Time to check the naughty and nice list

ALREADY it's Christmas.

With it comes our annual hope of joy, redemption and promise for the future. It's a good tradition, a time for offering and exchanging gifts. Casting an eye over the political landscape, who's been naughty this past year?

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In an imperfect world, who's been nice?

Certainly the growing numbers of North Vancouver residents who have begun speaking out against over-the-top redevelopment proposals in both the city and district deserve their chocolate Santas. City councillors Pam Bookham and Rod Clark earn year-end gold-stars too, for their principled stand during the recent Onni project deliberations. That's why people elected them. But these projects can't cause controversy without the will of those largely invisible municipal planners. These functionaries shepherd the project files to council, yet it's the elected politicians - not always fairly - who ultimately take the heat.

Voters have clearly told the city's municipal leaders and their overpaid senior staff to tone down the pace of big development. When the conflicted Onni project ran aground, I thought Mayor Darrell Mussatto spoke graciously of the public opposition despite his own feelings. That's what a leader is supposed to sound like. Lumps of coal, though, to the city's planning department.

In the district they were set to top a few floors from the block-busting Seylynn towers that will soon endear themselves to the close attention of morning commuters at the Ironworkers bottleneck. Coun. Roger Bassam, in one of the most shocking vote reversals in living memory, sank that much-needed reduction in favour of reaching for the stars, or was it hanging a moon, with his 32-storey proposal. You decide. Couns.

Doug MacKay-Dunn, Lisa Muri and Mike Little did too little, too late to stop the travesty. As for the "personal misgivings" shared by the rest of this council redevelopment posse, judge them by their actions. A sack of coal to the lot.

One of these days we'll maybe get a look at what the "Lower Lynn town centre" is supposed to actually be about, but until then district development looks like the tail wagging the dog. The first two big applications for Lynn Valley Town Centre farther up the hill are finally poking neighbourhoods there into awareness that their local community association has been developer-friendly for years. The half-hearted way that district staff circulated news of the preliminary applications didn't exactly get public discussion off to a healthy start. In a letter to this paper, Mayor Richard Walton pretty well admitted this was cheesy. Lumps of coal to the district planners here as well.

The district's recent mania for planting big residential blocks practically guarantees more of the same in Lower Capilano. That only leaves Edgemont Village unscathed. Will this current council be planting two or three high-rise towers there in the new year? It's a natural location for this crew - great views, good transportation hub. What it would need, of course, would be moral courage, apparently in short supply.

Meanwhile, let's hear some generous holiday applause for Chief Justin George and the Tsleil-Waututh who've stood up against the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline-twinning down Burrard Inlet. They're not backing down.

It's time to acknowledge that those opposed to twinning the current pipeline route are not necessarily opposed to the whole plan. Why aren't we hearing any alternatives regarding other possible endpoint locations than Burrard Inlet? So far, even talk-radio debate is locked into strict Yes/No polarities. We need to open up a broader, more critical dialogue and soon.

An hour south, Washington State is embroiled in similar contentious public deliberations over a huge new coal port at Cherry Point between Blaine and Bellingham. Fresh coastal thinking is urgently needed.

Still in Washington, our friendly neighbours there have already stolen a march on us by joining Colorado in decriminalizing cannabis. Now five further states are also developing referenda. In financially strapped B.C., we're hearing reports of growing government sympathy for taxing the purported $400 million annual ganja business here. As the casino gambling lobby knows, that kind of money talks. Federally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will never legalize it, but how long can prohibition survive when Canadians slip across the border for more than just a cruise around the mall? Remember, it has been Conservatives who've brought into legislation some of the more controversial changes in Canadian society.

Unless their commitment to building more prisons and keeping RCMP members busy chasing harmless potheads is vital to the national job-creation strategy, expect the Tories to green-light a decriminalization study soon. The new medical marijuana rules point in this direction.

A special yuletide brownie here to Marc Emery. His clarification on CKNW by phone from the slammer

down south regarding where national Liberal Party leadership contender Justin Trudeau ought to stand on the cannabis matter - from what Emery says is personal history - but who doesn't in public, was illuminating.

That's another reason to like Liberal leadership candidate Marc Garneau. A former naval officer, three-time astronaut, with a PhD in electrical engineering and a decent record in the House of Commons, at 63 he's a genuine Canadian hero. Toronto's celebrity-obsessed media can't get enough of young Trudeau, but didn't they love Michael Ignatieff too? Garneau's kind of bravery makes Trudeau the Younger look like Mr.

Twinkie. Still, he'll need all the gold stars, not to mention chocolate coins he can muster. Imagine - our own Starship Commander at the helm. Beam me up, Scotty!

Finally, a silver tiddlywink to federal political strategist Brian Topp. He lost earlier this year to Thomas Mulcair in the federal NDP leadership race, but remains a widely respected, veteran campaign organizer with deep roots to the film industry. He's in B.C. now, and there's a spring election ahead. Stay tuned, video-techies.

A happy and holy Christmas to all.


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