On Scolding Unenforced Rule Breakers and the Unforgivable Absence of Rent Relief

Tea & Two Slices is a long-running local news round-up by NEEDS frontman and veteran dishwasher Sean Orr, who lives and works in Gastown, deeply aware of his privilege.

The Easter long weekend was a disaster. From Tofino to the Sunshine Coast locals were begging people to follow the non-essential travel ban, and yet across the province there have been reports of crowded campgrounds, RVs invading the backcountry and small towns having their already squeezed supermarkets totally emptied by visitors. BC Ferries sailings reach max passenger capacity despite pleas to stay home over long weekend. Granted, the number of sailings had been slashed, but these boats were much busier than they needed to be.

For sanity’s sake I want to imagine that all these kayak-laden Kias are filled with arrogant, upper-middle class narcissistic assholes but to my horror I realized one of my closest friends was camping up near Squamish. I know he reads this column, so what’s going on? Is it the shitstorm of conflicting misinformation that is social media or just general hubris?

Is it because strong encouragement to stay home isn’t enough? Is it because we’ve substituted scolding for enforcement? The Curious Personality Cult of Bonnie Henry:

More importantly, Henry is scolding ignorant, unsophisticated people whose natural response to a major civilization-wide crisis is to take a break from news media and focus on their families, homes and mental health, incorrectly assuming that if the government had something important to say, they would be notified through something like an amber alert. So, Henry is scolding those who do not see themselves as consumers of the news as inferior members of society.

More importantly, still, Henry is scolding people because they lack the self-control that distinguishes the managerial class as the elect. The BC government restores a bunch of sailings on its ferry fleet to scenic destinations. It expands its ferry reservation system to pre-pandemic capacity. The sun comes out. And this allows us to see who is a member of the self-controlled, civically responsible elect and who succumbs to the temptations the progressive state has intentionally placed before them.

It’s why we can call this the austerity virus as it exposes the neoliberal third way program of slashing social services in favour of corporate tax cuts. The real vector is inequality.

We’ve been riding a bare bones health system for too long. But while governments across the world are digging deep and responding with a massive outpouring of social expenditures, this is what Vancouver does: Vancouver mayor angers first responders with warning about possible layoffs. Absolutely unforgivable. Disaster capitalism at its ugliest. If the city can’t afford to run itself, maybe it shouldn’t have spent all their money on lattes and avocado toast. Maybe it should get a second job or move somewhere else.

By dangling first responders in front of us knowing it will cause a backlash, Kennedy will bait and switch to sell off city-owned assets in a cynical ploy to appease the vultures. Bye bye, Kingsgate Mall. Bye bye, co-ops:

An inflated police budget, a bloated communications staff, a city manager who makes 350k a year, and a refusal to tax mansions and triple the empty homes tax and we only have $130 million set aside for catastrophic events in a city that sits atop a megathrust earthquake zone? How is that even possible? Why are they only using a portion of it and saving the rest for “large snow fights, major storm response, and other unplanned emergencies, such as the Beachwood aquifer”?

If the answer is because it’s illegal for Vancouver and other local governments to run deficits, then what is the point of emergency measures? Maybe we shouldn’t let the idea of debt consume us. Maybe we should pass some emergency laws instead of begging for a bigger allowance. Or maybe Kennedy is gaslighting us all with the threat that things should go back to normal.

I mean, if PoCo can do it… Port Coquitlam cancels property tax increase, extends payment deadline due to coronavirus crisis.

The fact is, we can all do it. We can imagine a world that prioritizes the things that this virus has shown us to be essential. We can strip all the dross away. We can come together and help out the little guy. ‘We have to share the burden’: Small businesses call for commercial rent relief amid COVID-19 losses. Not loans. Not temporary measures. A great big pause on business as usual.

Unfortunately, it’s probably too late for many. COVID-19: Vancouver nerd bar Storm Crow closing permanently on Commercial Drive.

And then there’s these fucking morons: Outrage as ‘anti-lockdown conspiracy theorists ignore coronavirus fears to stage public protest in Vancouver’. Look, we get it. You’re scared. You’re unable to be by yourself for more than a day at a time because you’re painfully boring. You’re threatened that the rest of us are acting as though we live in a society and that is somehow anathema to you. You’ve done some research (aka spent 20 minutes watching youtube) and you’ve organized (*checks notes) 10s of people for your protest. I guess we know the people who have volunteered to give up their chance at a ventilator. I wonder how many of these anti-government numpties are gleefully collecting their CERB cheques.

It doesn’t matter that their theories don’t make sense and that Bill Gates doesn’t need to put a microchip in them because they literally carry one around with them 24/7. You can’t win with conspiracy theorists. Adrian Dix: “Don’t allow people who are attempting to promote themselves by using the suffering of others to distract us. Don’t look at them, but focus on what we need to do together.”

Because of these people and the Easter Weekend trippers, plus usually smart people and the guy who inexplicably spat on elevator buttons, the time for voluntary compliance is over: British Columbians now face $25K fine, jail if they ignore public health orders over COVID-19. And yet, the conspiracy theorists will use this as proof of some insidious government campaign to control us. It’s a feedback loop, a self fulfilling prophecy.

That being said, we need to temper this enforcement with making sure cops aren’t abusing their authority. Because, you know, ACAB — Editorial: Our civil rights matter, even in a pandemic.

It certainly doesn’t help that our media is riling people up with sensationalist stories like this one: Brian Lilley: Trudeau’s cottage visit mocks us and the rules he sets. I’m loathe to defend the guy, but this is no “load the ATV on the back of your pick-up and head to Pemby” trip. It’s where his family lives. Scheer on the other hand…

Good to see Vancouver isn’t limiting our selfish indignation to our own confines: COVID-19: Mexican media says Vancouver men accosted journalist on beach. Ugh. These are our ambassadors.

Meanwhile, former school trustee Patti Bacchus gets flack for vacationing at her cabin on Mayne Island and calls people calling her out, um, facists (sic):

Um, keeping lists sounds pretty fascist to me, but ok. I forgive Patti instantly though, because she also went to war with Vancouver Is Awesome: B.C. politics bully Patti Bacchus thinks our community newspaper is fake news. Yeah man, nothing says you’re a credible replacement for the Vancouver Courier like airing out your petty, years-long feud in your own pages.

What better way to demonstrate that you’re not the bad guys everyone is making you out to be: ‘Throw Their Stuff on the Lawn’: BC Landlords Plot Against Unemployed Renters in Private Facebook Groups. I somehow got added to this group and it was the most glorious 5 minutes of my life.

Oh, it might seem like old news by now, but remember the province’s $500 relief program all renters were supposed to get? Well, don’t look now but it’s only $300 per household if you don’t have dependents. The landlord also has to apply and it’s only available to households with less than $74,150/year income last year regardless of whether you currently have any income. You must not be receiving any other government rent subsidies, including disability assistance or income assistance. And finally, you must commit to covering all the rest of your rent. Clearly, the people that drew this has never been a renter or has ever lived a remotely precarious existence.

“Means testing tenants to provide aid to landlords is a bureaucratic nightmare which veers into self-parody. It means that many people who need help will not get the help they need. We need better. Tell the BC government here“.

Oh, and you might not get the subsidy because you are in fact living in an illegal suite: might have difficulty accessing rental subsidy.

Second COVID-19 case confirmed in Vancouver homeless shelter. It’s so fucking scary down here right now.

Oh, Kelowna: Police called to distillery after ‘hundreds’ of vehicles line up for free hand sanitizer, reports of fights.

Some good news: B.C. spending $5M to boost virtual mental-health services.

Exhibit B: Vancity temporarily cuts credit card interest rates to zero percent for those in COVID-induced financial bind.

Exhibit C: Langley’s Drive-In Theatre is back and it’s Social Distancing Friendly. I guess that means cramming 3 people into your friend’s trunk so you can get in for free is out of the question…

More: Arc’teryx to manufacture and source 90,000 surgical gowns for BC hospitals.

To my homies in the industry: Food Is No Longer Your Fallback Job. It Never Should Have Been in the First Place.

Satire: Local hipster keeps telling everyone he was on EI before it was cool.

Bonus: The Pandemic That Ripped Through Vancouver 100 Years Ago.

There are 6 comments

  1. There were barely any tourists up on the Sunshine Coast, but there were lunatics on the side of the highway with signs telling people to “Fuck Off”. Choose your own dystopia.

  2. I choose the one where people criticize those who may be endangering lives for their own narcissistic impulses. That was fun, give me another one!

  3. Re Good News: $5M for Virtual Mental Health Services is just World of Warcraft Gold, mined by ministerial bureaucrats over the last decade or so. But hey, Facebook ads can go a long way…

  4. What a deeply cynical and ideological article. “I want to think it is middle class narcissists”. I guess you do you in the times.

  5. A once-in-a century crisis, and ndp stalwart Kennedy Stewart gives up $18k of his $180k annual salary, but only during the pandemic. Then demands the province send $200 million. Even Trump has refused the $450k presidential salary since 2014.

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