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Press Pass: Two heroes in their 90s given France’s highest military honour

SHY HERO — North Vancouver MLA Bowinn Ma had a dilemma in the legislature this past week. She wanted to pay tribute to two constituents for significant recognition they had earned many years ago.
Virgil Billesberger
North Vancouver veteran Virgil Billesberger was recently awarded France’s highest honour: the National Order of the Legion of Honour.

SHY HERO — North Vancouver MLA Bowinn Ma had a dilemma in the legislature this past week. She wanted to pay tribute to two constituents for significant recognition they had earned many years ago.

The two gentlemen, both in their 90s, were recently awarded the French National Order of the Legion of Honour, for their service in the liberation of France during the Second World War.

It’s France’s highest military honour and it’s still being bestowed on Canadian war veterans after records were combed through prior to the 70th anniversary of D-Day and hundreds of eligible soldiers were found who had not received it earlier. The honour isn’t granted posthumously.

Ma’s problem was that one of them was a “humble and private man” who preferred not to be named in the media.

So she noted the other veteran’s name: Virgil Billesberger, who served with the Calgary Highlanders. The North Shore News reported that he got the medal in the mail a few days before Remembrance Day.

Later in the day Ma got word that permission had been granted to use the other gent’s name.

So Dave McMurray, of the 6th Field Company Canadian Engineers, also got a round of applause in the house.

TIMELY ADVICE — Liberal MLA Linda Larson (Boundary-Similkameen) is taking a run at the twice-yearly argument that breaks out like, well, clockwork every time the clocks are changed. She introduced a bill to eliminate the practice just in time for the centennial of the invention next spring.

Daylight time was broadly adopted in 1918 as a way of using less coal during the First World War, she said. It was phased out after the Second World War and then reinstated across most of North America in the 1960s.

“I believe it’s the time to end it,” she said, citing studies about heart attacks and car accidents in the days after the time shifts, as well as studies about lost productivity.

The city of Grand Forks, in her riding, got a resolution against the time changes passed at the Union of B.C. Muncipalities convention. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn next week, so they may run out of daylight.

WAG THE DOGDoug Clovechok ramped up the rhetoric in railing against a proposed mail-in referendum on electoral reform.

The Columbia River-Revelstoke Liberal MLA accused Premier John Horgan of breaking his promises and attacked B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver for the same reason, referring to him as Horgan’s “bromance partner from Oak Bay-Gordon Head.”

Clovechok described the proposed referendum on changing the voting system as a “desperate and self-deserving” bid by the NDP-Green alliance to cling to power.

“Imagine if you can, a government where the often-changing whims of the smallest party can change the lives of millions overnight,” he said. “Well, that’s exactly what we have in this NDP-Green supply agreement. Again, the small green tail continues to wag the bloated orange dog.”

West Vancouver-Capilano Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan, meanwhile, noted “the ballot question which emerges will be submitted to the uncertain performance of a struggling Canada Post, which specializes in delivering to me my neighbour’s mail.”

JUST DO IT — The ongoing debate about name-calling in the legislature prompted the NDP’s Spencer Chandra Herbert to issue a plea for civility.

“We’re supposed to be role models here, but do we always do that?” he said. “I don’t know.”

The Vancouver-West End MLA, who has served in both government and Opposition, acknowledged that it’s frustrating at times to not receive an answer to a question or to not have your answer heard above the din.

“Should we try to shout louder than the other to score a point?” he said. “Should we drown each other out, interrupt each other, make fun of each other, name-call? No, I don’t think we should. But we do. And it happens. Emotions sometimes get the best of us, I know.

“But who are we? Who do we want to be? I make this plea to all members here, because I want this to be a place where we enjoy coming to work, where those who watch what we do here are proud of us and are proud of what we do in representing our constituents.

“If we won’t hold ourselves to the highest standard, is it any wonder the public often holds us in disrepute? Let’s make our constituents proud. Let’s do as we say.”

— With files from Les Leyne and Lindsay Kines

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