Follow the Money


Campbell struggled out of his heavy wool knit jacket before he sat down.

“Winter is coming,” he said ominously, quoting a favourite line from ‘Game of Thrones’. Winter here on the Sunshine Coast consists mostly of water, i.e. rain. Only once ever eight years does it actually snow in Gibsons. Last year was one of those years. Since neither the town nor the people are prepared or equipped for any accumulation of snow it pretty well shuts everything down. Four-wheel drives, private snow ploughs and shovels were suddenly in big demand or better yet, a plane ticket to a warm place.

“Going anywhere this winter?” Camp asked me.

“Well, in fact we are. We booked a two-week trip to Costa Rica in December. We’re really looking forward to this.”

“Must be nice. I’m looking forward to a rainy Christmas season at the store. Just no snow please until January. Talking of places in the sun have you ever heard of Malta, the small Island state, between Sicily and Libya, once a British Colony?”

“Sure, I’ve heard of it. Sounds lovely.”

“Last week, Malta’s most famous blogger and investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered with a Semtex car bomb. I’ve done a bit of digging and it turns out that the small island state is home to over 70’000 corporations and 600 investment funds and for a mere $ 650’000 you can buy Maltese citizenship which makes you a European. Last year Malta sold over 5000 of these dubious passports. It looks like Daphne stepped on some golden toes with her reporting of corruption, drug and oil deals, prostitution and money laundering right up to the young prime minister’s wife. Apparently Malta has become a play ground for Libyan militia-billionaires to Italian Mafiosi and multi millionaire tax-evaders from Russia, the Gulf states, China and anywhere else.”

“Sounds like a real treasure island,” I said. “Costa Rica on the other hand seems like an interesting place. No military, no air force, no submarines. Imagine that. They spend their money on education, social programs, healthcare, infra structure and debt financing.”

“It’s a smart move not to have a military. I wish more countries would adopt that policy. Do we really need a military or fighter jets here in Canada?”

“You know it’s the US who is pressuring us Camp, to increase our military spending from 24 billion to 32 billion, part of our Nato commitments they say but it’s mostly about the flow of money south. Just look at the latest spat between Bombardier and Boing. It’s all about the mula.”

“Isn’t everything?” Camp said laconically. “You want to find the culprit in any shady enterprise. Follow the money. No matter if it’s the Vatican or the drug cartels. Or take a look at our federal finance minister. He thought a blind trust was when he closed his eyes while his millions moved into a loop hole and an account in Alberta He’s been going around the country waving an accusatory finger and scolding us middle classers to stop using legal means to avoid paying taxes.”

“Tax avoidance is legal, tax evasion is not,” I pointed out. “Of course in my case I have nothing to avoid or evade.”

“Nor me,” Camp laughed.

“Clare and I went on the Sunshine Coast Art-Crawl last weekend,” I said, switching to a positive topic. “We had a ton of fun. Over 150 studios, homes, workshops and galleries opened their doors all the way up the coast, from Gibsons to Earls Cove. So many talented artists from blacksmiths’ to glass blowers, painters, potters, stained glass artist, photographers, designers, weavers, carvers and jewellers presented their work. What I enjoyed the most was seeing all these fantastic houses and workspaces tucked away in the woods, including the wonderful traditional longhouse of the Sechelt Band.”

“Yes, the Sunshine Coast is awash with artists of every description including writers and playwrights, actors and filmmakers. We have our very own cultural treasure island here on the coast,” Camp said, proud like a father about the achievement of his many children.

“Did you decorate ‘Coast Books’ for Halloween next week?” I asked, knowing that I’ll get a rise out of him.

“Halloween! It’s just an aberration of the Celtic New Year and used to be called Samhain. The custom probably came to America with the Irish and as far as I’m concerned it should go back there.”

“No trick or treat then?”

“I’ll show you a trick. Watch this beer, close your eyes, count to ten and then open them again…well?”

“Wow, the glass is empty. That’s a pretty neat trick Camp. Can you do the reverse?”

“Just watch me.” With that he held up two fingers in a peace or victory sign and like magic two fresh foaming pints arrived.”