After years of battling City Hall, American corporate giant Wal-Mart set to open in Vancouver
With Obama now at the helm, is everything American now 'cool'? Say it with me: President Barack Obama.
Yes, America has turned over a new leaf this morning and it's setting a new direction for the Free World. Could one of the consequences of Obamamania be that everything American is now considered 'cool' again?
It is rather fitting that while the USA basks in the glow of their new, young, and ultra-charismatic leader, Vancouver is preparing to roll out the red carpet and welcome Wal-Mart, the poster-child of American enterprise. Yes, after years of battling Vancouver City Hall, and only a day after Obama's inaugural ceremony, Wal-Mart will finally open its doors in Vancouver.
Can it be long before we can get signature Michelle Obama knock-off dresses without having to drive outside city limits?
Now for those of you who don't live in Metro Vancouver, you might find it odd that we are only now heralding the arrival of Wal-Mart to Vancouver. That's because Wal-Mart has been in almost every single market in Canada for years now.
So why is Vancouver so tardy in welcoming Wal-Mart you ask? Well, for years, the corporation was the whipping boy for local activists upset with the Bush regime and everything it represented. They also portrayed the company as less than union-friendly. So the battle began.
That's why in 2005, when Wal-Mart tried to open up the world's 'greenest Wal-Mart' in the southside of Vancouver, a number of city councillors went on a rampage. Former COPE Councillor Anne Roberts led the charge arguing that Wal-Mart was a big, bad American corporation and allowing it to open was akin to Vancouver endorsing President George Bush and his foreign policies.
Roberts' rhetoric was often over-the-top. However, in the end, she was highly effective at convincing Council (with the exception of Mayor Larry Campbell and then Councillors Ladner and Sullivan) to kibosh the opening of Wal-Mart in Vancouver. This despite the fact that almost every neighbouring city had already opened a Wal-Mart of their own.
The death of the Wal-Mart development exposed the irony that Vancouver shoppers would have to continue jumping in their gas guzzling cars and drive out to the suburbs to access their favourite Wal-Mart.
Fast forward to today, and a black man is now the President of the United States, and Wal-Mart is finally going to open its first Vancouver location. So how did they do it? Wal-Mart that is.
This time they were able to circumvent Vancouver Council by purchasing an existing Costco site which didn't require a rezoning application. Presto, instant Wal-Mart and there was nothing Council could do about it. Those free enterprises, they'll stop at nothing.
So you might be wondering what happened to the original site where Wal-Mart wanted to build the world's "greenest" Wal-Mart? It remains a broken, graffiti-covered old warehouse, filled with boarded up windows and a couple of pigeon nests. A testimony to what happens when a Council chooses to engage in foreign policy debates, rather than sticking to land use issues.
So it's now official. America has Obama and Vancouver has Wal-Mart. It is serendipity that both events happened at almost the same time. Perhaps Vancouverites will finally put an end to all that US bashing, and realize that on at least some levels, being American is considered 'cool' again.