Snow way in heaven or hell

By Benjamin Massey · February 3rd, 2017 · No comments

It snows in Vancouver most years so how are we so terrible at it?

I’d call this town a “dumpster fire” but that carries an unfortunate implication of warmth. It took me something like two hours to make the thirty-minute trip to work this morning, but my co-workers didn’t mind since half of them couldn’t make it at all. The train was immobilized by the wrong type of snow, the buses were getting stuck, the queues were so long we went “oh to hell with that” and went for a walk through the flurries like we were proper Canadians instead of effete left-coasters. I’m hosting a couple visitors for the women’s soccer game, including the other 49.5 of 99 Friendship. She is from Montreal, and she was throwing shade at our transit system. How has it come to this?

Bitching is fun, but for catharsis I gotta really castrate some blameworthy fuckers.

You can’t hate someone for not stocking up more on “essential” equipment, because for 360 days of the year there’s nothing essential about it. As anybody in parts of the country with actual winters knows, no amount of money keeps a snowstorm from occasionally being a real pisser. In Vancouver I get not fitting snow tires when you’d need them twice, or trains freaking out for a bit, or the city not keeping a mechanized division of snowplows around and filling the Capilano reservoir with rock salt so, when the weather does the dirty, we get to work twenty minutes rather than two hours late. There’s a point, and in Vancouver it’s pretty early, where preparation is waste. This city burns enough cash without us encouraging them every time we get our umbrellas frosted.

Even some failings of intellect come with excuses. You don’t get much practice at driving in the snow so you won’t be very good at it, fine. Some people genuinely don’t seem to realize that they sell little brushes at 7-11 which you can use to sweep all that snow off your Porsche Cayenne’s windshield. It’s not something they’ve seen, it’s not a solution that’s occurred to them. But the carnage is usually limited to the initial orgy of destructiveness as the snow is falling; once a bit of plowing happens and guys in 30-year-old Miatas realize you won’t automatically do a powerslide if you take that left-hander above walking pace, we don’t wind up far above the usual Vancouver background noise of anarchy and uselessness. Heck, we had snow in December and the Canada Line kept ticking the whole time. In February we got unlucky but were back on our feet after an inconvenient but not indefinite horror show.

The lazy pricks who own homes in Vancouver can’t be arsed to shovel their sidewalks, and they are the worst people in the world. But this is not a Vancouver-only problem, though admittedly here those pricks are property owners and therefore by default multi-millionaires so hate has the delicious zest of envy. Anyway it’s not a chronic commute-lengthener for everyone, just a substantial commute-lengthener for the guys who slip on neutron star-dense ice and break their clavicles. Do what I do and stomp all over their lawns, it’s much safer that way. Besides, the ice wouldn’t be so bad if we were used to it, or we had serious winter temperatures that hung out at -15-odd instead of bouncing between barely freezing and barely thawing every day until the most effective way to get around town is a pair of skates.

So it’s not the City’s fault, particularly. And it’s not the people’s fault, much. It definitely isn’t my fault. Which leads us to the obvious culprit for why Vancouver turns a flurry into Captain Oates’s worst nightmare: God. Don’t worry, I’ll sort Him out. I may be some time.

Vladimir Justin and the new Red Empire

By Benjamin Massey · October 23rd, 2015 · No comments

With the departure of Stephen Harper from the premiership, 2015-16 promises to be a tough winter for our columnists who made a living writing clinically insane columns for the foreign press on how Canada is descending into fascism. Fortunately, there remain opportunities for the enterprising writer willing to abandon all decency in the name of vilifying a political opponent. Any American or European papers willing to take this on, please send me an e-mail.

People think of Canada as an austere land of ice and snow warmed by the hearts of a generous people. A utopia of verdant spaces, glorious history, and unlimited opportunity, where low birth is no obstacle to the highest offices. This glorious vision, true for so many decades, is now clouded by the cataracts of a new overlord, Justin Pierre James Trudeau.

Canada’s previous prime minister was the son of an accountant who attended middle-class suburban schools. The last Liberal to win a majority, Jean Chrétien, was the eighteenth of nineteenth children, raised in genteel Quebec poverty. Trudeau overthrows that tradition. He is the first Canadian Prime Minister to ever succeed his father; raised in the lap of luxury, a fixture in the society of Canadian oligarchs before he could speak. Richard Nixon, that paragon of probity, predicted when Trudeau was less than a year old that he would become Prime Minister. Not because of the baby’s profound personal qualities, you understand, but because he had the connections to make it happen. Nixon understood cynical, imperial politics better than anyone, and his prediction has come true.

Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre, spent fifteen years as Prime Minister, one of the longest reigns on record. In this time he rewrote the Constitution to suit his aims, despoiled the West of the country to buy re-election in the East, and most infamously invoked martial law in peace-time, sneering at a reporter who asked how far he’d go “just watch me.” Justin Trudeau has embraced his father’s legacy, memorably writing those very words to an star-struck admirer who did not hear the jackboots stamping behind them. (Trudeau’s sinister note was sold for $12,000, a dark sign of how deep the personality cult has already reached.)

Trudeau was introduced to the upper echelons of Canadian power and politics from an early age, attending elite schools and eventually McGill University, crucible of the Canadian Establishment (rooming with Gerald Butts, his future principal advisor and another scion of an old political family). Despite an undistinguished pre-political career Trudeau easily won the Liberal nomination for a Quebec riding and, once elected to the House of Commons, was immediately declared “a potential future prime minister” by Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. The media who lined up behind Trudeau, admiring his youth, his energy, and his good looks, overlooked his very soul.

In an ugly 2012 incident Trudeau mercilessly beat up a Conservative senator and political opponent on national television. This ghastly display only enthused his supporters, who had exhausted fair means to overthrow the Conservative government and were quite willing to consider the foul. In this Trudeau resembled the man anonymous insiders consider his political model, Vladimir Putin.

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The two leaders share a great deal, right down to their image of rugged alpha-male outdoorsmanship. On campaign Trudeau makes a point of his kayaking skills and his ability to hike the fearsome Grouse Grind, while Putin is always sure there’s a camera around when fly-fishing. Trudeau boxes; Putin is a renowned judoka. Unfortunately, the similarities are more than athletic.

Putin’s electoral fraud has become a guiding star for post-Soviet corruption, but the West travels in blissful ignorance of Trudeau’s exploits. In the most recent federal election, fully 60.53% of the voters were against Trudeau’s régime, but he regardless assembled a commanding majority in the House of Commons. The Senate retains the power to block his bills, but there is already talk of Trudeau appointing an unprecedented twenty-two new senators (in a house of only 105) to ram through his agenda. Like Putin, Trudeau has loudly demanded that his country expand its navy, leading to comparisons to the pre-First World War dreadnought crisis.

Nor has Trudeau forgotten the oligarchs to whom he owes his rise. Before he had even taken power a top Trudeau advisor was caught advising a major Canadian petrochemical concern on how they could best exploit the new government. The advisor was fired after a media storm, but nobody has been fooled. Other Trudeau courtiers have close connections to international business, from bureaucratic expert Mike Moffatt to big banker Frank McKenna. In the approved autocratic style, Trudeau surrounds himself with retainers and wraps himself in patriotism while discarding traditions he finds personally uncomfortable. The recently-ascended dauphin refuses to stay in Canada’s majestic official residence, 24 Sussex Drive, because it is too shabby for his sensitivities.

The most important Putinist influences have been on foreign policy. As Putin ramps up Russian involvement in Syria, Trudeau has announced that Canada will withdraw its anti-ISIS military mission. A seeming incongruity, but a devious one. Under the previous government, Canada had been committed to helping anti-ISIS elements in the Middle East that were also anti-Moscow. The departure of the Canadian Forces, which included vital air support, will make the ordinary Syrians easier prey for the oncoming Russian tide. Canada and Russia have long squabbled over territory in the Arctic Ocean, and Trudeau wants to prove his worth to his senior partner as soon as possible.

Some of Trudeau’s mannerisms have other, equally dark origins. The Trudeau slogan “in Canada, better is always possible” reads like a slovenly version of Donald Trump’s “make America great again,” and his lecturing, emotional and over-long style on the hustings recalls a young Fidel Castro, complete with party zealots obediently applauding at all the indicated moments. The comparison is appropriate: Castro is a Trudeau family friend and even appeared at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral. At 43 years old, Trudeau is eleven years older than Castro was when he took power in Cuba, but would certainly like to match Fidel’s sixty-two-year reign. It will be up to the tattered remains of Canadian democracy to stop him.