Viv and I just spent the sunny weekend of our fifth anniversary in beautiful Vancouver, B. C. We may venture out to see Jason Webley this evening but it was a long hot drive back south.
I was pleased to see that our good neighbors to the north have the good sense to guard the Molson brewery with an army emplacement. We didn’t do anything particularly strenuous or carefully researched – the trip sort of happened by accident and so Serendip was our destination.
The single most interesting aspect of the visit was the range of ethnic diversity I observed in workplaces and among the many walking people we joined in aimless strolls along the city’s waterfront. From the simple pleasure of hearing French literally everywhere (Vancover must have the highest headcount of French speakers in Canada outside of Quebec) – often in a blurred, overlapping, Franglais spoken in blended families of Anglo-French descent – to the Russian, Arabic, Spanish, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, and Hindi overheard both in touristy locales and the corner drugstore, it was very different than the feel of streetlife here in Seattle.
Like Seattle, though, the city had a feeling of bursting at the seams, of having grown so rapidly that it was on the verge of gridlock. Also, despite the ployglot multiethnicity I noticed, the city felt of a piece with Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland. There’s an underrrealized potential for a distinct kind of Americanness – of Canadianness – that is common to these coastal cities.
It seems to me, however, that the engines that power the economic underpinnings of a discrete political power bloc based in the regional economy that tie these metropolises together also threaten that political identity from the inside. Unresolvable pressures from rapid growth within the urban economies themselves creates commuter suburbs that won’t vote to support effective and efficient urban services. This shifts the educated voter base out of the center of the city. As I’ve written here before, Seattle is looking more and more like a lost cause, with a political class that is paralyzed and unable to resolve critical, real-world political issues that create bottlenecks for industrial production (cough TRAFFIC cough).