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:


And if you’ve missed a past column, you can find the majority of them at this link:


This weeks Duel for 24Hrs Vancouver: Bill 20 too intrusive.

This week, Brent and I take on one particular change to the Election Amendment act that all political parties in BC support:

Should a list of all people who voted in B.C. elections be provided to political parties?

When I read about the proposed amendments to the Election Act in a Facebook post by pro-democracy government watchdog IntegrityBC, I was stunned. Why? Because in the famous Apollo 13 message: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

This famous line sums up the state of politics in British Columbia precisely. When it comes to voting in provincial elections, we’ve had a big problem for decades.

On average, only around half of registered voters actually do so, and looking back at statistics, it’s a sorry tale of declining turnouts that speaks to voter apathy and growing cynicism with politics in general. Somehow political parties in B.C. now think that being provided with a list of who actually voted in the last election is going to help them engage voters and get the vote out – I strongly suspect it will have the opposite effect.

That voters were left out of this process tells me how out of touch political parties really are in addressing this voter apathy. Party members have defended this amendment to me in conversations by saying party scrutineers already keep track of who voted at the polls – a fact many readers I’ve spoken with were unaware of.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

While how you voted would still be protected, the list of people who actually turned up at the polls would be available to any registered political party in the province. As IntegrityBC pointed out recently, there are 23 registered parties here and it only takes two people to form one. Anyone can see the potential hotbed of issues that could arise from having access to a list of who voted – or didn’t.

That’s why I’m watching closely to see how provincial MLAs react to privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s letter to Attorney General and Justice Minster Suzanne Anton. The Ministry of Justice has already issued a statement saying it doesn’t intend to withdraw the amendment, leaving any opposition to this up to individual MLAs. And while Anton has stated she is open to the chief electoral officer potentially drafting regulations on the use of this info, it’s my view the amendment allowing this list to be released should be dropped completely.

If political parties really wanted to address voter apathy and cynicism, putting the interests of the people before their own would be a good place to start.

Vote and read the comments HERE:

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: The Duel: ‘Mincome’ a fresh idea

This weeks duel is one that was very interesting to research and I found myself spending far more time reading different publications on a guaranteed annual income because it was so intriguing. As with many items, political will can make this succeed,just as a lack of it will prevent it from happening. What do you think?

This week’s topic: Should Canadians be guaranteed a minimum annual income provided by the government?

It’s often said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. When it comes to how our government is addressing poverty, that old cliché stands true. Despite social assistance programs, tax credits and poverty reduction targets in most provinces, significant progress hasn’t been made in eliminating poverty in Canada.

With a federal election this year, people from across the political spectrum are starting new conversations about an old idea that is again gaining popularity: “mincome.” This is the term for a minimum guaranteed annual income that would replace all the different payments and credits that currently exist to aid lower-income Canadians and their families.

It’s a concept that has been tossed around for decades and the federal government even conducted an experiment in the 1970s to see what impact a guaranteed minimum income would have in the community of Dauphin, Manitoba. If a household’s income dropped below a certain level, they were given a supplement to top it off. The experiment was discontinued after four years due to a lack of political will and a recession, and the findings were locked up in a warehouse. A report was never issued by the government, but a researcher who has since gained access to some of the records found evidence it was a success.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

During the period of the experiment, there was dramatically less hospitalization, the drop-out rate of teens in high school fell, and there were remarkably fewer arrests and convictions. There were also fewer mental health consultations and, despite critics concerns that people would milk the system, recipients didn’t stop working or reduce their hours of work.

The Fraser Institute recently issued a research paper on the concept of a guaranteed annual income that estimated the costs of administering all of the current government support systems at $185 billion in 2013 alone. That number doesn’t even begin to include the social costs related to poverty that burden our cities. Even they agree the idea has merit and could save the country money…

READ the rest of this weeks duel, comment and vote at:


This weeks column for 24hrs Vancouver: Transit tax’No’ vote sensible

This week’s topic: Is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s argument to vote no in the transit referendum persuasive?

My duel partner begins with a great idiom this week, sage advice that warns against passing over something workable, in the quest for something perfect.

However, when it comes to the proposed transit tax, the No Translink Tax team has done well to date showing why Metro Vancouver residents should avoid “throwing good money after bad” – the mayors’ proposal is far from perfect. I don’t completely agree with the solution the no campaign has outlined, but I do think they’ve done an excellent job of addressing the elephant in the room the yes side wants you to ignore.

TransLink is the organization that will be making the decisions and expenditures with the funds received from the proposed transit tax. The only foolhardy move is to pretend that its record of accountability and transparency shouldn’t be under examination when it comes to the administration of taxpayers’ money.

Much like political campaigns leading up to an election, the No TransLink Tax team has been releasing examples of TransLink waste and questionable spending bit by bit for impact. Helping their argument is that there is no shortage of examples, but even more alarming is the questionable management decisions that lead to that waste.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere:

In many cases, the money spent can’t be recovered – economists refer to this as a sunk cost. It’s money that’s gone for good. Poodle on a pole? Paying rent on empty buildings you sold at a loss? Those costs are not recoverable. A savvy businessperson knows the amount of sunk costs should never dictate decisions on future investment, but sadly, government and Crown corporations often get caught up in what is referred to as a sunk cost fallacy…

READ the rest of this weeks Duel, comment and vote now at:


This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Legalize tent cities.

As my regular readers know, I have a real issue with the way homelessness is dealt with in many cities. Instead of doing what needs to be done to alleviate the issues related to homelessness, it seems we are getting closer to criminalizing homelessness related activities and issues like many American cities are doing. In some US states,even feeding the homeless is illegal.

Is this what it has to come to? Have we no compassion at all anymore? Even if the provincial and federal governments kicked in all the money and land needed to build more affordable housing right this second, it still would leave us with a certain portion of the homeless population outside camping. Is it better to continually invest all the time, bylaw and police resources to do continual sweeps and cleanups? Or is it time we acknowledge our communities failures along with a heaping dose of reality and look at alternative, interim approaches? This is as much about the economics of these homeless camps as it is about compassion.

One thing I know for sure, what is currently happening clearly isn’t working when you see the number of tents, camps and tarps in parks and lots in Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods. This week, Brent and I are taking the lead in looking at this issue. Please, feel free to disagree or perhaps you agree, but let’s get the conversation started.

This week’s topic: Should local governments enact bylaws that would allow and regulate legal tent cities for the homeless?

If there is one thing that remains true about the state of homelessness in Metro Vancouver, it’s that no one has been able to solve the issue. For years we’ve seen a never-ending stream of conferences, studies and task forces on the root causes of homelessness, with an equally generous number of promises to find solutions. So where are they?

There is even more finger-pointing between various levels of government as political leaders on the hot seat try to pass the buck when the media spotlight shines on issues of unresolved homelessness in their community. A good example of this is the Oppenheimer Park tent city last year that brought Vancouver national attention. The city of Abbotsford’s antagonistic approach to dealing with people on the street – which included chicken manure – raised even more compelling questions not only on how to deal with homelessness, but how we view it.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

Both situations speak to the need for immediate action on interim and long-term solutions. If community leaders want to avoid similar issues this summer, they need to start now. Most shelters currently only offer an overnight bed, sending residents back to the street during the day. Many don’t offer space for belongings or a cart, and a large number of homeless choose instead to camp in lots, parks or wooded areas instead. This is not going to change – it’s been happening for decades.

The result is never good for a community. Public urination/defecation, and garbage impact the health and welfare of both campers and neighbouring residents or businesses. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is now addressing the growing need in his city by proposing new legislation to authorize and regulate three more tent cities. Yes, there are others – six within the city, and King County has several. He makes it clear it isn’t a long-term strategy, but a much safer interim option than what is happening in parks, alleys and vacant lots…

Read the rest of this weeks column, vote and comment at

This is a link to Seattles current tent city website, which is run by social service agencies and religious organizations on a rotating location basis.

And a recent news stories on Seattle mayor Ed Murrays proposal

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Overreacting to heinous acts is what the terrorists want.

This week’s topic:

Does the massacre in Paris justify further expansion of spy powers in Canada?

In the days since the terrorist attack in Paris, I’m concerned about how this is all unfolding as I look at the response from the public and those like myself who are paid to share our opinions. One expects a visceral reaction to such a barbaric attack, in particular because those killed were simply doing what they loved.

The thought of being murdered is perhaps the worst fear for many who share provocative commentary or satire that offends others, and support for those walking at the edge of our right to freedom of speech and expression is part of what spawned the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie. There is a world of debate in this issue alone, perhaps for future Duels.

To some extent, one comes to expect the rhetoric that inevitably and sadly follows in reaction to such a heinous act, and is often used to promote everything from limiting immigration to enacting new anti-terrorism legislation. Fear is a powerful thing and it isn’t only terrorists who use it to manipulate and dominate. Look around the world and it’s easy to see that fear has been something world leaders have often used to affirm involvement in wars, limit freedoms, and pass questionable laws or policies.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

In response to the attack in Paris, Canadian political leaders rightly denounced the actions and Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to expedite and bring in new anti-terror legislation. Yet even as his promises remained fresh and stark in the implication that what legislation we currently have isn’t enough to keep us safe, two brothers from Ottawa were arrested Friday on terrorism-related charges…

Read the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Cops too eager to shoot.

Happy New Year and welcome to the first column of 2015!

This week’s topic: Does law enforcement rely too heavily on the use of deadly force?

Peter de Groot. Du Na Phuong. Naverone Woods. These three men were killed during police interactions during the last months of 2014. In each encounter, officers drew their guns and fired, and in each case criticisms and questions remain if lethal force was necessary.

The concerns relating to the use of lethal force by law enforcement are not unique to B.C., but are multi-jurisdictional across Canada and the U.S. In fairness, in Canada the vast majority of police interactions end peacefully. This is little consolation to the families and friends of people who have been killed by officers. They are people who, in some cases, exhibited signs of mental distress or erratic behaviour. Robert Dziekanski, Ian Bush and Greg Matters are just a few high-profile cases you may remember.

Knowing several current and former members of different law enforcement agencies – most who have never used their guns in all their years of service – shooting or killing someone is not something any officer envisions happening. This doesn’t and shouldn’t preclude examination when use of deadly force results in a fatality.

Preventing any death at the hands of an officer, in particular when dealing with people in mental distress, is something the Toronto Police took action on following the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in 2013. One officer was charged with second-degree murder, and the police chief called for an independent review of the use of lethal force by officers. In July 2014, former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci released what has been referred to as a landmark report, presenting page upon page of recommendations to prevent the shooting of people in crisis.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

This report makes it clear that this is not only an issue of police culture and training – it is a failure of our entire system…


READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote here:

***You can read both the Executive Summary and the entire Independent Review of the Toronto Police Service here: for a full look at 80 recommendations made to improve outcomes. A very compelling read.

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Site C- Case hasn’t been made.

This week’s topic: Did the provincial government make the right decision approving the Site C dam?

I agree with Brent that British Columbia does have a real opportunity in front of it right now, but it has nothing to do with energy. The controversial and confusing decision to approve the Site C dam on the Peace River provides ample opportunities to examine and highlight just how this government operates when it comes to projects of immense proportion.

Contrary to what some might think, I’m not “anti-everything.” I stand firmly in support of responsible development and when multi-billion-dollar projects are proposed, it’s critical to ensure proper process and independent examination of the proposal have occurred. It’s not in the best interests of the province or taxpayers to charge ahead without being absolutely sure this project is justified and costed correctly.

Sadly, in the case of Site C, that hasn’t occurred and there are serious concerns surrounding the justification and the cost of the project. Over the last couple of years, the premier has presented an ever-changing litany of reasons why Site C is needed.

It started off on the books as a project for B.C.’s power use, but for much of her time in office, Premier Christy Clark has billed Site C as essential to power the various LNG project proposals – we know that’s incorrect, since any plants would most likely be operated on power produced in a natural gas-fueled power plant. Then, during the final day of the public hearings in front of the Joint Review Panel, BC Hydro said the power from Site C would be perfect for export to California.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

However, in the announcement last week, Clark said this dam will provide future generations with good clean power for a century. Who’s right? It’s easy to see where the concern is with so many conflicting justifications for a project that the government exempted from an independent review by the BC Utilities Commission…

READ the rest of this week’s column, comment and vote at:

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Transit tax penalizes the poor.

This week’s topic: Is a 0.5% increase in the provincial sales tax a good way to fund transit improvements in Metro Vancouver?

Let’s face it, for most people tax is a four-letter word. Say it and people scowl as if you’ve said something offensive and inappropriate. However painful it is to hear, the truth is that taxes are a necessary evil. For every level of government, from municipal through to federal, taxes are vital revenue streams that help pay for the services and infrastructure we rely on.

Having said that, I don’t think an increase in the provincial sales tax within Metro Vancouver to fund transit improvements alone is the solution.

It’s been said that a no vote in this referendum will set back transit a decade and there is no other way to fund transit that is as fair as this proposal, yet a tax that penalizes those who can least afford it is anything but equitable.

It’s estimated to cost the average family approximately $125 a year, and the poorest families, $50.

Without a doubt, we need to get moving on transit in Metro Vancouver, but we are also facing some big challenges as a province. Highways and other infrastructure are in disrepair. Hospitals are overcrowded and understaffed. The list goes on, yet we keep hearing there is no money.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

I can’t help but feel it’s terribly short-sighted to approach the funding solution for transit on its own when the province is clearly in need of a solid revenue stream for all of these challenges.

While the premier often boasts about our low tax rates, the cost has been steep. What isn’t mentioned is that the series of cuts to both personal and corporate taxes since 2000 created a devastating hole in provincial revenues that has never been adequately replaced. We’ve been left with a regressive tax system that hurts the people who can least afford it – just like this sales tax increase…

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at


HERE is the link to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives paper on progressive tax solutions:

And here is the quick look at page 8 where a portion of the reforms are listed – many of these options could potentially provide enough revenue for transit improvement ( dedicated much like the portion of this sales tax revenue proposal) as well as bringing in additional revenue for things like healthcare and education,as well as restoring cuts to justice services programs etc.


This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Schools need ethical investments

This week’s topic: Should universities be forced to divest from fossil fuel investments?

In an era where more people are investigating the importance of ethical investing, it’s not surprising to hear that two groups are now pushing Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia to divest themselves of all fossil fuel investments.

Sustainable SFU, an “independent, student-led not-for-profit society working toward a sustainable future at Simon Fraser University campuses,” recently launched a campaign called Divest SFU. According to their website, they are asking the university to immediately freeze all new investments in fossil fuel companies, end ownership of these companies within five years, and disclose the potential greenhouse gas emissions of those investments.

At UBC, a group of students, staff, faculty and alumni have also started a movement to urge UBC to undertake similar divestments to the SFU action. This isn’t a new movement and it follows in the footsteps of many other major universities and cities. As people become more engaged in the events and changes in the world around us, the social and moral choices we make as consumers and investors become evident and important.

Every investor becomes a part owner in the companies within their portfolio, whether it’s a pension fund, RRSP, or another type of fund, with the ultimate goal of making a good return. Where the ethical or socially conscious investor differs is in examining how those companies make their money.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

If the values or the manner in which that company makes a profit is not in line with the values of the investor, it can be a personal conflict. For this reason, many people choose not to invest in companies that produce weapons, profit from tobacco and, in these cases, the fossil fuel industry.


READ the rest of this weeks column, vote and or comment at