From The Left & From The RightWednesday, May 13, 2009
Warning! What is below could be seen as a mild political rant. Do not proceed unless you are partial to rants from citizen/amateur nonentities.
A day after our provincial elections I was lucky to find a photograph sent to me by writer Kerry McPhedran in 1986. The photo, taken by Glen Erikson is of your blogger with the founder and editor of Equity Magazine, Harvey Southam. I have written about Southam before here. But I simply had not pictures of him. He asked me to photograph his mother, his wife and even one of his children but I never pointed my camera at him.
When I went to his memorial service (he died by his own hand in 1992) at Christ Church Cathedral I went for one single reason. I wanted to be present at a place that I thought would represent an end of era. Most of those in the church were white and the minister spoke of summer holidays at the Southam house in Qualicum. Even today a visit to Qualicum is a visit to what now seems to be an uncomplicated past.
There are some of my friends who did not get along with Southam. There are some who say he was nasty to them. I never saw that side of the man. He was always kind and pleasant to me and he indulged me when I wanted to take unconventional photographs for his business magazine. With Southam I met the real decision makers of our city and province. He had access to all of them.
An event in 1991 should have given me an indication of things to come. NDP MLA candidate David Schreck defeated Liberal Floyd Sully in North Vancouver-Lonsdale. In 1992 the Liberals were liberals in the real meaning of the word. Few now will remember or realize that the BC Liberals are really a re-named Social Credit Party. Our Provincial Liberal Party is a conservative party but few will point that out.
I had an admiration for Southam because as a man who had all to gain by keeping the establishment as it was, he had a couple of columnists write on the same theme every month. On the left page was Floyd Sully’s From the Left and on the right there was From the Right with George Froehlich. I do not remember the name of the conservative writer. In those years, the late 80s I would turn to Vancouver Magazine’s last page to read Sean Rossiter’s 12th and Cambie. It was all about city politics but also of subjects dealing, as an example, the engineer who was designing left turn bays at traffic lights or what it was like to check in at the venereal disease clinic. From Vancouver Magazine I would then go to Equity and read From the Left and From the Right. It was always entertaining.
It was also Southam who started the strings of articles that eventually did in the Vancouver Stock Exchange. He hired Adrian du Plessis to write a cover article on the dubious shenanigans of the exchange.
Southam was a man of his times. When I told him that Alderman Bill Yee would make an excellent ethnic city mayor he told me, “Not while I am around.”
A few weeks before he died in 1992 I went to Toronto to look for work with national magazines. I called up Southam’s company around 6 in the afternoon. He answered the phone. We had a couple of cokes near his office and he was as gracious as ever with me.
As I look back to the man, I realize that journalism’s strict sense of ethics has been in a decline. It was only three or four weeks ago that an “entertainment/arts” article in our local big daily had an article in which the executive director of a theatre company interviewed a theatrical director of the company. There was no byline and no explanation. Most of those who are under 30 would perhaps not catch the lapse in journalistic ethics. I have heard rumours of other publications that strongly suggest that buying an ad will guarantee editorial content. Times are tough but there is such a thing as right and wrong. Southam knew that difference and his magazine, gone all these years, looks better and better to me.
When our Liberals are really conservatives how is a voter supposed to know how to vote? A solution is to distance oneself from the “center/right/from left/ but not so much to the left as to the right of the centre” and to clearly call a spade a spade. The NDP could do worse than:
1. A gutsy renaming of the party to the NLP (New Left Party)
2. A milder renaming to The Canadian Democratic Party or CDP. There is absolutely nothing new about that N in the NDP.
With the Commies now the most avaricious and nasty capitalists (we are living the new Dickensian times), what is wrong with being from the left? There is a newness there!
Equity art director, Randy C Pearsall did not want to have any problems with the police. We did not paint the nearby wall to the Vancouver Stock Exchange. He had some transfers made. He carefully stuck them on the wall, I took the picture and we left with no incident.