Jack Knox: Letter-writers push Clover Point to McLachlan heights

Clover Point has broken the Sarah McLachlan barrier.

That is, as a topic of letters to the editor, it now ranks with the 2005 controversy that erupted following one of the singer’s ­concerts in Victoria.

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The kerfuffle involved a woman who, after jumping up to dance, was yelled at by the man seated behind her. Apparently he used un-Sarahlike language.

Readers leaped into the debate. Half of them argued that the angry man was right, that when you pay good money to go to a show you don’t want to spend the evening six inches from someone’s butt swaying away to I Will Remember You. The other half countered that this was a concert, not a funeral, and Victoria crowds need to remove their broomsticks.

When it comes to sheer passion combined with volume, the McLachlan fuss really did set the bar against which we can measure other famous letter-to-the-editor brouhahas: bike lanes, urban deer, the toppling of Sir John A., the Great UVic Bunnycide of 2010. (And don’t forget the hollering over the artwork in the Save-On Foods Memorial Arena forecourt, the piece officially known as Pavilion, Rock and Shell but which one letter writer suggested should be moved to the airport and renamed Cessna, Rock and Fog.)

The heat might not always match the gravity (or lack thereof) of the subject matter, but these exchanges do provide a good barometer for measuring the public mood.

Therefore, it’s hard to ignore the more than 50 letters that the Times Colonist published in the past three weeks (and the newspaper could have run many, many more) in response to the City of Victoria’s plans for ­Clover Point.

By now, it is obvious that the debate is about more than cars or no cars. Clover Point is emblematic of a much broader disconnect between city hall and a segment of the population that wonders if it wasn’t transported, Star Trek-like, to an identical-but-foreign community where it was rendered invisible.

In that way, the uproar is reminiscent of another letter-to-the-editor generator, Cody the Dog. Cody was a downtown fixture, a lovely old golden retriever who spent 14 years in the doorway of Charmaine’s Past and Present store on Fort Street. The canine equivalent of the Dalai Lama (old, serene, calming, beloved) he was an unlikely symbol of dissent, but that’s what he became in 2016 after officialdom ordered him off the sidewalk. The move unleashed (as it were) the indignation of those who believed city council, its eyes elsewhere, had lost sight of the mass of people in the middle.

The Clover Point tug-of-war taps into the same sentiment, though it’s not really a tug-of-war, seeing as letters to the TC have tilted maybe nine-to-one against the city’s plans. Some reply that the one-sidedness just reflects the feelings of a bunch of old people, though that reaction is telling in itself — as though the one in five Victorians who are over age 65 matter less, are speed bumps on the road to the city’s transformation into one big Fernwood, or whatever the vision is.

On the flip side, older Victorians don’t do much more than make sympathetic clucking noises as younger people, even while running as fast as they can, see the prospect of home ownership grow further out of reach.

We all live in the same place, but view it from different angles: government city, navy town, hipster haven, retirement mecca, slow-paced coastal dreamscape, fast-moving tech centre. They all apply. And all — those who want to sit and those who want to dance — deserve to be seen.

jknox@timescolonist.com

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