The 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication, or simply Expo ’86, was a World’s Fair held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from Friday, May 2 until Monday, October 13, 1986. The fair, the theme of which was “Transportation and Communication: World in Motion – World in Touch”, coincided with Vancouver’s centennial and was held on the north shore of False Creek. It was the second time that Canada held a World’s Fair, the first being Expo 67 in Montreal (during the Canadian Centennial). It was also the third World’s Fair to be held in the Pacific Northwest in the last 26 years as of 1986 and as of 2014 it still stands as the latest World’s Fair to be held in North America.
At the time the Social Credit Party was in power in BC. Bill Bennett was Premier, following in the footsteps of his father, longtime Premier W.A.C Bennett, aka, “Wacky Bennett.” There was a great deal of labour unrest in the province at the time: strikes, rallies, rhetoric flying back and forth between the provincial labour leaders and the government of the day. Teachers were pissed off. The lumber industry was in turmoil. Shut downs threatened the peace and stability of the corporations of the province.
I was teaching a political philosophy class and we were early in the term studying “The Prince” by Machiavelli. I set as a paper topic an essay – “Imagine the ghost of Machiavelli is speaking through you to a modern day Prince who is losing political support in his region, and facing serious difficulties from teachers, and workers of all stripes. There is fear that he may lose power. You (as Machiavelli) are to give political advice to the “prince” that will enable him to stay in power and calm his subjects.”
A couple of days after handing out the assignment I received a phone call from a colleague at the college who told me that I was in trouble. “I was on a tour with the local Socred Party leaders and someone was handing out your assignment to everyone. Most of the folks were angry feeling you were out of line to be suggesting that their leader was a prince, was losing support, needed advice on how to stay in power and so forth.”
Soon I received a phone call from the president, Bruce Fraser. Dr. Fraser told me that the College Board had discussed my assignment and were unhappy and wanted to teach me a lesson. I explained my approach. He asked if he could attend the class. “Of course,” said I, “it’s one of those three hour night classes so be prepared.”
He came to class. I had marked those papers and selected three or four to be read in class. Students read their papers. To rounds of applause. All of them connected Expo 86 to the advice given by Machiavelli: “In trouble, dear Prince ? host a tournament or a large fair.” And more than just the Fair; they had read the text closely and related it to present day beautifully.
After the readings and the applause I introduced Bruce Fraser who thanked the students for letting him participate, told them and me what the Board was up to, and expressed deep support for academic freedom and specifically for me and my assignment. He reported that he came to class so that he could defend the assignment with first-hand experience.
He got a round of applause. I was proud to be associated with Bruce and with Malaspina University-College.