My column this week for 24Hrs: Treat online ad tracking like stalking

Recently, I shared some new plans for a full-on fitness rehab with my friends on Facebook — happy to be able to get back into it after resolving some health issues. Strangely enough, it wasn’t long before the advertising I was seeing completely changed as well. Ads to “Blast your belly fat!” and for Nike runners, and a plethora of other fitness-related advertising, had taken over.

Coincidence? Or had something I posted, viewed or even searched somewhere else give advertisers a heads up to my new fitness regime?

Frankly, I’ve had enough. The online tracking that allows companies to follow your movements over the web is getting downright creepy and intrusive – and it needs to stop.

I’ve never been a fan of advertising, regardless if it’s the incredibly long commercials during Life Below Zero or the thick stack of flyers in my local newspaper. The reality is that it’s the very advertising you and I often find annoying that keeps a lot of printed and online content free. Without a doubt, advertising is here to stay as long as you want to keep reading the paper or view anything online without paying.

But there is a big difference in seeing a regular banner ad in the local online paper, and having specific ads targeting you, your habits and activities seemingly stalk you all over the Internet.

Earlier this year, a complaint was made to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada by a man who began seeing targeted ads for a specific medical condition he had searched on Google Canada – sleep apnea.

His harmless – and seemingly private – search for a device to help with his apnea resulted in targeted ads for his apnea showing up on other sites he visited after. Following a full investigation, it was revealed that Google had indeed violated Canada’s privacy laws with this targeted advertising.

Read Brent Stafford’s response here.

The problem is that even though companies must adhere to privacy laws and quidelines, getting them all to comply, and enforcing it, is an onerous task. While programs like AdBlock can give users relief from online ads and tracking, those without it are left with limited options to stop the advertising creepers….

READ the rest of this weeks columns, comment and vote at

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“Communication leads to community: that is, to mutual understanding, and mutual value.” ~ Rollo May

As  I write this, it is now 11:24 on Friday June 27th, 2014.

I missed the report on Global earlier this evening of an alleged swarming attack at The Grove in Newton, and over the last few hours have talked with other community members, agencies and law enforcement.

It’s correct to say, we are all in shock, and in disbelief. That takes time to process, to be honest.

Let me first say that as an 11 year resident of Newton, first in West Newton, now in East Newton, I have a vested interest. Others who have called Newton home for generations, more so.

Two of my children attended preschool in the building housing the ice rink.  I regularly bus in and out of the Newton bus loop and when I am not in a bus, I am driving by the Newton bus loop to see what is going on. As long time readers know, it’s been a long time source of stories and breaking news.

I think I speak for all of us, everyone, at every level, when I say we are more than ‘done’ with the grief, the stress, the seemingly never-ending incidents that sadly, we are all used to in Newton.

It shouldn’t be this way. And as friend David Dalley said this evening on twitter, we all own a part of this. All of us.

Ironically, I was there in the grove with my two young sons less than an hour from the alleged attack. The boys read the poems on the trees, they played in and out of them and the blue chairs were filled with a group of elderly south Asian men who were engaged in deep conversation. A woman was sitting beside a stroller with her baby sleeping, clearly grateful for the shade of the trees to take a short break on the sidewalk along Coast Capital’s back wall.

David Dalley and others, have done amazing things in this grove of trees that I was vehement in having cut after Julie Paskall’s tragic death. I have seen those changes personally, as have others and let me tell you, it is an awe-inspiring thing.

I was wrong for thinking that cutting the grove would be the solution.

Turns out the trees were the solution. It’s called ‘place-making’ and  it is happening in The Grove.

Now these teens, this has been an issue for years in Newton, at the bus loop and in this mall area. The Safeway manager says as much in the Global story, as will anyone else willing to speak publicly.

That Safeway endures far more than they should have to. Like having to install ultra violet lights in the public bathroom to keep junkies from shooting up inside.( google that) Saw this firsthand a while ago. They are an essential service to many and a good corporate neighbor.

I stopped by their Starbucks (and I hate Starbucks coffee) every morning after dropping off my youngest at the Newton Rec Centre preschool for a year, which has the best trained preschool teacher around town.I actually do support local businesses and many more would if the area was better and that is why so many people are devoting so much time to change in the area.

Newton is awesome… it just keeps getting the short end of the stick.

Which leads me back to this incident, that happened on Wednesday, that the public slowly found out about on the Friday afternoon before what most people are making a long weekend.

Public relations at its bloody best, in my opinion, and more worrisome, indicative of a lack of communication between Surrey RCMP and the public. A number of questions immediately sprung forth, like where were the RCMP patrols at this time? Commissionaires?

City of Surrey have had security guards stationed in the area since Paskalls tragic death. They are wonderful.

Translink security or police was stationed in the area with a car frequently following that incident, but are not often seen at the bus loop.I do know firsthand the chief of Translink police was committed to ensuring Newton bus loop was covered at the last Newton Community Association public forum.

RCMP have had walking patrols, along with city contracted Commissionaires that I have personally only seen in the late afternoon/evenings.

But this incident happened and not only did people allegedly walk by this girl being beaten in the grove, but a Safeway employee came out to deal with it.

David Dalley is right. We do all own a part of this.

911 is free. While a group of teens engaged in a swarming is definitely intimidating, turning your back and “not seeing it” is also not acceptable. And questions remain as to why this situation of known teens who were behind this, were not made known to the locals who are invested in this community, and the public who travel through this area.

Communication between the community and the RCMP is critical.

When any public safety issue arises, the public must be informed. I am confidant the public supports officers on the street and will do their part – if they have the knowledge of public safety issues and crimes that creates both vigilance and ownership.

If we don’t know what is going on, we can’t  be proactive, and proactive solutions are what is need… not reactive.


The RCMP must not be politicized at any time, much less during an election year. Nor must information be withheld from the public except in instances where it might impede an investigation or arrest. When residents begin to question whether or not public relations is trumping public safety information in the press, someone, somewhere, has failed.

Why was the public not informed of ongoing issues many in Newton have known about?

With women and children, seniors and singles, students and everyone else using a major transportation/recreational hub, why wasn’t the public and others in the community informed of this incident several days ago? “

It is a question only the city and the RCMP can answer, and one Newton residents look forward to hearing the answer.


Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, crime, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: BCTF fights for teachers, kids.

This week, Brent and I address an issue often commented about on social media. Brent presents this week, and this is my response to him:

This week’s topic:

Should B.C. teachers remain unionized?

It’s more than a bit ironic that every anti-BCTF rant I’ve read during the ongoing dispute between teachers and the government fails to even touch on the egregious actions of the government over the last decade.

Frankly, it’s getting a bit old. And even more alarming is the suggestion that teachers would be better off without their union. I’ve said it before and I will say it again — I see nothing on the government’s side to indicate they truly value or understand that education is an essential step to growing our economy.

When making the argument that the teachers union is unreasonable, it’s convenient to not mention the longstanding legal battle that resulted in the government being admonished by the courts for failing to bargain in good faith.

Likewise, it’s convenient to fail to mention that the government illegally stripped class size and composition from the teachers’ contract, and it’s also convenient to forget to mention that testimony was given that the government deliberately tried to incite a strike with teachers.

I’ve always believed education is a cornerstone to a successful society, and history shows that where education is given a first priority by government, society benefits as a whole. Sadly, in this province, there has been a slow, but continual degradation of the entire system.

In a recent column, Brent and I addressed class size and composition, and how that impacts learning for all kids. These are two items that are critical to learning and success for every child in the classroom — the government should consider them basic essentials. But no, they don’t consider them essentials and have tried to get rid of both of them.

Read Brent’s column here.

This is just one example of why the teachers union is so essential. Class size and composition are considered working conditions and, as such, part of teachers’ rights in their contract. Without the leverage and continual battle of the union to secure these conditions, my children and perhaps yours, if you have children, would clearly be left hanging. The government simply doesn’t think it’s a big deal…

READ the rest of this week’s column, comment and vote at this link:

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‘What teachers make’ ~ Taylor Mali


-the  slam really starts at about the 56 second mark for those at work :)

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“It is always more easy to discover and proclaim general principles than to apply them.” ~ Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm

In following the discussion and commentary on social media in the hours leading up to an announcement from the federal government on Northern Gateway, one thing is clear: there is an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

I stand in opposition to the Enbridge pipeline for many reasons, the biggest of which is that Enbridge has a less than stellar record with their pipelines. It’s also been reported they had broken safety regulations at 117 of 125 pumping stations across Canada. And there are those pesky issues regarding how Enbridge deals with landowners,spills and potential contamination.

Personally, I wouldn’t allow Enbridge to run a water hose across my backyard if the house was on fire, that’s how strongly I feel opposed to the company as a corporate citizen – period.

And many British Columbians and First Nations feel the same way. The risk combined with Enbridge’s record is a strong motivator for many.

But the strong possibility that the Enbridge proposed pipeline will end up in courtroom challenges for years even if it is approved, leaves the possibility open that another project will come forward to get  bitumen from the Alberta oil-sands to the West Coast of BC for export- one that is perhaps more palatable.

Members of the Harper government travelled to the US recently, to reassure the Americans that an export route through B.C for Alberta oil was going to be forged.

Just weeks earlier, the Aquilini group announced it was going to partner with Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings in a pipeline that has received support from several other First Nations along the route. It was claimed at the press conference that some First Nations groups that opposed Enbridge, were now lending support to this proposal.

With many  British Columbians counting on First Nations opposition to Enbridge operating through their territories to stop the flow of bitumen to the pristine waters along our coast, it raises the question of what will happen if First Nations support grows for another proposal along the same route?

It’s the elephant in the room everyone is stepping around and avoiding at all costs, because it challenges  many people opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project to examine the roots of their opposition.

If you are opposed to Enbridge because you feel First Nations must be consulted and in agreement, are you ok with a pipeline First Nations are in favour of?

Are you opposed to every pipeline that plans to transport bitumen across a precarious route through northern BC to tankers along the coast?

Is there a middle ground for you, or no room to maneuver at all because you want to see the oil-sands in Alberta shut down altogether?

Compelling questions that British Columbians need to ask themselves when you look at the bigger picture of the reality that the Harper government indeed will do what it must to export that product.

Therein lies a big issue for many in British Columbia when it comes to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. It’s kind of hard to say you oppose bitumen flowing through Enbridge when the same product is flowing through the Kinder Morgan pipeline right now. A spill in the waters of Burrard Inlet would still be just as devastating, but many are taking the put your head in the sand approach instead.

There are no easy answers, no matter what the reason is behind your opposition, or mine, but this is where I am coming from. Like many, I don’t see any assurances that a spill of diluted bitumen in the ocean, or on land, or in a river could be cleaned up or dealt with, without massive, possibly irreparable harm to the environment. Harm that could last generations, and have devastating impact on marine and wildlife.  And for me, it doesn’t matter if it’s Enbridge or another company behind a diluted bitumen pipeline to the coast, it’s not going to fly with me.

The risks are just not worth it:

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Enbridge, Federal politics, Laila Yuile, The China Connection | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Corrigan defending Burnaby’s interests

This week, the question Brent and I debate is: ” Should Kinder-Morgan be allowed to test the feasibility of a pipeline through Burnaby Mountain?”

Say what you will about Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan’s refusal to allow Kinder Morgan to conduct testing on city owned lands, but I predict his bold actions are setting the bar high for other municipal leaders across the province in similar situations. Even speaking in the most general terms, the issues of pipelines is a divisive one impacting not only municipalities, but families and friendships as people take opposing views.

What is unique about Mayor Derek Corrigan’s opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline project is that he hasn’t taken the wait-and-see approach popular with many politicians delicately straddling pointy fence posts to avoid offending potential voters. He has instead taken a firm stand on what he believes are the best interests of his community, and the global community at large.

His actions also highlight a serious and much bigger problem facing communities all over the province. When contentious projects under provincial or federal jurisdictions are proposed in or through a community that has no jurisdiction to stop it, what are municipal leaders supposed to do?

To read Brent Stafford’s response, click here.

In my opinion, this isn’t just a duel about whether or not Kinder Morgan should be allowed to test on city owned land, this is about whether or not municipalities have enough veto power on these kinds of projects – and it’s not just Burnaby dealing with this either…

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Federal politics, Laila Yuile, The Environment | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

My column for 24Hrs Vancouver this week: Ministry Meddling is letting kids fall through cracks.

I’d like to start this week by offering congratulations to Brent on our one year anniversary of writing the Duel.

When Brent pointed out that our first Duel had been a debate over the merits of a 10-year deal between teachers and government, I felt more than a little sad that a year later there is still no sign a deal is imminent.

While I agree the bargaining process between the government and the BCTF is fatally flawed, laying the blame for this failure of process strictly on the BCTF for “petulant bargaining and punitive rotating strikes” is a fatal flaw as well. In last week’s Duel, I succinctly demonstrated how the government’s punitive and, at times, illegal actions were responsible for disrupting learning in classrooms for over a decade.

The suggestion that removing the issue of classroom composition from the bargaining process will help is not only preposterous, it shows a complete lack of understanding of how integral the issue is to the education system as a whole

As a parent of a child with special challenges and needs, I have witnessed and experienced — as have thousands of other parents in this province — the failures in our system.

While it is correct that the numbers show a loss of “identified students” over the years, what is not mentioned is why. Those children didn’t just disappear, or stop needing help. The ministry changed how students with needs were designated, which left many children who had previously qualified for help, without any.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

For example, gifted students are no longer recognized, which accounts for thousands of lost numbers. Children with ADHD –regardless of the severity — are also not included and receive no assistance, along with a long list of other disorders that the government refuses to recognize. Not helping these children succeed now costs society far more as they fall through the cracks and mature.

READ, comment and vote for who you think should win this weeks duel at

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Bringing community pride and respect back to the streets of Newton.

The wonderful Jude Hannah of ReNewton Nation posted a blog post recently that has been picked up by the Surrey Now and run as a column: “Newton’s crisis is now an opportunity” . In her column, Jude speaks to the horror and outrage every Newton resident felt, and the small beginnings of hope and change that residents began to make happen for themselves, without waiting for anyone else to do it.

” However, amid all the sadness, frustration and acrimony of this dark time, a little ray of sunlight began to emerge in the Newton community. We realized we are just that – a community.

We came together and decided we weren’t going to allow some punk’s violent act define us. We are so much more than that.

Like many parts of Surrey, Newton is a neighbourhood undergoing changes. We are on the brink of creating a new and vibrant downtown core.

When you walk along 137th Street between Starbucks and the wave pool, past the Espresso Café and the ethnic grocery shops, you can see that this street and surrounding area has really good “bones.”

Great things are going to happen here in the next few years. In fact, if you frequent the places around the recreation centre and bus loop, you may have noticed neighbours getting together and creating happy, surprising and whimsical displays of hope, resilience – and most of all fun.

It is that vein I make a suggestion that I think might help honour and celebrate the spirit of what many of us know is wonderful and great about Newton, and what potential Newton has.

Last year, the city of Surrey held a combination Newton Community Festival in conjunction with their Open Doors initiative, where residents of Newton ( and all of Surrey) could take a trolley to various locations around the city to explore the many venues the city has to celebrate.

It was without a doubt, a successful festival,barring one point many people pointed out was a bit of downer : the location.

A large part of the festival was held in the back alley/parking lot located between the Newton ice rink and the mall right beside it. It worked… but it was a very visually undesirable location and instead of a feeling of pride, it felt rather shameful that Newton was relegated to a back alley/parking lot for a festival location, when others in the city are held on streets closed for such a purpose. ( Cloverdale does this every year)

It’s well-known that the pay parking on 137 st. in Newton has had an adverse impact on local businesses. Drive or walk the street as I recently did and you will see nothing but vacant parking spots and vacant rentals for businesses. We need to do something to revitalize that area. We need to bring people into it!!

Ironically, the city’s plan for Newton had included 137 st. as a location called Festival Street, for exactly that purpose: To hold events and festivals to bring people into that area!

It’s the perfect venue for a festival, with a wide street, angled parking spots and large sidewalks.

This is where a large part of the Newton Festival was held last year. It’s always dirty, always run down looking, always with plenty of garbage dumped. It is, what it is: a back allegy/parking lot meant for that purpose only. ( photo courtesy of Renewton Nation )





This is what the Newton Town Centre Plan, created by the city and delayed by the city, had envisioned for Newton’s troubled 137 st. :  Festival Street !!! ( photo courtesy of Renewton Nation )


The city has been planning for this years Newton Festival, which is once again, being held in the parking lots in between and behind the Newton Rec Centre and the Ice Rink.

With all that Newton has gone through in the last year, and with all the efforts local residents have made to fight for and create change in the area, it would be such an honour and show of good faith on the city of Surrey’s part, to host the festival on 137 st.,in the manner in which the city had originally intended that street to be used for.

I’ve spoken to several of the businesses along 137 st. and they welcome the idea of a festival along this area!!  And has been done in Cloverdale where festival venues were held on both sides of the very very busy Highway 10, there were signs directing festival goers across the highway safely at crosswalks. It was a win-win situation all around!

I sent this idea to the city of Surrey and it has been forwarded to festival organizers. It is not too late to change the location, since it is hosted by the city itself.

The community of Newton has shown tremendous interest and effort to make the community a safer, more inclusive, caring place for families and businesses alike.

Holding the Newton Community Festival on the street designed for that purpose honours everything, and everyone, that’s working to make Newton a place to be openly proud of. Time to take Newton out of the back alley and onto the main stage.

So you agree? Then come meet us in Midtown….


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

This weeks column for The Duel, 24Hrs Vancouver: BC Liberal Legislation to blame for education disruptions

The winner of the last duel on the Site C Dam was Laila with 74%.

This week’s topic:

As the B.C. teachers dispute escalates, which side is responsible for the disruption in student learning?

While the BC Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government took a break from contract talks over the weekend to further examine their positions, come Monday students, teachers and parents will begin to feel the impact of action taken on both sides.

Today is the first of several rotating strikes the BCTF is staging in school districts across the province this week. In response, the provincial government begins a partial lockout today as well, one that has been labeled by many as a botched attempt to punish teachers, but instead impacts students by limiting time teachers can be at school.

Concerns over cancelled field trips and extra-curricular activities, and unmarked exams, are creating tension and stress among students and teachers alike. The government was quick to say they would “tweak” the lockout terms to ensure those things wouldn’t happen, but some school events have been cancelled already. I say the government was once again trying to sway public opinion in its favour.

Read Brent Stafford’s column “Parents should blame teachers for rotating strike action”

If you listen to the government’s side, it’s those wretched teachers who are responsible for disrupting children’s education with demands over wages and classroom composition. But when you look at the bigger picture, it’s clear that government itself has been responsible for a continual disruption in student learning since 2002 when it illegally stripped teachers of the right to bargain working conditions that directly impact student learning…

READ the rest of this weeks column, vote and comment at

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: BC Hydro hasn’t made a convincing case for pushing costly dam onto taxpayers

Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was Laila with 71%.

This week’s topic:

Considering the results of the Joint Review Panel report on BC Hydro’s Site C dam, should government approve the project?

A police officer I know once told me that if two people saw the same crime in progress from beginning to end, he would still likely get two different stories from the witness statements.

Likewise, instead of the “clear path to a green light” for the Site C dam that Brent believes the Joint Review Panel report provides, after reading it in full, I see nothing but a giant red light.

There are several great concerns noted in the 471-page report, but one of several key points that should throw up red flags for all British Columbians is this: “The panel concludes that the proponent has not fully demonstrated the need for the project on the timetable set forth.”

The proponent is BC Hydro, a Crown corporation that seems to be used to further the BC Liberals’ political agenda more than it is used to provide affordable energy for British Columbians. The Site C proposal is a perfect example of this.

Read Brent Stafford’s column

Over the years, the public has been presented with a changing list of justifications for the Site C proposal. From powering homes in British Columbia, to being essential to power LNG development in the province — a Premier Christy Clark favourite — to exporting power to drought-stricken California, the reasons seem to keep changing.

The questions keep mounting as to why the BC Liberals and BC Hydro are pushing this proposal so hard on a public already burdened by rising hydro costs….

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at :

*** You can read the entire study I have referenced in this column here, in PDF format : dam cost overruns

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Independent power projects, Laila Yuile, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments