About David Taub Bancroft

My name is David Taub Bancroft, and I live in Vancouver. I guess I’m some kind of writer. A stubborn Greenie, I studied political science and philosophy at Simon Fraser University and am currently working very, very slowly on my first novel. Writing is hard.

Vancouver Sun Letter

LetterI have a letter in today’s Vancouver Sun, not so much supporting proportional representation (although I do support proportional representation) as addressing what I consider to be baseless objections to the current electoral reform referendum. My letter is second from the top, under the (perhaps regrettable) heading “Complexity isn’t a real concern.”

Remember to vote and mail your ballots in before November 30!

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My Vancouver Election Endorsements

Still wondering how to vote in next weekend’s Vancouver municipal elections? Wonder no more …

Mayor:

  • SYLVESTER, Shauna

City Council:

  • BOYLE, Christine (OneCity)
  • FRY, Pete (GREEN)
  • ROBERTS, Anne (COPE)
  • SWANSON, Jean (COPE)
  • BHANDAL, Taqdir Kaur
  • O’KEEFE, Derrick (COPE)
  • WONG, David HT (GREEN)
  • YAN, Brandon 甄念本 (OneCity)
  • CARR, Adriane (GREEN)
  • WIEBE, Michael (GREEN)

Park Board:

  • DEMERS, David (GREEN)
  • SHIVJI, Shamim (Vision Vancouver)
  • ZUBKO, Cameron (Vision Vancouver)
  • GIESBRECHT, Gwen (COPE)
  • IRWIN, John (COPE)
  • DUMONT, Camil (GREEN)
  • MACKINNON, Stuart (GREEN)

School Board:

  • REDDY, Jennifer (OneCity)
  • BERCIC, Carrie (OneCity)
  • JAAF, Erica (OneCity)
  • PARROTT, Barb (COPE)
  • LEUNG, Aaron (Vision Vancouver)
  • WONG, Allan (Vision Vancouver)
  • DAY, Diana (COPE)
  • ARNOLD, Erin (Vision Vancouver)
  • OGER, Morgane

Capital Plan Borrowing Questions:

  • Yes to all three

I struggled a bit in deciding who to support for mayor. Independents Shauna Sylvester and Kennedy Stewart both seem like strong candidates. Stewart has a more detailed housing platform, while Sylvester is more detailed on the environment. Stewart is the more strategic choice, Sylvester the more female choice (seriously, Vancouver, 132 years and not one woman in the mayor’s chair?). In the end, premised on the assumption that Stewart will probably win regardless of all my soul-searching, I’m going with Sylvester. I figure if she gets enough support — perhaps even leapfrogging into second place past the NPA’s Ken Sim (dare to dream, right?) — the eventual winner might get the message that voters have some appetite for the nitty-gritty. Stewart’s penchant for headline-grabbing issues like the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the UBC subway are well and good, but they are no substitute for tangling oneself in the weeds of green buildings, zero waste, renewable energy, and bike lanes.

Enterprising readers will notice that while I am endorsing all Vision Vancouver candidates for Parks and Schools, I am not supporting any of its Council candidates. I have always agreed with Vision on many issues, but this last decade, they really screwed the pooch on housing. True, there is only so much that municipal governments can do. One gets the impression, however, that housing affordability did not appear on Vision’s radar until the end of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s second term, by which time it was too little too late. Vision is long overdue for a well-deserved spanking, and progressive voters would do well to look to parties that set more ambitious non-market housing goals.

You might also notice that I am not voting for any Green School Board candidates. I find myself philosophically aligned with Green Parties in general, but the Vancouver Greens are going through something of an identity crisis, valuing what they perceive as independence over what I perceive as principle. This sometimes manifests itself as fickleness or head-scratching unpredictability. A case in point: trustee Janet Fraser’s decision four years ago to vote in an NPA School Board chair instead of Vision’s Patti Bacchus. (To her credit, she switched back to Vision one year later, and has since become chair in her own right.) Or take the party’s short-lived nomination of engine-revving bike lane opponent Nicholas Chernen to its School Board slate. (He stepped down after reports that one of his many nuisance lawsuits against elected officials was still ongoing.) The Greens may reap political rewards for being everything to everyone — indeed, I would not be surprised to see them win most or all of the seats for which they are running — but their judgment can be questionable. That said, they have plenty of good ideas on sustainability and housing affordability, as well as several smart candidates.

COPE, Vancouver’s oldest left-wing party, has long been so riddled by infighting as to be easily dismissed. However, with the addition of legendary anti-poverty activist Jean Swanson to its Council slate, the party seems on the verge of a mini-comeback. One poll last month showed COPE second only to the Greens in Vancouverites’ party preferences. Signature policies include a rent freeze and a mansion tax.

Finally, there’s OneCity: not as centrist as Vision, not as nutso as COPE. Just smart, earnest progressives who skew young and female. Signature policy: a land value capture tax. Might be the best party in the bunch.

National Post Letter

LetterIn today’s National Post, I’ve got another letter to the editor on everyone’s favourite topic: the Trans Mountain pipeline. (I’ll stop repeating myself once people start listening!) My letter appears only in the print edition, so I cannot provide a link. Accordingly, here is the full text:

The pipeline crisis

Re: PM takes right tack on Trans Mountain, Andrew Coyne, April 17

Regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Andrew Coyne writes, “this is not a debate about a pipeline, or not any longer. It is about who decides.”

With all due respect, it absolutely is about the pipeline.

If greenhouse gas emissions do not peak and subsequently decline within the next couple of years, the world will fail to meet its commitment to limit warming to no more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius. The time for building new fossil fuel infrastructure has come and gone — not just in other countries, but here at home, too.

To insist on procedural niceties — in the face of the climate chaos we risk unleashing and the burden we are placing on future generations — is narrow-minded provincialism at its worst.

David Taub Bancroft, Vancouver

Of Premiers and Pipelines

In an interview with the National Observer last week, Justin Trudeau raised more than a few eyebrows by comparing B.C. premier John Horgan to former Saskatchewan premier and climate policy obstructionist Brad Wall.

“Similarly and frustratingly,” said the prime minister, “John Horgan is actually trying to scuttle our national plan on fighting climate change. By blocking the Kinder Morgan pipeline, he’s putting at risk the entire national climate change plan, because Alberta will not be able to stay on if the Kinder Morgan pipeline doesn’t go through.”

All this over a timid proposal by the B.C. government to study the effects of bitumen spills before allowing increased shipments through the province.

Clumsy “guilt by association” attempts aside, I understand what the prime minister is trying to get at. His approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, so goes the reasoning, is part of a grand national compromise. Alberta gets a pipeline (flowing through B.C.) and environmentalists get carbon pricing. Win-win, everyone’s happy. Remove one piece of the strategy and the whole thing comes crashing down.

Except that it doesn’t. The Alberta government’s willing participation — while preferable — is not strictly needed. As Trudeau himself admits, “there is a federal backstop that will ensure that the national price on carbon pollution is applied right across the country.”

Furthermore, his climate plan was a pretty rotten compromise to begin with. The federal carbon pricing requirement is set to rise to $50 per tonne by 2022, but then it stops. This is not nearly enough to get us to the 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that Canada pledged to achieve by 2030 at the Paris climate conference. To meet that commitment would require an eventual price of $200 per tonne (if pursued through carbon pricing alone). Or, at the very least, a federal government with the political backbone to say no to environmentally destructive fossil fuel projects.

The international community has agreed to limit warming to no more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That means reaching peak global emissions no later than 2020. Simply put: now is not the time to be building new pipelines.

Nobody suggests shutting down the oil sands tomorrow. But at the very least, at this moment in our history, we must stop moving so aggressively in the wrong direction. If the Trans Mountain pipeline is allowed to go forward, alongside other fossil fuel infrastructure proposals with decades-long lifespans, that would mean sabotaging the meagre gains made by our inadequate federal carbon scheme.

A transformation on the scale required demands bold national leadership. Sadly, beyond a few token half-measures, said leadership has been lacking from Trudeau. It is no ideal solution for the mantle to pass to a provincial premier, but under the circumstances, I don’t see what other options we have.

While the Kinder Morgan kerfuffle has gotten very ugly very fast, and will likely only get uglier, Canada is morally obligated to do more than free-ride on international efforts. So let’s brace ourselves for the coming ugliness and keep our eye on the prize of climate justice.

This post appears on rabble.ca.

Globe and Mail Letter

LetterIn today’s Globe and Mail, you will find a letter from me (fourth from the top, under the heading “In the national interest”) relating the present interprovincial pipeline kerfuffle to global efforts efforts to solve the climate crisis. Never hurts to remind ourselves how much is really at stake.

9 Favourite Tragically Hip Songs

I’ve never considered myself a Tragically Hip superfan, but in the wake of singer Gord Downie’s passing last night, it is hard not to feel impacted. The group produced many great songs over its three-decade career (as well as a few not-so-great ones) and gradually cemented its status as “Canada’s band.” Downie himself was a fascinating and charismatic figure. He will be remembered for his music, his poetry, and his tireless work for reconciliation.

What follows are my selections for the Tragically Hip’s best songs:

9. Fireworks

A love song centred around the 1972 Summit Series. What could be more Canadian?

 

8. Grace, Too

Slow and haunting. An emotional highlight from performances on the band’s final tour.

 

7. Ahead by a Century

Their best-known song. Exemplifies Downie’s odd “rising inflection” style of singing. You can always tell a Hip song by its melody.

 

6. Bobcaygeon

Introduced in concert as being “about a couple of gay cops that fall in love.”

 

5. Gift Shop

Goes from moody and reflective to a driving rocker.

 

4. New Orleans Is Sinking

Their riffiest song. Just try not to headbang!

 

3. Wheat Kings

A melancholy ballad that doesn’t skimp on the Canadiana.

 

2. Nautical Disaster

A slightly dark one about, well, a nautical disaster.

 

1. Scared

Wikipedia informs me that this song was released as a single in 1995, but I can’t recall ever having heard it on the radio. An underappreciated masterpiece, this quirky acoustic ballad, featuring understated crescendos and Downie’s characteristically head-scratching lyrics, is sad and beautiful.

Vancouver By-Election Endorsements

File:Vote icon.svgJust in case anyone is wondering how I will vote in this Saturday’s Vancouver municipal by-election, here’s the plan:

City Council:

  • Pete Fry (Green Party)

School Board:

  • Judy Zaichkowsky (Green Party)
  • Allan Wong (Vision Vancouver)
  • Mike Lombardi (Vision Vancouver)
  • Erica Jaaf (OneCity)
  • Estrellita Gonzalez (Green Party)
  • Janet Fraser (Green Party)
  • Diana Day (COPE)
  • Carrie Bercic (OneCity)
  • Joy Alexander (Vision Vancouver)

It pains me not to cast my Council vote for either Judy Graves (OneCity) or Jean Swanson (independent, endorsed by COPE), both of whom are legendary activists for economic justice. However, while both candidates have put forward solid platforms on housing affordability, they are largely silent on most other issues, including the environment. Pete Fry (Green Party), by contrast, while also focusing heavily on housing, presents a more well-rounded program. I sincerely hope that Graves and Swanson will run again during next year’s general election.

On the School Board side of the ballot, a dark shadow is cast by the former provincial government’s anti-democratic decision last year to fire the entire board over its refusal to pass a balanced budget. Five out of nine trustees voted against the budget as presented to them, and of those five, four are trying to re-gain their seats in the current by-election. In the name of democracy, all four will be getting my vote. True, I feel a little uneasy about voting for Janet Fraser (Green Party) after her 2014 decision to cast a deciding vote for an NPA chair, but she partially redeemed herself by switching her allegiance to Vision one year later. The power-sharing rationale of alternating the position of chair between parties carries considerable democratic legitimacy. My feelings on the subject remain mixed, but Fraser’s overall voting record has been fairly progressive.