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Initially, your pampered correspondent was a tad skeptical about what seemed too much publicity and too many photo ops surrounding Jagrup Brar's high-profile attempt to survive for a month on welfare. But as the days progressed, I grew more appreciative of the MLA's dogged determination to do it right, his modestly expressed sympathy for those with so much less, and not pretending that he had discovered poverty. There was very little, if any, grandstanding from the stolid Mr. Brar.

I also liked his acknowledgement of the humanity he found among the hardscrabble residents of the Downtown Eastside.

"They knew I am an MLA, that I am not poor. But they understood what I was doing, and knew this month I had no money," he told the Vancouver Sun's Gerry Bellett. "These people are poor themselves, yet they each wanted to give me $5."

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Mr. Brar has now returned to his family and comfortable life in Surrey. But the experience changed him as a person, he says, and I believe him. Well done.

A shot of humour

I like a good joke when I know about it.

So I happily turn a chunk of my struggling column over to our Premier for a breath of real humour, one that's drawn laughter among very different audiences – truck loggers last month, and powerful women executives this week.

Seems that Christy Clark's son, Hamish, an atom minor hockey goalie, asks his mom at just about every practice for some new equipment.

"And," she explained to her audience of women on Wednesday, "every time, I have the same answer for him. I say: 'Hamish … I am not going to buy you something you don't need and we can't afford just to get you to shut up.'"

At a later practice, Hamish looks around and says, "Mom, they've got these great new goalie masks, and I really want [one]"

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The young man knows what's coming, however. He plays his trump card.

As related by his mother the Premier: "Okay, Mom, I know the drill. I don't need it. We can't afford it, and you're not going to buy it for me just to get me to shut up. So here's the thing. I want Adrian Dix to take me to hockey practice."

Yuk yuk yuk.

Clearly on a roll, Ms. Clark tried for another laugh.

"The B.C. Liberal Party has had some pretty tough times, and without them, I wouldn't be here," she said. This time, silence.

"That's a joke," the Premier explained.

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Firebrand cool-down

The laid-back, gentle ambience of rural Coombs, stomping grounds of roof-top goats and a young Leonard Krog, seems to have finally soothed the NDP's long-time firebrand MLA from Nanaimo.

How else to explain Mr. Krog's surprising public appreciation of B.C.'s double-duty – I almost wrote double-oh-seven – minister, Bond, Shirley Bond, who shoulders the twin responsibilities of Attorney- and Solicitor-General.

In an interview with ex-Globe reporter Ian Mulgrew, now at another newspaper, Mr. Krog first asked the reporter if he were sitting down. Then he offered: "Bond is a pretty capable minister, even if she has no legal training."

No big deal, explained Mr. Krog. "I went to Salvation Army Sunday School. I learned you have to recognize the good in all of us."

China likes ties, ties, ties

I see by the papers that the People's Republic of China has not lost its fascination with ties, ties of all sizes, sorts, nationalities and now, heat.

"Panda visit signals warming ties," blared a Thursday headline in my favourite morning newspaper.

During my time in China, relatively early in that country's relentless destruction of its heritage in favour of ugly skyscrapers and traffic jams, I became entranced with its ongoing passion for those decorative objects falling from the neck and spilling down the chest, otherwise known as ties.

Day after day, there they were in the China Daily, the Communist-controlled English-language paper that ran a story once with the delightful headline: "Officials urged to be honest".

May I humbly share a few headlines to illustrate this strange tie obsession. ( Get on with it, ed.)

"Caribbean ties show promise"; "Sino-Nepal neighbourly ties hailed"; "Sino-French ties to improve"; Indonesia urged to treasure China ties"; "China, Mali ties time-tested"; "Slovak ties to flourish"; "Bulgarian ties to be enhanced"; "Majority of Chinese expect better ties"; "Sino-Canadian ties firmer."

And, never to forget the wonderful, 1996 news for tie-lovers everywhere: "Clinton's re-election beneficial to ties, experts say".

Haberdashers of the world, unite.

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