Master Confucius said, "Look at the means a man employs, observe the path he takes, and examine where he feels at home"
LATE SUMMER, Sunday morning.
From the corner of Lonsdale and Third, the harbour downhill shimmers in the early light. Since June, I've been talking to community leaders at different levels in a bid to take the pulse of North Vancouver.
Today we'll meet our man in Ottawa, Andrew Saxton, MP.
From where I'm standing, his constituency office is accessible, visible. Saxton was raised in the area, and his family has history here.
His father, a prominent businessman and director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C., was in Caracas, Venezuela, once and saw his first cable-car there.
On his return, he bought property on Grouse Mountain and built the Skyrides.
Saxton's mother owned the Rainbow Lodge, Whistler's first hotel. Educated at the old Tory bastion of Upper Canada College in Toronto, young Andrew shared rooms in Grade 10 with Alex Ignatieff, you-know-who's cousin.
After commerce studies, it was banking. Understanding how money makes money and knowing who's who in Canada are useful political assets.
Currently in his second term, Saxton serves as parliamentary secretary to the president of the Treasury Board, and is parliamentary secretary for western economic diversification. He's frequently the bearer of good financial news in the West. So what's he been doing for us locally?
"My job is to make sure North Vancouver gets its fair share," says Saxton. "Our government has brought in the Economic Action Plan in response to the world recession, and I meet regularly with the mayors and provincial MLAs to see how we can keep ensuring that we get our share."
What does an answer like that mean in practice?
"As a parliamentary secretary, I have opportunity to address the interests of my constituents at a very high level," he explains. "I've been able to bring over $100 million in federal funding here as a result. That includes new solar panels on the roof of the North Vancouver Library, funding for the new Gordon Smith Gallery, major funding for Capilano University's new film centre, the running track and artificial turf at Windsor high school; we've helped with road improvements, an overpass for the Spirit Trail," and the list goes on.
And the status of his biggest delivery, the polar icebreakers?
"The federal shipbuilding contracts to Seaspan Marine - $8 billion dollars - will create 4,000 direct jobs over the life of the projects, and those dollars and economic activity will flow throughout this community. They're noncombatant vessels, and the new ships won't be delivered into service for about five years out, but the prime minister has just announced a new arctic station as part of our national investment in the North. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has also been named as new minister to the arctic."
Closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station is a sore issue locally, and Saxton admits he's heard the complaints.
"I'm a boater too," he notes. "We did speak to the Coast Guard about it. We're the only major port in Canada that had its own station. By establishing a new lifeboat in Vancouver, we thought it would take up the slack to Sea Island. I've been working with Tim Jones and North Shore Rescue, and we're taking his suggestions seriously. We do have a new lifeboat in Howe Sound that's based in Horseshoe Bay, and a new one in Deep Cove. "
There will also be another one in English Bay, base to be decided.
What about the hated Bill C-38 that Dr. David Suzuki says "guts federal laws passed over the years to ensure that our air, water, and most vulnerable wildlife populations are protected." How does he defend that?
"C-38 is a long bill because there's a lot of work that needs to be done" Saxton contends, alas, sounding like a good company man. "When it comes to regulatory reviews, we believe that people who are prepared to invest hundreds of millions are entitled to a response in a reasonable amount of time."
Onto the oil pipelines that First Nations oppose, and a potentially game-changing northern refinery?
"The economy and creating jobs is our government's No. 1 focus," he replies. "A new refinery is an industry decision. It's really up to the private sector. The pipelines - whether it's the line proposed to Kitimat or even Prince Rupert, or the upgraded line to Burnaby - there's a regulatory process we have to acknowledge. Our environment is a treasure, and we do listen. Look at the Taseko Mines - Fish Lake - when Jim Prentice was minister. An environmental report came out, and we stopped the project from going ahead. Amongst my colleagues, we all have children; we care about their future. We want to protect the environment, and we have to continue to help the economy grow."
Imperfect by nature, politics is the art of the possible. When we're talking the people's business, what's important is that we keep on talking. Today's not a bad day at all.
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