The great debate
- Subtitle: Letter from Law Law Land
Although I’ve heard “if this is global warming, bring it on,” I believe the rain is now welcomed by virtually everyone in the Lower Mainland, on the Island, and in British Columbia’s wine-soaked but tinder dry interior (except my Simon Fraser University teaching assistants, who are already dreading it).
Most people are relieved that their brown lawns will soon turn green, relieved that the forest fire alerts can be reduced to nil, and relieved Whistler and other mountains will start to accumulate some snow for this year’s ski season. No one is more relieved, I suppose, than the millions of salmon who haven’t been able to swim upstream to have sex and die. However, the salmon gods have answered their collective prayers for sex and death with rain that will likely last until June.
Now that we aren’t zip-lining, “grouse-grinding,” sailing, surfing, hang gliding, windsurfing, or rollerblading our weekends away (this is B.C., after all, not Toronto, where lawyers just work), I’d say many of us in B.C. have been following the U.S. presidential debates.
President Barack Obama seems to have recovered his “no-show” appearance Oct. 6, when he showed up as an empty podium and let Mitt Romney and his 53 per cent mop floor with him (irrespective of things called “facts”). I started to believe that Romney might make a relatively good centrist president because he stands for absolutely nothing other than what might get him elected under the Republican banner. Once elected, he might actually be a defender of both Obamacare and PBS, like he was when he was Massachusetts’ governor. But you have to really wonder about a guy who’ll say anything to you just to make the sale.
In the Oct. 16 debate, Obama threw some of the punches he forgot to swing in the first debate, and Romney ended up creating a brand new collective noun for the feminine sex: “binders of women.” The president’s campaign was reinvigorated by the second debate, but if he invariably loses the election, I’m sure there will be a place for him in Ottawa as federal Liberal leader and future Canadian prime minister. Sorry, Justin.
It’s not as if we can follow the debates of the B.C. legislature. The current B.C. premier has decided not to have a fall sitting of our provincial legislature. Christy Clark is quoted in the National Post as saying about Victoria: “I try never to go over there. Because it’s sick. It’s a sick culture. All they can think about is government and there are no real people in Victoria, and you get captured by this inside-the-beltway debate, and it’s really unhealthy.” What, you mean it's better in Coquitlam?
So if we can’t get a good debate among politicians in B.C., where can one go for a debate that’ll have you rolling in the isles, and regaling your colleagues the next morning over the water cooler? Well, I’ll tell you.
It’s called The BCLI/Boughton Great Debate and its put on every year in Vancouver by the British Columbia Law Institute and Boughton Law Corp. as a witty debate about law reform performed in a lighthearted and amusing manner in a room filled with judges, lawyers, and legal academics. It’s sort of like the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner that Obama and Romney spoke at Oct. 18, except without the president, Romney, the U.S. Senate and House, the media, and Wolf Blitzer.
And yes, I’m in it. For some reason, they keep dragging me back. Like a bad penny.
In past years, we’ve debated the future of copyright in a world where people copy everything off the Internet and don’t think twice about it. I won the coveted trophy that year not only because I was teamed up with the wise and witty Bob Howell, a University of Victoria IP professor and South Pole adventurer (really!), but because I staged another lawyer to serve me with an injunction for making copies of images for the very debate.
The following year we debated the future of the legal profession in light of Richard Susskind’s book The End of Lawyers, and despite being teamed up with the inestimable intellect of UVic law school dean Donna Greschner, and the two of us giving away free dinosaur toys to all the attendees in an attempt to bribe them, we were trounced by University of British Columbia law dean Mary Anne Bobinski and her partner in crime, litigator, rock star and Paul McCartney’s good friend, Michal Bain (who tires of being described as the “Bain” of my existence). Bain’s rebuttal was a limerick. It was genius, unfortunately.
The following year we debated the strange hybrid between animal law and estate law, and whether one should be able to donate vast sums of money to a parrot. The talented Emily Clough, someone who actually knew something about estates law and was able to prove it, defeated me. Handily. Resoundingly.
And last year, we brought the judges into the mix. Clough was teamed up with Chief Justice Robert Bauman, and yours truly was teamed up with former County, Supreme, and Court of Appeal Judge (and former B.C. Attorney General) Wally Oppal. Although I told the assembled guests this would be the only opportunity in their entire lives to rule against the chief justice, the former AG and I crashed and burned.
Maybe I’m the problem.
In any event, this year the topic is whether the HST should be brought back to B.C., after having been voted “out” through a referendum that the provincial government didn’t really bother to participate in (the campaign being so filled with mistruths, you’d think Karl Rove, Michelle Bachman, and Sara Palin were advising the No HST side).
If you’re in Vancouver on Oct. 25, you should attend. It’s at the Pan Pacific. Tickets are $129.46 — plus $15.54 HST, of course.
Tony Wilson is a franchise, licensing, and intellectual property lawyer at Boughton in Vancouver and an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University. He is a regular business law columnist with The Globe and Mail and other publications. He is also the author of Manage Your Online Reputation, a book written to guide individuals and businesses on how to monitor and protect their personal and corporate reputations on social media. The views expressed are strictly those of Tony Wilson and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia, CBABC, or their respective members.
Column: Letter from Law Law Land