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Occupy Vancouver protest has honourable civic history

It's a strange beast, this Occupy Wall Street movement. Opponents who seem wildly indignant about nearly everything keep waiting for some reason to demand its ouster from the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza. But so far, as the Monty Python lads might put it: Suddenly, nothing happened. It's as quiet and peaceful and earnest and respectful and organized as any protest this jaded old relic from the Sixties has seen.

While it's early days yet, of course, the tent-in has caused no more disruption to daily life in the big city than any of the numerous, authorized public events that crowd the back of the art gallery on other occasions.

The two times I wandered by at night this week, there was nothing more unruly than groups of a dozen or so young people standing around in circles, discussing issues. It might have been an agora in ancient Greece or an early Icelandic althing.

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The media, meanwhile, seem flummoxed, unsure what to make of a movement that doesn't fit into a nice box with recognizable demands.

But I find it kind of refreshing to see young people, accused by many of having such a short attention span, slowly working towards consensus, without texting or Facebook.

And the large policing bill for the protest's first three days was not the result of Occupy troublemaking, but apprehension stoked by the Stanley Cup riot.

There may come a time when the protesters and their tents become an eyesore or start to smell or pose a threat to health. Until then, what's the problem?

Heck, if authorities had evicted those yippies occupying All Seasons Park 40 years ago, the city would have a high-rise hotel at the entrance to Stanley Park, rather than the lovely public space existing there today.

And let's not forget the bedraggled tent city by Oka sympathizers that took up space on the Art Gallery lawn for three weeks in 1990. It ended only when the city's superb health officer, John Blatherwick, ordered tents taken down to avoid an outbreak of spinal meningitis. Until then, the city had left matters to police. And who was the hands-off mayor of the day? Why, none other than a young fella named Gordon Campbell. You can look it up.

A big deal – to Clark

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I don't know why everyone thought Wednesday's shipbuilding announcement was such big news. I tweeted on Tuesday that B.C. would win the $8-billion contract. As usual, I was ignored.

Not surprisingly, Premier Christy Clark – and rightly so – was beside herself with glee, tinged with that wee bit of self-admiration Ms. Clark is honing so effectively at the helm of a province the likes of which, she marvels, has not been seen "in the history of the world."

A lot of the credit goes to her, the Premier implied, as she congratulated Seaspan CEO Jonathan Whitworth on winning the lesser, although in some ways the better, of the two shipbuilding packages.

"I'm glad we were successful together," she said to Mr. Whitworth, over her cellphone, appearing to equate her Christy-come-lately support for B.C.'s bid with the detailed, 30,000-page submission by Seaspan to the panel of civil servants charged with awarding the contracts on merit, not politics.

Continuing in that vein during an interview with CBC Radio's The Early Edition Thursday morning, Ms. Clark said that, once her government became involved, "I started travelling back and forth to Ottawa to sell the deal."

According to the Premier, when she raised the matter with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he assured her that awarding the lucrative contracts would be immune from political inference. Even there, Ms. Clark said she had a role. "My role in that was to say, 'Prime Minister, thank you.'" You never know. It might have made all the difference.

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Halsey-Brandts days go bye

An end to the Halsey-on days of multiple Halsey-Brandts on Richmond City Council is sadly at hand. For the past three years, whenever Mayor Malcolm Brodie recognized Councillor Halsey-Brandt, one of three councillors might have responded: Greg, the former mayor; Evelina, his current wife; or Sue, the ex-mayor's ex-wife. All Halsey-Brandts. All on the same council. What fun. Talk about two's company, three's a crowd.

But both Greg and Sue have now decided that enough is enough. They aren't running next month. That leaves only the former Evelina Vaupotic to carry on the Halsey-Brandt name in Richmond municipal politics, a fixture of the city since 1981.

Despite their marital histories, once inside the council chamber Sue and Evelina set their personal feelings aside. Indeed, the sharers of the Halsey-Brandt surname regularly voted the same way, occasionally even against the man loved by one and once loved by the other. Politics, as they say, makes strange bedfellows.

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