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

 

So about that favour BC is doing the world with clean BC LNG replacing all that ‘dirty coal’….

As we all know, Canadian politicians are over in Paris talking all things climate change. How to reduce emissions, carbon tax, clean energy…etc etc.

All good and fine. Clark has been very clear in her desire to have clean BC LNG save the world from air pollution created by dirty thermal coal used to heat homes, cook and power plants in Asia and elsewhere.

This was her stance in August 2014:

http://lailayuile.com/2014/08/30/the-world-according-to-christy-clark-keep-your-ibuprofen-handy/

This was her stance November 2015:

http://bc.ctvnews.ca/christy-clark-says-b-c-s-lng-plants-will-do-the-world-a-clean-air-favour-1.1541305

Nothing has changed. BC will do the world a clean air favour to kick coal, and get on LNG.

Except this little bit of news came out yesterday,rather ironically since the Premier has been chatting up the world about replacing coal.

Surrey coal terminal gets new green light from port

A revised proposal to build a new coal export terminal on the Fraser River in Surrey has received approval from Port Metro Vancouver.

The port authority on Monday issued an amended project permit to Fraser Surrey Docks that approves the company’s altered plan to load coal directly onto ocean-going ships, rather than first barging coal to a transfer site at Texada Island as originally planned.

The terminal would bring up to four million tonnes per year of U.S. thermal coal by rail through White Rock, South Surrey and Delta, adding one extra coal train per day.

It’s kind of hard to save the world from ‘dirty coal’ with BC LNG… when you are exporting 4 million tonnes of thermal coal,mostly to Asia.

Did anyone mention that in Paris? No? Hmmm.

Will the province be announcing that we will no longer export US thermal coal to Asia in order to back up the claim of doing the world a favour?

Or will the province hope the world doesn’t notice that while we are speaking clean energy out of one side of our mouth, we are heralding the jobs created by exporting ‘dirty’ coal out of the other side?

All you need to do is follow the money….through Surrey Fraser docks, to the ships that will carry the coal to Asia,to the very familiar name that stands to profit immensely from all of it.  

And while you are following that money, follow these $$$ signs too,because if the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal does not stand up under the current challenges, you know exactly where all that coal will be going…. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/vancouver-magnate-bets-on-coal-exports-westshore-terminals/article27522884/

 

 

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/

Look what happens when Canadians unite for a single purpose. Remember this.

I’m feeling a little giddy this morning and I’ll be honest, I feel a bit guilty about that.

So many of my friends who are NDP party members are devastated today, and understandably so. The federal party was decimated last night in the Liberal sweep across Canada and in that unstoppable tide, several great NDP mp’s were lost at sea. For that, I am disappointed.

And as happened after the provincial NDP loss in the last election, the federal party will now have to do some serious reflection about who they are, and why their vision did not resonate with Canadians if they ever intend to be anything but an opposition party.   I would love to see what the NDP could accomplish as the ruling party, but I would say to some, please, try to step out of the partisan box and really listen to why people voted red instead of orange -not all votes were strategic.

Nevertheless I felt a tremendous weight lift off my shoulders with every Conservative MP who lost a seat. By the time media pundits called the election a Liberal victory and Justin Trudeau as our next Prime Minister, I was elated- the Harper era, was over. It is amazing what happens when Canadians rise to the occasion!

Today, I have renewed faith and hope for this country, and that might surprise some of you because I have been very critical of Justin Trudeau over the years,with good reason.

He has made some really interesting comments- one in particular that raised eyebrows was his admiration for the kind of dictatorship China had. He is young, and lacks the experience in many areas I think are critical to a position like Prime Minister and the gravitas. And the federal Liberal party money men and backroom players behind the scenes rarely change – I’ve written much about the connections between the Desmarais family, Power Corporation, the PMO’s office and privy council, through several Prime Ministers. This cannot and should not be discounted. Nor should the fact that Liberal MP’s are still whipped so if push comes to shove, they too have to tow the party line.

But even with these concerns, yesterday I used my vote strategically and with my conscience, to help defeat the Conservative candidate in my riding. I voted Liberal for the first time in my life  for  John Aldag, who I strongly feel will represent our riding well. Our Conservative candidate was so out of touch with the reality of so many young families here, or the issues in our neighbourhood, it was alarming. And despite the NDP running a very qualified and brilliant candidate in Rebecca Smith, it was clear early on she was not connecting in a manner that would give her a win. For me, it was more important to do what I could to help remove Stephen Harper, and it worked.

The rampant fear mongering and racial tactics used in this election by the CPC, were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The CPC candidates tried to divide entire communities with distractions. ISIS in your bedrooms, niqabs bringing down Canada, the hypocrisy of the human rights and feminist advocacy stance Harper and his crew took was gag-worthy. 

All honour and common decency, was lost. 

But when it counted, Canadians rose to the occasion and said NO! to fear and hate and said  yes to change and  hope. Trudeau did run a very positive campaign and in the midst of so much hate and fear ,it was like rain from the sky after a drought. Canadians lapped it up, and for that, I am thankful.

Now is the time for all of us to decompress for a bit, take it all in and see what this new Canada will look like.

There is so much work to be done, and an entirely new government to keep accountable- that much won’t change. And I suspect we won’t know the full extent of the damage for some time as the new government comes in.  But first we need to rebuild relationships with each other within our communities. We need to reach out to each other and keep the conversations going, keep that spirit of hope and change alive and remember what and why we love this country, and each other.

Remember this feeling and carry it with you as carefully as a flame against the darkness.Because this feeling, is the spark that can ignite change on a level rarely seen. We, as Canadians, redefined our nation. 

And Mr. Trudeau, if you happen to read this? Never forget how and why you are about to become the Prime Minister. A leader is only as good as his last decision. Lead with authenticity, with humility in your heart, a vision in your mind and the people at your side.

There are a lot of  little Canadians growing up out there, counting on you.

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“This is not ‘their’ election…it is ours. ‘They’ do not get to choose what this election is about,WE do!” ~ Rick Mercer

I haven’t blogged much about the federal election because quite frankly, unless you are a political nut like so many of us are, the reality is that not many people pay attention until right before they vote… and far more Canadians do not pay attention at all… as evidenced by the number of registered voters who did not even bother to vote…. http://lailayuile.com/2015/08/11/the-only-way-to-change-it-is-to-vote-people-are-responsible-paul-wellstone/

Imagine that! Not even knowing an election is about to happen? Or knowing who is running our country? Think it isn’t possible? Well watch this!! https://www.facebook.com/everythingmtl/videos/1061443130541460/?pnref=story

Wow. I know that might be a reality check for a lot of you, but this IS the reality of many Canadians very absorbed in making ends meet, going to school, picking kids up from daycare, trying to get by on pensions, etc. etc.

But this election has been hijacked by some power-hungry strategists and brokers who have a lot on the line. And you know what? Their issues- while contentious-really have no bearing on the everyday lives of the majority of Canadians. Seriously.
And Rick Mercer gets that. In less time than it takes me to think about a blog post headline, he reminds Canadians what this election is all about.

Over the next week, culminating in an inspiring post on Friday, I’ll have a number of posts on the issues of Election 2015 for you, along with a look at some red herrings and a trip down memory lane of our current governments record.

Please, share your thoughts, criticisms and wisdom as Canadians.

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

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

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

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

It was October 2013 when I took Harper to task for his hypocritical announcement that he was boycotting a gathering in Sri Lanka, because of “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards during and after the civil war.”  http://lailayuile.com/2013/10/08/he-wears-a-mask-and-his-face-grows-to-fit-it-george-orwell

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

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

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

Take for instance, Saudi Arabia, a country with an appalling human rights track record. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/saudi-arabia

In the news today as the UN and Human Rights groups call on Saudi Arabia to halt the beheading and crucifixion of man found guilty of a variety of crimes. http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/23/middleeast/saudi-arabia-ali-al-nimr-execution/  And this is not the first crucifixion to take place by far, nor is it likely to be the last.

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

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/09/17/for-wife-of-imprisoned-saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-its-a-life-of-waiting/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From May 2015http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/head-of-crown-agency-calls-middle-east-strategic-region-for-arms-sales/article24656185/

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

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

From August 2015http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/foreign-affairs-found-no-red-flags-for-israel-in-saudi-arms-sale/article26121923/

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

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

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

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

Also from August 2015http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harper-assured-details-of-saudi-arms-deal-would-stay-under-wraps/article26105853/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I am not the first to question this. Derrick O’Keefe raised the alarm on Harpers hypocrisy  in February 2014 when the deal was first announced: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/massive-canadian-saudi-export-deal-exposes-conservative-hypocrisy

Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country under question that Canada has done deals with. Justin Ling did an excellent piece in Vice back in January 2015 based on the Canadian governments own data.  And the list of http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/data-shows-canada-upping-arms-sales-to-human-rights-abusers-786

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

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

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

~ snip~

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

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

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

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

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

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

This weeks column for 24Hours Vancouver: BC keeps Richmond in the dark on Massey

With all the pet projects, contentious developments and questionable spending happening in cities across Metro Vancouver, it’s a rare day I find myself feeling sympathetic for local mayors and councils.

However, when it comes to how the provincial and federal governments seemingly steamroll local governments with their own projects and, at times, leave them out of the loop on critical issues that impact their communities — they have my full sympathy.

One case in point is the George Massey Tunnel Replacement project. Anyone who has driven that stretch of Highway 99 during morning or afternoon rush hour can attest the congestion is a nightmare and it’s not limited to the highway. Steveston Highway and all feeder routes are clogged as well, as drivers try to save a few minutes and dodge the bulk of the congestion.

It’s a critical issue not only for the city of Richmond and its residents, but for the region as well. So it only makes sense for the province to get it right and work closely with city officials to ensure the best result is achieved. That, however, doesn’t seem to be happening.

Recently, Richmond asked the province, once again, for more details on the project that have yet to be divulged to them, or the public.

City hall is still in the dark when it comes to how the bridge will be funded — whether there will be tolls or not — nor have they received the project definition report.

Why is the city most impacted by the province’s decision to build this bridge being left in the dark? In particular, since Richmond council would like to keep the tunnel — which has many more years of life left — to utilize for another purpose.

Between the Surrey Fraser Docks plan to ship U.S. coal directly from their facility, and the Tilbury Island LNG plant expansion, this project is more about accommodating tankers up the Fraser River than it is alleviating congestion in Richmond and Delta…

READ the rest of this weeks column, and vote on the poll, at this link: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/08/12/bc-keeps-richmond-in-the-dark-on-massey

“The only way to change it, is to vote. People are responsible.” ~ Paul Wellstone

power

Settled deep into the halcyon days of summer, mid-August triggers a sense of urgency for many Canadians regardless of where you live. Every day is a tick of the clock counting down the coveted days of  a northern summer that for many, is all too short.

And while most of us will use every free second of this month to simply relax with friends and family,others are already preparing for winter – cutting and stacking wood,harvesting gardens to freeze,pickle and can everything they can. Even a look into my deep freezer would show you bags of IQF local berries and fruits, and the blackberry harvest is ongoing. When you plan for 6 months of fall and winter, it takes a significant amount of your time and energy.

But in offices and certain homes all across Canada, there is a different sense of urgency developing as political parties move into high gear in the wake of  Prime Minister Harper’s early election call on August 2nd. And while most of my followers will already know this, I also know that there are thousands more Canadians who truly are not aware yet that an election is even happening this year,sad as it is.

This will be one of the longest and most expensive election campaigns in the history of Canadian politics,and every political party would be wise to pace themselves to avoid over-bombarding Canadians, which is likely to increase voter apathy. Indeed voter apathy is perhaps an even bigger threat to the future of this country than Harper when you look at the turnout in recent federal elections.

In 2011, the population of Canada was 31,612,897 million people. Only 24,257,592 were registered to vote and on the electors list.

And of those electors, only 14,823,408 people actually took the time to vote- it works out to 61.1%. A look back at the chart from Elections Canada shows the low voter turnout still is a really big issue.

electionturnout

Now don’t get me wrong – I am firmly in the ‘Harper needs to go’ camp – from the treatment of veterans to silencing of scientists, from his turnabout on the Chinese government to ‘quiet’ meetings with propaganda ministers and now Bill C51 -there is ample reason for pragmatic if not partisan objection to his governments actions and policies.

But when only 60% of people who are registered to vote actually do, it brings a perspective to the campaigns I think is often overlooked in the quest to win. Let me tell you why I feel that way.

I recently posted a link to http://www.votetogether.ca/ to my Facebook page and asked: “If the goal of this election is to defeat the Harper government, would you vote for the candidate in your riding that is most likely to defeat a Conservative, if that candidate was not of the party you are a member of, or support? ”

Surprisingly, for the very few willing to even answer that question, even fewer were honest enough to admit that they would not. So is this about getting rid of Harper, or is this about power?

The premise of the VoteTogether initiative is to vote strategically to oust the Conservatives, and they promote voting for whichever candidate has the best chance of doing so in your riding,regardless of the party they represent.

Now, if all the rhetoric we have heard about Stop Harper were true and meaningful, one would think the federal Liberals and NDP must come to some sort of an agreement to ensure that happens. But no, that’s not happening.

Why? Because while both parties will ultimately resort to some kind of gobbledygook about not being able to support the policies of the other and how they alone are the only viable option to undo the mess the Conservatives have created, it’s really about power.  The intense yearning for power not only at the top but in the backrooms behind the top. Trudeau has nixed an alliance outright while Mulcair says while they are aiming to replace the Conservatives,when the votes go down he will not support a Tory minority.

But why not unite now, to get the job done before the election?

This is something touched on in a column by none other than Martyn Brown, who was lauded and elevated to near celebrity status by those on the left recently,for his columns bashing Christy Clark and her LNG dreams.

But today- not surprisingly -those same people are silent as his recent post heralding Green Party Elizabeth Mays performance in the Macleans debate, strikes a nerve for some and appeals to others.

For me, this is where he gets to the heart of the matter, because I too found May’s debate performance compelling:

May has also proved that her participation stands to change the entire tenor and content of any debate that might take place—and decidedly for the better.

Set aside that, as the only woman in the field, she alone stands to temper her competitors’ macho tussle of ideas and insults with some much-needed gender balance and a unique perspective.

Why the Globe is prepared to discount that imperative is as mystifying as it is glaringly inexcusable.

The larger benefit of May’s involvement is the option for change and democratic representation that her party stands to offer Canadians. It is an option that will be aided by her participation in the debates and that will be unconscionably suppressed if she is excluded.

Whatever the practical challenges may be in translating the Green party’s ideas into action and its often-lofty positions into workable policies, May’s views are important for another less obvious reason.

They remind us all that idealism still matters in politics.

Her positions are grounded in unyielding beliefs and values of what is right and what is wrong. They are often anything but “political” in the typical partisan sense, insofar as they tend to marginalize her own voter support base, as they also transcend party lines and their associated ideologies.

The trouble with being on the cusp of power—as the NDP now is, in lockstep with the Liberals and Conservatives—is that the power game becomes the only thing that really matters.

Ideals get thrown out the window when push comes to shove in the battle to play it safe with positions that always have the polls as their main object of focus.

The last place you want to be, if you want to be the last person left standing, is out on a ledge like May, defending your ideals with an uncompromising commitment to stand fast for right over wrong, come what may.

The parties and their leaders all tend to speak in code to their prospective supporters by saying enough to win them over and by saying nothing that is not open to constructive interpretation in wooing any target audience.

This is the real value of May’s involvement. She is inclined to say exactly what she means, as if it really matters.

And some of what she says speaks directly to voters like me, who long to hear politicians stake their claim in ideals that are more concerned with right and wrong than with the narrow confines of their orthodox ideologies….”

“The power game becomes the only thing that matters…” 

And sadly, this is what I see in the comments of some friends and acquaintances who speak to me now as if I too were the ‘enemy’ simply because I believe Canadians not only have a right to choose who to vote for, but that they deserve to hear what May has to say.

And I voice that. I’m not naïve, but nor am I a party member. I’m a concerned Canadian with no political affiliation,just like hundreds of thousands of other voters. So this matters to me.

I’ve been told that because the Green candidates aren’t ‘whipped’, they have to represent their constituents views regardless of what that is( like that’s a bad thing?)  – from a Liberal supporter.

That Green’s are actually Conservatives and vote Right – from an NDP supporter.

And all the while, the NDP and the Liberals keep telling people why they shouldn’t vote for the other parties, instead of telling people what they can do differently. And supporters of both are mocking the decisions and opinions of those who are undecided but maybe leaning towards their Green candidate?

Gee, do you think that after 3 months of this going on, we have the potential to see more voter apathy than ever? That the undecided, non-party member voters who don’t spend every moment following politics or even the news for that matter, will just say: “Forget it!” yet again and lead us to another Harper government? Perhaps – only time will tell.

Call me crazy, but telling someone their vote is wrong, that their opinion is stupid or doesn’t matter, might not be the best way to get people to vote. Something for those ‘influencers’ out there on social media to think about, if not the party brass.

I very much enjoy the diversity of opinions and thoughts of all my partisan friends whether I agree or not, but partisanship alone isn’t the problem. It’s the inability or the unwillingness to look beyond the confines of that partisan view to a bigger picture.  Please, when engaging potential voters, think about what your goal is for Canada- and not just your party. An increase in voter turnout is good for all of us.

Indeed,apathy is the biggest threat to democracy  and the Conservatives know this well…Don’t unwittingly feed the beast that allows them to get re-elected, in your zeal to unseat them.

“The job facing voters… in the days and years to come is to determine which hearts, minds and souls command those qualities best suited to unify a country rather than further divide it, to heal the wounds of a nation as opposed to aggravate its injuries, and to secure for the next generation a legacy of choices based on informed awareness rather than one of reactions based on unknowing fear.” ~ Abherjhani

Aberjhani,