Does Vancouver have the right priorities?

Did you notice? June 10th was Meatless Monday in Vancouver. And it was not concocted by a subversive group with a dubious agenda. No, everything was very official, thanks to a proclamation by the municipal council. Truth be told, even though I am a vegetarian myself, government promoting a meat-free diet, even for a day, frustrates me.

What puzzles me is that our elected officials have taken the time to insert themselves in what is, after all, a very personal matter. Frankly, diet preferences are individual choices. It’s not that the city wants to force anyone to drop meat. But the issue, albeit quite legitimately open for debate, is not one that the municipal council should consider. It is not for our elected officials to promote one kind of diet over another.

We have seen this sort of thing before in the United States, notably in New York City, where the activist mayor pushed for a ban on large-size sodas, citing their high sugar content. A judge nixed the city’s by-law. Again, it’s not that trying to put a stop to abusive consumption of this kind of soda is bad in itself. What is jarring is when a government body sticks its nose in.

In Vancouver, the decision follows a recommendation by the Vancouver Food Policy Council, a group created for the purpose of advising the municipal council on nutrition policies.

Trash piles up on Vancouver streets| Photo by Christopher Cotrell, Flickr

Trash piles up on Vancouver streets| Photo by Christopher Cotrell, Flickr

However, if you ask me, more pressing matters aren’t in short supply, matters that should attract our elected officials’ attention much more than what you or I eat. Take, for instance, our city’s state of cleanliness. I don’t know if you noticed this, but save for the Downtown area and peripheral neighbourhoods such as Yaletown and Coal Harbour, the city is dirty. I know; this goes against the sacrosanct vision of Vancouver being the purest city to live in, with the purest air to breathe and its amazing quality of life.

But just take a path less trodden, away from the carefully groomed ones traveled by tourists and you’ll see quite another aspect of the city. In fact, I am time and again stupefied by the amount of trash amassing in our streets, alleys and parks. Quite frankly it’s shameful to think that our fellow citizens have not even the most basic respect for their city and those who live in it. Because – let’s admit it – all that garbage isn’t falling from the skies. People of little conscience are responsible for it.

I can hear you wondering what all this has to do with Meatless Monday. Thanks for asking. Here’s the answer: before spending even a second on a Meatless Monday proclamation, maybe council should look into the city’s state of sanitation. We should perhaps declare every day a garbage-free day. It would have a much more positive influence on our quality of life.

Translation Monique Kroeger