Friday, June 29, 2012



B.C. government ends kids' science program

A popular program that brought science learning to hundreds of thousands of children across the province will come to an end after Premier Christy Clark's BC Liberal government stopped its funding.
The chair of Science World's board of directors said Thurs-day his organization will no longer be able to run the BC Program for the Awareness and Learning of Science (BC PALS), which included a series of educational science programs in communities across the province.

"Science World [would] roll up in a truck and it [would] take its hands-on, highly visual and entertaining form of science learning to kids that just don't get to experience that," said Andrew Harries.

"Why it's so important is we are of the view that graduates in science, technology, engineering and math are the natural resources of the future," he added.

"Any government that doesn't recognize that is shortchanging its society."

Over the past seven years, organizers say, the program has reached an annual aver-age of 190,000 people in communities such as Dease Lake, Haida Gwaii and Invermere.

The program also allowed free field trips to Vancouver's Telus World of Science for kids in kindergarten through Grade 7. It also included career networking events, allowing high school students to learn more about careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Harries said money from Science World's gate receipts and donors helped to fund the PALS program, but "those funds are certainly inadequate to run the program without the government contribution."

Provincial funding for the BC PALS program began in 2005, when the Ministry of Education gave Science World a $5-million grant over five years.

Funding was extended during the province's Year of Science in 2010-11 and then again last year when the province contributed $1 million toward BC PALS.

But this year, Education Minister George Abbott told Science World there was no money to renew the funding.

Grahame Rainey, president of the BC Science Teachers Association, said PALS was a very effective way to get kids interested in science.

New Democratic Party education critic Robin Austin called the decision "dreadful."



Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Excellent column ... and well-expressed on your part (as usual!) ... what's intriguing is InSite's total unwillingness to allow an independent assessment of the operation or to get into any kind of fact-based debate. For example, my wife was co-chair this year of the Governor-General's Leadership Study Tour (BC portion): it's a group of future leaders from across the country -- and from all sectors, labor, business, public service, inter alia -- who spend 2 weeks travelling and learning as much as possible about issues in various communities.
Inevitably, the Downtown East Side was a big part of their stay in Vancouver, so InSite and the Carnegie Centre were on the itinerary; but because Amelia also works with me at Gospel Mission, she included a visit to the Mission and, in particular, The Lord's Rain (our facility that provides showers every morning), as well.
Hmm ... that reads like she included it out of self-interest. Not at all: she wanted to show the participants a positive story to balance the negative stuff they invariably hear about the DTES. (I blogged about it --, and Amelia provided a follow-up to "the guys" -- i.e. the people who come to the Mission:
But here's the point I'm getting to: the tour participants were not permitted to talk to the actual people who use InSite due to "regulations" -- they could only talk to the staff. I visited Freedom's Door in Kelowna, which is a recovery house for some of the worst-asses you'd ever not want to meet in a dark alley, and the pastor there -- who beat drugs and did time in prison himself -- agrees that the ONLY solution to addiction is complete abstinence, and tough love to go with it. A local deep thinker who supports harm reduction recently refused to debate Nick at a public forum, saying "he'd heard enough from him already". (Indeed, I mentioned harm reduction when I met with some of the residents at the house, and a general shudder went around the table.)
And let me lay something else on you: God is on the side of those who believe in harm elimination as opposed to harm reduction, and He proves it with such things as you getting your voice out there. I've seen Him bless places like Recovery House and Anchor House in Brooklyn with success in turning lives around, and I've seen Him bless Gospel Mission by keeping the place going in spite of the odds. It doesn't matter what opinion polls, courtrooms packed with rent-a-mob supporters or "peer-reviewed" studies say*, as Graham Cooke says, "one person, plus God, is always the majority."
Or, in the words of the noted philosopher, Opus the Penguin, "if two million people do a silly thing, it is still a silly thing".
* One more thing: doesn't "peer" mean "someone of the same ilk"? So if the study is written by a high-minded, self-serving lintbrain, doesn't it mean that the peer review is also done by high-minded, self-serving lintbrains?

Let's not get hung up on "finding ourselves". If we seek God and love others, "finding ourselves" becomes (a) unimportant and (b) unavoidable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


McMartin: Can David Berner reduce harm reduction?


Columnist Pete McMartin

Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

David Berner is 69, and still swimming upstream.

One of these days, the current may turn in his favour.

It hasn’t yet. It won’t soon. But Berner, whose resumé includes actor, talk show host and drug addiction counsellor, has never wavered from his belief:

He is vehemently against the prevailing practice of harm reduction.

Not only does he not see it reducing harm, he believes it encourages and nourishes drug addiction.

“There’s a giant emperor’s new clothes,” Berner said, “and it’s called ‘harm reduction.’ And it not only has political sway these days, it’s pretty well the accepted wisdom of our time. It’s taught in universities, and governments all over the world sing to this tune.

“So needle exchanges, Insite, free crack pipe kits, shot glasses of whiskey to so-called chronic alcoholics ... those kinds of things are anathema to us.”

“Us” is the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, of which Berner is executive director. The Network was founded in 2006 by former B.C. Conservative MP Randy White, whose own brand of politics was famously incendiary. One of his more notable utterances — “to heck with the courts,” his solution to overturning same-sex marriage law — has been cited as one of the reasons the Conservatives lost the 2004 federal election.

Berner came to his views on drugs through more liberal and practical routes. He was with the Company of Young Canadians in the 1960s when he founded the X-Kalay Foundation Society, a residential treatment centre for addicts and alcoholics.

Berner was 24.

“They [the CYC] put up no money other than giving me $235 a month as a salary. Me and two aboriginal guys from the B.C. Pen put $130 of our own money on a table and rented a house at Fifth and Macdonald. We had no idea what we were doing and just through accident and hard work and the tenor of the times it took off. And four years later, there were 125 people in residence. And then we duplicated it in Manitoba.” [The Manitoba chapter has since been renamed the Behavioural Health Foundation, and is still in operation.]

Berner’s treatment philosophy, formed through trial and error, was one of tough love. Violence was not tolerated. Drugs were not tolerated. Backsliding was not tolerated. Break any of the rules and you were gone.

“When I started doing this work, I would say there was more of a sense of containment here. But in 1967, there were very few options for an addict. You could continue to do heroin. You could OD. You could go to prison.”

But about 30 years ago, Berner said, there was a sea change in sociology. A dark side to the expansion of civil liberties began to be felt.

“Suddenly, it was not only okay for people to live lives of misery, but there were people who said, ‘We’re going to help you.’

“Now, for addicts, for people who are lousy at choice-making, there are thousands of choices. There are dozens and dozens of recovery centres, of detox centres, Insite, needle exchanges. Everybody and their aunt are trying to help you.”

And while harm reductionists would claim that the services they provide are humanitarian and meant to save lives, Berner said, they don’t question the consequences.

“They say, ‘I’m going to give you a clean place to shoot up, but I’m not going to ask you where you got your drugs, or how you got the money to pay for your drugs or what you’re going to do after you’ve shot up here.’ And what they do after they’ve shot up is break into your car to feed their habit.”

The result, Berner said, is that they ultimately harm everyone — themselves, since they remain addicted and continue to live in misery, the people and family members around them, and society at large, since they feed crime while draining away valuable government resources.

And the proof of this futility, to Berner, is the Downtown Eastside. Hundreds of social welfare agencies and hundreds of millions of dollars have failed to eradicate or even lessen the problems of addiction.
Yet politicians and academics, Berner said, continue to be seduced by the arguments for harm reduction “because it sounds clever and smart.” Those politicians and academics, though, he said, haven’t been grounded in the dirty practicalities of addiction.

“There will never be enough for addicts because addicts always want more. So the question is, do we put our resources into harm reduction or do we put our resources to help people get clean?
“The first thing I would do if I was elected mayor? I would stop the flow of a million dollars a day to the hundreds of social welfare agencies. I would just stop it.

“The second thing I would do is, I would not have people asking, ‘Can I give you a clean needle?’ but I would have people going down there and saying, ‘Let’s get you clean. Let’s leave this life behind.’

“But the context now is, harm reduction has become so pervasive a reality, it’s really part of the culture now.

“But it’s a big giving-up. It’s a big shrug of the shoulders.”


Let's see now.

Our "Families First" Premier has a department that tries to close group homes and cut services to people with developmental disabilities.

That little riot gets exposed.

A few months later, the Good Leader's Social Development Minister, Stephanie Cadieux, (that's her in the wheelchair) awards the executives responsible for these cruel outrages a major pay boost - about 10% - in an economy that is dead flat, if not rushing completely downhill.

How do any of these folks - the Preem, Her Minister of Social Undevelopment and the overpaid mandarins - sleep at night?

I used to ask of people like this...what gulag are we in?

Now, I might ask...exactly where in Africa are we?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

AS I WAS SAYING...Thanks, Mo!


No longer can life be considered brutal and short.

There is clear evidence of a loving God.

So many have been feeling disenfranchised, powerless. Nobody listens.

And so it has seemed for so long.

But now, a kind and thoughtful deity has given us this.

Better yet, event this.

Will the Blessings never cease?

Now, melancholy and separation are forever vanished.

"I'm gtng a pepC. U?"

Forget drugs. Every teenage girl in the Western world is addicted, attached and enthralled. And so are her mother and her sister and her aunt and even a few million alleged guys.

Not since the Coca-Cola has there been such a successful marketing campaign.

Playing directly into every sorry sap's urgent need to be needed, this clever toy - the hand-held computer-phone-camera - is now issued at birth.

As we speak, some clever sod, toiling in a suburban garage in Sherman Oaks no doubt, is perfecting the gun feature to make this instrument complete and perfect.

Imagine being a teacher in a classroom today! Yikes! I take back every harsh word I have uttered about the BCTF. Teachers are my new heroes. Who in his or her right mind would dare interrupt the flow of creativity from one of his or her charges who are supposed to be studying mathematics.

And speaking of flow...Have you noticed how texters can walk through rush hour traffic without harm.

Just more evidence of Divine Attention, I say.

Friday, June 15, 2012


It's been a year since the Stanley Cup riot and, despite its laid-back reputation, Vancouver still seems like such an angry city. If people aren't angry about bike lanes, they're angry about roads, cars, motorcycles with loud pipes, the June weather, the economy, oil tankers, housing prices, Asian investors, the rich, the homeless, store clerks, Gregor Robertson ... especially the bike lanes.

 Just ask businessman Rob Macdonald, who was campaign fundraising chairman for former Vancouver councillor Suzanne Anton, beaten soundly by Robertson in last fall's mayoralty election. Macdonald, a big supporter of cycling in B.C., says the downtown folks he talks to are very angry with the way the bicycle lanes have been introduced and the harmful impact they're having on downtown Vancouver.

"There's unhappiness with the civic government," Macdonald said "And then, of course, there's a feeling of impending doom for the downtown business community of the NDP, the socialists, taking over again."
Indeed, he himself gets angrier by the minute as he talks about the poor design of the bike lanes, their lack of safety and the serious accidents he says they've caused: "The City of Vancouver should be charged with f------ manslaughter."

So should this newspaper columnist, according to those who take issue with my mildly expressed opinion on the possible risks of marijuana smoking and use it to indulge in an orgy of name-calling. Forget mellow yellow, Vancouver has to have the world's angriest pot smokers ... in addition to its angriest hockey fans.

 We in Terminal City love to make mountains out of molehills. We're the Charlie Sheen, if not Mel Gibson, of anger management ... or lack of it.

Veteran Vancouver broadcaster David Berner points out that Vancouver is a divided city. Every day, he says, he meets people who are very sweet and kind. And every day, whether as a pedestrian or a driver, he meets people who are simply "deranged."

 Berner told me he used to joke on the radio that Vancouver is the only city that sells new cars without turn signals:

 "I mean, people are so unkind. I've actually had people drive almost over me, and then give me the finger for daring to walk across ... at marked intersections." 

 The reason for this anger, he added, is that Vancouver has an adolescent culture: "This is not Venice or Paris where people are used to having a glass of wine. This is still a frontier town where every 70-year-old wants to wear designer blue jeans." I completely agree, especially about the blue jeans. 

Sports writer Jim Taylor, though, says Vancouverites have every right to be angry about last year's riot: "You'd have to be brain-dead not to be angry about that."

 And Tourism Vancouver boss Rick Antonson insists that Vancouver is a passionate and spirited city, not an angry one. "The last thing you'd want to be is a robot city," he added. Antonson is absolutely right. A bunch of angry robots is the last thing we need to have to worry — or get angry — about.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Housing activists stalk a 'gentrifier' at his West Van home

On the premise that a man's home is his castle, a group of "housing activists" - whatever that means - swarmed out of the Downtown Eastside Monday night, crossed the other side of the tracks and invaded West Vancouver, where a man's castle is his home.

They then laid siege to developer Steven Lippman. They picketed his place and, according to The Sun's story, were "brandishing signs and pitching tents nearby."

Pitched tents? In West Vancouver? Canada's toniest municipality hadn't seen such civil disobedience since 2006, when angry residents railed against the construction of the Eagleridge Bluffs bypass, while lunching on brie and lattes.

Lippman's crime? He buys rundown properties in the Downtown Eastside and fixes them up. He does this with the intent of making a profit. Imagine. Most recently, this includes the expected purchase of the single-room occupancy Wonder and Palace hotels, the court-ordered sales of which are scheduled in B.C. Supreme Court today.

Fighting this sale is an organization called the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council. The council, the storied history of which goes all the way back to, oh, 2010, branded Lippman as "a notorious gentrifier," and believes the 72 rooms of the Wonder and Palace hotels will be renovated, and then have their rents raised beyond the means of welfare recipients and senior citizens on government pension. Thus, the Council's following call to action:

"Come embarrass Lippman on his own turf," the council's website urged, "and call for him to cancel his plans to buy the Wonder and Palace hotels with a family friendly picket line in front of his swanky West Van home. Tell him that these hotels are 72 peoples [sic] homes, not investment properties!"
Aside from the hilarious detail of a "family friendly picket line" (kids get arrested free!) and the use of the word "swanky," which I believe was last uttered in a Bowery Boys movie, I was most struck by the assumption that these hotels, by virtue of their hyper-politicized location, were exempt from the usual rules of capitalism. They're not investment properties! They're Downtown Eastside homes! And Downtown Eastside homes are never for sale, unless, of course, the government buys them for social housing. And then it's okay.

But it's not okay any more. Decades of social experimentation have only perpetuated the Downtown Eastside's problems, not solved them. Its concentration of social housing has created a ghetto, not a neighbourhood.

And there are signs that the people who live there and want it to be a true neighbourhood have had it up to here.

Last year, the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, the Ray-Cam Community Association and the Inner City Safety Society compiled a report entitled Vancouver's Downtown Eastside: A Com-munity in Need of Balance. In essence, it suggests that the hundreds of millions of tax dollars the social welfare system pumps into their neighbour-hood is not only not the solution, it may be the problem.
"Maintaining the Downtown Eastside as a high or special needs social housing enclave," it states, "will not help to stabilize either the community or the city as a whole. The term 'vulnerability' now describes not only a majority of community residents but also the neighbourhood itself. Continued expansion or concentration of vulnerable individuals into already adverse social conditions will lead to neither their safety and health nor that of the neighbourhood.

"The vast majority of social housing units - both those newly built and renovated - have been targeted to the highest risk, street-involved individuals and have deliberately excluded others within the low-income population who face fewer obvious challenges, seriously unbalancing what was a stable albeit poor neighbourhood."

In other words, enough already. The Downtown East-side has its problems, yes, but efforts to solve those problems have been targeted overwhelmingly at high-risk individuals. And when government does that, it doesn't result in fewer high-risk individuals, it results in more. Government policies in the Downtown Eastside have been a magnet for them, to the point where they have over-whelmed the neighbourhood's ability to deal with them.

"Area families, seniors, working people, schools, community centres and business argue that no neighbourhood can remain healthy when populated by an over-abundance of high-risk or high-impact individuals. These individuals also fail to receive the support they need in a community where capacity is already compromised and over-whelmed by existing needs."

There needs to be more private investment in the Down-town Eastside, not less. There needs to be less social housing in the Downtown Eastside, not more. And if there is a growing need for social housing in the future, the rest of Metro Vancouver should do its duty and shoulder its fair share.

May I suggest West Vancouver might be a good place to start?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The End of Books?


Let me join the throngs of outraged West Coasters who have properly decried the nutty little mandarin decision to close the Kitsilano coast guard station.

Now we have the embarrassing sight of a Maple Ridge MP making a public spectacle of himself by defending this idiocy. Like they've got lots of oceans in Maple Ridge...

The man's name is Randy Kamp, and I hope he's got a back-up plan for after the next election.