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.


When growing pains become intolerable, the community needs to act.

This… is my Surrey.

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Beautiful, yes? We have beaches and sunsets to take your breathe away, parks and trails, farms that grow incredible local produce and fruits and fields of daisies to lay down and dream in.

“Communities in fear” 

And with summer upon us and school out the end of next week, thousands of families will be out enjoying all of it. Summer is the time to stay up late, play in front of your house, walk to the local Dairy Queen to get a chocolate-dipped cone. Lay on your front lawn in a pup tent and pretend to ‘camp out’.

Except talking to some local parents this morning still reeling from the two shootings that took place in Sullivan and Cloverdale last weekend, letting their kids play outside in the evening is the last thing they are going to be doing.

“Jaspal said she heard three to four shots at around 10:15 p.m. At first, she dismissed the loud pops as fireworks, then she heard sirens and saw police cruisers swarm the roadway, and yellow tape go up.

“I had just come home from work. If I came home a bit later, I could’ve been outside,” she said.

Another neighbour heard the gunshots but also thought they were fireworks until she saw police officers using a flashlight to examine the houses on the street, and cars parked in driveways, for stray bullets.

Two residences were struck by bullets, said police. No one was hurt. One bullet struck a garage door, while Jaspal’s home had what appeared to be bullet holes on the side of the house.

Maha Elias was rattled by the incident and said she plans to talk to her husband about moving elsewhere. They had moved from Victoria to Surrey in what Elias said “supposedly was a good neighbourhood.”

Now, she is worried and is telling her daughter to stay away from the windows as a precaution.”


“The Highway 10 shooting occurred just a day after another targeted drive-by shooting in the 5700-block 152nd Street on Friday night that left two men injured.

The men were sitting outside their home when more than 30 rounds were fired at the house, one bullet grazing one man in the head and another hitting the other man in the foot, said a relative. A dark-coloured sedan was seen fleeing the scene.”

No one should ever have to tell a child not to go by the windows because they are worried about getting shot. Yet in both cases,families with children lived in close proximity to the events that unfolded and it’s a miracle no one was hurt. It’s been the same in many of the over 30 shootings that have happened this spring, such as the case where a young girl bravely grabbed a younger playmate and took her to safety as shots rang outside on the street.

This is not how it should be, this is not right, and yet it continues as fear mounts now that bullets are hitting homes of innocent people. Yes, violence can happen anywhere. We know this. But to negate the ridiculous number of shootings that are occurring here sometimes on a nightly basis by saying that is to stick your head in the sand!

We all want a better city, a safe city where kids can feel safe to camp on the lawn on hot summer nights, but that just isn’t going to happen right now until the people behind this violence are stopped. And that omerta code of silence among friends,families and victims is why it doesn’t.
A parent’s desire to protect a child they know is involved in this lifestyle, does not trump a communities right to live in safety and without fear.

” Crime knows no cultural or racial barrier “

There’s something else that needs to be said here. There is a growing sentiment in our city that is alarming for its naivete. Many are now blaming every bit of violence and crime in the city on what law enforcement referred to as a low-level turf war between South Asian and Somali dial a dope operations.

Let me remind you that to date, it has been reported that just over half of the 30 thirty shootings have been connected to that ongoing dispute. So who is behind all the rest? Blaming all the issues in Surrey on South Asian/Somali youths doesn’t cut it. You want a reality check? Go sit in the Surrey Court house for even one day and look at the court lists of people attending criminal court.

Drug running, drug production, drug purchasing and all the trickle down crime that results, knows no racial or cultural barriers in our city. There may be cultural issues that must be acknowledged and addressed in dealing with aspects of it differently, but there is no barrier to where it begins and ends.

 “Growing pains” 

As Surrey’s population continues to grow, the cracks and holes in the required social infrastructure are starting to show, and requires city leaders that aggressively advocate for more funding from provincial and federal governments. This has now become more something more than growing pains.

As secondary suites continue to provide lower cost housing, we will continue to attract low and middle income families,some of whom will require social supports – it has been acknowledged we do not have enough to meet the need. As population grows, so do our policing needs- people forget police don’t just deal with gang issues, but a variety of calls that come non-stop. We do not have enough and as new officers arrive they are gobbled up by those lost to retirement, transfers, sick leave etc.

And most importantly, prevention.The money invested in prevention,in keeping kids from heading in this direction, will save money on policing,court costs,social services etc down the road. There should be no wait-list for kids at risk on the WRAP program-those kids need to be reached today, not next year!The mayors council just spent millions on trying to get a yes vote in the transit referendum and you are trying to tell me our city can’t find the money to get those kids on the waitlist help?  Parents need resources to access when they need help,or suspect their child may be heading down the wrong path.

 “But what can I do?” 

As someone who’s written of our issues often,I’ve heard from many in Surrey over the last three days,good people concerned about what is going on, and who are looking for guidance and reassurance. And this is what I have to say:

This is not a time for the community to become divided in fear or by ignorance. If ever there was a time for our city to unite, it is now. Those 80 new RCMP are not coming soon enough. We need to build bridges with each other and with our city leaders and law enforcement.We need to continue to actively and assertively lobby the province and the federal government for more resources.

If you are a parent concerned or scared about what your child may be involved with, here are some resources for you. Please,reach out and make that call:

If you are a landlord,ensure you are doing the proper checks before renting – simply accepting cash with no background could lead you down a world of pain and put your family at risk.

If you know something, anything – no matter how insignificant it seems- about any of these shootings, please call RCMP, CrimeStoppers or the gang tip line:

Surrey is full of amazing people. There are incredible change-makers in our community who have stepped up to and families who want to make a future here. There is too much on the line, and we need to do this together.

Because it is no longer enough to sit on the sidelines, shake your head and grimace at the news. Our city depends on it. 

“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:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I strongly suggest you listen to this interview between CKNW reporter Shane Woodford and Duncan. It’s 12 minutes, and in my opinion Duncan appears very sincere:

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

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

All of this comes really comes into focus though, when you consider an interesting bit of legislation the government just recently brought forth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Considering Clark promised one of the most open governments in Canada, someone has some explaining to do.

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

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

Tim Duncan’s letter

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

*story updated below

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

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

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

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

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

The Editor,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S/Sgt. Mike Ingles, Surrey

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

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

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

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

According to this Toronto Star column:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update June18th,2015

Earlier this month Blaney announced new officers were coming. It was then said the 20 new officers were on the ground in Surrey. Turns out, that just is not true.

These leaders are failing residents who live in areas where this has occurred, it has impacted those who have witnessed the violence and those who have the misfortune to live beside or behind those targeted.

And this young girl, and everyone else who is tired of this violence and the tension it brings, is why this matters so much.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” ~ John Le Carre

Wise words for many policy makers who often seem to demonstrate a lack of empathy and understanding of how the real world works for the average person, perhaps because they spend more time behind their desk than out and about connecting with real people

There will be no Duel column next Monday, so I’ll be taking a rest until after the Family day holiday and will be back with a couple of stories,one involving Kiewit- again- next week.

However, today let me share with you this story from Sam Cooper, which serves as a good pre-curser for my story next week.

Vancouver Island RCMP have reopened a high-profile workplace death case that occurred six years ago, investigating under a rarely prosecuted criminal law.

In February 2009, 24-year-old Sam Fitzpatrick was crushed to death by a large boulder while completing a work assignment on a Toba Inlet mountainside. Arlen Fitzpatrick, who worked on site, saw his older brother die.

Unsatisfied with the results of a WorkSafe B.C. probe, their father Brian Fitzpatrick has for years argued that the employer, Omaha-based construction giant Kiewit, is criminally responsible.

He said Thursday that after months of contact with the RCMP, the force recently informed him a fresh investigation is under way.

Great news, and timely considering the recent finding in Washington State for ‘willful and serious safety violations” that put the lives of workers into danger.

See you soon,and enjoy your long weekend here in BC ( this long weekend might be the only real legacy of Premier Clark that’s turned out well!)

For your Sunday coffee break

coffeeThere’s a number of stories I’m working on for next week, but for today, here are a few things to read on your Sunday coffee break.

The BC governments move into the Renminbi market last year should be news again shortly, as the one year bonds issued come to maturity: this is the story from last fall I posted on this to refresh your memory:

Will the BC government issue a press release heralding this experiment as a success for the province, strengthening ties with investors from China? Or will silence reign supreme in an effort to avoid examination considering the current unrest and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong? The actions of the Chinese government during these protests are currently being questioned by many, with allegations of the Hong Kong government working with gangs to break up the protests:

Keep your eye on this situation, and I’ll keep you updated on the outcome.

The situation with Mount Polley and Imperial mines has largely fallen from media view now, but still very much ongoing.

Imperial mines has issued a response to the Vancouver Sun article in which it was noted a crack was noticed in the tailings pond dam as far back as 2010. This is the article in question:

And this is their response:

The company has been busy seeding grass over tailings sediment, raising questions by many on whether or not that poses any risk to wildlife who may be attracted to graze on the grass come spring, and whether this also indicates the likelihood it may not be cleaned up at all.

Gordon Hoekstra has consistently done excellent work on this story from day 1, and this recent story again shows his attention to details and insight.

All of this has had impact on Imperial Mines operation at Red Chris mine, where they are currently advising they are seeking an injunction to have a blockade removed from the entrance to the mine, set up by a group of Tahltan families and elders known as the Klabona Keepers.

Video footage of the blockade being set up, and the elders asking for support to protect their lands.

The latest results that were released passed right over my head with back to school and an ankle injury, but here is the write up from NW:
nd here is the link to all the results :

Last but not least, Harvey Oberfeld has a thought provoking post up about Mulcair’s support for all Canadian taxpayers to pick up the bill for a new bridge in Quebec. I was equally outraged at this turn of events, simply because we continually get dinged out here for new projects, including the Port Mann, which is part of our national highway system.

Sigh. It’s so damn easy to spend spend spend when it’s not their own money.

Read and weep.

Enjoy your Sunday and the weather it’s brought with it – you know that months of rain can’t be far off in this part of the world! :)

Hepner unwittingly calls into question Community Safety Patrols done by Commissionaires.

It’s been said that Surrey politics is the one to watch this year and certainly it never fails to provide fodder for ample discussion.

Mayoral candidate Barinder Rasode released her crime plan yesterday,one crafted in part in consultation with soon to be retired Delta Police Chief Jim Cessford. Cessford is highly respected by many not only in Delta, but in law enforcement in general for his commitment to the ‘no call too small’ philosophy. 

Within a short time of Rasode’s release, Hepner issued a press release not only calling Rasode’s crime plan a complete knock-off of the current Surrey Crime Prevention Strategy that’s been in place since 2007, she then went onto say how terrible some parts of Rasode’s plan was. ( Think about that for a moment. She even says she had to look at Rasode’s plan twice to see what, if anything, was different)

Here is Hepner’s release in full, followed by a small excerpt, so there can be no errors of interpretation on my part:

Hepner press release

This raised more than a few eyebrows between Newton residents who just earlier this year, were introduced to the new Community Safety Patrol pilot project staffed by the Commissionaires earlier this year.

In this report to the police committee,  dated April 23rd, 2014 it’s clear tiered policing is being implemented and the OIC Bill Fordy recommended in part, the following:

3· Direct City staff to enter into a contract with the BC Commissionaires to conduct a 36
week Community Safety Patrol pilot project, with 10 Community Safety Patrol Personnel
for 2014;
4· Recommend that Council set the expenditure authorization at $554.40o.oo, excluding
taxes; and
5· Further consider increasing the total number of Community Safety Patrol Personnel to 20 in 2015.

However, decisions must have been made prior to this report to the police committtee, because a full week earlier,a craigslist posting for the job with a start date of April 22nd  even caught the city manager off guard .

Commissionaires after all, are security guards, and in Linda Hepner’s press release, she says using community safety patrols/security guards is dangerous, because they are not trained police officers. I actually happen to agree, and voiced my concerns along with many residents at the time – if you are going to have boots on the ground, let them be well trained to deal with the situations they may encounter.

To say Newton residents were surprised to read Linda’s press release about how dangerous security guards would be, and how it would take resources away from policing ( $554,400.00 in this case alone) after being sold by the city on the effectiveness of the Commissionaires, is an understatement.

Emails and phone calls started flying around, in particular since a local activist David Dalley, had recently began asking Newton residents for solutions to the men hanging around The Grove who had begun harassing women going through – an ongoing issue for months. And one the commissionaires were not able to prevent.

Where are the commissionaires anyways?

Not aware that a Newton resident had already asked this very same question to no response earlier in the evening, I put forth the question again – and the response stunned Newton residents completely:

It didn’t matter that I voiced this same concern she has in her press release earlier this year, it mattered that the question Newton residents are now wondering about, was not something she was prepared to answer.

 She has now called into question the entire pilot project, through her own words.

Where does that leave residents who have been questioning and concerned why these security guards are doing community safety patrols around the city?

After all, “They have no more authority to do anything than you or me, and with just a few weeks of very basic training, Policing is serious business and it needs to be handled by professionals.”

Which is exactly what Newton residents said this spring when the city hired them.

I welcome an explanation- as do the residents and businesses of Newton – on all of this, but I’m not hanging around here waiting for it.

There’s plenty of sunshine to be had outside.

Friday afternoon on a long weekend, do you know where your government is? “Error 404- information or government not found”

We can be seduced…by powerful political groups that promise more wealth and lower taxes. Those with power can use clever, psychological tricks and play upon our weaknesses and brokenness in order to attract us to their way of thinking. We can be manipulated into illusion.”
Jean Vanier, Finding Peace    

prayer stick 1


Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp delegation planting a prayer stick amidst devastation from  Mount Polley spill, that still shows no plans for remediation of the toxic laden sediment in the impact zone


My gosh, it’s the oldest story in the book of politics: Bad news released on Friday afternoon when people are tired of the work week and not paying attention – likely to forget over the weekend – and good news released on a Monday so the governing party can milk it for all the PR worth the entire week…

But admittedly, it always surprises me when they do it yet again. This time, with sediment  results that show arsenic and selenium levels- among others- that are ‘potentially significant’.

“…There were some exceedances. This is to be expected because these materials samples were and are believed to be the material that was spilled out of the tailings impoundment,” B.C. Ministry of Environment regional operations director Jennifer McGuire told reporters in an August 29 conference call.

“Copper and iron were significantly higher than the standards that we have here in B.C.”

Furthermore, the ministry said it discovered “low but potentially significant” levels of arsenic and selenium concentrations within the sediment samples.

The results were collected from inside the tailings impoundment on August 12, and from outside the tailings impoundment on August 12 and 15.

McGuire said these most recent results confirm the need for long-term monitoring throughout the Cariboo region.”

No kidding. In going to the government update website for the Mount Polley situation,, I found several updates, including one that went to an error 404 for a drinking water sample:

sediement new





Now, this isn’t the first time this has happened in a public sample, and it’s understandable that on occasion a typo might happen.. but it seems to have happened often with test results. I looked at the address bar and it shows two ‘ mountpolley’ portions between the forward slash bars. Clicking on the address link as shown gives you an error.

However, not unfamiliar with this kind of obfuscation, I removed one of the ‘mountpolley’ portion and did get to the proper link:

Although the file date is the 29th, the report date is the 27th and show high amounts of aluminum, in fact as per the link above, ‘three magnitudes above the Health Canada drinking water guideline.’

The same error can be found with water quality samples for aquatic life here, as per the main site directory above ”

Again, error 404 due to ‘mountpolley’ being listed twice in the web address.

Remove one and you have this:

Copper and aluminum were above the chronic and/or the acute guidelines( note it doesn’t differentiate between BC guidelines or Health Canada on this one) on all samples.

Getting down to the heart of the matter.

The money shot happens at this link. And note these are listed as “legal sediment quality samples” which for the record ,are different from just regular lab samples because they follow a parameter set out for evidence admissible to court.

Now, anyone who can read, can see that historical levels of contaminants in this area have been exceeded to some level, since testing began in 2010- which is apparently, supposed to make everyone feel good that current levels are not that much higher.

“Elevated levels of seven chemical elements have been found by B.C. government staff in the sediment near a mine tailings spill.

The Ministry of Environment says copper, iron, manganese, arsenic, silver, selenium and vanadium were found in concentrations that exceeded provincial standards during testing near the Mount Polley mine Aug. 12 and Aug. 15.

The early August failure of the mine’s tailings pond released millions of cubic metres of water and silt into local fish-bearing streams.

But the ministry says testing before the spill, at the end of May, also showed the seven chemical elements exceeded the same provincial guidelines.”

Read more:

Is it just me, or did the provincial government just admit to knowing to not only testing the area prior to the failure, but also knowing that the levels of toxic elements exceeded the health guidelines?????

Which leads me to more questions…. did the good people of Likely know about this higher level? Were they advised this by government officials? Did this testing have anything to do with the alleged breaches revealed by a former employee?

The samples of both water and sediment in the impact zone clearly show the government has no idea of the long term impact, and in fact, the current health impact on local residents. Air quality tests were either not done, or not released. The plume in Quesnel Lake is moving, is fluid and will change dependent on wind, rain and other conditions altering dilutions.

And still, with all this info… our government, Imperial Metals and Mount Polley Mining Corporation, are not moving.

Not moving one bit to ensure the future that the people of this area deserve and have worked for.

*** Alexandra Morton has samples that need to be independently analyzed separately from government and is trying to raise the money needed to do that- it’s a very expensive venture, so she has set up a crowd-funding page strictly for this at the following link: