Archive for the ‘Chris Turner’ Tag

The Morning After   2 comments

The Calgary skyline from my friend Micheal’s almost penthouse. .


Well, we had our byelection in Calgary Centre and I feel because so many people were kind enough to check out my thoughts before hand, I ought to write a few words about how it all went down, and my reaction to it.

If you read my last post (and if you didn’t, scroll down, it’s just below this one) you would get the sense that many people in this riding were hoping to elect a non-Conservative MP (or Reformer or Wild Rose or whatever you wish to call it) for the first time in over 40 years.

In a sense, this election was partly about whom we wanted as well as whom we didn’t want. Even many members of the Conservative Party itself didn’t want the Conservative candidate, and so they came over in droves to support Liberal Harvey Locke’s bid for election.

At the same time, there was a tremendous groundswell of support for Green Party Candidate Chris Turner. It must have been the belief (at least the hope) in the Locke camp that given the projections, a percentage of Turner supporters would come to his side, realizing that it would be the only way to take the seat from the Conservatives.

For that to have happened, the Turner supporters would have had to have been somewhat luke warm in their support for Turner, but what I saw on Facebook was just the opposite. They actually believed they could win, and so they weren’t going anywhere with their vote, and I believe Turner actually did better in the election than was predicted.

And so with no agreement in place, no compromise, no backing down from their belief they could win on either side, they split the vote and the Conservative candidate didn’t even have to sneak in, she sauntered on through all the way to a back bench in Ottawa.

What could have become a great event was as usual in this riding a non-event and today it’s business as usual in Calgary Centre.

Of course there were some interesting outcomes. That a Liberal candidate could do so well in a riding where the term “Liberal” (not to mention the name Trudeau) is not usually heard in polite conversation was encouraging. I thought so, anyway, enough to support Harvey Locke’s campaign and vote for him.

The emergence of the Green Party in this riding was perhaps surprising to many, but not to those who were involved in the campaign. Many of these folks, many of them  friends of mine, got their first real taste of success from Naheed Nenshi’s successful mayoral campaign a few years ago. They had won one unlikely victory, and they fully expected to win another. They weren’t just in it for the running. They didn’t win, but they certainly established themselves as a force in this riding for the foreseeable future.

Maybe the most resonant ongoing story with this byelection is that only 30% of eligible voters bothered to vote. I have one friend who lives in a seniors complex who told me only 18 of over 70 people bothered to vote.

“They have nothing to do all day, they complain about being bored, and then they don’t even bother to vote!” he said. This little tidbit debunks the myth that old people vote and young people don’t, especially as I would assume the average age of the Turner camp was somewhere around 30, if even that.

Well, that’s democracy I guess. While nothing really changed this time around, it seems like a lot has changed, and in the next federal election I believe the unthinkable could happen and the Conservatives could lose what has been a sure bet for decades.

Can that happen with two strong contenders like we had in this election?

I doubt it. And I don’t know what would have to happen to change the situation.

Thanks for reading . . .




Democracy is Coming to Calgary Centre   7 comments

A really bad photo of Harvey and me. I’m the good looking one.

I live in the federal riding of Calgary Centre. We are having a by-election on Monday November 26. Though I’m hardly a political commentator I do have a few thoughts on this election that I hope will be of interest, particularly to my fellow Calgarians living in this riding.

What is perhaps most interesting about this election is that this particular seat is even up for grabs in the first place. I have lived in Calgary for almost twenty years, having grown up in Saskatchewan and lived in Ontario before I came to Calgary. My first impression politically here was that it wouldn’t matter who ran in an election, as long as they had a blue sign with their name on it, they would win. (Which is still true to a certain extent – how else to explain the election of someone like Rob Anders in the riding north of here?)

If it was true elsewhere in Alberta, it was certainly true in this riding which includes the neighbourhood of Mount Royal, one of the wealthiest and most Conservative ridings in the country. One doesn’t expect to see any radical change up there on the mountain. I once wrote a play called Sitting on Paradise that actually takes place in a mythical house on one of those streets. The matron of that house, Dotty Beauchamps, says at one point in the play: “Change is never good. Nothing good ever comes of it.” No one who saw the play thought that line didn’t ring true coming out of her mouth.

And so wasn’t I surprised one day this summer when an acquaintance of mine who has been closely associated with the Conservative Party for decades came charging down the hill, mad as hell about the way the Conservative nomination was going? I don’t know all the details but it sounded to me like she thought their process of electing a candidate had been put off course by a decision from the Prime Minister’s Office to inject a candidate into the riding. The candidate who was chosen and is subsequently running was not acceptable to my friend and so she and many of her friends and family have jumped over to the Liberal Party, backing candidate Harvey Locke.

For a number of reasons, much of it going back to the days of Peter Lougheed and Pierre Trudeau and the battle for Alberta oil revenues, it is not easy for these folks to vote Liberal. Yet in their minds it was the only choice they had.  In the telling of the story to me, my friend made me understand one critical issue. The old Progressive Conservative Party, the one she had always supported, the party of Peter Lougheed and Joe Clark, to name but a few, is no more. The current Conservative Party is nothing more than the old Reform Party thinly disguised, and to put it mildly, there is nothing progressive about the Reform Party.

What was wanted was a fiscally conservative candidate who was nonetheless progressive in his attitudes towards the environment, the arts, education etc etc, and so enter Harvey Locke.

I first met Harvey in the Auburn Saloon which is the official clubhouse of the theatre and broader artistic community of Calgary. He had with him a book of naturalist art which he himself edited, which is really a lovely published version of the art from a show he curated at a gallery in Banff. Harvey has been deeply involved in the establishment of a wildlife and nature preserve stretching from Yellowstone Park in the south to as far as the Yukon in the north. Not just the preserve, but artistic depictions of it.

To I say I was impressed would be an understatement. An other thing that I find impressive and just a bit surprising about Harvey Locke is that his undergraduate degree from U of C is in French (whoever heard of such a thing!). He is married to a francophone woman from Quebec, with French being the language of their household, so he is a rare example of a fluently bilingual Calgarian.  Let me just say, the guy is for real. If you want to check out his resume, Google him. I hope I have made my point that he is a worthy candidate.

With the rejuvenation of the Liberal Party and the emergence of Justin Trudeau, it would seem that Harvey Locke and the Liberals could go far, so far as to form the next government. In the future, with Harvey Locke as our MP, this riding could actually have a strong voice in Ottawa.

For me, I guess because I have met the man and like him and what he stands for, it’s a clear decision whom I will vote for. For a change, I feel that the person I am voting for actually has a chance to win the election.

Had my story ended here, you might expect a big shakeup in Calgary Centre come Monday, but for one thing – the unexpected emergence of Chris Turner, the Green Party candidate.

In the past, a vote for the Greens in this riding, and in many others around the country, would register as little more than a protest vote.  I know this, I have done it myself. And yet in this election, Chris Turner has clearly gathered critical momentum making this suddenly a three way race.

Looking at my Facebook, I see that most of my friends in the arts community are supporting Turner. It reminds me of the momentum Naheed Nenshi gathered in the last civic election. In fact, many of the same people who are behind Turner helped get Calgary the best mayor in Canada.

I would never suggest that anyone, even the Conservative Reformers, vote against their own conscience. That said, in my mind there are two very good candidates in this election. (There is also Dan Meades from the NDP who ventured into Caffe Beano one morning while I was there, brave soul, you have to give him credit for running in a riding where he has a snowball’s chance in hell.)  Of the two viable candidates from the left, I think that Harvey and the Liberals have the best chance of creating an alternative to the present regime and so that in part is why he has my vote.

My fear is that the third candidate, the Reformer/Conservative, who isn’t so good, who can hardly be bothered to campaign, of whom I have never heard a good word spoken, and who will only be a semi-warm body taking up space on a back bench, will go to Ottawa.  The opposing vote will once again be split, and for all the excitement, nothing will have changed after all.

Whatever happens, it’s been an interesting ride. Whatever the outcome, you can’t help but feel that things are changing in Canadian politics.

At his recent concert in Calgary, Leonard Cohen sang his song “Democracy is Coming to the USA.” Could it be coming to Calgary, as well? Let’s hope.

Sometimes change is a good thing, after all.

Thanks for reading.

I’ve taken 20 photos of Harvey, all of them bad. So I just poached this one. Sorry!

Life With No Car — Three Months and Counting   4 comments

Jared Jenkins who edited the Beano Anthology 2 with Jill Young, both former students of mine at St. Mary's University College.

This photo was taken behind Caffe Beano last summer at Beano’s annual Stampede Breakfast. This year, my little publishing company B House Publications, launched the second ever anthology of poetry and various writings by patrons of Calgary’s most literary coffee shop.(Copies of the Anthology are available at the coffee shop, or through me.)

But I show this photo in this little essay on life without a car because it was taken on a corner where there would normally be a lot of cars. In fact, it’s a block from where I was run over by a car (while crossing on a green light in a cross walk). Beyond the beautiful verdant foliage which we miss so much this time of year, and Jill and Jared’s smiling faces, what makes this photo so pleasant, in my mind is the absence of automobiles in a space where normally that’s all that would be found there.

Three months ago, I began a noble experiment to see if I could survive in a city like Calgary that was designed on the assumption that everyone has a car, with no car. Blessed by the best winter weather I can remember, and a light schedule throughout December and January, three months in I am happy, and a bit surprised, to report that I believe it is one of the best things I have ever done.

There have been a few obvious benefits. Financially. it was a good idea. Not having to re-lease a vehicle or pay for insurance or plates or gas or oil changes or car washes or parking has saved me around $1,500.00 and counting. To get by on the C Train, I have spent $51.00 on tickets and in three months have taken two cabs, at about $10.00 a pop which I would have done anyway as I was attending a function with free alcohol.

Health-wise, walking as much as I do now can only be good for me. I seem to average about 10 km a day, just in my day-to-day life. So, if you add it up, I’ve walked almost 1,000 km during this time — about the same as walking from here to Minot, North Dakota. (I’ve been to Minot and don’t really have a keen desire to go back, but you get my point.) I had hoped that all this walking might result in losing a few pounds in the old gut area. Sadly, I haven’t noticed a huge difference. Well, at least, if nothing else, I didn’t put any more on. Someone told me the other day that she thought I looked a little thinner, so who knows? Maybe it is making a difference.

When I made my move to become an official pedestrian, I thought that I could get by borrowing cars from friends, taking cabs, renting cars. Cars cars cars. So far, as I mentioned I have taken two cabs. One morning after Christmas I borrowed a car from a friend to take back some electronic recycling and visit the Market Mall. Another day, I cajoled my friend Zenon into giving me a ride to Ikea. That’s been it. I have had no need or desire to rent a car for a weekend. I looked at Calgary Car Share and thought about registering and having access to a car from time to time, but so far I haven’t bothered. Three months in, I can honestly say I don’t miss it at all.

When you become a pedestrian, you start to see cars as being optional. You start to question the need for them, the sheer numbers of them, and you notice maybe for the first time how our city is organized in such a way to allow for the movement of cars. Most of this organization results in the uglification of our city. It seems at some level like the city is nothing more than a series of parking lots joined by conduits allowing the movement of cars and the people in them, usually one at a time, from one parking lot to the next.

A lot of people say to me, “I wish I could do without a car but in my case I simply have to have one.” That would be the prevailing attitude of 99% of our population here. I don’t argue the point. In most cases, they’re right. And why shouldn’t they have one anyway if they want one? I can see there coming a day when I want a car again, just for the sense of freedom it brings, just to be able to go where I want, when I want. I try not to have a holier than thou attitude about it.

Yes it seems to me if we at least question the notion of the sanctity of the automobile, we have taken the first steps towards creating change. At the Walrus Magazine “The Art of the City” forum at the High Performance Rodeo a few weeks ago, Calgary author Chris Turner spoke very eloquently about this topic, and showed as an example photos from Copenhagen. The first was of a public square choked with cars, looking rather ugly and forlorn, if a town square can be said to have feelings. The second was of the same space after the city had imposed a ban on cars, and now it was looking very happy and spiffy and inviting. Through such changes, Copenhagen has been named the “most livable city” in the world. I don’t know where Calgary is on that list, but I suspect nowhere near the top.

The thing about Copenhagen and other cities that have made themselves more pleasant and livable, it doesn’t really take all that much to do it.

“But,” you might argue, “You don’t really work, you’re just a writer, you don’t have a schedule, you don’t have to be anywhere at any given time.” To a certain extent, this is true. (There really are people out there who are convinced that artists don’t really work. Our Prime Minister, for example! But that’s the surely fodder for another post.)

I’m fortunate I realize, to have the kind of schedule that allows me to walk. Although taking the C Train from my apartment on 12th Avenue to St. Mary’s in Fish Creek Park, door to door, is about ten minutes faster than it is to drive it. And having spent that 45 minutes reading instead of getting pissed off at other drivers and waiting at red lights has me showing up at school much more relaxed than driving ever did.

I am quite content to live in a modest apartment in the inner city, no desire to live in a big house in the suburbs that appears to be all garage from the street. I don’t have young children to drive around. I don’t ski or partake of mountain culture so I have no need to drive to the mountains every week. Even when I had a car, I didn’t.I think I used it mostly to drive back to Saskatchewan to visit my mother. Sadly, I can’t do that any more.

And so, I am a pedestrian, and I’m proud of it. I hope that reading this might inspire others to try, if nothing else, to become a little less dependent on their cars.

Post Script: Getting back to the Beano Anthology, a fellow pedestrian, the poet and photographer Jude Dillon, took the cover photo for the book one evening during his perambulations.  It’s a beautiful photograph, taken in the waning light of a summer’s day. Here it is:

Thanks for reading!

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