Sunday, 29 September 2013


Vancouver’s Planning Director alleged on Tuesday that Chinese wall posters misinformed the public. 

Posters in Mandarin which the planners thought related to four community plans actually alleged that the City was promoting genetically modified vegetables in home gardens to make people smaller so as to allow higher densities per acre.

A side effect of the program was that citizens in the areas subject to the plans were  growing additional noses on their foreheads. 


The Planner said that he was very disappointed and noted that he and his colleagues "had tasted the ingratitude of the people---the Planner’s ancient cup of hemlock.


Consultation Consultation Consultation

The Posters claimed that once a lot is rezoned to duplex or townhouse it can be further rezoned without  consultation.

Speaking on a condition of anonymity, the Legal Services Department  defended the Planner. “The rule of law works like this. The City has to run an ad in a newspaper of general circulation for two weeks notifying the public that they are going to rezone or re-plan their neighbourhood. Then they do it.” (See Vancouver Charter s. 566(1))

The Province should require immigrants to have a better understanding of the King James Version of the Vancouver Charter. Blame Victoria if Councilors do not consult."


Plans won't increase taxes

Another poster claimed that even a draft rumour that a 6 storey building might replace a house, would prompt residents to flee the neighbourhood. It explained that developers would come along and buy houses. When the sales took place, the BC Assessment Authority would raise the assessment and taxes would skyrocket.

An anonymous member of the Property Department explained, “There are those who think the purpose of life is nothing more than to move water from one place to another. Planners give us the gift of wisdom. If a homeowner sells his house to a speculator with a handlebar moustache, whose fault is that?”

No financial benefits to City from density

Another  lie that unsettled the planner was that the City benefits from increased density.

A member of the Finance Department explained what the planner had repeatedly told the neighbourhood protesters: “ Residential users do not pay their full share? Who do you think has to pay the battalions of planners to produce all these plans? If the residents can’t understand their own plans or refuse to take their medicine, what can the planners do other than to tax restaurants, toy stores and orphanages to cover these expenses?"


We must fight lies with truth

The Director of Planning with the ecclesiastical  mien  of a lobster being backed into a bottle explained, “We have to counter the misinformation that is being posted, illegally, on City Poles. We have to put the facts out there and calm people down. We must explain that it is not a rezoning. I keep telling them that it is a draft community plan but they do not listen."

No hidden agenda

The Director of Planning, whose name will come to me in a minute said, “We really thought we were listening to what the community was telling us at the time. This Planner does not have a hidden agenda."

He warned that in California citizens could  repeal the good work of planners by holding a referendum.  He hoped that extremists would not take democracy to that level in Canada.


Thursday, 26 September 2013


It is time to complain about the quality of protesting that is going on.

We are on a tipping point. Many Vancouverites think their politicians are mad as hell. They are not going to take it anymore. 

Here is what is going on. City Hall, announces plans  to enormously up-zone whole neighbourhoods. Speculators  assemble blocks on the expectation.  Property owners expect to be forced out of their homes. They know that values and taxes will rise. Houses will be demolished and replaced by towers. By the time the matter gets to Council it is a fait accompli

This isn't planning. It is  block busting. People who just want to be left alone, feel they will have to take the money and run. It is all driven by a despised Council and planning department.

The form of protesting, however, does not rise above the curb so well occupied by the politicians.

I have attended many of these  protests. Each one has been the same. A neighbourhood carries  signs to City Hall saying stop this or that. There is a speakers list of protesters.  The best, the immigrants from Asia,  explain that they thought they were leaving a hated regime behind. They had enough of  Beijing and were enjoying their modest yards in Norquay. 

Protesters should be thrilled at the chance of rebellion. These, however, are dreary shows. It is as if the inscription above the doors of City Hall now read, " Abandon all hope ye who enter here."

In the Seventies protest was organised with panache. The Yippies, once attacked City Council and threw cotton puffballs at them. Later the same group threatened to liberate the animals in the zoo. The City Social Planning Department responded by hiring Bruce Allen for one of his earliest gigs. He upstaged them with a rock concert in False Creek Park. The animal liberationists,chose the concert and the zoo remained a while longer. Eventually the animal rights people closed the zoo and freed the animals.

The Yippies and Social Planners today are retired lawyers and stock brokers. 

When a rodeo was to be held at the PNE, the animal rights people spoke to Council. They explained how painful some of these activities were. "The bucking bronco," a woman explained, "had a strap tied to its testicles which caused the poor thing to buck." 

When an Alderman  tried to defend the show, she said, "Alderman Bellamy how would you like to have your testicles pulled with a leather strap."

He replied, "Madame meet me after the meeting."

In the eighties when Council threatened to allow a large tower or two to be built in Dunbar, close to a thousand people showed up. They ignored signs altogether. They sullenly packed the Council Committee room.  Their message was clear: The entire council had unorthodox sexual relations with their maternal parents. 

That was too much. The Councilors  slunk into the Mayor’s office. There, they sat on their haunches overlooking the harbour and then, on velvet paws they, returned -contrite. They blamed the planner for everything and decided against sending the proposal to a hearing. 


 No parking - no protest

It is difficult, today, to get huge crowds to come to City Hall. There is no parking for one thing and to take the bus can be risky. I took the bus yesterday to attend a discussion about Granville Island at the Vancouver Club. Everything was OK on the 022 MacDonald bus when an elderly lady with a walker got on board. The bus driver politely helped her be seated. At the next stop the trouble started. 

A committed recycler boarded with a garbage bag filled with tin cans. Possibly she intended to strip the little tabs off and make necklaces for export to Hawaii.  


Her bag was wider than the aisle and as she passed, the lady seated by her walker  screamed , “Get her off the bus as I have been cut by her cans.” 

 The driver stopped and asked the recycling lady politely to get off and wait for the next bus. She did not speak English so he tugged firmly on her arm.  It was like extracting something from a Venus fly trap. Her beer cans scraped and tore the sleeves of some of the other passengers. 

It was not her fault. It’s the system. It is not a system one can rely on to get comfortably to a protest.

Saul Alynski

One of the most creative protesters of all time was Chicago’s Saul Alynski. He knew the enemy. He determined that  the heavy hitting supporters of the Chicago politicians favoured chamber music. Before a concert, he organised a dinner heavily laced with baked beans. Then he and his community attended a concert, providing a basso continuo accompaniment. 

 I don’t know if the gang of 7 Visionistas attend chamber music concerts. Someone should find out.

Protests do not have to be large to be effective. A while ago there was a Vancouver Artist who went under the nom de plume of Mr. Peanut. He attended meetings in full beer nut regalia, signed up for the speakers' list and, without saying a word, tap danced.

Other Countries

We could learn much from studying protests in other countries. Belgian farmers, angered by collapsing milk prices showed their displeasure: squirting milk straight from a cow at riot police. The jittery cow, frightened by firecrackers, sprang loose and chased an office worker down the street.

Alice Newstead painted herself silver, pierced her skin with over sized fish hooks and hung from the ceiling of a Paris boutique in a campaign over shark extinction. 



Vancouver could build wailing walls in each neighbourhood. Why should citizens have to drive to City Hall to talk to a Wall?



 In Ontario, about 300 people mooned a balloon that carried a surveillance camera trolling the Canada-U.S. border. The bare-bottomed activists were protesting the 15-metre-long Aerostat balloon, which is equipped with a high-tech camera capable of identifying the name on a ship 12 to 15 kilometres out in Lake Huron. Everyone displayed their tuchis to the balloon at full advantage. 


My advice to today's Vancouver protesters is to do all of these kinds of things.

Assemble a flute orchestra. Crash a council meeting and play locally produced elevator music at them. 

Build a 10 storey Wailing Wall in scale with the other stuff coming to your neighbourhood.

Crucify yourself if you can’t find a councilor.

Bring a cow to city hall and squirt milk at them. 

March around City Hall blowing trumpets. It will collapse on the seventh circle. It worked for Joshua at Jericho.  They are planning to give one of their friends a contract to take it down anyway. 

Monday, 23 September 2013


In a startling development,  the Architect for the Harwood Group, owners of the Stong’s site in Vancouver’s, Dunbar neighbourhood, now insists that the US Congress defund Obama Care. Unless this condition is met Stong’s, the popular food store, will be closed down.

Last week, architect Greg Henriquez forcefully insisted that his client must have two floors in excess of the amount allowed by the applicable C-2 Commercial zoning. He explained to those attending a hearing that:

A 4 story C-2 development could be profitable without a  supermarket because  small stores on one floor yield more revenue than a two storey supermarket.
 There is, however, a chance that Dunbar already has too much retail space which explains the explosion of hairdressers, H & R blocks and thrift stores, so, to ensure against risk he needs an extra floor. “I am telling you idiots,” he brusquely explained, “that 4 +1 = 5”.

Also, a supermarket requires two floors because that’s the way it is. This brings the total to around six or seven floors for a profitable development, based on the planning principle that 4 +2 = 6 or 7.

A notice
to their employees has been posted by the owners of Stong's  explaining that Henriquez now demands that Obama Care be defunded.
“Mr. Henriquez says that if Obama Care goes ahead it is likely that the American economy will collapse and Vancouver will go with it. Therefore, his client requires a mixed use, LEEDS Compliant, 80 storey tower to compensate for possible losses caused by the introduction of the controversial US medical insurance program. Stong’s management urges  its employees to write to Congress to send in the marines if that's what it takes."
 (I admit that the preceding is a parody. Mr. Henriquez did not in fact say anything about Obama Care. You can find Stong's notice explaining their awkward situation at

Vision Jubilant 

(The two Councilors did not actually say the things I have attributed to them below.  They probably will eventually.)

This is a ‘win win’ situation,” Councilor Reimer said. “Any 86 storey tower will cast a shadow and stimulate the growth of mushrooms in back yards for blocks. The locavore community will benefit . We must not give in to the NMIMBY S (No Mushrooms in My Backyard) set.  

Councillor Kerry Jang, the popular member of  UBC's Psychiatry department, explained that in zoning terms, 

A mushroom is the spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name "mushroom" is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word "mushroom" is most often applied to those fungi (Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes) that have a stem (stipe), a cap (pileus), and gills (lamellae, sing. lamella) or pores on the underside of the cap. I am not familiar with the Chanterelle Mushroom but an increase in supply will certainly make them more “affordable,” whatever that means.
A rebellion has been scheduled at City Hall on Tueday September 24 at 5:45 pm. Check for road closures before leaving home.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


In almost everything that local politicians  control, from approvals of permits to  zoning,  opportunities lurk for scandal.

Local politicians have the most impact of any level of government on our everyday lives. They decide whether we can cut down our own trees and whether the sun shall be eclipsed by towers.   They nevertheless receive the least media scrutiny and inspire the lowest voter turnout. 

Cities have had their fair share of scandals. One does not have to go back to New York’s Boss Tweed who sagely observed, “Voters don’t elect people. Counters elect people



 For more current Canadian examples see

On September 9, 2013 the B.C. Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development released a White Paper on proposed changes to local government election finance and disclosure. The Provincial government intends to enact legislative changes before the 2014 local elections.

This is a joint effort of the Union of BC Municipalities and the Province. Rest assured, therefore, that the politicians'  looked after their own interests.  The Province should have required from the outset that all of the  stakeholders including developers and community groups, prepared the report. Instead they left it to   politicians and bureaucrats. It is an example of government of the politicians, by the politicians and for the politicians.

The  White Paper proposes to expand the scope of disclosure of candidates election expenses. There are new controls on what candidates, electoral organizations like VISION and the NPA and third parties may say and when they may say it.  Virtually any communication that even indirectly promotes or opposes a candidate is deemed to be election advertising. This includes third party advertising and issue advertising. The period covered for campaign finance disclosure starts on January l of the year of the election. Penalties for breaking the law are severe.

An honest politician, they say, is one who when bought stays bought. The costs to the public begins when  councilors vote for whatever it was that inspired their contributors donation.  This kind of corruption is presently covered by the conflict of interest provisions of the Community Charter, ss. 100 - 104. Under the present law politicians must disclose a conflict after which they must not participate in the matter. The penalty for violations is disqualification from holding office.

Here is the problem.  In a series of decisions the courts have held that a By-law ought not to be set aside by reason of any indirect pecuniary interest of the Mayor or any Councillor which might be said to arise merely from campaign contributions, particularly where the contribution is disclosed. ( Guimond v. Vancouver (City) 7 M.P.L.R. (3d) 44, par 109) 

The White Paper fails to address the fact that cities are regulatory bodies in which many politicians and their party's campaigns are funded by the gang they are expected to regulate, namely, developers. If they seriously wanted to stop this they would simply ensure that for conflict of interest purposes, campaign contributions are treated as pecuniary interests. Bylaws promoted by say,  General Skyscraper Corporation could then be set aside if a majority of councilors who voted for it had earlier been recipients of its largesse.  All that is needed is a minor amendment to the Community Charter.

Politicians know perfectly well that this would discourage  large political donations because it denies to the donors the spoils of their support. That is why the White Paper doesn't deal with it.

Instead they chose to  drown cities and towns in a sea of regulations. That is a made in City Hall approach. 

Aside from the restrictions on expression during the year of an election, the proposals insidiously favour incumbents over challengers.  Once elected, politicians enjoy the enormous advantage of having what they do and say during their term reported in the news. This is not considered a campaign expenditure.  Since local politicians need name recognition, incumbency is worth 109  gigabytes more than advertising. Every baby or developer kissed by a Mayor or Councilor is bankable but not reportable.

One more thing- the proposal to extend councilors’ terms to four years in a related report  did not come from popular demand.  It is one more power grab by politicians. It would be the worst thing that happened to local governments since September 3, 1998 when they extended the terms from two years to three.  

Terms should  be restored by the Province to two years. Politicians need the whiff of reality that can be gained only by elections.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


Following World World War II President Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex and exercised US military power in measured ways.

President Johnson embarked on a different course in Viet Nam. The only Congressional authorization Johnson ever sought for that calamity arose from the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident which he wildly exaggerated. Thereafter, he set about trying to fight his war in a way the American people might hopefully not notice too much. (“Drift, the Unmooring of American Military, Power” Rachel Maddow Crown Publishers NY)

President Reagan was involved with Operation Urgent Action to liberate a few sheep and students in Granada. As an encore he narrowly avoided impeachment in the Iran Contra affair. In both instances his advisers'  purpose  was to keep Congress from meddling in the government.

The United States and the rest of the world has paid an enormous price for its unconstitutional involvement in wars since WW II.

As George H.W. Bush prepared for Gulf War I, Federal District Judge Harold H Greene decided the case of Dellums v. Bush, 752 F. Supp. 1141 (1990), Fifty four members of Congress sued Bush in 1990. They were trying to halt a military buildup in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The plaintiffs argued that military action without a declaration of war would be unlawful under 
U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 11. The District Court denied a preliminary injunction because it was premature  The President, he held, had not yet initiated war-like actions.

The following portion of the reasons for judgment should be inscribed as an appendix on all of the monuments to War in Washington:

“ Article 1, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution grants to the Congress the power "to declare war." To the extent that this unambiguous direction requires construction or explanation, it is provided by the framers comments that they felt it would be unwise to entrust the momentous power to involve the nation in the war to the president alone; Jefferson explained that he desired "an effectual check to the dog of war" James Madison similarly expressed the expectation that the system would guard against hostilities being initiated by a single man. Even Abraham Lincoln while a congressman said more than a half-century later that "no one man should hold the power of bringing war upon us.

Now President Obama is trying to do it again.

Syria’s President, Assad gassed thousands of civilians including Children 
in a Damascus suburb. President Obama wants to  set the tall Syrian ophthalmologist straight by bombing Syria for 60 days or so. The American’s have smart bombs but they have not yet been developed to the point that they miss the innocents. 

There is no situation in the world today that one President or another cannot make worse. If the Assad government falls there will be a massacre of men women and children. If the Assad government remains the same thing will happen. In either case Israel will be blamed and j
ustice will not be done nor seen to be done. 

At the end of the 60 day war does anyone really believe the American’s will be able to withdraw? Whether they withdraw or not no good will come of it. 

If the President wants war it is the job of Congress to carefully debate, consider and declare it. 

President Obama taught Constitutional Law at Harvard. He should re-read his predecessor, President James Madison’s rationale for Article 1, Section 8: 

 "The Constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrate "that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the legislature."