Points North

By James Fife

There are a number of inconveniences, big and small, to having a foot in two countries at once. There's just the small, physical inconvenience of there being two different places where missing stuff can be. It's bad enough dealing with age and the increasing tendency for glasses and keys to wander off right in your own home, but when one of those homes is a thousand miles away, increasingly, items (like those ear buds I listen to my Kindle with) wind up not just “somewhere around here, dear." They might be in another country, and no amount of rummaging through the "likely places" in San Diego will turn up an item left in James Bay.

Those small inconveniences can be dealt with handily; we are, after all, complaining about the minuscule downside attending the very fortunate fact that we have any home to call our own, let alone two. Other inconveniences are a bit more onerous. Dual taxes and dual mortgages fall into that box. And, for me, who takes an avid interest in such things, there has recently come to the fore the downside of exercising my franchise in both places now. I have always been keen to occupy that little corner of participation officially allotted me in our participatory democracy in the US. Now that I have had my Canadian citizenship acknowledged, I suddenly have a second ballot to cast—my Canadian one.

With the provincial election in May now within striking distance, it is stirring all sorts of thoughts and demands. If I were to carry over the civic attitude I have developed over the years in my American avatar to my newly recognized Canadian one, I should be expecting to do my same acts of participation Up North as I always carry out Down South. And, in fact, I am excited to do just that, heightened by the novelty of actually voting in a Canadian election (my official recognition of citizenship arrived too late for me to get into the last federal fray).

But that creates all manner of new "inconveniences" due to our current, split residence status. Most basically, it appears I will have to be physically present in Victoria to cast my ballot in May, so if I intend to do my duty, we have to arrange to be there at that time. Going to spend time in James Bay is never a hardship to our thinking, but it does mean arranging our lives to shift locales at that precise date. Because this will be my first time, I still have to work out all the details of the how and where of exercising the franchise. And then add the more nebulous, but important, duty of actually informing myself adequately about the issue in the election, including—to the extent possible—a familiarization with the background and lead-up to those issues.

That's a tall order for someone who, until recently, knew there is a British Columbia, but had never bothered to learn anything about the place, its people, its history, its way of life, its concerns and quirks. Now, suddenly, I have a duty to have some awareness of all that so I can make my choices with the same confidence that I have always had in the US that I have truly immersed myself in the matter. I figure I owe my "new" country the same diligence and effort that I have always paid to my "old" one.

So, I have recently had to find time to swat up on BC history, going back to times well before Cook and Quadra. To understand where BC is now, I have had to rub elbows with the eccentric likes of Amor de Cosmos and Wacky Bennett, as well as the more staid personalities of Richard McBride or Dave Barrett. I've had to learn about fast ferries and fast driving Flyin' Phil. And the other driving exploits of Gordon Campbell. I've had to learn more than just the pronunciation for folks like Delgamuuk'w and the Nisga'a and know what they achieved for their people.

And not just the things of the past. To do my 'job,' I have had to make the effort to drag my eyes away from the train wreck that is US politics right now and give some heed to what ails BC. I admit it's hard to focus intelligently on things like Kinder Morgan and the hacking scandal, when down here we are daily reading about constitutional struggles between the branches of government and a seat-of-the-pants style of governance issuing edits that affect the lives of people I know personally. I mean, Gagliardi drove fast and Campbell drove impaired; we now have to deal with someone who seems bent on driving with his eyes closed.

But those distractions won't deter me from ramping up as much as I can to be ready for the vote in May. I will study the colourful BC past and peruse with interest the ring-side reports of the Horgan-Clark match up. After all, if I continue my trend of transferring lessons learned in my one country to my conduct in the other, I feel obliged to continue my BC crash course. That's because I am convinced it was exactly the lack of in-depth analysis, long-range perspective, and remembering the (even recent) past that got us Americans into the fix we're in now. The last thing I want is to see that "import" make it up north under the remnants of NAFTA. McDonalds is one thing. But not this. Not while I still have my Canadian ballot to cast.