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.

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.

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“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 :)

The Mount Polley tailings pond disaster. What a difference a year makes…

August 12th,2014

“B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett says the Mount Polley tailings dam collapse is not an environmental disaster, equating it to the “thousands” of avalanches that happen annually in B.C. Bennett, pointing to initial positive water readings, asserted his contention will be proven in the next several weeks.”

“Bennett acknowledged the dam collapse may be a mining industry, a geotechnical and a political disaster.

But he said that has to be separated from the environmental effects.

“Get up in a helicopter and go and look at the avalanches that happen in this province — there are probably 10,000 or 15,000 avalanches that happen every single year. Get up in a helicopter and go and look at what happened last spring with the events in the Rockies with water coming down and doing exactly what happened in Hazeltine Creek. The difference is that snow melts, (but) you are left with exactly the same (result) — it looks exactly the same as what happened in Hazeltine Creek,” said Bennett.

“It’s a mess. It’s a total mess, there’s no question about that … What’s going to happen here, is we are going to be left with this opportunity to learn from this huge, profound mistake that’s been made here,” he said.

August 4th, 2015

“British Columbia’s mines minister says the mining industry remains horrified a year after a tailings pond collapsed at the Mount Polley mine northeast of Williams Lake.

Bill Bennett said no one thought a crisis on such a scale was possible but that even now he can’t guarantee that another breach of a tailings pond won’t happen because only some of the risk factors can be eliminated.

“We didn’t eliminate enough of the risk and we have to figure out, and we are figuring out, how to eliminate the rest of that risk,” he said of the Aug. 4, 2014 accident.

About 24 millions cubic metres of waste spilled into area waterways, causing an environmental disaster.”

“The provincial government has spent $6 million on the cleanup, and Imperial Metals was granted conditional approval to reopen last month, although it still needs further permits before it can operate fully.

Bennett said water and sediment testing will have to continue for decades.”

Yes… you read that right… decades. And why? Because maybe profit was more important than safety,than heeding the warnings,than doing the right thing?

What a difference a year makes to the comments of those with the power to make change. But where will Bill Bennett,Christy Clark and Mary Polak  be decades from now,when all this testing is still going on?

Will they even remember Mount Polley?

Now watch this. One year later. Mount Polley. Because this matters to all of us.


Last weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver City Hall: Take big money out of civic campaigns

Forgive me for the lack of recent posts other than my columns; summer is here and there are many other things to do in the warm summer evening than sit and blog on a hot sweaty desk chair….I’ll post soon and there are several things I want to write about.

For now, this was Thursday’s column in 24Hrs Vancouver, which you may find relevant even in your hometown.

Since taking on the City Hall column and paying greater attention to municipal affairs across the region, there is one concern readers have shared with me that is common to every city in Metro Vancouver.

From Vancouver and Surrey to North Vancouver and White Rock, there is a growing concern that developers are wielding too much influence in city halls.

In Vancouver, real estate developers and marketers have been under scrutiny for their role and contribution to the city’s affordable housing issue.

In Surrey, both developers and the city have frequently been under fire for not only the city’s illegal suite problem, but for rapidly building high-density housing without thought to the impact on local infrastructure like schools, health care and parking.

Even the tiny city of White Rock isn’t exempt — a contentious proposal currently in the works to build two highrises requires an amendment to the Official Community Plan in order to build it. Now under scrutiny by the locals are the past campaign contributions the development group has made to the mayor and several councillors.

But if you were to ask your local city council if campaign contributions have any influence on proposals before council, I guarantee you will get a resounding — and likely offended — “No!” as an answer.

To voters, it’s a perception of conflict of interest and it’s easy to see why it’s an ongoing concern for residents.

Developers who’ve given hefty donations to municipal campaigns and then bring matters before council for approval raise serious questions to the validity of the entire process. That’s why so many advocates in favour of electoral reform were disappointed to see the final committee report on Local Elections Expense Limits recently presented to provincial MLAs in the legislature.

While the report makes recommendations limiting the amount candidates and slates can spend in local elections, it does nothing to address the bigger issue of limiting the dollar amount of contributions in the first place, or banning corporate and union donations.

With civic election turnouts appallingly low and cynicism towards both politicians and political process at an all-time high, these changes are critical.

The integrity of both civic elections, and city hall process and planning, must be protected to restore faith with voters. And the best way to do that is to take big corporations, big unions and their big money out of it.

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

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

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

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

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


Our forests, our lives

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


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

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

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

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

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Wildfire prevention and mitigation

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

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

Of great interest in this article, is the Filmon Firestorm Report of 2003. I’ve linked to it separately here, because the link in the Tyee article is no longer working.“>

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

His final thoughts included the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s happened since the report was issued? 

Despite this report, concerns were raised yet again in 2011 on what it would take to keep BC forest communities safe.

And sadly, just last week Robert Gray revealed a startling fact in this Times Columnist column:

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

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

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

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

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


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

In April of 2014, a full decade after the Filmon report was commissioned, Glen Sanders- a former firefighter and fire chief, took a look at the lessons learned- or not- by government and found the results lacking.

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

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

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

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

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

* For up-to date positions and details of reported wild fires in British Columbia, see this link:

* Air quality reports/advisories can be found here:

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

The Mars Bombers will be back in service as early as Thursday.

And further to this, the contract will be under and existing helicopter contract with Coulson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this weeks column, HERE:


2014 expenses for the board:

2015 expenses for the board: 

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

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

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

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

I loved our road.

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

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


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

And then I picked it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And do you really want to take that chance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal aid took a huge hit.

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

A complete timeline of the cuts can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.” ― George Orwell

Filed under: “Things that make you go hmmm…”

In response to my last post, I’ve received many emails asking about the removal of penalties from Bill 5- the Information Management Act. It’s clearly an issue people are concerned about but an obstacle for many is simply the language contained in reading the act or even going through Hansard to find the info.

While it’s heartening to see that average citizens really are interested in this, the focus on the ‘duty to document’ portion of the legislation( or lack  there-of ) has puzzled many. The issue lies to the assumption in this legislation, that government documents exist at all. It has long been a concern that the use of non-government cell phones and emails to conduct government business is one way of avoiding potentially messy stories in the press.  (Hillary Clinton has recently been in the news for issues relating to this)

Of course, partaking of such activities to get around freedom of information laws certainly would be a purely accidental action in this government, I’m sure. ( insert an eyeroll here)  So yes, it is a big issue that the legislation governing how government documents decisions and actions has teeth. But what also must have teeth is portions of the legislation that govern what happens if you break those laws. And this where the questions about Bill 5 are arising.

This is the link to the third reading and report of Bill 5 in the legislature – it starts at little more than half-way down the page:

Here is a shot from where NDP MLA Doug Routley addresses this section specifically,and the answer the chair (Liberal  MLA  Douglas Horne ) gives him. And it goes nowhere.And that’s the end of it! Click on the image for a closer look.


The Chair says defeating the section would cause substantially the same thing,the amendment is ruled out of order and that section goes onto be approved!

What is Section 5 of the Offence Act, found here?

It is the section that defines a General offence under the law.

“General offence

5  A person who contravenes an enactment by doing an act that it forbids, or omitting to do an act that it requires to be done, commits an offence against the enactment. ” 

Section 18 of the Information Management Act states this will not apply to the new act. Meaning no penalties for failing to comply with the policies within the act.

That has many, including myself, furrowing their brows.

While it’s understandable that no public servant who, with no malice or premeditation destroys or otherwise fails to comply with the policies under this new legislation should face an unfair punishment, I expect the spirit of the law would be mindful of that.

But to remove all penalties completely, is to enable and protect those that may in fact purposefully, with intent but perhaps with or without premeditation, break the law and policy.

For example, any person who willfully deleted emails to circumvent or foil an FOI process. Or anyone who knowingly fails to document key actions of government, or willfully destroys any records or documents.

Having removed the offence act from applying to information management is such a questionable step backwards when it comes to transparency and accountability in government, that alarm bells should be ringing.

And I question why they aren’t.

*This is a link to the progress of the bill-note no embedded links on  Bill 5:

progress of bills

* This is the link to the final vote on Bill 5: