Rhetoric and Collateral Damage

Okay, here is a real pet peeve of mine. Criticizing policy and questioning spending priorities of government programs and initiatives is, of course, the duty of an opposition party. But if you do, it’s also your public duty to criticize the program or initiative accurately. And when you start labelling something “goofy”, you better be damn sure, especially when a third non-governmental party is involved.

We, alas, have a case of rhetorical collateral damage with Vancouver civic party the NPA’s heaping abuse on a $5000 grant to something called “Lawn to Loaves”, run by the Environmental Youth Alliance. I’m not going to argue the merits of this program. I’m not because the NPA doesn’t. Mayoralty candidate Suzanne Anton has labelled the program “goofy”, as has Daniel Fountaine at City Caucus. Both describe the goal of the program as “whether it’s feasible to grow wheat on the front lawns and boulevards of Vancouver homeowners.”

Actually the goals are:

  • To successfully cultivate a hundred pounds of organic spring wheat within the city of Vancouver
  • To engage our progressive city in a thought experiment regarding what defines a farm and to symbolically challenge the dominant scale of grain production
  • To overlook traditional notions of efficiency and productivity for a moment in favor of the power of symbolism
  • To teach, engage, and excite all those who encounter this project at any and every stage

In other words, it’s not about actual food production which the NPA characterizes it time and time again, it’s about education.

“This is not going to replace the wheat belt, by any stretch,” said Ms. Bellamy, who planted wheat next to a community garden and the West House, a sustainable laneway house formerly showcased at the 2010 Olympics. “It’s a symbolic gesture, and hopefully getting people to think.”

Still, that hasn’t stopped them from tweeting or retweeting how a cup of flour will cost $333/cup or a loaf $1250. No monetary value attached to the educational component, etc. If they want to change or distort the nature of a program, that is their prerogative. It’s all too common in politics. But I just don’t know if they realize when they take to the pages of the Sun, the Globe and 24hours and label something “goofy”, they aren’t just attacking the Mayor and the Mayor’s party. They’re attacking and publicly mocking the people behind “Lawn to Loaves”. They’re attacking Revel Warkentin, Andrea Bellamy,& Julia Smith. And they’re not being accurate doing it.

Still, maybe they’re fine with all that. I would like to think maybe they haven’t thought it quite through. I hope so, because mocking in the media sincere motivated youth who are walking the walk on their beliefs – even if you disagree with them – is kind of mean. Kind of really mean.

Sadly though, it’s not isolated. Daniel did the same thing to the YMCA’s plan for a community garden on Sunset Beach – a plan part of initiative to help immigrants acclimatize to their new country.