Too Much to Ask
My political party doesn’t exist. Should an anarcho-collective of misanthropes ever call a meeting, I might drop buy -at least until somebody fucks me off.
I’m fickle. I play the field with my political allegiances; part of the field, anyway. I’ve voted Vision Vancouver and COPE. I’ve supported the NDP and a variety of independents. At times I’ve exercised my franchise in favour of various looneys, such as the Rhino Party (Rough Tough McGruff was the candidate’s name, if memory serves), communists, and Chretien’s Liberals. (I’m particularly ashamed of the latter, which led to my personal iron rule: no strategic voting.)
I recognize that politics is show business for ugly people, and so welcome a little drama -but not at the expense of content. I want a dialogue, an exchange of ideas. I want the incumbent to be held to account and contenders to put forward an alternative agenda. I want a candidate that will wax poetic my hopes for social justice, appeal to my reason, and show some grit, humour and a proclivity for mixing it up in the corners.
Is that so much to ask?
Sunday, October 26th.
Breeching the phalanx of candidates, I trade the squeaky-clean sunshine for the dark tones of the interior of Christ Church Cathedral and take a pew. There’s a hum, a buzz. It’s going to be a full house.
Joel Solomon is prowling about. Methodically, mechanically, he scans the crowd, looking like a George Hamilton interpretation of the Terminator. He runs into Raymond Louie and whispers in his ear…. What? The coordinates of a bag of money?
The Rector and Dean quips about changing service hours to the afternoon to accommodate such enthusiastic crowds, acknowledges the recent tragedies, and confuses the “Polish Catholics” in the crowd by leading us into the national anthem.
Local CBC newsreader Andrew Chang is the moderator. Mr. Chang has that disconcerting corporate tv/radio characteristic of emphasizing certain words … at random. Also, and I can’t emphasize this enough, he has truly extraordinary hair. Finally, I hold him in contempt for being completely inoffensive.
We are introduced to mayoral candidates Robertson, Wong, LaPointe and Kasting.
Opening statements are made.
Questions, with lengthy preambles, are posed by the moderator.
Familiar statements are, once again, articulated.
The public’s questions are written down, curated, and read by Mr. Chang, stripped of the personality and emotions of their authors.
Overall, it was pretty dull day for democracy, with most of the event sounding to my ears like Miss Othmar from Peanuts. But a few moments were worth sifting.
I like Ms. Wong’s platform. She places the right issues at the top of the agenda: serving residents’ needs for affordable housing and transportation. Unfortunately, her communications skills are not the greatest. It’s not her English –that’s fine. She doesn’t inspire.
Mr. LaPointe is articulate, calm, smooth, self-assured, and scored some impressive hits against the incumbent. And he’s also the candidate chosen behind closed doors and financed by developers, but is “beholden to no one.” Sure.
Mr. Kasting is an erudite, avuncular, politically unburdened Mr. Clean, who wants to take us “back past the chickens; back past the bike lanes; back past the upset neighbourhoods; back past the control of development; back past the secret deals between unions and the City, and between developers and the City.” I’d like to get back past the metaphors.
Mr. Robertson came out the worst: repetitive talking points, staccato delivery, the sheer ridiculousness of suggesting that homelessness would –still, somehow- be resolved by his self-imposed 2015 deadline, the blatant refusal to answer questions, the gross desperation of throwing Meggs under the bus. I will give Mr. Robertson this: he spoke clearly, passionately and rationally for the need to contain oil tanker traffic and the damage it will cause our environment and economy. Alas, I don’t believe he’ll do much about it.
The partisanship of the crowd seems evenly distributed. LaPointe’s comments receive applause from part of the room, Wong’s and Robertson’s from another. I’m not quite so divided, even if I didn’t find my star candidate. I guess I was hoping for someone of Bob Kasting’s cleanliness, with Meena Wong’s policies, Kirk Lapointe’s delivery, and Andrew Chang’s hair.