” The year old-fashioned honour in politics went missing ” ~ CBC headline, 2013.

After many long, arduous weeks reading the election headlines day in and day out, it was a statement by a CTV reporter online today that pushed me over the edge:

Classy.  Must have been a buddy of  Earl Cowan, the man who freaked out on a reporter at a Conservative rally and become the unwanted poster child for Stephen Harper all throughout this campaign. Even spoken tongue in cheek, it’s not the kind of statement any political party would want a supporter to say to the press.

I thought to myself, ‘ What happened to honour and integrity in politics?’  And then I laughed because really honour and integrity doesn’t even seem to be a factor anymore. We assume the worst and are happily surprised when a politician or candidate does the right thing when a hint of scandal or wrong-doing arises. A persons name,reputation and character used to mean more than anything-deals made on a handshake counted on it- but now? I wonder how some politicians sleep at night.

I wondered if anyone had written about honour and politics and a quick Google search showed – not surprisingly – very little other than the CBC headline posted above. Used in a story covering how neither three Conservative senators facing allegations of spending scandals, Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his crack smoking, or the mayor of London Ontario would step down even in the face of very dishonourable allegations, the point was clear.

There seems to be no honour left in politics, but more an arrogance of being entitled to the position they were elected to. Honour disappeared a lot earlier than 2013, although it was a notable year for Conservative scandal. It used to be the honourable thing to do to step down in the face of scandal, to show you have the integrity left to at least not taint your office, party or the voters who respected you enough to elect you.

Now? One would need to get a winch around the ankle of said politician facing scandal to get them out of office, and pry their fingers off the desk leg in order to pull them out.

The lack of honour in politics now seems to be an inherent part of the culture, so used to scandal and lies that we now take it for granted it’s going to happen at some point. But what does that say about us and who we are as a society? We keep electing the same politicians over and over again until they finally outrage us so much that change does happen. In other words, we are enabling the same behavior we find so reprehensible.

While it is accurate to say every political party has tricks up its sleeves when it comes to campaigns, the actions of the Tories in this election have been particularly distasteful and frankly, lowbrow. Fear has always been a powerful campaign motivator used since the beginning of politics,yet the Tories drove that point home using graphic mailouts depicting the threat of ISIS in the bedrooms in Surrey, which didn’t go over well with many residents more concerned with the more than 40 dial a dope drug turf shootings this year – some of which have pierced homes and schools.

The niqab issue completely engulfed Canadians and divided them- and we let them do it.  Ironically while the Tories all claimed the niqab issue was about womens equality among other justification, there has been zero mention of the Harper governments own internal report that states Canada is falling behind the developed world in womens equality.

According to the report, this country is in the bottom ranks in terms of the pay gap between men and women; support for child care and parental leave is well below average; the country registers 57th for gender equality in Parliament’s elected members; and it lacks a national strategy to halt violence against women.

“Canada has no comprehensive national strategy to address violence against women, lagging behind several comparable countries, including the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand,” says the draft document marked “secret.”

The internal report says Canada lacks a national strategy on violence against women.

The candid assessment, never intended for public release, is dated Feb. 10 this year and was ordered by the Privy Council Office to alert deputy ministers across many departments about issues facing women and girls in Canada.

A copy of the 35-page presentation — with five pages of “policy implications” blacked out entirely as “advice” — was obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

You can read that report here: statusofwomen Seems odd that a government so concerned with women’s equality and freedom wouldn’t talk about their own record on it. And why the focus is on the niqab when many single senior women are living in poverty.

There has been very little real focus on the issues impacting people here in BC. There was no chat about the closure of Coast guard offices,  a huge issue for those of us living along the BC coast, nor was there chat about the closure of nine veterans offices or the other cuts  and challenges our veterans have faced.  There is a staunch refusal to address the legalization of marijuana, when clearly what we are currently doing isn’t working,particularly in BC.

Candidates have been failing to show up for all candidates meetings all over the provinces, showing a complete lack of respect for the voters in their ridings. No questions, no answers leaves voters guessing. And this weeks post-Thanksgiving weeks distractions include appearances by none other than Rob and Doug Ford at a Harper event in Etobicoke – which is nearly as funny as Conrad Black, convicted felon, endorsing Trudeau.

Meanwhile here in BC the Conservatives were caught running ads in ethnic media claiming a Trudeau government would mean your kids would all have easy access to pot and we’ll have brothels in every neighbourhood… yeehaw! Seriously, if this doesn’t take the cake, I don’t know what does… but it’s definately the year good old honour and decency went missing

The only question now is, what are you going to do about it? Research your candidates,ask questions,check their voting records and see how accessible they are. Are they honourable people with good character and integrity?

The future of this country is in your hands…use your vote wisely.

“Good morning Laila, My name is Derek and I’m a very rare man.” or ” How left and right politics are fabricated.”

As a writer, I get a lot of interesting emails. In fact, I sometimes imagine putting together a book one day of the  amusing and sometimes, downright odd ones that people send me. Don’t get me wrong – 98% are great tips and comments and I love getting them-it’s the 2% that raise my eyebrows!)

So, when I first checked my emails today,I quickly scanned one that said:

"Good morning Laila, 

My name is Derek and I’m a very rare man.
I’m utilizing my uniqueness to raise an equally uncommon message...."

I’ll be honest. At that point my eyes were rolling back in my head so far my chair nearly fell backwards and I had a bit of fun with this opener on Facebook.

But after meeting the deadline for this weeks column, I went back to read it again and found something that actually really mattered.

I’ve written a lot about why I think partisanship –  in particular blind and extreme partisanship – turns people off politics. and as a result, voting.

You can find those posts HERE..http://lailayuile.com/2015/03/19/left-right-and-the-space-in-between-conquering-the-great-divide-in-politics/

…and over HERE: http://lailayuile.com/2013/04/21/how-partisan-politics-is-killing-democracy/

…and even right HERE: http://lailayuile.com/2015/08/11/the-only-way-to-change-it-is-to-vote-people-are-responsible-paul-wellstone/

For me, it’s always been about trying to engage people and bring them back into the process. I’ve tried to make that direct connection between what happens in and around their personal lives, to the need to pay attention and get involved at some level of engagement. On many issues, it’s no longer enough to just sit and watch the news and go ” That’s terrible!” Or ” That shouldn’t happen!

So when I watched Derek’s video, I saw something that resonated deeply with what I have written in the past and what I intend to keep trying to do in the future: Get people engaged and get them to vote.

And yes some of my deeply partisan friends will once again sigh deeply as they silently curse my efforts, but oh well. It won’t be the first time and certainly not the last, I promise.

So Derek, good snag in that email. You caught my attention, hook, line and sinker. Health and humour, Laila :)

“The only way to change it, is to vote. People are responsible.” ~ Paul Wellstone


Settled deep into the halcyon days of summer, mid-August triggers a sense of urgency for many Canadians regardless of where you live. Every day is a tick of the clock counting down the coveted days of  a northern summer that for many, is all too short.

And while most of us will use every free second of this month to simply relax with friends and family,others are already preparing for winter – cutting and stacking wood,harvesting gardens to freeze,pickle and can everything they can. Even a look into my deep freezer would show you bags of IQF local berries and fruits, and the blackberry harvest is ongoing. When you plan for 6 months of fall and winter, it takes a significant amount of your time and energy.

But in offices and certain homes all across Canada, there is a different sense of urgency developing as political parties move into high gear in the wake of  Prime Minister Harper’s early election call on August 2nd. And while most of my followers will already know this, I also know that there are thousands more Canadians who truly are not aware yet that an election is even happening this year,sad as it is.

This will be one of the longest and most expensive election campaigns in the history of Canadian politics,and every political party would be wise to pace themselves to avoid over-bombarding Canadians, which is likely to increase voter apathy. Indeed voter apathy is perhaps an even bigger threat to the future of this country than Harper when you look at the turnout in recent federal elections.

In 2011, the population of Canada was 31,612,897 million people. Only 24,257,592 were registered to vote and on the electors list.

And of those electors, only 14,823,408 people actually took the time to vote- it works out to 61.1%. A look back at the chart from Elections Canada shows the low voter turnout still is a really big issue.


Now don’t get me wrong – I am firmly in the ‘Harper needs to go’ camp – from the treatment of veterans to silencing of scientists, from his turnabout on the Chinese government to ‘quiet’ meetings with propaganda ministers and now Bill C51 -there is ample reason for pragmatic if not partisan objection to his governments actions and policies.

But when only 60% of people who are registered to vote actually do, it brings a perspective to the campaigns I think is often overlooked in the quest to win. Let me tell you why I feel that way.

I recently posted a link to http://www.votetogether.ca/ to my Facebook page and asked: “If the goal of this election is to defeat the Harper government, would you vote for the candidate in your riding that is most likely to defeat a Conservative, if that candidate was not of the party you are a member of, or support? ”

Surprisingly, for the very few willing to even answer that question, even fewer were honest enough to admit that they would not. So is this about getting rid of Harper, or is this about power?

The premise of the VoteTogether initiative is to vote strategically to oust the Conservatives, and they promote voting for whichever candidate has the best chance of doing so in your riding,regardless of the party they represent.

Now, if all the rhetoric we have heard about Stop Harper were true and meaningful, one would think the federal Liberals and NDP must come to some sort of an agreement to ensure that happens. But no, that’s not happening.

Why? Because while both parties will ultimately resort to some kind of gobbledygook about not being able to support the policies of the other and how they alone are the only viable option to undo the mess the Conservatives have created, it’s really about power.  The intense yearning for power not only at the top but in the backrooms behind the top. Trudeau has nixed an alliance outright while Mulcair says while they are aiming to replace the Conservatives,when the votes go down he will not support a Tory minority.

But why not unite now, to get the job done before the election?

This is something touched on in a column by none other than Martyn Brown, who was lauded and elevated to near celebrity status by those on the left recently,for his columns bashing Christy Clark and her LNG dreams.

But today- not surprisingly -those same people are silent as his recent post heralding Green Party Elizabeth Mays performance in the Macleans debate, strikes a nerve for some and appeals to others.

For me, this is where he gets to the heart of the matter, because I too found May’s debate performance compelling:

May has also proved that her participation stands to change the entire tenor and content of any debate that might take place—and decidedly for the better.

Set aside that, as the only woman in the field, she alone stands to temper her competitors’ macho tussle of ideas and insults with some much-needed gender balance and a unique perspective.

Why the Globe is prepared to discount that imperative is as mystifying as it is glaringly inexcusable.

The larger benefit of May’s involvement is the option for change and democratic representation that her party stands to offer Canadians. It is an option that will be aided by her participation in the debates and that will be unconscionably suppressed if she is excluded.

Whatever the practical challenges may be in translating the Green party’s ideas into action and its often-lofty positions into workable policies, May’s views are important for another less obvious reason.

They remind us all that idealism still matters in politics.

Her positions are grounded in unyielding beliefs and values of what is right and what is wrong. They are often anything but “political” in the typical partisan sense, insofar as they tend to marginalize her own voter support base, as they also transcend party lines and their associated ideologies.

The trouble with being on the cusp of power—as the NDP now is, in lockstep with the Liberals and Conservatives—is that the power game becomes the only thing that really matters.

Ideals get thrown out the window when push comes to shove in the battle to play it safe with positions that always have the polls as their main object of focus.

The last place you want to be, if you want to be the last person left standing, is out on a ledge like May, defending your ideals with an uncompromising commitment to stand fast for right over wrong, come what may.

The parties and their leaders all tend to speak in code to their prospective supporters by saying enough to win them over and by saying nothing that is not open to constructive interpretation in wooing any target audience.

This is the real value of May’s involvement. She is inclined to say exactly what she means, as if it really matters.

And some of what she says speaks directly to voters like me, who long to hear politicians stake their claim in ideals that are more concerned with right and wrong than with the narrow confines of their orthodox ideologies….”

“The power game becomes the only thing that matters…” 

And sadly, this is what I see in the comments of some friends and acquaintances who speak to me now as if I too were the ‘enemy’ simply because I believe Canadians not only have a right to choose who to vote for, but that they deserve to hear what May has to say.

And I voice that. I’m not naïve, but nor am I a party member. I’m a concerned Canadian with no political affiliation,just like hundreds of thousands of other voters. So this matters to me.

I’ve been told that because the Green candidates aren’t ‘whipped’, they have to represent their constituents views regardless of what that is( like that’s a bad thing?)  – from a Liberal supporter.

That Green’s are actually Conservatives and vote Right – from an NDP supporter.

And all the while, the NDP and the Liberals keep telling people why they shouldn’t vote for the other parties, instead of telling people what they can do differently. And supporters of both are mocking the decisions and opinions of those who are undecided but maybe leaning towards their Green candidate?

Gee, do you think that after 3 months of this going on, we have the potential to see more voter apathy than ever? That the undecided, non-party member voters who don’t spend every moment following politics or even the news for that matter, will just say: “Forget it!” yet again and lead us to another Harper government? Perhaps – only time will tell.

Call me crazy, but telling someone their vote is wrong, that their opinion is stupid or doesn’t matter, might not be the best way to get people to vote. Something for those ‘influencers’ out there on social media to think about, if not the party brass.

I very much enjoy the diversity of opinions and thoughts of all my partisan friends whether I agree or not, but partisanship alone isn’t the problem. It’s the inability or the unwillingness to look beyond the confines of that partisan view to a bigger picture.  Please, when engaging potential voters, think about what your goal is for Canada- and not just your party. An increase in voter turnout is good for all of us.

Indeed,apathy is the biggest threat to democracy  and the Conservatives know this well…Don’t unwittingly feed the beast that allows them to get re-elected, in your zeal to unseat them.

“The job facing voters… in the days and years to come is to determine which hearts, minds and souls command those qualities best suited to unify a country rather than further divide it, to heal the wounds of a nation as opposed to aggravate its injuries, and to secure for the next generation a legacy of choices based on informed awareness rather than one of reactions based on unknowing fear.” ~ Abherjhani


Orange Crush served up in Alberta by Notley win,but can the BC NDP ride the wave to leadership in 2017?

orangecrushThere were two things on my TV agenda last night : the season première of Deadliest Catch, and the Alberta election. Flipping back and forth on commercial breaks, once the news that an NDP majority was being called by media, that was it. I never did  flip back to see the ending of Deadliest Catch but I did see the crashing of an orange wave of NDP on landlocked Alberta shores…

Congratulations are in order to Premier Notley and her newly elected MLA’s. Well done in the race and I’m hoping outgoing premier Jim Prentice ( endorsed by none other than Premier Clark I might add) can do the math on the number of seats the NDP now hold. His resignation as leader was a given- it generally is- but that he resigned from his seat as well, told the voters all they needed to know about what was important to him – power, not people.

The NDP have made history and are now presented with an equally historical opportunity to show what the NDP can do in the province, and Canada is watching. That such a conservative province voted left has left many still stunned in silence this morning,while others are already declaring that in six months voters will be regretting their choice.

Ironically, those are the same people who are quick to remind everyone  the voter is never wrong when a conservative government wins of course! Now that the table has turned, stories of doom and gloom from corporate Alberta, wide-eyed commentaries and admonitions of how business is going to pick up and leave are rife in media coverage.

For the average Albertan though, life will carry on as before, perhaps with a bit of trepidation of this big change and what it means. But I do believe Notley will rise to the occasion and show Alberta her best. Many in her caucus are wet behind the ears and a steep learning curve is ahead for sure, but there is something to be said for fresh ideas and a different perspective.

Regardless of which side you stand on,the voters are never wrong and nearly 60% of eligible voters turned out to cast a ballot and send a clear statement to long time politicians in the province. I wish them well.

Already many are predicting this bodes well for the BC NDP in the 2017 election, but I’m not so quick to say that a win in Alberta translates into a win in BC. Quite frankly, it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges. There is more than just mountains that separates BC from Alberta.

Alberta has been under the Progressive Conservatives for 44 years. People my age don’t even have firsthand knowledge of any other party being in control. The NDP brand in the province doesn’t have any recent history to use against them with a huge number of voters and that works in their favour.

In direct contrast, here in BC the Liberals have been in power for just over a decade,and have used the well-crafted narrative of “You don’t want to go back to the horrible nineties do you?” to their benefit in multiple elections. Why? It works.

It doesn’t matter if the facts don’t support it, the narrative of the BC NDP being anti-business, anti-resource, pro-spending has been so consistently repeated by Liberals over the years in short sharp sound bites that it has become ingrained as good as truth.  Premier Clark still uses this line in speeches, even in recent months, because it still works.

NotleyAdding fuel to her fire is that many NDP from the nineties are still around, which doesn’t work to their benefit. It’s that recent history of the BCNDP that works against them in campaigns whereas the NDP really is something new to many Albertans -their lack of recent history works tremendously in their favour.

Looking to the leaders, Notley is a strong,fiery woman whose intelligence and quick wit is coupled with the wisdom of knowing when not to take the bait and when to fire back. She is vibrant, glowing and clearly appeals to a broad spectrum of voters.

horganIn contrast, while Horgan is also a strong, intelligent leader who enjoys the public, his temperament has been described often as brusque, and it doesn’t always work in his favour. He’s quick to rise to the bait and dish it back, and while he’s done a great job in the legislature dealing with the premier’s show-boating, his appeal in general to voters across a broad spectrum remains to be seen.

And while many Albertans are very pro-resource, British Columbia has a growing Green following of those who are either anti-resource or very strongly in favour of moving away from resource development. This bodes ill for the NDP who are caught between a rock and a hard place on issues of Kinder Morgan and LNG development with many voters.

Many NDP campaigners from BC worked to help the NDP win in Alberta,and certainly there should be lessons to be found from doing so.

Rightfully so, it’s time for NDP members everywhere to celebrate. But after basking in the glow of the orange dawn of NDP success next door, the BC NDP need to look hard at the challenges ahead. Despite having a ton of ammunition – John Horgan’s twitter account is worth the follow the last few day -they’ve repeatedly failed to weave a narrative to convince voters to vote orange in every election. And while they’ve found some fiery, brilliant MLAs in Lana Popham, Selina Robinson and David Eby , they would do well to recruit more.

Notley showed us all that anything is possible when an NDP government can take a sweeping majority in conservative country.

If the BC NDP want to ever be more than the perpetual official opposition, they need to come up with a winning combination of their own to serve up another orange crush like Notley did, rather than expecting to ride this one home.

** On a side note, Premier Clark might want to give up on making bets, since she recently predicted the Canucks would take the first round and Prentice would win

The Canucks lost, Prentice walked and I’m guessing she’s out a bit more craft beer. How do you think that bodes for her betting on LNG saving the provinces economy?

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.


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

The Duel – 24hrs, Vancouver Edition

Heads up for all my readers to pick up a copy  of 24hrs Vancouver edition tomorrow, where I go head to head with Kathryn Marshall on  this week’s topic:

Is Bill C-377 good for Canada’s union members?

My column:


Kathryn’s column:


Who wins the battle this week? You be the judge : submit your comments below the article or email in 150 word or less at van24feedback@sunmedia.ca

Conservatives passed new disclosure requirements to hamper Canada’s unions

Laila Yuile, Guest Columnist

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This week’s topic: Is Bill C-377 good for Canada’s union members?

Last week, those benevolent Conservative members of Parliament bestowed an early Christmas gift on organized labour in this country — or so they would like you to believe.

Bill C-377, a private member’s bill drafted by Tory backbencher Russ Hiebert, was passed in the House of Commons and with it the requirement that unions publicly disclose how they spend their members’ dues. Detailed reports will now have to be submitted to Revenue Canada yearly — a costly venture for taxpayers and unions alike. The information will subsequently be posted online and available to the general public.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt declared it was all out of concern for those Canadian union workers who — thanks to those altruistic Tories — will now have the information they need to make informed decisions before casting ballots in union elections. Seriously, I think I saw a tear in her eye.

Now let’s talk a little reality.

I support financial transparency in member-based organizations, in particular those that collect fees. Members should know where money is going and how it is being spent. However, I know from being in a family where nearly everyone is a unionized forestry worker, that the vast majority of unions already make their financial statements available to their members. There are even a number of provincial labour codes to support this across Canada.

Because of this, it seems to me that the Conservative government is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. The Tories didn’t target any other associations or organizations that collect dues, such as medical associations or law societies. They only targeted unions. This bill is about two things — hampering organized labour in this country and hindering the New Democratic Party, which has always been backed by union support.

Unions are closed organizations, and therefore financial transparency should be a concern limited to members — publicly posting financial information does nothing to serve the membership.

It does however, give  more than a few strategic advantages to corporations during union contract negotiations;to corporations who don’t want their employees to unionize, and to the Conservatives who will be able to see where and how the unions who support the NDP, are spending their money.

Indeed, if the Conservatives are so concerned about Canadians needing the right information to make the right decisions when casting election ballots, they might want to try legislating some financial transparency of their own.

Read Kathryn Marshall’s column.

Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator.

Sea to Sky operator awards Transtoll technical advisory contract to ensure accurate shadow toll vehicle counts on the Sea to Sky highway – despite the government making repeated,public denials that shadow tolls even exist.

The latest development in my ongoing investigation into the province’s many P3 projects has been the surfacing of a news release from Transtoll, courtesy of a reliable source, that announces that the company was awarded a contract in June of this year on behalf  of the Sea to Sky Highway Limited Partnership, the operator of the Sea to Sky highway.

I broke the story of the hidden shadow tolls on the Sea to Sky a couple of weeks ago, here on the blog. Despite repeated  public denials to myself, News 1130 and the Squamish Chief newspaper that shadow tolls exist on the Sea to Sky highway, Transtoll was awarded a technical advisory contract in June of this year, to review both the contract and hardware for the traffic counting hardware currently installed on that highway. The press release can be viewed in full PDF format here: Transtoll_20100601_Sea2Sky

The Ministryof Transportation has been caught in an outright lie. Shadow tolls do exist on the sea to sky, and the road operator has even awarded a contract to Transtoll to make sure the vehicles are being counted accurately. Are they concerned over how much is being payed to the operator every month? A number and payment of which no one is privy to because not only does the goverment deny the shadow tolls exist, they have refused to make public the portions of the concession agreement that reveal the details of how much the operators are being paid per vehicle. And think carefully now, because that is a number and $$ amount that is sure to rise over the years of that 25 year agreement… I assure you, this is a profitable venture for Kiewit, Macquarie et al.

Which  now brings me back to the technology that was originally installed on that highway, and the manner of data collection which included licence plate scanners and microwave technology to determine weight, speed and occupants of the vehicle.

The ministry never responded to my queries whether or not that equipment was still in use, a possible breach of privacy if highway users are not aware they are being recorded.

The NDP never came out and publicly commented on this story either.

What else is the government lying about? Was this contract simply handed out as a favor to Transtoll, which happens to be owned by Macquarie Group, one of the concessionaires on the project?

More on this, and other projects, in the days to come.

****Update: Sea to SkyHighway Investment Limited Partnership is the entity operating the sea to sky highway,and I have confirmed that it was in fact the concessionaire that has awarded this contract- which would make it a sub-contracting type of agreement between the two, and the contract was not awarded by the MOT, or the government- per se.

However, sources indicate to me that the MOT did not want to handle this  Transtoll contract because of the need to avoid verifying the presence of the shadow toll ( awarding a contract to Transtoll would be questionable, wouldn’t it, considering the MOT has unequivocably stated there are no shadow tolls on this highway?)  and so the operator, Sea to Sky Highway Investment Limited Partnership handled the outsourcing of this contract to avoid questions for the MOT. 

My sources also indicated there is some concerns as to under/overbilling to the Ministry based on incorrect vehicle counts.

The question then becomes, how much does this new contract add to the cost of the sea to sky highway? Are the highway operators  billing the government for it in the end? I contacted the MOT yesterday, but have yet to get a reply on this issue.

The Sea to Sky Shadow Toll series:

1. Breaking news: BC liberals inked ‘hidden toll’ into Sea to Sky highway deal – and we all pay for the next 25 years

2. Shadow tolls on Sea to ‘Sly’ highway, the William R. Bennett Bridge,and the BC Rail connection

3. At last! The ministry of transportation responds to my questions…

4. “The B.C. governments secretiveness is not confined to ‘shadow tolls’. And there is genuine concern they have a lot to hide…”

Carole James demonstrates BC Liberal “Omerta” doctrine – and fails to grasp how deeply she’s betrayed the parties grassroots supporters.


Loosely defined as the ‘code of silence’ doctrine made famous by the mafia, I’ve personally always believed omerta closely described the attitudes of the BC Liberal party and its current leader, Premier Campbell. Never talk, never tell and never,ever criticize the leader –  those who do become persona non grata .(Loyal) Silence is golden.

However, following the dismissal of  MLA Bob Simpson, it appears  to me that Carole James has taken a leaf from the toxic Liberal tree and adopted  the omerta attitude as well, and no one could be more disappointed than myself.

Last year I met with Carole privately, at her request, in the downtown office. I’ve always been fond of Carole, and since my ambition to run for public office has never been secret, I felt the opportunity was quite timely. I really wanted to  find out where the party was headed since the appearance of Moe Sihota signified the possibility of a great change to the direction of the NDP, at least to myself .

To be frank, I am not an NDP party member – I hold no card to any political party-  and in the past I have really felt that the NDP is where I would try to make that leap to provincial politics. In speaking with Carole at the time, I felt confident that she was ready for another run, and in my opinion, she was very aware of where she had gone wrong in the last election and what she should have done differently.  Her honest and frank contributions to our conversation addressed my concerns – somewhat.

That being said, I also took the opportunity to voice my concerns about Moe Sihota’s return to the party executive. Although I understood the rationale that the NDP needed supporters with deeper pockets,  and they felt Moe could assist with this, I felt strongly that the party would only suffer from the unshakeable bad taste Moe Sihota’s name leaves in nearly everyone’s mouth. Truly, I have never met anyone who recalls anything about Moe Sihota other than his conflict of interest debacles.  I  also urged Carol to be more outspoken, stronger, show some of that so-called killer instinct that I really think the people of BC want to see in any leader. Combined with her compassionate nature, it could only assist her to put herself out there with some real solutions to what ails this province, rather than continue with the politically placating rhetoric I seem to be hearing from her more often.

I left that meeting knowing that I would be a welcome addition to the party, but that there was far more I would watch for before making that choice.

Clearly, I’m no more inclined to sign up now, than I was then.

If anything, I believe Carole’s intense drive to woo the business community has blinded her to what I think are clear cries from the people of BC for her to show us an alternative that works, an alternative that puts them first, over big business. How and why the party executive came to this strategy is beyond me, but then again, I’m not a strategist,I’m a writer. 

I’ve read the speech that Bob Simpson criticized, and I have to agree with him. As someone who worked very hard to counter Liberal PR during the last campaign, as someone who wrote often several times daily to inform voters of real issues that were not being given press or coverage because it would not show the Liberals in a favorable light, and as someone who cares for this province dearly, I was deeply disappointed in her speech.

I expect the person who is in charge of the party I worked hard to support, to work equally hard to find real solutions to the challenges this province is facing, to tell us what they are , and then tell us exactly how that is going to happen.  In my opinion,Carole did none of the above, and left herself open to critique by way of position. By removing Bob from caucus, she inadvertently pulled the plug of remaining support among the membership who still believed in her. The truth is it will not matter why she felt she needed to do it,what people will remember is that omerta , Liberal like attitude  she demonstrated by doing so.

The NDP have always been a party of the people, one where average men and women felt they were represented and heard. Carole, Moe and the party executive are failing all of their members by mirroring Liberal party strategies that will not ever, ever appeal to the vast membership at large. If we wanted Liberal strategy, we would join the Liberals. If we wanted Liberal attitude, then everything Campbell is about would be working instead of failing miserably. James and the executive would do well to remember the people of BC are tired of what has become that bad standard of  political reaction from the NDP, and focus more on political action.

A wise man once said :  ” The very essence of leadership is that you must have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”

 Therein lies the problem with Carole. No one can hear if she’s even blowing.

Bits and Bites, Thursday February 11th,2010

After long last, Bits and Bites is making a return on this cold rainy Thursday !

The once weekly Wednesday feature has been on a hiatus for a while, as I’ve devoted as much spare time as possible to investigating and researching a very special project. Over the next month or two, I will be bringing you several posts in a series that takes a very revealing look at the way government and industry do business together in BC . 

With that in mind, what better way to start today’s edition of Bit’s and Bite’s, than with a look at what is going on in Quebec now.

You may have heard the allegations of organized crime running much of the construction industry in Quebec,and for that matter, doing business with both municipal and provincial governments. In fact, over the last few months the issue has exploded following the arrests of 10 men, with calls for an independent probe into the many allegations of mafia funded political contributions, bid-rigging and collusion- all  between construction companies controlled by organized crime and both levels of government.

Leading the charge to investigate and show the depth of  corruption, is former judge John Gomery, although reception from the federal government has been embarrassingly weak, as this excerpt from a report last year details:

     ….an explosive report last week on Radio-Canada’s investigative show “Enquete,” highlighted extensive Mafia control over infrastructure spending. The report alleged that up to 80 per cent of the road construction contracts in Montreal are controlled by the powerful Italian Mafia. Price-fixing and collusion between about 14 companies has driven up the price of infrastructure contracts in the Montreal region 35 per cent higher than they should cost, the report said. Federal parties have refused to weigh in. The governing Conservatives called it a provincial matter last week, the NDP refused to comment, and the Liberals never responded to a request for a reaction

Today, Premier Jean Charest is still resisting the call for a public inquiry into the issue, stating he wants police investigations to end first… (or his time as premier is over, I suspect!)

 Another report about this continually developing story came across my desk a couple weeks ago and details a real horror story of what one  concrete company owner experienced,  after learning the hard way who really makes the deals in town… Think ” meet my little friend..” and you have the right idea. The article goes on to say this   :

   ….recent reports have come to light of an intricate bid-rigging system for contracts in Montreal, whereby a group of construction firms agree in advance on a price and which company will submit the lowest bid for each project. Industry insiders say a group of 14 companies, dubbed the Fabulous 14, receives the lion’s share of public tenders from the city. As a result, construction work in Montreal costs about 35 per cent more than anywhere else—this according to retired Transports Québec official François Beaudry.

Sauvé says political parties and organized crime take a cut of the inflated prices in order to contribute to these big political campaigns.

There is a long history of collusion in Montreal’s construction industry, says Antonio Nicaso, an award-winning journalist, a bestselling author and an internationally recognized expert on organized crime.

“This is something that has existed at least since the 1970s,” says Nicaso. “That’s why when the reports came out about this, I wasn’t surprised at all.”

Nicaso doesn’t doubt that the mob is a big investor in the construction industry, and has been for many years. It makes sense for organized crime to get into the construction industry, as it allows criminals to launder money that comes from smuggling and dealing drugs.

Nicaso says Montreal isn’t alone. There are similar ties between construction companies, the mob, and politicians in every city in Canada. The difference is that the Montreal mafia has wielded influence for much longer, since the 1940s or 1950s, so the system is much more intricate there.

Serious allegations, and serious consequences, some of which I will be exploring in the series to come.  While we are on the topic of corruption in government, you may want to check out a couple of my recent postsfor some  related background information, both of which take a look at tendering irregularities here in the ministry of transportation.

 The first is found here:  http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/laila-yuile-says-time-to-start-those-tolls-on-the-sea-to-sky-highway/  .

The second is here  – and construction/legal publications aside – has not been covered  anywhere else by the local media to date : http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/tercon-contractors-ltd-vs-british-columbia-ministry-of-transportation-and-highways/  

 Shocking, not only because it promises to be one of the most important legal cases for the construction industry across Canada, but because it also details how the  BC ministry of transportation ( MOT) actually tried to hide the involvement of an unqualified participant in a bid for a provincial project. Check back tomorrow for an important update on that case.

Moving on to other political venues… You must have heard the phrase, ‘the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing’ ?  Perhaps someone could let the Surrey School board in on it, because they are guilty of the biggest bit of hypocrisy I think I’ve ever heard of! 

Parents in School District 36 ( here in Surrey) have reacted strongly and loudly on behalf of the School board, who asked all of us to speak out against the massive budget shortfall in the coming 2010-2011 school year -a whopping  $15 million dollars shortfall that it.  Of course, parents have responded in droves, because last year the school board actually cut the number of teaching days to meet the budget, so the announcements that more jobs and programs will have to be cut- again-  is yet another smack in the face of all parents. Surrey is one of the few districts in BC that still has a rapidly growing enrollment, one so large that new schools often  have portables on site the very first year they are open!

So, considering all the doom and gloom promises of children suffering educational cuts, lack of teaches or supports, and no more programs for the wee kiddies…imagine my surprise, and anger when I found out that this very same school board is building themselves a fancy, brand-spanking new office building with a conference  centre? At the cost of $ 40 million dollars, which is twice the price of our budget shortfall this year. Yes? Can you imagine the apoplectic spitting that charged from my mouth, accompanied by a stream of very foul language? I bet the School board can…

I have to send a hearty thank- you out to The Sun education reporter/blogger, Janet Steffenhagen for this one, because a reader sent her first post to me, followed by her second, which has the response of this hypocritical school board to her inquiries. Which, in my opinion, is a lot of bafflegab considering what dire straits this district really is in.

Here’s some budget ‘input’ for you Doug Strachan,

 Education IS NOT about nice new, modern buildings where the board and district employees can perpetuate more bureaucratic bafflegab  while lunching on overpriced catered chicken in your new conference centre, but IT IS about making sure kids have the right tools and staff to learn. We’ve already lost 9 days in this school year,making the days our kids do go to school all that more valuable, so what’s your next move?

Virtual teachers where one person can teach 5 kindergarten classes at once?

I for one, will make sure every parent I know in Surrey, knows about this  ridiculous amount of spending. I will make sure they know that a fiscally responsible board could have, and should have seen this current situation coming over the last few years, and  still chose to allocate funds to needs other than direct education. And, I will make damn sure that  the parents remember this when the time comes to vote for a new school board. How’s that for budget input?

Last but not least…as a HUGE fan of the Discovery Channel show ‘ Deadliest Catch’, it was the saddest  of news to hear of the passing of Captain Phil Harris, at the age of 53.  Phil was that rough and ready, manliest man captain of the Cornelia Marie, but inside that tough, tattooed exterior was the most sensitive of hearts that the camera was so good at showing viewers. My best regards to his family and friends.