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HomeBusinessAnalysis: 2020 hindsight

Analysis: 2020 hindsight


Bob Mackin

Do excuse me, I’ve been waiting since the very start of this Leap Year to use that headline. I just didn’t know what I would write beneath it.

Maybe we were warned that 2020 would be a dud that would land with an epic thud. Remember the windstorm that swept into the Pacific Northwest on Dec. 31, 2019? Just in time to cancel outdoor New Year’s Eve celebrations on the 20th anniversary of the Y2K crisis that wasn’t.

The biggest event in the region was the New Year’s at the Needle fireworks at Seattle’s Space Needle. Mother Nature wouldn’t let them celebrate with bombs bursting in air. This year’s broadcast will be a stay-home, virtual light show, because of the pandemic.

So what did happen during this excuse for a trip around the sun?

What follows is my A-to-Z diary of the view from British Columbia.

A: Army and Navy closed after 101 years. A department store that began in the Spanish flu closed in the coronavirus pandemic. Socialite Jacquie Cohen, the granddaughter of founder Sam Cohen, had enough of retail and is now focusing on real estate.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix (BC Gov)

B: Be kind, be calm, be safe. Dr. Bonnie Henry’s words to live by. They made shoes for her at Fluevog and a mural in Gastown. Folk songs and honorary degrees followed. The Provincial Health Officer was a star of the first wave when B.C. was mentioned in the same sentence as Taiwan and New Zealand. Then came fall, when Henry did not stand in the way of Premier John Horgan’s snap election.

The second wave has been less kind, less calm and less safe to the once-smug province. Around 900 families in B.C. lost loved ones. Countless others will suffer disabilities for years to come. The economic collapse has harmed those who stayed physically healthy. 

C: Capilano River. On the first day of October, the Cleveland Dam spillway gushed. North Vancouver artist Ryan Nickerson and his son Hugh were on a fishing outing and drowned. By the end of the month, Metro Vancouver fired three workers.

D: Doug McCallum. The erratic Surrey mayor plowed forward with his plan for a municipal police force to replace the RCMP. He had an affair with Coun. Allison Patton and gained headlines for his car expenses and car crashes.

E: Election. Horgan broke the fixed elections date law and ripped up the confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party a year early. His gamble paid off with the Oct. 24 win in a largely mail-in election. But questions persist about the impact on the pandemic. 

F: Fires on Labour Day in Washington forests blanketed southern B.C. with dense smoke that prompted air quality warnings. Vancouver had the dubious honour of the dirtiest air in the world for a time. Worse than Delhi. Worse than Beijing.

G: Granville Mall, where Hallowe’en crowds gathered despite the pandemic. Covidiots, they were caled. Similar to summer’s Kelowna Canada Day partiers and Third Beach Drum Circlers.

H: Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou lost her bid to be freed at the end of May, when B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes ruled the U.S. charges met the Canadian standard for double criminality. The saga of the Shaughnessy mansion dweller continues. Meanwhile, Canadian hostages Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are in their third year of Chinese custody.

Consul-General Tong Xiaoling visiting Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1. (Phoenix TV)

I: Iran. President Donald Trump started his re-election year with a bang, as a drone assassinated Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad. Five days later, Iran retaliated, shooting down Ukraine Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 people — 63 were Canadian citizens. North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Avenue became a focal point for memorials.

J: Justin Trudeau hosted daily pandemic prose for the press by the porch at Rideau Cottage. He resisted closing Canadian borders before the pandemic was declared. The government unleashed acronyms (CERB, CEWS, etc.) and billions of dollars of spending. Thankfully, Trudeau wasn’t home July 2 when a lone gunman invaded the grounds of Rideau Hall. The Canadian army reservist was arrested. It happened two-and-a-half months after an RCMP wannabe killed 22 on a rampage in Nova Scotia.

K: Kennedy Stewart may have been the country’s shakiest politician during the pandemic. The Vancouver Mayor dithered on declaring an emergency and then overstated the city’s economic hardships. Later he backed a controversial climate change tax plan and he garnered criticism when staff spent more than $317,000 on new furniture amid the recession.

L: Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps looked as befuddled as Stewart, as homeless camps overtook several city parks and crime spiked downtown.

John Horgan announces the election in a Langford cul-de-sac (CPAC)

M: Moths and murder hornets. The looper moths were everywhere during the smokey weeks in September. The Asian murder hornets’ nest was found near Blaine. B.C. authorities found queens in Abbotsford and Aldergrove in November.

N: NDP extended its mandate by another four years with the Oct. 24 election, winning a party record 57 seats. Sol. Gen. Mike Farnworth’s state of emergency lasted 288 days in 2020 and is expected to remain for several months in 2021. The party divided and conquered the BC Liberals under Andrew Wilkinson, who quit after the campaign. Wilkinson put the opposition on hold in the spring to collaborate with the NDP and Greens, not expecting an early election.

O: Opioid overdose crisis. The other public health emergency in B.C. Death toll after 11 months of 2020: almost 1,600. Most victims were males aged 30-59 and fentanyl was the culprit.

P: Parks. Stanley Park Drive was closed to traffic during the first wave, angering seniors and disabled people who were unable to bike to Prospect Point or the Teahouse. Homeless camps moved from Oppenheimer Park to CRAB Park to Strathcona Park. Residents of the latter neighbourhood threatened a tax revolt if city hall didn’t find housing for the campers and deal with criminals who were terrorizing some of the campers and neighbours.

Q: Quit. Vancouver city manager Sadhu Johnston, after five years in the job. The Vision Vancouver recruit’s last kick at the can was a Climate Emergency Action Plan that contemplated a road tax for driving downtown and a new tax on residential vehicle parking.

City manager Sadhu Johnston (UBC)

R: Rugby Sevens at B.C. Place Stadium on the first weekend of March became the last big sport event in the province for 2020. The same weekend, the Pacific Dental Conference at PavCo’s other facility, the Vancouver Convention Centre, became B.C.’s first coronavirus superspreader event.

S: Social unrest. Shut Down Canada protests dominated national news in February, as anti-pipeline protesters piggybacked on a Northern B.C. construction blockade by a faction of the Wet’suwet’en first nation. Black Lives Matter protests spread north in June. Groups threatened to tear down the Capt. George Vancouver and Gassy Jack Deighton statues, but left them vandalized instead. Throughout the year, anti-mask protests weekly outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.

T: Vancouver’s Trump Hotel went bankrupt. The Holborn-operated, Trump-licensed property still displays the sign on West Georgia.

U: University of B.C. Former Thunderbirds football star David Sidoo’s name was removed from the stadium when he pleaded guilty to fraud in the U.S. in March for paying $200,000 to an impostor to write his sons’ university entrance exams. He spent almost three months in a Tacoma, Wash. jail during the fall.

V: Virtual. It’s the way things went as work from home became the norm. Vancouver’s Pride Parade went from streets to online. The Terry Fox Run. Same with 4/20. City councils and even the Legislature went to Zoom. A Vancouver city council Webex meeting was humorously disrupted by the flush of a toilet.

David Sidoo posted a photo on his website in April, preparing to donate masks and sanitizer to Downtown Eastside homeless.

W: Tony Waiters and Tommy Wolski were just two of the Vancouver sports fixtures we lost in 2020. Waiters’ legacy is on every soccer pitch in B.C. He turned the NASL Whitecaps into Soccer Bowl champions in 1979 and coached Canada to its first and only World Cup berth at Mexico 1986. Former jockey Wolski was the biggest booster of the Sport of Kings in Vancouver. Others gone but not forgotten: BC Lions’ owner David Braley, Lions’ fan and Burnaby Coun. Nick Volkow, former North Shore Outlook editor Don Fiorvento and Wilson Markle, the Emmy-winning inventor of Colorization (and a relative of the author).

X: X Æ A-12, the baffling name of the Musk baby, which can also be pronounced as “winning lottery ticket” for the mother, child and their Vancouver relatives.  

Y: You. Be glad you survived. Here’s to a better 2021 for all.

Z: Dr. John Zdanowicz. Zdano, who? He’s a finance professor at Florida International University and a trade-based money laundering expert who testified at the Cullen Commission on money laundering. Other witnesses pointed fingers at the BC Liberals, particularly ex-BC Liberal deputy premier Rich Coleman. Meanwhile Zhu, as in Jian Jun Zhu, was killed in a gangland shooting at a Richmond restaurant in September. Alleged loan shark Paul King Jin, the poster child for the Cullen Commission hearings on money laundering, was injured in the shooting.

Happy new year. A better 2021 for all!

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