Site C to be debated in BC Legislature today (Sept.30th),rally against the project to be held outside.

When it comes to Site C, I’ve written about it off and on for five years on this blog and have covered several columns on it while debating Brent Stafford in my Duel column for 24Hours Vancouver.

It’s a project that definitely has an emotional angle because it involves the loss of homes, of livelihoods, of generation of history and fertile grounds used for hunting,fishing and agriculture.

It’s also a project that has very questionable financial and political angles, because unlike other projects, the current BC government exempted Site C from the usual regulatory review by the BC Utilities Commission under the Clean Energy Act. Nor has it undergone a review by the ALR Commssion.

People have often asked what the BC Utilities Commission is  and why this matters, so I’ll share this from their site:

Our Mission:

The Commission’s mission is to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and nondiscriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates, and that shareholders of those utilities are afforded a reasonable opportunity to earn a fair return on their invested capital.


The Commission also reviews energy-related matters referred to it by Cabinet. These inquiries usually involve public hearings, followed by a report and recommendations to Cabinet.

In the case of Site C, British Columbians who pay dearly already on their hydro bills, will not have that assurance that the project is appropriate or how it will impact ratepayers in the province. Long story short, we could all potentially see our hydro rates go up,a fertile lush valley flooded and one of BC’s heritage rivers changed even more than it has already by the other dams.

The Union of BC Municipalities, ( UBCM) recently passed a resolution at their annual meeting,calling on the province and BC Hydro to stand down on the construction work already underway on Site C, to allow a review by the BC Utilities Commission and the ALR Commission.

BC Hydro has claimed any delay will cost taxpayers $500 million dollars.But I said, and still say, that not building it at all, will save us more than $8 billion dollars. 

Why won’t the premier, who speaks often of fiscal restraint, of the need to be careful with taxpayers money (cough cough), give British Columbians the chance to see if the BC Utilities Commission would approve a project they have already turned down once?

Minister of Energy and Mines ‘Kootenay’ Bill Bennett summed it best perhaps in a news report once: 


Yes that pesky little thing called regulation. So of course this project was exempted.

If you haven’t been to the Peace River region, let me put a face to it for you.

Meet some of the landowners and residents whose lives and lands will be affected by Site C. Some of them, will see their homes destroyed. Look at their photos, read their stories and ask why they too, will not see due process.!landowners/cxxj

These people are preparing for winter right now, in an area that is rich in agriculture and able to grow even watermelons!

Site C crews have now already cleared an island in the river. Work camps are being planned. This isn’t getting the coverage it should and it matters because it is not only the provincial government that can expropriate your land and livelihood,it happens down here on the coast too. 

The issue of Site C will be debated in the Legislature tomorrow and a rally will be held outside – if you can attend, you might consider giving your support. I would be there if I could. The BC government and BC Hydro need to call an immediate halt,regardless of the short term cost. When it comes to a project like this,government needs to ensure they aren’t making a big mistake-right now, we really don’t know to be honest. But why would anyone want to take that chance?

Let the BCUC and the ALC do their jobs and review this project.

Details at the following link:

**This is also, very much an issue for Election 2015. Why did the federal government ministers invoke cabinet privilege,to keep the reasons for supporting Site C, secret? An alarming read from late August,when few were paying attention.

Your amuse-bouche for the day. A prime example of why you should never,ever pay any attention to campaign promises.


This is the pre-election campaign sign used by Surrey First and Hepner during the municipal election campaign in November 2014. Note, it states LRT will be complete in 201,not started by 2018. This promise shocked many Surrey residents familiar with the reality of major transportation projects,because the planning stage alone can take years. But the promise persisted even after the election that at minimum, the first ten kilometres would be running by 2018. 

Fast forward 10 months and yet another campaign promise for the upcoming federal election, and this is the new reality:

Hepner, who promised to build the first leg of the light rail line by 2018, now says that’s unreasonable, blaming the failed plebiscite. The city hopes to have the first leg under construction by then instead.

She said her city continues to investigate funding options, which could include partnerships similar to those used to build the Canada Line or private financing.

Read more:

Ahhhh yes. It’s the plebiscites fault that the mayor concocted a completely unrealistic campaign promise.

The business plan is still not complete,and the city still has no method of paying for their portion of this highly questionable legacy project. Keep in mind that the current council faced significant outrage when shortly after being elected, they raised property taxes and a variety of fees and levies significantly -it worked out to be the equivalent of a 10% tax increase- yet there had been no mention of this during their campaign. In fact, finance chair Tom Gill claimed it was because there were cost pressures that came as a’surprise’to them…

It’s a lesson voters should heed with the promises flying left,right and centre during the campaign leading up to the federal election next month – often,it’s what they don’t tell you that matters most once the election is over.

“Campaign promises are like helium balloons. They’re big, full of gas and once the party is over, absolutely useless.” ~ Susan Gale

When actions speak louder than words: Harper’s disconnect on human rights.

If one were to pen a book on the federal election campaign so far, a good title might be: “What the hell happened to Canada?”
From peeing in a cup, to saying it’s fine to smoke pot while pregnant, it’s been like one long episode of the Colbert Report.

Sadly, there’s no off button for us until October 19th and lost amid the salacious stories and never-ending partisan gaffes, have been issues that deserve a bit more examination.

Issues like where Stephen Harper stands on human rights. Or more succinctly, where he doesn’t stand up for them. Because depending on which country is the offender, he might simply overlook an appalling human rights record, or as happened in 2013,he might go as far as boycotting a meeting.

It was October 2013 when I took Harper to task for his hypocritical announcement that he was boycotting a gathering in Sri Lanka, because of “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards during and after the civil war.”

‘Because I know that the Privy Council office reads here frequently, I would like to point out that it’s really hard to take Harper’s momentary bouts of concern over human rights in other countries seriously, because of his abrupt flip-flop on his new BFF, the Chinese government .

In many ways, China’s record on human rights is getting worse, not better.  Increasingly, targets are not only religious minorities such as the Falun Gong, but of political activists and their families.’

In fact the stance he took on Sri Lanka was one to be admired and very much in keeping with Canada’s  past reputation as a peacekeeping country with wide arms when it comes to humanitarian aid. Which makes his failure to show that same concern about other countries, all that more appalling.

Take for instance, Saudi Arabia, a country with an appalling human rights track record.

In the news today as the UN and Human Rights groups call on Saudi Arabia to halt the beheading and crucifixion of man found guilty of a variety of crimes.  And this is not the first crucifixion to take place by far, nor is it likely to be the last.

But that is not the only cruel and unusual punishment those who break laws in Saudi Arabia face. Ask the wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi:

“It’s a life of waiting,” said Ensaf Haidar, whose husband, Raif Badawi, a blogger who has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for almost four years.

Haidar, who lives in exile in Canada with their three young children, is in Washington this week, meeting with members of Congress and officials at the State Department trying to persuade the U.S. government to put more effort into seeking her husband’s release.

Badawi, 31, was sentenced in 2014 to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, along with a fine of more than $250,000, for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious and political leaders on his Saudi Liberal Network Web site.

“He is just a blogger,” said Haidar, 36, a tiny woman whose speech is careful and contained, and without any trace of anger. “He has been away from his kids and his family for four years, and there is no valid reason for that. He’s just a very peaceful writer.”

Badawi received the first 50 of his lashes in January in a public square outside a mosque in the port city of Jiddah. A video posted on YouTube showed him standing silently as a police officer struck his back and legs with a wooden cane and onlookers cheered “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.” Saudi officials said the lashings would continue, 50 every Friday for the following 19 weeks.

The world erupted in fury and remaining floggings were postponed, although Badawi remains imprisoned for expressing his views and criticism of Saudi leaders.

Considering all of this, one would think Harper would be as eager to flex our Canadian influence and take a leadership role in Saudi Arabia, as he did in boycotting the meeting in Sri Lanka over their human rights record. But no. Instead, we did business with them.

And not just any kind of business – a $15 billion arms deal that is shrouded in secrecy and flew right under the radar of most Canadians. To this day there are more questions than answers and as we head into an election, Canadians need to think about Canada’s role in international affairs as a supplier.

From May 2015

“The head of the Canadian government agency that brokered a controversial deal to supply $15-billion worth of armoured fighting vehicles to Saudi Arabia sees the Middle East as “a strategic region” for Canadian arms sales.

Martin Zablocki, the president and chief executive of Canadian Commercial Corp., recently told an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper that he considers the union of Arab states in the Persian Gulf one of the hottest markets in which to sell military wares.”

From August 2015

“…federal rules oblige Ottawa to examine whether arms shipments to countries with poor human-rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, would endanger the local population.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, by its own stated rules, is required to screen requests to export military goods to countries “whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Among other things, it must obtain assurances that “there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.”

Ottawa, however, has stunned rights advocates by refusing to divulge how it will justify this massive sale under its strict export-control regime. It has said it will not release its analysis of how the sale complies with the regime.

As an example of how light-armoured vehicles might enable human-rights abuses, activists allege it was Canadian-made fighting vehicles that Saudi Arabia sent into Bahrain in 2011 to help quell a democratic uprising. The Canadian government doesn’t deny this happened. It only says it doesn’t believe the vehicles were used to beat back protests.”

Also from August 2015

Ottawa is contractually obliged to keep secret the details of a controversial $15-billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia – a transaction that Stephen Harper personally assured the country’s monarch will be guaranteed by the Canadian government, documents say.

Foreign Affairs e-mails obtained by The Globe and Mail under access-to-information law indicate the Saudis have made excess publicity about the sale of armoured fighting vehicles a deal-breaker.

Officials were scrambling behind the scenes in January, after media coverage of the arms deal, to determine the consequences of publicly releasing the terms of the Saudi contract.

Aliya Mawani, a Canadian diplomat based in Riyadh, the capital, told Foreign Affairs colleagues on Jan. 21 that “we [the government] would be breaking the terms of the contract” with Saudi Arabia if details were made public.

“The contract is under a Canadian government guarantee in terms of fulfilment,” Ms. Mawani wrote in a Jan. 21 exchange with colleagues on why Ottawa couldn’t make the terms public.

“This was confirmed in writing by our Prime Minister in his letters to the King,” she said, speaking of Mr. Harper and the late Saudi King Abdullah.

A cloak of secrecy surrounds this agreement, first announced in 2014, with Ottawa refusing to divulge any substantial information on the vehicles Canada is selling to the Saudi regime – or how it justifies the sale to a nation known for human-rights abuses.

And I am not the first to question this. Derrick O’Keefe raised the alarm on Harpers hypocrisy  in February 2014 when the deal was first announced:

Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country under question that Canada has done deals with. Justin Ling did an excellent piece in Vice back in January 2015 based on the Canadian governments own data.  And the list of

” Ottawa may have been none too happy with now-ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, but the Canadian government didn’t have much of a problem increasing weapons shipments to his government by 182,819 percent.

It’s all part of how Canada’s military exports have re-oriented in recent years, as more and more Canada-made weaponry heads into shaky territory. When those less-than-stable regimes eventually crumble, like Morsi’s did, figuring out where those Canadian-made armaments end up is a real crapshoot.

These figures, which cover 2012 and 2013, show that Canada is hiking weapons shipments to its NATO allies—England, Italy, Germany—but also to less stable nations with questionable moral records.”

~ snip~

“Also: the government only publishes this data every two years without any stated reason. So you’ll have to stay tuned until 2016 to see just how much Canadian military exports are ramping up—given that Ottawa is trying to knock down barriers to ship arms to a half dozen other nations, expect the numbers to be pretty high.”

There is a national discussion to be had here and it is long overdue.

Are Canadians comfortable with the sale of arms and military goods to countries with questionable stability that offer no assurance where those goods will end up?

Are Canadians comfortable with the sale of arms and military goods to countries with appalling human rights,and women’s rights records?

And most of all, are Canadians comfortable with a government that can so easily pick and choose which human rights violations we should stand up against, and which ones we as a country, will overlook?

They say money talks and by the looks of Harper’s human rights hypocrisy, I would say that’s accurate.

Sea to Sky highway retaining walls safety inspection reports released, raise more questions on quality of build and maintenance.

One of the advantages to blogging is the ability to follow up on stories as many times as one needs to get to the bottom of it. And as is becoming more common with stories involving the BC provincial government, it’s a matter of digging deeper,looking beyond the ministry media handler statements and sometimes going back and comparing them to new ones.

Such is the story of everything to do with the Sea to Sky highway, that lovely scenic drive and engineering marvel that takes one out to Squamish and Whistler. Not only scenic, its construction,cost and maintenance has been a source of many stories that give British Columbians a glimpse into how major projects are built and paid for.

Stories like the reason there why will never be a toll on that highway – at least until the current contractual obligations are paid out. The hidden shadow toll is based on vehicle usage counts and distance, and is included as a part of the total payment to the concessionaire ( the private partners the government must pay back every month for footing the bill of the construction) If you are a newer reader, you can find all those stories on my Best Of page, just over half way down :

Another story that has been just as compelling for me because of the potential implications of the research, revolves around the more than 200 retaining walls built along the Sea to Sky highway.

On April 30th, 2014 I broke the story that the Ministry of Transportation was investigating the condition of a series of retaining walls after photos were taken that showed gaps between blocks, seepage outside of drains, blocked drains, and walls that were wavy and in some cases bulging.

The ministry responded on  May 1st,2014, that they had done their own investigation and that the issues were all merely cosmetic in nature.

In November of 2014, it was discovered that Kiewit had inspected their own work as per a Ministry of Transportation Operation managers emails, who advised the ministry was reviewing what Kiewit had discovered.

It was then revealed – not by government but by a resident in the area of the repair – in April,2015 that two other retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway that showed little to no visible defects, were undergoing extensive repair work.

Transportation minister Todd Stone was on the hot seat in the legislature looking nervous that week, but instead of answering any meaningful questions he tried to deny,deflect and discredit the opposition who were finally doing their job well.

Just days later it was revealed by yet another Ministry of Transportation manager that Kiewit, the builder of the highway, had used substandard materials.

Repairs have been ongoing this summer at the Pasco Road rebuild and at the CN rail overpass near Brandywine falls past Squamish, and in both cases the repairs are extensive in scope.  But why such extensive rebuilds?

An FOI  requested and released to someone in the media in August of this year, gives some insight into what went wrong on these two walls in particular. And the results are damning.

A letter dated June 17th,2014 from Hatch Mott McDonald to Sea to Sky highway builder Kiewit,  states that Kiewit flagged those two walls for internal review and testing, after an internal Kiewit audit showed the possibility that deformed wire was used in the walls instead of the contract standard wire. ( pg 98-106 below)

The safety inspection reports also show that despite the Ministries earlier claim in May 2014 that a full investigation had already been undertaken of the walls, the safety inspections were not conducted until October 2014, a full 5 months after I first broke the story.

The FOI package includes  just 12 inspection reports from 2013. In all, most walls were rated well, with several in the fair to poor range for particular components. All the issues identified by the photos posted here previously are noted, including erosion, drainage issues, water seeping between blocks, misaligned blocks, walls built of out line resulting in a wavy formation, bulges of compacted fill walls, a result of over compaction during construction.

Motion sensors also tracked movement on the walls reported here earlier for a period of time and no significant motion was detected.

However, questions remain as to how and why substandard material was used in the construction of the CN wall and the Pasco Road wall, and why it took until this point in time to address it.

Questions also remain as to why walls clearly built out of line and with defects were approved as acceptable for completion, considering the cost of building this highway. This is something I have never been able to get an answer on from the ministry of Transportation but is concerning to me for a couple of reasons.

  1. The highway is only  6 years old in some areas. To have so many issues that need maintenance and repair -some that are extensive- at such a young age indicates issues during construction that someone still signed off on. If things are popping up so quickly, and in at least a couple of cases are still not being addressed, what can we expect for the longevity of this highway?
  2. Kiewit is on half of the partnership with Flatiron that built the Port Mann Bridge, which also had very tight contractual deadlines, and also experienced significant issues during construction. The continual decline and eventual replacement of a brand new retaining wall on Lougheed Highway and the gantry collapse are just two. Kiewit has had a long history of issues in the US and elsewhere in Canada, which are detailed here.

With industry sources indicating there have already been incidents of spalling under the  new Port Mann ( falling concrete bits and pieces) and geotechnical issues with settlement.soft earth at both the north and south ends, one wonders if  BC’s great transportion projects will suffer the same crumbling fate as those in Montreal. 

Calls to the Ministry of Transportation made this morning, were not returned as of the time of this posting. I’m not surprised – I would have hard time explaining how an $800 million plus highway ended up like this too. ( and that doesn’t include the 25 years of PS payments either…)

Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.
Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.

IMG_20150819_142012 (2)

Sometimes losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth

It’s been said that losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth, and over the years I’ve found that to be true more than a few times.

On my journey from blogger, to Huffington Post featured political blogger, to Duel debate columnist at 24 Hours Vancouver and then moving onto become the new City Hall columnist, I’ve gained thousands of wonderful readers, critical experience and wisdom. And it’s been an incredible experience.

But I’ve also lost some admittedly youthful naiveté and more than a handful of illusions about democracy and journalism. I’ve changed and grown and so have my views. In a world that’s recreating itself faster than the human mind can sometimes process, the ability to adapt and move forward into new, progressive ways of thinking and dealing with challenges is essential. And that was why I left the Duel even though I had developed an incredible relationship with our readers. I knew by perpetuating and contributing to the polarization of political left and right,I was part of the problem – and I wanted to be part of the solution.

Starting on the City Hall beat was an eye-opener even for someone as politically engaged as myself. If you think the antics of provincial or federal politics is contributing to voter malaise and cynicism, you’d give up entirely if you saw what goes on, largely without examination, at the civic level.The manner in which some city halls conduct their business is definitely worthy of a municipal auditor’s office and I’m not just limiting that to Metro Vancouver.

But I digress. Back to that lost illusion, one that lead to my handing in my resignation at 24Hours Vancouver several weeks ago.

Over the last year in particular, never ending cuts to newsrooms of papers big and small across the country, have taken a toll. It’s not just Postmedia- all corporate media outlets are feeling the pinch-but Postmedia cuts have been extensive.

Some senior members have been offered buyouts, some have just  been laid off. With the availability and preference of many to get their news for free through a variety of means online, newspapers are slowing dying a rather painful and visible death. And that isn’t a good thing for anyone, least of all you, the reader.

Why? Because these cuts and closures combined with a concentration of media ownership means you, the reader, are going to lose out in the end. Postmedia competes largely with itself now. Fewer reporters and feature writers mean fewer expose’s and features, and more assignments for those left. It’s watered down,syndicated content that is beginning to look the same no matter where you go or which paper you pick up.

And  the upper management? While they are actively trying to re-work an unworkable business model thanks to the internet, they continue a downward spiral. It’s frustrating to watch talented local writers and reporters that  subscribers and buyers will actually make the effort to read,have to make the choice to leave. Uniquely talented journalists like Chad Skelton, for one. 

It doesn’t end there either. As more reporters, pundits, and columnists see full well the insecurity of their profession,they are leaving to pursue greener, more secure pastures. Not because they don’t love what they do – each of them will tell you how hard it is to make that step given the chance-but because the writing is on the wall.

For some strange reason the suits back east just don’t seem to see that they are contributing to demise and continue backing themselves into a corner. The value of the paper is inherently found in the people at ground level,working day and night to get the news out every day. Cut the content, and you cut your own throat.

For me, something just went ‘Ding!’ when the National Post/Margaret Atwood kerfuffle occurred. Which is kind of ironic because although I greatly respect the body of work Atwood has created,I’m not a huge fan personally. If you missed it, here’s an overview: 

The National Post has reposted a column written by famed Canadian author Margaret Atwood criticizing Stephen Harper after accusations of censorship.

“Um, did I just get censored?” Atwood asked on Twitter Friday evening after her column disappeared from the Post’s website, several hours after it had been posted. “For my flighty little caper on Hair?”

The celebrated Toronto author’s column, which remained available in a cached versiononline, used Stephen Harper’s repeated attacks on rival Justin Trudeau’s hair as a lead-in to pointed criticism of the prime minister himself.

“The column was taken down because the necessary fact checking had not been completed,” said the Post’s senior vice-president Gerry Nott in an email. “Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers.”

The vanished Post column, minus three sentences, was posted later Friday night on the website of The Walrus magazine. Soon after the lightly trimmed Walrus version appeared on the Post website as well.

Atwood, 75, questioned the original decision to remove the column.

“I am still puzzled,” she told the Star by email after the column has been reposted, adding editors had her piece for nine days before it was posted.

She also questioned the “values” being considered by the Post before it went back online.

Now,it’s not unusual for columns to get fact-checked although in my experience if that happens it does so prior to publication for obvious reasons.

The kicker for me was Gerry Nott’s emailed statement: “Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers.”

The values of the paper and it’s readers?

In just that one statement Nott revealed one big issue that in my opinion, is contributing to the fast demise of these chain publications. The only value a paper worth reading should place in high regard, is that of bringing forth content that encourages balanced and fair comment, without having a bias of one direction or another.

They need to bring forth comprehensive news of local and world events that are relevant to society as a whole. That is what readers expect. They want local content. They want diverse commentary. They don’t want a political agenda or content designed and or cherry-picked for a specific audience target.They don’t want to be told what to think either. Let them make up their own minds.

Postmedia executives can run their business any darn way they like, even when it doesn’t work.

National Post senior Vice President Gerry Nott and senior editorial leadership at the Post most certainly have the right to pull a column while they discuss if it aligns with their values or not.

And I have the right to say I don’t want to be a part of that anymore. That my values do not align with that mindset.

I am all about progressive values, about creating and building new ways to move forward in business, in communities and in news.  I write often and interact daily with my readers to try and engage them and get them back into the process, into realizing why it is so important. This is where newspapers can wield tremendous influence.

If I could see any indication those executives in towers far removed from you and I and every other reader out there had any inkling that they are largely the masters of their own demise, perhaps I would feel differently, but I don’t see that.I know they value the bottom line, but do they value the people who help them do that? To them, newsroom staff are simply numbers on a budget line.

I let my publisher know, and she asked me to think about it for a bit- and I did. But she and my editor respected where I was coming from and my decision.

Ironically,just two days after I handed in my resignation,we had an unannounced lay-off in our office that only served to reinforce my decision that PostMedia is headed in the wrong direction.

Perhaps not surprisingly, even ‘good old Conrad Black’ *written with serious sarcasm there* has taken issue with the direction Postmedia has taken,catching everyone off guard when he called into a Postmedia financial results conference call and tell CEO Paul Godfrey he felt the standard of some of the papers have slipped. 

Former media baron Conrad Black expressed his dissatisfaction Thursday with Postmedia’s turnaround effort as Canada’s largest newspaper chain reported another punishing quarter that left it swimming in deeper losses.

Black made an unexpected appearance on the Postmedia’s financial results conference call to tell CEO Paul Godfrey that he felt standards at some of the company’s papers have slipped.

“Please build the quality, otherwise you’re going to retreat right into your own end zone, if you’ll pardon the sports metaphor,” Black said.

“I care very much about these assets. I have nothing but high regard for you and your colleagues, but I’m very concerned we’ve got our feet stuck in cement here,” he added later.

Now Conrad Black wrote the book on meddling with papers,but now that the decline is impacting his shares,he whines. But the point remains – he is right, as late to the plate as he is in stating so. Readers tell me all the time they don’t want re-hashed national content in their local paper that they can see for free online elsewhere and most people have figured out how to get beyond any paywalls. They want to see their local longtime favourite writers and reporters bringing the content they are used to.

(And if you end up reading this Mr. Godfrey, that might be something you can talk about at your next meeting while you huddle in the end zone playing defense with a quarter of the players you used to have…try cutting  some suits in management instead of cutting the very people you need to supply your content. The irony of not accepting a political bias in stories reported,yet maintaining one as a corporate value eludes no one.)

I have nothing but high regard for my soon to be former colleagues at 24Hours.  It’s a solid team that works well together and always has – I urge you to continue to enjoy the paper as I will. Our team is why reader numbers grew significantly under our local publisher and editorial leadership, and we celebrated last April that we were the 2nd most read print publication in Western Canada, right behind The Province and ahead of The Vancouver Sun.

What’s next for me? Right now, I’m not sure. I’ve had some interest expressed elsewhere and I am always open to explore opportunities, but I won’t be jumping into anything quickly. I have an unquenchable desire to see change happen in the political process, and in engaging people to understand why they play a critical role in how our communities and nation moves forward and is shaped. 

There are so many stories out there waiting to be told and I’ll  bring them to you here for now. There is much discussion that needs to be had on policy making in this province and in this country. I’ll  also continue to hold politicians feet to the fire they way they need to be, and is happening less and less as those cuts continue to happen elsewhere.

We need to raise the bar and depth of discussion on all these issues and more.  And I will continue to write stories that might make some change happen here in there, because that’s what I love best. With the same dedication I brought to 24 Hours Vancouver. 

Thank you, all of you, for making this such an incredible experience. You’ve shared your stories with me,your outrage and your inspiration,your disagreements and debates! And I value that,more than I can say.

So welcome home, pull a chair up and grab a cuppa. We’ve got some work to do here. Check back Monday when I have a new post for you I am working on now!

-You can still follow me on Twitter too @LailaYuile where my new bio states: ” Progressive blogger & commentator – Passionate about people,politics & policy.Advocate & activist )

-have a story idea or tip? We like brown envelopes! Get in touch securely via my contact page above for further info.

Stop reading this blog and go outside.

These last beautiful days of August  bring shorter days, but the angle of the sun in late afternoon paints everything it touches gold. The sunsets seem more intense.. or maybe we just appreciate them more knowing soon September will whisk them away.

So please, enjoy them when you can and make an effort to do something that makes your soul happy. I’ll post again next week with an update on the sea to sky highway story and another tidbit on the Port Mann.



BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost taxpayers $500 million? Not building it at all will save us over $8 billion dollars.

Sometimes, one woman can only take so much. And when I saw yet another headline last night blaring: 

“BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost $500 million”

I really and truly, had enough.

“A stop-work order for the Site C dam will cause “extreme prejudice” to BC Hydro at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and a one-year delay in the construction schedule, the utility’s lawyer says.

Mark Andrews told a B.C. Supreme Court judge that critical milestones will not be met if an injunction is granted to a pair of First Nations.

“This injunction is going to drive a truck into the schedule of the project at this stage in particular,” Andrews said Wednesday.

The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are challenging the nearly $9-billion project by arguing they were not properly consulted before permits were granted for Site C, the third dam on the Peace River.

The Treaty 8 Tribal Alliance members say they will suffer “irreparable harm” if BC Hydro is allowed to start clearing thousands of hectares of old-growth forest.

They’ve asked a judge to block work authorized by specific permits.”


“The project is in the public interest because the dam’s power will flow to British Columbians, he said.

BC Hydro has said the dam is expected increase its energy supply by eight per cent, enough to generate electricity for about 450,000 homes annually.”

This kind of stuff makes my blood boil. Let me tell you why.

Site C is a project that has been on the books for longer than many British Columbians will remember. Over the years ,the reasons for it have changed a few times in order to try and justify the project. Then Premier Clark picked it up and said  LNG plants will need the energy, so we must build Site C.

However when it was revealed that LNG plants could burn their own gas to generate power – Clark admitted to Bloomberg Site C was not needed to power up those LNG plants we still don’t have – the reason for building it changed again. Now, Clark said, British Columbians will need that clean energy! We must build Site C!

It’s also been said we could sell the energy elsewhere… but read on.

What it comes down to, is that we still don’t need the electricity from that project,and there are still very serious questions  about the rationale and the costs associated with it.

Site C was already turned down once by the BC Utilities Commission in the eighties because it simply wasn’t needed.

Not surprisingly, last year the  federal-provincial joint review panel recommended  that the B.C.  government send the project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review on the economics and cost of the project. That is what the BC Utilities Commission exists for. It reviews all the evidence provided and determines if it is accurate and if the benefits outweigh the negatives.

But no, the province  did not, and will not send the project to the BC Utilities Commission and actually exempted it when they passed the Clean Energy Act in 2010. The province knows full well that there stands a very strong likelihood the BC Utilities Commission would say the project still isn’t needed at this point in time, or that the costs associated with it outweigh any rationale for building it.

The BC Utilities Commission might also ask the province why  it still hasn’t investigated alternatives to the dam as was recommended the last time this project went before them.

The provincial government has ignored not only the federal-provincial review panel, but politicians,industry experts and the people whose homes and land will be flooded if the project proceeds.

Each of you should be asking yourselves why this project is being pushed through without this review being done.

This is why the BC Utilities Commission exists!!  There is so much concern over this project that now the BC Auditor General will be conducting a review “to investigate “whether BC Hydro’s recommendation and government’s decision to build Site C was supported by sufficient information and analysis to demonstrate that it would meet government’s economic, social and environmental goals.”

In an exclusive interview earlier this year, the chair of the review panel had this to say:

“In his first interview on the Site C dam, the chair of the federal-provincial panel appointed to review Canada’s largest current infrastructure project said the B.C.government was unwise to green-light the project without a review by the B.C.Utilities Commission and would have been better off to delay the decision by a few years.

There’s a whole bunch of unanswered questions, some of which would be markedly advanced by waiting three or four years,” Harry Swain told DeSmog Canada. “And you’d still be within the period of time, even by Hydro’s bullish forecasts, when you’re going to need the juice.”


You shouldn’t take decisions before you need to,” Swain said. “That means you’ll have much more information when you finally have to take a decision. Building electricity facilities in advance of need only costs money.”

The panel’s report predicted that in the first four years of production, the Site C dam would lose at least $800 million because BC Hydro would generate more power than the province needs at a cost of $100 per megawatt hour — when the market price for that power is currently $30 per megawatt hour.

Wisdom would have been waiting for two, three, four years to see whether the projections they were making had any basis in fact,” Swain said. “And they would have been able to make a better-informed decision and not necessarily a more expensive one.”

In its report, the panel wrote that it couldn’t conclude that the power from Site C was needed on the schedule presented, adding: “Justification must rest on an unambiguous need for the power and analyses showing its financial costs being sufficiently attractive as to make tolerable the bearing of substantial environmental, social and other costs.”

Some of the questions that still need to be answered, according to Swain, include the real cost and availability of alternatives, how B.C. should use its Columbia River rights, how British Columbians will react to increased electricity prices (which could decrease demand) and how the province’s liquefied natural gas industry will develop.”

That interview is a must read and you can read part 1 here:

And part 2 here:

This matters.

Homes are going to be flooded,some that have been farmed and owned by three generations of the same family.They are harvesting  musk melons right now – this is fertile land, ready for crops and in this day and age the government should be promoting it, not trying to flood it.

The valley and river is also used by many including First Nations, for hunting and fishing. It has archaeological significance. Even the BC government Parks has designated the Peace River as one of its Heritage Rivers,extensively sharing how unique and diverse the river below the other two dams really is:

site C heritage river

It really matters that when the province or a crown corporation undertakes any big project, they ensure every check and balance is done and that has not been the case with Site C. And while this time it is Site C being rammed through, next time it might be a project that impacts your life more directly.

So, when I see news reports with BC Hydro warning that costs will increase by $500 million if work is halted, I see a scare tactic designed to sway the public into pressing for this project to move ahead.

What should be said is that not building it will save taxpayers far more than $8.5 billion dollar cost of construction… but also the  potential yearly loss of $800 million because the cost to produce the energy is more than current rates. Our hydro bills would likely go up.

It’s just wrong on so many levels. I urge everyone to write the premier and every Liberal MLA and demand this project be put before the BC Utilities Commission for the full review it should have had in the first place.

“Good morning Laila, My name is Derek and I’m a very rare man.” or ” How left and right politics are fabricated.”

As a writer, I get a lot of interesting emails. In fact, I sometimes imagine putting together a book one day of the  amusing and sometimes, downright odd ones that people send me. Don’t get me wrong – 98% are great tips and comments and I love getting them-it’s the 2% that raise my eyebrows!)

So, when I first checked my emails today,I quickly scanned one that said:

"Good morning Laila, 

My name is Derek and I’m a very rare man.
I’m utilizing my uniqueness to raise an equally uncommon message...."

I’ll be honest. At that point my eyes were rolling back in my head so far my chair nearly fell backwards and I had a bit of fun with this opener on Facebook.

But after meeting the deadline for this weeks column, I went back to read it again and found something that actually really mattered.

I’ve written a lot about why I think partisanship –  in particular blind and extreme partisanship – turns people off politics. and as a result, voting.

You can find those posts HERE..

…and over HERE:

…and even right HERE:

For me, it’s always been about trying to engage people and bring them back into the process. I’ve tried to make that direct connection between what happens in and around their personal lives, to the need to pay attention and get involved at some level of engagement. On many issues, it’s no longer enough to just sit and watch the news and go ” That’s terrible!” Or ” That shouldn’t happen!

So when I watched Derek’s video, I saw something that resonated deeply with what I have written in the past and what I intend to keep trying to do in the future: Get people engaged and get them to vote.

And yes some of my deeply partisan friends will once again sigh deeply as they silently curse my efforts, but oh well. It won’t be the first time and certainly not the last, I promise.

So Derek, good snag in that email. You caught my attention, hook, line and sinker. Health and humour, Laila :)

Letter from a reader: “Is there anyone looking out for the interests of the general public here???”

Catching up on the emails from my contact page here on the site today, and received this letter from a reader in Delta, who has cancer and is forced to travel to Surrey for treatments – via transit. I rarely post letters from people here, but this one really struck me.

He has noticed something that needs some attention in the city of Surrey, and he is not happy about it. And although I have noticed the sidewalk had been out for a very long time as well, I did not think of the impact it would have on those going to and from the many health care resources located just a couple of blocks down by the hospital, in particular as he writes, you are not aware of this in advance.

He makes some excellent points.

Your Worship Ms. Linda M. Hepner
And Members of Surrey Council
13450 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC V3T 1V8

Coast Capitol Credit Union
Board of Directors
4th Floor, 15117 101 Avenue
Surrey, BC V3R 8P7

Hon. Tod Stone
Minister of Transport
PO BOX 9055
V8W 9E2

Dear Madams and Sirs

For the Last Month I’ve had the Curse of Cancer and the Treatments to Battle the disease .

Which take me unfortunately to Your Community .

I’m forced to travel by transit to the Surrey Cancer Centre .

The curse has robbed me of a portion of my sight my ability to drive!

What I’ve found that is absolutely amazing is that the whole time period that I’ve been attending the Cancer Clinic and BEYOND THAT I’ve Been reliably informed .

There has been a EXTENSIVE closure of the Side walk along King George Highway STARTING on the Eastern Side of the Roadway for what appears to be Several Blocks Heading to the South . Thus Blocking off Pedestrian access to the King George Skytrain Station from the South for a Prolonged Period .

Forcing Hundreds of Pedestrians SOME Of Whom are Elderly and Infirmed , On Wheel chairs, with other Health Issues that are using this Route to get to the Main Hospital in the area .

One would THINK that the Developer Especially a ” Community Oriented Organization LIKE Coast Capital Credit Union Would Put the Interests of the Members of the Public FIRST and foremost ??? And expedite repairs and construction that Interfere with the Use of a IMPORTANT PUBLIC ACCESS ????
This incident further confirms a pattern here in the Lower Mainland Where DEVELOPERS and Speculators seem to have FREE Rain with are PUBLIC STREETS and Access they seem to have e NO PROBLEM blocking off roadway and public amenities and denying access to Public Properties at Will THIS is a Prime Case in Point .


We have all sorts of Contractors and Business organizations Lobbying for the Industry’s WHOM is Looking after the Interests of the PUBLIC HERE ???

During My frequent passes of this sight I have YET to see anyone actually WORKING to resolve this Blockage of a Important safety and access route for Pedestrians .

There is a Problem here as This Creates a Long and Laborious detour to Infirmed People Especially IF they are Not aware of the Detour in advance .

It forces people to make long waits on NUMEROUS Traffic control Lights and pass over a Major Highway several times Depending on How they Make there approach .

For Healthily Individuals with TIME on there hands No Problem !

For the elderly and sick it is a Impediment to access.
Just WHOM is looking after the interests of the PUBLIC when it comes to these Projects ? WHY has this been permitted to continue ??


Yours Richard Swanston

Delta BC V4M 2H2

I’m sincerely hoping Coast Capital as an involved community member, can address this situation. Richard is but one person who took the time to write- how many others have been in this situation but have not been able to do the same?

While ambulatory patients can use the Fraser Health employee shuttle, it is only if space allows and you have a doctors note- employees etc are given preference. And, I’m not entirely sure how many people are even informed this exists.

That shuttle however,doesn’t help people who are not patients,but simply needing to get to the doctors office,have tests, visit patients etc. who still may be elderly or infirm.

**Update. Coast Capital has advised they are looking into this and speaking with the developer and the city to see what can be done. I will keep this post updated as I learn any new information.