Courier reporters talked to a lot of people this year — about politics, housing, development, heritage, the Downtown Eastside, even sexually stimulated Satan statues. Here is a small but wide-ranging sampling of some of the more interesting things people said to us in 2019.
I have not seen people bring suitcases of money in myself, but I have had people report to me that they have seen people bring suitcases of cash into city [hall] to pay for their property taxes.
Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr during discussion in the council chamber about money laundering
A year ago, Vancouverites voted for change, and in my opinion that change has not been achieved. The plans that had been put in place under the Vision Vancouver regime decade continue to be executed by staff. For this reason, I find where we are a year into the term somewhat discouraging.
NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick on her assessment of council’s first year in office
Jody Wilson-Raybould from a lectern on election night after learning she was re-elected in the federal riding of Vancouver-Granville
This is a critical election for Canadians, and I’m worried — I’m worried that an Andrew Scheer Conservative government could be elected, and this would be a disaster for the city.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart in the days leading up to the federal election
He had a lovely tenor voice, and whenever we went anywhere — he would frequently drive me to events — he would sing to me all the way there and all the way home. That’s what I remember more than anything is B.C.’s love of music.
Former NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball remembering one-time NPA colleague B.C. Lee, who died of cancer
It’s a beautiful city, very nice people, very competent people running it, really good police force, really dedicated people who are dedicated to helping people save their lives and get better — and a provincial government and federal government that cares really about people’s well-being and is willing to fund things that make people better, more educated, more employable and less addicted.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney after his visit to Vancouver, where he met with police and visited the Downtown Eastside and drug injection sites
Perhaps tonight we have not had the results we wanted or we expected, which is a majority government, but we have a minority government. Liberals can work with anyone that shares our values and we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and work with other parliamentarians in the House who share our values to get the kinds of things that we promised to get done.
Vancouver-Centre MP Hedy Fry after being re-elected to Parliament
Housing and development
First of all, if we’re talking about an income-based approach to delivering housing, what we have to stop doing is using the word “affordable.” I think that [word] really makes people angry.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart in speech to Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
You can make any buildings you want but the planet is on fire…
Rick Gregory, vice-president of Henson Developments, about the company’s proposal for a 60-storey tower on Nelson Street that aims to meet Passive House certification.
I hate this project. I feel like it’s busting the neighbourhood open.
Karen Oliver on a rental project proposed on Grant Street in Grandview-Woodland, which was ultimately approved
[Rental] is just the type of housing we need. We need it all over the city, but we need it here, too.
Owen Brady on a rental project proposed on Grant Street in Grandview-Woodland that was approved
We can't stop this growth. We have to embrace it in a good way. I honestly believe these lands are going to be able to do that for all of us — not just the three [First Nation] communities, but for you as well. We want to bring richness to you, to our family, to future generations, but we want to do it in such a way [that] it's going to be long-lasting and something we can be proud of.
Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Maureen Thomas at the launch of the planning process for the Jericho Lands
When the land was returned to us in 2003, given its proximity and location, it was always seen as a potential site for economic development. The Squamish Nation can see, and our people definitely feel, there’s a housing crisis going on and there’s a need to build more housing for the city.
Squamish Nation councillor Khelsilem on plans to develop Squamish land at the south end of Burrard Bridge
What you see is the undermining of the neighbourhood. The entire raison d'être of Grandview-Woodland has been the character, the fit. While we firmly believe in carrying our weight, in so far as carrying or having density, we have a lot of density. We are not like Point Grey, which has virtually none. We're not like the south side of Vancouver, which has very little. But we don't want to become like the West End either.
Dorothy Barkley, past president of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC), on plans by Westbank and Crombie REIT to develop the Safeway site at Broadway and Commercial
I’m a little concerned that the project is not dense enough. It’s tall (at 24-30 storeys), but it’s not especially dense because the towers are quite thin. This is probably an attempt to mollify some of my more change-averse neighbours, but I’d appreciate more homes on this site.
Reilly Wood, of Abundant Housing Vancouver (AHV), on plans by Westbank and Crombie REIT to develop the Safeway site at Broadway and Commercial
Rental housing is residential housing. It belongs in all of our neighbourhoods…
OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle on policies city council approved to encourage development of rental housing, including in areas 150 metres off main arterial roads
You don’t put major infrastructure and emergency systems in a vulnerable area like a flood plain... You just don’t do it. Based on that, I can’t, in good conscience, support this even though I think the design is very much in the right direction.
Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr on voting against rezoning for the new St. Paul’s hospital site on False Creek Flats, which passed in an 8-3 vote
I've been pushing and ran on a city-wide plan. It's been a passion of mine for years and I am deeply afraid that it's headed in the wrong direction and that's a hard thing for me to say having worked as long as have, and as hard as I have, for this. I wish it were otherwise and hope springs eternal. But I think that we have to really be listening to the people and not come in with a prescriptive framework and then shoe-horn people's opinions into it, which is kind of what I've been seeing.
NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick on council approving the budget and process for the city-wide plan
You might hear often tonight that this is too big — it’s out of scale. But, in the midst of the worst housing crisis in the city’s history and an opioid epidemic that has claimed many, many lives, the more important question is can a project of this type be too big?
Scott de Lange Boom on plans for a detox and social housing complex for Clark and East First Avenue
If people are going to go there for treatment, they’ll be welcomed. They’ll be treated as neighbours. No one wants anyone to come to harm from this. Everyone wants people who need treatment to get it. Everyone wants to welcome the people in social housing as neighbours. We want to be inclusive. Again, the objection was not to the treatment centres, it was not to the social housing. The objection was to the massive size and scale of this [project] and the objection was to the lack of true community engagement."
Rob Fisher, a Grandview-Woodland resident after Vancouver council approved a detox and social housing complex for Clark and East First Avenue
In these households the residents can get up and leave out the front door because they're confined by the outer extremities. The household holds 12 people who share their own kitchen and social space and 12 private bedrooms.
Jo-Ann Tait, Providence corporate director of seniors care and palliative services, about a “dementia village” trial taking place at Holy Family Residence care home, during which residents aren’t confined to their room or building, but rather by a fence surrounding the property.
I have learned something from every one of you here. And there isn't one person here who didn't bring benefit to our group. I can't believe your loyalty and support.
Lorna Gibbs to other members of the Southeast Vancouver Seniors Arts and Culture Centre Society, including George Grant, Joan Wright, Bert Messiah and Keith Jacobson, who passed away in 2016. The group was gathered to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Killarney Seniors Centre.
Business ups and downs
In 10 or 20 years, don’t be surprised if I might be the only shop in town other than the big dealerships, Canadian Tire and the big corporations.
Auto Repairs R “Wee” owner Wee Wong discussing Vancouver’s disappearing industrial land base and crippling property taxes
They couldn’t care less, I don’t think. Apparently longevity — this shop being here for over 40 years — doesn’t count for much. This corner will probably become a Starbucks under another tower.
Time Frame Gallery owner Christie Scott on learning her store’s building at Robson and Seymour had been sold
High is good. Not that I’m saying to people, “Go get high and go to work.” But we can finally say to people, it’s not such a big deal —so try it. And the government is finally on our side.
Mike Babins, owner of Vancouver’s first legal cannabis dispensary
There’s been lots of crying. This has screwed up 30 people’s lives. It’s gone from 30 people who had a nice, casual creative environment to “Holy f*** we’ve been f***ed by rampant greed.”
Former Clark Drive Studios owner Rick Welin after his rent more than doubled, forcing him out of a studio he operated for 17 years
I think Vancouver should be proud of 4/20… I think that we should be proud of our cannabis community and the wonderful influence they’ve had on the rest of Canada and on legalization in general.
Dana Larsen, pot activist and 4/20 organizer, on the 25th anniversary of Vancouver’s 4/20 pot protest/festival
I was here 20 years ago and it’s now very different. The people on the street. What happened?
German tourist Frank Baumgarten standing outside the provincial courthouse on Main Street as three men openly shoot heroin across the street from his wife and two young sons
First it’s shock. Then the comments come around, “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?”
Promoter Abelardo Mayoral-Fierros on how international bands react upon first arriving to music venues in the Downtown Eastside
To effect these kinds of renovations — regardless of whether it’s the city or a private buyer — would take a considerable amount of time for permits and the actual construction work. I hazard to put a guess on how long that will be, but we’re talking years.
Andrew Newman, the city’s associate director of real estate operations, on the city re-opening the Balmoral and Regent hotels
I have it, but it’s not enough. It’s only a spiritual hope I have. So it looks like I come from the dark to the light. Back and forth. I die so many times, then I come back. From the dark to the light. So I continue this way.
Edwin Yobani Zarabia, who lives in a tent in Oppenheimer Park, on whether he has hope about his future
I guess I’m a little old to be picking up a spray paint can at 37, but I really enjoy it and it gives me a sense of peace after I’ve completed something everyone can enjoy.
Trey Helten, who oversees the DTES Alley Mural Project
We’re not all as bad as people think. We’re not all cracked out drug addicts that are out to kill people and stuff like that. There’s a lot of good people down here, right. Good people with bad decisions, that’s all.
Downtown Eastside graffiti artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy
What is happening in the DTES is mental health colliding with drugs. On whether this should stop people visiting the area, no, that would only hasten its decline, and in my opinion we need to continue to work to uplift the area and, more importantly, the individuals.
Lee Snelgar, owner Nelson the Seagull
Personally, I can’t stomach any more trashing of our city’s poorest neighbourhood. The DTES is a complex and beautiful community with socio-economic and cultural diversity. It’s probably the most colourful neighbourhood in Vancouver. But obviously things are bloody rough. This is what violent poverty looks like.
Coco Culbertson, senior manager at the Portland Hotel Society
So many young people are so thin-skinned now, that when they see a person doing a character like this they’re immediately furious because they just assume it’s a straight guy making fun of homosexuals. They’re very conditioned to be on the alert for any kind of attack.
Kids in the Hall member Scott Thompson on how crowds react to the flamboyance of his character Buddy Cole
So if I had to compare myself to an actor, the bass trombone is like the Steve Buscemi of the orchestra.
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's bass trombonist Ilan Morgenstern
I needed a job. Both because I needed the dough and because I was going stir crazy at home. Whole Foods was having a hiring fair, so I went. I was the oldest person by about 40 years.
Writer and broadcaster Bill Richardson on taking a dishwashing job at Whole Foods
What we’re hoping to do is to combine filmmaking, food and gardening during our time here, and show how they can complement each other.
Lisa Marr, former member of Vancouver band Cub, who temporarily took over the Moberly Park fieldhouse, as part of the city’s Fieldhouse Activation Program
Being in Vancouver, you’re used to going to a coffee shop and seeing a celebrity getting a coffee, but I think the most star struck I’ve ever been is walking into that studio.
Director Mark Ratzlaff on visiting the set of Sesame Street
There was a point on set where I looked at a couple of people with me at the monitors and said, “This just feels so normal to me, is it just me?” And everyone around me said, “No, this feels normal.”
Michelle Muldoon, director of the short film Last Stand to Nowhere, which takes the story of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and re-tells it with women characters
I want to tell stories that are aimed at women, and women who are going through struggles and hard times, and show them that they’re not alone, that they’re not the only people going through this tough world that holds them down and puts them in a box and labels them.
Vancouver filmmaker and actress Mary Galloway
There’s something about the power and stillness and insight of orangutans that I’ve never experienced elsewhere.
Actress Karin Konoval
They’ve got six or seven of the dolls and they’re two-and-a-half-feet tall, and sometimes they’d just be left around the set by the prop department, and it would scare the crap out of me.
Actor David Lewis who starred in the reboot of Child’s Play opposite a killer doll named Chucky
We can be the best friend, the spouse, the doctor, the lawyer. We don’t just have to be the gangster or the prostitute or the cab driver.
Andrea Stefancikova on being an actor with an accent
Princess Celestia lives in a castle, and she’s got great hair. Two things I’m envious of.
Actress Nicole Oliver, voice of Princess Celestia on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
He’s got this beautiful temperament. He’s a puppy, but he’s so — I want to say professional. It’s funny to apply that word to a dog, but he does have this professional air to him. Sometimes I forget that he’s a dog because he’s just one of us.
Mayko Nguyen on her canine co-star Diesel vom Burgimwald
I go by that location all time and I thought, “Man, this thing is just sitting empty,” and it seemed so weird and desolate. I had to do something. One day it popped in my mind and I was like, “Ah, that’s it.”
“Obsidian,” the artist behind the Penis Satan statue that was erected on Clark Drive in 2014.
I grab the mic and say, “When I say shuttle, you say cock,” and people love it.
Actress Rhona Rees on what she likes to do at screenings of her badminton-themed short film Shuttlecock
History and heritage
It certainly kind of made by life bigger than it was before… I remember going up there at night and [thinking] almost anything is possible in Vancouver.
John Coupar, Vancouver Park Board commissioner, on the 50th anniversary of Bloedel Conservatory
The heart really is under threat. Development has been really taking off in Mount Pleasant, of course, because it’s been more accessible for developers… It is heartbreaking that here is a really treasured part of not only Mount Pleasant, but of the city, [and] that the city hasn’t stood up to recognize [it].
Alyssa Myshok, co-founder of Mount Pleasant Heritage Group on “Heart of Mount Pleasant” topping Heritage Vancouver Society’s 2019 Top 10 Watch List
They would dance all the Greek dances and they’d throw dishes at the walls — and glasses. My dad used to buy glasses by the case because every night they’d [break] dozens and dozens of them. You’d go in at the end of the night with a big push broom and sweep them all up. It became a home away from home for a lot of the seamen because they would come here and they couldn’t speak English.
Linda Shirley (née Cavadas), whose family operated the Greek Village on the corner of East Hastings and Clark Drive between 1960 and 1985, on dancing customers, many of whom were Greek seamen
It is with incredible sadness that the Pacific National Exhibition acknowledges the passing of the one of one of our longest standing concessionaires and iconic members of our fair family, Bill Konyk, known across the Canadian fair industry as Hunky Bill.
PNE staff on the death of Bill Konyk, an iconic figure from the annual Fair at the PNE. “Hunky Bill” had been a much-loved member of the extended PNE family for 52 years.
Before Woodstock, it felt like the hippie dream had died with the deaths of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King. But as Woodstock grew, it felt like things could be transformed and get better. It was like a light rising on the horizon.
Woodstock attendee Ronnie Uhlmann
There was a guy named Andy at the party, and he had this pet monkey named Willy. It was a spider monkey, and quite well behaved. But when Neil Armstrong stepped down onto the moon and said his famous line [“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”], we all went nuts and started screaming. Well, that monkey completely freaked out. It leapt from Andy’s shoulder onto J.B. Shayne’s back, and shat all over him. J.B. tore off his shirt and threw it outside.
DJ and astronomer John Tanner on watching the moon landing
Saga: Hospice vs multi-storey rental development proposed for Shaughnessy
The living have rights, but the dying have rights, too. A small place that was built to accommodate the dying in Vancouver is going to be completely negatively affected by this development. I don’t know why that is not falling on right ears. I don’t know why the city feels that that’s of minimum concern.
Vancouver Hospice Society executive director Simin Tabrizi
I fail to see how it’s necessarily incompatible. There’s the hospice out at UBC that was on the news several years ago. They put that in right next to a tower. There’s a whole bunch of hospices that exist in the Downtown Eastside that manage to service their needs adjacent to midrise development, so I really don’t see how it’s especially incompatible [to put] family housing next to a hospice.
W. Neil Robertson of Stuart Howard Architects who designed the development
This development takes more choices away from [people at the end of their lives.] This is about people. Policy doesn’t trump people.
NPA Coun. Rebecca Bligh on vote against proposal
It's important that we look at the policies that [the project] meets. When someone follows the rules and goes through the policy, it's difficult to change that policy when they get here.
NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova on vote in favour of proposal
We did [think it would be approved] because we followed everything that staff told us to do. We never asked any questions. We just said, OK. We agreed to everything they said. We didn't oppose anything. Anything they asked us to do, we did.
Gurveer Pabla whose family owns the Granville Street site for the rezoning proposal, which council rejected in a 7-4 decision
I hear the word reconciliation being thrown around like the words love and hate. I don’t believe you understand what reconciliation entails or who it’s addressing.
Gunargie O’Sullivan speaking to Vancouver Park Board
I don’t remember the truck hitting us because I didn’t see it so I didn’t brace myself or anything but I remember seeing my mom’s head stuck in the glass with blood dripping… I was awake. My eyes were open but I wasn’t moving or functioning.
Courage to Come Back award recipient Harriet Ronaghan on the crash that changed her life
We look at the elimination of violence against women where we are today compared to 30 years ago and a whole lot hasn’t changed. There’s a lot of words and there’s a lot of lip service but we need changes today.
Juanita Desjarlais, ’60s scoop survivor and a second generation survivor of the residential school system
We’re at a really important time. I think that there’s no turning back. I think that the climate deniers are in power and we need to show that we are not in agreement with all of the policies in place…
Donna Rayner at Vancouver’s Global Climate Strike in September
Can you imagine your mom not hugging you because of your lifestyle and how devastating that would be? I have two little girls who I love so much, so I'd love to be there for other people.
Heather Anne Hooton, founder and executive director of the Tri-Cities Moms, who gathered for the annual Pride Parade in August to offer free hugs to anyone marching.
We will rise to the challenge, hold those responsible for this crisis accountable and we will make world leaders act. We can and we will. And if you feel threatened by that, then I have some very bad news for you — this is just the beginning. We will continue because change is coming whether you like it or not.
Swedish teen environmentalist Greta Thunberg in her speech from the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery
Words of inspiration
It’s a good day for me and I can’t really explain how I feel, I can’t quantify what’s in me. If my heart is opened and everyone could see through it, you would see it is full of joy. From the depths of my heart, I will always cherish this day.
Nigerian-born Kehinde Esan upon receiving his Canadian citizenship
There will always be a demand for local news.
On-air host Jon McComb, who recently retired from CKNW after more than 35 years.
The world has never been wealthier, never been healthier, less violent, more educated, more tolerant than it is today… It indicates that the trajectory of human progress has been significant and extraordinary.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama during an event in Vancouver
This will be one of the last totems I carve, I think. It’s a long process. I’m 60 years old now, and I think I’ve carved enough. I used to be able to carve all day long, but now my hands start to shake after about two hours. It’s time for me to go home to Haida Gwaii. I’ve accomplished a head full of dreams, so it’s time to relax a bit.
Haida artist Clarence Mills on the totem he’s been carving in a friend’s East Van garage