Francis, head of the wealthiest church in the world, will be visiting Canada. Should he get to British Columbia, I’m sure he will be welcomed, and doubly so if the continuing debate on who pays compensation to the victims of historic evil decisions by government and churches has been resolved. There is no guarantee that it will. Last Friday, Oct.29, the federal government, minutes before the deadline for Appeal out, filed for another look at a Supreme Court ruling approving a compensation formula. The need for a formula has been a matter of debate for years now and Friday’s appeal of the ruling with the promise that a bi-partisan committee will now be established does not inspire confidence.

Prime Minister Trudeau has promised a solution will be found, Indigenous Nations will be compensated. Maybe he could confirm the sincerity of that message by imposing on his public servant team a firm, short, deadline.

Action! Would Speak Louder

“Apologies and signals of virtue are not enough” was the warning summation after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s belated visit to Tk’emlups te Secwepem last Monday. The visit was appreciated, but the Kamloops First Nation needed more than political gestures to resolve long-standing grievances.

Following the visit, an open letter to the PM was signed by 13 family heads, including former Tk’emlups te Secwepem Nation Chief Manny Jules. It stated they wanted to believe what he was saying – and would believe – when he translated his words into action.

The letter (made available to The Globe and Mail) contained seven requests that could prove complex as they deal with taxation, rights and resources within accepted Indigenous land boundaries. Some would be easy to declare solved – but expensive. And one – lowering our national flag to half-mast where officially flown around the world on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – was so easy to satisfy that Trudeau guaranteed it on the spot.

He was less prepared to guarantee that his recently-elected minority government will abandon any thoughts it may have of appealing two human rights tribunal decisions, which would cost billions of dollars in compensation to indigenous children victims and their families.

During his one-day visit to Kamloops, he would only say the matter was still under consideration. But, he assured Indigenous leaders his government stood firm on the promise that First Nation children will be compensated. The deadline for an appeal is Oct. 29th.

It was back in 2019 that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) found Ottawa had discriminated against Indigenous children on reserves by failing to provide funding for children and family services. The Globe and Mail – which appears to be the only newspaper of stature and conscience interested in the saga of Canada’s wretched Indigenous track record – reports that two years ago, the CHRT ordered the government to “pay $40,000 to each First Nations child unnecessarily taken into care on Jan. 1st, 2006, or later…”

Readers who thought all this Indigenous residential schools’ tragic stuff took place back in the early days of the 1900s should check the chronology of abuse and genocide. If you are older than 20, it was still happening on your watch. It was happening on my watch for decades. As the old English saying goes: “There’s none so blind as those who will not see.”

There’s a lot of shame to share, but back briefly to the current timetable. In 2020, the CHRT issued further amendments to the rules to clarify that should there ever be disagreement about who should receive compensation – the child must have priority.

Ottawa protested and requested a judicial review. It was held, and on Sept. 29th and Federal Court Justice Paul Pavel upheld both Tribunal decisions.

In Kamloops, the prime minister waxed mildly eloquent: “I’m sorry I wasn’t here on September 30th. It was a mistake. Instead of talking about truth and reconciliation, people talked about me, and that’s on me. I take responsibility for that.”

Yes, well, he would have a lot on his mind on the flight over and beyond Kamloops to the relaxing sands of Long Beach.

A week later about all he had to say about truth and reconciliation was that the government had released a total of three million reports and studies, and that was all the government had. He avoided or declined comment on a request by the Canadian Bar Association – representing 36,000 jurists, including lawyers, notaries, and law instructors – asking Ottawa to accept Justice Pavel’s ruling and not continue legal action.

A few days ago, the Globe and Mail reported attempts to reach Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller. It received a reply “from his office” that Canada is reviewing the situation and further information will be forthcoming.

Sharing the reporting burden with the Globe and Mail is CBC Television. Look for Jason Warick at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/catholic-church—residential-school-court-documents-1.6198275. CBC coverage focuses on broken Roman Catholic promises of financial aid for residential school victims while finding multi-millions to build new Cathedrals.

Waiting for the Ambulance

One of the very few blessings brought our way during the rampage of COVID-19 PLUS-4 is that it has taken the minds of West Coast Canadians off The Big One – the dreaded day when, every few hundred years, Mother Nature puts on a display of unprecedented violence to remind humans who’s in charge on Planet Earth. It is a dangerous date with disaster to forget.

Recently, I have been reminded of the pending event by stories in my local newspaper about law-abiding citizens who, having phoned for an ambulance because of a medical emergency, had to wait the longest minutes of their lives before help arrived.

The front-page headline this week read: “AFTER 15-MINUTE WAIT FOR AN AMBULANCE, SHE CALLED A CAB TO GET TO HOSPITAL.” The story told an increasingly familiar tale about a citizen hit by a genuine emergency who found no eye to pity, no arm to save. There is no comfort when the disembodied voice on the other end of the phone line says there will be “a wait.” Anyone who has ever experienced that kind of “wait” will know that time stands still.

To the credit of the lady involved in this ordeal, she learned from it and passed what she learned to those of us who still read newspapers. She said if she were ever again involved in an emergency, she would use the service again, but this time “I’ll be thinking of how I am going to get to the hospital or how else am I going get the help I need.”

That comment must resonate for the men and women in charge of our major emergency program who sometimes despair they will ever succeed in their efforts to convince the citizens of BC – especially those in the coastal earthquake zone – to be prepared for a three- to four-day wait in the ruins of a collapsed city before help can reach them.

Does that mean we should learn to live with the deficiencies in today’s ambulance service – especially in the response times? Not at all. What it means is we have to solve an already identified problem. For starters, we need trained dispatchers to respond to the first call for help who will stay on the line with the caller until an ambulance and paramedics arrive.

Can we afford such a program? Can we repair operational deficiencies?

Reasonable questions, but not as pertinent as: “Can we afford to delay while The Big One looms on a horizon closer today than it was yesterday?”

“Negligence,Indifference,Silence..” and Shame

It was an unusual sight, a banner headline streaming across the top of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) web page proclaiming “French Church Abuse: 216,000 Children were Victims of Clergy.” It offered the public the first tabloid-style glimpse of a report by an independent commission established close to three years ago to study and report on the behaviour of priests, nuns, and other church officials.

In BC – indeed across Canada – headlines recording death tolls in what were called Indian Residential Schools in the first half of the 1900s drew little attention. They were noted, sometimes given a tabloid front page lift, but not with any sincere rise in concern.

That didn’t come until about five years ago when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to check on growing concerns that residential schools, created to educate the children, had somehow gone awry. The original goal had been to scrub the children clean of their tribal origins and, if necessary, cleanse them with the use of belt and cane until they got the message.

They didn’t ask the parents if they would like their children educated this way. They just virtually kidnapped children, jammed them into overcrowded residences and left the Churches – Roman Catholic, Church of England, and others – to run the system at taxpayers’ expense.

Things rolled along fairly smoothly until maybe a couple of years ago. The findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were published, and non-Indigenous Canadians were made aware that their fabled peace-loving country had been actively financing an act of genocide.

And, with taxpayers’ aid, some Christian churches had been actively engaged in dubious conduct. Crunch time came when at least 215 unmarked children’s graves were located on the Kamloops school site. Other residential schools are reporting similar discoveries, and the Roman Catholic Bishops Council has made tentative promises of millions of dollars in compensation.

Reconciliation has become an operative word, but similar promises of aid in the past have fallen far short of promised targets.

In France, Vatican officials said Pope Francis felt “sadness and shame” when informed that an estimated 216,000 children were abused by priests, deacons, monks, or nuns in France from 1950 to 2020. Jean-Marc Sauve, head of the inquiry, told reporters the church had not only failed to prevent abuse but had also failed to report it and, at times, knowingly put children in contact with predators. “There was,” he said, “a whole bunch of negligence, of deficiency, of silence … an institutional cover-up.” 

A spokesman for the Vatican said the first thought of Pope Francis was for “the victims, with a deep sadness for their wounds and gratitude for coming forward. His thoughts also turn to the Church in France, and that, in recognizing these terrible events and united by the suffering of the Lord for his most vulnerable children, it can take the path to redemption.” 

There was no suggestion as to where the path to redemption might lead or what it might involve.

The inquiry in France doesn’t rule out financial compensation as part of the reconciliation. It states quite bluntly that the sexual abuse by priests “was systematic. It was the Church – not rogue individuals – that was responsible.” 

Whatever the cost of redemption, the Roman Catholic Church can afford it. It is believed to be the wealthiest corporation in the world, and as the authors of the Paris Report say: “The burden of the report is that ad hoc expressions of repentance and a bit of tinkering with ecclesiastical structure are no longer good enough.”

Financial compensation may no longer be an option in Canada as CBC television revealed a few days ago in recommended reading by old  Edmonton Journal Colleague Wilf Popoff, who regularly supports or challenges my weekly offering and keeps me up-to-date on Prairie thinking. It’s worth a read. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/catholic-residential-school-wilson-raybould-1.6202141

Apology Needs More Than Words

A few days ago, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada apologized “unequivocally” to Canadian Indigenous people for “grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and sexual.”

The single page apology said – “We also sorrowfully acknowledge the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day” – and conveyed a commitment that the conference of bishops would raise up to $30 million to help Indigenous communities to “address historical wrongs.”

Admirable though $30 million may appear, it will be but a modest dip into the international treasure chest controlled by the Vatican. It has known assets between $5 and $6 billion and national wealth of around $30 billion. It owns banks in which “an approximate tonne of gold is stored” and an investment portfolio that Canada’s National Post newspaper once described as “secret.”  

So, be sure to read slowly and digest the words of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada as its President Bishop Raymond Poisson wrote in a press release dated Sept 27: “The Bishops, as a tangible expression of their commitment to walk with Indigenous Peoples of this land along the pathway of hope, are making a nation-wide collective financial commitment to support reconciliation initiatives for residential school survivors, their families and their communities  …With a target of $30 million over up to five years, this will include initiatives in every region of the country … parishes across are Canada being encouraged to participate.”

To put things in clearer perspective, the bishops have launched a drive to raise $30 million that will be used for reconciliation projects over the next five years. There is nothing wrong with that, providing it is clearly stated that every penny collected for “reconciliation” goes to that cause untouched by the Vatican.

The Vatican has not earned a saintly reputation over the centuries. Recently, it has had to ride out many scandals, some caused by collapses of morality in the ranks of cardinals, bishops, nuns and parish priests. These scandals range from dishonest bookkeeping to flagrant, often brutal, bullying and predatory sexual offences. 

A short time ago, on CBC’s As It Happens, Wall Street Journal reporter Francis Roccan commented that the Vatican had been doing poorly with some of its investments and had eliminated overruns in some accounts using funds from Peter’s Pence – the annual Catholic fundraiser created solely to assist the poor, sick and needy.

Roccan said he had asked Pope Francis to explain and justify using funds raised explicitly for charity to cover losses from poor advice or bad investments. He said: “Pope Francis has not responded … some people say, ‘Well he has every legal right to do it’ – and that’s true … he does. The problem, in this case, is misleading advertising. It’s not about the law governing (disposition of) the fund.” He has the legal right to dispense the funds, but they were raised specifically to assist the needy, not bail out unwise investors.

In December, a group selected from Indigenous leaders, elders and residential school survivors is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis in Rome, where he is expected to make the bishops’ apology his own on behalf of Catholics worldwide.

Assembly of First Nations Chief Rose Anne Archibald has said she won’t be there. Canadian Press reports quoted her as saying: “We have been very public that we want the Pope here in Canada to offer that apology on Canadian soil.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has made the same request, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a Catholic by faith, also appealed for a personal visit. The Pope declined, asking the Canadian bishops to tell the PM he “could not personally attend.”

Our native leaders will be at great disadvantage in December, dazzled by opulence, surrounded by enough Vatican gold, silver, jewels, art and statuary to solve most of their problems – but not all of them. Those native leaders will represent Indigenous people who have suffered the loss of a child – worse, the loss of a generation of children. These wrongs cannot be resolved with money alone. However, a sincere apology for evil done in the name of God and funding to build living memorials, such as domestic water supplies for Indigenous communities, would soften the pain.

Maybe they should ask him to dip into Peter’s Pence, where an estimated $600 million still sits waiting for another deficit to cover – or be used as was intended to help people fate has dealt an unkind hand.

Can We Rise Above Party?

A lot of speculation in these nervous post-election days as to how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will handle his continued life as PM – or if he will quit.

I wonder if he’s given any thought to the time Winston Churchill came close to being turfed from high office within days of being given the keys to No. 10 Downing Street.

I will let the New York Times bring readers up to date on events in the spring of 1940 “when British forces in Norway were overwhelmed by the Nazis. On May 7 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain faced a critical motion by the Labor opposition in the House of Commons. His Conservatives had a big majority. But a respected Conservative backbencher, Leopold Amery, rose and addressed to Chamberlain the words that Cromwell had said to the Long Parliament 300 years before:

”You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go!” Forty Conservatives voted against Chamberlain, and another 60 abstained. Three days later he resigned. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. And many would say that the response of the Commons to crisis, its ability to rise above party, saved Britain.”

You will need to be getting along in years to personally recall those days in May,1940 when the world was falling apart. The German army and Luftwaffe were sweeping across Europe and heavy duty politicians with powerful Lord Halifax as peace maker were urging the war cabinet to seek peace with Hitler.The War Cabinet met to decided the next step – to seek peace  or fight a long war with a mighty foe?

Churchill, so recently appointed  won that battle then set about organizing a full strength war cabinet. He appointed Clement Atlee, already Deputy PM, as deputy head of his War Cabinet. As leader of the Labour Party, Atlee had often been the target of Churchillian wit (“He’s a sheep in sheep’s clothing.”) but; was obviously was highly regarded.

But, the appointment of Ernest Bevin, a tough working-class trade unionist and Churchill’s chief opponent in the bitter general strike of 1926, was a real eyebrow raiser. He was appointed Minister of Labour in 1940. He knew the trade union leaders; had been a leader among them for longer than a generation. He knew the employers, too. It was said of him that he respected many big business owners – and feared none.

That preamble brings me back to PM Trudeau and the immediate road ahead for himself and a new cabinet. He knows he will need support from losing parties – but how to get it without an eventual sulky separation like BC’s NDP and Greens after their brief fling as dance partners?

He can try for a similar deal with the NDP or, though less likely, the Bloc Quebecois, or the distressed Conservative Party preoccupied with its own failures and the breakaway of a renegade People’s Party which couldn’t win a seat but established base foundations in almost every riding and remains an embarrassing threat..

But, he might do better to try a Churchill and offer a cabinet post to a couple of New Democrats including one for Jagmeet Singh.

That was war time, for Churchill you say, and we all had to pull together. Precisely. We are in a war now – on two fronts against COVID-19 and global warming. Time to blure the party lines a little if we want to win. It would help to remember the NYT comment that it was “the Commons ability in time of crisis to rise above party” that saved Britain.

Think;Pause;Make Your Choice

Ten years ago, while still gainfully employed by Victoria’s Times Colonist, I wrote: “A long time ago, when the world was a much calmer place and I was young enough to believe I possessed enough wisdom to tell people how to vote, I co-authored a front-page election-day editorial with instructions to the electorate as to how to conduct themselves when they cast their ballots.

“The publisher of the Penticton Herald in those halcyon days of endless Okanagan summers was the late G.J. (Grev) Rowland. I was his senior scribe, managing editor, fearless and always confidently right. Together, just as the citizens of Penticton would choose a new mayor, we laboured on our front-page directive to the voters.”

It was time, we thundered, to recognize that vaudeville had no place in civic politics and that it was “time to end the sorry circus of civic administration” overseen in recent years by then-mayor Charles Oliver.

“Our directions were clear. Penticton’s mayor was making the city the laughingstock of the Okanagan. He had to go. Our readers were told, in no uncertain terms, that it was their duty to bounce him. No wavering. No doubts. Only one way to vote: Just get out there; cast a ballot; get rid of Charlie Oliver.

“The voters read, turned out in record numbers – and returned Mayor Oliver to of­fice by a three-to-one majority vote margin. It was a salutary lesson learned more than half a century ago in the late 1950s and never forgotten over the next 50-plus years of writing columns on elections and election candidates.”

I have pontificated, advised, and expressed opinions for and against candidates and their policies. I have said why I could support one candidate and not another, but I have never since the voters of Penticton cracked my knuckles so hard, dared to tell any electorate it had only one way to vote – my way.

As this may well be the last federal general election I’ll be privileged to comment on (at 97, I no longer buy green bananas), I tread carefully, advising my readers only to think what party leaders have been promising in the current election campaign. If you feel they make good sense, mark your ballot in favour of that party’s candidate.

If you agree with Maxime Benier of the People’s Party – splintered from the Conservative Party – that climate change warnings and vaccination policies are examples of a “tyranny that justifies revolution,” – a reflective pause might be wise before endorsing.

If you agree with established Conservative leader Erin O’Toole when he proclaims as part of his battle cry, “it’s time to take back Canada,” you might recognize it as an echo from Donald Trump when he won the presidency of the United States chanting “let’s make American great again.” It is not the only “tool” borrowed from Trump’s “How to Win Elections” manual.

New Democrat Jagmeet Singh is difficult to challenge. He looks great on television, whether walking with a crowd, chatting on a street corner or more than holding his own in formal but dull leaders’ debates. He would be easier to support if he could explain where the cash to pay for NDP projects would come from.

Then there’s Annamie Paul, who wears – not well – the crown as leader of the Green Party. There are no serious questions for her, and none for likeable Yves-Francois Blanchet, leader of Bloc Quebecois, with no pretentious desires to be prime minister. He represents Quebecers and does it well.

I’ve forgotten Justin Trudeau? Not really. He’s still young, still learning. Not old enough to be as arrogantly confident as his father displaying a single finger salute, but confident enough in the continuing COVID-19 crisis to show the world Canada with a brave face in time of crisis. Critics claim his election call, while an epidemic threatened the world, was an unwarranted “grab for power and unjustifiable bother and expense.”

Does that mean an election two or three years hence would have cost less?

My forecast for a first to the finish tape? Just a guess, really. Canadians, being a cautious people, will opt for the horse that’s been steady under fire –

the Liberals. But, not enough for a 170-seat majority government. I think that desired objective may be just beyond Trudeau’s grasp on Monday.

Make my day. Prove me wrong!

Being Careful What We Wish For

So where are we as we march resolutely, if confused, towards the privacy of the ballot box and mark our individual choice for the person and party we would like to govern our affairs, national and international?

It’s never an easy decision. Never has been. And, come September 20 – or sooner if I opt for an advance poll – it’s going to be tougher than usual. This vote is a little different from most being held in the midst of a great pandemic in which we appear to be fighting a holding action with little to cheer about. 

What’s different about it? Well, the prime minister who called it could have chosen a better time than the middle of a pandemic that has half the voting population worrying about more than where to mark a cross on a ballot paper. They would have preferred to wait until we got COVID-19 under control before trying to thrash their way through a jungle of election promises from political party leaders – promises that will be quickly forgotten once the final votes are counted.

PM Trudeau may have forgotten that he didn’t win the election of 2019. Maybe you have forgotten, too, that nobody won two years ago. True, the Trudeau Liberals won the most seats – 157 – but they needed 170 to command a majority. At the time of dissolution, they were down to 155 with byelections pending.

The Conservatives were in second place in 2019 with 121 seats – but are quick to point to their victory in the “popular vote.” They picked up 34.34 per cent support over the Liberals’ 33.12 per cent.

Fast forward to 2021; all polls are claiming the Liberals are losing ground, with the Conservatives picking up the slack. The pollsters put the Tories “slightly ahead” of the Liberals. While pollsters haven’t earned many gold stars in recent election forecasts, it’s reasonable to assume the odds are at least even and that they’re getting it right at this stage.

If they are, on September 21 or shortly thereafter, we should see ourselves back at Square One as in 2019 with a Conservative majority of seats but falling short of the 170 seats required for majority control.

But there is one factor that could change the possibility of another minority government repeat: Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party of Canada (PPC.)

One of his nicknames is Mad Max – earned as a maverick during his years in the Conservative Party, where he had once sought the leadership. In August 2018, he announced his departure from the Conservative Party, declaring it “too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed” and afraid to address important issues.

His departure speech was quickly condemned by former Tory Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Brian Mulroney. Harper said he was a sore loser. Mulroney felt the new party Bernier had formed would siphon votes from the old party and assist the Liberals.

His presence on the ballot in most ridings will undoubtedly attract anti-vaxxers and those who see a conspiracy of scientists on climate change. He is also anti-immigrant. The PPC once sponsored billboards with an “END MASS IMMIGRATION” message.

The PPC claims a membership of over 30,000 – 4,135 are in BC, a thousand in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 4,822 in Alberta, 6,229 in Quebec and 10,871 in Ontario.

Watching the results come in on the 20th will do more than give us a new government, major or minor. I hope we elect a majority government with the party chosen to run our affairs for the next few years having enough seats to govern with the confidence we need in troubled times. A government with confidence in its public health services and science advisors and capable of passing that confidence on to the people they are sworn to serve and protect..

And above all else I hope Canada can wake up on September 21 pleased with its decision.

Needed With Compassion

In the war that has ended in chaos in Afghanistan, Canada lost 159 soldiers and seven civilians over a period of 12 years.

In the war against illicit toxic drugs in British Columbia, it took just six months this year to register 1,011 deaths.

In the words of Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner for the province, the record-breaking death total is “a tragic reminder that the toxic illicit drug supply remains a significant ongoing threat to public health and safety in communities throughout our province.”

Of more immediate concern for our political leaders and wannabe leaders is getting elected or re-elected, and that involves selective bribery of voters. Promises of rich funding for community programs that the promise makers hope will fulfill their hopes of gaining or retaining power.

Chief Coroner Lapointe says her latest release of data highlights “the immensity of this public health emergency and the need for a wide-scale response.” As of this writing, I can’t recall any politician adding a plan to end or even curb the ever-growing “immense health emergency.”

How immense? Chief Coroner Lapointe: “Drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death in BC for those aged 19 to 39.” This is from a front-line observer who records the horrors of an addict’s death and the agony of family survivors.

“We must continue to urge those in positions of influence across our province and the country to move to urgently implement measures to prevent more unnecessary suffering and death.”

Local candidates seeking Member of Parliament status Sept. 20th could reasonably be asked for their thoughts. So could BC MLAs – especially those with cabinet rank.

“We are studying the problem” seems to be the best we get.

Better – if not popular – would be Chief Coroner Lapointe’s plea for “removing barriers to safe supply and ensuring timely access to evidence-based, affordable treatment and providing those experiencing problematic substance use with compassionate and viable options to reduce risks and save lives.”

Would you support “safe supply” and “timely access” to save someone’s dad or mom, son or daughter, from an addict’s ugly death? More important, would you support a political candidate who did? Or didn’t?

When we lose more lives in BC in six months from poisonous street drugs than we lost in 12 futile years of battle in Afghanistan – we need a solution – NOW – and administered with compassion.