Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vancouver - a city divided by the Olympics, despite great results for Canada

- jmv photo

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours column

February 16, 2010

Vancouver – a city divided by the Olympics, not united

By Bill Tieleman

Vancouver is lovely. There is no other word for it.

- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author, 1859-1930

Vancouver: a terrible hole.

- Brendan Behan, author, 1923-1964

Vancouver is a city divided – by the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

And with media hyped to the max about the Games, it’s a reality not readily apparent.

It’s not about all the protestors – it’s about the rest of us.

And the truth is, the Olympics may bring together a country – even the world – while splitting apart a city.

This is unfortunate, unsettling and altogether expected for Vancouver.

The city is constantly split – East Side versus West Side, working class versus upper class, B.C. Liberals versus New Democrats – so it’s just one more dichotomy.

And sport is no different than class or politics – not when it comes to the Olympics.

Ironically, and mostly lost in Games’ coverage, is the fact that former B.C. Premier Glen Clark actually initiated the 2010 Olympics back in 1998 when the NDP were in power and had defeated current Premier Gordon Campbell in 1996.

In other words, the two major political parties both supported the Olympics, as they do today.

But when it comes to Vancouverites and British Columbians, there is no unity.

An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll just last month found that across the entire country, B.C. was the most negative about the Olympic Games with only 50% believing they would have a positive impact on the province.

That compares with 70% of Canadians overall feeling the games would be good for Vancouver, B.C. and the country.

You can see the split easily by talking to people here. One acquaintance of mine related that she voted against the Olympics in the city referendum but is now enthusiastic, encouraged by the display of Canadian flags and excitement.

But when she took a taxi last week, the driver – who had voted in favour of the Olympics – was completely negative and wished Vancouver had never got the games!

Then there is the fear factor.

A large number of Vancouverites are fleeing the city in advance of the Olympics.

A Mustel Group poll estimated that about 12% or up to 250,000 people from the Metro Vancouver area will leave town for all or part of the Olympics.

I’m in that last category, deciding to vacation in Mexico rather than celebrate winter sports I neither follow nor participate in.

I still support the Olympics and want the city to shine, because I think they will improve our economy and put Vancouver more impressively on the world map.

But one thing is clear – we Vancouverites love our city, period.

And no one’s love for this city should ever be measured by their support for the Olympic Games – no one.

Hopefully we can all agree on that.

NOTE - This column from February 16 was printed in 24 hours newspaper but not posted on my blog at the time due to my absence.


DPL said...

Our son , a self employed little guy in Vancouver says he too is pleased the circus is over. He lost a lot of his income as he couldn't get down to his normal places of work. When he took out a charter , of Russian folks he even got checked by a Sea King Helicopter which didn't impress his guests. His comment was that he watched the flame go out on another charter trip was he hopes to see the cruise ships out of our harbour that were the quarters for the Cops. We all wonder what the costs are going to be, and rather doubt we will ever know the truth. The BS spead in the Legislature starting today might be interesting. Anyone know who won the mens' hockey game between the Canada NHL and the US NHL? Amateur games, hardly.

Anonymous said...


Each medal won cost Canadians and British Columbia hundreds of millions of dollars each, so "own the podium" will be a 20-25 year crushing debt load for BC.

Throw in the incredible billion plus dollar waste and errosion of civil rights that Vancouver's Police Disneyland has generated over the last six months.

Then we come to the big-buck jingoistic media spin that turned the likes of Gordon Campbell and a few lesser-know local meglomaniacs into modern day supreme leaders from the 1930s'

But it was the BC MEDIA, the WORST ON EARTH, for at least a month, who showed they could out do Pravada and Isvestia at fart-catching for the government.

So when the fiscal hangover starts in a few days, remember you asked for it and you even voted for it.


Anonymous said...

Tag team on Brendan Behan?

He seems like such a sorry little sot, eh?

Bill Tieleman said...

Note to readers - due to increasing levels of spam, I've had to put a "word check" feature on posts requiring an extra step of security.

This should be simple but let me know if htere are problems - and sorry for the inconvenience but up to 40 spam ads a day are coming in to my 2 blogs.

Anonymous said...

B.T. wrote:

"Note to readers - due to increasing levels of spam, I've had to put a "word check" feature on posts requiring an extra step of security."

No problem Bill. It just means you're doing something right!

Anonymous said...

Seventeen days of celebrating the 2010 Winter Olympics are over, and there are some who are trying to make a comparison to the feelings attached to seeing so many people filling the streets, not just in Vancouver, but right across the great country of Canada.

Might I suggest a similar scenes of rejoicing, the end of World War I and II.

Most of us weren't there for the ending of those two wars, but we've seen plenty of black and white photographs.

There is a sense of being able to reach out and touch the achievements of our athletes, which in no way compares to that our soldiers......

Skookum1 said...

Let me guess.....Conan Doyle dropped by in June or July or one of those glorious Septembers, while Brendan Behan was in town in a soggy, dark November or a torrentially-rainy March.....

Anonymous said...

I notice a lot of BC's fair-weather patriots and beer-powered Olympic flag wavers going on about their new found patriotism.

Firstly to quote Samuel Johnson from 1775, "Patriotism Is The Last Refuge of Scoundrels"

I wonder how many of these face-painted boozed-up Canuck heroes even vote or know the name of BC's Finance Minister?

Also, when I read how our local "puckheads" have elevated these medal winners into national heroes it makes me sick.

All this flag-waving and jingoism sounds like it came out of an English translation of Mein Kampf.

On November 9, 1938 "KRISTALLNACHT" a lot of good German patriots went out and burned, looted and destoyed Jewish property all in the name of patriotic anger.

So put a sock in it Captain Canuck, and start thinking how you are going to payback the 7 billion dollars you pissed away on these games.


Anonymous said...

...."are experiencing in Afghanistan" ... is what I meant to conclude with.

Just think Skookum1, you could be the next Conan Doyle or a...... Sam Cole.....

But then The Great Satan comes along with a ton of nay saying writings which makes it sound as if he's created the perfect recipe for Canada: one part patriotism to one part penny pinching.

Most Corrupt Place on Earth said...

Look at what we can achieve when we put our minds (money) to a stated goal! The most gold medals ever!! But, really, is building sports heroes the be-all and end-all of our world now?

What is wrong with our society, with our government, with these people who look like they just visited Kansas with Toto, over the moon with joy at being at the Olympics.

Have we all regressed to adolescence? Do they not see through the relentless PR day after day? I tuned into the Closing Ceremony for a nonosecond and what did I see? An RCMP chorus line (for those who didn't see it, I'm not making this up, it was a chorus line dance number by red-suited mounties). That was hard to stomach. I bet they weren't cheering in Poland at that nauseating display. Disrespectful in the extreme; misleading to the point of cover-up. Simply an outrageous attempt to "rehabilitate" the image of the police in BC.

We are facing environmental catastrophes right, left and centre, our children and our elderly "in care" are being tossed on the trash heaps, all so we can mindlessly pursue the development of a minority of "elite" athletes.

For God's sake, can't we lionize true heroes instead of the self-absorbed, glory-seeking athletes, and cigar and beer swilling hockey players? How about volunteers who work tirelessly to help the single mother struggling to avoid an abusive husband (when Gordo cancelled funding of women's shelters across BC), or the elderly husband going in to the nursing home to feed his wife at every meal because the staff can't or won't do the job themselves (yes, it happens, and isn't rare).

Bread and circuses. We'll wake up one day (sooner rather than later), but I fear, only when it's too late to do anything about it. Then you'll see the mindless party-goers crying like babies.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Bring on the World Cup is what I say!

Anonymous said...

Yes thank god its over its too bad the reporters won't let it die. They became the worst part of journalism , part of the story and total abject cheerleaders.

Anonymous said...

<< On November 9, 1938 "KRISTALLNACHT" a lot of good German patriots went out and burned, looted and destoyed Jewish property all in the name of patriotic anger.>>

Wow. Bitter much? Comparing people partying on Robson to the looting of Jewish property?

As Bill Good remarked, where does such hate come from?

JJ said...

Bill, please learn this word and kindly print a retraction.


(from Greek dicha, "apart," and tomos, "cutting"), a form of logical division consisting of the separation of a class into two subclasses, one of which has and the other has not a certain quality or attribute.

Actually I'd be interested in a poll of your readers to see what percentage think each of your 4 examples was actually a dichotomy.

Bill Tieleman said...

JJ - here's my Collins English Dictionary definition:

"dichotomy - division into two parts or classifications, esp when they are sharply distinguished or opposed".

The definition you use is from logic - which can never be applied to Vancouver!

Carolyn Thomas said...

Hello Bill,

Well, like all party hosts, it's now time for BC taxpayers, in the cold hard light of the morning after, to sweep the Doritos up off the carpet and assess the actual cost of throwing this 17-day party.

You no doubt have seen some of the creepiest of the world's media descriptions of Vancouver, like Granville Street dubbed “the river of vomit” by The Globe and Mail’s Christie Blatchford.

Then Time magazine’s Sean Gregory added this description of us:

“Let’s face it: if public intoxication were an Olympic sport, Vancouver and Whistler would own the podium. These are the fourth Olympics I’ve covered, and Vancouver drinks Athens, Torino and Beijing under the table. And all of that drinking has led to a lot of public urinating. The city has had to force liquor stores to close at 7 p.m. on the nights the Canadian hockey teams played. Vancouver appears to have more morons per square foot than TV’s 'Jersey Shore' house.”

Kind of makes you proud to be a Canadian, eh?

And then BC Business magazine predicted in its February Olympics feature, 'Ten Debt Sentences':

“You can count on three things being true with these Winter Olympics:
1. the initial cost estimates for staging the Games will be underestimated
2. the Games will almost certainly lose money
3. organizers will claim they made a profit.

Yet all this appears to be forgotten when a new city hosts the next Games.”

As quoted in 'Why the Olympics Are Bad Business' dubbed “the river of vomit” by The Globe and Mail’s Christie Blatchford ). Time magazine’s Sean Gregory added this description of us:

“Let’s face it: if public intoxication were an Olympic sport, Vancouver and Whistler would own the podium. These are the fourth Olympics I’ve covered, and Vancouver drinks Athens, Torino and Beijing under the table. And all of that drinking has led to a lot of public urinating. The city has had to force liquor stores to close at 7 p.m. on the nights the Canadian hockey teams played. Vancouver appears to have more morons per square foot than TV’s Jersey Shore house.”

Kind of makes you proud to be a Canadian, eh? Then BC Business magazine predicted in its February Olympics feature, Ten Debt Sentences:

“You can count on three things being true with these Winter Olympics: the initial cost estimates for staging the Games will be underestimated, the Games will almost certainly lose money, and organizers will claim they made a profit. Yet all this appears to be forgotten when a new city hosts the next Games.”

As quoted in 'Why the Olympics Are Bad Business' - - sports economist Dr. Jeffrey Owen of Indiana State University reminds us:

“To date, there has not been a single study of an Olympics or other large-scale sporting event that has found empirical evidence of significant economic impacts.”

Gee. And here I thought that VANOC meant we'll all be on Easy Street because of these Games . . .


JJ said...

Oy. I should have known you would be too arrogant to admit your error. Sure, there are a variety of definitions but they all share the concept of division into two groups or classifications.

Have you heard about the homelessness problem? There's a few of these people who are neither upper class nor working class so that would seem to imply a third class, sorry if I confused you with logic there.

Now I might be more inclined to classify residence into more groupings as well but East side vs West side is legitimate (except of course for the aforementioned homeless who are either neither or in some cases both). But I won't nitpick, I'll give you that one even though either side of whatever geographical boundary you choose is hardly "sharply distinguished".

And of course your suggested view of Olympic opinion is reasonable also although I know quite a few people who have mixed feelings. Enjoyed the sport and believe in the Olympic ideals as much as they believe they are being taken for a ride by corporate prostitution and greed.

Doesn't seem like I have much of an argument, oh wait there was one more tiny example. Your mistaken belief that there is nothing beyond Liberal or NDP. I guess you've never heard of the Green, Conservative, Refederation, Communist, Marijuana, Work Less or a host of others including Independents. And that's not even counting the largest group, None Of The Above. Were you aware that there is currently a sitting MLA who is neither Liberal nor NDP?

I did have a laugh (hopefully shared) about Vancouver and logic. I think you're being too limiting though. Logic is difficult to apply to most of the human race.

You're a splendid example of a human being, Bill.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks JJ - You are no doubt splendid too!

But I hardly think your definition versus mine on dichotomy makes me arrogant anymore than it does you.

And I think there are more important issues to debate.

JJ said...

Bill, you hardly think.
I don't give a damn which version of dichotomy you use. The issue of your arrogance (vs mine) is your application.

In particular, your vision of Vancouver being only Liberal or NDP to the exclusion of all others. Quite simply, the population of Vancouver is divided along several political lines, not just two.

Therefore it is not a dichotomy.

No debate, you are just wrong.

And if you're wanting to debate something more important then it will have to be electoral reform. HST? Close but not as important as recognizing that two-party politics played a significant role in creating the HST fiasco.

Bill Tieleman said...

JJ - which party has elected MLAs in Vancouver other than the BC Liberals and NDP - the Greens? The BC Conservatives? Errr, none.

Ergo - dichotomy. You've also given this word and its use way too much value - it's just a way of looking at some - not all - of the ways this city splits.

True enough there are 3 parties in municipal politics - a trichotomy.

But your last comment it the most interesting - no doubt you are another STV holdout with an axe to grind with me. But BC was a dichotomy in the referendum - and STV lost.

JJ said...

I see what you are saying about the MLA split in Vancouver and I agree. I erred in assuming from your original article that you were talking about ALL of Vancouver when in fact it was only 11 people. I guess what you're saying is that the rest of us are irrelevant.

And that really is the crux of the problem. You are correct in portraying me as a former STV supporter but why would you paint a negative image by labelling me as a "holdout"? Do you consider it wrong for someone to hold a view contrary to yours? It's true that STV lost in 2009 but that shouldn't deter the large section of the population who are still in favor from expressing themselves. I think only someone who is worried that someday it would gain enough support to supplant FPTP would attempt to convey a message that STV discussion is over.

In 2005, FPTP was not the popular choice but it was given another chance to gain support. In 2009, STV was the unpopular choice by a similar percentage but will not get the same opportunity. In other words, those that do not trust either the NDP or the Liberals and therefore seek a system whereby an alternative representative may be elected are being told they are irrelevant. I guess that's fair, after all none of them are MLA's. The fact that this group represents the majority of the eligible voters also seems to be irrelevant.

Do I have an axe to grind with you? You bet. But it's not your opposition to STV per se. You frequently are critical of Liberal policy and how it adversely effects marginalized people in our society yet your attitude is to politically marginalize others.

You constantly imply that to be opposed to the Liberals is to embrace the NDP. You castigate those who vote Green because it splits the left vote. I know too many people who vote NDP but only because they see no real option after discounting the Liberals. It is reinforced all around that to vote otherwise is to waste a vote, so much so that the political needs of many are ignored in the same way that the needs of the poverty stricken are ignored by our government.

I have no intention of voting Liberal or NDP anytime soon, if ever. I can still exercise my right to vote though why would I? My voice is not irrelevant but my vote is.

Oppose STV all you want, it's not that important. Any system that would allow people to freely choose from a diverse political spectrum without fear of throwing their vote away is fine. But a system that inhibits potential candidates from running and consequently reduces the viable options of most voters to one or less candidates is not my idea of democracy.

There is more to provincial politics than Liberals and NDP. Not a whole lot because of the oppressive nature of these two parties. I become somewhat enraged when you focus on them and dismiss all others as irrelevant to the discussion. Nobody should be made to feel that way. I don't disapprove of your writing because of your view of STV, I disapprove because it makes me feel irrelevant under FPTP.

For you to showcase your support for this system by leading the charge against STV and continuing to ignore the plight of the politically homeless, demonstrates your callous attitude to those in need. If I didn't know better I would think you were a Liberal.

Bill Tieleman said...

Good debate JJ - I hope it's not only just you and I reading it!

To your main points - I don't "castigate" those who vote Green nor do I think they are all "splitting" the left vote - because I don't believe the Green Party is left at all - it is in fact increasingly conservative and right wing - Jane Sterk is no social democrat.

I do - not to split hairs - question why some voters would support the Greens if environmental and social concerns are their priority.

But I have repeatedly said - it's on the record - that everyone should vote their conscience and beliefs - the Green Party has every right to contest elections and appeal for NDP and other votes.

And I've pointed out the inconvenient truth - the Greens have failed in over a quarter centure to even come close to electing a single member once in BC - or Canada.

I agree that under some forms of proportional representation some Greens may have been elected but when PR doesn't exist anywhere in Canada and has been rejected in referendums in three provinces - BC, Ontario and PEI - voters have to realistically assess what purpose voting Green has when no members will be elected.

I raise your STV support simply because my role in opposing STV continually brings out attacks - like yours in this last post.

STV would not have guaranteed the Liberals would have been defeated or that the Greens would have finally won a seat - though it's probably more likely - or that the NDP would have formed a red-green coalition government.

But regardless of that - STV has been rejected for lots of good reasons that I and others articulated during a spirited and democratic debate.

To equate my role in the defeat of STV with almost being a Liberal is absurd.

The reality of the STV failure is that the Citizens Assembly chose the wrong system to propose, didn't explain its choice effectively in 2005 with overwhelming odds in its favour and then in 2009 the STV side squandered its amazing second chance in what was still an unfair fight due to massively more funding than the NO STV side had.

But the debate of the future isn't over STV - it's over other democratic reforms of our legislature and system - like changing approval of the BC Budget to a 2/3rds majority; providing MLAs and cabinet ministers with the right to hire their own staff instead of through caucus; even - as I have proposed - mandatory voting laws - there's lots to discuss instead of STV.

JJ said...

From your May 5, 2009 entry about all the reasons not to vote Liberal, following over a dozen reasons was this conclusion:

"After this election voters face either more of the same bad Gordon Campbell B.C. Liberal record or a welcome change under New Democratic Party leader Carole James.

The Green Party can’t elect a single MLA, but could keep Campbell in power with vote splitting."

Perhaps I was too harsh with my choice of words, but it seems clear to me that you would prefer that enough people voted NDP rather than how they truly felt. As to why people would vote Green for social concerns, the NDP does not represent true ideological change. A change in the ruling class is merely a personnel change. An improvement, yes, but ultimately not what is being sought.

"voters have to realistically assess what purpose voting Green has when no members will be elected."

Well according to you, you're on record (couldn't find it) saying they "should vote their conscience and beliefs " but I think a Green vote can be more explicitly interpreted as "I protest the stranglehold that the Liberals and NDP hold and will let my voice be heard while I await others to join in ending the tyranny of both parties and their control of government. If either wants my support they must mend their ways, I will not capitulate to the lesser of two evils argument"

I'm not the least bit interested in your arguments against STV so let's not open that can of worms again. You articulated a lot of crap but to be fair, so did the Yes side. The whole affair was somewhat spirited on the Yes side but was more propaganda than debate and could only be considered democratic in the sense that our Legislature has set the standard for democracy so low that their main function is to put on a display of mudslinging and propaganda, then label it debate.

By the way the Liberal comment was meant to be absurd although not to do with STV itself but rather with FPTP. It's equally absurd to defend FPTP.

You have a start on what is likely a virtually unlimited list of good talking points in your last paragraph, even the silly one. What I'm not clear on is how this is expected to happen. I think my sentiments are summed up nicely by Antony Hodgson. Antony, now President of FairVoting BC, wrote a response to your article on May 19, 2009 on the analysis of the failed STV campaign. He said:

"Finally, I'm not clear what would motivate the party in power to move in the directions you propose. What process do you feel would have the greatest likelihood of producing these outcomes?"

There was no response from you. It's not that STV or any PR is perfect, we know that. But do any of your ideas stand a better chance of coming to fruition through the current system as opposed to a stable PR system? Note that I'm aware not all PR systems are inherently stable but I think if we want any of your suggestions to see the light of day, we must first move towards a stable minority government. I don't think anyone has a guarantee on the solution but it helps if we know the problem.

Cheers, Bill. This discussion has been a surprising pleasure. I know we're at loggerheads on this but I sincerely hope we can find some middle groumd to agree on someday.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks J.J. - I do hope someone else other than us is reading this! Good debate.

I'm sorry I didn't respond to Antony and perhaps others - there's been a lot of to and fro on the STV/electoral reform issue and I may have just missed it or grown weary.

On your points on the Green Party - I have indeed and will in the future strongly question the motivation of its supporters to vote for the Quixotic party of their choice.

I think that's fair game - but I do still respect those who can't support any other party to vote their conscience.

My point was to ask if letting the BC Liberals plunder the environment, build countless IPPs, push offshore oil and gas exploration and shoot grizzly bears without fear or favour was worth voting Green in a hopeless cause.

There's no question this makes for difficult, compromising choices - I'm often uncomfortable with NDP positions as well that don't match my own - but overall politics is about making hard choices.

Those who don't see any difference in the 2 major parties might well not feel any hesitancy in voting Green or for another party - but the results are clear.

I know people don't like tough decisions but that's life - and even with Pro-Rep systems there are still real and important choices to be made - it's not a nirvana.

I appreciate your thoughtful points and do hope that there is indeed some common ground.