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VIFF 2018 Review: Edge Of The Knife (SG̲aawaay Ḵ’uuna)

Edge Knife

Tyler York plays a Haida man who’s inner monster overtakes him in Edge Of The Knife.

One of my goals each VIFF is to see a Canadian feature-length film. I had the good fortune when I went to see Edge Of The Knife. Not only is it a Canadian feature, but possibly the only feature-length film ever completely in the Haida language!

The film begins with the carving of a wooden mask and then burning it in a fire. The story begins with a meeting of two Haida families over at the Haida Gwaii in Northwestern BC in the 19th Century. It’s an annual fishing camp the families have together. Adiits’ii is the oldest son of and close to the family of Kwa and his son Gaas, who sees Adiits’ii as his mentor. Kwa’s wife Hlaaya finds his appetite for challenges to be too reckless for her son. However Adiits’ii often feels belittled by his own family. Sometimes Kwa makes him feel inferior.

In the evening, Adiits’ii decides to take Gaas onto the waters on boat. Overnight a storm hits the coast. The families fear the worst for Adiits’ii and Gaas. The next morning, the bad news. Gaas is found dead on the coast. Adiits’ii is missing and presumed dead. However Adiits’ii is still alive. He’s in a remote forested location and feels he can’t return because of the reactions from others he fears. Secluded, he becomes overtaken by a huge spirit. He transforms into a Gaagiid/Gaagiixiid — the legendary Haida Wildman  — and his behaviors become feral and even demonic. The whole family searches for Adiits’ii. Kwa and his wife are first to discover Adiits’ii, but lashes out at him wanting to kill him. The wife tries to stop him, but that leads Kwa to speak out his belief of who he thinks Gaas’ true father is. The families work to get Adiits’ii captured before they can free him from his possession. They set up a trap and they succeed. It’s at a ritualistic ceremony that involves prayer and piercing of the chest that they have to free Adiits’ii from the possession of the Gaagiixiid. The film ends with Adiits’ii carving out a mask out of wood, the very mask seen at the beginning, and burning it. At the end, we notice it’s in the image of how Adiits’ii was when possessed by the Gaagiixiid.

As far as film quality goes, this is a film I’d call great, but not excellent. The story is very good as it focuses on physical actions and unspoken feelings. However I have seen Canadian films with better dialogue and better story lines. Culturally, this is an excellent film as it captures the Haida culture and the Haida language without any interruption of the English language. Also it captures Haida mythology with excellence. It introduces us to the Gaagiixid. I am not familiar with Haida culture at all, but the film gives me a good understanding about the mythological belief of other beings. We should remember that Adiits’ii is a person with personal demons. He feels like the misfit and he feels like he’s belittled. Although he doesn’t say it, it’s obvious. After the accidental death of Gaas, it’s his guilt that gets the best of him and runs away. It’s there when he turns into the Gaagiixid. I believe the Gaagiixid is all about his personal demons and bad self-image. He had to conquer the Gaagiixid inside of him to truly come to peace with who he is and what he did.

This is an accomplishment of a film as far as culture goes. First off, this is a film done by not one, but two First Nations directors: Gwaii Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown. Secondly, this is a film done completely in the Haida language. This is a film that is essential for the language. At first, Haida was the only language the people spoke. However with the happenings of past history and with modernization, there are only twenty fluent Haida-speakers left. Even though there is educating young people inn the Haida language or even a resurgence of bringing back the language, the struggle is still there. This film does an excellent job in displaying the language and the culture of the Haida people. The idea of the film came back in 2011 by University professor Leonie Sandercock. In making the film, those involved received a Partnership Development Grant of $200,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, so even arts funds knew of the importance of this film to be made. Also to create a time before European settlers arrived really involved a lot of effort. The whole

Also the film has been widely welcomed and celebrated by the Haida peoples and other First Nations peoples of BC. I remember a couple of times during the VIFF, I was waiting to see a film after Edge Of The Knife over at the theatre I was to attend. Each time I was in line, I was given the news that there would be a 30-40 minute delay of the start of my film. As Edge Of The Knife finished, I saw more than just people exiting. I saw some dressed in traditional First Nations costume. Some even brought drums and performed a song of celebration. When I saw that, I felt I had to see Edge Of The Knife when I had the chance. This was more than just something. I’m glad I did.

Gwaii Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown did an excellent job in directing and creating a world far back in the past and appear authentic. The script by Gwaai and Jaalen Edenshaw, Graham Richard and Sandercock was not too intense in terms of dialogue, but it does present a very good story that’s more about emotions and image-based. Tyler York did a very good job as Adiits’ii. His acting was more about what was inside of him rather than what he said. Willy Russ almost stole the show as Kwa. The actors involved are more of a Haida community rather than actors by profession. All did a very good job. The film was light on special effects, but the effects fit the film and the scenes right. It didn’t need more effects than necessary.

Edge Of The Knife may not be the best Canadian film I’ve seen or even the best of subject of First Nations peoples. However this is a very culturally-important film that deserves to be shown. It also tells its story in both an entertaining and mesmerizing way. Definitely worth seeing.

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VIFF 2018 Shorts Segment: Escape Routes

Cinema

With every VIFF, it’s a goal of mine to see at least one shorts segment. I had the good fortune of seeing a segment as my first VIFF show. The segment titled Escape Routes consisted of six shorts by Canadian directors. Three of them were filmed in BC. All six were intriguing to watch.

The Subject (dir. Patrick Bouchard): We see a body on the table. We see a spike coming out of a foot at first. Then we see it start to be dissected. What’s happening is a whole lot of imagery happens around his body and coming from out of his body. Then when he’s dissected in his upper chest, we see a steel inside.

What’s happening in this film is the animator dissecting his own body. This film is the animator using self-dissection to show what his works are all about. His emotions, his memories, his fears, all go into his work. A couple of religious entendres may be telling how it plays into his fears. Even the artistic patterns that form around his skin give a picture about what the animator is saying about himself and how it plays into his works.

Girl On A Bus (dir. Matthew B. Schmidt): The film begins with people questioning about a girl who disappeared. Then the film shoots to a scene on a bus. A teenage/young adult female is one of the passengers and she’s just relaxing and looking at Instagram photos. The bus takes a break at a gas station along the highway. She uses the outside bathroom and changes her hair, makeup and clothes to something very different and takes social media pictures. The driver can’t recognize her and thinks a passenger is missing. As police are questioning the ‘missing girl,’ she gets interrogated and gives misleading questions. She mentions she’s running away but doesn’t say why. She leaves the interrogation booth. A picture from a child identifies her as the missing, but she walks away when asked.

At first, it seems like a nonsense film. A girl changes her look but is labeled missing? Then you get the sense of what’s happening. She says she’s running away but gives a vague answer why. When told to stay at the booth as the police leave temporarily, she leaves. When asked if the photo of her on a child’s pad is her, she doesn’t answer and walks away. It makes more sense later on. She comes across as a girl who wants to escape from it all. It’s not apparent exactly the reason or reasons why, but it’s obvious she wants to escape from everything. Only on social media would she want to be around people. I can identify because I had those same feelings when I was her age. A very good short story of a film.

Best Friends Read The Same Books (dir. Matthew Taylor Blais): The film consists of no sound at all, but of images of plants, colors, bushes, parks, coasts, and the director reading a book in various places and various seating positions on a bench. The film ends with a set of colors.

I’ll take it for what it is. This is the director trying to film in an abstract sort of way. The images, around various areas of Greater Vancouver, are meant to tell about his surroundings and reading the same book.

Train Hopper (dir. Amelie Hardy): The film begins with a passage of Allen Ginsberg’s poem America. Then cuts into a video of a young man who’s a customer service agent working at his desk with his headset. Later we catch the young man around trains on the train tracks. Then we see him hopping on the trains between the cars and going along for the ride. We even see his self-recorded videos of him during the trips. Within the second-half of the film and video footage, we hear the man talk about his dreams and his imagination and why he takes these trips, which include trips crossing into the United States. The film ends with audio of Ginsberg’s America.

The film begins with a statement that the Beat Generation is not dead. The whole film is a picturesque reminder that even in this day and age, there are still young people who still dare to dream, who dare to still want to live their dream out. This film shows it with this young man who’s a customer service agent by profession, but dreamer by passion. An excellent cinematic portrait.

Acres (dir. Rebeccah Love): The story begins with a young man working on a farm. Later on, his sister, her husband and a former girlfriend of his join for dinner. They talk about him managing his father’s farm after his death, as well as a dispute over use of the land that will require legal attention. The sister and brother-in-law leave for home but the ex-girlfriend decides to stay overnight. Possibly to help him with his situation. She is a photographer by passion. The two were in love while they were in college. This is happening while they’re talking of a way to properly mark the burial site of his father’s ashes. He had ambitions of becoming a businessman, but passions in his life that involved travelling caused him to leave everyone behind, including the family and even her. She tries to get to the bottom of this. Especially since this caused their break-up. Eventually they do rekindle.

The film is a picturesque way of showing a real-life situation. It’s a quiet situation, but one that needs to be discussed and resolved. The filmmaker does it with good storytelling and honest dialogue.

Biidaaban (dir. Amanda Strong): This is the one short that’s fully animated. There’s one young person of Indigenous decent, Biidaaban, and an older Sasquatch shapeshifter Sabe. They live in the same dwelling. They communicate with what you first think is a smartphone, but is actually a mystic rock that creates images and dialogue. Biidaaban seeks to collect sap from maple trees in a neighborhood. Sabe will assist Biidaaban. As they collect the sap, they are suddenly taken over by spirits and enter into a mystical world.

Upon the film’s Q&A, we learn the film is not just about Indigenous legends and myths. It’s also about gender-fluidity as Biidaaban is a gender-fluid youth. From what I remember about the Q & A, the gender-fluidity does tie in with Indigenous culture. The whole film was very dramatic and very mystical. The genre of animation allows the viewer to feel the imagination of the film and capture the mysticism.

All six shorts were very intriguing to watch. Even with one more thrilling than the other, and one not trying to be thrilling at all, all had something to say. Sometimes you wondered if all six fit the term Escape Routes. Some of the subjects or plots in a film or two didn’t look like physical escapes at all. However many of them turned out to be escapes of the mind. Escaping isn’t just about a road to somewhere.

Escape Routes was an excellent selection of six Canadian shorts. Each were different in their own way. All of them had something to say. And all would come off as an escape from something. You had to see it to know it.

VIFF 2017 Review: Forest Movie

ForestMovie

This year seems like the year I’ve seen more experimental film at the VIFF than ever before. The latest experimental feature I saw was Forest Movie. It was shot all in  Vancouver and it does a lot with the 65 minutes it has.

The film begins with images of a forest and then phases into a young woman sleeping. The young woman was actually dreaming of the forest. She sends a text message to her friend that she can’t meet up: she’s sick. The friend accepts.

What she does right after is put on a jacket and bring along her bag and portable chair. She simply leaves from her apartment suite near Powell St. and Nanaimo St. and walks to a forest inside the city. The visit is simple as she walks across the paved trails over the rocks and branches with her cellphone turned off. A complete getaway. There are times she takes breaks like for when she eats something or feels she needs to write poetry or prose in her notebook. Other than that, just simply walking through the forest.

Then she finds a grassy spot that’s open and surrounded by the trees. She uses that spot as a place to set up her chair and relax. There’s a twenty-minute shot of the area of the forest she witnesses from her chair. It just consists of that view, changes of sunshine or cloud, and the surrounding sounds of the outdoors or her dealing with her chair, bag or notebook.

Night soon falls. She actually fell asleep during her time sitting in the forest. Night approaches. She’s all alone in the dark relying on her cellphone as a flashlight. She rushes to find the exit to the forest, but is lost. Images of her attempt to exit consist of her cellphone light shining or complete darkness with nothing but sound. Morning breaks and we see her walking back to her apartment as if nothing dreadful happened.

No question this film can be defined as experimental. The film is what it is. It’s a story about a young woman seeking tranquility in a forest and is willing to deal with whatever comes to her. The director Matthew Taylor Blais was in the audience and would later hold a Q&A after. Before the film started, he said: “No two people will have the same impression of this film.”

I got what he was after in this film: he wanted us to create our own thoughts, impressions and opinions about this film. That explains why actress Ana Escorse is given no dialogue at all in this film. The film is all about what we see and what we hear. I was open to this. The film gives us images and scenes that try to get us to form our own opinions. For starters, I actually thought the woman really was sick from the texts she sent. I though she went to the forest possibly for natural healing therapy. That scene in her apartment that shows an Aboriginal dream catcher could may have made some, including myself,  believe she’s into Aboriginal spirituality and may see the forest as the medicine she needs. Even the scene where you see trees just outside a condo leads you to think this is an urban forest close to downtown Vancouver in Stanley Park, when it’s actually shot in Pacific Spirit Regional Park close to UBC.

Later shots add into the opinions we form about this film. The scenes where she takes out her notebook and writes or draws might get one to think she’s using the forest for creative inspiration. That twenty-minute shot of the forest’s view is an attempt to get us to rely on the background sounds to form our own opinions about what’s happening from this view. The end scene of her trying to leave the forest at night is also one that gets us to rely on our thoughts of what’s happening. The scene with the biggest impact is the scene where the camera makes like we see her escape through her eyes. It consists of the background sounds and the cellphone light cutting in and out. It’s actually the scene with the most drama as one would wonder will she make it? Will she get lost?

Matthew Taylor Blais does a very good job with this film. I was more welcoming with the experimentation in this film than I was in PROTOTYPE. I think Blais’ intro before it began helped me to be more welcoming.  It’s an experimental film that pays off and allows the audience to create their own impression. It allowed me to create mine. However it is to say that it does take some creative risks that would be questionable. I welcomed that twenty-minute shot of the forest scenery, but some were not so welcoming. In fact I saw a few people leave the theatre during that scene, including a group of four. That’s one of the risks of creating an experimental film like this. Not everyone is as welcoming as me to such experimentation.

Forest Movie is an experimental film that allows the audience to exercise their imagination and make their own judgements about what’s happening in the story. This is experimental film that pays off greatly.

VIFF 2017 Shorts Segment: New Skins And Old Ceremonies

CinemaOne thing of the VIFF I consider to be a treat is whenever I attend a shorts segment. The segment I saw entitled New Skins And Old Ceremonies was a selection of seven shorts from Canadian directors. They were all unique in their own way.

Lost Paradise Lost: dir. Yan Groulx- Two people named Julie and Victor are out of love and find themselves boarding a bus full of strangers to anywhere. Where it takes them is a bizarre place for those out of love and rivals and threats to deal with. An eccentric short nonetheless, but it captures the feel well and makes sense in the end.

Flood: dir. Amanda Strong- It’s an animated short about an indigenous person and how the Canadian system did what it could to make them and their people feel inferior. It’s a story worth telling. The mix of stop-motion for modern images and traditional indigenous art adds to the story. The film ends with a renewed sense of pride.

Cherry Cola: dir. Joseph Amenta- Two drag queens are out on a night to dress up, have fun, and get revenge on an ex-boyfriend. It seems confusing at first, despite being intriguing to watch. You first think it’s a comedy, but the story ends on a dark note. It exposes an overlooked heartache some transvestites have.

The Good Fight: dir. Mintie Pardoe- A young woman goes into a sex toy shop to buy a toy. This woman is a nun about to be ordained. She struggles with her sworn commitment to celibacy, but the secret does get exposed. And with a surprising ending. Directed by a recent UBC graduate, the story is basically for the sake of shock value as it appears no actually research on the Catholic Church and vocations were done. Basically that’s all it is: entertainment for hedonists.

Sea Monster: dirs. Daniel Rocque and Kassandra Tomczyk- Tomczyk co-wrote, co-directed and stars in this short. Charley and Aria are a couple cooped up in a hotel madly in love, but both are coping with trauma. Aria dreams of a squid. Then the two make out on night in the fashion of a squid, followed by a bizarre aftermath. This is a film that’s nothing short of experimental. This film is good at getting creative in its time frame and setting.

Thug: dir. Daniel Boos- We first see how three friends– Eman, Simon and Josh– are shooting a low-budget gangsta film. Director Josh recommends to Eman that he creates a hold-up scene on Simon unexpectedly to make the film more ‘real.’ Eman agrees, despite the risk to their friendship. It does a lot more; it arouses suspicion from the local police. Later, Eman and Simon talk about roles they wish they could play before Eman auditions for a role as a gangster thug. This short film sends a message about how minorities in acting get the short end of the stick in terms of the roles they are offered and are often limited to racial stereotypes.

Let Your Heart Be Light: dirs. Deragh Campbell and Sophy Romvari- Both Deragh and Sophy write, direct and act in opposite names in this short. Sophy is confined to spend Christmas alone after a break-up. Deragh pays a visit and makes her Christmas. The film is slow and lacking in energy, but it does a good job of making use of its time and keeping with the Christmas vibe.

In summary, all seven were different in their own way it terms of both style and quality. There were a couple that were either inconsistent in story or lacking in energy. There were a couple that were eccentric, but the eccentricities worked for the film. There were also some films that made you think. The ones that made me think were my favorites as the messages came across very well and very effectively.

New Skins And Old Ceremonies makes for a unique array of seven shorts by Canadian directors. Some were good, some were bad, but all were an opportunity for the directors to make names for themselves.

VIFF 2015 Review: Hadwin’s Judgement

Hadwin's Judgement is about Grant Hadwin and why he committed his act of what some would call 'ecoterrorism.'

Hadwin’s Judgement is about Grant Hadwin and why he committed his act of what some would call ‘ecoterrorism.’

British Columbia, especially Greater Vancouver, is known for people using radical and even destructive methods to make their statement heard on an issue. One such person who’s lesser known in Grant Hadwin who cut down a beloved tree on the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1997. The documentary Hadwin’s Judgement traces Hadwin’s path from logger to radical to his mysterious disappearance.

The film is almost like a biography of Grant Hadwin and the moments in his life that changed him forever. Grant Hadwin was born in West Vancouver. He came from a logging family and eventually found himself working on the Queen Charlotte Islands. However he soon developed an anger when he saw how much forest was being cut down from the island and how fast with the modern cutting methods. He writes letters of complaints to businesses. He even tries to start his own business which makes products out of decayed wood or wood long cut down but it doesn’t succeed.

Doug Chjapman plays Grant Hadwin in re-enactments with no dialogue but says it all with his mind.

Doug Chapman plays Grant Hadwin in re-enactments with no dialogue but says it all with his mind.

The deforestation of the area along with his mental instability takes his toll on him and he cuts down the sacred tree of the island– the 1000 year-old Kiidk’yaas (The Golden Spruce)— to send his message. He awaited trial with many a person angry at him. However Grant pursues a kayaking trip up the Boeing Strait. He is never seen again although his broken kayak, letter in lamination and tools have been found intact. He has still never been found dead or alive.

The film is mostly a documentary featuring people who mostly knew Grant during his lifetime. It features co-workers to friends to a local photographer who photographed him swimming just before his disappearance to John Vaillant who wrote an award-winning book on him. It also interviews people of the Haida Gwaii who knew the tree. The Haida Gwaii consider trees to be sacred so it’s no wonder the chopping of that tree would hurt them deeply.

However the film doesn’t just present people interviewed. It also provides people first-hand knowledge of the Haida Gwaii people, their legends and their beliefs. It provides insight to Grant’s feelings around the time and includes narration of the letters he wrote in his protests. It even includes moments in Grant’s life re-enacted by actor Doug Chapman playing Grant. Doug never utters a word of dialogue in his acting but it’s like you’re reading Grant’s mind just with the looks on his face. You could see why Grant would lose his patience with what was happening and do what he did. It still remains a question. Was it Grant’s attitude to the deforestation of the area? Or was it a mental imbalance? Or both? Even I myself wondered if he valued trees so much why would he cut the sacred Golden Spruce down? I later assumed Grant did it possibly to say to all those logging companies: “You want wood so bad? Here’s your wood, bastards!” That’s my belief to why he did it. People snap.

Despite the storytelling, narration and re-enacting of Grant’s moments, the best attribute of the documentary has to be the cinematography. Right from the start, you see images of the rain forest, an aerial view of Queen Charlotte Island and a panoramic shot of the forest. Already images of beauty that tell what this island is all about and why the island’s natural features are important. It’s not just beautiful images like those that make the film but the uglier images too. The film includes footage of the tree cutting mechanisms through all angles. You can see just how they can cut down a whole tree in seconds. You can see why through such mechanisms looms the threat of deforestation. So much cutting in so little time. The film also shows the ugly aftermaths of all the trees cut down. There’s one panoramic view that not only shows a wide forest but of a cut-down area. That’s one of the many eyesores. Other eyesores include closer shots of land that used to be forests, images of piles of dry dead wood and the biggest of all: the Golden Spruce down on the ground with its leaves soaking in the river. Even single images like that of a freighter full of logs tells the story of the land and why Grant Hadwin was compelled to make such a judgement. Shots that included Grant also provided for the storytelling including the site of his broken kayak.

Sasha Snow did a great job in creating a documentary that gives people’s opinions of Grant through all angles and even re-enacts some of his key moments. Sasha not only includes those that know him but the local Haida Gwaii and author Vaillant. Sasha made a lot of smart choices in telling the story such as having an actor act out Grant’s moments instead of showing photographs. In fact we only see one photograph of Grant in the film right at the very end.

Hadwin’s Judgement is more than a documentary. It takes you inside the person, the land, the people of the land and the economic pressures of the times. I don’t know if the film completely supports Hadwin’s decision but it provides the reasons why he did it.

 

Election 2013: British Columbia Votes

BC Flag

It’s happening. British Columbia will be voting for a premier: the first such election in four years and two days exactly. There’s reigning BC Premier Christy Clark and there are challenging Party leaders, most notably Adrian Dix and Jane Sterk. But how do they stack up for the vote on May 14th?

CHRISTY CLARK: LIBERAL

She is the reigning premier, albeit not elected into office. Those of you living outside of British Columbia may not have known the state of politics in the 21st century. From 2001 to 2011, the province has had Liberal Gordon Campbell as premier of the province. He has been elected into office three times having to resign back in 2011 because of his approval rating declining to the point of single-digit percentage. Christy Clark has taken the role of premier ever since. Since becoming premier of BC, her approval rating as well as the approval rating of the BC Liberals improved greatly even superseding the rating of the NDP for some period of time. However the period has been short-lived.

The opposition Clark has faced during her premiership has not been as heated or intense as Gordon Campbell’s. Nevertheless she has faced heat of her own. One former Liberal MLA accused her of conflict of interest in assisting with the selling of BC Rail during the Campbell administration while cabinet minister. She has also been witness to seeing many key Liberals resigning from parliament.

With the provincial election approaching, Clark still faces a lot of heat from the opposing parties for a lot of what Gordon Campbell did during his administration. Remember I told you about her pre-election baggage? It didn’t completely go away. Her appearance at the Party leader’s debate gave her a chance to improve her political reputation as many felt she won the debate. The BC Liberal Party has greatly decreased its gap behind the BC NDP in the past three weeks trailing them only slightly. However many journalists are claiming it may be too much too late for her political career. Only the results on Tuesday will tell.

ADRIAN DIX: NDP

He’s already been written as the frontrunner for the race for premier. But it doesn’t mean that his chances of winning are unbreakable.

One of the reasons many claim Gordon Campbell has continued to be elected premier is because there hasn’t been an NDP skilled enough to rival him. Adrian may not have much experience as a Party leader but he does have considerable political experience under his belt. Dix was born the son of an insurance agency owner. He has been with the NDP Party since 1996 and like Clark has also been a political media personality for newspapers like The Sun Columnist and the Source. Dix has been the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway since his election in 2005 and his prime areas of focus while MLA have been Children and Families and Health Issues. His biggest achievements have been bringing insulin pumps to children with type 1 diabetes and successfully preventing three Vancouver-Kingsway schools from shutting down.

He came to be elected leader of the NDP Party in 2011 upon the resignation of leader Carole James. Issues that led to his election have been Eliminating the HST, reducing business taxes, redirecting carbon tax, and increasing the minimum wage to name a few. For the provincial election, Dix has had ads marketed with the theme ‘time for a new government’. Those ads have been on television not as frequently as the BC Liberals but more commonly on Youtube. Dix has led through most of the pre-election polls and appears to be the heavy favorite to win.

However he does face stiff opposition. Firstly there was the recent Party leader debate where Christy Clark presented herself and her platform the best. That caused her to jump in the polls and even tied Dix on May 8th. Then there was bringing back the controversy Dix was responsible for during the scandal of 1990’s premier Glen Clark when Dix was Chief of Staff from 1996 to 1999. Back then he back-dated a memo to protect Clark from conflict-of-interest charges. That led to the resignation of both Clark and Dix. Dix has since redeemed himself as the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway but the incident has arisen again by the opposing parties. That could hurt him.

Yes, Dix has a lead over Christy Clark in the polls right now but it’s too close to call right now. Don’t forget polls can say one thing and elections can say another. The big question is will it be a night for the first NDP premier in 12 years? It will all be at the buzzer Tuesday night.

JANE STERK: GREEN

Outside of the Liberals and the NDP, the only other Party making the biggest news in the election is the BC green Party and its leader Jane Sterk. The Green Party is a relatively young Party that started in 1983 but it fields policies that appeal to many BC residents like environmental issues, tolerance and diversity, social justice as well as personal and global responsibility. The questions has always been would they have what it takes to win elections and would they have what it takes to be good strong leaders?

The Green Party first made a name for itself under the leadership of founder Adrianne Carr back in 2001 when the Party finished third in the provincial election with 12.4% of the vote. They would continue to finish third in the next two provincial elections but with declining percentages of votes. In the 2009 election–the first in which Jane Sterk was Party leader– the Green Party finished with 8.1% of the vote and no seats.

The position of the Green Party here in BC is still a big question mark. Even in this election the Party won’t be fielding candidates for all 85 ridings like the NDP and Liberals: 61 to be exact. However this could be the Party’s best election. Right now the election is between two leading Party’s candidates who have both been involved with a former premier and the infamies of their administrations, even scandal involvement. The Green Party has been over 10% in the polls for most of the upcoming election period however their popularity has taken a bit of a dip in recent days. Also what should be remembered is that Sterk is native to Alberta and she didn’t move to BC until 2000. That could hurt her since the leading two candidates and many other candidates have spent most of their life in BC.

The question is will the Green Party finally make a name for itself and be able to land its first ever MLA seat? Best chances could be with Sterk in her Victoria-Beacon Hill riding but she would have to win over former NDP leader Carole James who is the incumbent leader in that riding. This will be a question not just of whether the Green Party can land a seat but its ability to strike a chord with voters. It has what it takes and now’s a better time than ever but can they do it?

JOHN CUMMINS :CONSERVATIVE

The Conservative Party is a long-standing Party like the NDP and Liberals and had it’s biggest heydays from the 30’s to the 50’s. However it has had rollercoaster success since then as the Party has had a very hard time not just trying to win seats but also trying to field seats. This year the Conservative Party has fielded candidates for 56 of the 85 MLA seats, their biggest number since 1972 and double the 24 seats they fielded candidates for in the 2009 election.

Its biggest challenge has to be with the general public. I live in New Westminster and work in downtown Vancouver. Already I can tell that the big cities are not known for welcoming politician with a right-leaning platform. Most of the bigger cities have a huge and very vocal animosity for right-wing politicians that are even as much as right-to-centre. Sometimes I think Vancouver is the capital of ‘Harperphobia.’ However it’s another story in areas like Langley and Abbotsford which are known for its conservative beliefs. In fact leader John Cummins is running in the Langley riding. Cummins himself is a former MP in the Canadian Parliament under the Reform Party and the national Conservative Party under the leadership of Harper. He resigned his seat in the Richmond-Delta national riding to pursue provincial Party leadership.

This could be the first chance in decades for the Conservative Party to make a name for itself in decades however it does face opposition of its own especially from BC residents that disagree with the Party agenda very vehemently. Like the Green Party, it too has had times where it has seen days of 10% approval or higher this past month. Also like the Green Party, it’s currently sitting below the 10% mark. There’s no question that it will have a higher percentage of votes than the 2.1% received in the last election. The question is not only what percentage of votes will it receive but also what will Tuesday’s results tell for the future of the Conservative Party?

LIBERTARIAN PARTY

Only the four parties I mentioned above have candidates running for more than half the MLA seats in the BC parliament. Actually only those four have candidates running in even as little as ten provincial ridings. The biggest Party with less than ten candidates in the running is the BC Libertarian Party. If you go to their website, you will see that the BC Libertarian agenda has a lot in common with the agenda of the American Libertarian Party. Libertarianism is still a definition that’s hard to define in terms of a political stance. Bill Maher, possibly the most famous Libertarian right now, defines a libertarian as a ‘pothead in a business suit.’ For the BC Libertarian Party, just go to their website.

The Libertarian Party of BC started in 1986 with three candidates and rose to 17 upon the 1996 provincial election. There would be no Libertarian candidates back in 2001 as Party president Paul Geddes ran for the BC marijuana Party. In the provincial elections since, the BC Libertarian Party has been putting efforts into reestablishing itself. In both previous provincial elections, the Party fielded six candidates and achieved just under 1500 votes both times.

This year the Party field eight candidates including one in my riding of New Westminster.  This could be the Libertarian’s best election since 1996 when they had 17 candidates and won just over 2000 votes. However lacking a Party leader could cause some problems. Plus its lack of advertisement to the public could make a lot of people unaware of Libertarian candidates in their area. This election should give a picture of where things are going for the Party.

INDEPENDENT’S DAY?

Of all the candidates running, the most interesting should be the Independents: those that won’t be running for a Party or its agenda. Independents have always been unique candidates as it has always been a case of the politician promoting their agenda that’s often unique in comparison to most formed parties’ agendas. Last year one independent candidate–Vicki Huntington of Delta South– was elected MLA. Most interesting is that since the 2009 election, two NDP MLAs and one Liberal MLA have become independents themselves. Three of the four incumbent independent MLAs will be running in this election.

This election will see 35 independent candidates running for MLA seats in 31 ridings. Each one will have their own unique agenda and/or run for their own purposes. Many have run for some of the major parties in the past. And one, Kelowna-Mission’s Dayleen Van Ryswyk, was running for the NDP three weeks ago but had to resign from the Party because of past comments that appeared bigoted in nature. She started her campaign as an independent the next day but has recently hired a bodyguard for fear of threats.

Tuesday could give a surprising glimpse as the independents could win some seats and could provide an outlook on the political culture of BC.

And there you have it. A brief rundown of the candidates for the 40th British Columbia General Election. Sure, I could talk about all the other fifteen political parties but it would be too tedious. Remember there are 85 MLA seats in BC’s parliament and the winning Party is the one that wins 43 seats for a majority. You can click on the Wikipedia link–which also happens to be my Works Cited page– here to get all the info of who’s running and which parties. So on the 14th, will it be Premier Clark elected into office or will Adrian Dix be elected BC’s new premier? Stay tuned!

Britsh Columbia Civic Elections: Not Much Change Noticed

If you live in one of the cities of British Columbia, you may have had to place your vote in this year’s civic election. It’s that time every three years where the B.C. Cities head out to decide their mayor, their school trustees, and their city councilors. Nevertheless it’s always the mayoral election that catches the most attention, especially for the mayor of the City of Vancouver. Whatever the situation, most major cities had very little change in terms of the mayor elected. The biggest changes happened in the smaller cities on the outskirts of Greater Vancouver or in the smaller towns. Here’s a brief wrap-up of which mayors are staying and which are leaving:

RE-ELECTED

VANCOUVER – Gregor Robertson

HIs three-year term of mayor has received huge publicity. It came as he was mayor while Vancouver was the Olympic City and mayor during the time of the Stanley Cup finals. His three-year term as mayor has come with many ups and downs. He sponsored HEAT (Homeless Emergency Action Team) to aid the homeless problem and provide shelters. It has helped the problem to an extent but has faced its own funding issues. He praised the opening of the Canada Line but criticized the construction process. He has mandated for Vancouver to become the “Greenest City on Earth’ but has been criticized for approving the construction of bike lanes down Dunsmuir from Beatty to Hornby. He has headed an amendment for borrowing almost half a billion to fund the 2010 Olympic Village without taxpayers input. He has also made some unguarded comments about Premier Gordon Campbell at a public introduction and profanity-laden comments about the rival civic party NPA which were broadcast on Youtube. He has even admitted partial responsibility for the 2011 Vancouver Riots.

In the 2011, he and his Vision Vancouver party faced stiff rivalry from councilor Suzanne Anton and rival party NPA and Ellen Woodworth and COPE. On election night, Robertson was re-elected mayor with all but two of the council seats won by Vision. The other two seats were won by the NPA party. Vision also kept the control of the Park Board and the School Board. Robertson promises in his term an aggressive agenda to try to end homelessness, raise the profile of green issues and tackle housing affordability.

BURNABY – Derek Corrigan

The election was known more for the forming of a new civic party than of the party that was expected to win. When Burnaby school board passed an anti-homophobia policy, many Burnaby parents were unhappy and formed the Burnaby Parents Voice party with five school board candidates in an attempt to strike down the policy. In the end, it was the left-leaning Burnaby Citizens Association headed by Mayor Derek Corrigan that swept everything, and for the second election in a row. Despite the lack of opposition, Corrigan says he and his Citizens Association will be open, transparent and anything but complacent about ideas and issues.

NEW WESTMINSTER – Wayne Wright

Being a resident of New Westminster, this was one election that was able to distract me from that of the City of Vancouver. Wayne Wright won for the fourth straight time and his win was double the number of votes of his closest rival James Crosty. The downside of the election was that there was only 24% voter turnout. Shame. Wright has been known to push for development in the city, especially after the loss of three pulp mills and the Labatt’s Brewery in the past decade. The last three years have seen a lot of development completed or taking shape like the completed shopping area and the business sector under construction at the Brewery District, the New Westminster Station shopping center which is to be opened next month, the New Westminster Civic Centre which has just started construction and a Pier Park project in the works.

SURREY – Dianne Watts

Her re-election to the mayor’s office was not a surprise. She had already won twice before. What was a surprise was that her Surrey First party swept all the councilor seats and won 81% of the vote. She plans to develop its City Centre into a ‘Second Downtown’ for Greater Vancouver with a new library and City Hall. She also plans to add more police presence and firefighter presence in the city and well as services for at-risk youth and a child advocacy center. She also plans for more seniors services and for more transit access in the city.

RICHMOND – Malcolm Brodie

It was Brodie again for the fourth straight election. His win may not have been the most decisive of the night but it was the quickest of the night. The biggest civic issue he plans to tackle is growth, especially around the Canada Line. He plans on working out an aggressive affordable housing strategy along with ensuring the number of green spaces and recreational facilities.

COQUITLAM – Richard Stewart

Richard Stewart’s biggest pre-election headlines weren’t about the campaign or his issues but about being hit by a car a week ago while campaigning. Despite an aggressive rivalry from Barrie Lynch, Stewart won the election.

NANAIMO – John Ruttan was re-elected mayor of Nanaimo with a convincing win. The council has a mix of some familiar faces and some new faces. This was another city with another low voter percentage: 26%.

VICTORIA – Dean Fortin

Fortin was re-elected for a second term. The capital region saw very little change in the leadership. There were some changes of councilors but most of the original councilors as well as the city’s mayors remained the same.

NEWLY ELECTED

WHISTLER – Nancy Wilhelm-Morden

Wilhelm-Morden won the mayor’s seat beating out incumbent mayor Ken Melamed: 2636 votes to 610. The city’s biggest issues were the transit problems, assisting business, trust between the community and city hall and the unpopular implementation of pay parking.

SQUAMISH – Rob Kirkham

Kirkham was elected Squamish’s new mayor in a close race: 2283 votes to 2104 to incumbent mayor Auli Parvainen. His biggest goal is the town’s oceanfront plan which he sees it key to the town’s prosperity.

LANGLEY – Jack Froese

Mayor Rick Green was often criticized for leading a dysfunctional council. In the end, he lost to newcomer Jack Froese. Froese plans to bring a better future to the community and tackle the town’s urbanization whom many residents feel is growing too fast.

PITT MEADOWS – Deb Walters

Don MacLean was stepping down as mayor of the town. That led to three rivals for the mayor’s seat. In the end, the winner was Deb Walters with 55% of the votes. In the process, she became Pitt Meadows’ first femal mayor.

KELOWNA – Walter Gray

Possible the biggest city to have a change of mayor. Walter Gray has been mayor before but lost to Sharon Shepherd back in 2005. After a six-year absence, Gray was elected back in to the mayor’s seat by a close margin: 47.1% compared to Shepherd’s 45.7%. His goals are to attract investors to Kelowna and create more jobs for the city.

There are more elections that happened in BC but those were the one that received the biggest notice for which seats changed and which remained the same. For most BC residents, there were two elections to pay close attention to: the City of Vancouver and their own city. Every city’s residents have a lot of expectations from their mayor and the councilors over the next three years. Whether they carry them out, and if the outcome is good or bad, is something only the next three years can tell.

WORK CITED:

VANCOUVER SUN: Vancouver Sun, 2011. Canada.com. Postmedia Network Inc. <http://www.vancouversun.com&gt;

HST Referendum: BC Votes On The Tax

Hi. I know it’s been a while since I wrote something, especially of substance. So here I am getting back into the swing of things with my latest article. Hope you like it.

If you’ve lived in BC this past year and a half, you may have known for a long time about the most heated three letters in the province: HST. The tax came from nowhere, became part of BC faster than you think and is now up for public vote after a year of existence. The tax and the craziness surrounding it is both frustrating for the citizen and cartoonish in the media’s eye. Even more surprising is that the referendum involving the HST isn’t your typical ballot-and-booth referendum but a mail-in referendum lasting a full month. Most BC residents may not know a whole lot about this Harmonized Sales Tax but it sure has been far from harmonious in BC.

What few people know is that British Columbia is currently one of five provinces with an HST. The others being New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Ontario. Actually it was the Atlantic Provinces who worked back in 1996 in having a Harmonized Sales Tax implemented in order to lower the amount of tax a citizen would have to pay. This resulted in a 15% HST that came into existence on April 1, 1997. When the GST lowered to 6%, the HST went down 1% to 14% and would go down to 13% when the GST was reduced to 5%. It was noticed that the price of goods fell when the HST came in. In fact one of the things in changing from a cascading tax to a value-add tax was to reduce income taxes, and instituted direct transfer payments (refundable tax credits) to lower-income groups, resulting in lower tax burdens on the poor.

The benefits of the HST were appealing. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper government said of tax harmonization: the single most important step provinces with retail sales taxes could take to improve the competitiveness of Canadian businesses.” However it was in 2010 when the HST was implemented in BC and Ontario that the drawbacks came to light. It made businesses hard to manage and property values hard to maintain. Many food expenses which had either to the one tax or neither tax became more expensive. The price of gas increased. Services like haircutting and dry cleaning which had only one tax saw the raised price. Some items in BC, like public transportation, ferry costs and toll-bridge tolls. Children’s clothing, child-care items and feminine hygiene items were also exempt. Nevertheless the expenses that were already added were noticed soon enough.

In BC, the brouhaha about this tax is not just simply its existence but its introduction and implementation. It was first reported back in June 23, 2009 that the BC government under the leadership of Gordon Campbell intended to harmonize the two taxes. Full attention to this tax didn’t come until after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver had ended. Before it was to be implemented on July 1, 2010, the raucous was not only raised by BC citizens but former premier Bill Vanderzalm in campaigning to get the HST abolished. After the HST was made official in BC, Vanderzalm still continued on his campaign while Gordon Campbell’s popularity soon dipped to single-digit percentages, leading him to retire.

 

Now the fate of the HST lies in the hands of the citizen of British Columbia. All registered BC voters including myself were sent a mail-in yes/no ballot in which one is to vote not on keeping the HST but on abolishing the HST. The deadline for mailing in the vote was Friday July 22nd. During that time, there has been many pro-HST and anti-HST rhetoric. Those against the HST would speak of their drawbacks, most notably the increase in expenses for BC citizens and the businesses that have either faced huge economic difficulties or closed. The common citizen should also have its own experience with the HST in the past.

 

Those for the HST have come from economics or other sources that have studied the HST in the past. On May 4, 2011, an independent panel commissioned by the BC government released a report on the impact of the HST in BC. The report concluded that “Unless you are among the 15 per cent of families with an income under $10,000 a year, you’re paying more sales tax under the HST than you would under the PST/GST: On average about $350 per family.” The report also predicted that by 2020, the HST is anticipated to result in a BC economy that will “Be $2.5 billion larger than it would be under the PST. That’s about $480 per person or $830 per family.” There was even a prediction from the University of Calgary that the HST will lead to 600,000 more jobs in the next ten years. Economists have even spoken of the potential damages and drawbacks that could happen if the HST is abolished.

 

Anyways the referendum is over. If you didn’t mail your ballot in by now, tough cookies. Time will tell what the result of referendum will determine. Time will also tell which tax system was supported by the people and whether it will pay off in the long run. Stay tuned. The future of BC and its economy will be decided.

WORK CITED

WIKIPEDIA: Harmonized Sales Tax.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonized_Sales_Tax>

British Columbia’s Minimum Wage Increase Could Be A Double-Edged Sword

Many expect this to be a benefit for the province but there are just as many drawbacks that could happen too.

Just days after Christy Clark was sworn into office as the new Premier of British Columbia, she starts her reign by announcing that British Columbia will have an increase in the minimum wage. For around ten years, the minimum wage has stood still at $8/hour: the lowest rate in Canada. This especially doesn’t fare well in the Canadian province with the highest cost of living. Clark announced that the wage will be increased in 75-cent increments starting May 2011 to an eventual $10.25 come 2012.

The raise has had a lot of mixed reactions. For many, it’s looked upon as a positive thing. As I mentioned earlier, BC has the highest cost of living of any province in Canada. The $8/hour was the highest in Canada at the time it was set (May 2000) and has now dropped to the lowest. Many have called the low minimum wage an embarrassment for the province. The plan from Christy is to start the raise in May 2011 to $8.75/hour, increase to $9.50 in November and finally $10.25 come May 2012. That would place it equal with Ontario as having the highest minimum wage amongst Canadian provinces. The highest minimum wage including territories is Nunavut with $11/hour.

Since her declaration, there have been many opinions from people from all sides. Some say this is finally a good move for BC. Some claimed that this was an NDP idea she stole. Some say this is happening too much too late. Some are also questioning if this is a difficult move, epsecially during an economic recession.

For every action, there are both positive and negative reactions. First the positive. For one thing, it will make life more livable for many BC workers who already deal with the minimum wage. BC, especially in Vancouver, has the highest cost of living based on provincial averages. Greater Vancouver alone has the highest housing prices in Canada. Gas prices are already at $1.30/litre. Vancouver has one of the worst child poverty rates in Canada. Already there’s talk of food prices going up worldwide. An increase to the minimum wage will help make life a bit easier for those trying to make ends meet in their own standard of living. It’s definitely not a solve-all but it does help. Also some argue that it could boost small businesses rather than hurt. With an increase in the minimum wage, it can mean businesses can have more customers. One economist even said that people with money generally spend in small businesses.

One downside is that this could mean an increase in the prices of goods and services. I know that from when I worked in a restaurant in Manitoba, they had to raise the food prices because of the minimum wage increase. Also with the raise in the minimum wage comes the risk of some smaller businesses cutting some jobs to pay the wages. Already a lot of businesses, especially restaurants, have already been hit hard by the HST and with the tough new anti-drinking and driving laws. Even though I mentioned one economist saying that those with money tend to spend in small businesses, that’s not a complete guarantee they’ll prosper significantly. There’s even a possibility that the already-difficult cost of living in British Columbia could increase along with it. Another of Clark’s claims is that the cost of living would not increase dramatically. With the increase in the minimum wage, it’s a 50/50 risk that it may or may not.

As stated, the first raise of the minimum wage begins in May 2011. The changes, whether positive or negative, will forecast whether BC is moving in a positive or negative economic direction. The minimum wage changes will also show if businesses are meeting supply and demand to keep their employees with the wage increases. This is a smart move for Christy Clark–her first move as premier of BC—but only time will tell if this is a smartly timed move for her.