COLUMN

An oasis of extremes on the coast

Allan Fotheringham April 21 1986
COLUMN

An oasis of extremes on the coast

Allan Fotheringham April 21 1986

An oasis of extremes on the coast

COLUMN

Allan Fotheringham

It was a very splashy affair in Vancouver the other night. The Centennial Ball, to mark the city’s birthday, in the magnificence of the new Pan Pacific Hotel, which juts out into the harbor above the soaring sails on the Canada Place pavilion that make the whole project appear eager to set to sea. A one-hundred gun salute flashed and boomed across the waters from a Stanley Park shore, fireworks blasted from a barge in mid-harbor and most anyone whose tax accountant could write off $250 was there. In the ballroom, as the Vancouver Symphony provided background music, the crowd was told to be alerted for the arrival of Gov. Gen. Jeanne Sauvé and the viceregal party. There was a stir at the door, the entire room rose in respect—and in strode the acknowledged Communist city councillor Bruce Yorke, resplendent in his tuxedo, with lady. Yorke, the black sheep of a well-off Vancouver family, had been upstairs having a drink and was, well, late. The rest of Canada, meet Vancouver.

You are going to hear and read more about Vancouver in the next six months, due to Expo, than you can stand, so we best explain the place. Being the frontier, the last stop in the country, The Village on the Edge of the Rain Forest is an oasis of extremes. Three of its recent mayors have been millionaires: Tom Terrific Campbell, Bill Rathie and Art Phillips. It fits the rest-of-Canada view of Vancouver that you should be a millionaire if you’re going to be mayor—yachts, ski cabins at Whistler, hot tubs, cottages in Maui and Palm Springs. But the current mayor, who reigns over the glitz of Expo as host to the world, is a socialist. Further, he aims to be the next socialist premier of British Columbia. Mike Harcourt, a mild-mannered young bald man who looks like Louis del Grande, has already announced that he will run for the NDP in the coming provincial election. Since Premier MiniWac Bennett will proba-

Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.

bly win the election on the euphoria of the Expo opening, featuring the Chuck and Di Show on May 2, and the NDP will then dump its earnest but uninspiring leader, the deceptive Harcourt may get his wish.

The man seeking to be his replacement as mayor just happens to be a Marxist. He is a grizzled, profane, eloquent lawyer by name of Harry Rankin who, after having a very good war in the uniform of the Canadian Army, graduated from law at the University of British Columbia and then found the Establishment of the Vancouver

legal fraternity attempting to bar him from practising law because of his openly avowed political views. Saner minds prevailed, he and his moustache are now city institutions, he tops the aldermanic polls and, finally, is making his one and only bid for mayor. He may succeed, since so far only a callow pup opposes him. This is swinging Vancouver, where a 65-year-old Marxist who dresses like Groucho is the favorite for mayor?

There are other things you should know. It is the only major Canadian city where freeways have never been allowed to intrude near the downtown core. Also, there is no subway. This may mean you spend a lot of your life in a car—standing still. It’s okay, the view is swell. You must understand, the entire downtown core is virtually an island, connected to rest of earthaside from five bridges—only by one narrow isthmus of land. You know the mentality of people who live on islands. You have been warned.

There are only five cities in the world that compare with Vancouver for physical beauty: San Francisco, Sydney, Cape Town, Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro. San Francisco, while it has the water, does not have the mountains. Neither does Sydney. Cape Town is spectacular, but in a one-dimensional way, with Table Mountain. Vancouver’s only real rivals are Hong Kong and Rio. This adds to the city’s famed humility and modesty.

Its main fear is that too many people will see the place this summer and decide to move. A few years ago the state of Oregon erected large billboards on its borders, advising, Thank You for Visiting Oregon—Please Don’t Come Here to Live. Vancouver feels the same way. It likes its size, sans freeways, sans subway, and is nervous of “progress.” How can you improve on paradise?

Vancouver has the most patient motorists in the realm, mainly because the pedestrian is king. Those on foot often take up to 30 seconds to negotiate a crosswalk and moo torists can run out of gas while waiting. On the other hand, Vancouver leads the nation in divorces, drug addiction and alcoholism, and is a close contender in suicides. The city is proud of this. It is called frontier justice.

A true Vancouverite will tell you it rains all the time. All winter and all summer, with some more left over for holidays. He wants you to believe this, because he doesn’t want you to move there. In fact, there are more inches of rain in Halifax, Montreal and Toronto in the summer months (you could look it up), but no true Vancouverite mentions this, since it spoils the game. They don’t want you. Visit, but don’t stay. No one wears a hat in Vancouver. This is because an umbrella covers a larger area. Heat escapes through the top of your head and a lot of this is required in Vancouver—to allow escapage of ego. Quebec is regarded as a foreign country. Ottawa is regarded as offshore. Toronto is not regarded at all. Visit, but don’t stay. Look, but don’t touch. The natives are friendly, but suspicious. Keep British Columbia green. Bring money.