Daphne Bramham: A short list of what’s bugging me today

Why ban noisy leafblowers but not motorcycles? Why do we need checkout clerks? Why won’t Canada let international medical graduates work?

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Cam Cole was one of my favourite colleagues. He was a brilliant sportswriter, and so much fun to spend time with.

But as a columnist, I also admired that he had a strategy for when deadlines loomed, and he either had nothing worthy of a full rattle or too many things that deserved at least some comment.

On those days, Cam wrote what he called, “Items that might one day grow up to be columns”. So with thanks to him, here are some of mine:

• Gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers are annoying. They’re noisy and polluting. Both can easily be replaced with old-fashioned tools that use person-power and reduce the noise to the grumbling of humans.

So, I have no problem with Vancouver city councillors coming up with the idea, two of them on exactly the same night.

But here’s my problem with it: Nobody is out cutting their lawn or blowing leaves when most of us are trying to sleep.

If the councillors are going to go to all the trouble and use all the staff time it takes to change the noise bylaw that already puts limits on them, why not go after the really bad guys?


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There are waaaaayyyyy noisier motorcycles and deliberately unmuffled vehicles revving and roaring through the city every night. There are vehicles that are boom boxes on wheels that practically shake you out of your bed.

What about them? The only place where vehicles are specifically mentioned in city bylaws is to exclude their noise if it’s coming from an event at B.C. Place Stadium.

And while we’re talking noise, what idiot(s) at whichever federal or municipal agency or department regulating these things thought it would be okay to let a movie company fly a helicopter over the West End and False Creek for an hour starting before 6 a.m.

On a day that already happened to be the longest of the year, did anyone really think that maybe an early morning whup-whupping that conjures fears of disasters was a good idea over the most densely populated parts of the city?


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And, seriously, is it ever really a good idea to fly a helicopter with a vehicle dangling below it over an urban centre?

• During the pandemic, among those poor souls on the frontline when none of us knew what COVID was, how it was spread, or bothered to wear masks, were checkout clerks.

Over the past 16 months, they risked getting COVID in order to ensure that we had our stockpiles of toilet paper and the battered bag of flour ripped from that other shopper’s arms.

Perhaps almost as bad, they have had to endure months of endlessly innocuous conversations with strangers who haven’t seen a live person in days, let alone spoken to one.

And so what happens now with the restart? Walmart, which raked in billions of dollars more than usual during the lockdowns, wants to dump the minimum wage earners who it mostly employs for just enough hours to keep them under the limit for getting benefits.


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It’s rolling out “pilot projects” in places like Trail, B.C. to replace those kids, single parents, retirees, immigrants and others desperate for a job — any job — with do-it-yourself scanners so they can make even greater profits until we reach the point where nobody who is forced to shop there can afford it.

Walmart’s not unique. It’s just ahead of the pack. The pandemic sped up automation in ways that no one might have predicted.

It has almost ended the use of cash, for heaven’s sake.

Maybe it’s inevitable. But maybe we don’t all want to be DIY all the time. Maybe we don’t all want to see our downtowns hollowed out and shops replaced with drones dropping packages that we ordered online from companies whose CEOs are so wealthy that they can think of nothing better to do with their money than fly to the moon.


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• Now that Canada appears to have a handle on COVID-19, the federal government is ramping up efforts to welcome a record 401,000 immigrants this year — a target that would tie a record set in 1913.

The rationale is that high levels of immigration will help in the post-pandemic economic recovery.

But why isn’t the government bolstering the recovery by ensuring that all the people who got into Canada because of their specialized skills are doing more than driving for Uber?

The chronic shortage of trained medical professionals has only been highlighted during the pandemic and exacerbated by the burnout that many are now suffering.

As I wrote more than a year ago, Canada has a system that is rigged against an estimated 5,000 internationally trained medical professionals. They meet national standards, but they are blocked from applying for 90 per cent of residency positions. Without completing a residency, they can’t work here.

So, before Canada strips more countries of highly trained doctors with the false promise that they are needed and wanted here, it needs to fund more residency positions and get those who are already here working.

Recently, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, which is co-chaired by former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul, had taken up their cause.

It’s urging Canadians to send a message to the government through social media using the hashtag #EqualChance.


Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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