NPA attack ads against "back yard chickens" and "front yard wheat fields" may backfire as an increasing number of Vancouverites embrace community gardening and urban agriculture. Every now and then a political party does something stupid that doesn't just make you want to vote against them, it actually makes you want to volunteer for the other guys, you know, knocking on doors, making phone calls, talking to friends. That act of stupidity has come early in this year's municipal election, and it was committed by the NPA and their mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton, in a recent radio ad that can only be interpreted as an attack against local food production and urban agriculture.
In the ad, a male narrator says city hall is missing "common sense," and the first two pieces of evidence he gives to support this claim are the existence of "backyard chickens" and "front yard wheat fields."
The attack ad is referring to Vancouver's food policy allowing residents to keep backyard hens and city support in the form of a $5000 grant for the lawns to loaves "collaborative city wheat farm," an initiative that aims to educate inner-city kids about "the history of grain and where their bread comes from." Vancouver Sun political writer Jeff Lee says lawns to loaves "actually makes sense" and he compares it to taking kids to the PNE to learn about agriculture and how their food is produced (e.g. milk from cows - I've actually heard stories about kids not understanding this). Clearly both initiatives make sense. In an age of rising food prices, peak oil and climate change, residents should have the right to bring the 100 mile diet as close to home as possible.
In an age of rising food prices, peak oil and climate change, residents should have the right to bring the 100 mile diet as close to home as possible.
As a friend recently pointed out, I shouldn't be surprised that the NPA has embraced the politics of division and ignorance, given that the firm they've recently hired to manage their election campaign, Campaign Research Inc., is the same firm behind the divisive election campaign of Toronto's conservative mayor, Rob Ford (famous for attacking bike lanes and “gravy trains”). They're also the same people behind Kitties4Christie.com, an astroturf website that attempted to derail Christy Clark's bid for the leadership of the BC Liberals by suggesting she was signing-up cats as new party members. Classy stuff!
The NPA's new attack ads rely on a politics of division and ignorance that appeals to the darkest side of voters, and I think that's why they'll fail, especially in community-minded Vancouver. Concern and interest in this city about urban greening and local food production has resulted in community gardens springing up on every patch of available land, long wait lists for community garden plots, and scores of volunteers for public space initiatives. People value the quality of life and renewed sense of community these initiatives help grow. The NPA and Suzanne Anton are directly attacking those values.
The NPA's new attack ads rely on a politics of division and ignorance that appeals to the darkest side of voters...that's why they'll fail.
If the NPA and Suzanne Anton were to focus group their new ads at the intersection of Penticton and Pender, where a bunch of neighbours and I have built a community garden, they'd be booed out of the neighbourhood, not by me, but by a bunch of sweet old ladies and gruff old men.
Since I started a boulevard garden this past summer I've had the opportunity to meet literally dozens of local community members from all walks of life. A good chunk of these people are seniors, many of whom rely on their backyard and front yard gardens to provide an important source of healthy food and an active lifestyle. In addition to hearing an earful about how to prune my tomatoes, I've also heard strong approval for the direction of city hall's food and community gardening policies, as well as a lament that those same policies didn't exist ten years ago during the reign of the NPA. One gentleman admiring my boulevard garden lamented that when he tried to plant one ten years ago, the city told him to plow it over. It wasn't allowed. Today, he said, it as too late for him, he was too old to plant one now. That made me sad and thankful for what we have in Vancouver today.
One gentleman admiring my boulevard garden lamented that when he tried to plant one ten years ago (during NPA rule), the city told him to plow it over. It wasn't allowed.
If you walk south from Pender on Penticton street you'll see yard after yard, fully cultivated, right out to the sidewalk, growing everything from chinese vegetables to onions and garlic, strawberries and currants, figs and cherries, potatoes, you name it. One gentleman has chickens in his front yard and young families delight in stopping in front of his house to watch them strut and peck.
...young families delight in stopping in front of his house to watch them [chickens] strut and peck.
In a city governed by the NPA and Suzanne Anton, what would happen to neighbourhoods like mine? Clearly the NPA doesn't value local food production or appreciate the necessity of it in a time of rising food prices, peak oil and climate change. They're out to lunch, and it isn't local food they're eating. For that simple reason they are unfit to govern Vancouver.
Time to vote for the other guys (and maybe knock on some doors too).