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:


“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


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.


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


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.







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

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

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

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

I loved our road.

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

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


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

And then I picked it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And do you really want to take that chance?

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

This weeks new column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Mayors can’t afford to ignore housing

Recently, I  shared with you the news of my move from the Duel and why I made that decision-I’m thrilled at the overwhelming support from all of you in this new venture.

Today, I’m happy to bring you my first column as the new civic affairs columnist for 24Hrs Vancouver! Every week, the column will be up online by Wednesday evening and in the paper Thursday morning. I’ll continue to post the links here as well for those who don’t get the paper or follow on social media. And as I promised, I will continue blogging provincial and federal stories here, along with my usual thoughts and photos.

A heaping dose of irony filled me as I contemplated my first civic affairs column because well-known real estate marketer Bob Rennie was on the radio telling young Vancouverites to forget ever owning a single-family home in the city.

True enough, but then Rennie — who’s earned the moniker Condo King for a good reason — went on to say the only solution to affordable home ownership in Vancouver was high-density projects. Lots of them. And fast enough to drive down prices.

Did I mention he markets condos?

It’s not just Vancouver feeling the crunch — last week I read a story of an elderly couple in Burnaby whose apartment building is slated for demolition to make way for more condos. It’s a story being repeated all over Metro Vancouver as investors look to snap up current stock, or demolish and rebuild with little regard to what kind of housing is actually needed…

Read the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/05/20/mayors-cant-afford-to-ignore-housing



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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

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


READ the rest of this weeks column, vote and or comment at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/12/07/schools-need-ethical-investments

“Civil society depends on all of us deciding we’re all going to abide by the same laws.” ~ Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark is in the limelight again, after a recent interview with Mike Smyth where she decried the parents who allowed their children to cross the Kinder Morgan pipeline during the protests- you can hear Mike speaking about this interview with Jon McComb here: https://soundcloud.com/cknwnewstalk980/the-jon-mccomb-show-december-2-christy-clark-gives-parenting-advice

Here is Mike’s Province story today: http://www.theprovince.com/life/Smyth+Premier+Clark+slams+parents+Kinder+Morgan+child+protesters/10431555/story.html

“They’re 11 years old, for heaven’s sakes,” Clark railed in an interview. “Teaching your kids that it’s OK for them to break the law when they’re 11 years old isn’t OK. I think we all as parents would ask ourselves, ‘What kind of message are we sending to our kids?’”


I think most of us would say, ‘If my child broke the law, purposefully or not, there would be some punishment for that’ — whether or not I thought they were doing it for a greater cause.

“Civil society depends on all of us deciding we’re all going to abide by the same laws.”

In both links, Mike mentions the incident last year when she ran a stale red light, with her son…and a reporter in the car : http://lailayuile.com/2013/04/27/i-guess-the-message-from-our-premier-is-its-ok-to-do-it-as-long-as-you-dont-get-caught/

“At times, the two seem more like sidekicks — siblings even — than they do  mother and son. And especially so the morning when the two were on their way to  Hamish’s goalie clinic.

“Let’s see you go through this red light,” Hamish challenged as they pulled  up that morning, at 5:15 a.m., to an abandoned Vancouver intersection.

“I might. Don’t test me,” Clark replies.

“Yeah. Go ahead.”

“Should I?”

“There’s no one.”

“Would you go through? You shouldn’t because that would be breaking the law,”  she says.

And with that the car has already sailed underneath the stale red stoplight  and through the empty intersection.

“You always do that,” says Hamish.


After receiving harsh criticism for that well-publicized moment-former reporter Jonathan Fowlie was in the car at the time – the premier eventually apologized. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/christy-clark-admits-she-shouldn-t-have-run-red-light-1.1338794 

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark is apologizing after running a red light with her son and a newspaper reporter in the car.

According to an article published in the Vancouver Sun, Clark ran the light while driving her 11-year-old son to a hockey practice at 5:30 a.m. PT.

The reporter who was in the car quotes her son encouraging his mom to run the light.

Clark apologized Sunday after the article was published.

“I shouldn’t have done it, and I certainly shouldn’t have done it with my son in the car,” she said. “But you know, I work hard to be a great parent, and I’m not a perfect parent.”

The article also quotes Clark’s son saying she “always does that,” but Clark says that’s simply not true.

This is a tough one for many – peaceful protest and civil disobedience has been an essential part of democracy and throughout history has been instrumental for important changes like a woman’s right to vote, and the civil rights movement. I fully support peaceful protest and civil disobedience has resulted in positive changes to forest policy here in our own province, thanks to the War in the Woods. ( Interesting note: those protests began in response to the decision to allow clear-cut old growth logging by the NDP government of the time)

But I digress: There are two separate issues here.

First, the issue of  parents allowing or encouraging their children to break the law: in making the decision to cross the Kinder Morgan protest line, my hope would be parents would have had long discussions on this background and what the implications would be across the board. Some children at 11 may fully understand this, and many may not. That decision should be each parents judgement call and consideration, in full awareness of the consequences. While these events ended without harm or repercussions, that may not be the case in every protest or event.

While the premier can express her personal opinion on parents allowing their children to protest, that is all it is- her opinion. The motive for doing so would appear to be a vast difference from the motive for running a red light at the urging of your son, with a reporter in the car. To many that action exemplified willful disregard for the law in spirit and motive, regardless of the difference in penalty or how minor the infraction. Both are parenting issues.

However,a second and separate issue for me is this statement made by the premier in that same interview: “Civil society depends on all of us deciding we’re all going to abide by the same laws.”

I agree. A civil and just society does depend on the majority of society  respecting and upholding the word of the law. In occasions where the law is unjust or the cause is worthy, then society must undertake to make change and often civil disobedience is the chosen and effective path to longstanding change, as demonstrated in the historical examples given above.

For the premier though, it’s a bit rich to opine on society abiding by the same laws while her government – and persons connected to the Liberal party itself –  have undergone RCMP investigations, scrutiny and in two cases, charges.    And while the RCMP found nothing criminal took place in the case of Speaker of the House Linda Reids extraordinary expenses, the RCMP and the Ontario Police have remained silent on what their review of the RCMP ruling found. Why? ( I see no more recent news on this issue)


Her statement opens the door for other discussions about right and wrong, about the ethics and morals society largely operates by- and which government must as well. Because of this, her statement also opens the door to the manner in which her own government has conducted business which without a doubt, often laughs in the face of abiding by laws, or rules. In fact, there are many examples  where circumventing the rules appears to have become the new government past-time.

The Province editorial board recently commended the NDP for calling for Advanced Education Ministers resignation after the embarrassing revelations of his direct involvement in improper payments to which he allegedly covered up.

Premier Clarks response? She commended his excellent work,accepted his apology for his involvement, which took place when he was an RCMP officer and before he was elected!

Let’s not forget the horrific aftermath of the Health ministry firings that ruined many lives, and may have driven one man to commit suicide: 

“In the two years since the Ministry of Health fired eight workers amid allegations of breach of privacy and conflict of interest involving personal health records, the province has steadily retreated. Most of the workers have been reinstated or have settled claims for wrongful dismissal, and pharmaceutical research contracts have been restored. The government acknowledges it found no evidence that any medical data were accessed or used for purposes other than health research. The Premier has already said she expects the review will show her government was heavy-handed and unfair to many of the people involved.

But the government hasn’t explained why it went after those workers. Labour lawyer Marcia McNeil’s report was expected to shed some light on the scandal, which led one of the fired researchers, Roderick MacIsaac, to suicide. The coroner’s report noted he had experienced significant personal stress over his dismissal and its impact on his academic future, chronicled in a document found on his home computer.”

Both the government and premier Clark have come under fire by a senior official who said the probe into this debacle ” is tainted by conflict and crafted to protect the Premier’s office from judgment.”

Despite the continuing questions on the NDP’s identity crisis and recent support of flawed Liberal legislation, Opposition leader John Horgan brought all these points home in a feature printed online today: http://thelinkpaper.ca/?p=42661

I could go on, there are many more examples as the Liberals have endured many scandals,probes and investigations.( Feel free to add your own example in the comments below, but they must be supported with media reports and links, not simply conjecture.)

Indeed it’s true Premier Clark, that civil society depends on society deciding to abide by the laws, rules and ethics that govern us all – and that includes you. Politicians who live in glass houses, should never be quick to pick up stones.

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: BC NDP wrong to back bad LNG bill.

This week`s topic: Is the NDP’s support of the BC Liberal’s LNG Tax Legislation good for B.C.?

If our readers could listen into the weekly calls Brent and I schedule to decide on a Duel topic, they’d get an earful. Brent is as strongly committed to his opinions and perspective as I am and if there is compromise, it’s based on supported facts, not concerns over how the public will perceive us.

That’s why when he suggested this week’s question, I jumped at the chance immediately. I’d just started reading the Hansard transcripts from last week, specifically the speech given by BC NDP Leader John Horgan on LNG prospects in this province and this bill. Horgan spoke passionately and eloquently to the many flaws in this legislation and how it failed to address the concerns of both opposition members who earlier spoke against it, and the public. It’s clear he understands the issues.

However, this portion of his speech left me stunned: “These are fundamental questions that are skirted by this government’s desire to say that the NDP is against everything. Well, you won’t be able to say that with Bill 6, because we’re going to stand side by side with you and vote in favour of it. As deficient as it may be, it does provide us with an opportunity to reduce some of the uncertainty that has been rampant on this file.”

Ultimately, every NDP member in the house voted in favour. The NDP decried the Liberals for not putting politics aside and putting British Columbians first, yet they are guilty of playing the same kind of politics by refusing to support Green MLA Andrew Weaver`s amendment to send this bill to a select standing committee. This would have allowed an opportunity to get some answers to the many unanswered questions.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

This government promised a tax rate of up to 7%, then pandered it down to 3.5% under corporate pressure…

READ the rest of this week’s column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/11/30/bc-ndp-wrong-to-back-bad-lng-bill