There will be plenty to say about Horgan breaking the CASA agreement with the Greens just to try and get re-elected before the proverbial economic/site c/ unemployment shitshow next year, but I’ve got a little backstory for you I’ve been working on since last week.
When Covid 19 restrictions began last March, it made sense to limit interactions between all of us during the initial pandemonium. We didn’t know what we were dealing with and frankly, it was the smart thing to do. Essential service designations were given to industries and jobs the public depends on, and those people continued working while the rest of us either didn’t, or worked remotely.
Here in BC, the government began issuing pressers with this requirement, that reporters were only allowed to call in:
This may have made sense initially, but access to officials that is not inherently limited, is something that must be assured…particularly in a pandemic, because the press is the only thing standing between the public and government accountability.
Or one would think. But this arrangement continued on throughout the spring, and summer. I began seeing comments online about the lack of in person access, along with various reporters tweeting about “tech issues”, questions getting dropped, and even of not being able to get a question asked at all. There is a huge difference between in person press scrums and highly controlled call ins. Everything was being screened through the communications director or press secretaries, one question and one follow up allowed. That comms person controls everything including access whether they admit it or not. That IS how it works and why some reporters never get a question in.
I couldn’t understand why, when government says it is safe for the rest of us to be conducting business and carrying on masked and distanced in our lives, why they still maintained it was oddly not safe to have reporters in person. And I couldn’t understand why the press didn’t start pushing back, particularly when the ill conceived back to school plan emerged, cases were beginning to rise and Bonnie Henry changed distancing protocols from 2 metres to 1 metre in school and workplaces to make it all work. It didn’t make sense that this wasn’t being pushed back on.
I kept waiting, thinking that surely now the press would be allowed back so reporters could be in person to question officials…but no, that didn’t happen. Government continued allowing call in pressers only and often short ones.
When it was clear that Horgan was thinking of an election and he started doing campaign like appearances, I started looking at the BC government Flickr account to see how these were being managed.
And what a surprise I found.
Press conferences outside with ample space for press, personal appearances with and without masks and clearly if all of these things can occur, there is no reason for press not to be in person at announcements and Covid updates:
So, I started asking questions. Of government and of reporters.
Sept 17th: I contacted Jen Holmwood, Deputy Communications Director and Press Secretary for Premier John Horgan:
Sept 18th: She replies:
Oh, that’s interesting. They worked in cooperation with the press gallery? So reporters who are getting dropped, not getting calls in and subject to tech issues…agreed to this? I needed more info.
I immediately replied asking for clarification, but as of this post Jen has not responded. And clearly from the Govt Flickr account showing outside pressers with extensive room for press, it has been possible but they chose not to:
But now, I needed to find out who agreed to this and why, because governments around the world have used Covid to limit access not only to journalists in person, but also have interfered or limited Freedom of Information requests which are essential to holding all governments to account. In fact, this is being tracked and documented :
I started with Richard Zussman, president of the Legislative Press Gallery, and emailed him this question below on Sept 18th after receiving the reply from Horgans Communications director:
I did receive an off the record response and we agreed it was not for attribution but background only, and we went back and forth before I asked for a statement on the record from the Legislative Press Gallery Executive, which I finally received late on Sept. 19th:
I have to say, I was more than a bit surprised that at a time when journalists and press organizations around the world are writing and protesting the limitations put on them by governments far more nefarious than ours during Covid, most of our legislative press gallery gave up in person access so easily. I get ‘feeling concerned. We are all concerned. But we all have to learn to live with this and reporters should be first in line. And this government used to rightfully scream at ” Premier Photo-op” but seems to now be following in her footsteps.
As someone who has always worked hard to investigate in depth stories that I often broke and scooped other journo’s on, it left me feeling deeply disappointed , saddened and probably even more cynical.
But the story doesn’t end there. Because after a weekend spent pursuing the statements above – all parties involved knowing this post was coming – guess what magically happened today? This:
Sigh. I would like to think I had something to do with this sudden change of heart on Horgans part.
But really, it’s likely just pure opportunism on his part.
Of course it was always safe for reporters to be in person, distanced and masked. The fact that reporters didn’t ask why its safe for the premier to do photo ops with many people but Bonnie Henry and Dix cant have reporters question them in person, is something they have to reflect on,and deserves a bigger lens than this blog can give. It directly impacts their credibility.
But… it gets even crazier. Because now other people are noticing this sudden difference and questions are being asked.
And I’m just going to leave this right here for y’all to think about:
Wow. Let me tell you all why this has me so worried. One, they have set a precedent for relinquishing/limiting access. Imagine how a more right leaning government might manipulate that more than Horgan already has.
And two: this puts the press gallery executive on the hotplate now as to why they would withhold all access if Bob Mackin didn’t agree to the rule? Were they worried he might scoop on a bigger story?
I can’t wrap my head around this.
Jack Webster would be rolling in his grave right now and rightfully so. This is a mockery of everything journalists have fought for.
At a time when public trust is at a low because of abrupt changes in public policy and covid guidelines that are at odds with other health standards and organizations… and when announcements are being made by the dozens in the 2 days prior to the election call…we need a fully operational press and one willing to go beyond a controlled presser. The public depends on it.
I’m going to finish with a quote from an article from J-source, that was written 7 years ago. At the time I was still a media commentator and a top political columnist at the now defunct 24Hours Vancouver, and the former BC Liberal government avoided reporters like the plague. I think its time for a reminder of why press access, and a free press, is so important, particularly during Covid 19, when questionable changes to law have been made that will still be here long after this government is gone.
“…The big fear is that media doesn’t perform its job of holding government accountable, and instead parrots an official narrative,” said Candis Callison, a journalism professor at the University of British Columbia. “A reporter’s job is to make every effort to hold public officials accountable, to act as a surrogate for the public.
“It behooves public officials to make themselves available. Unfortunately, sometimes there is a fear of being held accountable to the press. Gaps are emerging between the well-crafted statement and the off-the-cuff remark. Yet our democracy rests on the press being able to perform this function.”
“Journalists, in an ideal world, are a stand-in for the public. We’re supposed to be asking questions the public wants answered from those in power. That’s why people should be concerned
It’s been a while since I last wrote an open letter to you – 16 months to be exact, and while so much has changed since then… a lot is sadly still the same.
First let me remark how refreshed you look in your recent ‘phone in questions only allowed’ press conference! One wouldn’t even guess we were in the midst of pandemic where many are still struggling to get by, businesses are closing in alarming numbers, parents are on edge with school reopening, and cases are rising daily. As you can see by my masked up photo on the side, I’m a little weary looking from harvesting crops, getting ready for winter and worrying about what cold and flu season will mean for my family and many other British Columbians this winter.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself here, and I only have a short time before I have other things to take care of, so let me get to the clip that I think is the source of many British Columbians anger, surprise and disappointment right now.
First ( for those of you who may not follow often), I’ve already made clear my feelings on a snap election this fall in my most recent post here : https://lailayuile.com/2020/09/03/a-bc-election-during-the-pandemic-sure-why-not-they-keep-building-a-dam-with-no-foundation-too/
I also shared my views on how ridiculous it is for you to be jerking around the press and Elections BC, who is getting ready for an election we may or may not have. I didn’t really think you would try and instigate an election…you’ve said all along publicly its working, and reaffirmed this in a letter posted to the BC government website even when Weaver stepped down to sit as an independent. Even your online influencers immediately started suggesting to everyone and anyone that an election was not a possibility unless the BC Liberals or BC Greens prompted one ( via a non confidence vote)
But then you answered Vaughn Palmers questions in this press conference and everything changed. ( by phone, apparently its safe enough for regular people to go to work and school 1 metre apart, but not to have reporters masked and distanced at 2 metres at a microphone … maybe try sitting them in desks, facing forward, like Dr. Bonnie Henrys instructions for school kids )
Now John, I’m going to ask my readers to please watch this entire clip which is just over two minutes. And I am going to ask them to pay attention to your answers on the CASA agreement with the Greens that allow you to be premier. I can’t even contain my disappointment and surprise at the hubris and arrogance here:
So…poli-geeks who watched this will go “WOAH, game on bro!!”
People who are not actively watching or following politics will go: ” Wow, is he actually going to use a pandemic to break an agreement keeping him in power?”
It was a bit remarkable, because within hours, the online BC NDP influencers (who have been (rightfully) verbally slapping Trudeau and the Federal Liberals silly for proroguing government so he can attempt inserting a poison pill into new legislation when the house convenes to instigate an election and blame it on another party)…were now faced with their leader implying he would do the same thing. But they veered right into attack mode on the Greens, as expected.
Now that is loyalty… and blind partisanship… when followers will try to protect you John, from the same criticisms much of Canada has been tossing at Trudeau.
This is no time for an election unless you are an opportunist, pure and simple. British Columbians absolutely want you to focus on the present and future John… but when you openly express ways to justify getting out of an agreement you signed, you only increase cynicism. You literally just showed us that you would be willing to rip up an agreement.
You and your government are losing trust John, because you hoard information and focus on good in your pressers, while glossing over the not so good. And it is starting to show now.
Case in point is this graph released by Dr. Henry in her Thursday presser last week.
I’m not an epidemiologist, nor do I profess to be.
But research is something I do well and I also pay attention to the views and concerns of people outside my own. I do not live in an echo chamber, and you know this well. You acknowledged this years ago when you called me to chat. The charts above presented by Dr.Henry last Thursday show a different story from one told in pressers. I totally get that parties and banquet halls are harder to trace because of all the different people who don’t know each other there, and lack of names and contact numbers.. but letting the public know most kids under 19 are getting Covid from their own household contacts, might get people being more cautious. No parent wants to unknowingly infect their own child.
Letting people know that transmission is happening at work with people we know…. might have them acting more cautious. These numbers alone should not be discounted, and this data was largely not picked up on by a press that still has not remembered they have a duty as a journalist. In combination with the highly questionable cohorts model in full classes…. well… one doesn’t need to be a scientist, only a parent, to understand how fast germs travel in school.
I have to say though, I’m glad that a journalist finally asked Dr. Henry about Covid Long Haulers this week. I haven’t watched the video, but I did see Lizda Yuzda post this:
Well you might be wondering why this matters John, but in case our readers don’t know, let me expand on this. Across the world, there are increasing reports of those reported as ‘recovered’, who actually have long term impacts of Covid, that have become known as Long Haulers. For some its months of recovery where they cannot work, for others its intermittant flares not unlike those known to us with autoimmune conditions.
So.. for the 5000 plus people listed as recovered in BC, please tell us how many of those people are being followed for long term effects, and how many are unable to currently work? Because this is also what people deserve to know about.
Why, for the love of all the transparency you rightfully harassed the BC Liberals for, are you giving incomplete info on Covid 19 patients? If you want people to comply,.give them the truth of risk in their own area. Daily. Weekly if need be.
It doesn’t help you, it hinders you, not unlike how forcing reporters to call in while expecting everyone else to go to work doesn’t help you either. For a party espousing to be of the working person, you are all acting more like the elite than Andrew ‘where did he go?’ Wilkinson is.
John, I strongly suspect there is going to be a time this winter when the people of BC need a leader they can trust, and that will tell them the real deal… and that leader will likely be you.
I can tell you now though, that using this pandemic to justify an election no one wants, will work against you
I can guarantee it.
You will end up in another minority government and it may not work in the NDP’s favour this time.That is where we are John.
We, the average people, have no patience for this right now.. We see California and Oregon burning.Many are treading water to stay afloat.Some have already given up, closing businesses even here in tourism driven Comox Valley. Your swing ridings will not work in your favour if your advisors are as out of touch as I think they are. ( and the record of NDP losses in BC over a decade supports this)
Don’t do it John. BC deserves better than this.
Best regards, Laila Yuile
** I leave you John, with this thread by a Green candidate. I do not know him,and have no knowledge of anything about him beyond this thread. I am still not a member of any party. But this speaks so concisely as to why snap elections by any leader – Trudeau, Horgan or anyone else – removes the average person from democratic process ,and why it is so offensive.
This isn’t right, and it isn’t what the people of BC voted for. It is the opposite of everything the NDP claim to stand for… and more
If there is one thing we can all probably agree on, its that 2020 is pretty much a gongshow of things we never thought we would see, hear and in some cases, do.
After a fairly slow start to summer, daily reported cases in BC have steadily crept up, doubling in around every two weeks at some points during the last two months. Recently we surpassed the 100 cases a day mark, and the lagging indicator of hospitalizations and those in ICU, is finally creeping up as well. As a result, Dr. Bonnie Henry has once again seriously urged everyone in BC, to return to small bubbles, to limit social interactions and activies to keep those who are vulnerable and elderly, safe.
That, all while sending thousands of kids back to school across BC, with little to no physical distancing in classes and hallways, and no masks required except in those high traffic areas or face to face learning, like an Educational Assistant and student interaction.
While partisan boosters have been outright stating the NDP will not be having an election this year, in truth, both Elections BC and all parties are preparing for one. And when faced with direct questions, Premier Horgan has been jerking reporters around for weeks on this when asked, but today he did make a point of saying Elections BC can do it safely. And when questioned, Elections BC confirmed they are preparing for the possibility of an early, snap election.
Bob has more on this, here: https://thebreaker.news/news/fall-election-pondered/
So let me get this right…..
Could this government be so clueless as to call or instigate an election during the thick of this?
How does one reconcile this under these conditions we all must live by?
If government expects teachers and students to make it work with no distancing , perhaps this government should get back to work, and make it work, and stick to the regular election schedule next year.
It’s my strong belief, that voters would be brutal to any party triggering a snap election.
No one I have spoken to agrees with it. In fact the suggestion it may happen elicits anger because of the obvious.
It smacks of being power hungry which is exactly why Clark got rightfully booted, and let’s not forget how narrow the last election result was. Everyone said I was crazy for suggesting a minority was the likely outcome and I was right.
The BC NDP have a demonstrated history of misreading both polls and the publics overall mood. We have seen this time and time again in every prior election I’ve followed since 2009ish, when even with ample and copious ammunition against the BC Liberals, they couldn’t pull in the vote. And now, we have a perfect storm of evictions beginning because renters cant afford to pay their current rent and back pay on CERB.. or their regular pay.
We have rampant homelessness in every community, getting markedly worse in metro Van as people have fled west to escape winter on the streets elsewhere.
Opiod crisis is getting worse, not better.. the list goes on and on to the points above.
I get why Horgan would want an election now… he knows site C and the coming bills for this pandemic will be a perfect storm of discontent, particularly if this winter cold/ flu/covid season proves to be as bad as some think it will be. But if he wanted to show leadership, trying to hold a snap election in a pandemic while telling people to keep their bubble home and limit interactions is just wrong and selfish. It shows a complete lack of understanding how bad things are for a lot of people. And I think they will try to push the Greens to pull the plug on the CASA, which would be the stupidest thing they could do and political suicide as well.
The right thing to do right now is be honest about the game he is playing with the press and the public. Elections BC will not randomly spend money, book venues and look for staff in ridings unless someone gave them an indication it was a very real possibility. And every poli-geek and reporter knows this.
Thats why the only option Horgan has now is to confirm he has no intention of breaking the CASA signed with the Greens. That would put all the jerking around he’s started to rest so he doesn’t blow his lead.
I’m glad the NDP have been in power for this clusterfuck called Covid. But I’m terribly disillusioned with all politicians and politics in general. We used to have the NDP’s help to file FOI’s to get info on government, especially if they were really expensive. Now, we can’t even get info out of government, because they have been breaking their own laws to keep people .. and the opposition… from getting FOI’s in a timely manner. https://www.burnabynow.com/b-c-government-breaking-law-in-extending-information-request-times-privacy-commissioner-1.24196499
You can read the full report here. Its not good. Adrian Dixs office and John Horgans are the worst offenders ( No surprise there with Meggs presence) https://www.oipc.bc.ca/special-reports/3459
This may not matter to most people, but this is something they promised to change, that they campaigned on . The BC Liberals were the most secretive government.. we thought. In that aspect, nothing has changed. And that’s tremendously disappointing.
And the latest on Site C, from Vaughn Palmers opinion piece, once again has Ralston pointing to the BC Liberals, as if they have forgotten that they made a choice to continue the dam, while pretending to supporters they were going to cancel it. https://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-site-c-instability-issues-making-ndp-nervous-about-escalating-costs
“B.C. Hydro is going ahead with diverting the Peace River past Site C, despite not having decided how to fix a geological instability under the foundation for the giant earthfill dam itself.
Some work on the diversion is already underway, including dredging the approaches to the twin diversion tunnels, wet-testing of the tunnels themselves and construction of a large rock berm across the Peace..”
” He ( Ralston) traced the problem back to the Liberals, who went ahead with construction after forestalling an independent review of Site C by the utilities commission.
“They signed off on a design that included geological risks,” Ralston told the house. “We are now facing geological risks in the design that the old government approved.”
Yeah Bruce, we know Christy Clark approved a bad idea with no business case, in a geologically unstable portion of the valley. Many of us talked to you and your fellow MLA’s about this. You all agreed. It was brought up in the approvals, in expert presentations, and you all used that info against the Liberals time and time again.
But then your government went ahead, signing impact and benefits agreements, contracting agreements and a Tripartite land agreement to which the govt was a party to, in March, even before sending it to the BCUC for an expedited review. We knew then you werent going to approve it. There was never any intention of stopping it. There was only a show to appease the crowd.
And thats how we go to where we are today. There is no more pointing fingers when you had a chance to stop it, and chose not to. In hindsight now the public debt that would have come from stopping the dam, is a drop in the bucket of the forecast deficit for next years public accounts. Horgan has continued down the path of Dwight Ball since late 2017. He is on his second minister on this file, who is also treading water. Everything I wrote in the last blog post before they approved Site C to continue, is coming back to haunt them. https://lailayuile.com/2017/11/13/the-billion-dollar-question-with-only-one-right-answer/
I still don’t think Horgan has the courage to do the right thing and stop the dam. Even with an untested and never used before design, even with no stable foundation to the dam itself and even with lives downstream.
But I would love to have them prove me wrong. https://lailayuile.com/the-case-to-stop-site-c-construction-links-news/
Just for once, I’d like to see a leader do the right thing, especially when he knows in his heart, he made the wrong decision…It’s the kind of leadership we really aren’t seeing anywhere right now.
** update for your daily dose of confusion.
This is from today’s press conference. There’s been increased transmissions at workplaces between coworkers…so of course now it makes sense to tell people it’s ok to be one metre instead of two….🤨