50 shades of wrong: Why the BC Liberal government has lost all moral authority to govern #ChristyResign

I was watching Question Period earlier today as the opposition was asking hard questions of Amrik Virk – again. ‘How is it possible that in all the years of the health firings investigation, there were no documents created across two ministers and high-level staff?’ Dix wanted to know.

Virks responses at first consisted of the usual non-answers Liberals give in QP. virksmirk-foremailBut on the last question, he waits a moment, and smirks… before giving another sidestep. Thanks to a reader watching, you can see it for yourself. Considering the seriousness of the issue, it seemed inappropriate.

He doesn’t mention that the 8 wrongly fired health workers objected strongly to an Ombudsman review, or that the Ombudsman himself had grave concerns over his office’s ability to conduct one.  Or that the Liberals pushed ahead with it in the face of these valid objections – in a committee meeting,the Liberals outvoted the NDP 5-4 – despite the calls for a full fledged public inquiry.

Chalke previously raised red flags about his office’s suitability to probe the firings of eight health researchers nearly three years ago, noting that the issue has become a partisan matter.

We cannot, must not forget those 8 government health ministry workers wrongly fired for an alleged breach of confidential public health data during this email scandal. It’s related. One of those workers, Rod MacIsaac, a Phd candidate,took his own life mere months later. 

“He was a kind, giving man,” MacIsaac’s sister Linda Kayfish said Tuesday. “He was a concise, straightforward, straight-answer guy.”

After two years in which no wrongdoing by MacIsaac has been uncovered and other members of the team have been exonerated, Kayfish is calling on the provincial government to issue a formal apology for her brother’s dismissal.

“I figured that when somebody makes a mistake and ruins people’s lives like this, they had to know there would be repercussions,” she said. “And when you do that, you have to recognize an error: stand up, and recognize that error. Apologize.”

And an apology was made, of sorts, at least in the public realm. But neither apologies,nor settlements,nor ombudsmans reviews will bring Rod MacIssac back.

None of this should have happened in the first place.

When it was revealed in June of this year, that the government had intentionally misled not only the public, but the RCMP, it further called into question the ability of this government to continue with authority to govern:

Despite claims from MacDiarmid’s ministry that its had “provided the RCMP with interim results of an internal investigation,” RCMP emails show the ministry simply gave “high level explanations of the allegations,” and that “the province’s investigation had not reached any conclusions that could support a criminal investigation.”

RCMP investigators tried five times over almost two years to get more information, but received none of the reports the Health Ministry had promised into what it had publicly billed as one of the biggest privacy breaches in B.C. history.

The Mounties closed the file on July 16, 2014, and informed the province. But it wasn’t until seven months later that the government publicly admitted it no longer expected police to pursue the matter.

The records, obtained by The Vancouver Sun through the federal Access to Information Act, show that the B.C. government repeatedly pointed to an RCMP investigation over several years, while at the same time doing virtually nothing to inform police about the case and failing to provide any evidence of a crime.

“Despite inferences in the media that the RCMP has undertaken an investigation or received information from the Province, this has not been the case,” wrote Const. Dean Miller from the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime section, in a late 2014 report. “No tangible evidence or reports related to the allegations have been handed over. As such, no investigation has been initiated.”

NDP critic Adrian Dix said the documents “show a government that not just misled the public but misled the police. And it’s a very serious thing.”

The government “smeared” the reputation of the researchers by repeatedly lying about a police probe it knew did not exist, said Dix.

One of the researchers, co-op student Roderick MacIsaac, committed suicide after he was fired and it was suggested he was under police investigation.

Think about that. The government deliberately misled the public, the 8 wrongly fired workers- one of whom is no longer with us – and the RCMP.  

Who lies about an RCMP investigation that never happened? And then goes… whoops! Sorry about that! Sorry just doesn’t cut it. It is government malfeasance. A clear attempt to mitigate their own culpability in the entire issue.

And now, two scandals have merged as it was revealed that there are no records… none… after two years of requests into the terribly wrong health firings of those 8 workers. None.

It’s just not remotely plausible.Not to me, not to the opposition and certainly not, the public.

Making it even more appalling, Clarks trying to swing this one by saying only the person who originated the email has to keep a copy. But she fails to get the point that when no records are being handed over in an FOI by anyone,it indicates even the original email sent, is gone. She’s playing semantics. Does this government really think the public is that stupid? Apparently so.

But I digress. We cannot forget that so many of the admissions of willful deleting of emails, or no records happened in the case of the health ministry firings and the Highway of Tears FOI. They involved peoples lives, and their deaths.

These weren’t deleted emails on a coffee meeting about a new ad plan, these were records directly relating to two very sensitive issues, one of which involved horrific abuse of government power and malfeasance.

That’s why when I read this new article on how over the last 23 years, it’s always been the same issues in government, instead of thinking what a good perspective it was,I felt disappointed and honestly, a bit sad.

I very much respect the author- he has produced some excellent work but to me, it seems to minimize the seriousness of what this current government has done, as business as usual. Only, it isn’t.

The examples he’s brought up are egregious by any standard,  but do not come close to the current governments handling and what now looks like a cover-up, into the health ministry firings and the Highway of tears meetings. These events are so reprehensible that it still amazes me the Liberals allowed Clark to remain in power.

His article also doesn’t mention one startling fact that still remains largely unreported or discussed in media: that the Clark government removed the offence act, the penalties for improper destruction of records, two days before Tim Duncan blew the whistles on the emails George Gretes allegedly deleted to avoid the Highway of Tears FOI. 

I’ve written about this removal twice, back in May when it happened. Doug Routley tried to amend the Bill but he was overruled and the bill passed on division. 


The NDP put out this release a few days later:

duty to document

So while prior governments have indeed tried similar tactics to avoid scandal, this government has taken it completely above the law. Completely. No penalties,no deterrents and because Clark and now Virk have completely ignored Commissioner Denhams 3 separate recommendations over three years to legislate Duty to Document, everyone is getting away with it. 

Except poor George Gretes of course, whose case has been handed over to the RCMP for investigation for allegedly lying under oath. And rest assured, someone else will get tossed under the bus before this is over.

But take a look now at this. Denham wrote this letter to Amrik Virk in February of this year reminded him again of the need  for a legislated Duty to Document key government actions and decisions, before Bill 5 was passed.

I know a lot of people in law enforcement and one thing they all hate is a loophole. So one would think  that Virk, a former RCMP officer, would want to ensure every loophole would be removed, right? But no, Bill 5 passed without a Duty to Document. Which leaves this government free to do what they want with little documentation.

Photo credit: The Canadian Press
Photo credit: The Canadian Press

During the federal election I wrote how we seemed to have lost all honour, integrity and common sense in politics. Clarks government has now ensured we have no legislated requirement Duty to Document key government decisions and actions (Aka Boosenkool human resources investigation),  and removed the penalties if you get caught. And for all intents and purposes, I see not one bit of remorse. I’m disappointed her caucus hasn’t publicly distanced themselves from this.

Glen Clark resigned as premier over a patio deck/casino license deal. Despite Ethnic-gate, the Boesenkool affair, the Health firings scandal that resulted in a suicide, destroyed emails relating to the Highway of Tears and more… yet Premier Clark still stands.

AmrikVirk still stands.

Other ministers involved in these scandals still stand…and none of them deserve to. They were elected to represent their constituents yet I highly doubt this is what they had in mind. It is an unforgivable breach of the public trust.

There are far more things in life that matter more than power. People. Personal integrity. Your character. Honour. Accountability.

The only recourse left is for Clark, Virk and others to resign.

Because this isn’t her government. It’s yours.

** Two great posts I have to direct you t on the email scandal are here: http://www.bcveritas.com/index.php/2015/10/28/a-level-of-bullshit-never-seen/ and here: http://blog.cleverelephant.ca/2015/10/government-email-deleting-intent-matters.html

**Here is the link to the BC Liberal MLA’s. If you have a Liberal MLA, please contact them and ask why the penalties for improper document destruction were removed from Bill 5, and ask them why they have refused to legislate Duty to Document rules after 3 years of recommendations. I also urge you to join the call for a resignation of Premier Christy Clark. #ResignChristy



“The more that government becomes secret, the less it becomes free.” ~ James Russell Wiggins

It’s a stunning Friday morning here on the coast; the sun is shining bright and hot, high enough in the sky at this time of year to chase shadows away completely before 10 am.

Taking a look at the chatter online, people are still talking about the Pattullo bridge repairs conveniently announced by Translink yesterday at the height of the reaction to the Liberal government whistle-blower story.  Well played, that one – suddenly warning the public of repairs that won’t take place until halfway through 2016 successfully eclipsed the story our current government would rather you just forget you ever heard about.

By all means, freak out now about bridge repairs that aren’t happening until next year (that’s a story in itself) or FIFA corruption. But whatever you do, don’t pay any attention to a story that goes right to the heart of not only transparency and accountability in our provincial government, but to the core of everything that is democratic and just.

Yesterday a former political staffer in the Ministry of Transportation alleged that emails were intentionally deleted following a freedom of information request made late last year,relating to the Highway of Tears. 


” The NDP has made public a letter written by former executive assistant Tim Duncan to Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. In the letter, Duncan says that when he protested an instruction to delete the emails, a ministerial assistant took hold of his keyboard and did it himself.

“When I hesitated, he took away my keyboard, deleted the emails and returned the keyboard, stating, ‘It’s done. Now you don’t have to worry about it anymore,'” Duncan wrote in the letter.

When his concerns continued to be dismissed, Duncan writes, he was told, “It’s like The West Wing. You do whatever it takes to win.”

Duncan writes that he does not believe the incident was unusual.

“I want to stress that this is not an isolated incident. It is my belief that the abuse of the freedom of information process is widespread and most likely systemic within the [Premier Christy] Clark government. I would ask that you please look into this further.”

I strongly suggest you listen to this interview between CKNW reporter Shane Woodford and Duncan. It’s 12 minutes, and in my opinion Duncan appears very sincere: https://soundcloud.com/shane-woodford/full-interview-former-bc-government-staffer-tim-duncan-on-deleted-emails-controversy

Duncan states clearly that he believes deleting emails is a routine matter, as is using personal emails to do government business. He also suggests that because all emails are backed up, why not just go straight to the server when an FOI comes in to stop this practice? He claims it was a big joke among staff that because they consider everything transitory, they can delete it. Even if by the law,it shouldn’t be.

The government in this case has now reverted to the same strategy most often employed in whistle-blower situations: Deny, Deflect and Discredit.  He was fired, he’s a disgruntled employee. Negate the claims. Nothing to see here.

All of this comes really comes into focus though, when you consider an interesting bit of legislation the government just recently brought forth: https://fipa.bc.ca/bc-government-removing-penalties-for-document-destruction/

The BC government’s new Government Information Act takes some useful steps to preserving information, but it has a big hole and also takes a major step backward.


The biggest problem is that it contains no duty to document.

Recently several freedom of information requests come back with not a single piece of information attached. Perhaps the most incredible is the government’s claim that it has no records whatsoever of any of the dozens of meetings with more than 80 people that took place about the Highway of Tears in northern BC.

This bill will do nothing to stop the spread of this cancer on government transparency…

…Bill 5 specifically removes the application of the Offences Act, so there will be no chance of anybody in government facing legal consequences for improper actions dealing with government documents.

No chance of anybody in government facing legal consequences for improper actions dealing with government documents. Like deleting ‘transitory’ emails, perhaps? Why would a government want to protect it’s staffers from penalty for breaking the law?

There are so many reasons this entire debacle cannot and must not be allowed to slip by in favour of sexier stories that people find more interesting and relevant to their lives. Why, you ask?

The public has a right to know what government is doing. Or not doing. In a perfect world you would be able to call up your local government office and say “I’d like to see any or all emails relating to the Highway of Tears from this date to that date, please.” Or whatever other information you wanted to see.

And in that perfect world government would say  “Sure, of course we’ll have that for you shortly” Because after all, the government is elected by the people,and paid with public funds so we should have access to that information, right? Wrong.

What actually happens is that government rarely wants to give you information freely. You have to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act -we refer to this as an FOI. You provide details of what you want, as specific as possible and government has a set period to respond to acknowledge and respond to your request.

If your request is going to take a long time or a lot of work, then you might have to pay to have those documents retrieved. Those fee’s at times can be ridiculously high, meaning the Free in Freedom of information is really just for show. The costs of some FOI’s make it prohibitive unless you ask for a fee waiver based on poverty. But we do it anyways because we have a right to know, and you deserve it. Reporters and writers like myself file these kind of requests often, either by ourselves or through an intermediary.

In this case, clearly the government had  meetings about what to do with respect to the Highway of Tears. That’s a given. Yet miraculously  no documents were found when that FOI was submitted. None. You tell me how that happens.

So now here we are back to Tim Duncans allegations of deleted emails and how this is a routine thing in the Christy Clark government where emulating The West Wing is apparently a good thing.Except that this isn’t a TV show and the Highway of Tears is nothing to joke about.

The allegations are bad enough on their own, but the murdered and missing women on the Highway of Tears deserve more than this. This really matters.

When information like this is withheld,deleted, destroyed, it makes not only a mockery of the law,but of our democratic process. It’s slap in the face of every journalist, every voter and in this case, every victim and their families.

Secrecy protects those making mistakes. It saves the government from embarrassment, from examination and keeps them from being accountable. And removing a key component of legislation that would make this kind of thing an offence, is highly suspect.

Considering Clark promised one of the most open governments in Canada, someone has some explaining to do. http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/05/07/Open-Gov-Fail

“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”  ~Barack Obama

“A government by secrecy benefits no one. It injures the people it seeks to serve; it damages its own integrity and operation. It breeds distrust, dampens the fervor of its citizens and mocks their loyalty.” Russell Long.

Tim Duncan’s letter https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2089546/foi-letter.pdf

When wrong just doesn’t begin to describe it.


I’m about to give the old fingers a rest from the keyboard for the May long weekend –  they’re getting a bit claw like – but there are three more stories I wanted to bring to your attention for posterity.

Readers who have been with me long enough know that while I feel strongly enough about the  current government that there’s a list of reasons they should go on my blog, I continue to hold the opposition to account as well. Political hypocrisy doesn’t impress me nor does an opposition that sometimes doesn’t oppose. And if the NDP do manage to win an election provincially, I will continue to hold them to the same standard as I have the Liberals and they know it.

But I digress.

Three stories came out this week that really highlight wrong actions, wrong policy and terribly wrong results.

1) http://bcndpcaucus.ca/news/liberal-insider-wins-contracts-from-the-agency-he-leads/

When it comes to the awarding of contracts in government, it is as important to avoid the perception of conflict as it is, conflict itself. It doesn’t matter that this story didn’t come from a reporter, it’s still wrong.

” Well-connected Liberal insider Larry Blain won $219,000 worth of public contract work from Partnerships B.C. while he was also serving as the chair of Partnerships B.C., according to documents obtained by the New Democrats.”

I have a hard time believing that there was no other company who could have fulfilled the requirements of the work for a reasonable price. Seriously. Here are the FOI documents the NDP received. http://bcndpcaucus.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2015/05/Blain-Package.pdf

Might be just me, but that is just wrong.

2) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-government-fires-outspoken-chair-of-agricultural-land-commission/article24450072/

In a time when foreign companies are being allowed to buy farmland and plant it over with trees to get carbon credits – wrap your head around that one,will you? –  it would make sense to have someone who will fiercely defend the ALR, in charge of the Agricultural Land Commission.

But no, the government thinks it makes perfect sense to suddenly fire the chair Richard Bullock and replace him with a former mayor who has no agricultural experience.

Smart move? Wrong. See ya farmland. It was nice knowing you…

3) http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/death-of-b-c-aboriginal-teen-paige-blamed-on-brutal-and-cruel-support-services-1.3074515

If there are angels on earth, one is surely Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the representative for children and youth. Along with a damning level of child poverty in this province, the handling of children in government care is one of our provinces greatest shames. In particular, aboriginal children.

Turpel-Lafond has taken this government to task so many times and yet every little change is hard-fought for.

This latest story is a horrific indicator of the systematic failures of agencies overburdened and underfunded, that hold the responsibility to care for our provinces most vulnerable. No child should suffer through a life like Paige’s, no children should be living in the DTES, and that there are right now, 100-150 files just as urgent that need immediate action,is unthinkable.

And please let us not forget that these ‘files’… is a child.

Wrong just doesn’t begin to describe it. And all of these stories are just a small part of why it’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news.  You’ve got to be engaged in what matters to you.
Have a good, relaxing and safe long weekend,  kick back and be well!

Extensive repair work planned for Sea to Sky retaining wall – one year after problems on 3 others first reported here.

Breaking news by Dave White of News 1130 yesterday, after receiving a tip on a work order given to West Vancouver residents of work on a retaining wall:

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Roughly five years after a major rebuild was completed, News1130 has learned the Sea to Sky Highway already needs significant repairs.

A retaining wall in West Vancouver is causing problems.

It’s just north of the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, above Pasco Road, a small, residential road with remote access.

A construction bulletin was sent by the province to people living on that road on April 8th, telling them soil anchors need to be installed, and a new-reinforced wall face needs to be constructed.

For people living in the area, this means no access to their homes for eight hours a day from this time next week until the end of September.

The Sea to Sky Highway was largely rebuilt by contractors Peter Kiewit and Sons for the Olympics, completed in 2009.

This is not the first retaining wall built by Kiewit on the South Coast that has needed repair. Back in 2011, a retaining wall in Coquitlam as part of the Highway One expansion had to be rebuilt.

It was April 30th, 2014 when I first broke the story of how troubling photos of 3 other retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway,had prompted the Ministry of Transportation to re-inspect all of the walls: 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 Ministry of Transportation is investigating the condition of at least three MSE (Mechanically Stabilized Earth) retaining walls along the Sea to Sky Highway, according to sources close to the project.

This action finally comes after specific Ministry employee’s received the photos shown below – in February of this year – that show clear flaws, deficiencies and structural concerns that sources indicate out-of-spec walls. Major defects show large open gaps in the concrete panels, water seepage behind walls, walls that are “out of batter” ( leaning the wrong way) and possible vertical movement of the walls. *terminology link found here for reference.

In some areas, the gaps are so wide that the tongue and groove elements are no longer meshed and it is possible to reach in and feel the geotextile cloth behind. While the photos were taken earlier this year in a cold snap, follow-up visits during rainy weather have shown very little water coming out of installed drainage pipes installed for such purpose, and a build up of water behind the wall with seepage from under the wall in other areas.

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The response from the Ministry at that time was that they had investigated all the walls, and that it was merely a cosmetic issue. The BCNDP did not comment at that time, although they were fully apprised of the situation.

In November of 2014, I followed up that post with another, with excerpts from emails indicating that Kiewit – the builder of the highway- had inspected their own work:


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.”

No ‘significant’ structural issues…. just minor ones.  On a highway that is only 5 years old.

I asked then:

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?

To this day, and this new story, there are no answers to those questions.

Today NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena brought up the most recent repair in the legislature,asking why repairs are needed on what is essentially a brand new highway and asked the Minister of Transportation Todd Stone to submit the safety reports/audit of the retaining walls.

Minister Stone replied that at times mitigating work is done on all corridors in the province( making this sound like routine maintenance), and completely and quite shamefully evaded her questions on the safety/inspection reports by talking about how the NDP opposed many projects in the province! ( As one reader asked online: Is the new Liberal version of Stone-walling? Clever!)

And that was it. ( I’ll post a transcript as it becomes available)

The work that the ministry is conducting on the Pasco Road retaining wall  are not minor repairs. This is 5 months of work to not only install soil anchors, but to construct a new reinforced facing.

Soil anchors installed in retaining walls after they are built, are done so to reinforce and repair retaining walls damaged by lateral loads, or those showing signs of stress or failure.

Here’s an example of what they look like, installed in a retaining wall on a Hwy 1 overpass years after construction


The anchors are drilled into the wall, typically at an angle to provide support and prevent further movement.

One would not expect these kinds of repairs typically in a highway only 5 years old, which leads me back to my original posts ,and questions linked to above.

There are 216 retaining walls built into this highway, and the three I detail in photos at the above links show alarming changes- for the amount of money this highway cost, somebody has some explaining to do.

Was this shoddy construction? Was it rushed? Sources in my prior posts gave a few ideas- I invite you to go back and read both posts.

Minister of  Transportation Todd Stone needs to immediately release the safety inspection reports of all 219 retaining walls along the sea to sky highway, along with a full explanation as to why, on a project billed as a marvel of engineering, after only 5 years, structural repairs are needed at all.

Kiewit, the builder of this highway, has come under examination in the past for a failed retaining wall on the Lougheed highway not built to standards  – something that the minister might want to take into consideration: http://journalofcommerce.com/Home/News/2011/8/Highway-retaining-wall-being-rebuilt-in-Coquitlam-British-Columbia-JOC046056W/

They’ve also come under fire for safety violations on various projects: http://lailayuile.com/2014/12/19/kiewit-general-comitted-willful-and-serious-safety-violations-in-washington-state-accident-fined-150000/

I’ll keep updating this story as it develops, but tune back in tomorrow, as I bring yet another update, on yet another Kiewit built project.

Left, Right and the space in between: Conquering the Great Divide in politics.

As many readers know, I grew up in a rural area just north of Prince George and enjoyed a childhood that I look back on with fond memories now, as an adult living on the coast.

It’s because of that rural upbringing, that I have often feel like I have a unique perspective to bring to the table on many issues, and one of those issues is the great political divide between the “Left” and “Right”- a very sweet spot that I think holds a lot of power in any vote.

British Columbia is a pretty interesting place when it comes to politics. With a lot of traditionally left leaning big labour,union back industry, one would think an NDP government would always win provincial elections, but they don’t. Many union members will vote for the Liberals despite leaders saying they should vote NDP – happens up north all the time, and many non-party voters afraid of change will vote Liberal too.

In fact we’ve had a Liberal government for over a decade, much to the frustration of the BC NDP, who’ve changed leaders/strategists/faces/clothes and still can’t pull in the votes. Why?

It’s my opinion that the majority of people in this province, and this country, really spend most of their lives residing in the space created by the Great Divide between left and right political parties. They don’t care to join a political party, they might not follow politics at all unless it’s the morning of voting day, or perhaps they limit it to paper headlines and coffetime chats.

If you were to ask them where they stand on various issues politicians like to use as emotional tools during elections (crime,taxes,jobs and education) you would likely find they lean left on some issues and right on others. To them, it’s the issue and how that issue is addressed that matters, not the political ideology behind the party trying to get that vote. Whatever  party happens to hit that nerve for them will likely get their vote.

It’s what makes the space between Left and Right, the sweet spot to aim for in politics. So far, the left hasn’t been able to conquer the great divide in BC and it’s because they can’t get those non-party,slightly conservative centrist votes no matter what they do. And when I use the word conservative here,I don’t mean the political party kind of conservative,I mean cautious – likely to err on the side of being careful.

The current transit tax plebiscite here in Metro Vancouver, has raised the ugly specter of partisan politics once again and as I’ve previously written, it only serves to further remove those in centre further away from politics:

” To be honest, I’m very concerned about where the labels assigned to political leanings have taken us. What I am seeing in the press and among regular people on social media, is a compete discounting of any ideas, policies, or changes.. based not on the merit of those items… but based on the label assigned to the person it originated from. Frankly, it’s a bit frustrating because in the end, it is the voters of this province that suffer the most from all these partisan politics.

I guess if you had to label me, I would be a leftie with a small L. But when it comes to finances, I am very conservative and I say that not to indicate the party, but that I think government needs to be really, very cautious when spending public money. But if you say you are a fiscal conservative, well, frankly, in some left factions, the world comes to an end.

Likewise, if you are a rightie BC liberal, and actually care about poverty and education and civil rights, you again cause worlds to collide.

Sadly though, for so many covering and living politics in BC, as soon as the label LEFT or RIGHT appears, the ears and mind close to anything further.

Doesn’t matter if the NDP have a good idea, the Libs or Cons will never accept or acknowledge it.

And God forbid those socialist NDP’ers come up with a good idea, because as Bill Bennett will tell you, they are a bunch of Commies.

So what the hell does a person like myself, who is sick of party politics, but is “left” on most issues, “Right” on others to do?

Hell if I know!!

It’s appalling to me on so many levels that public and political discourse has come to this in BC, leaving so many people discontent, unengaged and bereft of a political home because of partisan politics.

Both the Liberal and NDP leaders have spoken about bringing change, and bringing people back to politics, but I am just not seeing it…”

That was from 2013 and from the looks of the divisiveness that has been and continues to be created by the transit tax vote, it proves to be still an issue with long-lasting repercussions.

Progressives like myself are being labelled Right-wing operatives for voting No by others on the left…some of whom are working side by side with developers and others who stand to benefit directly from more Translink funding!

Cities and regions are divided because of vastly different needs and values and insults are flying left, right and centre. I’ve seen people told they must be stupid not to understand what is at stake here,that their opinions and their realities are wrong. It’s insane.

The single resident in Vancouvers West-end who’s never lived outside that area in their life, is often so far removed from the realities of families or couples in the suburbs south of the Fraser,it’s a complete disconnect between the two. Neither is wrong for their view,but neither can win in this ballot or this political climate.

It’s likely to be remembered for being one of the best examples of what poor leadership and policy making can accomplish,along with a good dose of partisanship served up on the side.

It’s all more than a bit sad and disappointing to see. Frankly I often wear my heart on my sleeve and my readers know very well where I stand on issues of social change and betterment. It’s all here on this blog. I’ve documented more than a 100 reasons the Liberals need to go and this plebiscite I’m still voting No in, is one more to add to the list.

Do our political parties really even want to conquer that great divide? Considering the extent of the partisanship on both sides, I don’t think so.Clark snipes at Horgan in the legislature and he snipes right back.Shes out playing to media at soccer games and he’s having coffee with people outside of Metro Vancouver who are telling him they can’t make ends meet. But does anything really ever change?

A wise man once said that one of the reasons people hate politics so much is that truth is rarely a politicians objective. Getting elected and power are.

I’d like to believe that’s not true- in fact I know it isn’t in many cases. Let’s prove that wise man wrong. Let’s open our ears, move things forward in a non-partisan manner and bring the people back into politics.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah. Go ahead.”

“Should I?”

“There’s no one.”

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

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

“You always do that,” says Hamish.


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

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

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

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

Clark apologized Sunday after the article was published.

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

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

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

But I digress: There are two separate issues here.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

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

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

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Mega-city unsuitable for region.

This week’s topic: Should the Lower Mainland become a mega-city like Toronto with one election for the entire region?

Brent is right on the money when he states: “What an election!” For politicos, there’s no bigger rush than election night – watching the polls come in to see what direction voters will take their cities. This year’s civic elections did not disappoint. They were riveting.

The big winner in this year’s civic elections is democracy, as many cities saw significantly higher voter turnouts. Regardless of the outcomes, increasing voter turnout is a positive sign that many voters are perhaps beginning to understand the power of their vote at the municipal level.

While it’s accurate to state that many issues facing our civic leaders are regional in nature, it’s simplistic to think that amalgamation is the cure for what ails us. Transportation issues in Vancouver such as transit are in no way comparable to cities like Surrey or Langley – it’s apples and oranges. You really don’t need a car in Vancouver, whereas in Surrey it’s a costly necessity for most. The same goes for the environment or development – while both are top of the list in both Vancouver and Surrey, it’s for different reasons.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

Supporters of amalgamation always resort to using cost-savings and more efficient service delivery as the biggest reasons for doing so. One city hall instead of five or six, fewer mayors, less waste, centralized administration, blah, blah, blah.

Sounds great until you actually take the time to see how it’s worked out for the other regions or cities that have done so in Canada. It hasn’t always been a success and, at times, it has been considered a failure…


READ the rest of this weeks column in response to Brent’s argument, comment and vote, HERE: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/11/16/mega-city-unsuitable-for-region

Newton residents left in the dark over proposed community court in Surrey with no response from Attorney General Susan Anton

It was back in January 2014, following the death of Julie Paskall, that both Mayor Watts and the NDP renewed calls for a community court in Surrey.

Watts met with Attorney General Susan Anton in February, where it was agreed that a steering committee would be set up to gain input from the judiciary, the province and city staff.

However, the prospect of a community court greatly concerns many Newton residents, who worry about the impact this would have on a community already ‘overloaded’ with social services.

They’ve been asking for answers as to whether or not members of the community will be included in the consultation process, but to date, have not received any response.

This is a copy of the email sent to Attorney General and cc’d to NDP MLA Harry Bains on July 10th:

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2014 03:41:37 -0700
To: suzanne.anton.mla@leg.bc.ca
From: Liz Walker ( email removed for privacy)
Subject: Community Courts in Surrey
Cc: Harry.Bains.MLA@leg.bc.ca

9 July 2014
Attention: Hon. Suzanne Anton
Minister of Justice
Room 232
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4
Dear Ms. Anton,
RE: Community Courts in Surrey
Earlier this year Mayor Watts alerted Newton community members to an Advisory Committee meeting regarding the proposed Community Courts expected to locate in Surrey’s Newton community. We are concerned about this initiative as our community has not yet received any formal notice from the City about it. To our knowledge there have not been any open houses or other avenues of consultation regarding it.
The Newton community has suffered a serious decline, both economically and socially, for more than a decade. Newton has come to be described as the new “Whalley” or Vancouver DTES of Surrey. Our community continues to observe this decline as we are either disregarded or excluded from decision making processes.
Many perceive Newton to be the low income, socio-correctional component of Surrey. With the concentration of social services that have located in the Newton area we have concerns that those, serviced through the community court, will be directed into Newton for its’ availability of services. This will add more troubled individuals to our streets and transit services without the stabilizing effect of an increased police presence.
We would like to see local citizen representation on committees/task forces related to proposals with the potential to directly impact our communities. We believe the Surrey specialized court task force is such a committee, as you have stated in a Hansard, CSC debate, “they are determining the needs of Surrey, because there is no cookie-cutter approach on courts. It’s to determine the community needs and do a needs assessment”. Newton is only one community in Surrey yet we have been encumbered with the responsibility of providing the bulk of correctional services to all of Surrey’s other communities.
We did ask our MLA, Harry Bains to determine why there was no invitation to the local community to be part of the task force and he did present the question to you, “I would like to ask the minister why any member of the community was not appointed on that”.
Unfortunately he did not receive an answer so we are left to ask the question again, and request local citizen representation on the task force/advisory committee for the Surrey specialized courts.
We welcome your reply. We hope that you will be able to provide us with a “Terms of reference” for the Surrey Specialized Court Task Force and a task force structure that recognizes the importance of local citizen involvement, i.e. citizen representation.
Yours truly,
Liz Walker
Newton Community Association

nb: copy of letter also included as an attachment for your convenience.

This same email was again forwarded to Attorney General Susan Antons office for response yesterday:

Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:15:53 -0700
To: suzanne.anton.mla@leg.bc.ca; harry.bains.mla@leg.bc.ca
From: Liz Walker
Subject: Sending again for response 

Dear Ms. Anton,

Members of the Newton Community Association would truly appreciate answers to our questions posed in the following/attached correspondence.

Thank you.

Yours truly,
Liz Walker
NCA Chairperson

I think all residents understand that there may at times, be delays to response from city or government officials due to holidays, vacation or other important events.

However, one would think that with all that Newton and other areas of Surrey have endured, and continue to endure, the respect would be given to respond accordingly to the very real concerns of local residents.

Once again, Newton appears to be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to consultation on the issues directly impacting our community.

The only indication I can find in the city of Surrey references to this agreement to form a steering committee was in this document, which is quite the read and worthy of a blog post in itself, is copied below.

Newton residents deserve to know one way or another:

1)  if indeed the province is genuinely engaged in this effort as both our mayor and Attorney General announced earlier this year, or if this was just noise to soothe worried residents

2) if the province and city indeed are engaged in such consultation on a steering committee, whether or not the community will be consulted and engaged as part of the process.



From Page 43/44, April of this year :

Specialized Courts in Surrey


A means of addressing the inherent delays in the existing Court system would be the establishment of a

Community Court, Drug Treatment Court, and Night Court in Surrey. The idea of establishing a

Community Court and Night Court was raised in the City of Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy in 2006

[Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy (2006) Section 2.3- Prosecuting and Sentencing Offenders- pages


This issue received some media attention in late January following the PASKALL Homicide with Mayor

WATIS stating her support and offering the former Surrey City Hall as the location for a Community

Court. Mayor WATIS made a significant push for a Community Court in 2011 and indicated that she will

continue to champion this initiative.