Sunday morning sunshine – never taken for granted in November – was an invitation to go for a walk on the beach. So we did. Down to Spanish Banks. At the bottom of Trimble hill, however, we saw an interesting sight. Someone planting trees in a corner of Locarno Park – the southeast corner , to be precise.
Well, there are lots of trees already in Locarno Park, and lots of trees in all of the lovely green space nearby. It seemed a bit odd that someone was planting more trees there. So we had a closer look. We saw a sign that explained what was going on. Here’s a picture of the sign (with apologies for the fact that it is a smartphone picture taken in early morning darkness a few hours ago).
Apparently, the City intends to plant 150,000 more trees by 2020. That’s what it means to live in a city that has a Greenest City Action Plan. That’s a lot of trees. And why these trees in particular? “To create parks which create more bird and wildlife habitat.” “Larger natural areas for wildlife.” That's what the sign says.
Hmm. The other day my wife saw a coyote on our street. Checking out the front lawns. Looking for, I don’t know what. Probably not just admiring the gardens, I’ll bet.
I like trees. I like birds. I like wildlife. I particularly like wildlife when it is in that place we call the “wild.” I’m not so keen about coyotes in residential neighbourhoods in Vancouver. So I guess I’m not sure why Vancouver needs to plant more trees to create more habitat for more coyotes in our neighbourhoods.
But while I am at it, let me add another thing. In case you hadn’t noticed, our economy is still limping. Public treasuries are not awash in cash. Our national and provincial governments are working very hard to control spending. They are making progress in achieving this goal because they are constraining – and sometimes even reducing - expenditures on government programs. Including some truly fundamental programs like health care and education. To achieve this kind of discipline requires understanding the difference between the things you simply must do and the things you would like to do, and finding a way to say no to the things that you would like to but shouldn’t because they are not truly necessary.
But so far as I can tell, this same discipline is not applied in the City of Vancouver. At a time when other levels of government are trying to maintain existing levels of service delivery, the City of Vancouver is expanding its programs and services. Aspiring to be a Greenest City is a lofty and noble ambition. Desirable, maybe, but not, I suggest, indispensable. It is achievable, in large measure, because Vancouver taxpayers are generous, and have not demanded that their City government start to draw bright lines between the things that must be done and the things that are just nice to do. Vancouver has not yet had, if I can put it this way, its Rob Ford moment. But the thing about those populist uprisings is that it's always easier to explain them in hindsight than it is to predict the tipping point ahead of time.