Thursday, June 13, 2013

Class War Over A Nanaimo Park!

Colliery Dam Park is the best park in Harewood, a working class neighborhood of Nanaimo BC. The park has two small lakes, the result of a coal company dam a hundred years ago. People too poor to afford the swimming pool, or those who prefer non-chlorinated water swim there in the summer. Others go there to fish or just laze by the water. It is also a place of exquisite beauty.



For reasons we can only guess, the City bureaucrats and the Council majority wish to destroy this park by tearing out the dams. Many people fear that sleazy developers are behind the scheme, wishing to plant their crummy condos on the flood plain. (The stated reason is "safety" – there is a fear of earthquakes destroying the old dams) A mass movement, with probably 90% support has arisen to challenge this action.



This Save the Colliery Dams coalition, with almost 2300 members, has been very flexible dealing with the City, accepting their claim that the dams might need repair or replacement. The difference between the people and the City is how this is done. The people want the dams to be removed, replaced or repaired in a staged, organized fashion. They want something solid on paper. The City on the other hand just wants to tear the dams down this summer and makes vague promises of rebuilding next year. Given the history of governments and promises, you cannot blame the people for finding this unacceptable.

Furthermore, the bureaucracy and Council majority actions have done nothing to alleviate this suspicion – meetings behind closed doors, motions rammed through without debate and a whole catalogue of political trickery. These include stone-walling, denial, ridicule, strawman arguments and spin. These tactics are dishonest and treat the people as the enemy. (It should be added that while the city trots out its experts, the Coalition also has its engineers, geologists etc, but the counter-information is dismissed out of hand by the City.)

This is an obvious failure of the governmental system. Rather than democracy, we have an elected dictatorship. Once elected, many (most?)  officials think they can do whatever they want and the people be damned. (Pardon the pun.) Furthermore, we have a permanent, unelected government in the shape of the bureaucracy. They should be working for us, not the other way around.

If the situation wasn't ugly enough, count on our City council majority to make matters worse. Let's put out that camp fire with a bucket of gasoline! They are seeking a preemptive injunction against us in case we engage in civil disobedience to stop the destruction. I have never, in my long career as an activist, pamphleteer and organizer, heard of such a thing. Generally, the injunction is granted AFTER you do something. A preemptive injunction smacks of 1984. When you think about it, such an action negates your basic democratic rights.


It is really amazing what is happening here. I could spend 50 years handing out pamphlets on how the system is authoritarian and how we need real democracy – people's power – and never do as much to educate people of the nature of the system as one bullying action on the part of the City. I ought to thank the Council majority and the bureaucracy for making this old radicals task so easy!

I have never seen so much anger in my life as the residents of this neighborhood are expressing. This is going to be a long hot summer!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. I guess society has to "cross the line" big time, to go way over ordinarily, passively accepted norms, in order to figure out what should be a base line of reasonable behaviour from the rulers.

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Kreditanstalt said...

Dysfunctional and unresponsive, yes. Expensive and autocratic too. Not to mention nanny-statish...

Yet no one is ready to abolish city-wide government altogether.

Someday they will be.

9:45 AM  

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