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(DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
(DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Rod Mickleburgh

Are Tories aware that B.C. residents are still standing despite the dreaded carbon tax? Add to ...

If there’s one thing federal Tories hate more than Thomas Mulcair’s facial foliage, it’s a carbon tax.

Perhaps unaware that Her Majesty’s loyal subjects in beautiful British Columbia are still standing, despite a levy on carbon use, including gas at the pump, since 2008, the Conservatives repeatedly dismiss such a tax as the Darth Vader of economic destroyers.

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“It would impact on virtually everything and the cost of living of all Canadians,” stormed federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, during a recent, late-night yawn fest in the House of Commons, known to parliamentary insiders as the committee of the whole shebang.

“Let me clear the air [hehe]once again, Mr. Chair [see Romper Room, 1962] This government will not now or in the future impose a carbon tax on Canadians.”

Chimed in mild-mannered Mr. Kent’s Daily Planet colleague Michelle Rempel: “A carbon tax is a tax on everything, that would hurt jobs in this country, and our government will not do that.”

This followed Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s rant a few days earlier that a carbon tax is so lethal, imposing it would actually “kill and hurt Canadian families.”

Now that’s scary. Has something dire been happening in carbon-taxed British Columbia that we don’t know about? Is Premier Christy Clark’s vaunted “Families First” agenda just a cover-up to mask a hidden body count of families, asphyxiated by paying an extra 7.2 cents a litre for gas?

Yet there was our Premier this week, freshly returned from her sojourn to Seoul, journey to Japan and march on Manila, still espousing “well-paying jobs for B.C. families,” even at the risk of death via carbon tax.

Definitely more frightening than the beard of Thomas Mulcair.

The apprenticeship of Tony Clement

By the way, if you’re wondering where hard-hearted Treasury Board President Tony Clement schooled himself in saying “no” to so many worthy ventures, other than those in his own riding, the secret is out.

As a callow youth, Mr. Clement earned money as an usher at the Ontario Film Institute auditorium. “I had to shine my flashlight on old ladies crumpling their lozenges a little too loudly,” he told a reporter.

Say no more.

The magic of Matisse

Excuse me for buzzing. I’m still lost in the magic of Matisse.

Imagine seeing a collection of the brilliant French artist, as I did at a preview on Thursday, right here in good old Vancouver, a mere block from where I work.

There’s even a local angle to the stunning exhibition of paintings, mostly Matisse, collected by the wealthy Cone Sisters of Baltimore, who were long dead before The Wire came along to show a different side of Babe Ruth’s hometown.

In the early 1950s, Vancouver Art Gallery curator J.A. Morris thought he had a Canadian coup for the young institution – an agreement to transfer a number of paintings by the incomparable Matisse from an exhibition in Los Angeles for a special showing here.

Alas, at the last moment, Matisse, then in his early 80s, fell ill. He asked for his world-class works to be sent back to France, before they could be displayed in Vancouver.

Mr. Morris was heartbroken. He tried to save the show with a direct appeal to the painter himself. Cleverly, the VAG curator wrote his letter in French, playing up that Canada, as a bilingual country, had special ties with France.

The aging artist, who died two years later, was touched. He responded with a personal, typewritten letter from his Riviera residence to Mr. Morris on West Georgia Street, expressing regret that it was too late to reconsider. At the bottom is the distinctive signature that identified all those framed, vibrant splashes of colour and craftsmanship that hang in museums around the world.

The Morris-Matisse exchange is on display as part of the Matisse collection, which opens Saturday at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Guaranteed to enchant your socks off.

Besides, where else can you see a painting entitled Large Odalisque in Striped Pantaloons?

***

Yes, about time, but let’s still applaud the choice of former NDP premier Dave Barrett to receive the Order of British Columbia.

As colourful and impassioned a politician as ever there was, Mr. Barrett rarely held back his left-wing views. And he joked incessantly. Claiming to be bilingual, he once quipped: “I speak fluent capitalism and fluent socialism.” No one disagreed.

The old ball game

Did you hear that federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt was at a Blue Jays game the other day? When the umpire hollered, “Strike!” Ms. Raitt took the next flight back to Ottawa to prepare back-to-work legislation.

Follow on Twitter: @rodmickleburgh

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