Bidding Adieu to Dave Barrett

Tribute: Dave Barrett Funerals for public figures can often be stuffy affairs with formal speechmaking and half-hearted appeals to emotion, but the recent ceremonies for B.C.’s former premier were rife with real affection. By Rod Mickleburgh So, farewell then, Dave Barrett. A month after the remarkable NDP leader passed away, it was time for the public to bid adieu, formally and informally. The official state memorial in Victoria came first, followed the next day by what was more a gathering of the clans at Vancouver’s Croatian Cultural Centre, not that far from where Dave Barrett grew up on the city’s rough-and-tumble east side. Both events were packed, befitting the immeasurable contribution he made to the province of British Columbia during his short 39 months as its first socialist premier. (Unlike today’s New Democrats, he never shied from using the term “socialist.”) Beyond his political legacy, there was an outpouring of real affection for someone who had ...

A Tribute to Dave Barrett, the Socialist Who Stormed the Gates

* In light of Dave Barrett’s recent passing, we took the opportunity to republish Rod Mickleburgh’s thoughtful look at the quiet, yet revolutionary, BC Premier. Politics: Looking back at the first BC NDP victory in 1972 Rod Mickleburgh remembers the day the “socialist hordes” stormed the gates of Government House and Dave Barrett took the oath of office. There was no ceremony, no dancers, no tweets, but British Columbia would never be the same. By Rod Mickleburgh Watching the joyous, almost giddy swearing-in of the province’s new premier and his gender-balanced cabinet, I couldn’t help thinking of BC’s very first transition of power to the NDP, so long ago the Vancouver Sun had two full-time labour reporters. That historic ground-breaker took place way back in 1972, or five years before David Eby, the province’s new Attorney General, was born. July 18 was only the third such right-to-left tilt in BC history. Of course, that’s three more than the zero ...

There Is Power in a Union Movie

Movies: Top Ten Movies About Labour Issues In a world where the salaried worker is becoming an endangered species and the income gap is now the Grand Canyon, the only place to find solace may be on the silver screen -- where workers of the world can still win By Rod Mickleburgh (September 4, 2017) I had fun doing this a few years ago, compiling a list of my top ten films for Labour Day viewing. This was in 2014, when BC teachers, instead of heading back to school, were still on strike from the previous June. They would have several more weeks to go, before the longest province-wide teachers strike in BC history was over. And, just like in some of these movies, there was a happy ending. Last November, the teachers won a resounding victory in the Supreme Court of Canada, restoring classroom limits and other staffing measures the BC Liberals (remember them?) had illegally stripped from their contracts way back in 2002 (Jean Chretien was still Prime Minister!) The result has been the ...

Right to Left: Watching the Political Pendulum Swing

Politics: Looking back at the first BC NDP victory in 1972 Rod Mickleburgh remembers the day the "socialist hordes" stormed the gates of Government House and Dave Barrett took the oath of office. There was no ceremony, no dancers, no tweets, but British Columbia would never be the same. By Rod Mickleburgh Watching the joyous, almost giddy swearing-in of the province’s new premier and his gender-balanced cabinet, I couldn’t help thinking of BC’s very first transition of power to the NDP, so long ago the Vancouver Sun had two full-time labour reporters. That historic ground-breaker took place way back in 1972, or five years before David Eby, the province’s new Attorney General, was born. July 18 was only the third such right-to-left tilt in BC history. Of course, that’s three more than the zero Stanley Cups won by the hapless Canucks, and just enough to keep politics interesting and a semblance of two-party democracy alive in BC’s polarized environment. No wonder John ...

Helena Guttridge, Mayor Gregor and Auntie Irene

People: Irene Howard, History Is Her Story Mayor's tribute to Vancouver's first female councillor strikes a personal note for Rod Mickleburgh, who in turn honours a chronicler he calls 'Auntie Irene' By Rod Mickleburgh (May 17, 2017) - At the age of 70, my beloved Auntie Irene, under her scholastic name of Irene Howard, published her definitive biography of Helena Gutteridge, Vancouver’s first woman “alderman”. Ten years later, when she was 80, she completed her remarkable book Gold Dust On His Shirt, a moving saga of her family’s working class life in the gold mines of British Columbia, feathered with impeccable research of the times. At 90 she published a very fine poem, which is reproduced below. And one morning last month, at the age of 94 and a half, Auntie Irene sat in the front row of chairs arrayed in a room off the main lobby at city hall, looking as elegant and vivacious as anyone who pre-dated Vancouver’s Art Deco municipal masterpiece by 14 years ...

John Madden hits home with Miss Sloan

Interview: John Madden on Miss Sloane The director of Shakespeare in Love says casting Jessica Chastain as a shrewd, morally ambiguous D.C. lobbyist was the best way to expose the ugliness of modern politics   By Katherine Monk WHISTLER, BC – John Madden doesn’t want to get bogged down by the F-word: Feminism has so much ancillary luggage, too many awkward hard edges to cram into the narrative anchovy tin called a feature film. Yet, Miss Sloane, the latest film from the Academy Award-nominated director of Shakespeare in Love points a laser beam at the modern female experience. A D.C.-set (Toronto-shot) thriller starring Jessica Chastain as the title character, Miss Sloane offers a close-up view of the lobbyist’s reality. Watching from a slightly distanced perspective, the viewer picks up the trail of professional lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane just as she embarks on a career move that will change her life forever. Madden was reluctant to give away too many details about his ...

The Day the Unions died – almost

Labour History: Social Credit's lasting debit What happens when an economically strapped general public elect a right-wing proponent of 'restraint'? Human rights, employment standards and social services get steamrolled by arrogance masquerading as fiscal austerity By Rod Mickleburgh Thirty-three years ago, the newly-relected Social Credit government of Bill Bennett brought down the most dramatic, yay outlandish, budget and “restraint” package in B.C. history. What happened next is detailed here in an essay I wrote a year or so ago. On July 7, 1983, Bill Bennett and his Social Credit government, freshly elected to a third successive term in office, unleashed a revolution in British Columbia. This was a revolution from the right. Fueled by the radical conservatism of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman’s economic neo-liberalism, the Socreds took aim at all those elements in society they had never liked. With no advance notice, a total of 26 repressive ...

Is it too late to say sorry for Komagata Maru?

News: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes for racism Though many know the outline of an ugly chapter in Canadian history, the truth of the Komagata Maru is both an indictment of institutional prejudice, and a testament to the strength and pride of the passengers aboard the infamous vessel By Rod Mickleburgh At long last, a formal apology is being delivered in the House of Commons for Canada’s racist behaviour in its shameful treatment of Sikh passengers aboard the Komagata Maru who had the effrontery to seek immigration to the West Coast more than a hundred years ago. Not only were they denied entry, they were subjected to two months of exceptionally inhumane treatment by unflinching immigration officers. While many now know the basics of the ill-fated voyage, the story has many elements that are less well known. To fill in the gaps, we can look to Hugh Johnston and his definitive book, The Voyage of the Komagata Maru. Just days before the outbreak of World War ...

Feeling the Vancouver Bern

Rod Mickleburgh: Bernie Sanders in Vancouver, Washington Tilting at the windmills of politics called Super PACs, Bernie Sanders seems perfectly comfortable playing the modern equivalent of Don Quixote By Rod Mickleburgh VANCOUVER, WASH. -- The 74-year old, white-haired politician advanced to the podium, and the roof nearly came off the Hudson’s Bay High School gymnasium. No wonder. For nearly four hours, thousands of us had been standing in line, braving a cold, miserable rain, without even knowing whether we would be among the 5,000 or so lucky enough to make it inside. Our little group, friends after sharing the miserable ordeal outside, scraped through by the skin of our chattering teeth, but the doors soon closed on thousands more. As the cheers continued to cascade down from the packed, rickety benches of the high school gym, Bernie Sanders leaned forward and shouted in his hoarse, Brooklynese. “All I can say is: WHOA!” The roar got louder. “It sounds to me like ...

Trump Stumbles Right On

Politics: Feeling Blue in a Red State As Republican rallies descend into racist violence and rhetorical chaos, right-wing talk-radio's angry baby of anti-government sentiment comes of age carrying a verbal assault weapon and a whole lot of attitude By Carla McClain OK, boys and girls, time to cut to the chase. Time to figure out why a once-functional nation like the United States of America is about to nominate for its President -- arguably the most powerful political office in the world -- a bloviating birther braggadocio blowhard, aka Donald J. Trump. How did we get here? What in the name of God has happened to us? That’s not hard to figure out.... Welcome to the fruits of twenty-five years of the highly effective brainwashing of a good chunk of the American people -- OK, let’s say it, the weak-minded sheeple among us, and there are lots of those throughout the human species --  by right-wing talk-radio. I happen to know how this got done because I -- unlike ...