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Farewell to the summer of Vancouver’s discontent

To the long, hot, dry summer of discontent in Vancouver I say good riddance. You brought conflict, sleepless nights and misery and you did it – perhaps ironically – against a backdrop of unrelenting sunshine that any Vancouverite knows is an indication that all is not right with the world. I look forward to no longer choking on the scorching dust of your days and tossing and turning through your suffocating, unnaturally hot nights. I blame you for everything. You were the summer of intractable quagmires that remain unresolved.

You resuscitated the decades-old debate about whether the Vancouver Aquarium ought to be keeping whales and dolphins in captivity, which eventually prompted the Park Board to pass a motion banning breeding. Think about that for a moment: a policy that will prevent cetaceans from engaging in a natural act, when goodness knows they have little else to do in those concrete pools. Playing with a ball can only take you so far.

Now the matter is headed to litigation with the aquarium demanding a judicial review of the Park Board's decision, and the Park Board holding firm that it has the authority to govern the sex lives of aquarium residents.

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Cruel summer, you brought us the battle between CP Rail and the City of Vancouver, a conflict that mobilized west-side community gardeners as few issues can. In a move that had nothing to do with the fact that this is an election year, after 14 years of not running a single train down its tracks, CP sent letters to residents warning them it was reclaiming its line and, in the name of track maintenance, clearing what stood in its way. Garden sheds, fruit-bearing trees, tomato patches – nothing was safe. Not since the days of "crème de la crème" have owners of multimillion-dollar west-side properties felt so under attack. It was finally the threat of spraying herbicide that apparently got the city's attention and jump-started the "meaningful conversations" CP had been hoping to have without having to resort to additional letters outlining its plan to begin transporting nuclear waste through the corridor. We can only hope that eventually a lot of money will change hands and that this long, horrible nightmare will end.

Blinding, irrepressible, sunshiny summer, you made a mockery of the mayor's promise to end homelessness by encouraging poor and marginalized people to move from their bedbug- and vermin-infested jail-cell-sized hotel rooms into tents in Oppenheimer Park. Police issued an eviction notice in mid July, but since then the tent city has only grown and there appears to be no plan or appetite to shut it down. Perhaps lessons have been learned from the Occupy encampment that took over the Art Gallery lawn during the last municipal election campaign, or further back in history the Woodward's squat that coloured the 2002 campaign. With Powell Street reopened to traffic, the site is now again in plain view for thousands of commuters each day, and it stands as a stark reminder of the economic disparity in this city.

And then searing, insufferable summer, you brought us the mother of them all – the dispute between the provincial government and the province's teachers. For 2 1/2 months, the two sides barely spoke, and now, with the school year set to begin on Tuesday, B.C.'s Education Minister Peter Fassbender has proposed a temporary suspension of the strike that would eliminate the only bargaining tool the teachers have: the withholding of their services. It's a shrewd PR move that puts the onus on the union to explain why the schools aren't open. The minister would also like the B.C. Teachers' Federation to set aside its grievances when it comes to class size and composition, which is arguably what the entire dispute is about. Two and half months, and we are no closer to the schools being open.

Meantime, the alcoholic-beverage news releases persist. We have learned that spirits from Saskatchewan will soon be flowing freely into our province. Perhaps they have a product that can make us all forget that summer ever happened.

And so summer, forgive me for saying so, but I'm glad to see the back of you. Your balmy, sticky radiance, your warm, gentle breezes and everything that you wrought will not be missed.

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One. 88.1 FM and 690 AM in Vancouver.

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