If it was a wiki I might have corrected it and spared you this blog post…


Syd doing his part to clean trash from the streets

So yesterday I was on the bus (late and overcrowded, as usual, screw you Translink) reading an article in my morning paper on Vancouver’s impending city workers strike:

With the relationship between the city and the unions already strained, an e-mail surfaced yesterday from city clerk Syd Barrett to a friend, claiming that the strike is being engineered by the unions. In the e-mail, which was erroneously sent to the Coalition of Progressive Electors, Mr. Barrett also compared council chambers to a toilet bowl, and said he hopes he doesn’t get stuck cleaning them, since city managers might have to perform essential services during a strike.

“I acknowledge that it is my private e-mail and it came from my own private account,” Mr. Barrett told The Globe and Mail yesterday. “I’m not prepared to discuss the content of a personal communication with a friend.”

My first thought was, “there’s a dude who works for the city named Syd Barrett? How cool is that?” My second, admittedly fanciful notion was that the notoriously reclusive drug-addled rocker had faked his own death to live the quiet life of a bourgeois public servant.

Alas, the fellow in question is named Syd Baxter. I checked the Globe’s corrections today and there is no mention, and the web version online has not been changed as yet… I’ll keep this minor episode in mind the next time my newspaper publishes one of its periodic withering critiques of Wikipedia.

While I am on the subject of this strange little article, if anyone can explain what this excerpt means I’d be grateful. I’ve read it three or four times now and for the life of me can’t figure it out:

If there is a strike, it is expected to last for weeks. However, the union’s bargaining position might not improve as Vancouver’s streets grow stinkier, according to University of British Columbia labour relations expert Mark Thompson.

“The biggest factor changing the bargaining power of municipal unions was the invention of the plastic garbage bag,” Mr. Thompson said.

“The service that we all notice the most would be garbage, and now with plastic garbage bag recycling, we can go a long time without a garbage pickup before we really notice things severely.”

My confusion:

* Whatever “plastic garbage bag recycling” is, I’m pretty sure we don’t do it in Vancouver. What does the plastic garbage bag have to do with recycling? We separate recyclables and put them in a Blue Box.

* Does he think plastic garbage bags seal the stink in? And keeps the raccoons and alley cats out?

* If he is suggesting that we don’t need garbage pickup because people are such good recyclers he has little sense of how few people bother to do it seriously…

* …and he has no memory of the last strike five or six years ago when public areas became reeking, seeping open landfills almost immediately after regular garbage pickup ceased. (And for some reason, the reporter acknowledges that in a strike “Vancouver’s streets grow stinkier.”)

Anyhow, next time you wonder why my blogging output is so light, it’s because I’m thinking trashy thoughts like these… And soon I will be spending my nights looking for unlocked commercial dumpsters.

4 thoughts on “If it was a wiki I might have corrected it and spared you this blog post…

  1. Mark Thompson is a very well respected labour relations expert, and is quite progressive.

    I suspect the recycling bit is referring to the fact that most people recycle their small, white, grocery store bags as garbage bags, then drop them in the standard pick-up bins. I cannot recall a time when we did not use the little plastic bags in the home for garbage bags, as I was born after the onset of plastic, but Thompson is much older and perhaps remembers more gruesome and stinkier times.

    As for the Syd Barrett thing, what’s funny is that much of the media coverage I saw used the Syd “Vicious” hook.

  2. I’m willing to cut Thompson some slack, and presume the problem lies in the slapdash writing and editing so evident elsewhere in the piece. He works at UBC, so clearly he’s an expert. Your interpretation occurred to me, but damned if I can pull that point out of the text.

    Now Marc, you live in the ‘hood, so surely you remember what Broadway Station got to be like during the last strike, and how quickly it got that way…

  3. Shoddy journalism generally explains a lot of the errors we see in the papers.

    I think I was not living in Vancouver when the last strike happened. Either that or my memory really sucks. But I can only imagine — heck, the area around Broadway station gets messy on a regular day.

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