Opinion

Exclusive! Premier Clark Grants Official Recognition to Republic of Ishmaelia

Tyee man witness to history. Important, if true!

By Ian Gill 10 Jan 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Ian Gill's Tyee column, The Poor Mouth, appears every two weeks or so. Gill lives and writes in Vancouver and works on social innovation initiatives. Find his previous pieces in The Tyee here, and find him on Twitter @gillwave.

With most abject apologies to Evelyn Waugh*, His Heirs, and Assigns.

Today, The Tyee is able to exclusively report that Foreign Minister and Premier, the Rt. Hon. Lady Christina Clark, L.N.G, N.E.B, First Sultanette and Most Reverend Potentesse of the Incorporated Resource Dependency of British Columbia, recently led a secret mission to several hitherto inscrutable destinations -- they with climes of a meteorological deportment so unlike our own as to qualify for the much-loved but lately out-of-favour newsman's sobriquet ''exotic'' -- in order to secure for B.C. reciprocal rights to natural resources, conclude extradition treaties to enable the unfettered movement of political detainees, and gather expert advice on royalty agreements from, not unreasonably, royal families with long and colourful histories in the acquisition of wealth and the dispersals and dispensations that thus attend.

Avid, nay, loyal readers of The Tyee will recall that this past summer, Lady Clark was reported to have voiced support for Israel and the cause of international Jewry in light of what was said at the time to be ''the Gaza conflict.'' Now, for the first time, this correspondent is able to reveal that a transposition error in a government department hard hit by civil servant cutbacks caused an error in Baroness Clark's pre-emptive recognition and support for what was and is Ishmaelia, not Israel, and that the aforementioned conflict related to an argument she had with her son when driving through a red light in suburban Vancouver while hastening to attend a (Lady) ''Gaga concert'' at which she (Lady Gaga) was bedecked in international ''jewellery.'' It can be conclusively reported, to the immense relief of the Canadian legation in Palestine, that British Columbia has no official position on events taking place in what is known in journalistic parlance as ''that troubled region.''

Prior to leaving for Ishmaelia, Lady Clark and her entourage were commodiously and sportingly outfitted with full kit courtesy of the Hudson's Bay Company (now in American ownership), whose Victoria emporium furnished the government caravan with tins of salmon, vacuum packs of Nanaimo bars, jerked Saltspring Island lamb, various knitted goods of Cowichan provenance, cleft sticks made of beetle kill wood from B.C.'s own Interior jungles (for sending dispatches), an array of Tilley Endurables including his-and-her Bermuda shorts and Cotton Duck hats with customized detachable niqābs for the ladies, a collapsible canoe, and a perplexing selection of drums and rattles, the Hudson's Bay sous-sol being stuffed with many such dusty remnants of our province's Indigenous matriciate that had not hitherto graduated to the display cases in the proximate provincial museum.

These latter objects were sanctioned by the B.C. Foreign Office's protocol department with assurances to the Premier and the Office of the Exchequer that they were surplus to the prevailing culture, would suffice as formal gifts, and would attract no unwelcome attention from auditors general or specific. The travellers' provisions were further supplemented by several cases of Lucky Lager, and, in keeping with the regal mien of the entourage, eight dozen bottles of Crown Royal whisky, the purple velvet draw-strung bags having been covetously souveniered during previous diplomatic excursions to continents darker than our own.

It can be revealed that to ensure secrecy, the travelling party was kept small and nimble, comprising our Provincial Prime Minister, her manservant (whose name is subject to court-ordered secrecy), the Chancellor Michael de Jong himself, the Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman, and, owing to her knowledge of protocol, her matchless skills at negotiating with energy corporations, her grasp of regional dialects and her exclusive access to an extra aircraft, the former Chief Minister of Alberta Alison Redford cum filia. The party left under cover of a November monsoon, at little risk of their absence being discovered since our Parliamentary plenum has not sat in conclave for nigh on 12 years and the leader of Her Loyal Opposition was absent the capital, said to be touring the province's deepest recesses in quest of advice from British Columbians even more ordinary than himself.

This correspondent joined the foreign-bound touring company at Abbot's Ford, whence the party embarked on two executive jets at no cost to the public purse, its passage having been sponsored by Texan corporate philanthropies Kinder and Koch. A third vehicle was later called upon to transport the Premier's two last-minute additions to the party: her spiritual advisor, Bob Rennie, who was thought to add lustre to the party owing to his being widely revered as a ''Condo King;'' and her newly anointed Indigenous Speaker Shqwi qwal, otherwise known as former National Chief Shawn Atleo. A fourth aircraft assisted the fleet after Rennie insisted on packing several crates of brochures lauding his new 280-storey ''vertically integrated urban habitation multiplex'' planned for Vancouver's Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, and Atleo added a few boxes of hastily facsimilied renderings of the Royal Proclamation of King George III.

Modest in numbers but extravagantly well-equipped, the party stole into the skies and our leaders momentarily broke free the leaden obligations of high office in low lands, and broke the seal on several bottles of Crown Royal in the process. After refuelling in Goose Bay and the Azores, the squadron skirted the south shore of the Mediterranean and bore right at Benghazi. It turned out to be a great deal easier to find Ishmaelia than was the case when, in the 1930s, news of its riches and political strife first made its way to Blighty. No creaking ships and dusky porters, no steam trains labouring through foetid jungles patrolled by sharp-fanged cats and thieving tribesmen. No, it was a simple matter for the aviators to follow the gas flares from the coast into the Interior, where night never falls because of industry's generous and continuous blaze. There was some confusion over the profusion of pipelines amid the vinous water courses that each ran a rather inky hue, but as we reached the low hill country surrounding the Ishmaelian capital, Jacksonville, an aerodrome appeared burnished black against the tan earth that had been cut clear of all forest and other living things.

Arrival

The party descended and was treated to a noisy welcome, attributable less to a small tribal song and dance of honour, and more to a constant 21-cannon salute that marked not just our arrival, but an unabating effort to prevent local pheasants from landing on the region's large, stygian lakes, and to likewise discourage local peasants from bathing therein. Our armoured procession into the centre of Jacksonville was marked by the presence of stern-faced guards and their snarling mastiffs, and the notable absence of un-uniformed people of any kind. We were ushered to small but comfortable rooms in a large, oblong workers dormitory, and each given a voucher for free coffee at a rather incongruously situated outlet of Tim Hortons.

At the evening feast and gift exchange, held in a double-wide ATCO trailer, tins of British Columbia's finest pink salmon were snapped up and stashed out of sight by President Jermaine Jackson's culinary staff, the local waterways having long since been extinguished of any aquatic life. (The Nanaimo bars were returned unopened.) Among the interminable succession of largely indecipherable local dishes, one was identifiable by appearance if not taste as flambéed pheasant, there being unanimity among members of the guest party that the pheasant breasts carried a distinct aftertaste of benzene. This also held true for the wild boar.

Throughout toasts of Crown Royal and a local distillation whose appellation seemed decidedly non-contrôlée, the brilliant night air hung heavily redolent of tar, and in an unguarded exchange in a pause between speeches, the Premier gazed out at the tangle of industrial detritus, wiped a layer of soot from her upper lip, and said:

''It reminds me a bit of, mmm, Fort …''

''Apache?'' Atleo helpfully inserted.

''No,'' said the First Minister, ''Fort …''

''St. John?'' offered the Minister of Natural Gas.

''No.''

''I know!'' Baroness Redford of Athabasca said, with authority. ''Fort McMurray!''

''Yes, yes!'' they all agreed. ''Fort McMurray!''

''Where are the workers?'' asked Lady Clark, internationally renowned for her concern for the common man. ''Where are the Peters and Pauls who are feeding their families and keeping the economy growing?''

Ishmaelian Employment Minister Janet Jackson appeared bemused. ''Workers? There haven’t been workers here for decades! Once the wells were drilled and the pipelines built, those workers were gone! Some to Alberta, I hear. None here. All gone.''

''What about jobs for native people?'' asked Atleo. ''What about consultation and accommodation?'' he demanded, brandishing a laminated copy of the Royal Proclamation.

''It is all native land,'' said Minister of the Interior Jesse Jackson, with a grand sweep of his hand gesturing beyond the security fence and guard towers.

''What about the environment?'' probed Redford's daughter, who with the endearing innocence of youth, added, ''Who looks after the spills?''

''We had 209 conditions and we met and exceeded every one of them!'' averred Environment Minister Randy Jackson. ''There are no spills. When the oil leaks from the pipelines, it goes straight into the river and washes away. It all flows down hill.''

''What about all the infrastructure?'' queried British Columbia's Chancellor. ''We thought there would be, you know, buildings and stuff. Communities, that sort of thing.''

''No, no,'' declared Minister of Urban Development Tito Jackson. ''That is all out on the coast, at the other end of the pipelines! On the coast!''

''The coast!'' went up the cry of the guest party.

''The coast!'' cried their hosts.

''The coast,'' they yelled in unison.

And it was summarily agreed that the visitors would destine to the coast at noon, or midnight, whichever came first in the land of perpetual gas light. It began to rain. The visitors were travel weary and somewhat piqued. Their fervid imaginings of a city flush with ostentation, proud statuary, prime buildings and the swells of prosperity were unfulfilled in Jacksonsville. The razor wire, the acrid air, the ambient artillery, the armoured vehicles, the constant glare, the watchful buzzards … it would be a hard sell back home, even in Fort St. John. And yet …

''They bought it in Fort McMurray,'' reminded Redford.

''They'd lap it up in Kitimat,'' swore the Minister of Gas.

''Prince Rupert would go nuts for this,'' affirmed Dr. Clark, L.N.G.

They reclined in fitful rest. Seizing upon the lull, the Premier's unwavering pro-condo pro-consul, King Rennie, sought an audience privée with Ishmaelian Minister of Art and Culture Michael Jackson, and was assured that on the coast he would find not just condominiums, but his very most favourite indicator of trickle down economic benefits from the energy economy -- lavish public art galleries. He was also told he would get to meet a real sovereign -- a Prince! -- down among the suzerains littoral, and the transmission of this news to the party at large produced a calming effect. They napped.

Hours later, before enplaning for the coast, and during a short filibuster of the downpour, a small ceremony took place at Tim Hortons, on the faux Vernon porch. The Premier and the President exchanged scrolls articulating the five conditions that the Province and the Republic agreed were essential to the unfettered prosecution of free trade and the achievement of perpetual energy security. Shqwi qwal nodded his assent that consultation and accommodation had been properly vested and its box ticked. Your correspondent sought a copy of the agreements but was told they were protected by the Eternal Seal of Freedom from the Provision from Informations Act, were subject to a 300-year Statute of Limnations, and were otherwise and incorruptibly bound and determined by the Official Secretions Act.

A scene of abiding if fleeting poignancy then unfolded as final gifts were exchanged, incongruous rattles and drums from British Columbia on the one hand, and from the Ishmaelites, and exclusively for our Premier, a soft and supple tanned talisman of otic flesh strung on a thread of finely woven boar hair and hung around her eager neck by none other than Minister of Agriculture Wes Jackson, the rest of the host party apparently having taken ill after reclaiming and ingesting the cache of Nanaimo bars.

The coast

Again navigating by lines of pipe, the airmen soon espied the corniches of Arabie, the lapping Gulf abob with murderous dhows lateening shoreward towards a panoply of glittering skylines, each spiking aloft in inverse proportion to the depths from which its emirate's fossil jewels had been plundered to pay for its penthouses. Abu Dhabi. Dubai. Bahrain. Doha. There wasn't time to visit them all but Rennie had been assured of a rich reception in Qatar, and he in any event wished to ensure no unfavourable comparisons between plans for a new art museum in Abu Dhabi, and the more prosaic ambitions of the Vancouver Art Gallery. (''Who needs Frank Gehry anyway?'' he spat. ''Ian Gillespie can build anything!'') Rennie's forethought and quick researches in Jacksonville thus redounded to the party's benefit when a fleet of Dassault Mirage fighter jets escorted the winged ensemble towards the shimmer and exuberance of Doha, a gilted mirage stark aloft Qatar's arid plain -- and maybe, just maybe, a chronicle of a Prince Rupert foretold.

Here, it must perforce be revealed, the expeditionary party was plunged into the most Oriental of intrigues. The welcome was more as had been imagined back in the crenelated corridors of the BC Foreign Office. Archetypically muscled security men and limousines were purring at the ready on the private tarmac, our party whisked on private roads to the Emiri Diwan Royal Palace, thence ushered into rooms that satisfied even Lady Redford's most lavishly subsidized imaginings, arustle with the Levant's most sought after silks, awhiff with treasured ittars, amuffle with the muted calls of the muezzins. But it is your correspondent's solemn duty to report that in direct proportion to the opulence of the comforts was an unmistakable air of menace. Business was afoot.

At banquet, Clark, de Jong and Coleman were alert to the potential for the slightest slip or sleight to capsize their currency with the caliphate. Their host, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, soothingly explained how he had turned Qatar into the richest country in the world, and he demonstrated a surprisingly detailed grasp of British Columbia's proposed energy taxation regimes. ''It is injurious, in my view, to burden the sources of foreign capital with the nuisance of local public imposts,'' said the Emir. ''How do you say it? It is unwise to ravish one's Peter to reward one's Paul.''

Clark made as to respond, but the Emir quieted her with an authoritative raising of his jewelled hand. ''In the global economy, the enemy of my friend is the tariff, and, my friends'' -- at this, the Emir smiled magnanimously -- ''my friends are of course the enemies of my enemy, which is the tariff.''

De Jong, who had been strangely silent for most of the trip, suddenly seemed to come to life. ''Your emirence, what if we took the 1.5 per cent levy on the companies and transferred that to a tax payable by the workers?''

There was a contented murmur among the hosts. ''I see you are quick to the ways of the royaume,'' smiled the Emir. He then gestured to his right, to where a hitherto unoccupied chair was now taken up by none other than Tan Sri Dato' Shamsul Azhar Abbas, head of the Malaysian energy colossus who once famously told the British Columbia government not to ''slaughter the goose before it has a chance to hatch the golden egg.''

The surprise appearance of Petronas' Number One Nabob at the Emir's side confused and unsettled the negotiate from Canada's farthest shores. Clark had last seen Tan Sri Dato' when she took her hard hat, safety vest and steel-toed stilettos on a tour of Petronas' LNG facilities in Malaysia. There, she had seen what he had called the ''relatively obscure fishing village'' of Bintulu, Sarawak, transformed into a globally significant LNG supply hub. Then, as now, the message was clear -- Prince Rupert, about as ''relatively obscure'' a fishing village as it is possible to find in North America, could become British Columbia's Bintulu. But there was a catch, actually two.

''The tariff question is easily settled,'' Tan Sri Dato' said. ''There can be no taxes on capital. The goose cannot be allowed to become a gander. There can be taxes on the workers, but only on your Peters and Pauls. As you know, half the work force on Lelu Island we will bring from overseas. Your media calls them 'foreign workers' but in the global economy, no workers are foreign. You have your Peters, we have our Barysas. You have your Pauls, we have our Fakhruls. They are all equal in the eyes of Allah, except ours will not pay local taxes. They will fly in, they will fly out. It is written.''

At this, an attendant stooped from the shadows with a scroll, which he unrolled before the Emir, who nodded his assent. ''It is written,'' he echoed, brushing his fingers across the parchment. Copies were then placed by palace guards in front of the British Columbia delegatees, who were given a few moments to peruse the contents. The Emir spoke.

''We will make your Protectorate rich beyond your imaginings. We will bring capital, we will bring technology, we will bring workers, we will offer markets, and we will pay handsomely for your natural endowments to be transferred to us unrefined. We have studied your culture and we considerate it weak. With due respect to your First Peoples'' -- he nodded in Atleo's direction, and Atleo gestured respectfully in kind -- ''your politics are too sentimental. We are not people of sentiment, we are people of action. From the plains of Northern Alberta to the northern coast of your fair Province, we will assist in the creation of a new sovereign state, unfettered by regulations either federal, provincial or municipal. You may think of it as a breakaway state'' -- the Emir gave a phlegmatic shrug, at which Tan Sri Dato' smiled knowingly – ''but think of it as a clean break from Canada and your past. For your First Peoples, and for your Last.''

At this, guards furnished copies of a map, calligraphed in gold with a bold stamp that proclaimed:

THE DIVINE KINGDOM OF ISHMANADA

The map showed a large expanse that resembled a Nike swoosh, originating off Langara Island, widening on the mainland coast to take in Prince Rupert and the Nass, all of what used to be the Skeena River, taking in Williston Lake and Fort St. John and the future Site Christy dam, ticking upwards across Alberta to Lake Athabasca. It was an area larger than Italy. The Skeena had been widened and straightened in the Emir's rendering, and renamed the Fossphorus. To ensure safe passage for tankers, Rose Spit had been dredged, Dixon Entrance widened, and Dundas Island removed. A huge port was visible where the former city of Prince Rupert once stood. The city, too, had been renamed: Christystantinople. The waters off the city had been dubbed the Holy See. In the bottom left-hand corner of the map was the unmistakable blue box proclaiming the entire Kingdom to be a project of Rennie Marketing Systems. A satisfied sigh left the Condo King's lips.

Queen Christina, clearly overwhelmed, squinted for a moment and then, almost inaudibly, asked the Emir, ''What are these markings? Along the route of the Fossphorous, these are small villages are they? Where you have marked what look like huts?'' The Emir deferred to Tan Sri Dato'. ''They are Tim Hortons outlets.'' The quizzical looks on the faces of the guest party lifted as one, to be replaced by contented smiles. ''There will be a Tim Hortons in every community along each of the pipeline routes. And a Burger King in communities where consultation and accommodation has been satisfactorily joined.'' Atleo stirred. ''And if not?'' ''No Burger King,'' said Petronas' chief negotiator. Atleo weighed this for a moment, and nodded his assent.

'And what about Prince Rup… sorry, Christystantinople?'' said the Chancellor. Tan Sri Dato' leaned forward. ''We have bold plans to add a new floor to the Museum of Northern British Columbia, although of course it will be renamed. And for the First Peoples, not just Burger Kings, but new bleachers for the All Native Basketball Tournament. Although that, too, will be renamed. In the Divine Kingdom of Ishmanada, we will all be First Peoples.'' Rennie lifted his admiring gaze from the map and made to speak, but the Emir anticipated his question, and said that yes, they would also add a floor, possibly two, to the Crest Hotel, transforming it into an ''urban sanctuary'' that would be henceforth known, of course, as the Crown.

''I don’t know what to say,'' said Her Highness. ''The whole plan. It is a vision! It is beautiful. I see the future!''

''It looks like a good deal to me,'' said the canny Chancellor, de Jong.

''A slam dunk,'' said the Natural Gas Minister.

''Can I get a suite with an ocean view?'' asked Princess Redford.

The Emir once again held up his hand. ''It is what you call a package. Unlike your system, we do not impose conditions. We agree, and we get to work. But first, we agree.''

''What about the media?'' asked Canada's Chatter-in-Chief. ''How do we sell this to the media?''

''No need,'' said the Emir. ''You create your own.''

A spark of recognition illuminated the water-shaped face of Lady Clark, C.K.N.W. ''It is true,'' she said, turning to her fellow travellers. ''We already have a Gary Mason.''

''In my father's house there are many Masons,'' said the Emir, who then clapped his hands twice, bringing the negotiations to a close.

At this, the palace guard stepped forward again. Before each member of the party save your incorruptible correspondent, a silk purse was presented on a silver platter. Inside each purse -- emeralds, rubies, diamonds and gold.

The Emir stood, walked around the table and gestured to Christy Clark, who stood up before him. ''May I,'' he asked and reached to remove from around her neck the Ishmaelian necklace. He dropped the sow's ear into the hands of an assistant with evident distaste, picked up the largest of silk purses that had been reserved for his equal, and with both hands pressed it into the Prime Palm of Ishmanada.

''We are agreed?'' the Emir said.

''We are unanimous,'' she replied.

''It is so decreed. I wish you safe passage home to your Kingdom by the Sea. May Allah look mercifully upon us all, and welcome to his bosom the newly liberated citizens of the Divine Independency of Ishmanada.''

A gong sounded, the hosts retreated into the warm night, and our party turned happily homewards. Thus was history made, and witnessed. Thus it is written.

*Evelyn Waugh, for those not acquainted, is the famed British novelist (1903 – 1966) whose social views and politics were anything but progressive but who nevertheless was a wickedly brilliant satirist of colonialism. -- editor  [Tyee]

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