Muskrat Falls fiasco provides example for British Columbians of potential future of Site C & why Premier Clark must send project to BC Utilities Commission independent review.

wicked

It always freaks people out when I say I’m fiscally conservative. The term evokes images of Harper for most Canadians and the terms slice and dice comes to mind with references to budgets. But the truth is when I say it I don’t mean conservative as in the party, I mean I think it’s important to be really careful and cautious when spending public funds in government. Government needs to make sure all best practices are followed and every bit of due diligence is done.

When it comes to mega projects, the province of BC shows little restraint. While claims of on time and on budget are often heard, what they forget to mention is that along the way, the budget was actually increased and the completion dates  were changed… ;) So, yes, technically on time and budget…but not really.

Last week I talked about Muskrat Falls in a blog post detailing Clarks vow to get Site C past the point of no return – an ominous statement considering the lack of due diligence by the BC government on this project. 

Today, a compelling column on Newfoundlands equally contentious dam project, the one that government commissioned an independent review on in the middle of construction because of escalating costs and other issues -(detailed in the link above.) http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Columnists/2016-02-08/article-4427462/It&rsquos-official:-Muskrat-Falls-is-a-millstone/1

I guess they were just wrong.
That’s the very best face you can put on it.
For years, the former provincial government argued we could have our fiscal cake and eat it, too: a Crown corporation could borrow billions of dollars with the government as a backstop, and the red ink would never show up on our balance sheet.
The government’s position was definite: no one would consider the money borrowed to build Muskrat Falls to be part of the province’s debt, because the project would someday produce revenue.

The argument continued: while we might borrow billions for the project, its asset value was worth the same amount as the borrowings. So, presto! No one in their right minds would consider it debt.

(I’ve said before that this is convoluted logic: if you buy a house for $300,000 and mortgage the whole thing, you can’t simply say you’re debt-free because your $300,000 house is an asset. You still have to pay the mortgage and the interest. But apparently that’s not the way provincial math worked.)

“Muskrat Falls will not increase our net debt by one cent. … We will have to borrow on one side (of the ledger) but we will have our asset on the other side,” then-finance minister Tom Marshall said on radio in 2012.

It’s a message repeated when the province brought down its mid-year financial statement in 2012: “Muskrat Falls is a project that will not impact net debt by a single dollar while providing us with an affordable, reliable, environmentally friendly source of electricity for generations to come,” Marshall said.

So is it on our balance sheet, or not?

Last week, the answer came in from bond rating agency Standard & Poors.

In this year of massive debts due to oil price declines, the rating agency — while lowering the province’s credit rating and potentially increasing the interest rates we’ll have to pay for future borrowing — still spent a fair bit of time discussing the “not-a-debt” fiscal liability that is Muskrat Falls.

“We view Newfoundland’s contingent liabilities as high. The province’s primary contingent risk relates to its wholly owned local energy provider, Nalcor Energy, a holding company that owns Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (NLH). Newfoundland has guaranteed C$1.1 billion of NLH’s debt, which represented an estimated 17 per cent of the province’s adjusted operating revenues in fiscal 2015.

“Nalcor (through two trusts) has issued C$5.0 billion of bonds that it used to finance the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project and its associated transmission lines. The debt carries a guarantee from the Government of Canada. We believe the province has an incentive to provide extraordinary government support to Nalcor in the event of financial stress. This view primarily stems from the essential nature of NLH’s service responsibilities, as well as the high profile and economic importance of Nalcor’s other development projects like Muskrat Falls.”

So, it’s pretty clearly on the balance sheet after all.

When we’ve asked questions, we’ve been told a lot of things about Muskrat Falls. There have been a lot of definitive answers: methyl mercury won’t be a problem downstream of the reservoir, the marine quick clay of the North Spur is totally safe, the project won’t go overbudget (whoops — another definite that didn’t pan out), the project won’t go overbudget again (whoops again).

We were told that Muskrat Falls is the cheapest option for new electricity. When the project started, we were told that ever-increasing oil prices meant that by January 2017, our oil-driven power bills would inevitably increase by 37 per cent over 2011. In fact, at least so far, those rates have stayed relatively flat, thanks to the cheap oil we were told we wouldn’t have.

So what else might they be wrong about?

It’s a chilling thought.

Something wicked this way comes.

 

Scary.

Scary because if you swap ” Site C” for “Muskrat Falls”, you might be taking a look into the future for BC. All the same issues. No independent review prior to construction.Don’t worry we need it, it’s all good, we know what we are doing.

Only they don’t, it’s not and they clearly didn’t.

Let me be perfectly clear. This is an important lesson for the province that the premier, Bill Bennett and BC Hydro need to heed.

bennettclarkBoth provincial politicians and BC Hydro often assert that Site C has undergone a rigorous environmental review and has been examined by the Joint Review Panel – neither of which can or are qualified to examine the cost or financials of the project.

In fact, even The Joint Review panel recommended Site C be sent to the BC Utilities Commission for an independent review for that purpose – the province of course continued to ignore all of this .

I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it. The province of BC has not done due diligence on Site C and has failed its inherent responsibility to taxpayers by not doing so. And instead of admitting a failure of process and protecting taxpayers from a Muskrat Falls scenario here in BC, the premier has now vowed to get this mess past the point of no return…..

I can only shake my head at such financial irresponsibility.

Check back tomorrow for a compelling photo blog I’m working on and more on BC Hydro and Site C – if there was ever a time for Trudeau and the environment minister to release the rationale for approving the Environmental Assessment Certificate the Harper cabinet kept secret, this is it.

 

 

 

 

2015 ends with a bang… so it’s time for the Top ten posts of 2015, from LailaYuile.com

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For us here down on the southern West Coast, we’re shaking off 2015 with gusto, thanks to a short but rather violent jolting earthquake last night. Or was that the sound of Premier Clarks LNG Dream bubble bursting?

Ah well, 2015  has been a really interesting year for politics, for people and for the blog!

According to official WordPress stats, there were 94 new posts in 2015, bringing the total archive of this blog to 1,185 posts!! And that’s down from prior years, thanks to a busier than usual schedule and my former 24 Hours column.

Once again, the power of social media wins again with the top two referrers to my blog consistently listed as Facebook and Twitter. Some repeatedly like to say Twitter is for ‘Twits’ but sadly that’s just not true. It’s still a powerful forum for sharing links and information- well used it’s a valuable tool and savvy influencers know it.

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The top 10 posts of 2015

  1. Why exactly, is the Mars Bomber sitting idle?   39 comments- While the province burned,questions as to why the contract with the Mars Bomber wasn’t in use, led to a public campaign to get it back in the  air – and it worked.
  2. 100 + reasons the BC Liberals must go  244 comments – a long time favourite- watch for a massive update in 2016 as the never ending list of scandals under the Clark government continues to face a loss of public trust in her leadership
  3. 50 shades of wrong: Why the BC Liberal government has lost all moral authority to govern #resignChristy   44 comments – following the tragic suicide of Rod MacIsaac, it was revealed the government had misled not only the fired health workers, but the public and RCMP. I and others, called for Clarks resignation,asked voters to demand answers from their MLA’s and said this government had lost its moral authority to govern.
  4. Why I am ( still) voting No in the Transit Tax Vote   106 comments – I believe in good transit but I independently campaigned a No vote- and that didn’t go over well with fellow progressives!
  5. Who’s the Scrooge at Real Canadian Superstore?  106 comments – this post still hits home as food prices increase and Superstore faces ongoing accusations of trying to prevent card holders from redeeming points – something that even happened to me, more than once!
  6. It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news  60 comments – an inspirational call to citizens to get engaged in their communities, and see how politics directly impacts their lives. Well shared and received across Canada.
  7. Sometimes losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding the truth II  40 comments –  Despite the incredible relationship with my readers at 24Hours Vancouver and years of developing that, I left this year, to protest PostMedias death of its own papers by a million little cuts. The story behind that.
  8. “Every absurdity has a champion to defend it.” ~ Oliver Goldsmith aka “The day politicians closed a bridge to do yoga.”  42 comments –  Sigh. All this scenery and the premier wants to close a bridge for yoga fo what seemed like a prime photo op for Lululemon,while an international event was staged nearby.
  9. BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost taxpayers $500 million? Not building it at all will save us over $8 billion dollars.  50 comments – we didn’t need Site C years ago and we don’t need it now. So why is it being pushed through despite not having been reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission? Because what Clark wants, Clark gets. Even if it makes no economic or environmental sense.
  10. Complicit… or incompetent? Questions continue to pile up for the premier who continues to ignore them all 27 comments – The premier continues to face questions,most recently for the hiring of Laura Miller who has now stepped down following charges related to a deleted records scandal in the Ontario government. But even before that, the premier was dodging questions and giving glib denials of everything and anything that’s gone wrong under her watch.

Who were my most opinionated readers?

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2016 promises to be busier than ever as here in BC  political parties are already in campaign mode : The Liberals have been handing out cash at photo-ops like crazy in past weeks and the NDP are in full opposition mode – for once.

Federally Trudeau will be shortly on the hot seat as the silly season of Christmas and New Years passes and reality hits.

I’ll be back into the full swing of  things the first week of January with a post on the late Christmas gift given to the Clark government: The settlement of two lawsuits initiated by the fired health care workers. Non-disclosure anyone? Will we ever know the full details of the governments horrendous and callous actions that led one man to take his life? Somehow, I don’t think so.

We’ll also take a look at the Shawnigan Lake contaminated soil site and the truck parking proposal in South Surrey – both contentious and somewhat related for the manner in which residents concerns and objections have been completely ignored.

It’s been a blast and I’m very happy that so many readers from 24Hours follow along here now, on Twitter and Facebook. We’ve shared personal moments, struggles, challenges and successes – and I appreciate them all.

What these stats, my twitter analytics and the tremendous success of these stories in travelling far and wide tells everyone, is that this is a team effort. All of you, are the biggest force behind this blog, and these stories.

One cannot succeed, or make a difference the way we can, without  doing it together,particularly as an independent blogger and commentator. 2016 brings another chance to try and get it all right again. Thank you so much for being a part of it.

Happy New Years!

From: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2014/12/new-years-wishes-and-gifts.html  I couldn’t say it better myself. <3

neilgaiman

 

 

 

“It’s not what you look at that matters…it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau.

Driving along the gravel road to a pristine mountain lake last weekend, the sound of the white water rushing in the river that ran alongside, was as welcome as any cold cocktail on a hot summer afternoon.

The clear water ran fast and frothy,tumbling over rocks and between giant boulders that looked like they were perfectly placed by some ancient giant hand until reaching deeper pools and eddies. These deeper pools took on an emerald hue, crystal clear and so inviting for fishers and weary hot hikers alike. If you knew the way of fish, you would also know that those dark pools were the preferred spot for salmon and trout to rest in between travelling the light rapids upstream and where, with a deft flick of wrist,an experienced fly-fisher could land dinner.

Opening the door of the truck, I was welcomed by ripe huckleberries growing right beside the gravel lot. Similar to a blueberry but much more intense in taste,I popped them into my mouth, savouring the pop and sudden rush of flavour on my tongue. The air was fresh and smelled… green, alive, unadulterated. Closing my eyes momentarily as we walked the path to the lake, I held my hand out to run fingertips across the ends of hemlock boughs, connecting with all that was around me. And with every step the stress, the baggage, the weight of my modern world left me in bits and pieces, evaporating into the forest around me, leaving me feeling free and new again…

I‘ve written often over the years about the connection I feel with the land around me and nearly just as much about all the things that threaten it.

Even on this trip the shock of seeing a new clear-cut and a rough logging road cut into the steep slopes was a jarring sight not only because the extreme terrain makes logging there costly, but also that it banked right up next to a provincial park. I’m not opposed to logging-my family has all worked in the forest industry-but forest practices and timber management have come under criticism often enough that it’s a concern for the future.

We enjoy the places less traveled to re-connect with the inner core of ourselves that is inherently called to nature, but on our way, we see many others leaving the cities in droves to find what connection they can.Even in Squamish and Whistler  you can see many dressed to the nines, snapping selfies in front of mountains,lakes and yes… bears… just so they can go home and tell their friends they did.

Well, perhaps that’s better than nothing. I’ve always believed that the only way to get people to understand and value what we have, is to build that connection to it. For those who have never lived outside of Metro Vancouver- or outside of most larger cities for that matter- it’s an undiscovered world. Places like the Peace River, where generations of land owners and First Nations have lived, farmed, hunted and gathered. I ask you to visit the area to be flooded, to stand and simply behold how incredible it really is… and then tell me you think it doesn’t matter.

More people than ever are paying companies to take them out camping,hiking hunting for food… on wild expeditions to experience what so many British Columbians simply call life. They are seeking not just adventure,but a feeling I think,of belonging. Of being a part of something bigger, of feeling how it is to know that nature can make you, or break you.

I know that feeling and it’s what calls me back to the forests and mountains when I’ve had enough of the galling joke we call politics in this province. Nature is the greatest equalizer, it grounds me, humbles me and leaves me in awe of her power and beauty. And in British Columbia, we have so much to be thankful for- YES, we really do- and we have to ensure those entrusted with the management of our natural areas, and our resources, are doing the best they can.

As I log off to enjoy my BC day weekend, and wish you the best for yours, I leave you with an excerpt from an older post. Consider and reflect, wherever you are in this province we  now celebrate.

 “Now that I have lived on the coast for so many years, the sea and the soil here is my heart as well. We can’t turn our back on our agricultural needs any more than we can our roots. The soil here in the Fraser River delta is so rich in silt, in sediment carried down from our mountains, from decaying wild salmon that just laid eggs in a stream not adulterated by Independent power Projects blocking their way…

This circle of life both urban and rural British Columbians rely on, is who we are as a people. It connects north and south like blood when we enjoy our baby greens in  fancy restaurants in the West End…  and when we harvest our moose in the north to fill our freezer.

Herein lies the challenge.

Do the people down here in the lower mainland consider what the impact is of salmon never reaching their spawning grounds? Do they know what it means to find moose and deer riddled with tumours, inedible, because the ticks now over winter due to higher winter temperatures?That the sickness of those moose and deer has an impact on the food chain that trickles down to levels we might not even understand yet?

Do they know that smell in spring that tells you to start harvesting fiddleheads? Do they know the feeling of being such a small part of the universe that seeing the northern lights every night, and hearing coyote packs killing their dinner at dusk gives you?

That was, and is, my British Columbia.

Even now, in my urban, suburban home, I can smell the rain coming and where it comes from. I eat lettuce, now,grown and harvested mere miles from my home that tastes worlds  apart from the imports. We embrace the rain, pick berries on the dykes, and know how precious it all is to us.We love the Canucks, even when they lose. I spent 6 hours on BC ferries to see The Tragically Hip sing Bobcaygeon ahead of schedule courtesy of a crew member on Vancouver Island.

I’ve  been broke. I’ve been flush. I’ve seen BC from top to bottom and there isn’t much I  wouldn’t endorse to anyone else looking to visit.

I think fighting for B.C is worth it. The greater good is bigger than any political agenda.

I’m not saying it is going to be easy… but I am saying it is going to be worth it.

The future is yours if you rise to the challenge. The only question is… will you?”

This is my BC. I’d love for you to share with all of us, photos of yours.

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“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

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.

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This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Welfare rates are starvation rates

THIS WEEK’S TOPIC: Should the B.C. government raise welfare rates?

Most of you likely woke up in a nice, warm bed today, then headed off to a warm shower and a quick breakfast before work. You will probably have a good lunch and many of you will either stop at the grocery store tonight on the way home, or stop to pick up take-out food.

Your life is full of choices.

For thousands of British Columbian’s on social assistance — including many who read our weekly columns — choice isn’t an option, and sometimes eating isn’t either.

Hardest hit without a doubt are the single men and women who have to live on $610 a month while trying to get back on their feet.

Last week, Vancouver-based musician Bif Naked announced she will be taking part in this year’s Welfare Food Challenge. For one week, she’ll have to survive on whatever she can buy for $21.

According to Raise the Rates, after deducting rent, transit tickets, room deposit and laundry-hygiene funds from the $610 monthly payment, approximately $84 is left for food for the month, or $21 a week. It’s a pittance and nearly impossible to buy nutritious food, let alone enough of anything to keep your body properly sustained.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

Former MLA Jagrup Brar found this out in 2012 when he took the challenge and lived for 30 days on the single-person rate. He lost 26 pounds and discovered why it’s so hard to get off social assistance once you get on – people are dragged into a vicious cycle that’s nearly impossible to overcome.

Most people think they can get a job easily enough, then discover how hard it is without reliable access to food, showers, and finding clothes suitable for interviews. Just surviving day to day is a struggle insurmountable to some, which is why the cycle continues…

Read the rest of this week’s column, vote and comment at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/10/05/welfare-rates-are-starvation-rates:I

This weeks column for 24 Hrs Vancouver: Union proposal a fair one to settle this debacle.

Last Friday, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker called for the province to agree to binding arbitration to reach a resolution in the ongoing dispute with the government.

Iker proposed that all matters of compensation, benefits and preparation time should go to arbitration, leaving the matters of class size and composition, currently before the courts, to remain with the courts.

If the government had agreed, the BCTF would have called a vote of its members to return to work and get kids back into classrooms. On Saturday, Education Minister Peter Fassbender rejected the offer, saying preconditions would tilt the process in the teachers’ favour.

With the rejection of this proposal, this government has again shown zero interest in bargaining in good faith – something they have already been harshly chastised for earlier this year in a ruling by Justice Susan Griffin.

In the days before Iker’s proposal, Premier Christy Clark took to the airwaves in her own press conference that was not only inflammatory and provocative, but many also say was inaccurate. It took less than seconds for reaction from teachers, parents and press alike to discuss whether she had simply been poorly briefed or deliberately tried to once again provoke the BCTF.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

This was followed by more outrage when politically charged, anti-BCTF comments posted by government employees to the government-run Twitter and Facebook accounts for the BC Education Plan appeared – an action some say violated the government’s code of conduct. The comments were partisan in nature, and inappropriate for a government site.

These kinds of tactics don’t constitute good-faith bargaining on the part of the government and are indicative of another campaign to turn public opinion against teachers. There is no interest in mediating a real settlement because the government is asking teachers to agree to E80, a clause that would have them give up the ruling the court has already given on class size and composition…

READ the rest of this weeks column, Brent’s response, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/09/07/union-proposal-a-fair-one-to-settle-this-debacle

Poll: Do you agree with the BCTF’s call for binding arbitration?

 

One vote per visitor, repeat votes have been blocked.

“Drop the appeal so children can go to school.” ~ Dan Brooks, leader of the BC Conservatives.

Although I have many conservative friends, it’s a rare day when I agree with any of them… :)

However, Dan Brooks has a solution so commonsense that it really puts Christy Clark and the Liberal government right on the spot in a big way.

From his press release:

September 2, 2014, Kamloops, BC –  The largest obstacle to resolving the government-teachers’ dispute is Premier Christy Clark’s determination to appeal a decision from January by the Supreme Court of British Columbia that found her administration’s Bill 22 was ‘unconstitutional.’

Dan Brooks, Leader of the BC Conservative Party, made that observation today as he reiterated his call for Premier Clark to immediately drop her legal appeal of the Bill 22 decision and instead begin ‘good faith’ negotiations with the province’s public-school teachers.

“Premier Clark, Education minister Peter Fassbender and other members of this government believe it is better to spend taxpayers’ dollars in courtrooms, instead of in our classrooms,” said Brooks.

The fact is that Ms. Clark and her BC Liberals have a dismal litigation record, having lost twice on their ‘unconstitutional’ legislation that unlawfully stripped bargaining rights from teachers.

It is long past time for Premier Clark to move on, accept the fact that her government lost two expensive court cases, and get back to negotiating a collective agreement that is fair both to taxpayers and teachers,” he said.

Brooks pointed out that B.C. taxpayers already were on the hook to pay $2 million in damages to the BCTF because of the Clark government’s refusal to negotiate in ‘good faith’ with public-school teachers.

How much more taxpayers’ money is going to be mis-spent under Premier Clark if she continues her appeal?” Brooks asked.

The Leader of the BC Conservative Party also noted that the Clark government – instead of using in-house lawyers with the Ministry of Attorney General to fight the appeal – had retained an outside litigation attorney at exorbitant corporate rates.

It has been said that if your case is weak, you should get the most expensive lawyer you can,” said Brooks.

Premier Clark, rather than utilizing government lawyers already on the public payroll, has acknowledged that her appeal argument is so anaemic that she had to hire a legal ‘superstar’. This madness must come to an end – and the sooner the better to get B.C. children back in school.

And with that, Dan Brooks firmly puts the ball in the government court.

For a premier who was so concerned in Wednesdays press conference to get to the issues of class size and composition, this is the perfect opportunity to put action to power and drop the appeal.

Anything less is lip service.

 

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Little leadership in mining disaster

This week’s Duel topic: Can B.C.’s mining industry rebuild public trust?

An age-old bit of wisdom says, “You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable.” Likewise, after closely watching the response and actions following the disastrous breach of the Mount Polley tailings pond, it might also be said, “You can tell a lot about a government or corporation by the way it responds to a crisis.”

In the days since the dam breached, it’s been one public relations blunder after another for both the government and Imperial Metals. While Premier Christy Clark was scolded for not immediately taking a leadership role in flying to the disaster area to survey the damage, company president Brian Kynoch faced harsh criticism as well. In an effort to minimize concern for residents worried about toxic tailings material released when the dam broke, he made the now-infamous statement that the tailings water in the pond was “almost drinkable.” When asked if he would drink the water, he said he would — once the solids had settled.

There have been criticisms by First Nations in the area claiming they were not immediately notified by the company when the spill happened and other residents reported concerns over a lack of information in the first few days. As the story has progressed, documents have come to light alleging Imperial Metals knew there was a problem with the tailings pond dam, and the government did as well.

Public trust of the mining industry as a whole appears to have fallen to an all-time low. And that’s unfortunate.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

I’m not anti-mining. In fact, my dearly departed grandfather worked many years in the Bullmoose mine in Tumbler Ridge while I was growing up. Mining, strategically planned and managed with strict environmental oversight, is an economic engine that has sustained entire cities and contributes to our provincial revenues past and present.

Can public trust be rebuilt? …

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/08/10/little-leadership-in-mining-disaster

A bit of history on politics and the Surrey RCMP

If there is anything that bothers me immensely, it is any kind of political interference or influence in any form of policing.

A wise man once told me : ” Tell the truth, tell it all, and tell it quick.”

I’d like to think that applies to politicians and policing as well, sensitive investigations and strategic information aside.

I noticed earlier today on twitter that mayoral candidate Doug McCallum was trying to make political hay out of others tweets and comments on transparency at city hall with regard to policing and police committee minutes.

And so it’s only correct to ensure a balance of information is available to let readers and Surrey residents know a bit of history on how politics and policing has meshed in the city, this time under the former mayor, whose  actions while mayor of Surrey lead to the story below, from 2002.

While there are very few online links available to explore this subject other than one story I have already mentioned in a prior blog post, there is quite a bit of material archived in libraries and search databases easily accessibly to anyone with a membership.

So, for the record: DougMcCallumRCMP in PDF format

Surrey Mounties vow they won’t be gagged by mayor

 

Author: Spencer, Kent

 

Abstract (Abstract): Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has pressured police into withholding bad news about crime in the city, says a senior RCMP source.

Full text:

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has pressured police into withholding bad news about crime in the city,says a senior RCMP source.

“McCallum doesn’t like any kind of negative story about crime, period,” the senior Surrey RCMP officer said yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“But if the public needs to know about something, we’re putting it out.”Yesterday, McCallum flatly denied trying to censor the RCMP about releasing crime information about his community.

“It’s up to their discretion when they want to send their press releases,” said McCallum. He also denied that an e-mail his assistant sent to RCMP last year was an attempt to control the flow of negative information.

In an earlier radio interview yesterday, McCallum said he could not even recall sending the e-mail.But later he told The Province: “It’s just a question I was asking. Mayors have the right to ask questions about the RCMP.”

The March 2001 e-mail from McCallum’s assistant, Donna Jones, to RCMP Supt. Al MacIntyre said “Doug is wondering” why the RCMP had issued a news release on a “shots fired” incident, since the release itself said police were “not asking for the public’s assistance.”

MacIntyre replied to Jones: “When this call came . . . the media heard about it on their scanners . . . . Given the interest by the media in the incident and to avoid repeatedly giving reports to media outlets . . . a press release was properly made public.”

The RCMP’s own figures show that Surrey is the auto-theft capital of North America on a per-capita basis. But McCallum told council recently it was important to be “careful how you interpret the stats.”

RCMP sources also say McCallum was not pleased that they used the term “House of Horrors” to describe a notorious crack-shack in Whalley.

Police allege the house on 108th Avenue, which has since been demolished, was the scene of drug-taking,extortion, torture and at least two murders.

Surrey North MP Chuck Cadman said the public has a right to know when shots are fired.

“People have to be aware of what’s going on around them so they can address it,” said Cadman, whose his 16-year-old son Jesse was murdered in 1992 in Surrey.Cadman, who is on the RCMP’s list to receive press releases, noted that fewer notices have been sent out since last March.

“It came to my attention when a woman whose son had been stabbed asked me for help,” he said. “I was really surprised, because I had heard nothing about it from the police.”

When asked whether the mayor has tried to suppress information, Surrey RCMP spokesman Const. Tim Shields said: “I have a duty to be honest with the public, therefore, it’s my best response to say nothing.”

Shields added: “The RCMP has a duty to inform the public of dangerous crime trends.”Surrey Coun. Bob Bose said the city has a “serious problem” if press releases have to be cleared by the mayor.

“It would be inappropriate interference in the day-to-day operations of the detachment — an extraordinary thing,” he said.

kspencer

 

People: McCallum, Doug, Cadman, Chuck

Publication title: The Province

Pages: A4

Number of pages: 0

Publication year: 2002

Publication date: Sep 27, 2002

Year: 2002

Section: News

Publisher: Infomart, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.

Place of publication: Vancouver, B.C.

Country of publication: Canada

Publication subject: General Interest Periodicals–Canada

Source type: Newspapers

Language of publication: English

Document type: News

ProQuest document