Opinion

Please Advise! My Candidacy Needs Wings

Black-Capped Chickadee yearns to be Vancouver's official bird. Burgess swoops in.

By Steve Burgess 7 May 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

These are dark times. Our city is engaged in a struggle for its very soul and the hour of decision is nigh. On May 10 online voting will close in the VanCityBird election to decide who will be Vancouver's official bird. At present I am in a tight struggle with the Varied Thrush and Anna's Hummingbird. Dr. Steve, I am concerned. Should one of my opponents gain victory, I fear for the future of our community. Please understand, I do not engage in this struggle out of any hope for power or personal gain or heaps and heaps of tasty seeds. No, it is only my desire to see a better tomorrow in which avian and biped will live in peace and cats will stay indoors. Please help me explain to the Vancouver citizenry the dangers they face should one of my unscrupulous winged foes triumph.

Yours,

Black-Capped Chickadee
Stanley Park

Dear BCC,

I'm on it. But first let's take stock of your own campaign, chickadee. Your candidacy faces some challenges. Anybody who's ever seen a cowboy movie knows the dudes in the black hats are not the good guys. Then there's your behaviour in places like Beaver Lake in Stanley Park, among other spots -- living on handouts, swooping in bold as brass to grab those crumbs almost before people have a chance to get their hands out. You're a greedy, entitled little bugger, Black-Capped Chickadee. You're the Canadian Senate of local bird life. A hard sell. But that's why I get paid the big seeds. Let's get to work.

First thing we do is take a lesson from those raptors in the PMO and shift the focus to your opponents. Anna's Hummingbird is a leading contender. Pretty as hell, with that flashy hovering trick that goes over so big with the tourists, pollinates flowers, etc. Well, Canadian politics has a few pretty faces that don't look so pretty after they've taken a few shots in the beak. Let's ask the tough questions. If this is Anna's Hummingbird, who is Anna? What do we know about her? A little background checking reveals the bird was named after Anna Massena, Duchess of Rivoli -- foreign royalty. Do we want to elect a bird who is captive to the interests of a powerful foreign ruler? Not to mention that distinctive red crown, which might as well be a flag with a hammer and sickle. No, we want no European fifth-columnist Red hummingbirds sticking their needle noses into our affairs. We are a freedom-loving people and thus we say no to Anna's Hummingbirds and their foreign tyranny.

The Varied Thrush? A member of the genus Turdidae. Turd-a-day! We can have some fun with that (but remember to disavow the cheap jokes I'll feed out through bogus Twitter accounts).

It eats insects -- that's a crowd-pleaser. But we'll keep the pressure on. Start by raising doubt in the mind of the voter. "Varied Thrush?" Does that mean varied or just indecisive? Shouldn't it be the "Wishy-Washy Thrush?" The "Wavering, Waffling, Weak-Kneed Thrush?" If a bird can't make up its mind about exactly what type of thrush it wants to be, how can that bird be entrusted with the responsibilities of representing Vancouver? That's the real question. The Varied Thrush is in the habit of heading from sea level to the mountains when spring comes -- a second residence for which taxpayers will no doubt end up on the hook. Plus there is this questionable bird's preferred habitat of coniferous forests. How does the local deciduous community feel about that? Ready to be utterly ignored by your so-called representative? The Varied Thrush: Wrong for deciduous growth; wrong for Vancouver. Done.

Dark-bird candidates are always a possibility. Right now the Pileated Woodpecker is lagging pretty far behind in the voting, but I'm still concerned. Do-gooders will appreciate the woodpecker's proven record of creating tree cavities that offer refuge for homeless birds. But we can spin that as property damage. Noisy too. Same deal with the Northern Flicker. We run a few ads featuring weeping willows with gaping wounds and ask: "Who will they stab next?"

As for the Pacific Wren, she's got the local branding. But check out the bio: "Shy and solitary, avoiding people... with an enormously powerful voice." A crazy old loudmouth hermit. Not a threat.

I like your chances, Black-Capped Chickadee. Despite your shortcomings, you're cut out for politics. You know how to go after donations. You've also got a great memory which you typically use to remember where your forest stashes are located, but that's handy for secret bank accounts too. And of course in politics you need to remember your friends. Don't forget me after May 10 when you're Vancouver's new Big Bird.  [Tyee]

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