I signed my first customer copy of my new book–and first short story collection–on the BC Ferry this week, committing an illicit act in the process. I was finishing my waffles in the ship’s cafeteria when a Mayne Islander appeared, holding a bright blue copy of ON ISLAND: Life Among the Coast Dwellers and sat down opposite me. ” I bought it in the gift shop and I would like you to sign it” He pushed it across the table along with a ball point pen.”It’s in the BC book section.”
My first sale! What a thrill!
After signing his book, I gulped my coffee and headed for the gift shop, encountering the Chief Steward enroute. “Oh that’s too bad, ” she said. “The gift store just closed.” ( The gift store opens and closes depending on staff, number of passengers, route, crew meal breaks. Worse than ferry washrooms).
When I explained I want to see ON ISLAND on the shelf, the Chief steward tucked my arm firmly under hers–the ship was tippy–and marched me to the gift shop. When she unlocked the metal doors and swung them open, I headed for the BC book section.
I looked up at the top shelf. There was a book on 100 years of beer labels, The Whale that Changed the World. But no ON ISLAND.I looked at the middle shelf, at eye level, the preferred one. A book about planting trees, an aboriginal book, but not my book. I looked on the lower shelf, and there it was, tucked in the corner. It was hard to see, despite its bright blue cover.
In front of me, on the middle shelf, at eye level, I spotted a new David Suzuki book. I know David. Everybody knows David Suzuki. He wouldn’t mind. So when the Chief Steward’s back was turned, I carefully switched the books, moving my ON ISLAND up to the middle shelf and the Suzuki one down below.
Satisfied, I joined the Steward as she locked up and walked me back to the elevator as the ship approached the dock. I hope David forgives me!
POLITICKING: Power of the Vote.
The power of the people’s vote is the biggest single force in global politics today–and is at risk of being taken away by elites fearful of the will of the people. That was my Convocation message to Memorial University graduates in St John’s, NL where I received an honourary doctorate of laws degree for my role in negotiating the original Atlantic Accord, which gave offshore oil and gas royalties to the province in l985.
I cited Brexit, the British vote to leave the European Union, the 2000 US presidential election where Republican George W Bush defeated Democrat Al Gore by one electoral vote (one Gore electoral voter abstained), the near veto by the small Belgium region of Wallonia which threatened the Canada-Europe trade agreement, the rejection by Colombian voters of President Santo’s deal with the rebels to end civil war. The power of a vote.
So look for “people power” to be diluted in the future. Example is Prime Minister Trudeau’s plan to replace our current federal electoral system with alternatives that favour his Liberal government. Plus attacks by the self-styled elites, like University of Waterloo professor Bessma Momani in the Globe and Mail who wants to save Bank of England Governor Mark Carney from “the tide of populism sweeping the western world.” She writes:” His rightful place is in a country and government not besieged by a populist surge – in Canada’s Liberal cabinet.”
You read it here first!
Opinion: Three women of different political stripes gather on Saturna Island to talk electoral reform
When I opened the door of my Saturna Island home earlier this fall, I found a petite young woman wearing black stretch jeans, boots and a jacket standing in my leaf-littered carport. Startled, I recognized Maryam Monsef, the 31-year-old Afghan refugee who is now Canada’s Minister for Democratic Institutions, responsible for changing how Canadians choose their MP’s before the next federal election.
I knew that Green Party MP Elizabeth May was bringing Liberal Minister Monsef to our island for a community hall potluck to discuss electoral reform and I was invited. But I did not expect to see the minister herself, a rookie MP elected in 2015, at the door.
Parked under the Arbutus tree in my driveway was Saturna’s Salacious Chartreuse Shuttle, a green minivan paid for by the Lions’ Club to drive VIP’s around our island, which has no public transport. May huddled in the back row with the minister’s policy adviser Chris Evelyn. Minister Monsef hopped into the front seat beside our driver, Saturna Heritage Centre president Richard Blagborne. I climbed into the middle seat.
We set off in the hideous green van through the fir and arbutus forests to visit East Point Lighthouse, which is a heritage site in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. There were no police, and the park warden was off-island. Our only escort was a widowed wild turkey who scampers endlessly over the gravel roads looking for her lost mate.
During the trip I asked Monsef about her only previous political experience, running for mayor of Peterborough after she graduated from Trent University. “I was a nuisance candidate,” she told me, then looked to a deer on the side of the road.
Across the Salish Sea, snow-topped mountains on the mainland glistened in the sun. The heritage centre’s log recorded two pods of orcas had swum by earlier. The minister ran to the cliff side to watch a porpoise surf the waves and a large sea lion splash below.
When we arrived at the community hall the potluck was in progress. Tables were loaded with wild salmon, potato and pasta salads, brownies and ripe pears picked from island trees. Monsef filled her plate and sat down. When we finished, the tables were removed and stacked by volunteers and replaced with wooden chairs for the main event.
There were about 80 people at the community meeting, many of them off-islanders who had come by ferry from other gulf islands. Elizabeth May gave her regular parliamentary report. We are fond of our MP (Saanich – Gulf Islands) regardless of our political preferences.
May introduced Monsef, who looked like an small exotic bird in her black jeans and boots. She told the audience what she had learned about our island, including Moby Dick, the whale that change the world’s view of orcas, adding, “Now I want to hear from you on electoral reform.” She sat down in the front row and took out her notebook.
A member of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, May outlined the committee’s schedule: public meetings this fall in all provinces and territories, then committee meetings in Ottawa. The committee is on a fast track to report in December, so new legislation can be introduced in the spring of 2017 and in be place by the next federal election in 2019.
May mentioned the various electoral systems being assessed – proportional representation, alternative vote, single transferable vote – but she did not describe them. “I am open-minded. Except in principle any change has to be proportional,” she said.
She then asked: “How many here favour proportional representation?”
Hands shot up from the audience.
“How many favour STV?” asked May. Other hands shot up.
She did not ask for a show of hands for the current first-past-the-post system.
May told an inquiring student that she didn’t think there was a need for an electoral system referendum. “But some of you do,” she added.
She discussed voting systems in Ireland, New Zealand, Brazil and Italy.
“Scotland has different voting systems for different elections,” she said.
“I don’t care a f — k what Scotland does,” muttered the woman next to me. ” I want to know what works for Canada.”
It was my turn to speak: “Canada has one of the most accessible electoral systems in the world,” I said. “Any Canadian citizen who is 21 with no criminal record can run for federal office.”
In 1980, I was the first Conservative woman elected in B.C., as MP for Vancouver Centre. My successor, Tory MP Kim Campbell, became Canada’s first woman Prime Minister.
And financially, anyone can afford to run, I added. “Once the election is called, spending by federal candidates is strictly limited. MP’s who overspend can — and do — face jail.”
Minister Monsef looked up from her notebook. The predecessor in her riding, former Tory MP Dean Del Mastro was convicted of overspending under Canada’s election laws in 2014.
When we finished the night ferry was in the channel. Saturna residents offered beds to off-islanders who couldn’t get home. The minister, the MP and I posed for a photo.
“Why did you describe yourself as a nuisance candidate when you ran for mayor?” I asked Monsef, as we all linked arms. “Because my opponent was a white guy, from a privileged family, who had never ridden a bus, lived in poverty, or paid off a student loan,” she said. “I wanted to make a point.”
She came within 1,500 votes of winning in the hometown of the ultimate WASP, the late Canadian novelist Robertson Davies.
It was now dark. The minister, the MP and their two aides walked down to the island water taxi. No security, no RCMP. Monsef was off to visit Skeena in northern B.C. and May to her home in her riding.
Later that evening I answered another knock on my door. A Green Party volunteer handed me a bundle of soiled table cloths from the political potluck to launder. The Greens all had solar power and didn’t have dryers, he explained. A Red Tory, I did.
Stuffing the potluck laundry into my washer, I thought of the two women MP’s sailing under the stars to safe harbour. Only in Canada. Ours to preserve and protect.
Pat Carney is a former Canadian Senator, Cabinet Minister and journalist.
CANADA DAY July 1 2016 Hon Pat Carney PC CM
Welcome to Saturna Island’s Canada Day lamb barbeque, as we celebrate the 149th birthday of our beloved country. Next year we will mark our Bicentennial, the 150th anniversary of our Confederation, with festivals and fireworks.
But for British Columbians this year, 2016, is especially important, because it marks the 150th anniversary of the creation of British Columbia from two British colonies in 1866.The union which created our proud province was a messy affair, riddled with distrust, intrigue, and downright dirty deeds. What’s changed?
The colony of Vancouver Island was created by Britain in 1849. The first governor Richard Blanshard was the only colonist. He was paid no salary, had no headquarters, police or jail. He lived on his ship. Britain rented the colony–the entire Vancouver Island– to The Hudson’s Bay Company for seven shillings a year. ( about $ 65….) Where were our real estate flippers when we needed them? Not surprisingly, the new colony had financial problems.
The mainland colony of British Columbia was established nine years later, including the fur trading regions of New Caledonia, with New Westminster as its capital. The two were reluctantly united by Britain in1866 to save money.
When the new House of Assembly voted to choose whether Victoria or New Westminster would be the new capital, chaos reigned. The member supporting Victoria popped the lenses from the spectacles of the member supporting New Westminster so he couldn’t read his speech. The Speaker, who was from Victoria, called for the vote, despite the resulting uproar. As we know, Victoria won.
As we mark the 150th anniversary of our province, we have come full circle. A bid to make Vancouver Island a separate Canadian province has been proposed by a new political party. If it succeeds, we can return our capital to its rightful place: Prince George!
On that note, lets join with our Saturna Singers to sing O Canada, our home and native land to celebrate our country’s birthday.
The new Conservatives: fun, fashion and fiscal responsibility
By Pat Carney
I went to the Conservative convention in Vancouver this past weekend seeking clues to the party’s future. Red or blue? Code words for a party historically split between progressives and social conservatives.
Instead, I found the party faithful celebrating a new brand of fun, fashion and fiscal responsibility – not normally associated with Conservative values under Brian Mulroney or Stephen Harper.
It was a relaxed, family-friendly affair enjoyed by 3,000 engaged delegates who apparently weren’t mad at anybody.
No recriminations about the loss of the federal election seven months ago. No distancing by party leaders of the sour politics of the Harper era. Few attacks (except by Kevin O’Leary) of the debt-bloated Liberal agenda.
Now a lapsed party member, I am a veteran of Tory conventions. As an MP, I co-chaired the leadership review of Joe Clark and the subsequent leadership convention that elected Mr. Mulroney in 1983. Our election team was too busy kneecapping John Crosbie’s Newfoundland roughies and Brian Mulroney’s Quebec ruffians, jostling for leadership, to have fun, fun, fun.
In 2004, friend and former cabinet colleague Barbara McDougall and I enjoyed mani-pedicures in her Toronto apartment before attending the newly created Conservative Party of Canada convention to wave placards and chant “BelinDA, BelinDA” because, as we told successful leadership candidate Stephen Harper, if women didn’t vote for leadership contender Belinda Stronach, who would?
At last weekend’s convention, interim leader Rona Ambrose headlined the “Back to Blue” plenary session wearing a white jacket and shirt, slim-legged black leather pants and long dangling earrings. She walked on stage in open-toed strapped sandals with spike heels, exposing red-painted toenails. Top that, Justin.
We won’t be chanting “RonA, RonA” at the 2017 Conservative leadership convention because as interim leader Ms. Ambrose can’t run to replace Mr. Harper.
Her partner, J.P. Veitch, whom Ms. Ambrose introduced as a former bull rider, made a fleeting appearance on stage with his hands in his pockets, wearing a “Stornoway Pool Boy” T-shirt, although Ms. Ambrose, tossing her beautiful mane of hair, acknowledged there was no swimming pool at the Opposition Leader’s official residence.
Jason Kenney, wearing an open-necked shirt, made his opening remarks in French. Check him as a candidate for leader. Mr. O’Leary, who told delegates he is officially a party member, is clearly running for finance minister.
The “Back to Blue” session was very inclusive, from the superb Asian drummers who opened the event to speakers championing everything from energy pipelines to the rights of hunters and anglers wielding long guns and fishing rods who argued “to love the earth, conserve habitat.”
There was little discussion of the burning matters of the day except for the issue of jobs, jobs, jobs and the need for conservative values in government.
Former federal minister and Blue Tory Stockwell Day, wearing a pink tie, acknowledged that he received a stipend for his occasional appearances on CBC Television talk shows. Delegates didn’t boo. They laughed.
The event was staged to present both declared and possible leadership contenders through adroit questions.
Asked what things the audience didn’t know about them, Ontario’s Kellie Leitch, wearing a trim black-and-white dress and taupe pumps, revealed she plays the saxophone. Quebec’s Maxime Bernier declared he runs marathons, recently for a food bank in his riding. Michael Chong reported that his first language is Dutch (his mother is Dutch, his father Chinese).
Asked where Parliament should be moved if the debt-ridden Liberals had to mortgage the Hill, Ontario MP Lisa Raitt, goddess-like in her long sheath and tasselled high-heeled sandals, lobbied for her Cape Breton childhood home.
New ideas from MPs included a video performance featuring “rap debates,” Facebook tutorials, and a program called FRESH (an acronym for the party’s founding principles: rights of the individual, environmental values, social responsibility and health care).
The party’s future may depend on who is elected leader in 2017. In the meantime, I may renew my Conservative Party membership. Finally, being a Conservative may be fun!
Trudeau’s actions in the House hurt the institution itself
By Pat Carney
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Pat Carney is an author, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister and senator. She lives on Saturna Island in British Columbia.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s unprecedented manhandling of Conservative MP Gordon Brown on the floor of the House of Commons is a slap across the face of every parliamentarian and a blow to the institution itself.
His bully-boy tactics strip away the protective shield that Parliament historically has given every MP and senator to speak and act freely, without fear of physical retribution on issues, often emotional, that affect every Canadian.
And what could be more emotional than a government motion to limit debate and push through Bill C-14, which seeks to legislate assisted dying?
As a former parliamentarian of 27 years, serving as an MP, minister and senator, I have been verbally threatened, dumped from parliamentary committees and tongue-lashed in public and private for my views and votes by my political masters, as the record shows.
In 1991, I was the first Conservative senator to stand in my seat, threats ringing in my ears, and vote against my own government’s flawed abortion bill, triggering some Tory senators to vote no as well. Bill 43 was defeated by a tie vote, the first legislation to be defeated in the Senate in 30 years.
But I have never been physically accosted the way Mr. Brown, the Conservative whip, and NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau were. Nor have any of my colleagues during my time in Parliament.
Consider those parliamentary rules. MPs and senators must address the speaker, not another member or senator, when speaking in the Commons or Senate chambers. That rule was introduced to limit direct confrontation between politicians on either side of the chamber. Similarly, MPs and senators cannot accuse each of lying during parliamentary debate.
They cannot use swear words, although Trudeau Junior has upgraded Trudeau Senior’s famous “fuddle duddle” to the F-word itself, according to MPs who overheard him.
Consider the Prime Minister’s actions, as captured on official video cameras. He rose from his seat after the bells rang for a vote, crossed the floor separating the government and opposition benches, grabbed Mr. Brown by the arm and, using physical force, trundled him down toward his seat.
In the process, his elbow struck Ms. Brosseau in the chest so hard that she left the chamber to recover.
Speaker Geoff Regan intervened by admonishing primly that “manhandling” another MP is “not appropriate.” The Speaker has the right to eject MPs and senators for “unparliamentary behaviour.” By those standards, he should have ejected the Prime Minister from the chamber.
The Westminster model of parliament inherited by Canada is inherently confrontational. It is the right of the government of the day to propose legislation, and the responsibility of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to oppose those elements they disagree with. Often compromises shape the laws that govern us.
Historian Michael Bliss dismisses the PM’s purposeful action as a temper tantrum. But Parliament is not a place for three-year-olds. His comparison of Mr. Trudeau’s physical tactics on the floor of the House with the actions of other prime ministers outside parliament is irrelevant.
A positive result of the debacle is the withdrawal of the motion to limit debate on doctor-assisted dying. A negative one is the nagging question of Mr. Trudeau’s judgment.
Justin Trudeau has impressed Canadians with his push-ups and pugilistic prowess. It is time to think and act as a prime minister. Respect for Parliament and its procedures would be a start.
I am almost perfect. Don’t take my word for it. That’s the assessment of the cool blonde occupational therapist at the eldercare clinic at St Paul’s Hospital. I am going to the clinic for balance classes to correct my tendency to tip over, given my bionic metal joints, which replaced my arthritic ones.
Don’t get me wrong. I am in great shape, according to my doctor. But I did fall at my Saturna home a while ago. Falls are a senior’s greatest threat, next to losing our driver’s licence. Our island volunteer emergency crew shipped me out by helicopter to nearest hospital.
The doctor thought it was careless of me. “You lost three pints of blood,” he said crossly. “You almost died.” He stalked out. It was 2 a.m. I guess I interrupted his sleep.
When my own doctor checked me out recently, she said I had the heart beat of a 16-year-old. “That’s nice,” I said, tearing up.
“But I am frustrated by my mobility constraints. I am never going to fly to the North Pole again,” referring to my adventures when I was a Vancouver Sun columnist.
It had been a long day. “You don’t want to go to North Pole,” she snapped. That’s true. So she sent me to eldercare instead.
Eldercare is one floor below palliative care at St. Paul’s. Hospital planners think things through. When I met my fellow patients, my first reaction was they were OLD. I am not that old! How did that happen?
One man arrived on a scooter. One dragged an oxygen tank. A woman sallied in sporting a couple of urban poles. Cool, I thought, making a note to buy a pair.
The essence of balance class is to train the body to recover from an incipient fall. We strapped on bumper pads to protect our hips and, holding on to a rail, we practised rising on our toes and rocking back on our heels and swaying from side to side. Then we walked backwards and forwards. Don’t try this at home, I thought.
Our rehabilitation assistant played a Doris Day tape as we rocked, walked and swayed. She didn’t know much Frank Sinatra, but she has a passion for Doris.
We were a congenial group. The man with the scooter said he was diagnosed as MCD. “What’s that?”we asked. “Mild cognitive deficiency,” he replied. “You mean Can’t Remember S–t,” said his colleague. We laughed. Been there, done that.
Enter the occupational therapist, waving forms and a pen. “Would you like to take the cognitive test?” she asked me. I reflected. I know I hid the cat’s medications, but I don’t know why or where. Ah, the visiting toddler. I grabbed a test page, and sat down at a desk.
Well, I was amazing. I connected all the dots and chose apples from oranges, showing my powers of perception and analytical talents. The therapist checked off my answers. I noted the correct time on the clock. Check. I remembered all key words the therapist asked me, and later all the numbers. Check. I can’t balance my cheque book, but I counted backward by the number seven from 100, rattling off 93,86,79,72,65 … until the therapist cried: “That’s enough.”
She drew out another piece of paper. “I want you to write down all the words you can think of that start with the letter F,” she said.
F–k. The F word came instantly to mind. But how could I say it out loud to the young therapist, so cool, so professional?
Instead, I recited: “Ferry, fairy, fare, funny, fudge, figs, furniture, fence, funnel, fuzzy….” I stopped. The therapist frowned.” That is only 10. You should get 11 in that time frame.” “But I really did get 11,” I protested. “I just couldn’t say the F word out loud.”
The therapist made notes. ” Very good. That shows you still retain your powers of inhibition and decision-making.” She carefully wrote down 29/30 as my test mark. “Almost perfect.”
F–k. At least she could have rated me Almost Perfect Plus!
Pat Carney is an author, retired politician and former Vancouver Sun journalist who lives on Saturna Island.
POLITICKING: The refugee crisis engulfing Europe in September 2015 has generated worldwide attention.
Posted below is an exchange of letters dated September 7th and 8th between myself and Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan (2003-2005) before being elected MP in the riding of Ajax-Pickering in 2011.
Minister: I don’t know if this will reac…h you since there is an election underway but I must try. There must be a way for Canada to respond NOW to the refugee tsunami under way in Europe to reduce the suffering of war weary, homeless, desperate people and and bring 100,000 of them to Canada immediately. You have been a bureaucrat and a minister and know there are ways we can act. Canadians know we must. And we have the bureaucratic capacity and the wealth to do so.
Yes, after 27 years in Parliament I know the constraints. But a Prime Minister who responds by saying the answer is bombing the refugees’ homeland is beyond reason. My niece, Canadian journalist Natalie Carney, who lives in Istanbul, has been walking and busing with the refugees in Macedonia and Serbia and her television and radio reports are heartbreaking. Given your experience as our former ambassador in Afghanistan and other trouble spots, you must be feeling the strain. But act from your guts and your heart, not the pollsters and campaign managers. Otherwise the Conservative Government should be swept out of office by a tsunami wave of anger that your government is so unresponsive to a humanitarian crisis of Biblical proportions.
Like so many Canadians, my Irish ancestors came to Canada on the coffin ships to Quebec during the Famine of the 1840’s and were welcomed. My earliest memory is being evacuated down the Whangpoo River from Shanghai during the Japanese Chinese War. Flight to freedom is a unique Canadian experience.Please do what you can to ensure that compassion is still a Canadian value.
Take care, Hon. Pat Carney PC CM
And this is Minister Chris Alexander’s reply:
Thanks for your message, Pat. Our compassion has never wavered. We now have a commitment to resettle 50K Iraqis and Syrians: half of them are already here in Canada.
No other country has made such a large commitment to refugee resettlement.
Remember: Europe is receiving asylum seekers — people who are taking huge risks to cross the Mediterranean.
Our strategy is to take refugees at source — in the neighbouring countries where they have landed in temporary settlements. It is difficult work but we are doing it.
But this conflict will only get worse so long as there is no strategy for defeating ISIS and its terrorist allies.
We do need to do more: we will do more to bring refugees to Canada faster. But standing on the sidelines as these depraved groups try to take over Syria, Iraq and other countries is also not an option. If this flood of humanity is to stop, we have got to stop ISIS.
POLITICKING: The public response to the pain of war weary refugees flooding Europe has caught the federal party leaders off guard. Canadians are no longer “a nation of immigrants” as the pundits label us. The public, if not the politicians, realize we are all family now, with global family relationships.
The dead boy on the beach has a Canadian aunt. The anguished father is a Canadian woman’s brother. We are all related. Stephen Harper has yet to understand this. To him they still seem” foreigners.”
Once in caucus when the PM talked about Red China and the Communists I said:” But the Chinese are somebody’s uncle in Vancouver, or has a cousin in Toronto.” Family connections which ignore political labels. That is today’s Canada after generations of immigrants.
Look around your own immediate family. Mine includes German, Japanese, Chinese, Aboriginal, Scottish, Irish, Turks, English. It means I can visit the relatives in Ireland and Britain, Turkey and Germany, Australia, New Zealand. Not foreigners. Family.”We are humans too,” the desperate young man tells a reporter in that crowded Hungarian railway station.
That is why we must move quickly to open our doors wider, faster, and to more people. Yes, it is expensive. Yes, there are security risks, as Turks know as millions of people seek safety in their country. But in the famine year of 1847 when 100,000 Irish sailed for Canada, Quebecers adopted the orphans and let them keep their Irish names. Since then Canada has moved swiftly to adopt Europeans, Africans, Asians, South Americans.
It is difficult. But it who we are; Canadians.
My article in the Vancouver Sun, July 10, 2015 generated a lot of comments and shocking stories of experiences suffered by other wheelchair travellers.
My Air Canada no-fly zone
Finding wheelchair help these days a disaster no thanks to privatized system.
It has been a few weeks now since I flew my last Air Canada flight and the anxiety attacks are fading, although the drone of an aircraft overhead can still pop perspiration beads on my brow and cause my hands to shake.
It is not the fear of flying that has grounded me. It’s the fear of being delivered overseas from Toronto Pearson International Airport on a routine Toronto-Vancouver flight.
I am no novice at air travel. As a member of the airline’s Million Mile Club, Air Canada awarded me a model Boeing 777, new luggage tags, priority boarding and access to the business lounge, even if I am travelling in the back of the Airbus.
The problem is I am a bionic woman, with several metal joints that limit my mobility. I need a wheelchair to proceed through security and the airport terminal.
Air Canada or airport personnel usually have pushed me in the wheelchair, my carry-on balanced on my lap, through the terminal to the aircraft with cheerful expertise.
But recently Air Canada replaced airport personnel in some airports with privately contracted attendants who, in my case, were inexperienced in airport terrain, wheeling me about with no clear idea where they were going.
Attendant A wheeled me from Air Canada’s regional jet across the tarmac to a door with access to Boston’s Logan International Airport terminal. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the code to unlock the door. I was worried my cousins would think I had missed my flight and leave.
Frustrated, I grabbed my walking cane and beat furiously on the door of the terminal while the hapless attendant stood by. Somehow a security barrier was breached. Sirens screamed. Lights flashed on and off. Trucks roared up, entrapping in their headlights a female Canadian senior, trapped in her wheelchair with luggage, purse and duty-free Scotch, attacking the terminal with her walking stick.
Did shots ring out? I couldn’t hear in the din. Finally the door was unlocked by a uniformed official.
When I arrived at Toronto’s famed Pearson airport on my Air Canada flight a few days later, there was no one to meet me and another woman with limited English, who also needed assistance. We waited for 35 minutes, accompanied by the entire flight crew, who explained they could not leave the aircraft until all passengers had been discharged, flight schedules be damned.
Finally one lone Attendant B appeared at the end of the corridor, pushing two wheelchairs. The brakes didn’t work on my chair, which I discovered as it edged backwards.
B struggled to manually push both loaded wheelchairs to the elevator, where she handed the other passenger off to a passing attendant and managed to wheel me down to the customs lineup.
Like a scene out of a disaster movie, there were 12 or 13 people slumped in their wheelchairs at the side of the customs hall. There were no attendants in sight. Some seemed to be falling out of their chairs, waving their arms for attention. Some waved tickets, fearful they would miss their connecting flights.
Two uniformed Canadian Air Transport Security Authority agents pounced on B, demanding to know why there were no attendants present. B shrugged and stoically pushed me through the flight crew customs booth, as determined to off-load me as I was determined to be off-loaded.
Finally, we emerged from the terminal and B pushed me to the express bus stop to downtown Toronto, where an official told us the express bus service had been cancelled months earlier, pending a new rail link between airport and city.
For my return trip to Vancouver, I booked the hotel limo, which delivered me as arranged to C with a wheelchair at the terminal entrance. I gave her my boarding pass for the Vancouver flight. C told me she had worked for 23 years in groceries. It was good I arrived early, she said, because Pearson had 1,200 wheelchair passengers booked that afternoon.
She wheeled me through the terminal to the international security section, where the agent looked at my boarding pass and told us Vancouver was not an international destination. “All my other passengers today boarded international flights,” C said. She pushed me back to the domestic flight section at the other end of the terminal and handed me off to D at Security.
The rest is a blur. D had no idea where to go. I directed him through the terminal crowds to the Vancouver gate as boarding began. I dumped my luggage out of my lap and lunged out of the wheelchair. A concerned Air Canada agent asked me if I needed assistance to board the aircraft. “I would rather cling to the walls and crawl down the jetway,” I said, sobbing.
Tucking my arm in hers, she walked me on-board the aircraft and told me Air Canada ground personnel were concerned about the problems experienced by wheelchair passengers under the new privatized system.
They should be. For those of us who use wheelchairs, Air Canada is a no-fly-zone.
Pat Carney is an author, retired politician and former Vancouver Sun journalist who lives on Saturna Island.
Canada day address to Saturna Island lamb barbeque July 1,2015
Welcome to Saturna Island on Canada Day. Nearly 500 years ago, an old Greek sailor met an Englishman in a bar in Venice and told him about a sea he had sailed which the sailor believed was the fabled passage which linked the pacific and atlantic oceans.
The Greek sailor was Juan de Fuca. The strait he found bears his name. That sea was our Salish Sea. And because of that strait the aboriginal people who first explored these waters were joined by the Spanish in 1791, also searching for that passage; Saturna is named after the Spanish ship S. Later the British, Americans, and Russians and now the seafaring nations of the world sail their ships along our shores.
Today as we celebrate the 148 anniversary of Canada’s confederation, lets honour our maritime heritage here on Canada’s pacific coast, which is the treasure the colony of British Columbia contributed when it joined Canada in 1871, creating one of the world’s great maritime nations, and linking Canada from Pacific to Atlantic Oceans.
Since colonial times, our lighthouses and their keepers have ensured the safety of mariners and our coastal communities. The history of Canada is chronicled in the stories of our lights. In recognition of their role, all political parties in the parliament of Canada passed legislation to protect their heritage status for years to come.
Now 21 BC lighthouses are designated heritage lighthouses, from our own East Point Light Station North to Green Point near Prince Rupert. Heritage lighthouses include Trial Island off Victoria, where the colonial naval ships conducted their sea trials, Active Pass on nearby Mayne Island, a beer stop for the miners rowing their way to the Fraser River gold fields, Entrance Island which guided the coal ships sailing from Nanaimo, the famous West Coast trail lights — Carmanah, Pachena, Cape Beale, built after 100’s died in ship wrecks along the graveyard of the Pacific, Langara Point on the northern tip of Haida Gwai and many more.
We are all stewards of our coast and our country. So lets remember our heritage and embrace our future and sing O Canada!
When my ship goes down, I want maestro Bramwell Tovey on deck at the piano. The popular conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra demonstrated at a recent fundraiser that he can keep the musical ship afloat when everyone else is thinking of running for the lifeboats.
The fundraiser was a lunch and concert played host to by the Holland America Line on board its Statendam cruise ship at Canada Place on a refuelling and revictualling stop en route to Alaska. The musical event was scheduled in the few hours between passengers disembarking to leave the ship or to tour Vancouver, or embarking with their luggage for the cruise north.
It is a busy time for the crew. Turnaround time is tight. Tests and emergency drills are held while the cruise ship is in the harbour. The 220 VSO guests were told on boarding that a fire fighting drill dictated that the schedule would be reversed. Lunch would be served first at 11 a.m. and the Bramwell’s piano performance would take place afterward.
The food was decent and the wine plentiful; the service punctuated by sirens and fire alarms. Vancouver’s famous fire boats circled other vessels in the harbour. The Canadian Coast Guard also swished by. So it was a satiated, somewhat sleepy audience sipping mimosas and champagne who gathered in the ship’s theatre to hear Bramwell play after lunch.
Bramwell loves to tell his audiences how he was a member of a Salvation army family, playing in the Sally Ann street band in England, singing carols at Christmas and playing his tuba or whatever instrument was available to families who came out on their porches to listen.
He has become a globally recognized conductor and accomplished jazz pianist, playing regular gigs at Jazz Vespers in St. Andrew’s United church in Vancouver. He plays more than 25 school concerts in the Lower Mainland a year. He knows how to entertain a crowd.
On the Statendam, he recounted a joke about parrots who could sing opera and launched into a stirring Beethoven sonata when, in mid-note, the ship’s public address system gave a piercing whistle, followed by an ascending three-note chord.
From speakers in the room’s ceiling a voice squawked: “Good afternoon passengers and crew. This is the officer of the watch speaking. The following is an important announcement. There is a fire in the pump room. All crew members are to take their stations. This is a drill only.”
When the announcement abruptly squawked off, Bramwell swivelled on his stool to face the piano and ended the Beethoven piece by mimicking the three note chord, G, C, E.
“I often think how lucky Beethoven was to be deaf,” he said to his audience, who at that point didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, clutching their champagne glasses and looking at each other for a cue. Was the concert going to be cancelled?
Tovey then switched to a gentle classic by Robert Schumann, glancing fearfully at the speakers on the ceiling. He managed to finish it before the speakers chimed G, C, and E again. This time the officer of the watch announced: “Good afternoon. This is an important announcement for all passengers and crew. There is a man-overboard drill in progress.”
Bramwell didn’t miss a beat. “Now there is a man overboard. Sounds sexist to me. Time for a little boating song.” His fingers drew a plaintive Over the Sea to Skye melody from the grand piano. We listened to the music in a silence broken by the whine of pulleys and the wheeze of pumps and various thumps and bumps.
He was telling funny stories about his concert career — about Margo Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev and others he has performed with — when, again, there was a shrill whistle and those familiar dulcet G, C, E notes. Again the officer of the watch made an important announcement for all passengers and crew. “We have finished fuelling and you are now free to smoke in designated areas.”
His punch line torpedoed again, Bramwell turned to the grand piano and pounded out the fierce Wedding March for Juliet’s marriage to Paris for his hugely entertained audience. “My program is completely shot,” he said. “Think what you can do with those three notes”.
Standing at the piano he played G, C, E in a minor chord. “This is the captain speaking,” he said in sombre tones, implying disaster. Shades of Rufus Wainwright, I thought, who sang: “Everybody knows the ship is sinking, everybody knows the captain lied.”
Still standing, Bramwell switched to a spooky version, swivelling his head with anxious look on his face, like Sherlock Holmes searching for the missing evidence. Then he sat down on the piano stool and improvised a frolicking number, riffing on those three familiar notes, before the familiar voice interrupted: ”This is the officer of the watch. This is an important announcement for passengers and crew.” This time the ship was testing the emergency generators, which would affect elevators. His audience stirred, apprehensive. No elevators?
Ignoring the officer of the watch, Bramwell played from the orchestral score of Act 2 of the ballet Swan Lake to the delight of his enraptured audience. When the watch officer finally announced the test of the emergency generators was completed and the elevators were now in use,
Bramwell knows how to close a set. He played an uptempo, jazz version of Don’t Get Around Much Any More.
We all left the ship as the watch officer announced: “Shore leave for crew is now granted until O600 hours.” The VSO audience wouldn’t be returning. But it is reassuring to know that Tovey will be in command for the opening of the VSO season this weekend. We can expect everything to be ship-shape.
Pat Carney is an author, retired politician and former Vancouver Sun journalist who lives on Saturna Island.
Canada Day 2014
Welcome friends and neighbours to Canada Day, Saturna Island style( bon jour,mes amis)
Today we celebrate the 147th birthday our beloved country and celebrate its glorious past, present and future. This year is special because it is the 150th anniversary of a historic step towards confederation, the Quebec conference of 1864.
The steamship Queen Victoria which carried the delegates down the St Laurence River to Charlottetown in August that year 150 years ago carried them up river to Quebec in October. In Charlottetown, the champagne flowed as delegates agreed to form a coalition between the maritime colonies and Upper and Lower Canada, leading the media to claim that confederation was created by hung-over politicians as befogged as Charlottetown harbour.
Unlike the festive Charlottetown, the conference in Quebec city was a sober affair. An early snowstorm had stripped away the colourful autumn leaves. Delegates met around a conference table in a nondescript hotel overlooking the St Lawrence river. The media was banned. Drinking was confined to dinners and pub crawls after work.
There the delegates debated and agreed to compromises which formed the foundation of our Canadian confederation. The US civil war between the states was raging and the delegates were determined not to repeat the mistakes made by their American neighbours. They agreed to establish legislative assemblies in each province and a strong central government with two houses of parliament, the house of commons and the senate.
They overcame regional resentments and language divisions between English and French and agreed on 72 resolutions, the basis of our constitution. Their main achievement was summed up by Thomas Darcy Mcgee, an Irish rebel who became a Canadian nationalist as the Canadian way. It was, he said, “a scheme not suggested by others, or imposed on us, but one the work of ourselves, the creation of our intellect and of our own free, unbiased and untramelled will”.
For his efforts, Darcy Mcgee was shot dead on the steps of his Ottawa boarding house after a midnight parliamentary debate, the only Canadian federal politician to be assassinated. The execution of his assailant Patrick Whelan was the last public hanging in Canada.
The result of the efforts of the fathers of confederation is Canada, glorious and free, and which has the world’s best reputation as a country for the last three years, according to a survey of G7 countries and of course the only Saturna Island lamb barbeque. So raise your glass and your voices to join Sue Kendall in O Canada!
Welcome to my website. We’ve posted information here about my political work: the ongoing effort to preserve heritage lighthouses through the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, my official biography and key speeches that I delivered while serving as Senator for British Columbia.
Outside of federal politics, I’m also a long-time supporter of the Arthritis Society of Canada and the Arthritis Research Centre, the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden, the Emily Carr Foundation, and Music by the Sea. Information and these and about my memoir, Trade Secrets, are featured here, along with recent media coverage.
I encourage you to contact me with your feedback and questions, and look forward to hearing from you.