Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Farrell and Jessop, CFAX1070, Jul 1 audio

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Wild fantasies and planned deceit

Click here for updated amount
It is now clear that LNG claims made by Liberals before the 2013 BC election were wild fantasies and carefully planned deceit. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — an organization targeted for a tax audit by the Harper Government — recently published A Clear Look at LNG. The main conclusions:
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the west coast of Canada have been heralded as economic salvation for the province of British Columbia. This report undertakes a reality check that reveals several major problems with this narrative, both in the stewardship of finite non-renewable resources by provincial and federal governments, and in the environmental implications of largescale development.
  • The NEB has, to date, approved 12 terminals with a total capacity of 251 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of LNG exports over 20-25 years. However, the NEB’s own modeling shows that only a small percentage of that amount — 18 tcf — is available for export, even with a three-fold ramp-up in BC production.
  • Medium to high levels of LNG exports from BC would require Canada to become a net importer of natural gas, simply to meet domestic needs.
The BC government’s claims of available gas supplies for export are greatly exaggerated:
  • The BC Oil and Gas Commission estimates BC’s raw gas reserves at 42.3 tcf, with a total “marketable resource” of 442 tcf. (Reserves have been proven through drilling or are close to drilled areas, and are considered recoverable with current technology and economic conditions. Resources are much less certain, as they are probabilistic estimates based on broad extrapolations with limited drilling.)
  • The BC government has publicly stated that marketable resources are six times higher than the Commission’s estimate: 2,900 tcf available for export. This is not a credible claim.
  • The amount of gas that must be produced at the well head is considerably greater than the amount that would be sold, due to losses in the conversion of raw gas to marketable gas, and to gas consumed in the extraction, liquefaction and transportation processes. About 1.44 units of raw gas must be extracted to deliver 1 unit to Asia.
Were the BC government to realize its hoped-for export target, the scale-up in drilling and associated infrastructure required would be massive, and would fundamentally alter the landscape of northern BC.
  • The gas required for export would come mainly from fracked wells in BC’s Northeast. (Almost all of BC’s future gas production is expected to involve fracking, which requires much more water and produces much more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional drilling).
  • An extraordinary 37,800 to 43,700 new wells would need to be drilled by 2040, more than doubling to nearly tripling the number of wells drilled since 1954 in northeast BC.
  • BC gas production would need to increase by four to five times. This would require the production of between 4.1 and 4.6 times BC’s current proven raw gas reserves of 42.3 tcf by 2040.
A major public concern is the amount of water and the chemicals and other additives used in the fracking process, as well as the potential for contamination of surface water through surface casing failures and improper disposal of fracking wastewater:
  • The rate of water consumption is a function of the play (area) the wells are drilled in. About 25 million gallons of water per well are required in the Horn River Basin, from which a large portion of BC gas will be sourced.
  • This requires some 2,300 truck trips per well, followed by a further 700 truck trips to remove the fracking waste water produced in the process.
  • In the BC government’s proposed export target, water consumed in the ramp-up phase of drilling would equal about 22,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools per year, or about half of the annual consumption of Vancouver or Calgary.
  • While the BC government has argued that water use will be a very small amount of the total runoff in northern BC, actual water use will be much more localized and therefore comprise a much larger proportion of available surface water in each drilling area.
  • Water supply impacts can vary markedly with the seasons, with increased stress during dry periods or droughts.
The BC government is understating the amount and intensity of land disturbance and water consumption in the development of upstream supply for LNG exports:
  • Land use disturbance is significant, and includes well pads, roads, pipelines and facilities. It also includes seismic impacts...
Exporting BC LNG will not reduce global greenhouse gas emissions:
  • LNG is an energy-intensive way to move gas, requiring some 20 per cent of the gas to be consumed in the liquefaction, transport and regasification process (assuming gas-drive facilities which are the most common).
  • From wellhead to final combustion, there are substantial leakages of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Given this, liquefied fracked gas from BC actually has GHG emission rates similar to coal.
  • Contrary to the notion that BC LNG would be “doing the world a favor” by displacing coal use in Asia, BC LNG exports to China would increase GHG emissions over at least the next fifty years, compared to building state-of-the-art coal plants. Considered on a 100-year basis, burning imported LNG would provide only a marginal improvement compared to best technology coal.
There are considerable risks to companies entering BC’s nascent LNG industry.
  • Chief among them are the potential for rising domestic gas prices and lowering international prices, eliminating the arbitrage needed to pay off the multi-billion dollar investments required.
  • The structure of BC’s LNG Tax, recently halved, means that British Columbians, the public owners of the resource, will not see peak revenue flows until these capital investments are paid off, making them the back stoppers of these risks, as well as the recipients of the impacts on public infrastructure and the environment.
  • It is unlikely that anything close to the revenue projected by the BC government for its coffers will ever be realized.
Oil and gas represent a one-time legacy that underpins virtually every aspect of modern society. Notwithstanding the desirability of replacing fossil fuels with lower emitting alternatives, it is highly likely that fossil fuels will be needed at some level for the foreseeable future. Canada and British Columbia have adopted a de facto strategy of liquidating these resources as quickly as possible in the name of the economic prospects of the government of the day. These resources are precious, non-renewable and come with collateral environmental impacts. They demand more balanced stewardship in view of the needs of future generations of Canadians.
The CCPA document is lengthy and filled with technical analyses. As a whole, the report sends a caution that should not be ignored. Instead, the British Columbia government is moving imprudently. They have been negotiating in secret, guided by economic globalists who believe natural resources should belong to industry and jobs should go to the lowest paid, even if they are temporary foreign workers. Staff and advisors were recruited from industry and will return to industry through the revolving door. A Greenpeace report titled Who's Holding us Back included:
Carbon-intensive corporations and their networks of trade associations are blocking policies that aim to transition our societies into green, sustainable, low-risk economies. These polluting corporations often exert their influence behind the scenes, employing a variety of techniques, including using trade associations and think tanks as front groups; confusing the public through climate denial or advertising campaigns; making corporate political donations; as well as making use of the ‘revolving door’ between public servants and carbon-intensive corporations.
Later this month, Christy Clark intends to pass legislation that will bind the hands of future government for decades with guarantees that would require taxpayers to pay damages if subsidies or production conditions are altered. No groups of manufacturers, builders or service providers in British Columbia are offered a protected and guaranteed future. Nor is any individual citizen.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blood on their hands

An earlier In-Sights article included:
I have no doubt BC Liberal involvement with Big Pharma is at the root of high-level government decisions to knee-cap research into the safety and efficacy of more than $25 billion worth of pharmaceuticals sold each year in Canada.
Writing in the Vancouver Observer, family practitioner Dr. Warren Bell emphasizes and enlarges upon my inference:
B.C. Premier Christy Clark and her senior ministers are using every tactic in the book to avoid any sort of public disclosure of what happened behind the scenes when eight health researchers were illegitimately fired, one after the other, in the fall of 2012.

As a family physician for nearly 40 years, I have watched the pharmaceutical industry infiltrate into political and regulatory structures, as part of the general corporatization of society. What the Liberal government is now doing is simply one more example of how bought-and-sold officials sustain this pernicious process...

The relationship between the BC Liberals and Big Pharma had already been clearly mapped out years ago, with the formation of the Pharmaceutical Task Force, whose nine members were dominated by drug industry representatives, including — astonishingly — Russell Williams, “president of Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D)...

When the report of this body was finally released, it became clear that its primary purpose was to either destroy or severely limit an organization that had become a thorn in Big Pharma’s side. This was the UBC-based Therapeutics Initiative, a research body with a stellar international reputation for cutting through drug industry hype and delivering accurate information about drug effectiveness and hazards. It was, for example, the first group to question the safety of Vioxx, which was eventually taken off the market in 2004 because of severe harm to the heart.

Its withdrawal also caused $28 billion damage to the bottom line of its manufacturer Merck.

Christy Clark is using every political and legal tool at her disposal to cover up what really happened since the fall of 2012. The public needs to know if the premier's longstanding support for the bottom line of the drug industry and resulting hostility toward industry critics influenced these firings.

...The context for this debacle clearly suggests that the relationship between Big Pharma and Christy Clark and her ministers is obscured by government obstructionism...

The only suitable outcome in this matter is for an outraged citizenry to exert relentless pressure on the provincial government, compelling it to come clean and allow the real story to be told.

Anything less will be a perversion of natural justice, and a continuation of business — big business — as usual.
Dr. Bell provides a prescription that might alter the current outbreak of Liberal obfuscation. A real cure requires the dedication to reform shown by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. The first bill introduced by her new government banned corporate and union contributions to political parties. The same response is vitally needed in British Columbia. As we’ve seen, lives depend on the change.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

One other Commission of Inquiry is needed

I have no doubt BC Liberal involvement with Big Pharma is at the root of high-level government decisions to knee-cap research into the safety and efficacy of more than $25 billion worth of pharmaceuticals sold each year in Canada.

Drug research conducted by the Health Ministry and agencies like Therapeutics Initiative threatened the financial interests of indulgent Christy Clark sponsors. Her government squeezed T.I. financially but solid public support for the independent effort kept Liberals from killing it. As a result, the politicians chose a different approach to discredit drug research. That led to newly appointed health minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, and her deputy minister Graham Whitmarsh, telling a press conference that misconduct by researchers had been so serious that RCMP were conducting a criminal investigation. We now know there was no police examination but less well known is that numerous ongoing drug research projects were ended.

In human and ethical terms, the health ministry scandal is immense. In financial terms, it costs the public a small sum compared to natural resource outrages. While CKNW's Jon McComb and a few others in media are calling for an independent inquiry into the health ministry firings, there is another subject to examine. We need to follow our Albertan neighbours and do a comprehensive examination of natural resource revenues, or more accurately, their absence.

Despite making claims of a trillion dollar prosperity fund, the Clark government is ensuring resource extractors pay little or nothing. We are forced to admit, Gwyn Morgan and his friends in the mining and natural gas businesses found themselves a good one in Christy Clark. And, in 2015, it keeps getting better. For them. Not for us.

Compare the current year of proceeds from sales of natural gas rights to the year before Christy Clark took over the Premier's office.

Yes, the government that promised a trillion dollar Prosperity Fund from gas revenues, that spends over $400 million a year on the ministry assisting resource companies and much more on subsidies to producers, that plans legislation to tie the hands of future governments considering gas taxes, has paved the road to riches for a few people. Spending 12 million tax dollars on a Bollywood extravaganza drew much notice but it was a drop in the ocean compared to benefits flowing to Christy Clark's natural resource sponsors.

Unfortunately, it is not only gas producers that bought favours from BC Liberals. When Christy Clark enjoyed a fundraiser attended by Calgary millionaires and billionaires, a key organizer of the event was tar sands kingpin Murray Edwards. In addition to chairing Canadian Natural Resources, Edwards also controls Imperial Metals, the company infamous for the Mount Polley mine disaster. Another of Imperial's projects is the Red Chris mine, an operation that has Alaskans unsettled. Significantly for BC taxpayers, the billion dollar northwest transmission line was needed to supply subsidized power to Red Chris.

In the April article, Takin' Care of Business, I suggested that most people would be surprised to learn the BC Liberal Party receives more in contributions from mining companies than BC citizens earn in direct revenues from mining of metals and minerals.

JasonS, commenting at Remembering the desperate nineties suggested I use a different style of graph for illustration, a style more fitting to BC's political landscape. His comment:
Norm I love your graphs and charts for their devastating realities. I am a blue collar kind of guy so I have ideas but not the aptitude to bring them to fruition. Since many British Columbians can only interpret government malfeasance in nautical terms (ie fast ferries) I want a tongue in cheek graph showing the many MANY Neo-Liberal transgressions, cost over runs and incompetent business practices in the form of tiny pictures of fast ferries.

BC place roof cost over runs would be 2 and a half fast ferries, whereas the new Port Mann would be 4 or more fast ferries. I'm sure it would be a good thing for the NDP to plaster posters around the next election time but I wouldn't trust them to find their own asses with a map and a flash light. I know its not your job and if it never comes to light that's OK. I just needed to express this idea and you were the only one I "know" that could pull it off. You don't have to post this if you wish. But just imagine the huge list with all the little fast ferries. A huge reality check.
I love the idea. A representation of BC Hydro's obligations to private power producers would be worth about 150 fast ferry icons.

Note: Gas sales revenues are drawn from the government's monthly reports: CROWN PETROLEUM AND NATURAL GAS RIGHTS PUBLIC TENDER, ACCEPTED OFFERS

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Friday, June 26, 2015

All the spin that's fit to print - updated

British Columbia's June sale of oil and gas rights brought the 2015 six month total to $7.1 million. The monthly average for this calendar year is the lowest in 38 years reported by government. Even without adjusting earlier years to current dollars, Christy Clark's receipts are 4% of the average since 1978, when Bennett the Younger was Premier. No one will be surprised that BC Liberals are enjoying rewarding relations with financial supporters who happen to be natural gas producers

Don't expect to read about this in your daily newspaper or hear about it on TV or radio. It is not information the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and compliant news partners want spread widely. With rights costs in the last five years running at 15% of the preceding five years, gas companies have a good thing going with Christy Clark and Rich Coleman. However, it's not something they want to publicize.

Seven months ago, I wrote about direct subsidies to gas producers in BC and pundit Vaughn Palmer's helpfulness in explaining government policies. It's repeated below:
- - - - - - - - - - -
This week, British Columbia saw evidence that corporate media does not report adverse details about public finance unless the material is dropped on desks in digested form, complete with defensive spin from government or industry.

The issue of BC taxpayer subsidies to the oil and gas industry is not new. Auditor General John Doyle qualified his opinion of the province's 2012 financial statements for reasons that included this:
"Failure to provide for earned natural gas producer royalty credits
"No provision has been made in the summary financial statements for royalty credits
earned by natural gas producers under the government’s deep-well drilling program.
In this respect the summary financial statements are not in accordance with Canadian
public sector accounting standards.

"Had a provision been made prospectively, as required by Canadian public sector
accounting standards when an issue is raised by an auditor in one period but not
corrected until a subsequent period, accounts payable and accrued liabilities as
at March 31, 2012, would have been greater by $702 million, natural resources and
economic development expenses for the year then ended would have been greater by
$702 million and the deficit for the year then ended would have been greater by
$702 million."
Although the required provision had grown by $160 million in 2013 and another $316 million in 2014, Acting Auditor General Russ Jones dropped the issue from Independent Auditor's Reports issued in annual Public Accounts. It was restored in Auditor General Carol Bellringer's first major work, The 2014 Summary Financial Statements and the Auditor General's Findings.

MSM political pundits ignored the information reported here but when highlighted by the Auditor General, it was covered by Canadian Press. But, the news needed spin so who better than Vaughn Palmer to provide it. Here is part of his October 31 column:
"Another matter that may be of interest to British Columbians is around the incentives that government offers oil and natural gas producers,” wrote Bellringer in the letter signed by herself and deputy auditor general (and her immediate predecessor) Russ Jones.

"Going back to the New Democratic Party time in office, the province has been offering incentives to develop and maintain production. Companies that undertake less profitable activities like drilling in the off-season or tapping into deeper reserves are in line for the incentives, taken as discounts against current or future royalties."
Curious the columnist would state the letter was signed by Russ Jones, even though it is not. That misstatement could be the work of a helpful spin doctor aiming to shelter the former acting AG who months ago chose not to report on the unrecorded royalty issue. Palmer makes no mention Bellringer reinstating AG John Doyle's concerns or of the fact that the $1.25 billion in outstanding credits is not recorded in the province's books and, if it were, the Liberal deficit record would be quite different.

Also interesting that Palmer has the NDP share responsibility for current financial incentives to the oil and gas industry, although the opposition party was last elected 18½ years ago and, over time, Liberals broadened the subsidy program so that today, almost all exploration work earns credits. In fact, a source told me that the acceleration of the producer credit program was government's response to industry concerns they had paid too much for drilling rights when the gas market was stronger.

Here is a real and important message of Palmer's column:
"But that glut also suggests this would be a risky time for the government to begin scaling back on incentives to develop and maintain production. In a continent awash in gas, companies would probably shift operations elsewhere."
That is the race-to-the-bottom argument of Extractivism that supposes government should expect little and even be prepared to pay multinational companies to come here, extract resources and export them to other places.

Palmer also touches on the near-double financing costs of public-private partnerships but he allows, without further comment, that,
"Liberals will cite the reputed benefits of private-sector innovation, on-time construction, capped budgets and off-loaded risks."
Ah, yes, the on-time, on-budget argument that Liberals so enjoy. However, Northern Insight readers are not easily misled. The Sea to Sky Highway, initially a $400 million project, finished late at a cost of almost $800 million plus a great deal more for parts of the highway not included in the P3 adventure. The $3.3 billion Port Mann megaproject was to be a $2 billion P3 project until the lead proponent suffered financial difficulties. So much for off-loaded risks and capped budgets.

The Sun's political pundit conveyed another message for the government,
"Not all of the report was critical of the Liberals. The new auditor general dropped some of her office’s long-standing disagreements with the in-house government comptroller. She also concluded that the Port Mann Bridge will eventually be self-supporting from tolls, just as the government always said it would be."
Reality is that the Auditor did not drop the Port Mann concerns. The fact set changed. The bridge opened and, with the plan for dramatically higher tolls and the intention of eliminating untolled Fraser River crossings (Pattullo and Massey), Port Mann will become self-supporting. The Transportation Investment Corporation provides clear evidence of what is intended for commuters. That is toll revenue in 2017 that is 78% higher than in 2014. Apparently, Vaughn Palmer and the Liberals have forgotten the commitment to restraint that was so vital in September when schools were closed.

Palmer ends his piece by saying that, with a new financial watchdog in town, politicians ought to wake up and pay attention. I respect what I've seen from Ms Bellringer but I had great respect for John Doyle before he was forced out for excessive diligence. What the Press Gallery member should have written is that he and his colleagues were going to start analyzing financial records of the province and take counsel from financial experts instead of government spin doctors. A well informed public and rigorous financial controls may assure good management of public finances. Hollow advice to politicians will not.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Remembering the desperate nineties - Updated

In 2010, Liberal campaigner Jim Shepard said,
“You know, we lived through socialism in B.C. for 10 years. I know what it looks like and it is not pretty.”
In Shepard's lexicon, apparently "not pretty" means the opposite of what we usually expect. Compared to the NDP's nineties, the time of Liberal rule has resulted in lower growth rates for GDP, jobs and personal income. It's also meant that urban housing is less affordable, that higher education is less accessible and our tax system is less progressive. In other words, while Liberal times may have been good for the wealthiest 10%, they've not been good for the remaining 90%. No doubt, it was the former rather than the latter group that Shepard had in mind.

May 2012, Liberal Rich Coleman told the Opposition in BC Legislative debates:
I know the socialist-communist thinking is that everything should be nationalized and controlled. If you had your way, you probably would nationalize mining, nationalize natural gas. You would nationalize everything, because you don't believe in the private sector.
Questioned by columnist Mike Smyth outside the house, Coleman repeated his description of the NDP:
That's what they are - they're socialists, they're communists. That's what W.A.C. Bennett used to say, "The socialist hordes are at the gates." People should start to think about that.
Instead, people should start to think about the reality that, like BC Liberals, the mainstream media has long represented and promoted special interests. Postmedia, Global, Shepard and Coleman are allies, working obediently for rich rewards allowed by those people to loyal servants.

A more accurate economic history, one that affected the majority of British Columbians, is revealed by Statistics Canada data in a way that does not reflect the messaging of ruling politicians and their media pals.

Statistics Canada Table 384-0038

Statistics Canada Table 384-0038

Statistics Canada Table 202-0202
The next graph is not directly related but it illustrates points made frequently at In-Sights. BC Liberals achieved a surprise victory in the 2013 election but they did it with a platform of lies, claiming that revenues from natural gas would lead to a debt free province with surplus jobs and tens of billions of dollars available for healthcare and education. Premier Photo Op's precious Pamela pal even promised a "trillion dollar Prosperity Fund." Instead, provincial coffers are almost devoid of natural gas revenues. It's been bad for a few years and it's getting worse, not better.

The remaining material was first published June 3 2015:

Much of British Columbia's recent political history has been written by a Liars Club sponsored by beneficiaries of corrupt public administrations. One fable claims that BC Liberals rescued the provincial economy in 2001 after a decade of socialist mismanagement. Yet facts assembled by Statistics Canada paint a different scenario.

I've previously demonstrated that the NDP (1991-2001) bested Liberal (2001-2014) results in a number of significant areas, including:
  • Gross domestic product value growth,
  • Job creation,
  • Provincial debt management,
  • Natural resource revenues.
Prior to the last election, Jim Shepard, fronting the quadrennial Concerned Citizens for BC, warned that any vote but a Liberal vote would return the province to days of socialist ruin. By the way, Shepard was recently named to the Order of British Columbia, a recognition intended to honour remarkable accomplishments, even if those are lies told on behalf of the ruling political party.

Yet, the level of taxpayer support paid to BC's mostly foreign owned resource industries is currently at unprecedented heights. While the Liberal Government withdraws from resource taxation, it increases direct and indirect corporate welfare to metal, mineral and gas producers. Apparently that style of socialism doesn't bother Shepard and fellow astroturfers.

Here is a representation of natural resource revenues gained by the province:

The situation is growing worse because one formerly large government revenue source is disappearing faster than a fugitive gas well emission.

One further graph demonstrates the massive policy shift that occurred during Liberal years. In 2001, government's natural resource revenues were $5.4 billion in current dollars. In each of the last six years, they have been under $3 billion. Keep that in mind when reviewing this item:

Two things are apparent:
  1. The value of commodity exports grew dramatically in the NDP years and growth has been flat during Liberal years.
  2. The public share of natural resource export values has declined during Liberal administration.
The grid marks I added but the graph was published by Resource Works, the organization headed by former Vancouver Sun editor Stewart Muir, who may or may not remain married to Athana Mentzelopoulos, Premier Photo Op's long time sidekick. Muir's organization is part of the resource industry's multi-million dollar PR campaign to counter facts revealed here and in other independent media sites.

Resource companies are also spending heavily in the corporate media, aiming to convince citizens they are paying more than a fair share in taxes. Obviously, the cash spent on advertising is substantial but it purchases pro-media loyalty and is far less than what might have been paid in taxation under a different government. Current and former journalists have made their own Faustian bargains and, sadly, Jas Johal - once a diligent and dedicated reporter - is among them, acting as spokesman for LNG proponents who will invest money here if they are guaranteed sufficient profits and no risks or net taxes. The only public officials favouring the deals are those with no souls to sell.

There is one additional fact that won't be shared by industry spin doctors or the corporate media. In  Liberal years 2002-2014, the number of jobs in forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas averaged 42 thousand. In the desperate NDP years 1992-2001, jobs in those resource sectors averaged 50 thousand.

Put another way, in 1994, 1.7% of BC's working age population was employed in resource jobs. Twenty years later, that proportion had fallen to 1.3%

The conclusion: resource values almost doubled but the public benefit, by way of taxes and employment, declined significantly. BC Liberals formed government with the aim of delivering benefits to their sponsors. They succeeded without reservation.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Discriminating justice: inequality before the law

Almost eight years after the death of Robert Dziekanski, Taser-toting RCMP constable Kwesi Millington was dealt a card that read, "Go Directly to Jail." Of course, an appeal may see Millington free on bail soon and the process should ensure the RCMP pays lawyers on this case for years to come.

Millington's 30-month sentence was not for deploying a conducted energy weapon five times nor for failure to provide medical assistance to the unconscious and breathless Polish traveller. Instead it was for perjury after he fabricated testimony given at the Braidwood Inquiry investigating Dziekanski's death.

Former police corporal Monty Robinson was similarly convicted in March but has not yet been sentenced for perjury. In July 2012, Robinson received a one year non-custodial term following conviction for obstructing an impaired driving investigation after killing a motorcyclist in a traffic collision.

Two other officers involved in the Dziekanski homicide escaped punishment. In July 2013, Cst. Bill Bentley was found not guilty of perjury and Cst. Gerry Rundel was acquitted in April of this year.

Dzienkanski's death was an individual tragedy that exposed an inconsistent court system, which dealt differently with four men who acted together in killing another. The courts believed rationalizations of two white men but disbelieved the justifications offered by two non-white men. Was that unexpected? Not in a nation that incarcerates aboriginal men at 10 times the national rate.

In the earlier days of this website, I wrote extensively about the death of Robert Dziekanski and the efforts of senior RCMP managers to evade responsibility for the acts of their members. The killing was a result of poor training and faulty decisions made by four junior officers under stress. The subsequent cover-up and defamation of a man who could no longer defend himself was a considered series of acts managed by the most senior officers of the RCMP. None of those individuals were punished at all; the worst were promoted and rewarded with medals.

Earlier articles about the Robert Dziekanski case are linked here.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

A million here, a million there...

...pretty soon you're talking real money.

North Van's Grumps at Blog Borg Collective scours provincial files, searching for meaningful data chunks. Usually, he finds indicators of underlying stories that are worthy of attention but, paying attention is never a simple task. These are generally situations where the government has come out on the losing end of a court case. Total costs to taxpayers will be substantially higher because noted payments only represent a portion of government's costs in disputes.

The clear indication from these reports is that Christy Clark's government relies on non-strategic decision making, with little analysis and even less public consultation and debate. Ad hockery produces unsound decisions, some of which lead to lawsuits that cost taxpayers millions.

Sadly, those are the decision making skills at play in the province's LNG negotiations.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Jumbo stumble

Eight months ago, Judith Lavoie wrote at DesmogCanada about Jumbo Glacier:
Stuck in the ground, halfway down the valley trail leading into the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort, is a stick, leaning crookedly against a small tree, inscribed with the word “Lift.”

About one kilometre away, at the bottom of a recently bulldozed track into soggy underbrush, is another marker with the words “Proposed Corner of Lodge.”

The two markers, reams of flagging tape, several parked backhoes and a drill, where two employees are watching a small stream of water run into the ditch, are the only apparent signs of construction at the site in the remote heart of the Purcell Mountains.

A vital deadline is looming for Glacier Resorts Ltd., which by next month has to prove to B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office that significant progress has been made on the billion-dollar plan to build a 6,300-bed resort on Crown land in the glacial wilderness, 55-kilometres west of Invermere.

If the company fails to convince the Environmental Assessment Office’s enforcement officers and, subsequently, Environment Minister Mary Polak, that construction is well underway, it risks losing the environmental assessment certificate granted by the province in 2004. The certificate, which expires Oct. 12, was renewed in 2009 and, under legislation cannot be renewed a second time. The company must prove that construction has “substantially started” for the certificate to become permanent...
Robyn Duncan at Wildsight reported,
The facts on the ground are clear: they have poured a couple concrete slabs and they have poured a couple footings for the base of a ski lift. After 10 years, that's it. The concrete slabs can't be considered foundations. Why? Because they are slabs with holes in them, where footings will later be drilled and poured. Plans to go in and alter the slabs next year for use as a foundation by adding footings, mechanical conduits, and so on, do not count towards a determination of substantial start this year. In 10 years, this is all that has been achieved on the proposed $1 billion project...
Greg Deck, Mayor of Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality — the community with a council, a million dollar budget and no residents — saw things differently. Ms. Lavoie explained:
According to Jumbo Glacier Resort Municipality Mayor Greg Deck, everything is on track and construction is underway. “I don’t know the definition of substantial, but certainly the beginning of the lodge and the towers for the lift strike me as substantial,” he said.
Yes, that may be true, if small, non-structural slabs without footings are the beginnings of a large building for public assembly. Not true if the slabs are mere pretence. The latter possibility seems more likely because, after eight months of foot dragging, Minister Mary Polak finally cancelled the environmental assessment certificate. Perhaps Liberals will explain why the public is stuck with a 7-figure tab for an under-financed promoter's dream. A province that charges citizens as much as $83 for a birth certificate tempers its demand for cash when political friends and corporate welfare bums are involved.

The following was published at Northern Insight August 22, 2012 and, with current developments, it's worth re-posting once more.

Bob Mackin has an interesting piece in The Tyee about a newspaper tycoon and BC Liberal abettor. David Black's bluster was about about oil refining but the part of Mackin's story that caught my eye involved one-time Province newspaper publisher Paddy Sherman.

In 1958, Sherman was both a news reporter and an avid mountain man. Apparently, vocation served avocation when he wrote a front page promotion for an unlikely BC ski resort. There was no financing and little substance to the extravagant plan but that didn't bother The Province. Sherman wanted the facility to proceed so they gave it maximum splash.

Mackin provides another newspaper's eventual headline:
"Grandiose Garibaldi Scheme Falls Flat on Its No-Assets."
Some months ago, I tracked the life story of Jumbo Glacier Ski Resort. The proposal has reappeared occasionally since it was first reported in a July 1991 edition of the Vancouver Sun:
"A Japanese-backed company is planning to build a $250-million year-round ski resort on a series of spectacular glaciers west of Panorama..."
In 1993, The Province was calling Jumbo Glacier Resort a certainty involving European and Asian investors. Two years later, newspapers said the project was proceeding with support from a consortium of Canadian, U.S. and European investors. In 2012, the Times Colonist repeated promises the ski hill would soon be operational. NW's Bill Good and others try to paint Jumbo as a victim of regulatory foot dragging but actually Jumbo has been an unfinanced scheme with proponents hoping that media play would attract investors. Shills in the corporate "news" operations were willing partners.

By the way, don't plan your ski vacation at Jumbo just yet.

Media may have people like Bob Mackin aiming to report accurately and sincerely but it has many more who earn a living by shilling for special financial interests. Sometimes, the promoted is a ski hill, fish farming or "ethical oil." Other times, it is a pipeline operator, car dealer or land developer.

The shill factor in media, especially in new media, is illustrated by a report in ZDNet.
"A Federal judge overseeing the Oracle vs. Google patent lawsuit said that search giant has failed to comply with a request to document all payments to bloggers and writers covering the trial.

"...U.S. District Judge William Alsup said in his order:
"The August 7 order was not limited to authors “paid . . . to report or comment” or to “quid pro quo” situations. Rather, the order was designed to bring to light authors whose statements about the issues in the case might have been influenced by the receipt of money from Google or Oracle. For example, Oracle has disclosed that it retained a blogger as a consultant. Even though the payment was for consulting work, the payment might have influenced the blogger’s reports on issues in the civil action...

"Google suggests that it has paid so many commenters that it will be impossible to list them all..."

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