“The more that government becomes secret, the less it becomes free.” ~ James Russell Wiggins

It’s a stunning Friday morning here on the coast; the sun is shining bright and hot, high enough in the sky at this time of year to chase shadows away completely before 10 am.

Taking a look at the chatter online, people are still talking about the Pattullo bridge repairs conveniently announced by Translink yesterday at the height of the reaction to the Liberal government whistle-blower story.  Well played, that one – suddenly warning the public of repairs that won’t take place until halfway through 2016 successfully eclipsed the story our current government would rather you just forget you ever heard about.

By all means, freak out now about bridge repairs that aren’t happening until next year (that’s a story in itself) or FIFA corruption. But whatever you do, don’t pay any attention to a story that goes right to the heart of not only transparency and accountability in our provincial government, but to the core of everything that is democratic and just.

Yesterday a former political staffer in the Ministry of Transportation alleged that emails were intentionally deleted following a freedom of information request made late last year,relating to the Highway of Tears. 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/emails-relating-to-b-c-s-highway-of-tears-allegedly-deleted-1.3091592

” The NDP has made public a letter written by former executive assistant Tim Duncan to Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. In the letter, Duncan says that when he protested an instruction to delete the emails, a ministerial assistant took hold of his keyboard and did it himself.

“When I hesitated, he took away my keyboard, deleted the emails and returned the keyboard, stating, ‘It’s done. Now you don’t have to worry about it anymore,'” Duncan wrote in the letter.

When his concerns continued to be dismissed, Duncan writes, he was told, “It’s like The West Wing. You do whatever it takes to win.”

Duncan writes that he does not believe the incident was unusual.

“I want to stress that this is not an isolated incident. It is my belief that the abuse of the freedom of information process is widespread and most likely systemic within the [Premier Christy] Clark government. I would ask that you please look into this further.”

I strongly suggest you listen to this interview between CKNW reporter Shane Woodford and Duncan. It’s 12 minutes, and in my opinion Duncan appears very sincere: https://soundcloud.com/shane-woodford/full-interview-former-bc-government-staffer-tim-duncan-on-deleted-emails-controversy

Duncan states clearly that he believes deleting emails is a routine matter, as is using personal emails to do government business. He also suggests that because all emails are backed up, why not just go straight to the server when an FOI comes in to stop this practice? He claims it was a big joke among staff that because they consider everything transitory, they can delete it. Even if by the law,it shouldn’t be.

The government in this case has now reverted to the same strategy most often employed in whistle-blower situations: Deny, Deflect and Discredit.  He was fired, he’s a disgruntled employee. Negate the claims. Nothing to see here.

All of this comes really comes into focus though, when you consider an interesting bit of legislation the government just recently brought forth: https://fipa.bc.ca/bc-government-removing-penalties-for-document-destruction/

The BC government’s new Government Information Act takes some useful steps to preserving information, but it has a big hole and also takes a major step backward.

http://www.leg.bc.ca/40th4th/1st_read/gov05-1.htm#section18

The biggest problem is that it contains no duty to document.

Recently several freedom of information requests come back with not a single piece of information attached. Perhaps the most incredible is the government’s claim that it has no records whatsoever of any of the dozens of meetings with more than 80 people that took place about the Highway of Tears in northern BC.

This bill will do nothing to stop the spread of this cancer on government transparency…

…Bill 5 specifically removes the application of the Offences Act, so there will be no chance of anybody in government facing legal consequences for improper actions dealing with government documents.

No chance of anybody in government facing legal consequences for improper actions dealing with government documents. Like deleting ‘transitory’ emails, perhaps? Why would a government want to protect it’s staffers from penalty for breaking the law?

There are so many reasons this entire debacle cannot and must not be allowed to slip by in favour of sexier stories that people find more interesting and relevant to their lives. Why, you ask?

The public has a right to know what government is doing. Or not doing. In a perfect world you would be able to call up your local government office and say “I’d like to see any or all emails relating to the Highway of Tears from this date to that date, please.” Or whatever other information you wanted to see.

And in that perfect world government would say  “Sure, of course we’ll have that for you shortly” Because after all, the government is elected by the people,and paid with public funds so we should have access to that information, right? Wrong.

What actually happens is that government rarely wants to give you information freely. You have to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act -we refer to this as an FOI. You provide details of what you want, as specific as possible and government has a set period to respond to acknowledge and respond to your request.

If your request is going to take a long time or a lot of work, then you might have to pay to have those documents retrieved. Those fee’s at times can be ridiculously high, meaning the Free in Freedom of information is really just for show. The costs of some FOI’s make it prohibitive unless you ask for a fee waiver based on poverty. But we do it anyways because we have a right to know, and you deserve it. Reporters and writers like myself file these kind of requests often, either by ourselves or through an intermediary.

In this case, clearly the government had  meetings about what to do with respect to the Highway of Tears. That’s a given. Yet miraculously  no documents were found when that FOI was submitted. None. You tell me how that happens.

So now here we are back to Tim Duncans allegations of deleted emails and how this is a routine thing in the Christy Clark government where emulating The West Wing is apparently a good thing.Except that this isn’t a TV show and the Highway of Tears is nothing to joke about.

The allegations are bad enough on their own, but the murdered and missing women on the Highway of Tears deserve more than this. This really matters.

When information like this is withheld,deleted, destroyed, it makes not only a mockery of the law,but of our democratic process. It’s slap in the face of every journalist, every voter and in this case, every victim and their families.

Secrecy protects those making mistakes. It saves the government from embarrassment, from examination and keeps them from being accountable. And removing a key component of legislation that would make this kind of thing an offence, is highly suspect.

Considering Clark promised one of the most open governments in Canada, someone has some explaining to do. http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/05/07/Open-Gov-Fail

“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”  ~Barack Obama

“A government by secrecy benefits no one. It injures the people it seeks to serve; it damages its own integrity and operation. It breeds distrust, dampens the fervor of its citizens and mocks their loyalty.” Russell Long.

Tim Duncan’s letter https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2089546/foi-letter.pdf

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, crime, Federal politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Cities shying away from the public

Over the last two years of writing the Duel, the lack of accountability in government at every level has come up often. But as prior City Hall writers have discovered, there’s never a lack of material when it comes to civic politics.

So why are so many people asleep at the wheel?

The people you elected last fall are now serving four-year terms and the decisions made by mayors and councils often impact our lives directly — and not always for the best. You’re doing yourself a disservice when you don’t pay attention to civic decisions.

I suspect that lack of attention is just fine with some civic politicians because the less you are paying attention, the easier their jobs are. And perhaps that’s part of why getting accountability on their actions (or inaction) and what should be public information is increasingly difficult.

Between websites that are difficult to use, councils that eliminate question periods, and a lack of meaningful public consultation, there’s a strong sense of disconnect among many residents across Metro Vancouver.

Compounding the problem is the lack of knowledge many people have of how city halls process development applications and stage public hearings, or how to speak at a council meeting work. While the onus falls on each of us to keep informed, the process needs to be a two-way street.

For example, cities like White Rock that have removed public question period at council meetings justify the decision by saying residents can apply to speak as a delegation. But they fail to tell the public they don’t have to approve those requests.

That small question period is, for many, the only unfettered access to civic politicians that people have…

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment or share at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/05/27/cities-shying-away-from-the-public

It’s been a very busy week which accounts for the lack of posts but having just caught up on the mornings breaking news of the deleted emails FOI scandal of the BC Liberals, I’ll try to have a post up on that soon. Good grief.

Posted in BC Politics, Civic Affairs- 24Hrs Vancouver | 6 Comments

Ottawa, this is BC calling… Come in Ottawa.. this is BC calling – we actually need the Coast Guard here. Do you copy? …….

coast guard

http://globalnews.ca/news/2011052/second-major-coast-guard-communications-outage-in-three-days/

“For the second time in three days, the communication system for the Coast Guard in Canada’s busiest waterway had an extended malfunction.

“There was a loaded tug and barge with 86,000 barrels of diesel and gasoline going through the Port of Vancouver, and was not being given traffic advisers of which shipping he may meet when he transits through Second and First Narrows,” says Allan Hughes, Western Director for Unifor 2182.

The outage was on Victoria Coast Guard Radio Marine Communications Channel 16 at 6 a.m. today. It’s used to transmit messages to mariners in the waters as far north as Nanaimo, and as far west as Port Renfrew. It followed a 18 minute outage last Monday, a recent two minute outage – and there were three more brief outages this afternoon, according to the union.”

Posted in Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

This weeks new column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Mayors can’t afford to ignore housing

Recently, I  shared with you the news of my move from the Duel and why I made that decision-I’m thrilled at the overwhelming support from all of you in this new venture.

Today, I’m happy to bring you my first column as the new civic affairs columnist for 24Hrs Vancouver! Every week, the column will be up online by Wednesday evening and in the paper Thursday morning. I’ll continue to post the links here as well for those who don’t get the paper or follow on social media. And as I promised, I will continue blogging provincial and federal stories here, along with my usual thoughts and photos.

A heaping dose of irony filled me as I contemplated my first civic affairs column because well-known real estate marketer Bob Rennie was on the radio telling young Vancouverites to forget ever owning a single-family home in the city.

True enough, but then Rennie — who’s earned the moniker Condo King for a good reason — went on to say the only solution to affordable home ownership in Vancouver was high-density projects. Lots of them. And fast enough to drive down prices.

Did I mention he markets condos?

It’s not just Vancouver feeling the crunch — last week I read a story of an elderly couple in Burnaby whose apartment building is slated for demolition to make way for more condos. It’s a story being repeated all over Metro Vancouver as investors look to snap up current stock, or demolish and rebuild with little regard to what kind of housing is actually needed…

Read the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/05/20/mayors-cant-afford-to-ignore-housing

newbyline

 

Posted in BC Politics, Civic Affairs- 24Hrs Vancouver, Laila Yuile, The China Connection | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

When wrong just doesn’t begin to describe it.

wrong

I’m about to give the old fingers a rest from the keyboard for the May long weekend –  they’re getting a bit claw like – but there are three more stories I wanted to bring to your attention for posterity.

Readers who have been with me long enough know that while I feel strongly enough about the  current government that there’s a list of reasons they should go on my blog, I continue to hold the opposition to account as well. Political hypocrisy doesn’t impress me nor does an opposition that sometimes doesn’t oppose. And if the NDP do manage to win an election provincially, I will continue to hold them to the same standard as I have the Liberals and they know it.

But I digress.

Three stories came out this week that really highlight wrong actions, wrong policy and terribly wrong results.

1) http://bcndpcaucus.ca/news/liberal-insider-wins-contracts-from-the-agency-he-leads/

When it comes to the awarding of contracts in government, it is as important to avoid the perception of conflict as it is, conflict itself. It doesn’t matter that this story didn’t come from a reporter, it’s still wrong.

” Well-connected Liberal insider Larry Blain won $219,000 worth of public contract work from Partnerships B.C. while he was also serving as the chair of Partnerships B.C., according to documents obtained by the New Democrats.”

I have a hard time believing that there was no other company who could have fulfilled the requirements of the work for a reasonable price. Seriously. Here are the FOI documents the NDP received. http://bcndpcaucus.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2015/05/Blain-Package.pdf

Might be just me, but that is just wrong.

2) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-government-fires-outspoken-chair-of-agricultural-land-commission/article24450072/

In a time when foreign companies are being allowed to buy farmland and plant it over with trees to get carbon credits – wrap your head around that one,will you? –  it would make sense to have someone who will fiercely defend the ALR, in charge of the Agricultural Land Commission.

But no, the government thinks it makes perfect sense to suddenly fire the chair Richard Bullock and replace him with a former mayor who has no agricultural experience.

Smart move? Wrong. See ya farmland. It was nice knowing you…

3) http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/death-of-b-c-aboriginal-teen-paige-blamed-on-brutal-and-cruel-support-services-1.3074515

If there are angels on earth, one is surely Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the representative for children and youth. Along with a damning level of child poverty in this province, the handling of children in government care is one of our provinces greatest shames. In particular, aboriginal children.

Turpel-Lafond has taken this government to task so many times and yet every little change is hard-fought for.

This latest story is a horrific indicator of the systematic failures of agencies overburdened and underfunded, that hold the responsibility to care for our provinces most vulnerable. No child should suffer through a life like Paige’s, no children should be living in the DTES, and that there are right now, 100-150 files just as urgent that need immediate action,is unthinkable.

And please let us not forget that these ‘files’… is a child.

Wrong just doesn’t begin to describe it. And all of these stories are just a small part of why it’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news.  You’ve got to be engaged in what matters to you.
Have a good, relaxing and safe long weekend,  kick back and be well!

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Submissions raise eyebrows at Electoral Boundaries Commission public hearing in Surrey with ‘Gracie’s Finger’ references, opposition to changes in key Liberal ridings.

On a rather mundane Thursday afternoon in April, without any press or fanfare, representatives from the Electoral Boundaries Commission conducted a public hearing in Surrey at the Guildford Sheraton Hotel.

The purpose of the public hearing was to allow voters in Surrey the opportunity to give input on the proposed electoral boundary changes to ridings in the city, which are significant –  in fact Surrey will receive one new riding for the 2017 election if the changes are eventually accepted.

However, there were very few members of the general voting public in attendance at this public hearing – not terribly surprising because it was not largely publicized and the voting public tends to be nonchalant about most political matters,even ones that impact them directly.

What was surprising- or not depending on how you look at it- was the interesting mix of movers,shakers and well known BC/federal Liberal names that did show up among the other community members with vested interests. And what they had to say in opposition to some of the proposed changes was even more interesting.  Some of the presenters who gave verbal submission did not even live in the area or riding they gave an opinion on!

Here’s a list of who gave submissions:

Surrey public hearing

If you’ve followed local, provincial and federal politics for any amount of time south of the Fraser, you’ll spot a few noteworthy names immediately and of course,that would raise  your eyebrows.

Of the 23 people at the Surrey hearing who said the proposed map needs significant changes ( 27 attended in total) 14 were Liberals or Liberal supporters/donors. The remaining 3 NDP donors/supporters identified said they thought the EBC had done a decent job, though one did propose a small change to Fleetwood,one of the riding changes that seems to be contested the most.

Here’s a few notes, taken directly from the audio of the hearing posted at the link above:

Brenda Locke, former BC Liberal MLA & Federal Liberal candidate

– Donations to Libs: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=brenda+locke&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Wants to Keep Fleetwood as is, makes a comment  that Fassbender is a strong MLA in his riding, mentions Harry Bains, Gordon Hogg in comparison, boundaries have changed many times, said population growth has slowed based on 2014 when it increased 33%, would like to see boundaries shrink from west rather than the east.

John Les, former BC Liberal MLA

–  Asks indulgence of commission and audience to re-visit other decisions?? ( This is a Surrey hearing, but whatever – l.y)

-Leave Sumas in Abbotsford- When a Commissioner asked which he would prefer if the numbers allowed them to only do one, he said keep Hope in Chilliwack.

– was a MLA for 3 terms

– Don’t move Hope, leave in current Chilliwack/Hope, made mention of Aboriginal voters.

Ian MacPherson

– Donations to Libs: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1SearchResults.aspx?FilerSK=(ALL)&EDSK=0&FilerTypeSK=0&Contributor=ian+r.+macpherson&PartySK=0&ED=(ALL)&FilerType=(ALL)&Filer=(ALL)&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Says everything west of 148th St in the proposed Guildford riding should be in Whalley or Green Timbers, as the case may be.

– Concerned about length of riding, 114th past extend to 140th, west of 144th, particularly 148th s/b with Green Timbers

– Name change: would cause confusion for voters, go with new name with riding 104th /108th kinda the boundaries he would like

Ron Knight

– Donations to Libs: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1SearchResults.aspx?FilerSK=(ALL)&EDSK=0&FilerTypeSK=0&Contributor=ronald+knight&PartySK=0&ED=(ALL)&FilerType=(ALL)&Filer=(ALL)&Party=

– Keep Cloverdale as is and keep its population smaller than average to allow for future growth. (Commissioner pointed out these are conflicting desires.)

– Keep Fleetwood as is.

Carolyn Glazier

– No personal donations to Libs, but her employer is Bay Realty and they have donated: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1SearchResults.aspx?FilerSK=(ALL)&EDSK=0&FilerTypeSK=0&Contributor=bay+realty&PartySK=0&ED=(ALL)&FilerType=(ALL)&Filer=(ALL)&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Keep Cloverdale as is-Keep Fleetwood as is. Lives in Morgan Creek ?

(Says the Whalley/Guildford boundary is no good, but when pressed, says she doesn’t have the map in front of her, and perhaps best to stick to her own area… ? )

– South and Cloverdale are going to grow faster than the rest and should be left below average population size.

Bill Brooks, former Federal Liberal candidate

***Makes a comment that is very questionable at the 1:03:38 of the recording when he suggests that the “Gracies Finger” in Surrey South be corrected!!

Says he uses this term “Gracies finger” in reference to something else….yet Gracies’ finger is one of the biggest gerrymandering scandals in BC history. What exactly is he inferring with this statement to the commission, using a reference that clearly indicates a benefit of  one partisan interest over another? ***

– Donations to Libs: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=bill+brooks&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Lives in Crescent Beach,wants to have Crescent Beach put in South.

– Keep Cloverdale as is and fix the Gracie’s Finger.

– Keep Fleetwood as is.

Adam Stowe

– Keep Cloverdale as is.

– agrees need new riding – Clayton North – do not divide, remain in Cloverdale, he is willing to submit on line submission to flesh his concerns/ideas out

Pocholo Insua

– Donations to Libs: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=insua&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Keep Fleetwood as is- Keep Cloverdale as is.

Stephen Gammer, Real Estate Agent and former candidate for Surrey council with Brenda Locke

– Donations to Libs: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=gammer&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Keep Fleetwood as is.

– Leave Fleetwood community center inside Fleetwood, Clayton Heights in Cloverdale, Cr. Beach to S. White Rock, there are geographic & emotional boundaries, use Serpentine as a boundary

Al Payne, former BC Liberal, Federal Liberal, and Doug McCallum campaign manager

– Donations to Libs: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=al+payne&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Move the Whalley/Guildford boundary to 144th St. – Likes 9th seat.( of course he does…)

– Retain traditional boundaries of Fleetwood, 144th to Green Timbers, using Hawthorne Park who have fewer residents, use natural boundaries.

Judy Higginbotham, former Federal Liberal candidate and longtime former Surrey councillor

– Donations to Libs (Judy): http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=judy+higginbotham&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Donations to Libs (Judith): http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=judith+higginbotham&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Keep Fleetwood as is.- Keep Cloverdale as is.

– Morgan Heights will explode in population growth, leave Fleetwood where it is, groups deal with that MLA closely, (Fassbender) give Gracie’s finger back to Cloverdale, numbers don’t matter in family but heart of community matters (this refers to Cloverdale being 25% above acceptable range with 74,000 voters)

Sylvia Posypanka

– Keep Fleetwood as is – Keep Cloverdale as is.

– Happy with 9th seat

– Doesn’t want Fleetwood Park removed from Fleetwood, don’t split Clayton Heights, growth in Grandview Heights is amazing

Jorda Maisey, President, Fraser Valley Real Estate Board

– No personal donations to Libs, however donations made to Libs by FVREB with Maisey listed as an officer. http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=maisey&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Keep Fleetwood as is – Keep Cloverdale as is.

– Don’t put Fort Langley with Abbotsford.

– 63% realtors are in Surrey/White Rock, want you to consider the community, want to vote for who will make my community viable/sustainable, S. Surrey/Cloverdale projected 4% with 3% in 10 years, lots of talk about voters, happy voters, don’t split the community

Sarbjeet Sarai, active Federal Liberal

– Keep Fleetwood as is.

Rich Gorman, Board Chair, Semiahmoo House Society

– Keep Fleetwood as is.

– Generally reiterated comments of previous speakers who disliked the new Fleetwood. Reinforced Michelle Wieboltt’s peculiar comments re challenges to businesses if boundaries change re name change.

– Doesn’t want Fleetwood to go to Cloverdale. Want to keep Fleetwood Park & High School. Fleetwood is not growing like other communities

Catherine Ferguson, Executive Director, former Mayor of White Rock

– Keep Fleetwood as is – Keep Sumas in Abbotsford – Keep Hope in Chilliwack.

– former Mayor of White Rock – went on at length about not wanting to change boundaries

Rick Hart, President, Fleetwood Community Association

– Donations to Libs: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=rick+hart&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Keep Fleetwood as is or move boundaries east

Kirk Fisher, VP, Lark Group 

– Donations to Libs: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=kirk+fisher&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Donations to Libs (Lark Group): http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=lark+enterprises&PartySK=5&Party=BC+Liberal+Party&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Make Cloverdale smaller to allow for future growth – Make Panorama smaller to allow for future growth.

John Russell

– Donations to NDP: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=john+russell&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– EBC has done a good job with recommendations- Likes recommendations of EBC

– Likes name change

Louella Vincent

– Donations to NDP: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=louella+vincent&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– EBC has done a good job with recommendations – Spoke about how happy to have a 9th seat, congratulated them on a job well done, said she would submit on line response.

Balwinder Chahal, former candidate for NDP federal nomination

– Donations to NDP: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=balwinder+s+chahal&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

– Put Fleetwood Park and Fleetwood Park Secondary back in Fleetwood, otherwise EBC has done a good job with recommendations.

This is a map of the changes to the Fleetwood riding that some Liberal members/ supporters are objecting to -even the ones that do not live anywhere near Fleetwood. The current riding boundaries are in blue, the proposed changes are in red.

fleetwood map

So why are so many Liberal supporters finding fault with this riding proposal, which makes sense to many residents I’ve since spoken to who actually live in Fleetwood? ( None of which had any clue this was going on,or that they could still give input )

Generally speaking, BC Liberal support is strongest in the south and the east of Surrey (towards Langley).

In the case of Surrey-Fleetwood, the Commission is tightening it up and proposing moving it west-which makes sense because the core of the community is within the new boundaries.

The Liberals are presumably not pleased that the map drawn by the Commission would make the Surrey-Fleetwood seat, held by Peter Fassbender, Minister of Education, an uphill battle for Fassbender in the next provincial election.

The resulting loss of voters from the more pro-Liberal voters east of the seat and the addition of voters from the less Liberal supportive west could pose a real problem for the Liberals in Surrey.

Because Fassbender won this seat by fewer than 200 votes in the 2013 election, these proposed boundaries could make Fleetwood very difficult for him to hold on in 2017, in particular with parents and teachers growing outrage over the ongoing cuts to education as a result of districts being forced to find millions in budget savings.

Based on previous results, the new Surrey South seat would be solidly Liberal, so Fassbender could presumably run there if he doesn’t like his chances in Fleetwood.

However, the Liberals could avoid having to move Fassbender, while at the same time limiting the NDP’s chances of picking up any additional Surrey seats, if they can convince the Commission they’ve got Fleetwood all wrong and need to go back to the drawing board.

Which makes the multiple references to ‘Gracie’s finger’ by Liberal supporters all that more ironic when you think about it!

While every single voter has a right and perhaps some might say, a duty to provide input on political matters than impact them directly- including everyone of these presenters -one has to question the partisan nature of some of these submissions when the people giving them don’t even live in the riding impacted.  And in once case, when questioned as to why they didn’t like a boundary, couldn’t even answer…

Any new seat in Surrey will be highly sought over by every political party as the city continues its stance as a political powerhouse at both the provincial and federal levels.

And while everyone agrees Surrey does need and deserve a new seat to reflect the growing population, the motivation behind many of the changes provincially have already come under fire. 

My advice to Surrey residents is to not let the politicians and their supporters shape the province for you – shape it for yourself.

There is still time to give input to the commission on what you think is best for your riding, and your community. Changes are happening not only in Surrey, but Richmond and all over the province.

You can access the maps of proposed changes to any of the ridings in your area here: http://www.bc-ebc.ca/

You can give your input via the form at this link http://www.bc-ebc.ca/speak  and make sure you let them know where you heard about this from.

You might not be thinking ahead to the 2017 provincial election in British Columbia right now, but let me assure you, the political parties vying for power certainly are.

When it comes to the changes in Surrey, it’s worth a stroll down memory lane to understand why the mention of Gracie’s Finger in this public hearing are so darn compelling.

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The end of something wonderful and the start of something new

Lailaheadshot2It’s a bit cliché to say that all good things come to an end, but it is true. It is not without a touch of wistfulness that I’m here to share the news that I’ll be leaving The Duel column with Brent Stafford.

After more than two years and countless weekly columns debating nearly every issue under the sun, after some extensive soul-searching I called my publisher a couple of weeks ago to have an important conversation.

It’s not that I haven’t fully loved my column and the opportunity – it’s been incredible – nor was it that I didn’t enjoy my readers – you’re the best part! And I feel it’s important that you know why I chose to leave.

Over the last couple of years writing here on my blog as well, I’ve noticed things have been changing. More people than ever seem to be completely disconnected from the political process at a time when it’s more important than ever, for them to be engaged. 

What’s turning them off?

In my opinion part of it is how left out people feel-like their input doesn’t count – and there seems to be a lot of cynicism out there among the electorate that it really doesn’t matter if they vote or not because every politician is the same. ( not true)

However, what I see over and over again is a complete polarization between left and right that turns  many people right off. 

And representing the left only, in a debate column where the entire premise is the difference between the left and right, made me realize I was a part of that problem. Being pigeon-holed doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for moving beyond that and sometimes it’s about doing what is right, not what is ‘left’ or ‘right’. The truth rarely lies entirely on one side or the other-sometimes it’s right in the middle.

I knew I could no longer do the Duel justice.

Back to the phone call with my publisher. She was surprised, yes, but she understood completely where I was coming from and that I felt strongly I could no longer continue with the Duel if I wanted to move the conversation in politics forward in a way I felt was meaningful. And she asked if I would consider taking over the City Hall column as Kathryn Marshall moves on, leaving big shoes to fill.

It didn’t take me long to say yes because it was yet another incredible opportunity to engage people at the civic level, which might be a starting point to turning things around.

Starting next week, every Thursday I will be bringing you a new column covering the civic affairs of Vancouver or one of the cities across the region, holding municipal councils accountable for their actions. The beauty of the column is it’s not about right or left or centre – it’s about how civic leaders of all stripes do their jobs.  And maybe there will even be some bold news ideas or initiatives that can benefit everyone!

I’d like to wish Brent all the best as he continues in the Duel with a new partner after the May long weekend holiday next Monday – pick up a paper to find out who it is! It’s not easy writing a debate column like this and sometimes our weekly conversations in deciding what to debate would have made great material for a tv segment- we really have argued at times, made up and agreed. We’ve shared a lot of laughs along the way and I’ve learned a lot from him.

I hope you’ll join me in this new venture in 24Hrs Vancouver and I look forward to continuing and developing the relationship we have together. And for all of my regular long time blog readers, I’ll still be blogging here too of course! There is a lot to come….

( … and if you have any story tips for the new column, send it along via the confidential contact page at the top of this page! )

Posted in Civic Affairs- 24Hrs Vancouver | Tagged , | 30 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Alberta NDP will hurt the premier

I’ve missed post a few of my Monday columns for the last bit thanks to an extra-busy schedule, but found some time to post this while the coffee is brewing  :)

This week’s topic: Could the NDP’s win in Alberta be good for the BC Liberals?

After 44 years of Progressive Conservative rule in Alberta, the NDP swept to victory to form a majority government.

The resulting shock wave reverberated across the country, taking everyone by surprise. Suddenly forced to confront the reality of an NDP government, everyone wondered what it would mean for the future of Alberta.

However, what wasn’t a surprise were the over-the-top reactions coming from supporters of the outgoing PCs across Canada about what would happen to Alberta.

Cries that “those socialist NDP’ers” were going to run Alberta into the ground were matched by doomsday-like predictions from some industry analysts that businesses would inevitably have to leave the province in order to continue operating. And this was all within the first few hours after the election.

While many British Columbians didn’t pay more than a passing interest in the Alberta election, it’s a fact that what happens in Alberta doesn’t always stay in Alberta. The policies and actions of Alberta governments impact B.C., and more can make life for Premier Christy Clark easier or harder.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

Many analysts and pundits have been predicting that the NDP win in Alberta can only mean good things for Clark as they envision businesses leaving in droves to escape the socialist hordes in the Alberta legislature. I say it’s time to step on the brakes and be realistic…

Read the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote here: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/05/10/the-duel-alberta-ndp-will-hurt-premier

 

And if you’ve missed a past column, you can find the majority of them at this link: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/author/laila-yuile

 

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC Politics | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Politics must not trump public safety – It’s time for government to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to Surrey.

After another Detroit style rolling shoot-out yesterday in Newton,the last thing Surrey residents wanted to wake up to was news of more gun violence this morning- this time in North Surrey.

It is little solace to anyone that todays shooting appears not to have been linked to the ‘low-level turf war’ some of the 26 shootings in the last 9 weeks. The victims are known to police and while the RCMP again say there is no risk to the public – ( Phew, don’t worry folks,it’s not connected to the ongoing turf war, it’s just one of those regular old, run of the mill shootings…) – this doesn’t give the neighbours any reasonable expectation of feeling safe knowing the people next door were all shooting at each other.

When I saw the footage this morning of what appeared to be nearly a dozen police vehicles dedicated to this investigation, instantly I thought: ” Please,don’t let anything happen anywhere else right now…”  Why? Because the sad fact is that we still do not have enough  RCMP officers on the street in this city and an event like this diverts many for a substantial amount of time. Fact.

This latest round of gun violence has had everyone’s attention again turned to gangs and drugs and how we all need to stop pointing fingers and work together. Our mayor and council has been feeling the heat from the community and rightfully so-there was a lot swept under the rug for years they’ve been trying to play catch up with.

Last year a 20 year veteran of the Surrey RCMP wrote a heartfelt letter to the Surrey Now, detailing how public safety was being compromised because of dangerous  and chronic levels of under-staffing.

 http://www.thenownewspaper.com/opinion/editorial-and-letters/letter-as-20-year-veteran-of-surrey-rcmp-i-know-how-short-staffed-detachment-is-1.1062169

The Editor,

Re: “A safer Surrey: Is it just a dream?” the Now, May 8.

Your article highlights some of the impacts of having a chronically understaffed police department.

As the MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers noted, Surrey has fewer police per capita than any other community in the Metro Vancouver area. The impact of that means not only more crime, but it also takes a toll on those who provide the policing service.

Recent government data shows Surrey RCMP police officers carry criminal caseloads that are 78 per cent higher than comparable metro police forces.

What does that mean for the public? In a community more than twice the size of Vancouver it means increased response times, less visible police presence, and crimes that simply do not have anyone to investigate them.

Sixty of the 95 police officers promised over the next five years will be consumed simply by population growth.

There is no magic answer. If you want to catch criminals, you need enough police investigators to get the job done.

We need the help of the community as well – doing your part can make it difficult for car thieves, burglars, and gangsters to work here. However, investigating crimes and responding to violent incidents needs to be done by skilled police officers.

I have worked at the Surrey detachment for 20 of the past 22 years, and the reality is, the detachment is constantly dangerously short-staffed. Using security guards and other resources may provide some relief, though if history repeats itself, once the media attention fades, those resources will likely fade away as well.

Last year, the police officers serving this community provided more than 134,000 hours of unpaid overtime – nearly 65 fulltime police officers worth of time.

While that helps to mask the shortages of officers, it contributes to mental and physical burnout due to the demands of the job.

Why do these officers work so many hours without pay? They do it because, like you, they want to see criminals who terrorize their community in jail and simply do not have the time during their shifts to get all the work done.

We want our city to be safe. We live here, our kids go to school and play here. We want all families to be safe when they are out playing, going for a walk at night or simply going to the store to get groceries.

We also know that having enough police officers on the beat can have dramatic results. Remember when auto theft was out of control and more police officers were temporarily moved to address the problem? We saw dramatic reductions in auto theft. Take the pressure off and the problem comes back with a vengeance.

Trying to reduce crime in a community that is growing as quickly as Surrey while having a police force that has half the police officers compared to surrounding areas is a recipe for disaster and results in more crime, not less.

S/Sgt. Mike Ingles, Surrey

No kidding. I don’t have to tell you this kind of letter doesn’t happen often. And it pains me because there really is no excuse for this to have occurred. There just isn’t.

The city did not keep pace with the number of officers needed for population growth and has now tried to rectify that with recent requests, but as Ingles points out, it will only be keeping pace with population growth as over a 1000 people move to Surrey every month. Even the cities own experts agreed understaffing is a problem.

Much of what needs to be done to deal with the social and criminal issues in our community is dependent on provincial and federal funding. So fingers must indeed be pointed because those levels of government are still not coming to the table in any where near the capacity they need to be.

In a time where our federal government is loudly banging the drum of how they are keeping Canadians safe by re-directing resources to anti-terrorism efforts in our own country, there has been a failure of epic proportions in doing so.

According to this Toronto Star column:

“…the RCMP’s estimated budget for 2014 was $2.63 billion, a 5-per-cent decrease from 2013 and a 15-per-cent drop from four years earlier, Senator Colin Kenny points out.

If that weren’t cause enough for alarm, Public Accounts figures show the departments didn’t even get to spend what they were allotted. Reports say the drive for restraint has had a “chilling” effect, leading agencies to underspend.

Since 2007 the RCMP has handed back $1.7 billion and CSIS was unable to spend $180 million. In 2014 alone, the RCMP handed back $158.7 million…”

Keep in mind, this is right across Canada…but it gets even better….

” The Mounties diverted $22.9 million from other operations to the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSETs) in 2013-14. ……

“As of Jan. 5, 2015, it is estimated that almost 600 RCMP full-time equivalents have been reallocated from other priority areas (e.g., serious and organized crime, economic crime and other national security files) to INSETs.”

Increased enforcement and investigation for anti-terrorism efforts cannot come at the expense of public safety elsewhere. There must be a balance so communities and other investigations aren’t left hanging.

I watched the minister of public safety Steven Blaney last night on Global talking about getting more boots on the ground in Surrey, as I had watched him just over a week ago, when he was standing strong with Surrey residents in their fight against gang violence. No commitments,but more talk of how much his government has done for crime.

I can’t help but wonder how fast resouces would be re-allocated to Surrey if Minister Blaney lived somewhere around 88th and 126th street. If this was all happening in his own neighbourhood.

When it comes to our provincial government, they too must come to the table.

How can we forget the $4.2 cuts made by the province last year in RCMP funding.…with dire results:

Callens said he’s being forced to cut $2.8 million from the budget for the anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), eliminating 12 positions. The Major Crimes program, which handles murders and missing persons cases, will see $1.4 million in cuts including the reduction of 13 full-time investigators.

In hindsight, I’m betting this is a decision someone regrets.

I’d like to stop pointing fingers, I really would.

But the people of Surrey are here, dammit, working hard to make a livable community where despite the violence ,they are forging ahead trying to make a city they are proud to call home, and they deserve far better than the same platitudes handed out at every single town hall meeting for years.

They deserve action. They deserve it now. And so do our officers on the street.

While a multi-faceted,proactive approach in prevention is one part of the solution,without adequate numbers of officers on the street I am concerned this violence will continue, officers will become overworked, and with the arrival of warm weather and longer daylight hours in the evening, someone innocent will get hurt.

The provincial and federal government must immediately step up to the table and recognize that Surrey is facing some extraordinary challenges that require extraordinary measures.

We need more boots on the ground and we can’t wait a year Minister Blaney. We need some resources re-allocated and diverted to our city now.

Because as many will tell you, what makes us so vocal about this violence, is that we know that Surrey is far more than shootings…. and we are weary of the bad constantly  over-shadowing the tremendous light of the good that is here.

*** Check back next week to find out what some notable changes BC Liberals have been trying to influence when it comes to provincial politics in Surrey !

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, crime, Federal politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

Orange Crush served up in Alberta by Notley win,but can the BC NDP ride the wave to leadership in 2017?

orangecrushThere were two things on my TV agenda last night : the season première of Deadliest Catch, and the Alberta election. Flipping back and forth on commercial breaks, once the news that an NDP majority was being called by media, that was it. I never did  flip back to see the ending of Deadliest Catch but I did see the crashing of an orange wave of NDP on landlocked Alberta shores…

Congratulations are in order to Premier Notley and her newly elected MLA’s. Well done in the race and I’m hoping outgoing premier Jim Prentice ( endorsed by none other than Premier Clark I might add) can do the math on the number of seats the NDP now hold. His resignation as leader was a given- it generally is- but that he resigned from his seat as well, told the voters all they needed to know about what was important to him – power, not people.

The NDP have made history and are now presented with an equally historical opportunity to show what the NDP can do in the province, and Canada is watching. That such a conservative province voted left has left many still stunned in silence this morning,while others are already declaring that in six months voters will be regretting their choice.

Ironically, those are the same people who are quick to remind everyone  the voter is never wrong when a conservative government wins of course! Now that the table has turned, stories of doom and gloom from corporate Alberta, wide-eyed commentaries and admonitions of how business is going to pick up and leave are rife in media coverage.

For the average Albertan though, life will carry on as before, perhaps with a bit of trepidation of this big change and what it means. But I do believe Notley will rise to the occasion and show Alberta her best. Many in her caucus are wet behind the ears and a steep learning curve is ahead for sure, but there is something to be said for fresh ideas and a different perspective.

Regardless of which side you stand on,the voters are never wrong and nearly 60% of eligible voters turned out to cast a ballot and send a clear statement to long time politicians in the province. I wish them well.

Already many are predicting this bodes well for the BC NDP in the 2017 election, but I’m not so quick to say that a win in Alberta translates into a win in BC. Quite frankly, it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges. There is more than just mountains that separates BC from Alberta.

Alberta has been under the Progressive Conservatives for 44 years. People my age don’t even have firsthand knowledge of any other party being in control. The NDP brand in the province doesn’t have any recent history to use against them with a huge number of voters and that works in their favour.

In direct contrast, here in BC the Liberals have been in power for just over a decade,and have used the well-crafted narrative of “You don’t want to go back to the horrible nineties do you?” to their benefit in multiple elections. Why? It works.

It doesn’t matter if the facts don’t support it, the narrative of the BC NDP being anti-business, anti-resource, pro-spending has been so consistently repeated by Liberals over the years in short sharp sound bites that it has become ingrained as good as truth.  Premier Clark still uses this line in speeches, even in recent months, because it still works.

NotleyAdding fuel to her fire is that many NDP from the nineties are still around, which doesn’t work to their benefit. It’s that recent history of the BCNDP that works against them in campaigns whereas the NDP really is something new to many Albertans -their lack of recent history works tremendously in their favour.

Looking to the leaders, Notley is a strong,fiery woman whose intelligence and quick wit is coupled with the wisdom of knowing when not to take the bait and when to fire back. She is vibrant, glowing and clearly appeals to a broad spectrum of voters.

horganIn contrast, while Horgan is also a strong, intelligent leader who enjoys the public, his temperament has been described often as brusque, and it doesn’t always work in his favour. He’s quick to rise to the bait and dish it back, and while he’s done a great job in the legislature dealing with the premier’s show-boating, his appeal in general to voters across a broad spectrum remains to be seen.

And while many Albertans are very pro-resource, British Columbia has a growing Green following of those who are either anti-resource or very strongly in favour of moving away from resource development. This bodes ill for the NDP who are caught between a rock and a hard place on issues of Kinder Morgan and LNG development with many voters.

Many NDP campaigners from BC worked to help the NDP win in Alberta,and certainly there should be lessons to be found from doing so.

Rightfully so, it’s time for NDP members everywhere to celebrate. But after basking in the glow of the orange dawn of NDP success next door, the BC NDP need to look hard at the challenges ahead. Despite having a ton of ammunition – John Horgan’s twitter account is worth the follow the last few day -they’ve repeatedly failed to weave a narrative to convince voters to vote orange in every election. And while they’ve found some fiery, brilliant MLAs in Lana Popham, Selina Robinson and David Eby , they would do well to recruit more.

Notley showed us all that anything is possible when an NDP government can take a sweeping majority in conservative country.

If the BC NDP want to ever be more than the perpetual official opposition, they need to come up with a winning combination of their own to serve up another orange crush like Notley did, rather than expecting to ride this one home.

** On a side note, Premier Clark might want to give up on making bets, since she recently predicted the Canucks would take the first round and Prentice would win

The Canucks lost, Prentice walked and I’m guessing she’s out a bit more craft beer. How do you think that bodes for her betting on LNG saving the provinces economy?

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 33 Comments