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

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, LNGindustry/fracking, The China Connection, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Who’s the scrooge at Real Canadian Superstore?

With the cost of groceries continually rising, and the number of families and singles feeling the pinch because the income doesn’t magically rise accordingly, shopping at places like Real Canadian Superstore is par the course for nearly everyone these days.

Even with weekly sale items and lower prices, I’ve still really noticed an increase in the number of people buying about to expire items that have always been priced with a bright neon pink 50% off stickers. Both the Superstore on King George Highway and on Scott Rd. in Delta use them for non-meat items usually dated to expire that day, or within a couple days.

However as I was waiting for some luncheon meat at the deli counter in the Scott Road location this evening, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a senior couple shopping nearby. They were looking through all the deli salad items with pink stickers, but couldn’t find any that said 50% off – they all said 30% off instead and that made a big difference in their buying ability. It was a big issue for them clearly as they discussed how much money they had.

So I started looking around and sure enough every food item in the discount bins, or about to expire, was no longer 50% off, but 30% off -Not a 50% sticker to be had, anywhere.

While paying at the till, I asked the cashier about it and she nodded her head and shared with me quietly that indeed, the 50% stickers were no more and everyone was talking about it.
She also said store employees predict the amount of product about to be wasted is going to go up and this new change was just recently implemented within the last two weeks. People buy it at 50% off, but not at 30%, it makes that much of a difference to them. So the store is willing to take that chance and maybe toss product,than leave it at the 50% off mark and offload it to someone who likely really relies on it.

What I don’t know yet – I’ve sent off an inquiry – is if this is a chain decision, or just these stores – if you’ve noticed the same change in your local Superstore, I would like to hear about it!

Now, this may not seem like a big deal to the average reader, but I know for a fact that a lot of low income seniors,singles and families seek out those pink sticker items to make ends meet. If they could buy something fresher, or more expensive, they clearly would.Those stickers can make the difference between having cheese and not having cheese, or bread or whatever.  I have seen people with entire baskets full of 50% off discounted items.

It’s sad enough that there are so many people hurting that relying on discounted items is a necessity, but it’s even sadder that a company that has been busy making strategic acquisitions in order to increase profits and dividends feels the need to target discount items in order to improve their bottom line. Sure it’s their right, but seriously?

Now those seniors I mentioned in the beginning? I watched and they didn’t end up getting any of the items because for them, there is clearly a big difference between 30% off and 50% off. On a limited income, every single cent counts. And to make this change just weeks before Christmas is a move even the Scrooge would think twice about.

Real Canadian Superstore gets two thumbs down for a scrooge move hitting those with the least to spend, right as the holidays hit. It’s no wonder the lines at the food banks are so long.

Posted in Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , | 83 Comments

Christy Clarks Supernatural BC Gas Giveaway

In the true spirit of giving, the Clark government gives Petronas and other corporate giants the holiday gift every gas producer wants.

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Laila Yuile, LNG/fracking, The China Connection, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

“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?’”

~snip~

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)

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/RCMP+review+Speaker+expenses/10417306/story.html

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.

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Enbridge, forestry, Laila Yuile, The China Connection, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, The China Connection, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Winter weather on the coast makes for stunning moments in nature

Although I was born and raised in the northern interior, most of my adult life has been spent here on the coast where the mountains meet the sea. Surprisingly though,I’ve never adjusted to the inherent dampness of our coastal winter weather! It’s so different from the dry cold the rest of B.C. experiences and as many will agree, chills you to the bone.

That’s why I really love these cold snaps! The air is dryer, the sky is clear and the scenery from dawn to dusk is simply breathtaking. Even the light is different at this time of year: the angle of the sun hanging low in the sky casts a warm tone during the day, changing to a soft yet brilliant indigo-fuchsia-pink at dusk that most artists would find hard to replicate.

Toss in a skiff of snow and it’s nature’s eraser at it’s best.Dowdy brown,muddy fields become architectural rows of symmetry, puddles transform into crystalline sheets of fun,and for a while at least, everything is fresh, clean and new.

And when that happens- as much as I miss my hometown- there is no better place to be than right here, right now. Photos all taken in Ladner and Surrey.

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**** While this cold,clear weather is beautiful to enjoy, the sad reality is that it can be deadly for the homeless in our communities all over the province.

Most shelters and outreach organizations will take and greatly appreciate donations of blankets,new and gently used winter clothing, boots, etc for distribution to those facing the hardest challenges on the street.

If you are aware of homeless in your neighbourhood, reach out and direct them to emergency shelter locations. Here is a list you can work from:  http://www.bchousing.org/Options/Emergency_Housing/EXR

Posted in Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speaking of highways…

While many  who regularly travel interior and northern routes in the provinces are more than likely up to speed on the new rules governing the use of winter tires, I’m finding a lot of people in the lower mainland have either forgotten or aren’t aware at all.

As of October 1st, certain routes in BC now require winter tires and/or chains - it used to be only higher elevation routes but the expanded coverage can impact your travel. You can be turned back, or face a fine up to $120. http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=CD10049B873841338165AF1E988C4B3F

This impacts travel locally and on the island for those travelling to Squamish/Whistler, past Hope and many highways on Vancouver Island.

You can  find the maps of what routes are covered at this link: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=45404ACEC6B943F1B260D73072105E20

Hopefully motorists won’t get fined immediately if they aren’t aware, but the need for an additional set of tires can be a costly investment for pensioners and those without resources to spare. And as a friend on the island points out, some of the routes are questionable as to the need for them. ( Sooke- Renfrew)

Safe travels as snow is potentially forecast locally here for the weekend. :)

 

 

Posted in Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Sea to Sky retaining wall questions continue as ministry employee emails indicate Kiewit inspected their own work.

With ongoing rainstorms and occasional flooding that has hit many areas on the north shore recently, water drainage and erosion is a concern to many. This of course jogged my memory to look for an update on a story I broke earlier this year.

On April 30th, I posted a story with photos that illustrated  many visible concerns  and defects of several retaining walls along the Sea to Sky Highway in West Vancouver/Lions Bay area.

Among them, bulging walls, block movement, blocked drains and more. Before you continue, I suggest a quick look back to get yourself up to speed on this, or refresh your memory:  http://lailayuile.com/2014/04/30/troubling-photos-spark-ministry-of-transportation-inspections-of-sea-to-sky-retaining-walls-creating-new-concerns-over-kiewit-construction/

The ministries response at that time to the defects identified in the photos was they had done their own inspection,the issue was cosmetic and did not affect the structural integrity of the walls.

However, further photos taken more recently continued to show outward bulges in the walls-something recognized by both government and industry as a potential indicator of stress  or deterioration that should be assessed and monitored.

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As mentioned above,in May of this year ministry officials stated that they had inspected the walls following receipt of the photos.

However,email correspondence from a Ministry of Transportation operations manager in September of this year,indicated it was actually highway builder Kiewit, that had inspected and reviewed the walls:

“I am out of town at the moment but wanted to give you a quick update.  We just received some information from Peter Keiwett regarding the walls in Horseshoe Bay.

Their investigation and review did not note any changes or concerns with the walls.

We are reviewing what was submitted.” 

I contacted the operations manager in question, “to confirm whether or not MOTH( ministry of transportation and highways) had reviewed the Kiewit inspections of the MSE( mechanically stabilized earth) retaining walls on the Sea to Sky, and what the findings were.
Has the ministry done their own inspection since the photos were taken?”

His response:

Thank you for getting in touch with me on the status of the retaining walls built as part of the Sea to Sky project.  To answer your question, Yes our team have reviewed the correspondence/documentation and walls along the Upper Levels.

 I’ll also note that the walls underwent an inspection in 2013 and another routine inspection is planned for 2018, as per the Ministry’s standard frequency of every five years for this type of structure.  There were no significant structural issues identified during the inspections.”

 

The operations manager has not responded to further questions clarifying the statement that ” no ‘significant’ structural issues” were identified, which seems to indicate that structural issues may have been identified but not considered to be significant in nature.

To summarize, the province initially stated the defects were all cosmetic in May. The September email from the operation manager stated Kiewit’s inspection found no changes or concerns, and now the response from that same operations manager states no ‘significant’ structural issues.

The multi-million dollar question remains: what exactly is the problem with these bulging and out of plumb retaining walls?

I question the process that allows the builder Kiewit to inspect their own work prior to a full review by provincial employees or engineers.

Kiewit was the builder of the now infamous retaining wall on Lougheed Highway that failed and finally had to be partially torn down and rebuilt after it was determined it would not meet provincial building standards. http://www.journalofcommerce.com/Home/News/2011/8/Highway-retaining-wall-being-rebuilt-in-Coquitlam-British-Columbia-JOC046056W/

Kiewit also made the news pertaining to a retaining wall collapse in California, in which Kiewit, a subcontractor and the project designer are all suing each other: Kiewit claims the product was defective, while the subcontractor accuses Kiewit of inadequate drainage design and installation.http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20131019/san-diego-405-freeway-work-delayed-by-faulty-retaining-walls

And of course, who can forget the American Kiewit story that prompted the Ministry of Transportation to issue a statement of confidence in the companies involvement in many provincial projects, including the Port Mann bridge project http://lailayuile.com/2012/11/10/port-mann-bridge-builder-kiewit-faces-construction-concerns-in-the-u-s/

Pennsylvania DOT ( Department of Transportation) has a stringent guideline for examination of MSE retaining walls and cross indexing the issues shown in the photos with the following list, several indicators can be checked off:

-bulging, bowing, panel offset, visibility of backfill or geotextile fabric, variation in joint spacing,

Pennsylvania DOTstandards

-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The province previously assured the public the walls are safe.

The question that taxpayers should now be asking- in particular since this wall is only about 5 years old- is whether or not the flaws that have become evident were built into the wall from the very beginning.

( interesting to note here the private partner was never able to get the electronic sensing equipment installed in the highway to work properly either, as reported on page 24 of the BC auditors report , linked to on the Auditor Generals site here: http://www.bcauditor.com/pubs/2012/report4/audits-two-p3-projects-sea-sky-corridor and here http://lailayuile.com/2010/11/18/sea-to-sky-operator-awards-transtoll-technical-advisory-contract-to-ensure-accurate-shadow-toll-vehicle-counts-despite-the-government-making-repeatedly-and-vehementlydenying-their-existance/ )

The ministry representative and operation manager have not responded further to the following questions:

1) What structural issues-minor or not- have been discovered and what is the plan for remediation?

2) Are any costs involved covered by warranty  or does the province absorb the cost?

3) Who has signed off on the integrity of the wall?

 

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Laila Yuile, P3 projects in BC | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Kinder Morgan Protesters need to continue to pressure government

I’m just waiting for some further information on my promised story, so while that government department figures out what they are going to say, this is todays column!

This week’s topic: Are people protesting Kinder Morgan likely to make a difference?

As I sat watching the coverage last week of Simon Fraser University professor Lynne Quarmby being arrested with other protesters on Burnaby Mountain, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride for those who stand up for their convictions.

While protests and demonstrations against the Kinder Morgan planned expansions of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline have been ongoing this year, tension has risen significantly in recent weeks.

The pipeline expansion would significantly increase the amount of unrefined oil coming from Alberta for export out of Burrard Inlet, something those opposed to the expansion aim to stop. In an effort to halt protesters who’ve set up a blockade at the work site where Kinder Morgan wants to drill test holes for a proposed tunnel, the company has asked for and was granted an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this month.

It wasn’t long before yellow tape marked off the co-ordinates of the area defined in the injunction and dozens of protesters have been arrested to date, for either breaking the injunction or obstruction.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

While many like to peg the protesters as disenchanted, unemployed hipsters or professional protesters for hire, when you look at the people at these protests, it simply isn’t true. Many are local residents upset at having this plowed through their communities, parks and local conservation areas. Many are from local First Nations who believe they are exercising power given to them by the courts. They feel as though they haven’t been heard, or that the process is faulted when it comes to community consultation, and I agree.

Pragmatically speaking, resource extraction related to oil and petroleum products is an economic driver in our country, yet has tremendous environmental and societal impacts through the extraction process and the very real risk of spills and accidents. Canadians are now faced with a dichotomy — we rely on this activity, yet it’s contributing to so much destruction and risk…

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/11/23/kinder-morgan-protesters-need-to-continue-pressuring-government

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Federal politics, The Environment | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Why the culture of cronyism and patronage hurts all of us

I’ve been working on some very intriguing followups to two stories from earlier this year, the kind that will have you shaking your head in disgust… but neither will surprise  those of you who have followed the way things work in this province.

The first will come likely Friday, Monday at the latest, and the second shortly thereafter.

Until then… ;)

 

Posted in Laila Yuile | 9 Comments