Bits and Bites, March 24th 2011
March has been an exceedingly busy month for me and that has been reflected in the lack of blog posts. I am happy to tell you that April is the light at the end of the tunnel and you can look forward to a variety of compelling, exclusive stories. For now, I want to take a look at a few issues that have caught my eye, starting with Christy Clarks “launch” of a project here in Surrey that actually began construction in January, long before she was narrowly selected by BC Liberals to lead the party.
This item received a bit of press around the province, and is one of the biggest examples of crafty PR engineering I have seen in some time. Christy Clark, flanked by her team of re-re-run Liberals,all eagerly lined up to accept credit for something she herself has had nothing to do with – the opening of the Surrey Memorial Hospital Expansion – a deal that well underway in October of last year when Kevin Falcon made the announcement that final negotiations were about to begin with preferred bidder, Integrated Team Solutions. Construction was well underway in late January of this year with site preparation, and anyone can see in this video, this project launch is nothing but an attention grab for the new premier, who clearly would love to have people believe this is something she was responsible for.
This may not seem like a big deal to those of you who are well aware the single biggest trick the BC Liberals like to fall back on for press is to re-announce a previously announced announcement. Campbell himself was famous for it! But what really bothers me in this instance is that in none of the media coverage I saw or read of this opportunistic press opp, was it even mentioned that this project was well underway before Ms. Clark became premier. The impression is clearly given that she is somehow responsible for this project and is very proud to launch it. Example : http://news.sympatico.cbc.ca/local/bc/clark_launches_surrey_hospital_expansion/d7623e51
Which leads me to her strategy, which apparently consists of making as many feel good announcements that she can to gain as much positive attention and possibly more votes when she finally does call for an election. First we had the minimum wage boost, a big winner in many areas. Then we had hospital launch, clearly she wanted to win over the increasingly cynical Surrey voters, followed by a toss of a millions dollars to the daycare providers who might(and this is a big might) lose out on some revenue because of the full time kindergarten initiative enacted by the Liberals. And today, more money is heading out in the form of increased community grants. Yes, all lovely and needed to be sure, but let that not take away from the hard reality of what Clark’s real motives and true leadership style are, as already indicated by the people she selected to lead up her transition team,some of whom are clearly in a conflict of interest. Yes indeed, Ms.Manswers Clark, who has tried overly hard to appear completely benign as a threat to this province, has betrayed her own agenda by her own doing. Good luck with that, Clark. It still won’t help you answer questions about what your involvement was in the sale of BC rail…questions the public will surely not forget come election time.
Lobbyist activity to note…. Patrick Kinsella, who worked on Premier Clarks leadership campaign, and partner Mark Jiles, just registered to lobby the government for MWH Global. Look for stunning contracts ahead for this company, who hired the lobbyist with the most pull with the premier…
Something to think about : a contribution from B.C. economist Erik Andersen, who sent these thoughts out this morning.
” Why we need elections; if anyone cares.”
From the book titled “Public Service; Private Profits” by John Loxley; published in 2010.Pages 7 & 8.
“The P3 concept [in Canada] has benefited from the lobbying efforts of organizations like the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships (CCPPP), an increasingly strong lobby group, which was established in 1993 and draws its membership from both the private and public sectors. In 2009, it had fifty-eight sponsors, fifty-seven of which were companies with commercial interests in P3s, such as construction companies, banks and their financial offshoots, bond houses and bond rating agencies, lawyers and consulting companies such as SNC-LAVALIN, RBC CAPITAL MARKETS, JOHN LAING, CARILLION, DELOITTE and TOUCHE, BOMBARDIER TRANSPORTATION and UNITED WATER. The only non-corporate sponsor was the Government of Ontario (CCPPP, 2009).
—the CCPPP has a solid membership and financial base on which to promote P3s and has been able to attract prominent politicians and ex-politicians into its fold, such as PREMIER GORDON CAMPBELL of BC, who is currently the honorary chair. The CCPPP can be considered the main ideological proponent of P3s in Canada.
In the financing area alone,of twelve projects identified by the CCPPP in 2009 as being in the works or under consideration, no fewer than twenty-six companies were potential sources of finance; some well known companies such as SNC-LAVALIN, BILFINGER BERGER and RBC CAPITAL MARKETS are active in the CCPPP, —-“
For those among us who do not know why we desperately need elections please read the above very carefully. It takes barely a second to appreciate that here in BC we have had a Premier and Cabinet pretending to look after the PUBLIC’S INTEREST while concurrently, AGGRESSIVELY LOOKING AFTER THE INTERESTS OF PRIVATE P3 PARTNERS. It is difficult not to imagine a more blatant demonstration of conflict of interest.
All you taxpayers should feel royally annoyed that our politicians collected salaries and pensions while working on behalf of private interests.
Keep this in mind when you pay HST; when you get your property tax invoice; when you get your next BC Hydro bill and when you get your chances to vote.
In BC we have had two recalls fail so brace yourselves for even more aggressive spending now that Minister Falcon has the cheque book. He will be emboldened by the evidence of voter apathy.
Canadians are alleged to be upset by what folks say are unnecessary elections. That must have been what the Greeks thought as well.
Well done, Erik! Erik as you likely know, has been a great resource for me in researching P3’s in the province, and is bang on in this regard. I would also like to point you to a video Erik taped last year in which he discusses how he personally looked into and researched BC Hydro’s financials to come to this disturbing questions: IS BC Hydro being deliberately put into financial jeopardy to privatize it? Considering the press release from COPE last week, this video is more relevant than ever.
An ironic news item in the Surrey Leader caught my attention.. “20,000 secondary suites in Surrey… 1 permit application.” This as several builders up the hill from my home are working on putting on the finishing touches on several houses containing multiple illegal suites that are one of the causes behind school overcrowding in Surrey. The new legislation brought into effect in December that requires homeowners to legalize and register their now illegal suites is a stunning example of too little, too late, since the damage from a decade or more of unrestrained and uninhibited construction is far too massive to tackle without a concentrated effort by city staff, which are currently focussing on homes with multiple suites.
For a first hand look at many of this kind of home, take a drive along highway 1o eastbound, and look to the hills along the leftside of the drive between 152nd and 176 for how ridiculous the problem has become, since the vast majority of these homes on the hill each have two or more rental suites within. It brings to mind the million dollar question the city has deflected about the crisis Surrey school district is facing with regards to massive budget shortfalls in the millions : What responsibility does the city play in contributing to this educational mess, when it would take 8 new schools, right now, to catch up to where we need to be? Should the city be completely absolved of any blame or does the sole reposponsibility begin and end with the province and ministry of education?
Considering the mayors hearty endorsement of the past and current development of new neighbourhoods with these multiple suites, should the city be assisting in paying for some of these new schools, instead of say… planning a new athletic stadium?
That’s right, the mayor finds it outrageous that a city of this size does not have a stadium, is spending millions of dollars moving a perfectly good city hall to a new location because the old one”is in the middle of nowhere” ( not at all true, not far from my home and very close to another rapidly growing industrial/residential/commercial centre) and boasts about having over $805 million in approved residential building permits alone in 2010. Only problem with all of this is that while she talks about how important sustainability and livability is and how such thoughts are given great consideration in city planning, the truth is out there for all to see : we have become a city that has vastly outgrown all of it’s infrastructure and services in terms of education and community sustainability, and a city in which poverty and crime is still a massive reality check to new residents. One would think that the key to creating a vibrant city would be to ensure the vital services like schools and health care are kept in line with the growth and demand, however somewhere along the way the reality verged off course from the vision. In this case, the kids are the ones who suffer the brunt of poor planning.
Onto a quick look at the NDP leadership race with this story , also from the Leader, that shows Farnworth far ahead of Dix and Horgan in the leadership race.
As with all polls, the news should be taken with a grain of salt, but this is in line with what I have been hearing from around the province, and I’ve been saying for some time that I think Farnworth is the only candidate who can truly unite the party members who are currently on opposing sides. Both Horgan and Dix came out strongly against the dissidents who wanted to see Carole go, and that still speaks volumes to party members who realise that many of those dissidents are hard-working and well respected in their communities. Farnworth vs. Clark? You be the judge.
Last but certainly not least, fellow blogger Norman Farrell has been belting out the hard lines on his blog, Northern Insights. May I suggest if you do not do so already, please make a point to check his site regularly for a good dose of reality in BC !