Parksville doctor Andy Biro is using Canada 150 to challenge local businesses and residents to fly the Canadian flag. — J.R. Rardon photo

Parksville doc raises flag, drops challenge

Man wants to see more Canadian flags flying for nation’s 15oth birthday

Caught up in the spirit of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, Dr. Andy Biro had an idea he wanted to run up the flagpole.

So he got himself a flagpole.

Biro, who operates Parksville’s Longevity Medical Aesthetics and Laser Surgery clinic, is throwing down a good-natured challenge to local businesses and residents to fly the Canadian flag as the nation’s 150th birthday approaches on July 1.

“All I really wanted to do is get some more Canadian flags to be raised in Oceanside,” said Biro, who put his money where his mouth is by erecting a 25-foot pole on the lawn of his business, across Jensen Avenue from city hall. “It becomes a little more pertinent given it’s the 150th anniversary. It’s a special opportunity to do that.”

And there is a prize for participating. Biro is asking those who take the challenge to send Longevity a photo of their flag flying to be entered into a draw for a $150 Longevity gift certificate and all-Canadian gift basket.

Biro and Shannon Groenewegen, medical spa director at the clinic, began contemplating the flag challenge last fall, as nationwide interest in the looming 150th birthday began to grow.

Knowing he would have to lead by example, Biro attempted to seek out city bylaws on the raising or display of flags. He couldn’t find any.

“The bottom line is, there’s nothing formal in either city plans or bylaws that stipulate you need any permit before you raise a typical flagpole,” Biro said. “Now, if you want to raise a 50-footer with a 10-by-20-foot flag, that’s a different matter.

Blaine Russell, the city’s director of community planning, said that characterization was accurate.

“People can do what they want with a flagpole,” said Russell. “There are no restrictions, other than safety. Be aware of overhead power lines or obstacles, obviously, and don’t cause sightline issues, particularly on corner lots. Make sure you’re not disrupting sight triangles.”

The idea for a flag challenge, Biro said, grew in part from his shock at how few flags are actually flown here as he drove the region and really started loking for them.

“All you have to do is drive down the old highway (19A), and if you start to look for Canadian flags, you’ll find less than a handful,” he said. “Motels typically will put out Canadian flags, American flags; that’s a traditional thing they seem to do. And of course they have the flags here at city hall.

“But even some of our larger businesses don’t have any flags up.”

For comparison, Biro cites the gold standard in flag-waving — the United States.

“Go to any small town (in the U.S.), you drive down their streets and you’ll see people fly the flag. They take great pride in showing the flag and letting people know they have nationalist ideals.”

That’s something Biro — a first-generation Canadian son of immigrants — believes Canadians should be more willing to share with the rest of the world.

“As Canadians, we’re so polite,” he said. “Nobody really encourages the showing of national pride. But we have a lot to be proud of; we should be doing a little more chest-thumping.”

Early on, Biro said, he brought up the idea to members of the chamber of commerce. He said he’s tried to keep low-key with his approach, and has avoided any door-knocking or proselytizing.

“We wanted it to be more of a challenge,” said Groenewegen. “We don’t want to embarrass people into putting up a flag; that’s not the idea.”

Instead, the clinicians are leading by example. This month, Biro finally installed a metal pole that stands about 7 metres, and has run up a 36-inch flag. Looking up at the maple leaf on a recent breezy day, he said he is contemplating an upgrade to a 45-inch model, adding that anything larger would be ill-suited.

His cost, including the excavation and installation, was roughly $1,000, Biro said. But other businesses and residents can put up flags for far less, using simple, temporary poles off a porch, for example.

To enter the Canadian flag challenge, forward your flag photos by email to shannon@longevitymedical.ca.