THE BC LIBERALS HAD A BRIDGE TO SELL YOU, FAST

by Geoff Olson

The Vancouver Courier, June 17
The Vancouver Courier, June 17

BC’s spacey politics doesn’t get much better than “Om the Bridge,” a public relations stunt which stretched from peculiar to Planet Claire in the space of a week.

Responding to public criticism of government involvement in a scheme to shut down Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge on National Yoga Day (June 21st), and the threat of a First Nations “flash mob” co-opting the event, premier Christy Clark turned to social media last Thursday. She tweeted a photo of herself standing in front of the Taoist Thai Chi outlet in Parksville, accompanied with the caption, “Hey Yoga Haters- bet you can’t wait for international Tai Chi day.”

Online confusion followed. Had the premier’s account been hacked? Or had one of her handlers replaced her morning mufffin with a melt-your-face, compassion club edible? (A plan to apply a Yoga mat tourniquet to a main traffic artery is not what you called a half-baked idea. More like fully-baked.)

#shunthebridge backlashers piled on after the premier’s Yoga Haters comment, with children’s entertainer Raffi tweeting that she owed BC an apology. At a later press conference, Clark defended the tweet as an attempt at “self-deprecating humour,” asking reporters, “Did you get it?”

The next day the premier fluttered, moth-like, back into the white-hot filament of social media. “Yoga Day is a great opportunity to celebrate peace and harmony – it’s not about politics. I don’t intend to participate,” she tweeted. The government was out. Co-sponsors and Liberal Party donors Lululemon Athletica and Altagas promptly followed suit.

June 21st is the first National Aboriginal Day after the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report. Yet the government championed a traffic-stopping spectacle for Vancouver’s stretchware demographic, co-sponsored by a gas company of all things. The optics were worthy of Mr. Magoo.

The planned event was wrong on so many levels, why would the government agree to host it – particularly when there was already other National Yoga Day events in the works locally? There is an unknown risk for big bureaucracies to do anything original and inventive, versus zero risk to do nothing. Considering the scandals dropping on Clark and her minions like cartoon anvils, this downward-facing demagoguery seemed like a magic trick of misdirection. ‘Watch this hand, not the other one.’

“Om the Bridge” went sideways rather than samadhi, but even that was better than renewed focus on the culture of neglect at the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development, denied FOI requests for government documents that turned out to exist, allegations of deleted government emails involving BC’s Highway of Tears, and the long-running Agatha Christie play involving a supposed RCMP investigation into fired health ministry employees that never occurred.

It’s the latter mystery is looking like the biggest headache for the Libs. The RCMP was blindsided by Victoria’s 2012 claim that police were involved in an investigation into the seven fired health ministry employees, yet information on wrongdoing had never reached RCMP offices.

Phd student Roderick MacIsaac, was one of the seven terminated in 2012. His study of an anti-smoking program had “uncovered evidence that the two pharmaceutical drugs covered by the provincial smoking cessation program, launched in 2011, can cause severe adverse reactions in patients, including death,” noted a 2012 report in the Vancouver Sun.

MacIsaac’s research went down the memory hole, and he committed suicide in the months that followed (the government has since apologized for its “very heavy-handed” approach in firing MacIsaac).

The provincial government also cancelled the contract of health economist William Warburton in 2012. This March he told The Tyee that data from his research indicates that approximately 60,000 people prescribed on anti-psychotic drugs will die prematurely, due to side effects. Two years ago, Warburton launched a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia alleging that the Province of British Columbia halted drug safety research to protect donors to the B.C. Liberal Party.

According to University of Victoria drug-policy researcher Alan Cassels, pharmaceutical companies collectively gave more than $546,000 to the Liberals from 2005 to 2012.
But why meditate on social policy buzzkills? Certain parties would much prefer you and me sit in the lotus position, shut our eyes, and go ommmmmm.

The Vancouver Courier, June 19

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