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As the year draws to a close, opinions and debates flourish

December 31st, 2008 · 14 Comments

Don’t ask me why, but I’m spending my leisure time these days reading Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone,” (yes, I know, several years late) a thoughtful and heavily documented analysis of the decline of civic engagement in American society since the 1950s. As we’ve become a more individualistic society, Putnam argues, our participation in political parties (real participation, as opposed to sending cheques), churches, work associations and bowling leagues has plummeted.

Reading that makes me grateful all the more for the people who choose to engage in civic life — some of them by debating the issues of the day through this blog. And that group is certainly active.

For those of you who have missed the conversations in the comments section, the back and forth between Tom Durrie, who fought to save the York Theatre on Commercial Drive, Michael Geller, who worries about the impact of that save on the city’s heritage density bank, and others is tremendously informative.

The more recent go-round is about the Non-Partisan Association’s recent meeting to elect 11 new directors, which turned into a tussle between two camps inside the party. There are lots of comments on that piece of politics.

One correction I should note is that my previous post implied that Manjot Hallen was a Conservative, because he was part of the apparently Tory-organized slate. Several people have written to point out that Manjot is an Ignatieff Liberal (as opposed to a Rae Liberal or …).

However, the fact remains that there was a slate organized and, although the slate included some Liberals, the organizing was done by a group of Tory and/or Sam Sullivan loyalists. (And to respond to Marko Dekovic’s message — no one said Marko was at the meeting. The dark whispering from the non-Tory faction was that he had helped organize the slate prior to the meeting.)

I admit it’s all a bit difficult for outsiders (and even me) to understand, since Bob Ransford has been affiliated with the Conservative party and yet Conservatives organized to make sure he wasn’t elected, while some Libs were included on the Tory slate. In spite of all that, there’s no doubt there’s some kind of real struggle for power going on between two factions, even though many of us can’t figure out what the point of it is.

Perhaps we’ll figure it out over the next few months, especially since I’m sure the other faction will be doing some serious organizing over the next few months to ensure they win the next vote for the five empty director spots that come up in April.

Finally, one more comment that you may have missed comes in from Michael Phillips, who had this to say about former Sullivan chief of staff Daniel Fontaine’s recent appearance on the CBC. In the interest of fairness, I’m also linking to what Daniel actually said so you can judge for yourselves whether he was guilty of the crimes Michael accuses him of.

“…pointing out absurdities if the arguments aren’t sharp…”

Hmmm…how about the absurdity of arguing that that the difficulty we are all having commuting and walking through the snow and ice in Vancouver right now is in any way the fault of Gregor Robertson and city council ( Dec 30).

“Ok Andrea, you dig out the Drive! Cadman, you want more responsibility? Grab a shovel!
Anton, I told you to put chains on all the bus tires! Don’t tell me its not municipal jurisdiction, get out there! If anyone needs me, leave a message with Maria, I’ll be pushing the B-Line around all day.”

Give me a break. The reason it’s so hard to get around is because a lot of snow fell and because this is Vancouver and we don’t have a lot of snow plows. Yes, we temporarily need more snow equipment during the olympics, although I should hope that Vanoc thought of that a while ago. Now if the City refused to pay snow clearing staff overtime because of the depleted contingency fund, that would be news. If this upstart City Caucus blog wants to be taken seriously they can’t just throw slush like this and hope it will freeze.

Sad to see that the CBC participated in such a tactless hit job.

“So how do you think the new city government is handling this problem Daniel Fontaine, former chief-of-staff to the previous mayor from
the other rival party?” “Badly!”

Despite laughing out loud when Mr. Fontaine was introduced as “one Vancouver resident” distinguished only by possessing “his blog” I was compelled to write this:

“I’m very sorry that my first letter to the CBC is a complaint, I usually am very proud of your network’s quality and objectivity. However, the next time a “resident” is selected to make local commentary about a situation which might reflect on the level of competancy of Vancouver’s mayor and council, perhaps the CBC could select someone who was not the former chief-of-staff to the previous mayor
who held power under a rival political party to that of the current mayor and council majority. This was not commentary, it was a hit job
by one party on another, and a news program shouldn’t allow itself to be used so easily for such purposes. If the CBC was bent on voicing Mr. Fontaine’s opinions it should have introduced the guest as the former chief-of-staff to the recently defeated mayor, in which case people would have treated his words with the mounds of snow-salt they deserve. I’m thinking of going to the ombudsman for the lack of disclosure on this one actually, please respond.”

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