fear & loathing in Lotusland

Category: Compare/Contrast

Niagara Falls

by Zbigniew


by Zbigniew

King tide floods part of Vancouver’s seawall, offering glimpse into city’s future

Jon Hernandez, CBC, November 29, 2018

Ghost Capital

by Zbigniew

“Henry Pryor, a property buying agent, says the London luxury new-build market is ‘already overstuffed but we’re just building more of them’.

“’We’re going to have loads of empty and part-built posh ghost towers,’ he says. ‘They were built as gambling chips for rich overseas investors, but they are no longer interested in the London casino and have moved on.”

Ghost towers: half of new-build luxury London flats fail to sell,” Rupert Neate, The Guardian, January 26, 2018


“According to U.S. group Demographia, Vancouver is the third-least affordable city in the world for a home ….”

Vancouver housing market more unaffordable than New York and London: survey,” Gerry Marr, The Financial Post, January 26, 2016


by Zbigniew

largesse: liberal giving (as of money) to or as if to an inferior

The Vancouver Model

by Zbigniew

“I think there are people who say the Vancouver model is fine, and then there are others who don’t like the Vancouver model.”

Hon. Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety & Solicitor General


“Teaching Pediatric Procedures: The Vancouver Model for Instructing Seldinger’s Technique of Central Venous Access Via the Femoral Vein”


“In this chapter, we introduce the Vancouver model to tourism infrastructure planning and development. The key characteristics of this model are (1) an emphasis on private sector participation in tourism project development with little or no direct public financial support, (2) the leveraging of tourist amenities and infrastructure through private sector developments, and (3) an emphasis on planning for a liveable region, with particular emphasis on housing.”

Dennis R. Judd, The Infrastructure of Play: Building the Tourist City


“Of course, the Vancouver model lacks the keen public relations touch of the other, more media-centric New Urbanism. But that may come. Within a matter of years, the Vancouver urban prototype will save more energy, house more people, and make finer urban neigh- borhoods than all the overhyped neo-nineteenth-century projects combined. Vancouver is the portal through which the twenty-first-century city is being conceived, for good, and sometimes, for ill.”

Trevor Boddy, “New Urbanism: ‘The Vancouver Model’”


G.L. Homes


“[T]he Vancouver model is socially and politically regressive, promoting a suburban homogeneity, complacency, and torpor that threatens the capacity of cities to function as sites that support vitality, difference, and invention.”

Matthew Soules, “The ‘Liveable’ Suburbanized City: Post-politics and a Vancouver Near You”


“I was advised that the particular style of money laundering in B.C. related to B.C. casinos is being called, quote, ‘the Vancouver model’ in at least one international intelligence community.”

Hon. David Eby, Attorney General

Net Loss City

by Zbigniew

As reported in the Vancouver Sun, census figures for 2016 show 25,502 unoccupied or empty housing units in the City of Vancouver -15 per cent higher than recorded in the previous census of 2011.

According to urban planner and Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, the bulk of the empty units were concentrated in Coal Harbour, Marine Gateway and Joyce-Collingwood. Following Vancouver were Surrey (11,195 homes), Burnaby (5,829) and Richmond (4,021).


From “Population Change 2011 – 2016” by CensusMapper (based on Canada Census 2016):

This map shows the relative population change between the 2011 and 2016 censuses in each area.

The population grew in all provinces except in New Brunswick, where population dropped by half a percent.

At the Census District level there is considerable variation, with strongest population gains in urban areas.

Even within Census Metropolitan areas there are parts with population decline, as can be seen well e.g. in Vancouver ….



Every year U-Haul International, Inc. presents “migration trends” reports, based on data collected from more than 21,000 locations in all 50 states and 10 provinces.

City growth rankings are determined by the net of one-way U-Hauls arriving and departing in a calendar year.

According to this information, Kamloops leads the country in growth -that is, it leads in net arrivals. The top-ranking British Columbia cities are, Chilliwack (9th), Vernon (15th), Penticton (18th) and Merritt (24th).

As Gordon Clark underscores: 52.9 per cent of one-way U-Haul trucks leave Vancouver, compared to the 47.1 per cent that arrive.

In other words, we’re a “net loss city.”


by Zbigniew

Bill & ErniePhotograph: Brian Kent/Vancouver Sun, PNG

My memories of the opaquely sanctioned dog & pony show -destined to remain dormant in some atrophied cluster of neurons but reanimated by the hullabaloo of the 30-year anniversary- are not very coherent:

  • a giant hockey stick
  • an undulating highway cum hazardous concrete playground for kids of all ages
  • being coerced by a monarchist into an up-close viewing of the Prince and Princess (Too much Prince, too little Princess, from my vantage)
  • a Psychedelic Furs concert
  • a CPR exhibit that employed a mime to enthusiastically illustrate the decline in passenger rail service
  • a presentation on British Columbia’s mining industry, complete with a chorus of singing puppet minerals -featuring Molybdenum as the basso profondo (sic)
  • the Power Plant studio, where we recorded a not-too-nuanced cover of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” after a piss-up at Club ’86
  • the Philippines Pavilion -essentially a front for the sale of imported rattan furniture
  • Canada Geese in high fidelity 3D
  • gondolas
  • monorail
  • McBarge

All in all, nothing, with nightly fireworks.


“The urban recession of the 1980s was still closely linked to the slowdown in the lumber industry, even if its most obvious symptom was a rapid decline in real estate values. But since then, there have been clear signs that the Vancouver economy is both uncoupling from the rest of the province, and becoming more dynamic … it has uncoupled from its interior and become more of a Pacific Rim city, drawing nourishment from its direct links to such centres as Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo.

“Looking at less tangible factors … we could argue that that Vancouver’s recent growth has come from a self-reflexive belief in itself; it succeeds, postmodern style, more because of its image as a place ‘where the action is’ than because of any evident material cause.”

Paul Delaney, “Vancouver as a Postmodern City,” Vancouver: Representing the Postmodern City


By 1986 the Lower Mainland was no stranger to foreign capital induced megaprojects –witness the Guinness Family development of the British Properties.

Expo brought this dynamic in from the sticks, to the city’s industrial heart, wiping the economic and historical slate clean -a six-month psychic bulldozing by circus. Beehive burners and Sweeney Cooperage were obliterated by a giant watch and a corkscrew rollercoaster. The world was in motion and the motion was up, an elevator to an eventual stop at a circa 40th floor luxury penthouse.

So cleansed, the site’s 83 hectares were sold in bulk to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing at the wholesale price of $320 million dollars. But wait! If you buy now, the Province will throw in soil remediation, netting the good citizens of BC a scandalous $145 million. And so: “Li Ka-ching!”

Grotesque spectacle as marketing strategy, bulk foreign capital dictating urban development and redevelopment: these are the obvious Expo legacies.

But other nasty seeds were planted in the lead-up to the World Exposition on Transportation and Communication (Class II). In the intervening 30 years these have yielded a bumper crop of bitter fruit.


In May of 1986 I was halfway through my undergraduate degree.

I paid my own way, thanks to an affordable tuition -about $1,000 a year for a full coarse-load- and a union job. At Vancouver General Hospital I distributed meals, collected the remains, and operated an industrial washing machine, among other tasks. If there was any “fat” in the system, I didn’t see it. The work was sweaty, dirty, odorous and honest, with daily exposure to the worst a malfunctioning or injured human body can offer, but the best of grace and resilience.

I worked full-time in summer and on-call the rest of the year to focus on my studies. I didn’t exactly live high on the hog. I earned enough to keep my 1977 Volkswagen Sirocco –no functioning heat, radio, or sex appeal- on the road (for extended periods, anyways), graduate debt-free with the vague impression that I had possibly learned something, and scrimp together enough to backpack across Europe -on the cheap.

While the Reagan-Thatcherite dogma was only recently installed by the early 1980s, in BC the neo-liberal agenda was in full tilt under the Social Credit Party and Bennett fils. Having already beaten-up the working public with its proto-austerity “Restraint” regime, Expo opened up new opportunities for the Socreds to dismantle the social safety net and pave the way for dispassionate markets.

In the immediate lead-up to the exposition: six hundred people -mostly poor and elderly occupants of Downtown Eastside SROs- were displaced to make room for tourists, the provincial government having refused to outlaw evictions; university tuition climbed dramatically, as the circus’ deficit grew from $6 million to more than $300 million; and, both against a backdrop of an on-going cold war against organized labour.

These are the other legacies: widespread housing unaffordability and insecurity, massive and debilitating student debt loads, and low-wage employment.

My old union job? Outsourced to an international conglomerate that maximizes shareholder value by limiting wages and providing the worst of goods and services; food is now prepared in Calgary and trucked to Vancouver hospitals, while the poor schmuck that took my place makes less now in relative and absolute terms than I did 30 years ago.


On a late summer night in 1986, I’m ‘where the action is,’ patiently enduring the overture that announces the imminent start of the nightly fireworks display.

I am obviously oblivious to the good fortune of having caught the tail end of a social economy that gives a working class kid some opportunities, but I am uneasy. My delicately balanced world of work, study, and rudimentary independence is starting to slip. I’m in the the hole for my suddenly expensive fall courses, and a pocketbook-destroying job action looms on the horizon.

The elaborate and forgettable configuration of ignited powders builds to a crescendo, accompanied by a hysterical chorus that demands, insists, “Something’s Happening … Something’s Happening … SOMETHING’S HAPPENING … SOMETHING’S HAPPENING HERE!” I look up at the tracers fading away, and as the echoes of explosions diminish and the crowd starts its cheering, I think, “There goes my tuition.”


It is the 40th anniversary of Habitat Forum.

The Correct Emphasis

by Zbigniew

“The couple had been renting a condo in Mount Pleasant, but seven months ago – inspired in part by the growing community of Vancouver van-dwellers sharing their stories on YouTube – they decided to downsize.” (Emphasis added)

‘It’s comfortable’: Couple living in van has no interest in going back to condo,” CTV Vancouver, March 26, 2016

New Homeless

“A staff report to Delta council noted that ‘while conducting parking enforcement at night, bylaws staff encountered a number of homeless individuals sleeping in campers and vans at roadside.'” (Emphasis added)

Homeless in industrial parks,” Delta Optimist, May 4, 2016

Buddy’s Move

by Zbigniew

“It’s hard to imagine that a city now known for its bloated real estate, yuppie cokeheads and inability to buy a beer, gave birth to bands like D.O.A. and the Subhumans and made Dave ”Tiger” Williams a hockey star. If the Vancouver of 1980 met the Vancouver of 2008, it would give it a curbie.”

Sean Condon, “Time Travel: Vancouver 1980,” Only (April 15, 2008)


Bowen Island is not exactly an exotic locale, lacking virtually all the usual aesthetic opportunities. However, it’s bucolic, quiet, and close: There’s exactly one other human being on the long hike up Mt. Gardiner, which yields spectacular views of the metropolis just a skip over the water.

The interregnum between sanctioned feasts completed, and the vehicle patiently waiting in the ferry line-up, I pass the time with a walk in the cold and sunshine.

In the confines of Snug Cove I cross paths with a certain new varietal of Lower Mainland colonist, one who enjoys his day-trips in very large and noisy groups. A member of this contingent walks toward me, a young fellow carrying a sports bag. A Louis Vuitton sports bag.

And without any further prompting, in the picture-postcard confines of sunny and dull exurbia, a long dormant and deep-seated body memory suddenly awakes.


Alan was on the fringe of our little group of ethnically diverse miscreant explorers and minor league vandals -the token “Canadian.” The main thing I remember about him was the oft-repeated rumour that he suffered an undescended testicle.

His older brother, Buddy, left a much stronger impression. I recall a chiseled face a little like Matt Dillon’s in The Outsiders, but with a cheap haircut, a regularly shifting pattern of scrapes and bruises, and significantly less sentience about the eyes. Although I took great pains to avoid him, it proved challenging: Buddy was a journeyman criminal that worked our Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood like a sub rosa tax farmer, a private and unsanctioned agent of 1970s income redistribution.

Anonymous theft seemed to be his preferred MO. Items left unsecured out-of-doors had a way of quickly disappearing. I lost a beloved bicycle to him -a red three-speed, a generous gift from my parents following a prolonged recovery from pneumonia at St. Paul’s; it vanished after a half-dozen rides and a brief lapse in judgment regarding its security. I catch a last glimpse a couple of days later, as Buddy pushes it up Lillooet Street, its modest profile too low for him to ride to its new owner.

There was also a more personal approach: the shakedown.

Buddy -and his ilk, a loose and aspiring Anglo-Saxon mafia farm team- employed a particular maneuver. Walking down the street, en route to the comic book shop, and out of nowhere Buddy appears on my right and engages me in inane banter. Before I gather my wits, his left hand comes up and strikes me, flat palm down, against my upper chest –not too hard but quick, producing a disconcertingly loud smack! The palm turns into a tight grip on my down jacket and the conversation veers towards monetary matters, his right hand hanging loose and ready to join the discussion. I say “jacket” because I recall these shakedowns taking place against grey skies, on cold, damp and all-too-empty streets. I suppose warmer seasons were reserved for ripping-off bikes or that other East Vancouver piecemeal gig of the time, the B & E.

I never participated in the demand side of the this low-level income redistribution scheme. However, I became an adept of the left-handed palm-down-smack-and-grab, a regular feature of angry confrontations with friend and foe alike, roughly comparable to the settlement procedures popular on Hockey Night in Canada.


As Louis Vuitton quickly comes abreast of me and passes, my muscles twitch and I’m readying to pivot 180˚, sidle up on his right, make an inane comment about the weather, and in the interval of confusion … smack! -let him know just how much I admire his choice of luggage.

Of course, the rational side of my consciousness quickly kicks in, like a circuit breaker. My emotional solidarity with Buddy is clearly misguided: I certainly don’t need a designer sports bag or its black market cash equivalent; Buddy’s moved on, to Matsqui, real estate, or whatever; our East Van is long gone, its rough and ready street rules and equalizations no longer apply, certainly not on the cusp of 2016 on Bowen Island, not even as an echo to spook some hapless schmuck.

Besides: too many witnesses.

Soul Crushing

by Zbigniew

“Each of those casements opened onto a room where how many comedies had transpired! And how many dramas, for that matter! Their shudders had been closed in times of mourning, they had been bedecked with bunting and hung with fairy lights on occasions of victory. For the first time there came to me the vague thought that houses have a soul, composed of the joys and sorrows and labors of those they have sheltered, and that all have their history: secret, romantic, or joyful.”

G. Lenotre, in Luc Sante’s The Other Paris



“When these old homes come down, a whole history goes with them—the materials that were used to build them, the gardens, the successive owners and their secrets. These old houses and apartments are repositories of narrative. The story of our city is diminished every time one disappears.”

Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition & Revival, Anvil Press