July 30, 2015

Vancouver Granville Nominating Meeting for Mira Oreck

Wednesday, July 29th and yet another hot night in Vancouver. We are in the middle of a hot crowd of NDP members and supporters who have arrived at VanDusen Gardens to acclaim our candidate for the brand new constituency of Vancouver Granville. There members of the old guard present and encouragingly a bunch of newbies too.

David Eby, the hard-working MLA for Vancouver Point Grey, and the candidate who soundly defeated Christy Clark in that riding in 2013, was the evening's presenter. Obviously the microphone placement was not initially set for David, a rather tall individual to say the least.

Bob Baker opened the evening with traditional song and drumming.  Mr Baker is from the Squamish Nation and his opening included a warmth and gentle humour that blessed all present. He was followed by the candidate's great aunt. Zoe Oreck is 90 years young and has a history of activism in the city of Vancouver.

The effervescent Joy MacPhail made the keynote address. She is a former MLA and Leader of the BCNDP. She looked out at the crowd of over 300 and expressed surprise at seeing her dentist of many years near the front row. According to Joy, after years of hearing him complain about the NDP while performing dental work, it was both shock and reward to see how this campaign launch had brought him out in support of the NDP.

There were other NDP notables in attendance including Adrian Dix, Constance Barnes, and fomer MLA and MP, Dawn Black who entertained all present by asking for our money to help fund the campaign. Starting at $1500, she garnered several donations at that level before moving down the line. As she called out a dollar figure people would put up their hands and persons holding clipboards would arrive to record the details. The last I heard, the total raised this night was about $30,000, which goes a long way to meeting the $100,000 or so allowed to be raised in individual ridings. That amount will vary depending on when the Prime Minister calls the election.

The candidate for Vancouver Granville is Mira Oreck. She grew up in the riding, not far from VanDusen Gardens.  She is west coast director for the Broadbent Institute, and has worked on several campaigns, including the 2012 re-election campaign of US President Barack Obama (where she co-produced a video that went viral) and Gregor Robertson's bids to get elected both as an NDP MLA and as mayor of Vancouver. She is intelligent, articulate and passionate, and obviously, drawing a crowd like tonight's, a valuable candidate for the NDP.

There was a tinge of nervousness as Mira gave her first speech of the campaign, as should be the case. The candidate is not full of herself, nor overly confidant; this is something important and meaningful, and winning this riding will take a great deal of work. Mira Oreck is up for the hard work and the challenge. This is not the NDP of your parents and it shows. Just ask Joy MacPhail's dentist.

Vancouver Granville is a brand new riding drawn from four former constituencies: parts of Liberal-held Vancouver Centre and Vancouver Quadra, Conservative-held Vancouver South and NDP-held Vancouver Kingsway. Going by the votes in the last election the eastern flank of this riding is NDP, the southern part consistently voted Liberal until the last election when it tilted Conservative, and the wealthier neigbourhoods of Kerrisdale and Shaughnessy in the middle, which tend towards the Conservative Party. Nobody said this would be easy, but right now, it's a three-way race.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

July 26, 2015

Hedy Fry meets Rich ~ a photo op

Two years ago today the federal Liberals of Vancouver South were holding their annual summer barbecue. They were thrilled with their new leader as so seemed the country with Justin Trudeau riding high in the polls.

My brother-in-law Rich found out about the afternoon event which happened to be taking place in a park not far from where both of us lived. Neither of us were Liberals but the thought that maybe the crown prince might appear was an incentive, and the hot dogs even more so. In order to get a hot dog however, one had to supply an email address. Rich had the presence of mind to invent an email, whereas I, being slightly less devious, gave my work email.

The guest speaker for the event was the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre, Dr Hedy Fry. The Honourable Hedy Fry was first elected to Parliament in 1993 and she has been re-elected six times, and I've never been able to understand why.

I first met Hedy Fry at a multicultural dinner event in the 1990s. At the time she was in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism. She arrived in a chauffeur driven limo and made a grand entrance with much pomp and circumstance. She was terribly late and made no apologies. Her speech reminded us, several times, of the wonderful things she was doing in Ottawa for all of us out in the hinterland.

In 2001 Fry ventured into fantasy land with her bizarre accusation that racist cross burnings were taking place on front lawns in the city of Prince George. Ultimately, Fry had to apologise in the House, and to the good people of Prince George.

She's been out of Cabinet during all these years of Conservative government and the limo is nowhere to be seen. Hedy Fry is one of the most arrogant people I have ever met and certainly the most egocentric politician I've ever come across. She will be defeated in October by the excellent candidate: Constance Barnes.

Which brings us back to that wonderful summer day in 2013. The hot dogs weren't Kosher, the pop wasn't cold and Hedy Fry was droning on about something, most likely herself. Finally she finished her grand speech and started to mingle with the commoners.

When Fry came round to where we were sitting, Rich leapt up, shook her hand and asked to have a photo taken of the two them. This was my cue to take several pictures, though I wondered, why of all people, Rich would want his picture taken with Hedy Fry. She was delighted of course; the ego must be fed whenever possible. Rich had something else in mind.

The Honourable Hedy Fry was not amused.

At the time of this adventure, Rich was living past his doctor-predicted best-by date. He was living with an incurable cancer, relatively healthy, in good spirits and when not having hot dogs with me, Rich was travelling the world with his partner of almost thirty years, my sister Susan.

Rich was my dearest friend and confidant, and sometime co-conspirator. We shared a love of laughter, often at our own expense, a passion for world news and politics, and an appreciation for a nice Okanagan red. Rich was dedicated to his family and friends. He cared about the bigger picture and questioned the why of things. Rich was my brother-in-law, but I always thought of him as my brother.

Rich's cancer came back with a fury after he and Susan returned from a trip to India in the autumn of 2014. He passed away in January of this year. As the current election campaign heats up, I miss my brother even more. He would have loved it.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

July 13, 2015

Number 12 at Lakeside Gardens on Salt Spring Island

We recently escaped the heat of the city for the cool of St Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island. My loyal reader will know I refer to the magical place that is Lakeside Gardens Resort. It's more a lifestyle choice rather than a resort, though when the stars align (and a full moon too), as they do with every visit, it truly is heaven.

The ferry lingered as it stopped at three other Gulf Islands en route to Long Harbour. The stress of the city, and its mid-thirties temperatures, melted away with every off-loading at Galiano, Main and Pender Islands. By the time we arrived at Lakeside Gardens it was dark. Cool and dark and peaceful; only the nearby frogs sang to announce our arrival.

We stayed in cabana number 12, and it seemed, oddly, to be slightly larger than our regular cabana number 7. While the difference in size between the two cabins can be debated, there isn't any doubt that number 7 is slightly more private and more exposed to the blazing inferno that is the early summer sun. 

As it turned out, the trees around number 12 provided shade throughout the entire afternoon. Sun is certainly available, yet the trees allowed one to sit outside and read all day long. Or to watch the changing view of the lake, which is something I never tire of doing; the lake constantly changes through the day.

We watched eagles fishing, robins bobbing and ducks parading into our space.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               We listened to the songs of hundreds of shore birds and the buzzing of thousands of dragon flies. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 St Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island. Lakeside Gardens Resort. A special place.                                                  
Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

July 10, 2015

Westward Ho! at the University Golf Club in Vancouver

It was a smoky summer evening in Metro Vancouver last Sunday. Hot, just passing the thirty degree mark, and forest fires on Vancouver Island, and north of the Lower Mainland, covered the city with a dusty haze and a camp fire smell. It's rare to see this kind of pollution in Vancouver; we usually send our smog into the valley and keep our skies, and the air, clean and fresh. Not so on this night.

We are off to Point Grey, UBC and the University Golf Club, and more specifically to their dining establishment called Westward Ho! Public House and Grill. Long and dumb name. On the positive, its patio overlooks the gazebo garden and, through the smoke, the 10th tee.

The University Golf Club has been around since 1929. It's a traditional course with long, narrow fairways and towering old growth trees. The club house offers the feel of a private club, and it's popular for weddings, gatherings and meetings throughout the year.

We're here because we've heard good things about the quality of  the Westward Ho! Public House. By appearance, it's a typical golf course sort of pub. The menu is casual, with some nice touches, and maybe because of the club's banquet rooms, there are some indulgences too. There's a daily, or more accurately, a weekly fresh sheet and there's the potential to have expectations exceeded; in season halibut or salmon for example.

We had a wonderful shrimp croissant, which was tasty and nicely presented. The fries were crispy and the Caesar salad was better than expected. Available Sunday nights is the prime rib roast dinner, with the usual accompaniments. It proved to be an excellent value and delicious.

The burgers that went by to a table of German tourists, in town for the World Cup, looked fantastic.

Dessert items, not unlike many pubs, included apple pie with ice cream, which was a nice way to end the evening and the ice cream was better than the average. Oddly, no espresso coffees are available here, only the standard drip. In a city obsessed with coffee, it seems odd to find a place like this without an espresso machine. Maybe golfers don't like espresso drinks?

The wine list was adequate  and prices were not unreasonable, though the selection could stand the addition of a few more BC wines.

Click to add a blog post for Westward Ho! on Zomato

All in all a wonderful experience. Good food, great views and an excellent value. This is one of those places that seems to be off the radar, perhaps because of its remoteness in relation to the rest of the city. It deserves better.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

July 07, 2015

The inspiration for the Coke bottle

It was April, 1915 when the Trustees of the Coca-Cola Bottling Association voted to expend up to $500 to develop a distinctive bottle for Coca-Cola. The idea was to create something new, distinctive and timeless. A challenge went out to various bottle makers across the Excited States and in Terre Haute, Indiana, the Root Glass Company went to work.

Up until this time, bottles used in those days were simple straight-sided bottles that were typically brown or clear. While Coca-Cola had a distinctive logo, it was widely copied by competitors and caused confusion among customers. The company proposed that the bottlers across America develop and use a common and distinctive package for their product. As the head of the Coca-Cola Company said at the time, "We are not building Coca-Cola alone for today. We are building Coca-Cola forever, and it is our hope that Coca-Cola will remain the national drink to the end of time."

In Terre Haute the team was composed of C.J and William Root, Alexander Samuelson, Earl Dean and Clyde Edwards. Samuelsson, a Swedish immigrant who was the shop foreman, sent Dean and Edwards to the local library to research design possibilities.

Little known until recently, the inspiration for their design, the winning design as it turned out, came from a an early photograph of this fern, which has the iconic image of Coke in its very DNA.

Interestingly the designers specified "German Green" for the colour of glass to be used in the bottles. The Coca-Cola Company agreed but opted to call the colour: "Georgia Green" in all pronouncements.

The fern is one of many in the fern dell at VanDusen Garden in Vancouver, where these photographs offer proof of a legend now made public.

The fern is actually known as the Tasmanian Tree Fern or Dicksonia antarctica, though it is often referred to as the Coke Bottle Fern.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

July 06, 2015

The transit referendum and Christy Clark's amazing lack of leadership

The results of the Transit Referendum are now available. Finally. That it took six weeks to come up with the results and then to release the numbers on July 2nd, a time when many citizens in Metro Vancouver are beginning vacation or taking an extended Canada Day weekend, says a great deal about our fine government in Victoria.

All things considered the rejection of the 0.5% increase in the sales tax is not all that surprising. That the Yes side went down to such a resounding defeat is disheartening. There are obvious problems with TransLink, the unelected board named by the provincial government. There are local political issues present in the 23 jurisdictions that make up the region. And there is the never ending whine of  "why should I pay for something I will never use?" in response to the question of transit. Or public schools for that matter.

There is also the overriding issue of leadership in the whole matter. Leadership that knows the definition of the very term. Why did our provincial government force the region's mayors to accept the referendum process? Why did our premier ignore repeated pleas to allow more time for the plebiscite to be held? Why in fact, does our premier refuse to offer leadership on an issue so vital to all British Columbians? Shouldn't we have long term planning for transit in this province? Is it up to local mayors to come up with a plan and then to let the people decide as directed by the premier?

Christy Clark didn't have any trouble announcing a replacement to the Massey Tunnel, with nary a mention given to public transit in that proposal. But then again, she didn't make much of an effort to come up with a price tag either. Maybe we should let the people decide. Or maybe not, as might be the whim of the premier on any particular day.

We elect people to represent our interests and make decisions for the common good. Sometimes that means making decisions many of us won't like, because there is a greater good. Leadership was not present in the Transit Referendum. It wasn't present in the mayors, a befuddled group if ever there was one, and it wasn't in evidence from our government in Victoria. The lack of leadership displayed by the premier was unseemly at best. Where is the vision, dedication and courage to do the common good in this Liberal government?

What would W.A.C. Bennett have done I wonder?

Copyright 2015  by Jim Murray.

July 05, 2015

Early mornings at VanDusen Garden

On Father's Day in June, VanDusen Garden opened early for members only. The shadows were long and the colours brilliant.

Opening from 7:00 to 9:00 offered a great opportunity to see the Garden in a different light, ideal for photographers. We attended of course and enjoyed the quiet of the gardens and the longer shadows of an early morning sun.

The event proved popular enough that VanDusen is planning another early morning opening, again for members only. This time it will be on Sunday, July 19th, with a specific invitation to joggers to come for a morning jog, two hours before any other visitors arrive in the Garden. Normally, during regular hours, jogging would be frowned upon by staff and visitors alike.

Opening early once a month, and appealing to different interests, like jogging, is an interesting experiment for VanDusen. Getting in early, before the crowds appear, is a benefit to members, and hopefully an enticement to others to become members too. Maybe it should happen more often.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.