How not to microwave a former Premier

Stop the Smart Meters, says Vander Zalm. (Photo by Bruce Stotesbury of the Victoria Times-Colonist. Click for source.)

Stop the radio waves, says Vander Zalm. (Photo by Bruce Stotesbury of the Victoria Times-Colonist. Click for source.)

Most members of the Former Premiers Club live relatively low-profile lives after surrendering their province’s top political job to someone else. Former 1969-1977 premier Ed Schreyer, the dean of the club’s Manitoba branch, makes the odd public appearance these days, but otherwise lives in quiet retirement. Ditto for Howard Pawley (1981-88) and Gary Filmon (1988-1999), despite recent attempts to pull the latter back into the limelight.

Only Gary Doer (1999-2009) continues to lead a high-profile existence, owing to his new career as Canadian ambassador to the United States.

There’s no quiet retirement planned just yet however for Bill Vander Zalm, the rambunctious former B.C. premier. Forced out of office in 1991 by a conflict-of-interest scandal, he charged back into the political ring a mere eight years later as leader of a largely unsuccessful populist party from 1999 to 2001.

Seventy-nine years old and 22 years out of office,  Vander Zalm continues to play a curious role in B.C. politics, not so much as elder statesman as a rabble-rouser.

His campaign in recent years to rescind B.C.’s Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is perhaps the least colourful of his efforts. Recently, he filed a federal Freedom of Information request, seeking out information on whether or not the federal government is spraying high-altitude “chemtrails” in an effort at “climate-control engineering”.

“Governments will go ahead and do things, particularly in the name of climate control or, you know, for the sake of agriculture or whatever other excuse they can use . . . They’ll keep it a secret, and they’ll go ahead and do it anyway,” he told a B.C. newspaper.

And don’t get him started on B.C. Hydro’s new Smart Meters.

“Eventually we’ll be governed out of Brussels, Belgium or someplace like that,” Vander Zalm says in a 2011 YouTube video. “They can monitor what’s happening anywhere in the world [using the Smart Meters].”

“They’ll even know what you’re cooking. It’s sad. It’s crazy.”

In an Aug. 7 commentary in Vancouver’s The Province, Vander Zalm expresses concern about the effects that the Smart Meters, which send information back to a central point using a low-powered radio transmitter, might be having on his neighbours’ health.

“We and our neighbours will suffer the effects of an ongoing barrage of radio waves,” he wrote.

For speaking out on the issue, Vander Zalm expresses concern that B.C. Hydro might have tried to get revenge.

“Last week, B.C. Hydro had its ‘get-even’ with me. We had the biggest micro-wave installed in front of our house . . . They could have installed it a block south of our home in a purely agricultural area. They could even have respectfully installed it on the next pole north or south, but instead they put it right in our face by the front gate.”

B.C. Hydro denies that the pole outside of Vander Zalm’s home has any transmitting equipment installed on it.

The Smart Meters remain controversial nevertheless in B.C., despite tests showing that the signals emitted by the smart meters are, in fact, no stronger at just 20 centimeters away from the device than a local FM station’s signal is from a transmitter situated miles away.

In fact, Vander Zalm is likely getting zapped by far more radiation, at least in relative terms, from that agricultural area just south of his home in Ladner, B.C., an outlying Vancouver suburb near the U.S. border.

According to Industry Canada’s Spectrum Direct web site, Rogers Communications has a cell tower in a field just a 16-minute walk south of Vander Zalm’s home.

The tower, 37 metres above ground, pushes out wireless signals at about 780 watts, with few obstructions between the tower and the former premier’s home to weaken the signal.

Entering the known information about the cell tower into an Industry Canada signal coverage estimator shows that the signal from the cell tower is probably in excess of 100 decibels on Vander Zalm’s property — very strong, but still far below the exposure level at which human health becomes a concern.

Smart Meters, by comparison, operate with about one watt of power according to a U.S. radio hobbyist web site.

Punching the known information about Smart Meters into the same Industry Canada signal coverage estimator suggests that the signal from a Smart Meter on the side of Vander Zalm’s home, one metre (three feet) above ground, would be in the 80-90 decibel range at most — roughly equivalent to the amount of radiation one would receive walking down the street 5-10 miles (8-16 kilometres) from an FM radio station’s transmitter.

So the former premier need not lose sleep over the amount of radiation he’s receiving from Smart Meters, much less the idea that the Belgians have any interest in what the Dutch-born ex-politician had for dinner.

But that was a tasty steak your neighbour made tonight, Bill…

After 45 years, the mystery of Flight 21 still lingers

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”, a pilot’s voice cried out over the radio on the afternoon of Thursday, July 8, 1965.

Far below, a witness watched in horror as the tail of the passenger aircraft separated and the debris — which included tiny, falling dots which the witness learned were passengers sucked out of the decompressing cabin — fell to earth.

From far away, air traffic controllers watched helplessly as the aircraft disappeared from their radar screens.

Evidence would show that someone had set off a bomb in the plane’s rear lavatory.

It was not a crime that happened in a troubled Third World country, nor to an airline associated with a dictatorial regime, nor on a prestigious route on which a bombing would get maximum media attention.

It happened right here in Canada, on a domestic flight from Vancouver to Prince George, B.C.

At 2:42 p.m. on July 8, 1965, Canadian Pacific Air Lines Flight 21, a DC-6B nicknamed Empress of the City of Buenos Airesregistration CF-CUQ –took off from Vancouver International Airport with Capt. John Steele at the controls. Five other crew members and 46 passengers were aboard this flight.

It was supposed to be a routine milk run through a series of isolated northern towns. The first stop would be at Prince George, followed by stops at Fort St. John, Fort Nelson and Watson Lake before concluding the trip at Whitehorse, Yukon.

Nothing seemed amiss for most of the first leg of the journey. The plane followed its flight plan route for about 45 minutes before changing course slightly to minimize turbulence.

At about 3:40 p.m., nearly an hour after taking off from Vancouver, the routine pattern of air traffic control communications was broken by a voice calling out “Mayday!” three times.

At the same time, a witness watched from the ground as the aircraft disintegrated in midair and crashed in a sparsely populated area, inhabited mainly by loggers and ranchers, about 30 kilometres west of 100 Mile House, B.C. There were no survivors.

Two Winnipeg residents were among the victims, listed on the passenger manifest as a Mr. and Mrs. Covello of 866 Borebank St. in River Heights.

Investigators would later find traces of potassium nitrate and carbon — the ingredients of gunpowder and stumping power — in the wreckage in the vicinity of the airplane’s rear lavatory, and tiny bits of shrapnel buried everywhere. Evidence of pre-crash damage to pipes and a bulkhead, and of a hole in the side of the fuselage, left investigators certain that they were dealing with a case of mass murder, not an accident.

Who would do such a thing, and why?

To this day — 45 years later — no one knows for sure.

The investigation would focus on four people.

One was a 40-year-old unemployed man who purchased $125,000 worth of flight insurance ($864,000 in 2010 dollars) less than half an hour before departure, naming his wife, daughter, mother and neice as beneficiaries. He was reportedly on his way to Prince George to go to work at a pulp mill, but when RCMP visited all of the pulp mills in the area, no one knew of the man or of any job offer.

Another was a 54-year-old passenger who had extensive experience working with explosives and who had been charged with a 1958 Vancouver murder. His reason for being on the flight was at least known, however: he was travelling on business using a ticket purchased for him by a construction firm.

A 29-year-old was also on his way north to accept a job offer. The one thing that did stand out to investigators was that he owned a considerable amount of gunpowder, the substance that investigators believe was used to blow up Flight 21. Four 11-ounce tins from his collection couldn’t be accounted for.

Finally, the least likely passenger to come to investigators’ attention was an accountant who had recently been involved in an audit of a failed financial services firm. Rumours circulated that he had been murdered because of potential far-reaching implications of what he knew, but the RCMP later discounted this theory.

In 1965, it would have been easy to bring weapons and explosives on to a passenger airliner. Security checkpoints weren’t established in the nation’s airports until the early ’70s, when a rash of hijackings finally forced change on the industry.

At the time, passengers simply checked in, walked to the gate and boarded the flight uninspected. Anything that could be brought on board a transit bus could be just as easily brought aboard an airliner. Airports had a less visible security presence than a modern-day shopping centre. The perception that flying was only for the well-to-do reinforced the feeling of complacency.

Forty-five years later, the case remains not only unsolved, but also largely forgotten. The only Canadian-linked aviation bombings that most Canadians have ever heard of were the two bombings believed to have been carried out by Sikh extremists in 1985, of an Air India 747 en route from Canada to India via the U.K. and, on the same day, of a baggage handling area at Tokyo’s Narita Airport by a bomb hidden in a suitcase that had just been taken off a CP Air flight. The bag in question was supposed to be transfered to another Air India flight.

Few have ever heard of Canadian Pacific Flight 21, or of a Canadian Pacific C-47 which was bombed out of the skies over Quebec in 1949 by a man who wanted to kill his wife so that he could collect the insurance money and marry his mistress.

The wreckage of Flight 21 still sits in the B.C. woods, a little over a kilometre east of what appears to be an isolated logging road. One man who hadn’t forgotten ventured out to the site some time back, where he found momentos left at the site by family members, who also haven’t forgotten.

Pictures from his expedition can be found on Flickr.

After so many years, perhaps it is time — if DNA testing will permit — to finally resolve who brought down Flight 21.

Additional Sources:

Edmonton Journal, July 8, 1995

Reading Eagle, July 12, 1965

Ellensburg Daily Record, July 9, 1965