Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hey Victoria, I'd like you to meet your local candidates - all 43 of them

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
October 29, 2008


Pity the duty-bound Victoria voter.

A federal election has been settled by what gamblers call a push and baseball fans recognize as a no-decision. It was the third trip to the polls in four years.

A provincial election is six months away and the campaign started this week.

Meanwhile, our neighbours to the south are settling their quadrennial tiff in typically loud fashion.

Amid all the hubbub appears a notice in the local newspapers. The civic election is upon us.

In Victoria, voters will arrive at the polls on Nov. 15 to be confronted with ballots carrying more names than Santa's naughty list.

Eight politicians are vying for the mayor's chair. Thirty-five would-be solons seek a seat on city council. Another long list of hopefuls have put their name forward for school board.

A two-minute opening statement from each at an all-candidates meeting would take us close to the two-hour mark. Thanks for coming.

So, who's who?


Dean Fortin is the lone mayoral candidate with council experience. He is endorsed by Gordy ("I won't be undersold") Dodd, the proprietor of Dodd's Furniture known for dressing as Elvis and Superman in television commercials of exquisite cheesiness. Come to think of it, "I won't be undersold" is likely available for use as a campaign slogan.

Rob Reid, who owns a running-shoe store, donated the statue of Terry Fox at Mile Zero. His neighbours can't vote for him because he lives on a leafy street in Oak Bay and not in the city for which he wishes to be mayor. His celebrity endorsement comes courtesy of Olympic triathlete Simon Whitfield.

Kristen Woodruff is a homeless advocate whose official address is no fixed address. She did handstands while police tore down a tent city in Beacon Hill Park.

Saul Andersen ("Independent for a reason") calls for more fun and more farming.

Steve Filipovic is an unofficial Green candidate who favours "developing incentives for residents to improve the heat retention efficiencies of their homes," which is worthwhile if not exactly catchy.

Georgia-Anne Jones and Roland (Ron) Taylor are right now getting a rare mention in a daily newspaper.

Hugh Kruzel, a photojournalist, is a food and wine expert, so his election-night party is the one to crash.


Robert Allington wrote a book about the constitutional implications of Premier Gordon Campbell's drunk-driving conviction.

Nick Baker is a fitness buff who owns a personal training studio.

Joseph Boutilier is a teenager and the youngest candidate for council.

Suzanne Carroll lives on Saltspring Island.

Sonya Chandler, a Green incumbent, is a nurse who works at a clinic for street youth.

Chris Coleman, another incumbent, is the Saskatchewan-born son of an Anglican bishop and a part-owner of the Milestone's Grill overlooking the Inner Harbour.

Tavis Dodds is homeless.

John Farquharson describes himself as a New Independent in the mould of Tony Blair and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Chris Gillespie is a political-science student at Camosun College.

Gregory Hartnell writes an election blog under the nom de plume Goyo de la Rosa.

Rose Henry is an indigenous woman making her third run for council "as a voice for the people."

Barry Hobbis is a former Mountie who is now managing director of Victoria Harbour Ferry.

Wayne Hollohan is a former Newfoundlander who jokingly counts three cats among his support group.

Lynn Hunter is a former NDP member of Parliament.

Patrick Jamieson wrote a history of the Catholic Church on Vancouver Island.

Allen Jones calls himself a street priest.

Jonathan Le Drew got 60 votes when he ran for mayor six years ago.

Philippe Lucas is an organic gardener and former cook who heads the Vancouver Island Compassion Society.

Jane Lunt is a former city councillor.

John Luton rides a bicycle and is endorsed by former premier Dave Barrett.

Pam Madoff is an incumbent running on a slate with Mr. Fortin and Ms. Hunter.

Chris Munkacsi is opposed to downtown becoming a concrete jungle.

Simon Nattrass thinks online voting might be the way to go.

Denis Oliver goes to lots of council meetings.

Richard Park is a trilingual university student with a black belt in an unspecified martial art.

Robert Randall is an artist who heads an association of downtown residents.

David Shebib describes himself as a "peaceful revolutionary" who once got 20 votes running for Parliament against prime minister John Turner.

Diana Smardon is active in the community but her blog has had only 15 profile views.

Charlayne Thornton-Joe is an incumbent who resisted calls to run for mayor.

John C. Turner is running for a council seat under the unique slogan: "Victoria's next mayor."

Jon Valentine lives on the same block as Mr. Farquharson.

Tim Van Alstine finished in 19th place when he ran for council nine years ago.

Pieta VanDyke seeks to return to council after an 18-year hiatus.

Susan Woods hosts a radio show and publishes the Moss Rock Review, a neighbourhood magazine.

Geoff Young is an incumbent councillor who will get some extra votes because his name is the last one on the ballot.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Ubyssey marks a checkered past

Forty years ago this week

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
October 22, 2008


Any newspaper celebrating a birthday these days is cause for celebration, even if the survivor is a “vile rag.”

The Ubyssey student newspaper is 90 — “old enough to be John McCain’s dad,” as the paper noted in an editorial — but behaves like a cheeky twentysomething.

For nine decades, the paper has upset, outraged, infuriated, and, on occasion, amused.

So much for the staff. Who knows what the readers have made of it?

To mark the occasion, a few dozen stalwarts gathered at a modest party on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on the weekend. Cake was served. A Queen tribute band performed the group’s bombastic songs, which means cheese was also on the menu.

Kellan Higgins, the 23-year-old coordinating editor, offered guests a tour of the newsroom in the Student Union Building. In the old days, the paper’s offices were located in a corner office on the top floor, where the walls were papered by faded political posters (“Free Yako Tiefenberg!”). In the old, old days, pubsters, as they were called, produced the rag from the basement of Brock Hall.

As though suffering from the subterranean homesick blues, the newspaper’s quarters are once again below ground in a windowless room. “It’s depressing, because there’s no light,” Mr. Higgins complains. The proximity to the campus pub known as The Pit is offset by the proximity to a campus pub that is known as a pit.

The Ubyssey missed a year of publication before being revived in a referendum as an independent business funded by students. Eviction followed autonomy.

The weekend party honoured 15 years of editorial freedom instead of celebrating the paper’s rich history. Imagine the documentary series “Canada: A People’s History” beginning with the patriation of the constitution in 1982, or the Bible opening not with Genesis but the Resurrection. Backstory matters.

The 13 paid staff and 40 volunteers who produce the 24,000-circulation tabloid twice weekly have little time to contemplate what came before.

“The newspaper’s very now,” the editor said. “We’re doing this (itx)now(enditx).”

Not that all are ignorant of the history.

“We have bound volumes going back to the Sixties,” he said, emphasizing the decade as might an archaeologist speaking of the Mesozoic era. “It’s cool looking through them.”

The Ubyssey was Maoist in the late 1960s and Groucho Marxist in its best years. Times have changed. The newspaper praised Stephen Harper before endorsing Stephane Dion in the recent federal election, a shocking display of responsibility.

For generations, the newspaper was a playground for students seeking adventure. The Ubyssey produced poets (Earle Birney, Tom Wayman, George Bowering) and pundits (Marcus Gee, Vaughn Palmer, Bill Tieleman) and novelists (Lesley Krueger, Lawrence Hill) and authors (Pierre Berton, Allan Fotheringham) and humourists (Eric Nicol, Hymie Koshevoy, Mark Leiren-Young) and radio hosts (Lister Sinclair, Norman DePoe) and television reporters (Hilary Brown, Morley Safer, Joe Schlesinger) and judges (Les Bewley, Nathan Nemetz) and senators (Pat Carney, Ray Perrault) and a prime minister (John "Chick" Turner) and more than a few dipsomaniacal newsroom hacks (guilty as charged).

It has less of a sterling record when it comes to producing academics, a notable exception being former arts dean Patricia Marchak.

The inaugural edition rolled off the presses on Oct. 17, 1918. The banner headline read, FRESHMAN RECEPTION. Other stories included the summertime drowning of a popular student. The Ubyssey had a military editor — the Armistice halting the Great War would not be reached for another 25 days.

An editorial declared “the main aim of the paper is to print the news while it is ‘hot.’ ”

For many years, the old papers were available only in dusty bound volumes in the stacks of the campus library, or on microfilm at such institutions as the National Library of Canada in Ottawa.

Four years ago, the university library began a project of digitizing the pages of the student newspaper. More than 37,000 pages were scanned and made available online.

A reader can find much to admire in the pages. In the early days, the Ubyssey argued for the hiring of a dean of women, supported the demands for the building of a campus at Point Grey, and crusaded against the brutality of fraternity hazing, which was banned on campus in 1924.

The newspaper defended the right of Canadian-born students of Japanese descent to continue their studies after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In the 1950s, Mr. Fotheringham exposed the racist policies of some fraternities. Keith Bradbury exposed the activities of the RCMP on campus in the early 1960s.

While the commercial press timidly obeyed the dictates of Ottawa during the October Crisis of 1970, the Ubyssey staff and other student journalists risked arrest by publishing fuller accounts of events in Quebec.

Irreverent by nature and often puerile in practice, the Ubyssey was known for an annual hoax story (a classic being a Patty Hearst sighting on campus in 1974), as well as a goon issue in which popular magazines were parodied as Maclown’s, Torts Illustrated, Rolling Clone, and Scientific Armenian.

As unlikely as it seems, the paper has been a training ground for reporters covering the God squad (Doug Todd of the Vancouver Sun and Michael Valpy of the Globe).

The photographer Jeff Wall went from the Ubyssey to having his images displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. The photographer Norm Betts went from the Ubyssey to having his images of scantily-clad Sunshine Girls published in the Toronto Sun.

Peter Ladner, a Vancouver city councillor now running for mayor, was on the staff when his grandfather donated $150,000 for the construction of a 121-foot-tall (36.9-metre) concrete clock tower. The paper described it as “Ladner’s Last Erection.”

The younger Mr. Ladner became associate editor on a staff including Tony Gallagher (the Province sports columnist), Paul Knox (chair of the journalism school at Ryerson University in Toronto), and a city editor named Nate who these days is addressed at work as Mr. Justice Nathan H. Smith of the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The newspaper generated much criticism. A letter writer in 1920 called the Ubyssey “a glorified gutter newspaper.” Crusty, upcountry newspaper editor Margaret (Ma) Murray declared the paper “a flithy rag”in the 1960s when it published four photographs from Playboy magazine deemed obscene by the local constabulary. She demanded it be closed down “fer damshur.”

Mr. Bewley, a jurist and former staffer, suggested the paper be “drenched in Lysol.” The most cutting criticism came courtesy of Mr. Koshevoy, who once pronounced it “drab.”

It was back in 1955 when Rev. E.C. Pappert flipped through a copy of the Ubyssey before declaring it to be “the vilest rag you can imagine.” The clergyman’s critique delighted the staff, which has used the slur as a recruitment come-on to this very day.

The first 80 years of the Ubyssey are available online at:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Out of his gourd

LEZLIE STERLING/SACRAMENTO BEE                                                                     

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
October 16, 2008


Jake van Kooten woke after Thanksgiving with happy memories of a feast, a cornucopia filled from the garden he shares with his wife.

They grow corn, squash, beans, carrots, potatoes.

One prized vegetable was spared.

Out in the driveway, snug in the bed of a three-quarter-ton pickup truck with heavy-duty suspension, rested a pumpkin that tested the vehicle's shocks. It was a gargantuan gourd, a leviathan among legumes, a colossus among the cucumbers.

It spread out in orangey-yellow folds, a vegetable Jabba the Hutt. It was larger than any man, larger even than the Star Wars alien that it resembled.

It was hard to believe that six months earlier it was a pumpkin seed.

The grower germinated the seed on April 24, before placing it in the garden of his Port Alberni home on May 5. He placed over it a cloche – a small greenhouse – to protect it from nighttime mists. He also attached a catalytic heater to ward off frost.

Mr. van Kooten, 66, planted just four pumpkins. “The wife won't allow me to take the other spots from her vegetables,” he said, more as a statement than a complaint. Ordinarily, four pumpkins do not demand much space. But these were Cucurbita maxima, the goliaths of the gourd world.

The pumpkins grew. One of them – the one now on the truck – grew a lot. It made Mr. van Kooten very happy. And, in the days after Thanksgiving, it made him a bit anxious, too.

It all started so innocently.

Back in the 1970s, with two young daughters at home, Mr. van Kooten decided to grow each a jack-o'-lantern of their own for Halloween. One fall, he delivered a pair of 50-pound pumpkins. He thought, “Sure would be nice if I could grow a 100-pound pumpkin.”

And so he did.

The jack-o'-lanterns got larger each year, growing as did his daughters. The pumpkins hit 300 pounds – and stalled. He just couldn't seem to get them any bigger.

He wrote to the Pumpkin King in Nova Scotia asking for advice. Howard Dill, a Johnny Appleseed among vine aficionados, sent him a package of Dill's Atlantic Giants, the Northern Dancer of the pumpkin breeder's world.

(Mr. Dill died, aged 73, not many days after Mr. van Kooten planted the big pumpkin. His acreage outside Windsor included Long Pond, which is claimed by some sports historians as the birthplace of ice hockey. But that's another story.)

Mr. Dill won four consecutive world championships with his pumpkins, a feat unmatched by any other grower.

Mr. van Kooten claimed his first British Columbia record 10 years ago. He established a new mark two years later when a 942-pound behemoth placed third in a weigh-off. He became determined to break the half-ton barrier.

The time came to harvest this year's titan.

A buddy from the local hardware store came by with a truck with a hoist. Straps were slipped beneath the pumpkin, which eased off the ground in a cradle. The van Kooten pickup sagged as the vegetable was loaded.

He drove across Vancouver Island to a ferry terminal, sailed to the mainland and began the long drive south to California.

Mr. van Kooten was born outside Rotterdam in a village where the Dutch armed forces initiated a truce with German invaders just two years earlier. He was one of 10 children born to a labourer who kept his family fed during the deprivations of the war by raising rabbits and goats. When he was 10, the family moved to Canada, the land whose soldiers had liberated their own.

Young Jacob had an interest in botany as a schoolboy, but he never seriously studied the subject. He retired recently after 40 years as a papermaker.

He stopped south of the California state capital at Sacramento. His cargo was entered in the Elk Grove Harvest and Giant Pumpkin Festival, where it was placed beside other pulchritudinous pumpkins.

Officials from the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth were on hand. Mr. van Kooten's pumpkin tipped the scales at 1,536½ pounds. That was a new California, British Columbia and Canadian record.

Better yet, the grower was awarded $6 per pound for the winning entry, a whopping prize of $9,219 (U.S.) “Gas money,” he said.

The entry was heavier than any other weighed anywhere else in the world this season – so far.

Mr. van Kooten headed home to enjoy Thanksgiving and to wait for the last of the major weigh-off competitions.

On Monday, Thad Starr of Pleasant Hill, Ore., entered one of his Brobdingnagian pumpkins in the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival in California.

Mr. van Kooten awoke after his holiday slumber to check the results on the Internet. His rival had a monster on his hands all right. It weighed in just 8½ pounds lighter than the Port Alberni pumpkin.

A few more low-level contests, followed by verification from the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth's steering committee, and Mr. van Kooten will be declared the 2008 world champion.

He will be displaying his prized pumpkin at a show in Nanaimo this month.

Then, he will harvest seeds from a pumpkin now to be known as “1536.5 van Kooten 2008.” These seeds will be shared with other growers in a hobby in which he says they “share their secrets and they share their seeds. Oh, there's the odd bad apple, but 99 per cent of the growers get along fine.”

The pulp will be used as compost, or perhaps fed to cattle.

“People ask, ‘Why do you do this?' It becomes addictive. You have an 800-pound pumpkin and you want to get to 1,000. You just want to keep going.”

His big Thanksgiving meal ended with a slice of pie, as is the case at so many tables.

“Nice texture. Tastes beautiful. I love it,” he said.

Mr. van Kooten was speaking of his wife's celebrated Hubbard squash pie. They don't eat pumpkin at the van Kooten household. They just grow it bigger than anyone else.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Activist-journalist's destiny a far cry from the prediction she made as a teenager

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
October 8, 2008


Last week, Jody Paterson hauled downtown her journalism class for a tour led by a homeless man.

One of the university students asked how to interview a street person.

“Don't assume I'm stupid,” the guide said. “Don't assume I don't have skills. Don't assume I don't come from your world.”

Lesson learned.

Ms. Paterson wants to end homelessness. She wants prostitutes to enjoy the benefits of a safe work site.

Her suggestion that reporters abandon their guise as disinterested observers will be the subject of the second annual Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecture tonight at the University of Victoria. The former Times-Colonist managing editor is spending a term teaching a writing course at the university as part of the program.

Four years ago, disgruntled by journalism after a labour dispute, she answered a classified advertisement in her newspaper and wound up the executive director of a non-profit advocacy group for sex-trade workers.

These days, she is helping to establish a co-operative brothel from which profits will be used to finance social causes.

Her weekly column in the Victoria Times Colonist describes a city not to be found in tourist guides. Ms. Paterson is the city's June Callwood, calling on considerable literary talent to introduce her readers to people who might otherwise remain invisible.

She was born in Saskatoon, Sask., to a nurse and an air-force firefighter. When she was five, the family moved to Courtenay on Vancouver Island. She did well at school. Married at 17, she attended her high-school graduation ceremony in the final days of her pregnancy. She filled out a prediction about her destiny, to be opened at a future reunion.

The times were good in the Comox Valley in the mid-1970s. Her husband was a mill worker in Campbell River. They went from a cabin on the beach in Royston to owning a modest home and a car. The young bride continued her piano studies, eventually being certified as a piano teacher by the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

At 24, the marriage ended. She decided she needed a quick college degree. The shortest program she could find was an eight-month course in communications media at Cariboo College (now Thompson Rivers University) in Kamloops. She liked music. She could become a disk jockey. The students aired a radio program, produced a newspaper, scribbled advertising copy. She showed a flair for daily journalism.

After graduation, she sold freelance articles to the Kamloops Daily Sentinel on cattle and knapweed and wood stoves and any other subject that might interest a rancher. She produced so much copy in four months that the newspaper hired her as a cost-saving measure. It was cheaper to pay her by the day than by the inch.

A job offer from the Victoria Times Colonist brought her back to Vancouver Island. She rose from health reporter to city editor to managing editor. She was a rare woman to be in such a high position at a daily newspaper in Canada, and was undoubtedly the only one of either gender to have done so while sporting a nose stud.

She gave up her management perch to write a column. She showed a rare gift for writing about her own life without being narcissistic, of finding greater truths while writing about her extended family.

“Racism really shaped my mother's life,” she said. “She thought it would shape mine, as well.” It did not. “I was pretty diluted, so no one knew what I was at all.”

No one has ever correctly guessed her ethnic heritage, although she was once accosted on the street by a homeless man who pronounced, “I see before me a Chinese philosopher.” For the record, she is a Chinese-Romanian-Scottish Canadian.

Her grandfather paid a $50 head tax to enter this land in the late 19th century. Her mother told her of attending a wartime dance with a white boyfriend in Moose Jaw, Sask. The proprietor tried to force her to leave. Her older brothers worked for the railway all their lives, but were allowed to join the union only in the 1950s.

Some years back, Ms. Paterson attended the 20th-anniversary reunion of her graduating class at Georges P. Vanier Secondary in Courtenay.

She had forgotten the prediction for her life she made all those years ago.

The 1974 Jody thought the 1994 Jody would be a housewife.

She was city editor of a major metropolitan daily. She could only laugh.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An unorthodox campaign, from apple pies to 9/11 conspiracies

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
October 1, 2008


On Saturday mornings in summer, you can find Mary Etta Goodacre at the Farmer's Market in Smithers. She offers for sale home-baked pies.

“Apples, raspberries, saskatoons,” she said.

Her scones have won prizes, but you have to read the local newspaper to know. She'd never say.

Her table at the corner of Main Street and Highway 16 promises fine baked goods. Her modest campaign for Parliament, launched on a shoestring last week, is based on some ideas that are half-baked.

Ms. Goodacre, 64, has had a busy life as a teacher and homemaker. She has dug dirt in the community garden. She has worked with women's and anti-poverty groups. She cycles, even in winter. She recycles in all seasons. She does not own a television. She does have high-speed Internet.

Until now, she has never run for office.

“I am not a very brave person,” she insists, “but I feel emboldened by the need to crack their insanity.”

Earlier this month, she came across the website of the Canadian Action Party. “We'd rather be Canadian,” is the party slogan.

She signed up for a $10 membership. She also clicked on a link inviting candidates to come forward. The deadline for registration was just 48 hours away. She began gathering the 100 signatures from registered voters she thought she needed to run.

As it turns out, Schedule 3 of the Canada Elections Act requires candidates in large or remote ridings get only 50 nominating signatures. Large and remote are fine descriptions for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, which, at 323,720 square kilometres, is larger than Britain.

The riding borders Yukon and the Alaska Panhandle, includes the isolated Queen Charlotte Islands, stretches as far south as Bella Bella and as far inland as Fort St. James.

On Monday, Ms. Goodacre made her debut at an all-candidates meeting in Burns Lake, which she said was attended by about 80 people. She had never spoken into a microphone before.

“Excellent questions,” she said. “Very polite crowd. Very listening.”

She said five spectators approached her after the meeting. They concurred with her positions, she said, even if they were unlikely to vote for her.

She believes the events of Sept. 11, 2001, were a hoax. She thinks a criminal cabal in control of the U.S. government is responsible. She thinks those who accept the official story are “sheeple.” She dismisses the versions of events as described by the 9/11 commission, by the corporate media, and by government agencies.

She believes in the conspiracy theories as posited by Barrie Zwicker of Toronto and others – that the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, Madrid and London were all false-flag, inside jobs plotted by war-mongering neoconservatives keen on warring on Islam for profit.

The Canadian Action Party, which is based in Vancouver and led by Connie Fogal, is a refuge for those who think 9/11 was a hoax. Five of the party's 20 candidates in this election are running in British Columbia.

Ms. Goodacre was born in Kansas and raised in Alaska, where her carpenter father helped build radar stations on the Distant Early Warning Line. She came to Canada in 1967 because her husband wished to avoid military service in Vietnam. Their union ended in divorce, but she stayed in her adopted land.

She went by another surname until recently. She had been teaching elementary school many years ago under her married name of Hatler, but got tired of children calling her Mrs. Hitler.

She found inspiration in the natural wonders of the broad Alaskan valley that had been her childhood home. “I grabbed a name out of the clear blue sky,” she said. “I called myself Mrs. Cloud. That seemed to soothe the children.”

Fifteen years ago, she married a grocer named Goodacre with an economics degree who went on to represent the area as an MLA. He is now completing his fourth term on Smithers town council and is preparing a run for mayor.

“Bill Goodacre is a staunch NDPer and he wants to differentiate himself from his renegade wife,” she said jokingly.

The Goodacre name has been associated with the Bulkley Valley for a century. His grandfather started a grocery business in 1937, where Bill would later work. He was defeated in the 2001 provincial election and returned to public life as a town councillor. He has campaigned to get the local hockey rink – a converted aircraft hangar of Second World War vintage – named for the mother of Jim and Joe Watson, who won the Stanley Cup with the Philadelphia Flyers back in the 1970s.

Unlike his wife, he has retained his NDP membership. He is sympathetic to her views.

“I'm quite clearly in the camp of people who don't believe the official story of how those buildings came down,” he said.

Ms. Goodacre once approached the provincial NDP Leader to present her version of events.

“I talked to Carole James and she laughed at me,” Ms. Goodacre said. “She laughed at me for a long time.”

One hundred and twenty registered voters signed her nomination papers, a mark of her personal popularity. On election night, she knows her name will be on the bottom of the results list. Hers is a lonely crusade.

Her husband did not attend the all-candidates meeting in Burns Lake. He was playing cards. Monday is bridge night.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.