Forest fire prevention and mitigation in BC: At what point does inaction become negligence?

“There were at least 21 fires that started in British Columbia on Sunday. There were 36 Saturday. There were 32 Friday. There are 178 burning right now.

A haze blankets the majority of people in B.C., as winds bring smoke from fires in Pemberton to people in Vancouver and Victoria. The Metro Vancouver Air Quality Health Index went to 10+, or “Very High Risk” on Sunday night.

READ MORE: Air quality advisory issued for Metro Vancouver and Sunshine Coast

And undoubtedly, there will be more fires to come in the days and weeks ahead…”

Source: http://globalnews.ca/news/2092023/fires-raging-across-b-c-as-concern-for-the-summer-deepens/

Our forests, our lives

2013-09-01 022

The vast and varied forests of British Columbia, are without question one of our greatest resources. In its heyday, the forest industry in our province provided a revenue source that sustained entire communities through logging, sawmills and pulpmills. In fact most of my family and friends up north have worked in the forestry industry via one or another of these sectors.

beetlekill

The impact of the massive pine beetle kill was sizable,but once most of the salvaged ( and marketable) wood was harvested, sawmills began to close in many areas. It was also discovered back in 2012 that our forests had been badly mismanaged – the Forest Practices Board concurred with forester Anthony Britneff’s assessment that cut forests had not been satisfactorily restocked via tree-planting. What do these two things have in connection?

It takes a long time to re-grow a logged area to a size that can be harvested again -and this didn’t take into account the often unchecked logging that takes place on privately owned land. Between the vast amounts of beetle kill in BC and the failure to replant trees to a level and standard we needed to, every single remaining forest in our province becomes that much more valuable/

The need for protection of our forests for either wood harvest or simply as a wild habitat for our animals, becomes clear.

The amazing stands of douglas fir  and majestic ceders or redwoods are magnets for those who call nature their church,who find solace and reverence in forests thick and tall. Those trees provide much needed stability along lakes and streams, preventing run-off that makes clear water silty, clogging gills of fish and aquatic wildlife.The need for conservation, is clear.

2015-05-02 019

Wildfire prevention and mitigation

Every time a forest fire is ignited, at best we lose valuable forest, at worst, we lose homes, and at times, lives. The costs to both communities and the province, is often staggering. So it makes sense that in a province with vast tracts of forest that in many areas merge with homes and communities, prevention efforts and mitigation is absolutely essential.

For more than a decade, the location and methods used to build forest communities was a massive concern- ” How BC was built to burn” ran in the Tyee in 2004, identifying major issues and safety concerns of many BC communities like Barriere and Whistler. http://thetyee.ca/News/2004/04/30/How_BC_Was_Built_to_Burn/

Of great interest in this article, is the Filmon Firestorm Report of 2003. I’ve linked to it separately here, because the link in the Tyee article is no longer working. http://bcwildfire.ca/History/ReportsandReviews/2003/FirestormReport.pdf

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/270710127/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=true“>

Pages 69 through 76 contain 41 recommendations based on his findings -some the province was advised to implement immediately, some would take time, but all were to be treated with urgency. While I can determine fire departments acted on the recommendations under their jurisdictions, I cannot determine if the province has completed their response.

His final thoughts included the following:

We believe that governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to implement risk reduction policies and legislation while the devastation of Firestorm 2003 is fresh in the public’s mind and the costs and consequences of various choices are well understood.

Another area of clear consensus was that concentration of resources and effort on issues that anticipate, prevent and prepare for disasters is a better investment than on expenditures made in coping with disasters. Consequently, we have made many recommendations to invest in preparedness, education and training.

There was also a firm recognition that many subdivisions in the interface were not designed to mitigate wildfire risks, nor were the dwellings constructed to reduce wildfire hazards.

We believe that local governments and individual homeowners have recognized the risks and are now prepared to follow the best information available to correct for past inaction. We believe they will accept strong direction and leadership on this issue.

The topic of fuel load reduction through prescribed burns is perhaps the best example of a strong consensus on what formerly had been a very controversial and divisive debate. Simply put, almost everyone who gave advice to the Review Team agreed that it was better to accept short-term inconvenience and irritation in favour of long-term reduction in hazard and cost.

Filmon was correct. We have had a trend of hotter,longer dryer fire seasons.  And with some predicting the current drought like conditions will continue through the next winter and into 2016, it’s reason for immediate review to see how many of these recommendations were implemented with urgency as Filmon dictated.

What’s happened since the report was issued? 

Despite this report, concerns were raised yet again in 2011 on what it would take to keep BC forest communities safe. http://www.policynote.ca/on-the-forest-fire-front-line-one-ecologists-take-on-what-it-will-take-to-safeguard-communities/

And sadly, just last week Robert Gray revealed a startling fact in this Times Columnist column: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/columnists/robert-w-gray-wildfires-cost-far-more-than-we-think-1.1988299

Knowing that wildfires have an even greater economic impact on annual provincial and local government budgets than originally estimated should compel the province to invest more in proactive wildfire-hazard mitigation. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

In 2014, the province didn’t invest any money in wildfire-hazard mitigation through investment in the Union of B.C. Municipalities Strategic Wildfire Prevention Program Initiative. It did, however, invest over $70 million in flood mitigation.

Since 2002, the province has invested over $2 billion in earthquake mitigation. In the 11 years since the 2003 fire season and the release of the Filmon Report, the province has invested only $100 million in wildfire-hazard mitigation, yet the cost of suppression alone over that same period has been $2.2 billion. Investments in hazard mitigation are only a fraction of the total amount being spent on fighting fires plus the damage caused by those fires — a pattern that runs counter to sensible cost-benefit risk-management practices.

It’s true no one can point a finger at any politician for this weather, or the drought we are experiencing. Nor can you lay blame for the rampant stupidity that leads to so many fire starts across the province.

But when reports commissioned by the government, make recommendation to the government to prevent similar situations in the future-a dire warning by any standard of commensense- are not fully implemented or funded, who takes the responsibility?

fuelreduction

Who is in charge of legislating forest policy, forest management, removing fuel loads that feed fires?  The province of BC is.

In April of 2014, a full decade after the Filmon report was commissioned, Glen Sanders- a former firefighter and fire chief, took a look at the lessons learned- or not- by government and found the results lacking. http://www.abcfp.ca/publications_forms/documents/BCFORPRO-2014-2_Sanders.pdf

“I am dubious about the lessons learned by government, however, and many of the missteps identified in the Filmon Report will be repeated when the next firestorm strikes.

A wise person once said, “The worst mistake a person can make is to think that those in charge actually know what they are doing.” 

In a recent post, I reflected on how hindsight is only 20/20 if one applies the lessons learned to future actions and decisions. 

And if fire and forestry experts are concerned, I’m also concerned the government did not learn an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Did the government ensure every single one of the recommendations they were responsible for completing in Filmons report were undertaken? I don’t have that answer yet.

I hope we don’t have to wait for yet another firestorm report, to find out.

* For up-to date positions and details of reported wild fires in British Columbia, see this link: http://bcwildfire.ca/situation/

* Air quality reports/advisories can be found here: http://www.bcairquality.ca/index.html

In an update to this post that received thousands of views in the last few days, Coulson has reportedly signed a new contract with the province of BC.

The Mars Bombers will be back in service as early as Thursday.  http://www.albernivalleynews.com/news/311789601.html

And further to this, the contract will be under and existing helicopter contract with Coulson. http://www.albernivalleynews.com/news/311838091.html

( Some media outlets reporting the ministry is still in talks- check your local news to see what develops)

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, forestry, Laila Yuile, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

This weeks City Hall column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Regional politicians deserve more scrutiny

If you’ve ever played roulette, you might have heard the old phrase describing the popular game of chance: “Round and round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows.”

It also describes how I feel when I look at the many ways local governments go about spending the hard-earned tax dollars we all contribute. In last week’s column, Chris Campbell wrote about how the never–ending antics of TransLink really take the heat off the activities of other local governments — including the regional body known as Metro Vancouver.

Formerly known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District, Metro Vancouver manages and delivers services for the entire region. Comprised of four separate corporate entities, regional essentials like drinking water, waste-water treatment and air quality monitoring are included in their mandate.

The 2015 budget estimates expenditures of $657 million, and some of this money comes from you. The cost to the average household in the region is estimated at $427 a year, so it only makes sense that you should be paying as much attention to Metro Vancouver as you do TransLink because the two are similar in terms of governance.

In fact, Metro Vancouver is yet another reason you really need to pay attention to candidates and who you vote for in your municipal elections — the board of 38 directors are all elected officials, appointed to their positions by local councils.

It’s anything but democratic, and there is little accountability to the public in terms of oversight. Starting at the top, the pay and expenses are enough to raise eyebrows. Board chair Greg Moore, mayor of Port Coquitlam, makes $71,858 and has $2,412 of expenses reported for 2015 — this is in addition to his mayor’s salary of $91,148.

Vice-chair Raymond Louie — a Vancouver councillor whose city pay is $68,552 — brings in an extra $35,929. It’s only July but he’s already racked up $8,841 on conferences and workshops since November of last year…

Read the rest of this weeks column, HERE: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/07/01/regional-politicians-deserve-our-scrutiny

 

2014 expenses for the board: http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/BoardPublications/BoardCommitteeExpenseReport2015.pdf

2015 expenses for the board: http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/BoardPublications/BoardCommitteeExpenseReport2014.pdf 

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Civic Affairs- 24Hrs Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“O Canada, O Canada, who stands watch from sea to sea? Who for a lost democracy? Who for the true north strong and free? If not you then let it be me”

Singing the national anthem at any event – even at home during hockey games – is always a moment that stirs tremendous pride within me. I am Canadian and thank you William Shatner because every time I say that now, I think of you….

Canada is one of the best places on earth, in my opinion. I love it and could never make another country my home. Yet Canada has  indeed,changed and maybe it’s time for a pause to reflect on where we are going.

In 2012, Priscilla Judd wrote this edgy alternative anthem. I think it says more than I ever could here in words. Agree or not, take what you like and leave the rest.

Where ever you are, I hope you stand up and sing the traditional anthem and honour our country… and if you like it, sing this one too. Happy Canada Day!

Posted in Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Hindsight is only helpful if you apply the lesson learned to future actions.

It was a day like any other day of my childhood summers; quick breakfast,clothes on and then running out the door to do the morning rounds of the yard.Checking to see where all the salamanders and toads had settled for the night was always the first thing on my mind,since I found both creatures so interesting.

Next up was a stop in the garden to quickly raid the raspberries or pea patch if it was the season-quickly because if mom caught us eating the goods meant to freeze for fall there would be trouble! Our garden wasn’t for looks,it was for necessity.

As I headed off to the edge of the garden to go down to the creek, I stopped  to pull the green bits out of some Indian Paintbrush growing in the ditch, sucking what little nectar a butterfly would find hard to release, with relish.

I loved our road.

At that time there were only a few homes besides ours,all on acreage and surrounded by lovely forests full of kinnickinnick, huckleberries, and native plants I’d weave into vines to make crowns for my hair. Free time in summer was spent looking for agates on the road, riding bikes all over and for me, playing at the creek.

It was on the far bank of the creek where I was exploring that I saw it. A flower unlike anything I had ever seen before anywhere in the forests around our house, or camping in the bush. To a young girl growing up in an area like this, it seemed alien and exotic in comparison to the daisies and Indian paintbrush so common elsewhere.

wildorchid

I sat there for a while, completely in awe. I looked around and could see no others. Where did this flower come from? How did it get here? So many questions for a young girl with no answers.

And then I picked it.

It was wilting even before I could get it home to a glass of water and completely limp shortly afterwards. I had killed it.

I recall very clearly going back and searching the forest floor all around the creek banks on both sides, then going around the forest in the back yard in my desperation to find another, but there were none. I was devastated in the knowledge of what I had willingly, without thought,done.

And for the rest of my years growing up in my childhood home, I never saw another flower like it. Even as an adult visiting home I have looked,although the creek is all but gone now and there are more homes in place of the forests of my youth- to no avail.

I know now, it was a native orchid often found in boreal forests and sub-alpine/alpine meadows in the province, called Calypso Bulbosa, or the Fairy Slipper orchid. I’ve seen them hiking in Whistler and around Manning Park but apparently I picked the only one that somehow found its way to the creek by my yard.

And even as a woman in my forties, I’ll never forget the feeling of regret of my action. I can’t go back and unpick that flower, but I can apply what I learned  in this stark lesson elsewhere. Sadly, I don’t often see that need to reflect in government.

They say hindsight is 20/20- and perhaps it is, but it only serves a purpose if you learn and act accordingly. Otherwise it’s about as useful as smoke in the wind.

For example, the housing and affordability crisis in Vancouver. While it’s still making the news, it’s anything but a new problem. Looking back there have been signs and complaints years for years but to what result? Not much until it now-again-makes the news and politicians muse solutions,spurred only act when public outrage reaches a level that can’t be ignored.

In Delta, farmland is once again under threat of expropriation in a time when drought and climate change is threatening crops elsewhere,creating higher prices in supermarket for many products. Looking back, this isn’t new either, yet I can foresee the day when politicians look back and go:”What the hell were we thinking??” Once that land is gone, it’s gone. Do we want to risk our food security at a local level?

Surrey is still, rampantly deforesting to build and there are stories popping up now of new homes on ALR land approved without due process. The pressures of phenomenal growth without keeping pace with vital social infrastructure is starting to show in ongoing issues around the city. Roads are in crumbles in many areas, yet this has been known and allowed willingly to fester for years. Playing catch-up is never a fun game when it comes to a community.

Forest fires this year already a massive concern, but has the province learned anything from past events? Have forest communities been built differently, more safely? Is scrub being removed, controlled burns being conducted,and are crews sent out early and aggressively enough? According to some people I’ve talked to, no. Communities need to be asking why.

It’s as much about learning from our past, as it is, taking care of the basics. I don’t like the words, shoulda, woulda, coulda….Sometimes you have to take a break, look at what you know and where you have been, so you can figure out the best way forward, for everyone.

Because although I believe it is never too late to change course and head in the right direction, it’s equally true that sometimes you only get one opportunity to really get it right. 

And do you really want to take that chance?

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”~ Theodore Roosevelt

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Corruption, Enbridge, Federal politics, forestry, Independent power projects, Laila Yuile, LNG/fracking, LNGindustry/fracking, P3 projects in BC, The China Connection, The Environment | 17 Comments

Last weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Transparency hit new low during plebiscite

 http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/06/17/transparency-hit-new-low-during-plebiscite

Twenty-three is the number of elected representatives in Metro Vancouver who are members of the Mayors’ Council on Transportation — 21 members are mayors, one represents Electoral area ‘A’, and another is the chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation. Collectively, they are supposed to represent the views and interests of the citizens of the region — you.

The $5.8 million is what the Mayors’ Council spent to promote the Yes vote in the transit plebiscite.

As for 44.7, that is the average percentage of people who took the time to vote. And while the turnout was higher in most cities in this vote than the last civic election, it’s still indicative of how few voters even care.

It’s outrageous — all of it. But that’s not all. Some of the cities in Metro Vancouver spent even more public funds, out of their own city budgets.

It’s been reported that Vancouver spent an additional $292,705 while Surrey coughed up an extra $240,500. New Westminster tossed in another $20,00, but Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said nothing extra was spent — the city simply jotted down a reminder of the ballot in the property tax notice that was already being sent out.

None of these figures even include things like time city staff spent on Yes vote activities.

The Yes side, including the Mayors’ Council, declined to be transparent about their spending during the plebiscite and didn’t release where and how these millions were spent until last week.

And when you consider that the Mayors’ Council is part of the TransLink governance model, it raises even more questions as to their accountability as well.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner both aggressively campaigned, despite Hepner’s own obstacle at having earlier promised LRT running by 2018 even with a no vote.

West Vancouver,Burnaby and Maple Ridge mayors were the only two to oppose the plan — citing lack of TransLink spending oversight — while Jackson chose to ask Delta residents for their feedback rather than taking any position. A wise move.

It’s a sad day when elected officials can ask for, receive and then waste millions of public dollars trying to convince us that TransLink can be trusted to spend even more money wisely.

When this much accountability is lacking, we’ve all lost — regardless of the outcome of this vote.

Posted in Civic Affairs- 24Hrs Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

When growing pains become intolerable, the community needs to act.

This… is my Surrey.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Beautiful, yes? We have beaches and sunsets to take your breathe away, parks and trails, farms that grow incredible local produce and fruits and fields of daisies to lay down and dream in.

“Communities in fear” 

And with summer upon us and school out the end of next week, thousands of families will be out enjoying all of it. Summer is the time to stay up late, play in front of your house, walk to the local Dairy Queen to get a chocolate-dipped cone. Lay on your front lawn in a pup tent and pretend to ‘camp out’.

Except talking to some local parents this morning still reeling from the two shootings that took place in Sullivan and Cloverdale last weekend, letting their kids play outside in the evening is the last thing they are going to be doing.

“Jaspal said she heard three to four shots at around 10:15 p.m. At first, she dismissed the loud pops as fireworks, then she heard sirens and saw police cruisers swarm the roadway, and yellow tape go up.

“I had just come home from work. If I came home a bit later, I could’ve been outside,” she said.

Another neighbour heard the gunshots but also thought they were fireworks until she saw police officers using a flashlight to examine the houses on the street, and cars parked in driveways, for stray bullets.

Two residences were struck by bullets, said police. No one was hurt. One bullet struck a garage door, while Jaspal’s home had what appeared to be bullet holes on the side of the house.

Maha Elias was rattled by the incident and said she plans to talk to her husband about moving elsewhere. They had moved from Victoria to Surrey in what Elias said “supposedly was a good neighbourhood.”

Now, she is worried and is telling her daughter to stay away from the windows as a precaution.”

~snip~

“The Highway 10 shooting occurred just a day after another targeted drive-by shooting in the 5700-block 152nd Street on Friday night that left two men injured.

The men were sitting outside their home when more than 30 rounds were fired at the house, one bullet grazing one man in the head and another hitting the other man in the foot, said a relative. A dark-coloured sedan was seen fleeing the scene.”

No one should ever have to tell a child not to go by the windows because they are worried about getting shot. Yet in both cases,families with children lived in close proximity to the events that unfolded and it’s a miracle no one was hurt. It’s been the same in many of the over 30 shootings that have happened this spring, such as the case where a young girl bravely grabbed a younger playmate and took her to safety as shots rang outside on the street.

This is not how it should be, this is not right, and yet it continues as fear mounts now that bullets are hitting homes of innocent people. Yes, violence can happen anywhere. We know this. But to negate the ridiculous number of shootings that are occurring here sometimes on a nightly basis by saying that is to stick your head in the sand!

We all want a better city, a safe city where kids can feel safe to camp on the lawn on hot summer nights, but that just isn’t going to happen right now until the people behind this violence are stopped. And that omerta code of silence among friends,families and victims is why it doesn’t.
A parent’s desire to protect a child they know is involved in this lifestyle, does not trump a communities right to live in safety and without fear.

” Crime knows no cultural or racial barrier “

There’s something else that needs to be said here. There is a growing sentiment in our city that is alarming for its naivete. Many are now blaming every bit of violence and crime in the city on what law enforcement referred to as a low-level turf war between South Asian and Somali dial a dope operations.

Let me remind you that to date, it has been reported that just over half of the 30 thirty shootings have been connected to that ongoing dispute. So who is behind all the rest? Blaming all the issues in Surrey on South Asian/Somali youths doesn’t cut it. You want a reality check? Go sit in the Surrey Court house for even one day and look at the court lists of people attending criminal court.

Drug running, drug production, drug purchasing and all the trickle down crime that results, knows no racial or cultural barriers in our city. There may be cultural issues that must be acknowledged and addressed in dealing with aspects of it differently, but there is no barrier to where it begins and ends.

 “Growing pains” 

As Surrey’s population continues to grow, the cracks and holes in the required social infrastructure are starting to show, and requires city leaders that aggressively advocate for more funding from provincial and federal governments. This has now become more something more than growing pains.

As secondary suites continue to provide lower cost housing, we will continue to attract low and middle income families,some of whom will require social supports – it has been acknowledged we do not have enough to meet the need. As population grows, so do our policing needs- people forget police don’t just deal with gang issues, but a variety of calls that come non-stop. We do not have enough and as new officers arrive they are gobbled up by those lost to retirement, transfers, sick leave etc.

And most importantly, prevention.The money invested in prevention,in keeping kids from heading in this direction, will save money on policing,court costs,social services etc down the road. There should be no wait-list for kids at risk on the WRAP program-those kids need to be reached today, not next year!The mayors council just spent millions on trying to get a yes vote in the transit referendum and you are trying to tell me our city can’t find the money to get those kids on the waitlist help?  Parents need resources to access when they need help,or suspect their child may be heading down the wrong path.

 “But what can I do?” 

As someone who’s written of our issues often,I’ve heard from many in Surrey over the last three days,good people concerned about what is going on, and who are looking for guidance and reassurance. And this is what I have to say:

This is not a time for the community to become divided in fear or by ignorance. If ever there was a time for our city to unite, it is now. Those 80 new RCMP are not coming soon enough. We need to build bridges with each other and with our city leaders and law enforcement.We need to continue to actively and assertively lobby the province and the federal government for more resources.

If you are a parent concerned or scared about what your child may be involved with, here are some resources for you. Please,reach out and make that call: http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1510&languageId=1&contentId=6366

If you are a landlord,ensure you are doing the proper checks before renting – simply accepting cash with no background could lead you down a world of pain and put your family at risk. http://bclandlords.ca/

If you know something, anything – no matter how insignificant it seems- about any of these shootings, please call RCMP, CrimeStoppers or the gang tip line: http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=97&languageId=1&contentId=25672

Surrey is full of amazing people. There are incredible change-makers in our community who have stepped up to and families who want to make a future here. There is too much on the line, and we need to do this together.

Because it is no longer enough to sit on the sidelines, shake your head and grimace at the news. Our city depends on it. 

Posted in BC Liberals, BC Politics, crime, Federal politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Om the Bridge cancelled, Premier is going to Namastay home, but don’t fret – official UN International Day of Yoga events were already planned elsewhere.

clarkyogasilly

It’s over, done, kaput. The disaster that started as #Omthebridge has been cancelled after all three sponsors pulled out this morning. If you ask me, it was the tweet above that she issued yesterday that signaled the point of no return on this debacle, because this was never about yoga.

It was a  silly tweet and really angered people who were upset over the closure of the bridge /that this event was on National Aboriginal day and she has said nothing/ that it was corporate driven event that even the premier billed as a photo-op.

Now it’s time to move on to more important things – this event provided more than enough cover for a variety of government related news items.

There have been a few tweets about how now a great city like Vancouver will be the only one not celebrating a UN International Day event, which just isn’t true.

In fact, there are several events around Metro Vancouver hosted by the IDY Canada, and in Vancouver, the committee has been working hard on a great event at Plaza of Nations. I’m still not sure why the premier simply didn’t offer to partner with these organizers, who are endorsed by the Consulate of India.

So, head on over to one of these events if  you want to truly celebrate the spirit and tradition of yoga, and check out a number of events for National Aboriginal Day-There is a big event at Trout Lake, and another at Canada Place on the 20th( Saturday)

idy events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you want to find out what you missed while Yoga-gate unfolded, simply click on any of the links below:

BC Govt diverts funds meant for Legal Aid :http://lailayuile.com/2015/06/11/legal-aid-funds-diverted-by-bc-government-in-excess-of-100-million-dollars-legal-yes-moral-or-right-no/

Om the bridge covers for Health Firings Scandal: http://lailayuile.com/2015/06/06/every-absurdity-has-a-champion-to-defend-it-oliver-goldsmith-aka-the-day-politicians-closed-a-bridge-to-do-yoga/

Govt removes penalties for mishandling of information and documents : http://lailayuile.com/2015/05/31/if-you-kept-the-small-rules-you-could-break-the-big-ones-%E2%80%95-george-orwell/

Whistleblower says Govt deletes emails regualrly, fails to document: http://lailayuile.com/2015/05/29/the-more-that-government-becomes-secret-the-less-it-becomes-free-james-russell-wiggins/

Posted in BC Liberals, BC Politics, LNG/fracking, LNGindustry/fracking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Legal Aid funds diverted by BC Government in excess of $100 million dollars. Legal? Yes. Moral or right? No.

Without a doubt, there has been ample attention this week to Yoga on the bridge and today, the flippant, somewhat childish attempt by the premier to poke fun at the thousands of people who are upset and outraged.

A welcome distraction from the ongoing health care scandal that revealed the BC government did not actually give the RCMP information they claimed they had, to the press and the public. One man took his life-let us not forget.

I’ve written of many of the BC Liberals most compelling failures over the years – and there are many. Failures of policy, failures of action, you can find it all here.

But among the list of more than 100 reasons the BC Liberals need to go are the many sweeping cuts made to the services that assist the provinces most vulnerable population.

When Campbell came in, he made massive cuts to personal income taxes, and to corporate tax.  While British Columbians cheered at having more money in their pockets, the resulting hole in provincial revenue those tax cuts made, had to be accounted for. And to be honest, it never really was.  We began seeing MSP increases and user fees, which are a form of regressive taxation.

And the most vulnerable among us, the ones least likely to complain as they struggle to make it through what life’s handed them,began to see cuts.

Cuts to legal aid, cuts to women’s centres, cuts to funding social service agencies and non-profits. The list is long and extensive. And very sad.

Legal aid took a huge hit.

85% of legal aid offices in BC were closed, including 5 regional officers. 75% staff reduction.Family law cut by half. Closure of the law line.

A complete timeline of the cuts can be found here. http://www.povnet.org/node/3629

But there is no money, the government has said time and time again with only minimal increases to funding.

So imagine the surprise many are going to feel when they hear that according to this lawyer, the BC government has been diverting in excess of $100 million dollars of the funds meant to go to Legal Aid, into other things?

And while it is perfectly legal, it is indeed morally wrong and it takes help out of the hands of those who need it most.

The special tax  paid on legal services is meant to fund legal aid. But apparently… it’s been used elsewhere.

CFAX radio had the exclusive today. I urge you to all read this, and to listen to the interview.

” Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan on CFAX 1070 with Pamela McCall discussing new freedom of information data the reveals the amount of money being diverted from the legal aid system by the provincial government. The FOI information reveals that $171.7 million was collected in 2014 by a special tax on legal services while only $74.9 million was used for the intended purpose.

The special tax on legal services was introduced by the NDP in 1992 for the express purpose of funding legal aid. After several years the tax was collecting more money than the government was providing to legal aid. When in opposition, the BC Liberals were critical of the NDP for the diversion of $15 million from this special tax.

When in opposition the then Liberal critic asked the following in the legislature, “I’m sure we can quibble about the numbers but the larger public policy question remains. Isn’t there something wrong with the government taking all this money from legal accounts as a result of a tax which was imposed, the justification of which was for legal aid, yet it doesn’t actually really direct all of that revenue into the legal aid system.”

As a result of substantial cuts to legal aid funding including for the provision of poverty law and family law services, the amount of tax revenue being diverted is now in excess of $100 million per year as the federal government provides the provincial government with more then $13.5 million per year to assist with the cost of criminal legal aid.”

http://mtplaw.com/legal-aid-funds-diverted-by-bc-government/

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

“Every absurdity has a champion to defend it.” ~ Oliver Goldsmith aka “The day politicians closed a bridge to do yoga.”

It was hot yesterday in the suburbs.

So hot that when I first heard the Burrard street bridge was being completely closed for 7 hours on the first day of summer to do yoga.…I went and poured a glass of ice water to make sure I wasn’t suffering the first signs of heat  stroke.

The timing of the announcement was interesting for poli-geeks still actively discussing the revelations brought to us by Rob Shaw of the Vancouver Sun, that the government not only misled the public in the health firings debacle, but misled the RCMP as well:

“RCMP officers were blindsided by the B.C. government’s claim that they were investigating eight fired Health Ministry researchers, and never conducted a criminal investigation because the ministry never provided any evidence of wrongdoing, internal records show.

Mounties weren’t warned that Margaret MacDiarmid, who was then the health minister, would announce she had sent the case to the RCMP at the Sept. 6, 2012 press conference where she announced the employee firings, newly released emails show.

Despite claims from MacDiarmid’s ministry that its had “provided the RCMP with interim results of an internal investigation,” RCMP emails show the ministry simply gave “high level explanations of the allegations,” and that “the province’s investigation had not reached any conclusions that could support a criminal investigation.”

RCMP investigators tried five times over almost two years to get more information, but received none of the reports the Health Ministry had promised into what it had publicly billed as one of the biggest privacy breaches in B.C. history.

The Mounties closed the file on July 16, 2014, and informed the province. But it wasn’t until seven months later that the government publicly admitted it no longer expected police to pursue the matter.

The records, obtained by The Vancouver Sun through the federal Access to Information Act, show that the B.C. government repeatedly pointed to an RCMP investigation over several years, while at the same time doing virtually nothing to inform police about the case and failing to provide any evidence of a crime.

“Despite inferences in the media that the RCMP has undertaken an investigation or received information from the Province, this has not been the case,” wrote Const. Dean Miller from the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime section, in a late 2014 report. “No tangible evidence or reports related to the allegations have been handed over. As such, no investigation has been initiated.”

NDP critic Adrian Dix said the documents “show a government that not just misled the public but misled the police. And it’s a very serious thing.”

The government “smeared” the reputation of the researchers by repeatedly lying about a police probe it knew did not exist, said Dix.

One of the researchers, co-op student Roderick MacIsaac, committed suicide after he was fired and it was suggested he was under police investigation.”

It’s disgusting and horrific. And while the government has apologized to the families and is in the process of dealing with the resulting litigation, saying sorry just doesn’t cut it. The sorry’s don’t mean anything in this case-they ring hollow as one man’s family will never get their loved one back.

But it’s business as usual. The Clark administration has had a pattern of incidents of wrongdoing that seems to always end up with apologies that in one case, seemed insincere and forced.

Ethnic-gate, the health firings deception and obfuscation, and lets not forget the recent allegations of intentionally deleted emails relating to the highway of tears missing and murdered women...and the removal of penalties for those in government who mishandle information like that.  All examples of how far government will go to get the job done, or ” win at any cost”.

But I digress.

On the heels of the latest revelations that cross a line of human decency, in my opinion, the premier goes onto happily announce the closure of the Burrard Bridge for  not one, not two, but seven full hours in both directions, on a Sunday morning to honour and celebrate the International Day of Yoga.

Happily supporting this idea? The city of Vancouver and the city of Surrey. And let’s not forget Lululemon, who will no doubt reap the immense advertising opportunity to no end to sell more yoga pants to women Chip Wilson thinks shouldn’t be wearing them.

Imagine the flyover image of people getting their zen on in the middle of the Burrard Street bridge, sun in the distance, beautiful Vancouver…all eagerly aided by our premier and two local mayors.

It’s not enough that Vancouver has so many incredible places large enough to host an immense yoga event, like Spanish Banks, Kits beach, Stanley Park… all locations where you can often find people actually practicing yoga.

But no, somehow the Burrard street bridge made perfect sense… hmmm…when was the last time I saw someone doing yoga on the bridge? Oh, never? Mmm… I can visualize it now… breathe in deeply…just ignore the asphalt and oily smell… breathe out… don’t slip off your mat, that residue won’t come out of your yoga pants! Yep. Sounds like a zen-like location to me!

While the point has been made cities often enact road closures for major events like marathons and the Vancouver Sun Run, those events are long-standing events that bring not only British Columbians into the city,but people from around the world as they compete. Those runners bring their spending dollars with them into the city as they arrive early and often stay to enjoy the scenery.

One yoga event announced only two weeks before the actual event? Not even comparable.

Bob Mackin sent out a couple of tweets last night that shed some light on the relationship between Lululemon, their founder Chip Wilson and some recent lobbying registrations. Click on an image to see full size.

It’s just so ridiculous I can’t even laugh, but what makes it more so is that there is another day long event already planned that is officially being presented by the International Day of Yoga, Vancouver Committee, and endorsed by the Consulate General of India! 

“Raniga said that she had originally booked her all-day session at Robson Square, but was subsequently told she could only have it for two hours, so she had to book the Plaza of Nations.

Asked if she believed the hours were cut back because of the province’s yoga session on Burrard Bridge, Raniga said she didn’t know.

“I was approached by the consul-general of India months ago asking if we could put an event together for yoga day. So we’ve been working very closely with the consulate on this,” she said.

She noted that, unlike the Burrard Bridge session, the Plaza of Nations event is booked for the whole day. “They’re doing it on a bridge. We picked a venue that allows people to come out and be in yoga and not just do the practice of yoga, but really embrace the whole aspect of yoga. Also, we’ll have some discussion on lifestyle.”

Closing down an entire bridge in the city of Vancouver for seven hours…. all for a one hour yoga session… under the premise of deepening economic and cultural ties with another country all while an official event endorsed by the consulate and the Vancouver committee for the IDY takes place not that far away.

Well done. Two mayors and the premier upstaging an official IDY event elsewhere – gives a bit of perspective on this, doesn’t it? Did Robertson or Hepner send greetings to the Consulate endorsed event? Hmm? ( I hear crickets chirping but my garden window is open so…) 

 If it were me, I’d be passing over the corporate driven event on the Burrard bridge and heading over to the Consulate of India endorsed event being presented at the Plaza of Nations. It looks like the organizer has been working very hard on that,for some time, and is truly honouring the practice and lifestyle of yoga. http://www.theprovince.com/health/Welcome+summer+with+free+yoga+workout/11105784/story.html

 Lululemon must be howling with glee at this one. Good grief.

Only in Vancouver….

Enjoy your day – I’m off to get my zen on in my garden. At no cost to taxpayers, anywhere.

Namaste!

** Update: June 21st is also National Aboriginal Day…. what has the premier planned for that? http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100013248/1100100013249

Posted in BC Liberals, BC Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments