Clark vows to get Site C “past the point of no return” …during memorial.

The memorial for former long time premier Bill Bennett was held yesterday as many friends, family and politicians gathered to remember his life and his life’s work.

clarkpalin

 

Among those speaking was Premier Christy Clark,who somehow still managed to find a way to mention herself in her eulogy:

 

“She promised to finish Bennett’s vision for the controversial Site C Dam project.

“Premier Bennett, you got it started and I will get it finished. I will get it past the point of no return.”

Moving beyond the fact that politicking at memorials is really poor form,her statement raised eyebrows of many, I’m told by some who were actually there.

Partly because of the inappropriate timing of the comment, but also because Bennett handled his governments attempt at building Site C in a manner completely opposite to  that of the current government.

Bennett did have a vision, but he did not just force it through like the Clark government is -at least not when it came to Site C

 In fact it was the Bennett government that created  the BC Utilities Commission.

It’s job was ( and still is when government allows it) to regulate Hydro rates and review BC Hydro’s projects independently fully and independently to ensure they are needed, costed properly and ensure all projections/estimates are correct.

Site C did not come to pass back in the eighties because when the BC Utilities Commission reviewed it ( remember it was then premier Bennett’s government that created this independent agency) they found that there was no need and that it was not in the best interests of British Columbians. The BCUC instructed BC Hydro and the government to begin investigating and pursing other alternatives like geothermal,solar and other alternate means.

And that was the end of Site C. It died with the BC utilities commissions denial. Why?

Because Bennett did not force the dam through like Clark is. He trusted the analysis of the agency he helped create, and put a stop to the plans when they said no. Whether you were on the same side of Bennett politically or not, you have to respect that he did the right thing here.

sitecjprAs I’ve written of previously, it was the Campbell government that exempted Site C under the Clean Energy Act, in my opinion not because hydro power is clean, but because they knew it was very likely that the BC Utilities Commission independent review would once again say it was not needed or justified and deny the project.

Which, will forever be a travesty forced onto this province and certainly not something I could imagine Bennett being proud of. What the Campbell/Clark governments have done with the BC Utilities Commission, crippling it, is appalling.

Cities in the area of Site C, asked the province to send it to the BC Utilities Commission. The Union of BC Municipalities, made of  representatives from all cities in BC, passed a resolution asking the Premier to send Site C to the BCUC, all because of concern over the escalating costs & lack of proof it is needed. Many other groups and organizations have asked, including other political parties – all to deaf ears.

There are still several outstanding court cases on Site C from First Nations in the area and Clark knows all of this was done wrong – she also knows  there is a good chance that any of those three court cases could put a stop to all of it.

It just doesn’t make sense.  Particularly to make a vow of  “getting it past the point of no return” in a eulogy for the man who created the process her government refuses to acknowledge and participate in. That is not, by far, a show of respect.

 

clarkreversemistakeRecently, Clark heralded the federal government for reversing the decision on the Coast Guard closures in BC, and it’s time for her government to do the same thing on Site C- particularly when you look at what happens when you do things the wrong way.

Look at Muskrat Falls, a dam project that looks like it might go down in history as one of the biggest boondoggles an eastern province has seen. In fact, the costs and projects are so out of line, that the Newfoundland government is conducting an independent review now, during construction.  Ironically the scope of the review is nearly identical to what the BC Utilities Commission should have done on Site C.

It’s now being called an over budget burden on the province and there are growing calls for the province to cut its losses and stop construction before it gets worse:

The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador was always destined to define the political legacies of the politicians who championed it. As by far the biggest capital undertaking in Newfoundland and Labrador history, it would either enrich the province as a North American clean-energy power provider or saddle it with a Hoover Dam-sized debt it would long regret.

The skeptics hovered long before oil and gas prices tanked, leaving the provincial government facing massive deficits far into the future and dismal prospects for fetching premium prices for the project’s power on export markets. Newfoundland taxpayers risk paying for Muskrat Falls in more ways than one.

The $7.7-billion project also risks burdening Canadian taxpayers, who, thanks to the federal loan guarantee on $5-billion worth of Muskrat Falls bonds, are responsible for repayment should the provincial entity that issued them default. t, thankfully, is not an immediate concern.

~snip~

The project is behind schedule and over budget. In September, Nalcor upped its cost estimate for Muskrat Falls to $7.7-billion from an initial $6.2-billion. The total comes to more than $9-billion, when financing costs during the construction phase are included. That may not be the end of cost overruns before the power starts flowing in 2018 – or later.

~snip~

“This politically charged project is large relative to the provincial economy and is expected to place considerable upward pressure on future electricity rates,” Moody’s noted this year in a report on Newfoundland Power, the private power distributor that, as a condition of the federal guarantee on Muskrat Falls, must buy its electricity from Nalcor.

Former top provincial bureaucrats Ron Penney and David Vardy, who estimate that Muskrat Falls will increase Newfoundland’s gross debt by 50 per cent, recently called the project “one of the most unfortunate public-policy decisions in the history of the province.”

Many Newfoundlanders wish they could simply pull the plug.

It’s crystal clear that much like Muskrat Falls, the politicians in BC who are championing Site C are also trying to define their political legacies,and Clark’s bizarre vow during her eulogy, sets an ominous tone for hers.  This is not how Bennett would have wanted it finished.

It’s time to stop the project before more taxpayers money is wasted. Listen to the Forces of Know. Do the right thing. There are good, solid, job creation alternatives. Twin the Transcanada to Alberta. Create a market for solar power. Be proactive, not reactive.

Remember Ms. Clark, you said it yourself: “It’s never too late to reverse a mistake that was made.”

** Link to the fundraising page for legal fees of Rocky Mountain Fort Campers named in BC Hydro lawsuit . https://www.gofundme.com/s6c4s4vs

** Check back tomorrow for another post with some compelling photos that are raising big questions.

And why exactly is the BC government not interested in taxing absentee/foreign real estate investors?

pandaAffordable housing has been a huge issue in Metro Vancouver,increasingly in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond as the debate over whether or not to tax absentee and/or foreign investors driving the market, continues.

The province, had this to say recently as to why they would not be imposing such a tax: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-real-estate-tax-housing-prices-1.3409587

Premier Christy Clark has said housing affordability will be ‘front and centre’ as the government prepares to deliver its budget next month, but she has also shot down speculation and luxury taxes on foreign investors as fixes for rising prices.

To me,as a British Columbian fully invested in my families future in the province,it just doesn’t make sense.  Are the Forces of NO, striking families- and successful singles and couples in British Columbia, once again? 

My answer? Yes, I believe they are.

But why? Why would the province put foreign or absentee owners -whose only interest may be parking funds in a hot real estate market rather than building community-over people actively involved in our local and provincial economies?

The province of British Columbia recently issued  the 1st sovereign Panda Bond in China and it has been making news in financial papers around the world: http://www.ecns.cn/cns-wire/2016/01-22/196811.shtml

ECNS) — The Canadian province of British Columbia issued a panda bond on January 21, the first by a foreign country in China’s interbank bond market.

BC Finance Minister Michael de Jong, Ambassador of Canada to China Guy Saint-Jacques, and representatives of the BC Finance Ministry, Bank of China and HSBC briefed the media in Beijing on Friday.

The three-year-term bond, priced at 2.95 percent, raised 3 billion yuan, or about 665 million Canadian Dollars.

It was twice-oversubscribed by domestic investors in China, including policy banks, commercial banks, fund managers and brokerage firms. Proceeds were immediately reinvested in an offshore RMB-denominated investment with Singapore’s United Overseas Bank. Net income on the RMB investment will be used to support and expand the province’s trade and investment offices in China.

“The coupon rate is set below 3 percent, not because nobody wants to buy it. There’s strong appetite for AAA-rated bonds,” de Jong said, adding that the oversubscription owes much to lead underwriters.

BC got approval from the People’s Bank of China to issue panda bonds worth 6 billion yuan ($938 million) for terms of up to 10 years on November 27.

“It could have taken years,” de Jong said. “We’re very pleased to see the level of cooperation by the NAFMI (National Association of Financial Market Institutional Investors) and our lead underwriters.”

BC was the first foreign government to sell a “dim sum” bond of 2.5 billion yuan in 2013 and 3 billion yuan in 2014.

A dim sum bond is issued outside of China but denominated in Chinese renminbi, while a panda bond is a renminbi-denominated bond from a non-Chinese issuer sold within mainland China.

The move allows the use of RMB in bilateral trade and more efficient investment for Canadian financial institutions.

“It shows our support for the internationalization of RMB,” Saint-Jacques said. “RMB use could save 5 to 6 percent of transaction fees.”

Accordingly, bilateral trade in 2015 amounted to 86 billion Canadian dollars.

In 2015, Canada became the first country in the Americas to become an offshore clearing and trading centre for the RMB.

Saint-Jacques said Canada hopes to further advance political and economic ties with China.

“Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is likely to attend the G20 summit in Hangzhou in September, and we hope high-level Chinese leaders could visit Canada in 2016,” he said.

And who did the BC government hire to be the lead underwriters on this deal? 

HONG KONG, Jan 4 (IFR) – British Columbia has hired Bank of China and HSBC Bank (China) as joint lead underwriters for a potential maiden offering of Panda bonds.

The offering is for up to 3 billion renminbi ($460 million) with a maximum tenor of five years.

The Canadian province registered with Chinese regulators in late November to issue Panda bonds of up to Rmb6bn in the domestic interbank market.

Yes. 

HSBC.( China branch)

And the Bank of China: 

Both banks have been plagued in one form or another, by investigations into bribery,fraud and missing funds. Don’t trust me, ask your financial advisor!

I just want you to sit, and think a moment, about the possibility that the reason that Premier Clark and the BC Liberal MLAs don’t want to tax foreign investment is…

… that they are relying on it. You issue the first sovereign bond in China, and you clearly need it to be a success. Your LNG Prosperity Fund you promised isn’t working out for you and you need some help,yesterday. 

Are you going to send a message to foreign investors who may buy those bonds, that BC is not interested in your investment?

I think not.

Not when the: “Net income on the RMB investment will be used to support and expand the Province’s trade and investment offices in China” ttp://advantagebc.ca/blog/b-c-enters-worlds-third-largest-capital-market-with-panda-bond-issue/

BC families first? With no effort to increase value added exports instead of raw logs etc. to keep BC workers, working? And no effort to make it easier to own your own home, in your hometown, in Metro Vancouver?

Ha.

 

May the Force of No be with you…

clarkyogasillyOver the years I’ve heard a lot of politicians make some really questionable comments – the tweet above is but one in a sea of many by Premier Clark.  But after her most recent thoughtless remark made news, I’m thinking she might want to lay off the Star Wars for a while…

From CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-premier-christy-clark-strikes-back-at-lng-opponents-1.3419993

Clark had sharp words Monday for what she calls the “forces of no” in British Columbia who mount resistance efforts to government initiatives purely out of a fear of change.

First Nations leaders quickly shot back at the premier, labelling her comments “paternalistic” and “mindless.”

Clark made the statements during a news conference where she fielded questions about opposition to the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership,environmental concerns over liquefied natural gas developmentand tax breaks for the mining industry.

She said negotiating trade pacts and resource developments involves tough, but potentially rewarding benefits and she would rather be known as an achiever than a quitter.

“There are people who just say no to everything, and heaven knows there are plenty of those in British Columbia,” said Clark. “But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you give up. It doesn’t mean you should be a quitter.”

She criticized a coalition of First Nations, environmentalists and Opposition New Democrats who signed a declaration demanding a protection zone near a proposed multi-billion-dollar LNG project at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.

“I’m not sure what science the forces of no bring together up there except that it’s not really about the science,” said Clark.

“It’s not really about the fish. It’s just about trying to say no. It’s about fear of change. It’s about a fear of the future.”

Ms. Clark, I’m not even sure where to begin on this one. There are definitely people in this province that would like to see all reliance on fossil fuels stop right this instant and have everyone hand over the keys to their vehicle while munching on kale chips as an alternative food source to anything else. And, that’s their prerogative.

But to be honest and pragmatic, we know that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Those people are not the people saying No in Prince Rupert. Nor are they the people saying No to Site C, or No to the Massey Bridge. And your comments are not only patronizing, they are completely hypocritical and thoughtless.

sitecprotest3

Having been born and raised in northern BC and having now lived here in Metro Vancouver for many years, your lack of understanding of the diversity and concerns of interior and northern residents is appallingly clear.

Yes, people want good paying jobs to support their families,but they also have a deep concern for what the impact of the resource industry is having, in and around their communities. They want to know that things will be ok for their children, and their childrens’ children. They want to see vast forests,clean lakes with fish,wild animals to hunt and yes, trap. But they need good jobs as well.

2014-11-11 026

 

Without a doubt,it’s a complicated issue that in many cases divides not only communities but families as well. They see the writing on the wall, and want a future that is bright,not bleak. It’s not anywhere as cut and dried as your government pretends it is. But when your government only offers one option to a community and says ” This is it! Take it or leave it!” IS that defined as success? Not to me. It’s called no way out.

At a time when the world is bravely facing economic and social challenges new to many, British Columbia should be in a position to take a leadership role in adapting,evolving and diversifying… yet we see very little YES from your government on anything that isn’t directed towards trolling some targeted votes from certain sectors,or placating corporate supporters.
Why is that? Ah yes, the forces of NO…..

It just doesn’t make sense. Allowing  every adult the opportunity to upgrade basic education and english, takes the burden off of all provincial services when they are able to achieve financial independence, and contribute to our economies locally, and provincially.

 

It just doesn’t make sense.  Good solid core essentials must be met before re-tooling education to meet demands of industry- particularly odd in the face of so many funding cuts.

 

 

It just doesn’t make sense. US ports will not ship that thermal coal. The cost of solar has dropped dramatically. Why BC isn’t legislating the use of it in certain new builds and creating a market for jobs and industry,is beyond me. Oh wait… the forces of NO in Victoria won’t let that happen.

 

  • The last time the BC Utilities Commission turned down Site C because it wasn’t needed, your government was told to explore options like solar, geothermal energy and other alternatives, but again, government forces of NO prevailed and nothing was done. We are the only jurisdiction along the fiery Pacific Rim not capitalizing on geothermal. Why? No political will.

It just doesn’t make sense. Geothermal would be cheaper, create more jobs and be more environmentally friendly than Site C. And there’s evidence to back that up. Don’t take my word for it. It’s all out there to find on Google.

We’ve seen a host of other No’s over the years.

 

It just doesn’t make sense that we aren’t.

 

It just doesn’t make sense. With a new federal government committed to vital infrastructure projects, the funding could be found at that level, and at a fraction of the cost of Site C, which is not needed.

 

It just doesn’t make sense. Education and the care of children is well recognized  as a cornerstone for a societies future success. Every support should be there to ensure every single child succeeds, that their family succeeds. It costs less to do this early, than deal with social issues later on that result.

 

I could go on,but the No’s that have come from this government far outweigh the Yes’s. I think you know this better than I, Ms.Clark…it just doesn’t make sense.

While average British Columbians face difficulties paying BC Hydro bills that have been raised every year for years – and who get cut off if they can’t pay it- they see government that is now looking at allowing resource companies to defer their bills! A questionable idea if for only the reason of BC Hydro’s questionable practice of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. 

In fact, while years ago the resource sector was a driving force in BC, it hasn’t been for years. Norman Farrell has been looking at this for a while, but even apart from his fine work, the facts don’t lie.

Take a look at some startling facts that totally negate the provinces continual subsidy of the resource sector: http://credbc.ca/role-energy-sector-bcs-economy/

Oil, gas and support services make up just 3% of our GDP, compared to 15% for manufacturing and construction and over 23% for financial and real estate services. When secondary energy services are added into the equation, the total contribution to GDP is still only 11%. While this number is significant, it’s certainly not where most provincial economic activity is coming from.

Where are the jobs? 

In BC, the mining, oil and gas sector combined employs just 1% of the workforce.

BC energy jobs
Source: 2012 British Columbia Financial and Economic Review

Instead, the biggest employers in the province are:

  • Construction – 205,000 jobs
  • Manufacturing – 164,000 jobs
  • Tourism – 127,000 jobs
  • Real estate and property development – 121,000 jobs

The film sector adds an additional 36,000 jobs and the technology sector employs 84,000 people – more than oil, mining, gas and forestry combined.

Do you see now, Ms.Clark, why there is so much concern? Why people are so worried that the province has not been taking a leadership role in adapting and innovating a new path?

We are worried that you are not helping those whose industries are suffering, train for new careers and paths where they can use those skills?

We are wondering why your government sticks to the same dire path simply if for no other reason than you cannot confront the fact there is a better way. You don’t ask communities what they want or need, you march in and tell them…and then ask what you can do to compensate them after the fact. A cheque here. A pond there. People give in quickly in the face of steam-rollers.

Yet British Columbians are asking for a better way – they  are saying No to the plans that  just don’t make sense and yes to the ones that show innovation, leadership – but those aren’t seen very often.
It’s not about saying No to everything, it’s about saying YES to good policy and the right projects, with proper oversight -case in point, Mt. Polley. A failure on two points. You cannot compromise on environmental or community protections.

prayer stick 1

And we’re not quitters either Ms. Clark. Because unlike you, we will all still be here long after your time as premier has ended.

The forces of No that are hurting this province aren’t the ones in Prince Rupert, or Fort St. John, or even Richmond who are standing up for what is right.

They are the one’s right beside you in Victoria.

 

bc liberal caucus

 

“Deception and privileged secrets are common facets of politics.” – Transparency & accountability on Site C lost at both provincial & federal levels.

There’s a common thread among many of the biggest and best stories I’ve covered here: lack of government accountability and transparency.  I recall contacting a BC government ministries media contact for a comment on a story I was doing once, only to get a clear denial back refuting everything. I sent him the internal documents that had been passed onto me from a company that engineered the project, contradicting his statements and others that even went into depth explaining all of it.

He stuck to the governments line. Didn’t exist, no such thing, And that’s happened more than a few times. It’s hard not to be completely cynical in the face of story after story, scandal after scandal and still see the same old politicians smiling through it all.

The fact is that most governments rely heavily on the disinterest or distractions of it’s citizens to continue to operate without scrutiny into their activities – a lack of attention from voters actually enables bad government. Most of us are so busy just living life, raising families, working 9-5 and if you are lucky enough to relax a bit here and there even better- who wants to wade into politics?!

Its often not until people start to find out what is happening right under their noses that they start asking questions and sometimes it’s too late. But it’s not too late with Site C, the contentious project to flood another portion of the Peace River Valley is underway with logging and a work camp in place.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been covering the events as they unfolded after BC Hydro posted a 24 hour eviction notice at the camp on New Years Eve. BC Hydro has yet to evict the campers, who are a combination of mainly women but a few men, who are members of Treaty 8 exercising their right to be on Treaty 8 land. They are supported by locals who are also opposed to the dam,some of whom who will lose land, or homes, and others who have been longtime critics.

It’s been interesting to see voters reactions to some of the items I’ve posted, in particular the post in which I refute Energy Minister Bill Bennetts statements on Global TV, that the province conducted 7 years of due diligence. It’s a prime example of what they don’t tell you being more important than what they do tell you.

Let’s talk about that again for a moment in the context of public trust. When you are an elected official, the voters have essentially said: “We have chosen you to represent us,and we trust you will act in good faith.”  But the reaction by many to hearing that the BC government had exempted a 9 billion dollar + project from the proper regulatory review, was complete and utter shock. No, it was not well known and because it happened 6 years ago, it’s not widely come up in most stories on SiteC.

I still feel strongly the province failed the public trust by not allowing the BC Utilities Commission to do it’s job. Not only that, I say this government is failing it’s inherent fiduciary duty to voters as well in even contemplating such a project knowing full well the state of BC Hydro’s finances: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Hydro+paid+most+dividends+using+borrowed+cash/10723965/story.html

“BC Hydro has borrowed most of the billions of dollars in dividends it has been forced to pay the provincial government over the last two decades.

The cash-strapped Crown corporation has been locked into returning a share of its profits to the provincial treasury based on an old formula that was increasingly unaffordable, said Energy Minister Bill Bennett.

~Snip~

The Crown energy corporation has paid $5.4 billion in dividend payments since 1992, of which 60 per cent was borrowed money, energy ministry data shows.

The government uses the Hydro money to reduce what it has to borrow for its other provincial capital projects, such as highways, schools and hospitals.

Bennett said it’s an unsustainable practice that he’s committed to change in 2018 — a year after the next provincial election.

Critics, including B.C.’s auditor-general, have long accused the provincial government of being addicted to Hydro’s annual cash windfall, and have warned that Hydro is racking up debt and deferring costs in order to meet government’s financial expectations.

But neither government nor Hydro has previously admitted the extent to which Hydro has borrowed money to meet its provincial demands.

Others have accused the province of over-milking Hydro’s profits, which pushed the corporation to hike consumers’ electricity rates to afford its continued operations. Hydro rates are set to rise 28 per cent over the next five years.

Former auditor-general John Doyle noted Hydro has simply deferred costs into future years, which “creates the appearance of profitability where none actually existed”

Interestingly enough, this first came up when I was contacted by a Chetwynd resident recently,asking where all the money went from BC Hydro. I sent her both the above link, and this one: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-debt-subterfuge-will-cost-b-c-hydro-ratepayers-1.2092192

Ratepayers in B.C. can expect dramatic electricity-rate increases for years to come.

Those rate increases will be needed to pay off B.C. Hydro’s soaring long-term debt and other costs the company has shunted to future ratepayers to make itself seem profitable and offset the impact of its spending on current customers.

Meanwhile, residential ratepayers — who have been cutting back on electricity consumption in recent years — will consume less, yet pay more each month.

B.C. Hydro has increasingly issued debt to finance its activities, with the company’s long-term debt having increased from $6.8 billion in 2004 to $16.7 billion last year — an increase of 146 per cent. The amount spent each year in interest payments alone has increased 35 per cent since 2004 and now amounts to $685 million, up from $507 million.

It’s all a shell game.To many financial analysts it’s a recipe for all intents and purposes, bankruptcy. The province is fully aware of this, the premier is aware of this and for damn sure Bill Bennett is aware of this since he claims he’s going to fix it all…. after the next election: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-hydro-preps-for-rate-review/article26556170/

The B.C. Liberal government, no fan of the independent B.C. Utilities Commission, has pushed aside the regulator of Hydro rates to suit its political needs since 2012 – conveniently, before the last provincial election. And the cabinet has approved billions of dollars’ worth of pet projects without the regulator’s scrutiny.

~snip~

Mr. Bennett is adamant that government should determine energy policy, and he is likely to exclude another two major projects from a regulatory review before this year is out. Although a public consultation is still in process, Mr. Bennett is very much leaning toward bypassing the commission again, to fast-track a pair of transmission lines that would bring electric power to natural gas operations in the province’s northeast.

But there is opposition, on the grounds that ratepayers will have to pick up the tab at some point for all these government-driven decisions. Critics – chiefly ratepayers – argue the best way to ensure that Hydro is spending only what it needs, is to let the independent regulator do its job as the watchdog.

The BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre has been calling for the commission’s role to be restored for that reason. Now the group is taking advantage of the rate structure review to propose new relief for low-income residents who make up about 11 per cent of Hydro’s residential customers. BC Hydro’s residential electricity rates have increased by 47 per cent over the past decade, they argue, while social assistance rates and the minimum wage have been almost frozen.

The group is just one of the stakeholders that will be lining up to try to influence the shape the coming rate increases. They know there is a reckoning due for all the years of government tinkering and “rate smoothing.”

Mr. Bennett says he has a 10-year plan to keep rates low, but there is undeniably upward pressure. The Crown corporation’s capital plan calls for spending $2.4-billion each year for the next 10 years. Because rates haven’t kept up with Hydro’s real revenue requirements, the corporation has been amassing debt in what it calls “deferral accounts” – those accounts will reach more than $5-billion by 2018. At the same time, demand for Hydro power is falling short of its forecasts, and the cost of producing energy is climbing

That someone like me, has to sit here and piece these bits and pieces together to show you what your elected officials will not, is appalling. Alone, these articles were perhaps surprising,but not many read them.Together, a year later matched with other pieces of information, a worrisome look at what happens when no ones watching.

BC Hydro has been borrowing money, to pay the government dividends, which the government uses to fund its pet projects, among other things. The debt at BC Hydro is mounting, the government has blatantly exempted several BC Hydro projects from review by the regulatory agency responsible and plans to exempt more.

The BC Utilities Commission is essentially the only check and balance taxpayers have to ensure there is some control over what BC Hydro and government get up to. But because government doesn’t like have any control asserted over it’s decisions, it often stops the BC Utilities Commission from doing it’s job.

But don’t worry. Government has got it all handled…

It’s bad enough that so much is kept hidden, or never mentioned or that our Energy Minister, knowing all of this full well, would go on Global and state 7 years of due diligence has been done ( Still a lie in my opinion).

But not only that, they put bids out and  finalized contracts while there are three court cases pending from First Nations  in the province.

With yesterdays news that the BC Supreme court  ruled the BC government had failed to consult properly with First Nations on the Enbridge proposal, one wonders how this will impact the court cases involving Site C.

The province now finds itself in a tenuous position, stuck between a legal rock and a hard place…appeal the BC Supreme court decision on Enbridge  which implies the province feels they did consult First Nations and sends a defiant message to Coastal First Nations… or don’t appeal and have a standing ruling that may be used as a helpful precedent in the Site C cases.

And speaking of being stuck between rocks and hard places, Justin Trudeau and his cabinet are in a similar position with regards to Site C.

As Trudeau mentioned last year, he plans to develop a new relationship with First Nations across the country: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-afn-indigenous-aboriginal-people-1.3354747

“It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation,” said Trudeau to loud applause from First Nations chiefs this morning.

~Snip~

Where measures are found to be in conflict with your rights, where they are inconsistent with the principles of good governance, or where they simply make no public policy sense, we will rescind them,” said Trudeau.

Good to know. Because both First Nations and critics opposed to Site C are calling on  Trudeau to reveal the reasons for approving the Site C Environmental certificates, that the Harper cabinet invoked secrecy on – a practice used far too often by the Harper government – and honour the treaty. http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Opinion+First+Nations+oppose+Site/11647693/story.html

 

There can be no doubt left, that this is all wrong.It needs to be halted. And the spotlight will continue to shine on both  Premier Clark and Prime Minister Trudeau: Halt construction, honour the Treaty and send this project to the BC Utilities Commission for a full review.

 

BACKPOSTS/HISTORY:

1) BC Hydro issues eviction notice under cover of  New Years Eve http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

2) A litmus test for ‘Real Change’ : where is Justin Trudeau on Site C? Why isn’t new federal government investigating why Harper invoked cabinet secrecy on Site C decison? http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/04/the-litmus-test-for-real-change-where-is-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-on-sitec/

3) ( photos of demonstration here)  Separate demonstration at Site C BC Hydro gates results in three arrests, including Arthur Hadland- long time former Peace River politician http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/06/longtime-peace-river-politician-and-site-c-opponent-arthur-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-demonstration-today

4)  UBCIC issues press release one day after Treaty 8 does, asking BC Hydro to stand down.  http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/07/first-nations-prepare-for-arrest-to-stop-site-c-dam-ask-prime-minister-to-suspend-federal-approval/

5) Debunking Energy Minister Bill Bennetts misleading statment on Global BC http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/08/cutting-through-the-spin-of-energy-minister-bill-bennetts-statements-on-global-bc-news/

6) Powerful and compelling words from a Treaty 8 elder : http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/11/powerful-and-compelling-words-from-treaty-8-elders-at-rocky-mountain-fort-campbut-is-anyone-in-government-listening/

**The most telling comments from Bennett came in this Globe and Mail article from a while back. The last two paragraphs, are alarming.
bennettSiteC

2015 ends with a bang… so it’s time for the Top ten posts of 2015, from LailaYuile.com

partylights (4)

For us here down on the southern West Coast, we’re shaking off 2015 with gusto, thanks to a short but rather violent jolting earthquake last night. Or was that the sound of Premier Clarks LNG Dream bubble bursting?

Ah well, 2015  has been a really interesting year for politics, for people and for the blog!

According to official WordPress stats, there were 94 new posts in 2015, bringing the total archive of this blog to 1,185 posts!! And that’s down from prior years, thanks to a busier than usual schedule and my former 24 Hours column.

Once again, the power of social media wins again with the top two referrers to my blog consistently listed as Facebook and Twitter. Some repeatedly like to say Twitter is for ‘Twits’ but sadly that’s just not true. It’s still a powerful forum for sharing links and information- well used it’s a valuable tool and savvy influencers know it.

stats

The top 10 posts of 2015

  1. Why exactly, is the Mars Bomber sitting idle?   39 comments- While the province burned,questions as to why the contract with the Mars Bomber wasn’t in use, led to a public campaign to get it back in the  air – and it worked.
  2. 100 + reasons the BC Liberals must go  244 comments – a long time favourite- watch for a massive update in 2016 as the never ending list of scandals under the Clark government continues to face a loss of public trust in her leadership
  3. 50 shades of wrong: Why the BC Liberal government has lost all moral authority to govern #resignChristy   44 comments – following the tragic suicide of Rod MacIsaac, it was revealed the government had misled not only the fired health workers, but the public and RCMP. I and others, called for Clarks resignation,asked voters to demand answers from their MLA’s and said this government had lost its moral authority to govern.
  4. Why I am ( still) voting No in the Transit Tax Vote   106 comments – I believe in good transit but I independently campaigned a No vote- and that didn’t go over well with fellow progressives!
  5. Who’s the Scrooge at Real Canadian Superstore?  106 comments – this post still hits home as food prices increase and Superstore faces ongoing accusations of trying to prevent card holders from redeeming points – something that even happened to me, more than once!
  6. It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news  60 comments – an inspirational call to citizens to get engaged in their communities, and see how politics directly impacts their lives. Well shared and received across Canada.
  7. Sometimes losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding the truth II  40 comments –  Despite the incredible relationship with my readers at 24Hours Vancouver and years of developing that, I left this year, to protest PostMedias death of its own papers by a million little cuts. The story behind that.
  8. “Every absurdity has a champion to defend it.” ~ Oliver Goldsmith aka “The day politicians closed a bridge to do yoga.”  42 comments –  Sigh. All this scenery and the premier wants to close a bridge for yoga fo what seemed like a prime photo op for Lululemon,while an international event was staged nearby.
  9. BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost taxpayers $500 million? Not building it at all will save us over $8 billion dollars.  50 comments – we didn’t need Site C years ago and we don’t need it now. So why is it being pushed through despite not having been reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission? Because what Clark wants, Clark gets. Even if it makes no economic or environmental sense.
  10. Complicit… or incompetent? Questions continue to pile up for the premier who continues to ignore them all 27 comments – The premier continues to face questions,most recently for the hiring of Laura Miller who has now stepped down following charges related to a deleted records scandal in the Ontario government. But even before that, the premier was dodging questions and giving glib denials of everything and anything that’s gone wrong under her watch.

Who were my most opinionated readers?

commenters

2016 promises to be busier than ever as here in BC  political parties are already in campaign mode : The Liberals have been handing out cash at photo-ops like crazy in past weeks and the NDP are in full opposition mode – for once.

Federally Trudeau will be shortly on the hot seat as the silly season of Christmas and New Years passes and reality hits.

I’ll be back into the full swing of  things the first week of January with a post on the late Christmas gift given to the Clark government: The settlement of two lawsuits initiated by the fired health care workers. Non-disclosure anyone? Will we ever know the full details of the governments horrendous and callous actions that led one man to take his life? Somehow, I don’t think so.

We’ll also take a look at the Shawnigan Lake contaminated soil site and the truck parking proposal in South Surrey – both contentious and somewhat related for the manner in which residents concerns and objections have been completely ignored.

It’s been a blast and I’m very happy that so many readers from 24Hours follow along here now, on Twitter and Facebook. We’ve shared personal moments, struggles, challenges and successes – and I appreciate them all.

What these stats, my twitter analytics and the tremendous success of these stories in travelling far and wide tells everyone, is that this is a team effort. All of you, are the biggest force behind this blog, and these stories.

One cannot succeed, or make a difference the way we can, without  doing it together,particularly as an independent blogger and commentator. 2016 brings another chance to try and get it all right again. Thank you so much for being a part of it.

Happy New Years!

From: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2014/12/new-years-wishes-and-gifts.html  I couldn’t say it better myself. <3

neilgaiman

 

 

 

A River Runs Through It…the hypocrisy, that is.

So there I was today, between meetings, sitting in the Espresso Cafe in Newton – which incidentally has the best coffee I’ve found in Surrey. Deep rich flavour, none of that burnt bitterness I often find at the red cup chain that shall not be named.

But I digress. There I was, sitting and drinking my coffee, when I saw a Province paper.Not having read one in I don’t know how long, I picked it up to leaf through when something jumped right out at me within the first few pages.
2015-11-30 002

That’s the good-looking version on the nice tablecloth… this is the real document at the BC Utilities Commission website : http://www.bcuc.com/Documents/Proceedings/2015/DOC_45125_A-2_G-182-15_RegTimetable.pdf

Excerpt:

bcuchypocrisy

The full meal deal on this project is here:  http://www.bcuc.com/ApplicationView.aspx?ApplicationId=518

Basically, there are issues with a failed rock armour layer at the WAC Bennett dam –  also on the Peace River – that impacts long term erosion control;the same kind of erosion issues that have concerned Site C critics and have been overlooked by many.

And because the BC Utilities Commission is  the oversight agency that was created to assess these kinds of projects to ensure they are needed and how they will impact BC Hydro rates, this project has gone before the commission and it was deemed a public hearing was needed.

Rightfully so – this is the only check and balance British Columbians have to ensure their best interest with regards to energy projects and BC Hydro rates. 

But the glaring hypocrisy of this project going through the proper process created by the province itself… when the BC  Liberal government and energy minister Bill Bennett exempted a much larger,far more expensive and un-needed project like Site C, is stark!

Now, any person with a stick of commonsense would ask why any government would remove a multi billion dollar project from the regular process. And then follow that same process for a much smaller maintenance issue on a dam, on the same river. Because to me, it just does not make sense.

I was tremendously disappointed to hear the announcement awarding initial contracts for Site C last week, in part because it has not gone through the same process dictated above. No review, no public hearing by the BC Utilities Commission. And the composition of the partnership will be subject for another post ,but right now this is just outrageous.

If the province really believes this project is the right one, for the right reasons,then let due process occur. But I will again point out the very telling statement Bill Bennett made in an interview with the Globe and Mail: 

bennettSiteC

And I call now on the new federal government and environment minister to reveal the reasons why the former government claimed cabinet privilege  when it came to their decision on Site C: http://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/regional-news/site-c/despite-cabinet-secrecy-federal-decision-on-site-c-ok-judge-rules-1.2045577

In the written decision against the PVLA, Judge Michael Manson said the decision by the federal government was justified—even though the government chose not to reveal its reasoning behind the decision to the courts.

In the decision, lawyers for the PVLA argued the federal cabinet only addressed the consultation process with Aboriginal groups and their social interests in their government in council (GIC) order, without also addressing the economic value or including a cumulative effects analysis of the project.

Lawyers argued the government would need to consider whether or not the project was needed for power, and whether or not the project was financially justified—which the group believed the government did not consider.

BC Hydro disagreed, arguing the federal cabinet indeed reflected and considered the overall question of costs, need for, and benefits of Site C.

Manson agreed.

“The concerns and interests of Aboriginal groups have been reasonably balanced with other societal interests including social, economic, policy and the broader public interest,” he wrote in his decision.

However, the full reasoning behind the decision was not made available to the courts.

Manson wrote that cabinet “claimed privilege” to keep the matter private. This complicated his review of the reasons for the decisions, he noted.

“(The federal cabinet) could have chosen to submit redacted versions before them, but decided not to,” he wrote.

Nevertheless, Manson found there was “no basis” that the decision was made without regarding environmental legislation, economic considerations, or that the decision itself was unreasonable.

“While the reasons provided by the GIC could have been better articulated and more transparent, they are within the reasonable boundaries and requirements for GIC reasons,” Manson wrote.

“The GIC must consider a wide range of considerations and information put before it. As a body comprised of elected officials, it is accountable to the electorate: the public itself.”

It’s unclear why government made the decision to claim privilege. Questions sent to Leona Aglukkaq—the federal environment minister at the time the decision was made, and a member of the cabinet in charge of making the decision— were not returned as of press time.

 

In the best interests of British Columbians concerned about rising Hydro bills, anything less is inexplicable. There is simply too much risk involved: economically,socially and environmentally.

 

Backposts:

http://lailayuile.com/2015/08/20/bc-hydro-says-halting-site-c-would-cost-taxpayers-500-million-not-building-it-at-all-will-save-us-over-8-billion-dollars/

http://lailayuile.com/2015/09/29/site-c-to-be-debated-in-bc-legislature-tomorrowrally-against-the-project-to-be-held-outside/

http://lailayuile.com/tag/site-c/

Province appoints Special Prosecutor to deleted emails investigation **updated-he has since withdrawn!!?

** Post updated below…. The special prosecutor has now recused himself since this was posted at 11:00 am

From Jennifer Moreau, of the Burnaby Now:

This just in! The province is appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s recent report to government. Great news, considering the awful state of our access to information laws in B.C.

When reporters file freedom of information (FOI) requests, they’re often delayed getting back to us, most of the content is greyed out, and sometimes we’re just told there are no records. There are a couple years worth of backlogged complaints. Let’s hope this investigation improves things.

November 19, 2015 15-23

Appointment of Special Prosecutor

Victoria – The Criminal Justice Branch (CJB), Ministry of Justice, announced today that Greg DelBigio, QC has been appointed as a Special Prosecutor to provide legal advice to the R.C.M.P. in relation to an investigation arising out of Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s recent report to government.

As disclosed in the report, the Information and Privacy Commissioner referred information to the R.C.M.P. for investigative consideration. This information related to a request for access to records that was made of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and the alleged conduct of an individual who was employed as a Ministerial Assistant at the time of the request.

On November 10, 2015, the Assistant Deputy Attorney General for the Criminal Justice Branch, M. Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten, QC (the ADAG), received a formal request from the R.C.M.P. that she consider the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to provide police with legal advice during the course of their investigation.

The ADAG concluded, based on the request and the information available to her about the alleged circumstances of the case, that the appointment of a Special Prosecutor is in the public interest. Under the Crown Counsel Act, the ADAG will consider appointing a Special Prosecutor where some aspect of an investigation, or prosecution file, carries a significant potential for real or perceived improper influence in prosecutorial decision making. A Special Prosecutor works independent from government, the Ministry of Justice and the CJB.

On November 13, 2015 the ADAG appointed Mr. DelBigio as Special Prosecutor in the matter. He has been given a mandate by the ADAG to:

 Offer such legal advice to the investigative agency as may be necessary in the circumstances;

 Conduct an independent assessment of any Report to Crown Counsel (RTCC) that may be submitted and make the charging decision he deems appropriate in the exercise

– See more at: http://www.burnabynow.com/opinion/blogs/community-conversations-1.752422/province-appoints-special-prosecutor-to-investigate-following-privacy-commissioner-s-report-1.2115392#sthash.1Okv3VhW.dpuf

I love how the government appointed this prosecutor on November 13th… and didn’t issue a press release until today – after the fall legislative session has ended. No questions, again.

It will be interesting to see how and where this investigation goes.  Keep in mind in the case of the alleged deletion of the Ministry of Transportation emails by George Gretes, that occurred in November 2014.

We now know that the BC government removed section 5 of The Offence Act from Bill 18 ( Information Management Act), in May of this year, 2015. Prior to this removal, it was a general offence to improperly destroy government documents or records. I wrote about that twice when it happened in May.

We also know now, that those penalties were removed just two days prior to Tim Duncans revelations, about the deletion of those Highway of Tears emails. Mere days after my blog posts, the NDP released this:

duty to document

It begs the question: Because Section 5 of the offence act still applied in BC with respect to document destruction, at the time the emails were deleted, would it apply to any offences committed before it was removed?

To date, the premier has never been asked about the removal of the offence act ( and associated penalties) from this bill. There has been no questions put to Minister Amrik Virk either. You may want to ask why.

Is this government Complicit, or Incompetent?  You decide.

Full background on this entire story, including the questions still standing on the appointment of Loukidelis, here: http://lailayuile.com/2015/11/12/complicit-or-incompetent-questions-continue-to-pile-up-for-the-premier-who-continues-to-ignore-them-all/

*******************************UPDATE**************************************

 

I’ve out with my phone off all afternoon and just catching up. Since this posting at 11 am, the special prosecutor has withdrawn. A new prosecutor, hopefully one with no connection and truly arms length to government, will be appointed. http://www.cknw.com/2015/11/19/special-prosecutor-withdraws-from-investigation-into-b-c-deleted-emails-report/

Special prosecutor Greg DelBigio who was appointed to independently assess any decision on possible charges into a former government staffer who deleted government emails and allegedly lied under oath.

Neil MacKenzie with the Criminal Justice Branch says DelBigio has withdrawn over a potential case of conflict of interest.

“Questions were raised in relation to another matter in which Mr. DelBigio is acting as a defence counsel, the branch hasd some further discussions with DelBigio about that.”

It turns out he is also the defence lawyer for a B.C. Liberal party staffer charged with Election Act violations related to the ethnic outreach scandal.

The branch says out of an abundance of caution and respect for the importance of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice, he’s withdrawn.

The branch is now looking for a new special prosecutor.

Complicit…or incompetent? Questions continue to pile up for the Premier, who continues to ignore them all.

“Honesty, integrity, and accountability, the values, which should be the hallmark of this government, have instead been thrown under the bus by an arrogant majority, casualties in a misguided campaign to shield from accountability those who abuse this House.”

~ Louise Slaughter

“The fatal attraction of government is that it allows busybodies to impose decisions on others without paying any price themselves. That enables them to act as if there were no price, even when there are ruinous prices — paid by others.”

~Thomas Sowell

It’s been a long time since there has been a singular issue that has created so much outrage and demanded so many unanswered questions of this government.

Even the ethnic outreach scandal dubbed Ethnicgate didn’t garner as much attention by the average citizen. New citizen blogger Merv Adey recently compiled a list of the growing number of examples where our BC government has gone completely off track, and I’ll add to that in a moment:

It’s clear now what I think we’ve all suspected. Christy Clark’s government is defined by its own governing principle, and that is the avoidance of accountability.

  1. 8 fired health researchers: 1 committed suicide (Rod MacIsaac) . No email records found in the senior civil service. No briefing notes or memos.
  2. 80 Community Consultations along the Highway of Tears by the Ministry of Transportation. A political staffer, George Gretes, is forced to resign (not fired), and now investigated for perjury after he allegedly triple deleted not only his own records, but Tim Duncan’s as well, and then lied to an Independent Officer of the Legislature about it.
  3. Zero emails from Christy Clark herself, out of 200 which were tracked, were submitted in response to FOI request.
  4. Christy Clark’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Michele Cardario, reportedly triple deleted without trace every single email she sent during the 2 years since she replaced Kim Haakstad who became toxic after the QuickWins memo was released by the opposition
  5. Minister of Transport Todd Stone admits to triple deleting emails regularly.
  6. While negotiating one of the larger tax giveaways to industry in the history of BC (LNG), Rich Coleman’s COS responded to an FOI request with 3 emails out of 800 which were tracked by Tech Services. He failed to respond with up to 797 emails to important energy industry players like AltaGas and PETRONAS.
  7. Clark’s government, (as Laila Yuile notes – 2 days before the George Gretes scandal broke), removed the application of Section 5 of the Offences Act to the evasion of FOI requirements. That is, they intentionally weakened the penalties for illegal destruction of documents. George Gretes may or may not go to jail for perjury, but he won’t go there for being part of Christy Clark’s political team and destroying public records for political gain.

And there is more since this list was compiled, news that was particularly unsettling when you consider the implications.

We now know that Ministry of Justice lawyers were sent to the Privacy Commissioners office in what appears to be an attempt to halt the release of the damning report:

When B.C.’s privacy watchdog was getting ready to release her bombshell report about triple-deleting emails by government political staffers, she was greeted by Ministry of Justice lawyers attempting to impede the report’s release.

BC NDP MLA Carole James raised the issue in the legislature Wednesday, and said the ministry had sent lawyers who “told her not to release the report.”

“My question is to the Minister of Justice,” she said. “Why did she ask lawyers in her ministry to stall off the commissioner’s report?

“Sending lawyers after the commissioner is truly a new low.”

In her report, Elizabeth Denham, B.C.’s privacy commissioner, revealed a widespread government problem of triple-deleting “transitory” documents related to the Highway of Tears.

“In the course of this investigation, we uncovered negligent searches for records, a failure to keep adequate email records, a failure to document searches, and the willful destruction of records responsive to an access request,” she said in a release.

“Taken together, these practices threaten the integrity of access to information in British Columbia.”

Yes, these practices do threaten the integrity of access to information, but the implications of Ministry of Justice lawyers trying to stop the release of this report are beyond disturbing.

Let me make this clear. This government did not want that report on the table during this legislative session where Liberal ministers would have to face questions and face public scrutiny. This government wanted that report held back until the session was over and hopefully evade on the record discussion. Who gave the order to these lawyers? We don’t know.

Amrik Virk, minister of evasion in charge of this mess, didn’t deny the allegations and Justice Minister Suzanne Anton did not respond to NDP questions. Where is the scrum on this? Where is the demand for an explanation beyond the NDP’s grilling?

Where is the explanation for this, period?  Once again, Premier Clark has been off in China on a non-stop itinerary of photo-ops,a trade mission scheduled rather conveniently  during one of the very few legislative sessions we seem to have -something she has been called on repeatedly in the past.

As the leader of this government, which is facing a growing lack of confidence by the public, it is not her job to be in China when the legislature is in session.She needed to be here, answering for her governments performance-or lack thereof.

Which is why it was quite interesting to see Environment Minister Mary Polak, respond to a question tweeted to several Liberal members on why the BC government removed the penalties for improper destruction of government documents.  I asked for clarification and was met with silence.

The continual evasion and silence is both wearisome, and alarming. Government has hoped this would all die down while Clark was in China, but it didn’t. This entire series of highly questionable actions has been kept alive by concerned citizens,former journalists,and there are several ministers who face mounting questions.

Questions like the appropriateness of Clark appointing former BC Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis to the review the handling of documents and Freedom of Information requests by the BC government. 

Loukidelis served the province of BC very well during his time as a Privacy Commissioner,rapping governments knuckles many times. He was highly regarded when it comes to this past position in BC and has intimate knowledge of how government works -or doesn’t work – in this regard – on that front there is no question of his suitability with respect to relevent knowledge and experience.

The question is raised because following his service as the Privacy Commissioner, Loukidelis went onto become Deputy Attorney General – a move that had many critics calling foul. 

The man who has been responsible for ensuring that the provincial government fulfills Freedom of Information requests since 1999 is now deputy attorney general for the B.C. Liberal administration.

David Loukidelis will go from being the independent appointee responsible for ensuring openness and transparency in a government that flagrantly violates FOI rules to being one of the top bureaucrats assigned to keeping documents secret from the media and the public.

And that is seriously wrong in at least four ways.

He served in this capacity until his resignation in May of 2012  and went onto other interests,but for those familiar with BC politics,his appointment to this review raised eyebrows because of this:

Loukidelis may be best known in B.C. for his role in the abrupt Oct. 2010 end of the bribery trial of former ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk. Along with deputy finance minister Graham Whitmarsh, he approved the $6 million payment to Basi and Virk’s lawyers as part of the plea bargain that halted the trial related to the BC Liberals’ 2003 privatization of BC Rail. Former finance minister Gary Collins was the next witness scheduled. ~ http://thetyee.ca/News/2015/02/10/Watchdog-Turns-Lobbyist/

Loukidelis also made headlines after sending a letter to Wally Oppal in 2011 stating the province had limited resources and no money to pay legal fees of participants in the Pickton Inquiry.

Because the murdered and missing women along the Highway of Tears was reviewed at the Inquiry, it’s at the very least, insensitive to have Loukidelis on a review of how the government handled FOI’s and documents, some of which related to the Highways of Tears.

The irony is also stark that the BC government claimed poverty when it came to funding participants in the Pickton Inquiry, yet had more than enough funds to fuel the Basi-Virk trial and  $6 million dollar payout that stopped that same trial… and saved several former Ministers and politicians from taking the stand-including Clark herself. But that’s another story.

Because  Loukidelis played such a critical role in decision behind the Basi/Virk payout, many critics are also questioning Clark’s decision to appoint him to this review.

We’ve come full circle. And as we await the results of both Loukidelis’s review into the governments handling of documents and FOI requests – due December 15th,right at the height of the holiday season –  and the Ombudsman report into the health firings-report date unknown, the questions will continue to mount. Yet silence reigns with the exception of Polak’s tweets last weekend.

With every new aspect of this story that comes out with absolutely no accountability to be seen yet, the question remains… will this government be found complicit…or simply incompetent?

Photo credit: dm gillis
Photo credit: dm gillis

***Merv Adey has a new post up, with more on Loukidelis and…. Graham Whitmarsh. http://www.bcveritas.com/index.php/2015/11/13/why-david-loukidelis-cant-be-the-right-choice-on-foi/

Backposts in this series:

  1. http://lailayuile.com/2015/10/29/50-shades-of-wrong-why-the-liberal-government-has-lost-all-moral-authority-to-govern-christyresign/
  2. http://lailayuile.com/2015/10/26/a-government-built-on-liesobfuscation-and-obstructionis-nothing-to-be-proud-of/
  3. http://lailayuile.com/2015/10/22/11602/
  4. Changes to Bill 5 -removal of general offence part 1 : http://lailayuile.com/2015/05/29/the-more-that-government-becomes-secret-the-less-it-becomes-free-james-russell-wiggins/
  5. http://lailayuile.com/2015/05/31/if-you-kept-the-small-rules-you-could-break-the-big-ones-%E2%80%95-george-orwell/

50 shades of wrong: Why the BC Liberal government has lost all moral authority to govern #ChristyResign

I was watching Question Period earlier today as the opposition was asking hard questions of Amrik Virk – again. ‘How is it possible that in all the years of the health firings investigation, there were no documents created across two ministers and high-level staff?’ Dix wanted to know.

Virks responses at first consisted of the usual non-answers Liberals give in QP. virksmirk-foremailBut on the last question, he waits a moment, and smirks… before giving another sidestep. Thanks to a reader watching, you can see it for yourself. Considering the seriousness of the issue, it seemed inappropriate.

He doesn’t mention that the 8 wrongly fired health workers objected strongly to an Ombudsman review, or that the Ombudsman himself had grave concerns over his office’s ability to conduct one.  Or that the Liberals pushed ahead with it in the face of these valid objections – in a committee meeting,the Liberals outvoted the NDP 5-4 – despite the calls for a full fledged public inquiry.

Chalke previously raised red flags about his office’s suitability to probe the firings of eight health researchers nearly three years ago, noting that the issue has become a partisan matter.

We cannot, must not forget those 8 government health ministry workers wrongly fired for an alleged breach of confidential public health data during this email scandal. It’s related. One of those workers, Rod MacIsaac, a Phd candidate,took his own life mere months later. 

“He was a kind, giving man,” MacIsaac’s sister Linda Kayfish said Tuesday. “He was a concise, straightforward, straight-answer guy.”

After two years in which no wrongdoing by MacIsaac has been uncovered and other members of the team have been exonerated, Kayfish is calling on the provincial government to issue a formal apology for her brother’s dismissal.

“I figured that when somebody makes a mistake and ruins people’s lives like this, they had to know there would be repercussions,” she said. “And when you do that, you have to recognize an error: stand up, and recognize that error. Apologize.”

And an apology was made, of sorts, at least in the public realm. But neither apologies,nor settlements,nor ombudsmans reviews will bring Rod MacIssac back.

None of this should have happened in the first place.

When it was revealed in June of this year, that the government had intentionally misled not only the public, but the RCMP, it further called into question the ability of this government to continue with authority to govern:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about that. The government deliberately misled the public, the 8 wrongly fired workers- one of whom is no longer with us – and the RCMP.  

Who lies about an RCMP investigation that never happened? And then goes… whoops! Sorry about that! Sorry just doesn’t cut it. It is government malfeasance. A clear attempt to mitigate their own culpability in the entire issue.

And now, two scandals have merged as it was revealed that there are no records… none… after two years of requests into the terribly wrong health firings of those 8 workers. None.

It’s just not remotely plausible.Not to me, not to the opposition and certainly not, the public.

Making it even more appalling, Clarks trying to swing this one by saying only the person who originated the email has to keep a copy. But she fails to get the point that when no records are being handed over in an FOI by anyone,it indicates even the original email sent, is gone. She’s playing semantics. Does this government really think the public is that stupid? Apparently so.

But I digress. We cannot forget that so many of the admissions of willful deleting of emails, or no records happened in the case of the health ministry firings and the Highway of Tears FOI. They involved peoples lives, and their deaths.

These weren’t deleted emails on a coffee meeting about a new ad plan, these were records directly relating to two very sensitive issues, one of which involved horrific abuse of government power and malfeasance.

That’s why when I read this new article on how over the last 23 years, it’s always been the same issues in government, instead of thinking what a good perspective it was,I felt disappointed and honestly, a bit sad.

I very much respect the author- he has produced some excellent work but to me, it seems to minimize the seriousness of what this current government has done, as business as usual. Only, it isn’t.

The examples he’s brought up are egregious by any standard,  but do not come close to the current governments handling and what now looks like a cover-up, into the health ministry firings and the Highway of tears meetings. These events are so reprehensible that it still amazes me the Liberals allowed Clark to remain in power.

His article also doesn’t mention one startling fact that still remains largely unreported or discussed in media: that the Clark government removed the offence act, the penalties for improper destruction of records, two days before Tim Duncan blew the whistles on the emails George Gretes allegedly deleted to avoid the Highway of Tears FOI. 

I’ve written about this removal twice, back in May when it happened. Doug Routley tried to amend the Bill but he was overruled and the bill passed on division. 

thevote

The NDP put out this release a few days later:

duty to document

So while prior governments have indeed tried similar tactics to avoid scandal, this government has taken it completely above the law. Completely. No penalties,no deterrents and because Clark and now Virk have completely ignored Commissioner Denhams 3 separate recommendations over three years to legislate Duty to Document, everyone is getting away with it. 

Except poor George Gretes of course, whose case has been handed over to the RCMP for investigation for allegedly lying under oath. And rest assured, someone else will get tossed under the bus before this is over.

But take a look now at this. Denham wrote this letter to Amrik Virk in February of this year reminded him again of the need  for a legislated Duty to Document key government actions and decisions, before Bill 5 was passed.

I know a lot of people in law enforcement and one thing they all hate is a loophole. So one would think  that Virk, a former RCMP officer, would want to ensure every loophole would be removed, right? But no, Bill 5 passed without a Duty to Document. Which leaves this government free to do what they want with little documentation.

Photo credit: The Canadian Press
Photo credit: The Canadian Press

During the federal election I wrote how we seemed to have lost all honour, integrity and common sense in politics. Clarks government has now ensured we have no legislated requirement Duty to Document key government decisions and actions (Aka Boosenkool human resources investigation),  and removed the penalties if you get caught. And for all intents and purposes, I see not one bit of remorse. I’m disappointed her caucus hasn’t publicly distanced themselves from this.

Glen Clark resigned as premier over a patio deck/casino license deal. Despite Ethnic-gate, the Boesenkool affair, the Health firings scandal that resulted in a suicide, destroyed emails relating to the Highway of Tears and more… yet Premier Clark still stands.

AmrikVirk still stands.

Other ministers involved in these scandals still stand…and none of them deserve to. They were elected to represent their constituents yet I highly doubt this is what they had in mind. It is an unforgivable breach of the public trust.

There are far more things in life that matter more than power. People. Personal integrity. Your character. Honour. Accountability.

The only recourse left is for Clark, Virk and others to resign.

Because this isn’t her government. It’s yours.

** Two great posts I have to direct you t on the email scandal are here: http://www.bcveritas.com/index.php/2015/10/28/a-level-of-bullshit-never-seen/ and here: http://blog.cleverelephant.ca/2015/10/government-email-deleting-intent-matters.html

**Here is the link to the BC Liberal MLA’s. If you have a Liberal MLA, please contact them and ask why the penalties for improper document destruction were removed from Bill 5, and ask them why they have refused to legislate Duty to Document rules after 3 years of recommendations. I also urge you to join the call for a resignation of Premier Christy Clark. #ResignChristy

http://governmentcaucus.bc.ca/mla/

foi

A government built on lies,obfuscation and obstruction,is nothing to be proud of.

Newer readers often wonder why I feel so strongly the BC Liberals need to go, when I am not a partisan member of any political party. The reason is clear if you read many of the stories on my Best Of page – most of them focus on the many deceptions and blatant lies the government has tried to pass off as truth.

Even in the face of confidential internal documents and compelling evidence that contradicts the governments claims, I’ve had communications staff boldly deny, deflect and well… just outright lie to me in writing, emails ( which I am sure were immediately triple deleted) and on the phone.

Combine that tendency for government deception with their regressive policy and taxation, and toss in a premier who would rather campaign,pose for photo-ops and crack jokes more than govern… and you get a list of more than a hundred reasons the Liberals have to go that has carried through two premiers.. No worries – any new government will get the same scrutiny and the NDP in opposition here in BC already have felt that.

But for now, we focus on our current government in power, because they are the ones who drive the boat. And this current triple  delete email scandal just stinks to high heaven,

First of all, if you haven’t read the entire report, you need to do so. There is far more contained within these pages than fully reported on. In fact while the focus has largely been on George Gretes,the ministerial assistant who allegedly lied under oath and whose case has been referred to the RCMP, there are two more issues within the report that have largely been skimmed over by many in the press.

From Page 5 of that report:

Amrik Virk FOI

Amrik Virk was the minister of Advanced Education, during the time period of that request, but was shuffled to the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services on December 18, 2014, following revelations that he was actually aware of the secret bonuses give to new executives in the Kwantlen pay scandal.

Interestingly enough, just days before Amrik Virk was shuffled to his new post,this government guide for staff on email deletion, was revised.

emaildiagram.

Here’s a close up on that:

closeupemail

Clearly, it was an issue. And this guide is really a bit ridiculous looking in from the perspective of someone wanting to do an FOI, because in my view, provides many outs that make deleting emails that can be very informative,acceptable! And you’ll note nowhere does it address triple deleting emails.

How Amrik Virk still has his post, is beyond me.As a former RCMP officer he knows very well how the spirit of the law is just as important as the law itself. And yet even with all these scandals through two ministries, he stands, fumbling through justifications and apologies.

The other issue which happens to be an ongoing one in the premiers office, is the lack of emails – period.

premiernoemail

Premier NoRecords cough, I mean Clark, has a long and very serious history of non-documentation during her time as premier, one that also clearly indicates the culture of non-compliance stems directly from the executive office.

It wasn’t so long ago that shockwaves reverberated around coporate and government offices across the country, after it was discovered that there was no written record of an investigation into the inappropriate actions of a former Clark advisor. 

And let us not forget Ethnic-gate, in which political staffers used private emails to circumvent FOI rules.

But I digress- there are so many examples of where the BC government, it’s ministers and staff have circumvented or avoided FOI rules and shown a clear disregard for the spirit of a transparent and open government. I could go on forever but Integrity BC has posted numerous examples on their public facebook page recently,along with other pertinent info.

At the heart of the matter is a refusal for the BC government to include the duty to document in its own legislation. In fact the government has completely ignored Privacy Commissioner Denhams repeated calls to have a legislated duty to document. 

Foremost among my recommendations is the provision for a legislated “duty to document” key government actions and decisions in Bill 5. This was the main recommendation from my July, 2014 special report into the current state of government archiving in British Columbia, as well as my March, 2013 investigation into the increase in no responsive records replies by the provincial government in response to general access to information requests. It is only when key government actions and decisions are documented that access to information regimes and public archives can be truly effective. It remains my view that a duty to document should be included in the Government Information Act

On three separate occasions since 2013,the premier who promised the most open and accountable government,has ignored the commissioners very important recommendation.  Why?

And why, instead of making the duty to document part of the current legislation, did the government instead remove the penalties associated with the improper handling of government documents? 

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

On top of that, the Depression era law replaces, the Document Disposal Act, at least provides for the possibility that someone who gets rid of government records improperly will face justice. Violating the Document Disposal Act could result in charges under the provincial Offences Act.

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

This is quite a contrast to the government ‘s actions in the Ministry of Health data breach case, where they called the RCMP about the potential misuse of government information. We hope the government will be able to explain this difference as the bill is debated.

It’s something I’ve written about several times, here, here and most recently, here.

A government that doesn’t document investigations into inappropriate behavior, doesn’t use email in the premiers office, speaks in person to avoid FOI’s and triple deletes emails so no one can ever recover them. And the really ridiculous thing is, it is so damn easy to prevent all of this – if you really wanted to.

But they don’t. And in my opinion, heads should roll. This has been going on since BC Rail days when backup tapes of all the emails for Gordon Campbell and the ministers were erased. Oops. 

This government is out of control and unaccountable. And people have died because of it. For the premier to repeatedly  claim a lack of knowledge to any of the incidents involving her office and those closest to her,can only mean one of two things: either she is incompetent, or complicit.

It’s not something to be proud of and I urge those in the Liberal government with integrity to speak up and stand up against this.Because it’s just a matter of time before more people are going to speak out. Some already have.