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.


“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.

Site C to be debated in BC Legislature today (Sept.30th),rally against the project to be held outside.

When it comes to Site C, I’ve written about it off and on for five years on this blog and have covered several columns on it while debating Brent Stafford in my Duel column for 24Hours Vancouver.

It’s a project that definitely has an emotional angle because it involves the loss of homes, of livelihoods, of generation of history and fertile grounds used for hunting,fishing and agriculture.

It’s also a project that has very questionable financial and political angles, because unlike other projects, the current BC government exempted Site C from the usual regulatory review by the BC Utilities Commission under the Clean Energy Act. Nor has it undergone a review by the ALR Commssion.

People have often asked what the BC Utilities Commission is  and why this matters, so I’ll share this from their site: http://www.bcuc.com/CorpProfile.aspx

Our Mission:

The Commission’s mission is to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and nondiscriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates, and that shareholders of those utilities are afforded a reasonable opportunity to earn a fair return on their invested capital.


The Commission also reviews energy-related matters referred to it by Cabinet. These inquiries usually involve public hearings, followed by a report and recommendations to Cabinet.

In the case of Site C, British Columbians who pay dearly already on their hydro bills, will not have that assurance that the project is appropriate or how it will impact ratepayers in the province. Long story short, we could all potentially see our hydro rates go up,a fertile lush valley flooded and one of BC’s heritage rivers changed even more than it has already by the other dams.

The Union of BC Municipalities, ( UBCM) recently passed a resolution at their annual meeting,calling on the province and BC Hydro to stand down on the construction work already underway on Site C, to allow a review by the BC Utilities Commission and the ALR Commission.

BC Hydro has claimed any delay will cost taxpayers $500 million dollars.But I said, and still say, that not building it at all, will save us more than $8 billion dollars. 

Why won’t the premier, who speaks often of fiscal restraint, of the need to be careful with taxpayers money (cough cough), give British Columbians the chance to see if the BC Utilities Commission would approve a project they have already turned down once?

Minister of Energy and Mines ‘Kootenay’ Bill Bennett summed it best perhaps in a news report once: 


Yes that pesky little thing called regulation. So of course this project was exempted.

If you haven’t been to the Peace River region, let me put a face to it for you.

Meet some of the landowners and residents whose lives and lands will be affected by Site C. Some of them, will see their homes destroyed. Look at their photos, read their stories and ask why they too, will not see due process.


These people are preparing for winter right now, in an area that is rich in agriculture and able to grow even watermelons!

Site C crews have now already cleared an island in the river. Work camps are being planned. This isn’t getting the coverage it should and it matters because it is not only the provincial government that can expropriate your land and livelihood,it happens down here on the coast too. 

The issue of Site C will be debated in the Legislature tomorrow and a rally will be held outside – if you can attend, you might consider giving your support. I would be there if I could. The BC government and BC Hydro need to call an immediate halt,regardless of the short term cost. When it comes to a project like this,government needs to ensure they aren’t making a big mistake-right now, we really don’t know to be honest. But why would anyone want to take that chance?

Let the BCUC and the ALC do their jobs and review this project.

Details at the following link:


**This is also, very much an issue for Election 2015. Why did the federal government ministers invoke cabinet privilege,to keep the reasons for supporting Site C, secret? An alarming read from late August,when few were paying attention.


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.







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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://globalnews.ca/news/2092023/fires-raging-across-b-c-as-concern-for-the-summer-deepens/

Our forests, our lives

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


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

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

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

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

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Wildfire prevention and mitigation

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

For more than a decade, the location and methods used to build forest communities was a massive concern- ” How BC was built to burn” ran in the Tyee in 2004, identifying major issues and safety concerns of many BC communities like Barriere and Whistler. http://thetyee.ca/News/2004/04/30/How_BC_Was_Built_to_Burn/

Of great interest in this article, is the Filmon Firestorm Report of 2003. I’ve linked to it separately here, because the link in the Tyee article is no longer working. http://bcwildfire.ca/History/ReportsandReviews/2003/FirestormReport.pdf


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

His final thoughts included the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s happened since the report was issued? 

Despite this report, concerns were raised yet again in 2011 on what it would take to keep BC forest communities safe. http://www.policynote.ca/on-the-forest-fire-front-line-one-ecologists-take-on-what-it-will-take-to-safeguard-communities/

And sadly, just last week Robert Gray revealed a startling fact in this Times Columnist column: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/columnists/robert-w-gray-wildfires-cost-far-more-than-we-think-1.1988299

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

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

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

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

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


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

In April of 2014, a full decade after the Filmon report was commissioned, Glen Sanders- a former firefighter and fire chief, took a look at the lessons learned- or not- by government and found the results lacking. http://www.abcfp.ca/publications_forms/documents/BCFORPRO-2014-2_Sanders.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

* For up-to date positions and details of reported wild fires in British Columbia, see this link: http://bcwildfire.ca/situation/

* Air quality reports/advisories can be found here: http://www.bcairquality.ca/index.html

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

The Mars Bombers will be back in service as early as Thursday.  http://www.albernivalleynews.com/news/311789601.html

And further to this, the contract will be under and existing helicopter contract with Coulson. http://www.albernivalleynews.com/news/311838091.html

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Why I am (still) voting No in the Transit tax vote


From the very beginning, the entire Transit tax referendum turned non-binding plebiscite, has been a stunning example of the inadequate leadership and poor governance we find ourselves under as a province.

Worse yet perhaps, is how the mayors plan is being promoted as a complete cure-all for the congestion that clogs our streets and highways as it does nearly every other single major metropolitan area in North America – even those with better transit than what we currently have.

I live in Surrey close to two major arteries and still can’t get home by transit after 9 pm without having it involve a costly cab ride, or a scary 10 block walk in the dark.Weekends are even more difficult and I know I’m not alone in thinking how badly public transit is lacking in many areas south of the Fraser river.

This confuses people trying to figure out why I feel so strongly about voting NO in the upcoming vote. I take transit, I understand it’s failings but because a vehicle is also a must, I also understand how frustrating it is to sit in gridlock.

Traffic jams are a very big issue in most cities in Metro Vancouver regardless of where you are driving. They cost us time, money and raise our stress levels. I strongly support better transit, but I also strongly believe that this tax is wrong, and that the arguments of better transit being the cure-all for what ails the Metro Vancouver region are disingenuous at best. These are the reasons why.

1. First and foremost, a sales tax increase is a punitive, regressive form of taxation.  

It doesn’t matter who you are, or how much you make – you will be paying this tax. Senior on a limited income? You are going to pay this. On disability? Get ready to fork over some more cash. Are you one of the working poor, a single parent, or perhaps on assistance? You are going to pay the same sales tax on your goods as Chip Wilson.

Ironically, many of the same people who opposed the HST because it was a punitive tax, are now advocating for this increase justified I am told- because transit is a worthy cause – and it is. I just don’t think this is the way to fund it.

Readers here have been very vocal in recent months about the impact rising prices on food and household goods have had on their budgets- to the point that the reduction of a 50% discount on food about to expire was a big issue. 

There are better ways to fund transit expansion,along with providing revenue for other government needs – it’s called progressive tax reform.

Why aren’t these items being considered by our mayors and provincial government? Where was the mayors discussion on having developers and property owners along mayor transit routes and expansion,help fund the projects since they will benefit the most? 

Visionary isn’t a non-binding plebiscite pushing a punitive tax.

Visionary is saying “We’ve already taken more than many people can afford- let’s find another way.”


2. In the end, there are absolutely no guarantees to anything but paying more sales tax- if the province honours the results of a YES majority. 

This is yet another elephant in the room when it comes to the Transit tax vote that YES supporters never have an answer to, when I ask them why I should suddenly start trusting this government after everything I’ve seen,read and/or written about. Some refer to the Liberal tenure as the ‘decade of deceit’, with good reason.

In fact, this was a very big point in the No-HST campaign that the supporters of this new proposed tax once trotted out at every opportunity! (inconvenient truth as that may be now)

What’s suddenly changed with the Clark government? Mt. Polley? The health ministry firings? LNG prosperity funds and a gazillion jobs by 2030, no wait… 2060… or is that the year 2100 by now? ( Humour me, I honestly can’t keep track of the claims tossed out there as often as tissues during flu season…)

You get the point. This is not a government that has shown or earned much trust.

Adding fuel to this mistrust are the changes in the ballot that removed some of the specifics of individual projects that will benefit from this “Congestion Improvement Tax”

– you can read all about that here, in this piece from The Vancouver Sun:



Heading: The new ballot calls it a “Metro Vancouver transportation and transit plebiscite,” not a “transportation and transit referendum.” This stipulates the tax only applies to Metro Vancouver. Meanwhile, a plebiscite, which is non-binding, is being held because the vote is being conducted by the South Coast British Columbian Transportation Authority Act, which governs TransLink, and not the Referendum Act.

Wording: The main wording is tightened up to remove the rationale for the plebiscite. For instance, the ballot removes the line that states “one million more people will live and work in Metro Vancouver by 2040” and that the plan is needed to reduce congestion on roads and bridges.

Projects: Clarifies the overall plan with more succinct wording. The new ballot takes out references to “11 new B-Line rapid bus routes” for a more generic statement that the funding “will add bus service and new B-Line rapid bus routes.” It also states new “rapid transit” for Surrey and Vancouver rather than citing a subway and light rail.

Explanation: The new ballot is clearer than the original in stipulating the tax will be called a Metro Vancouver congestion improvement tax and dedicated to the majority of goods and services in the region.

Ballot question: The approved question does not include the line “with independent audits and public reporting.”

Hmm. Why all the changes?

Why does the ballot not include independent audits and public reporting?

Why so vague on the specifics of the projects?

Again, no answers from the Yes supporters other than: “There is no Plan B, so hold your nose and vote YES!” Many yes supporters agree with me on all these points,admit it’s a lot of concern,but feel this time, the government can’t ignore the people.

( We haven’t even gotten into the fact that this tax increase doesn’t fund the entire cost of any of these projects, and neither the provincial or federal government has committed to dedicating those funds… but trust us they say.  Trust us…)

I look at this ballot and I shake my head. Non-binding. No guarantee’s on anything and government commits to nothing in it. You vote yes and your vote says you agree a sales tax increase should go to fund transit improvements, or you vote no.

It’s basically a very costly opinion poll, and nothing more.  If the province wanted to show good faith, it would be a binding referendum. It’s not.

3. There is no Plan B

Houston, we have a problem.

The same people who residents in Metro Vancouver elected to govern, to make hard decisions, to…lead… have no plan B. Nothing. Nada, except for Surrey mayor Linda Hepner who already said  her LRT plan is happening no matter what the vote is. ( election promise,so take that with a grain of salt)
Granted this provincial government is about as easy to work with as a porcupine in heat but regardless, what are these mayors being paid to do?

Mayors just elected have nearly 4 years to govern.Each of them needs to look at what residents in their communities need… and perhaps.. how it is that city planning has contributed to the current situation. In Surrey, poor planning has resulted in bedroom communities where a car is a must. Many of them. Some out in the middle of nowhere where it’s not feasible to run even community shuttles.

I’ve been doing a bit of research and there is a lot the mayors of our cities could do to relieve congestion… if they have the will to ruffle some feathers and do so.

In fact, this article I located has a wealth of ideas cities should have considered in planning their neighbourhoods. https://nowtoronto.com/news/transportation/on-the-buses/

From dedicated bus lanes, to no parking zones during transit peak times to enforcement actions, much of gridlock begins and ends with our municipal leaders and how they plan and run our cities. They could be increasing Development Cost Charges or adding a new or bigger transit levy to the current charges- developers wanting to build high density will benefit from a bus route. ( an unpopular suggestion I am told, because developers tend to give good donations in civic elections…)

I can assure you this. In the private sector no plan B, means no second chance. The mayors of Metro Vancouver would do well to remember this when digging into our pockets again and again.

4. Research shows in other cities and countries, that improved transit alone doesn’t cut congestion without road pricing.

As with most things you must sign your name to, the devil is in the details.

YES side proponents in social media and in forums have been telling people that better transit will cut congestion.

In fact some have been telling me that if a No vote prevails, transit will be set back twenty years, making it sound like a No vote will instantly transform the Canada Line into an Amish wagon train form of transport! Guess what? That isn’t going to happen. Nor will the new  proposed Surrey LRT or Arbutus subway  Line stop traffic jams anywhere in the region.Why?

Because regardless of how amazing these projects are, research shows that improved transit isn’t enough to reduce congestion. And even the mayors acknowledge this in their own plan:


No kidding. Why isn’t the yes side talking about this?A comprehensive road pricing strategy is a part of their plan. You vote Yes now, and the mayors still plan on introducing user pay roads ( tolls for distance traveled) 5 years or so down the line.

I mean, all one has to do is use ‘the Google’ to search ” Does transit reduce traffic congestion?” to determine in most cases, it doesn’t – not on its own.

Look at Singapore-even with exceptional transit, it was only the hefty road pricing that moved drivers to transit.http://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/roads-and-motoring/managing-traffic-and-congestion/electronic-road-pricing-erp.html

This is why the mayors plan details that if a YES vote prevails, they will introduce road pricing down the road. It takes time to implement that… and there will be considerable backlash.

There is a significant and credible amount of research showing that transit improvements alone do little to ease congestion, but that paired with road pricing as a dis-incentive to drivers, it will have an impact.

What is road pricing?Alternatively known as congestion pricing, it’s how cities outside of Europe where the lifestyle is vastly different from North America, deal with congestion.

As the Georgia Straight published last year, I suspect as a way of easing drivers into the idea:

” …road pricing. It’s necessary. It’s contentious. And it’s coming to Vancouver.

As a congestion-reducing/transit-promoting strategy, it comes in myriad guises. In California, for example, the strategy appears as transponder-linked high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in L.A. and San Diego. Rates posted roadside for HOT–lane occupancy constantly change with time and traffic volumes. In San Francisco, road pricing means a soon-to-be-instituted $3 road-usage charge for all drivers entering that city’s cordoned downtown core. In Hong Kong, in Dallas, in Rio, in Rome, and in scores of other jurisdictions: if you use roads, you pay.”

In fact, the first place you would have seen road pricing is between the Port Mann Bridge and Vancouver.. that is, until the people said enough and refused to take that bridge. I suspect it will still be the first line of attack, along with Hwy 99 and the SFPR, aka the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

It’s acknowledged far and wide as a crucial part of reducing congestion, so why aren’t the mayors, provincial government and the YES campaign talking about this more before the vote? Because in my opinion, it negates the often used line that transit improvements will improve congestion. This isn’t an anti-congestion tax.

Ask your mayor about this one before you vote.

5. I’ve had enough of the premier and our mayors playing with people’s lives… and livelihoods.

Forgive me for living in a dream world, but I really do believe elected officials must put the needs of their community before anything else. Regardless of whether it is a city,a provincial riding or our province, those with power hold immense influence in decision making, and policy direction.

How many of those deemed to make these decisions, take transit? How many understand how hard it is to drop kids off at daycare, go to work, come home, pick up kids and get something for dinner… on transit? Anyone going to soccer practice on transit?

You just can’t do it easily outside of Vancouver. Its nearly impossible in Surrey or Langley. Frankly I’m very tired of people who live,work and play in Vancouver telling me how this plan will benefit me, when they haven’t even been out to this part of Surrey! There is a complete disconnect. One fellow I know recently took a planning bus tour in Surrey and was shocked to discover how much sprawl planning has occurred.

Please, don’t tell me how good this plan is going to be for all of us, unless you will come out here and find out what it’s like here first. If you’ve never been to Surrey,I don’t even want to talk to you!

This is just part of what is so disingenuous about this cut congestion tax.

Transit alone will not cut congestion. And those promoting the YES side know this.

Did the Canada Line cut traffic congestion into Richmond or Vancouver? No. There are still backups over the bridges back and forth.

Did a new express bus down King George in Surrey magically reduce the gridlock? No. In fact the bus gets stuck in traffic too.

They make it seem like a vote yes is a guarantee you won’t wait in traffic as long as you did before… 20% less reduction is the number on their website – a stretch if you ask me and a bait and switch tactic much like the Liberals have used in BC before.

Coming from politicians and politico’s,many who only take transit when a camera crew is involved, it’s a bit rich.

In closing...

I can’t tell you which side to vote for, but I can tell you how I am voting, and why. I tend to ask a lot of questions and those questions always lead to more questions that really get some people upset. But that’s how I work.

I can’t even in good conscience, advocate a yes vote with so many unknowns, so many questions and with so many changes the provincial government has made to this ballot. Everything in my gut tells me this is all wrong,in particular with the amount of fear-mongering occurring on social media from those working for or endorsing the yes side. It’s beginning to reach unprecedented desperation levels and there is a long time to go still.

I encourage every Metro Vancouver reader this tax increase would impact, to do your own research, ask questions of your elected officials and feel free to share the responses here with my readers.

Because in the words of the Dalai Lama:  “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”  Taxpayers in Metro Vancouver deserve better than what’s being served up by those with vested interests.