Monday, September 28, 2009

Fraser Institute. Who are they anyway?

The Fraser Institute has provided its version of appropriate economic policies since 1974. These views are always based on what Nobel laureate Paul Krugman described as a belief "that markets always work and that only markets work." The founding economic principles were similar to those later blended into Thatcherism and Reaganomics.

The Fraser Institute was initially funded by MacMillan Bloedel. BC's then largest forest products company was frightened by the social democratic government of NDP Premier Dave Barrett and keen to encourage pro-business opposition.

From the beginning, the Institute has been less a researcher than a marketing agency, working to sell ideas that suit client interests. It calls itself a non-profit educational organization with 100% emphasis on research - for which it pays handsomely - but it is predictable in seeking to promote only information that reinforces its unchanging raison d'etre.

Geoff Turner recently presented The Fraser Institute's Message Machine, an article published by The Tyee online magazine. Turner writes that the think tank "consistently punches above its weight" by distributing ready-made media content, something always enjoyed by budget starved news editors struggling with slashed resources.

Enabled with $13 million in assets and revenues above $1.1 million a month, this registered non-profit asks for donations from people who understand the importance of "impartial" research. (It has reported holding more than $10 million in assets NOT used for charitable purposes or administration.) Of course, donors should support less government intervention, private schooling, private medicine, industry deregulation (except to preserve monopolies and oligopolies), free trade, uncontrolled firearms, voluntary compliance with environmental standards, elimination of tobacco restrictions, etc.

I believe that the Fraser Institute's contributions are welcome in the universe of ideas. But people ought to consider these with knowledge that the think tank speaks and writes on behalf of its benefactors. For example, Directors of the Institute include representatives of private healthcare organizations that lust for destruction of public universal medical care. Others represent pharmaceutical companies, which might explain why the think tank does not talk about how enhanced competition and reduced patent periods could bring down extravagant drugs costs. Most strongly represented though is the oil and gas industry. Environmental regulations and taxation are like kryptonite to these operators so we little wonder why they finance free market anti-government opinion makers.

I looked at the Fraser Institute's website to determine those who compose the present Board of Directors. After a little searching, I added short biographies of the individuals from already published sources. I certainly welcome any additions or corrections that readers can submit through comments.

As one commenter at The Tyee wrote:
These guys don't just speak FOR Business, they ARE Business. (Yes again, with a capital B.)

Chairman


Hassan Khosrowshahi – Vancouver BC, age 69, educated in Iran and England, Inwest Investments Ltd. (Westbild, Westwood Plateau, founder of Future Shop (sold to Best Buy in 2001). Estimated wealth (2008): $770 million.

Vice Chairmen

Edward S. Belzberg - Vancouver, BC, Jayberg Enterprises Ltd., investments

Mark W. Mitchell – President, Reliant Capital Ltd., Vancouver, BC, private lender funding real estate loans to $5 million.

Gwyn Morgan – Victoria, BC, Oilman, Director of EnCanaCorporation, SNC-Lavalin, Alcan, HSBC and others.

Board Members

Salem Ben Nasser Al Ismaily - Sultanate of Oman, Executive President & CEO, Omani Centre for Investment, educated in Britain and USA

Louis-Philippe Amiot – Montreal, a Montreal electronics engineer who later became an orthopedic surgeon, founded Orthosoft Inc.

Gordon E. Arnell – Calgary, Chairman of Brookfield Properties Board since 2000; President and CEO of Brookfield's predecessor, Carena Developments Ltd., for eleven years; senior executive roles at Oxford Development Group Ltd. and Trizec Corporation Ltd.

Charles B. Barlow – Calgary, Barlow Brothers Ltd., Oil & Gas Exploration & Development.

Everett E. Berg – Victoria,

T. Patrick Boyle, founder of The Fraser Institute, formerly Vice President MacMillan Bloedel

Peter Brown, Chairman of Canaccord Capital, is a member of the board of directors of the IIROC- Industry Association and is a past member of the board and of the executive committee of the Investment Dealers Association. He is a past Chairman of the Board of the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver Stock Exchange, BC Place Corporation and BC Enterprise Corporation.

Joseph C. Canavan, Chairman and CEO of Assante Wealth Management ($24 billion assets managed), Vice Chairman of the Children’s Aid Foundation, Chairman of North York General Hospital’s Paediatric Giving Campaign and is on the Board of the National Ballet of Canada.

Alex A. Chafuen, a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he is president of Atlas Economic Research Foundation. He has served as an Assistant Professor of Political Economy at the University of Buenos Aires, is a founding trustee of the Acton Institute and a board member of several other institutes and foundations. He is the author of Faith and Liberty: The Economic Thought of the Late Scholastics as well as many others.

Elizabeth Chaplin, co-founder of Sea to Sky Real Estate Ltd., joined The Whistler Real Estate Co. Ltd. in 1998.

Derwood S. Chase, Jr., president, founder, and chief executive officer of Chase Investment Counsel Corporation, which manages over $4 billion for 206 institutions (including two mutual funds) and high-net-worth clients in thirty-six states. Mr. Chase is a trustee of Reason Foundation.

James W. Davidson, Chairman & CEO, FirstEnergy Capital Corp., an investment dealer focused on Canada's energy sector.

John Dielwart, President & CEO, Arc Energy Trust, one of Canada’s largest conventional oil and gas royalty trusts.

Stuart M. Elman, President and CFO of Medisys Health Group, a healthcare services company.

Greg C. Fleck, computer distribution

Shaun Francis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Medcan Health Management Inc, a provider of healthcare services. Prior to Medcan, he was Senior VP for Dallas based Broadlane, Inc., a business outsourcer for 900 US hospitals. He also worked for Morgan Stanley's investment banking division. Shaun serves on the Board of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and is head bagman of the PC Ontario Fund.

Ned Goodman, Chairman, Dundee Corporation, an asset management company dedicated to private wealth management, real estate and resources with over $30 billion assets under management.

Arthur N. Grunder, Director Harmac, long time executive with MacMillan Bloedel.

John A. Hagg, Chairman of Clark Builders and The TSX Group Inc., Tristone Energy Global Inc. He was co-founder of Canadian Northstar Corporation, one of Canada's top 20 petroleum and natural gas producers. In 1998, Northstar merged with Devon Energy Corporation of Oklahoma City, in a $2.0 billion transaction, and he joined Devon’s Board of Directors. Hagg has been a director of numerous organizations including the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the independent Petroleum Associations of Canada, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta. He was on the Honorary Council of the Petroleum Communication Foundation.

Paul Hill, President & CEO of The Hill Companies & Harvard Developments Inc. Involved in ownership and development of real estate, insurance, broadcasting Paul is a Director of such companies and organizations as Boardwalk Equities Inc. (Chairman), Crown Life Insurance Company (Chairman), Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Conference Board of Canada and CD Howe Institute. He is a past director of Canada Trust, North Canadian Oils Ltd., Shopping.com, US Forest Industries, the Canadian Forces Liaison Committee and the Asia Pacific Foundation, etc.

Stephen A. Hynes

David H. Laidley, Former Chairman of Deloitte & Touche LLP (Canada), Director of Emcor Group Inc., a Fortune 500 company with 28,000 employees. Mr. Laidley is also a director of Biovail Corporation, Canada's largest publicly traded pharmaceutical company.

Robert H. Lee is founder and Chairman of the Prospero Group, an integrated real estate company engaged in real estate sales and leasing, property management, development, investment, and syndication.

Brandt Louie President and CEO of H.Y. Louie Co. Limited, and Chairman and CEO of London Drugs Limited. Estimated wealth (2008): $1.4 billion.

David R. Mackenzie, former Director of Tusk Energy, sold to TIAA-CREF for $164 million USD.

Hubert R. Marleau has been a member of the Mitec Board since 1996 and its Chairman since 2006. He is currently President and Director of Palos Capital. Mr. Marleau has raised funds privately and publicly for hundreds of companies, structured many mergers and acquisitions, and crafted numerous financial deals in Canada. Mr. Marleau has held executive level positions at several large investment banks notably, Nesbitt Thomson Inc., Levesque Beaubien Inc. as well as his own firm, Marleau, Lemire Inc. Throughout his career, Mr. Marleau has served as a Board member for a multitude of publicly traded companies, a governor of the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver Stock Exchanges, and a director of the Investment Dealer Association of Canada.

James L. McGovern, founder and CEO of Arrow Hedge Partners Inc., an investment management company providing service to institutions, pension funds, and high-net-worth individuals. Arrow Hedge calls itself a hedge fund leader in Canada. McGovern worked 13 years at BPI Financial Corporation, which he co-founded and where he became President and CEO. BPI, a publicly traded company, managed or administered over $6 billion dollars.

Mark R. Mullins is the former executive director of the Fraser Institute as well as the Institute’s former director of Ontario policy studies. He has published numerous studies on government finance, tax policy, and value-for-money issues. Prior to joining the Fraser Institute in 2003, Dr. Mullins served as President of MSG Hedge Corporation, a privately owned consulting firm and as Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist at Midland Walwyn Capital Inc., where he was responsible for communicating the firm’s outlook on the North American economy and financial markets. Dr. Mullins also brings extensive applied policy experience, having served as economic and fiscal policy advisor to the Canadian Alliance Party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

Eleanor Nicholls

Roger Phillips, President of LA Sauciere Investments Inc. Former President and CEO of IPSCO Inc., he held a series of positions with Alcan Inc. He serves as an Honorary Director of IPSCO Inc., and C.D. Howe Institute. Former Director of TD Bank. He has been Director of Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. and Imperial Oil Ltd. Former Director of CPR Prosperity Voskhod Fund Ltd. Mr. Phillips serves as a Director of Fording Coal Limited and The Decimal Fund Limited. He serves as a Director of The Dejima Fund Limited. He served as a Director of Vale Inco., Fording Inc., an Operating company of Fording Canadian Coal Trust. Phillips is a Senior Member of the Conference Board, Inc. He was awarded by the American Iron and Steel Association for his contributions to the North American steel industry.

Herbert C. Pinder, Jr. is a non-practicing lawyer who formerly managed a family business, which included Pinders Drugs, and is currently the President of the Goal Group, which provides corporate governance and investment management services, with a particular focus on oil and gas private equity and the energy sector. He is currently a director of Viterra, a number of private energy companies and ARC Energy Trust.

R. Jack Pirie is associated with Sabre Energy Ltd., a private company engaged primarily in oil and gas development, production and processing in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

H. S. Riley, of the famous Winnipeg insurance family, former CEO of Tanbridge Corp., once Canada's largest leather manufacturer.

Gavin Semple is the President and General Manager of the Brandt Group of Companies, the largest privately owned company in Saskatchewan. Semple is also the Deputy Chair of the Enterprise Saskatchewan Board of Directors. He has served on several Boards including Doepker Industries, Canada Post Corporation, Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, Prairie Implement Manufacturers Association, Saskatchewan Research Council, Regina Regional Economic Development Authority (REDA) and others.

Rod Senft is a founder and Managing Director of Tricor Pacific Capital Inc., a private equity firm. He is Chairman of Advance Engineered Products Ltd., Expocrete Concrete Products Ltd., and Golden Boy Foods, and is a board member of Beresford Box Company, Inc., all current Tricor portfolio companies. Prior to founding Tricor, Rod was a Principal at Macluan Capital Corporation. He was previously the Chairman and CEO of Hines Nurseries Inc. and SunGro Horticulture Inc. and a Partner of Davis & Company. Prior to joining Davis & Co. he was Secretary and General Counsel for Cargill (Canada) Inc.

Anthony W. Sessions involved in stocks and investment trading.

William W. Siebens - In 1979, Siebens sold his company to Dome Petroleum Ltd. and became president of Candor Investments Ltd., a private energy investment corporation. He has also chaired the board of Sovereign Oil and Gas, a North Sea oil producer. In 1994, Siebens joined ResoQuest Resources Ltd. as chairman of the board until it was sold two years later to Pinnacle Resources Ltd. He continued in the same leadership position with Pinnacle until it was sold to Renaissance Energy Ltd. in 1998. Siebens served as a director of Petro-Canada and was chairman of Freehold Royalty Trust, one of the largest owners of freehold mineral rights in Canada.

Anna Stylianides began her career as a corporate lawyer in South Africa. She specialized in risk management and gained extensive experience in finance, mergers and acquisitions, structuring and other banking and financial products. Since relocation to Vancouver in 1997, she has been engaged in restructuring Nasdaq traded companies and was the CEO of FinTec Holdings Corp. In 2005, she joined the Surgical Spaces, Inc. Group of Companies as CEO and has been instrumental in overseeing its national expansion strategy as Canada's private healthcare consolidator.

Arni C. Thorsteinson is CEO at Temple Real Estate Investment Trust, CEO at Huntingdon Real Estate Investment Trust, CEO at WPVC Inc., President of Shelter Canadian Properties Limited and CEO at Lanesborough Real Estate Investment Trust. He is the Chairman of Vision Capital Fund Advisory board and has been Chairman and Director of Consolidated Properties Ltd. and a Director of Russel Metals Inc. He has been a Director of Bird Construction Ltd. and Tri-White Corp. He is also a Director of Ben Moss Jewellers Ltd., Onex Corp., and WPVC Inc.

Michael A. Walker, one of the founders of the Fraser Institute and former Executive Director of the Fraser Institute. He holds a PHD in Economics and has written or edited countless books and articles.

Catherine Windels, Director of International Affairs at international drug giant Pfizer, also served as the Secretary Treasurer for the Fraser Institute’s Board of Trustees. She was a financial contributor to Republican and Libertarian candidates in USA 2008 elections.

* * * * *

Doug McArthur, of SFU's Public Policy School, makes clear that he is not a member of the Fraser Institute.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Where is there dignity unless there is honesty

Before he was elected Premier, Gordon Campbell wrote,
When government does its business behind closed doors, people will invariably believe that government has something to hide. Secrecy feeds distrust and dishonesty. Openness builds trust and integrity.

Premier Campbell trusts these friends, you may pay to make them your friends too:

Dobell, Wilkinson, Jiles, Kinsella, Moonen, Pannu, Lidstone, Cockrill, Puhallo, Christensen, Burton, Kendall, Quattrocchi, James, Buholzer, Manhas, Jarzebiak, Adair

Thanks for writing about these outrages:
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

RCMP intention without action is useless

Superintendent Wayne Rideout appeared again at the Braidwood Inquiry and talked about the RCMP's ability to conduct investigations of itself. Speaking personally, he said the present system results in an unwinnable predicament, that competently conducted investigations are not perceived by the public to be fair, or reported as such.

With that disingenuous or naive comment, the officer ignores proven defects of certain internal investigations, preferring to fault the perceptions of people outside police agencies. He could have said, "The problem is not with us, it's you guys." Maybe the RCMP did a fine job investigating the YVR death but the public just doesn't understand.

Rideout stated that senior management has repeatedly discussed alternative approaches and tried over many years to improve procedures used when actions of RCMP members are reviewed.

On the face of it, that seems a reasonable position to be voiced by one of the more senior RCMP officers in British Columbia. The part left unexplained though is why shocking situations have occurred with unfortunate regularity. Despite comments and criticisms over many years by countless qualified parties, substantive practice changes appear to be minimal. Behavior that offends modern management practice is tolerated, even that which is plainly illegal.

See The Globe and Mail, Gary Mason: Proposed civilian unit to look into police not all it seems.

I intend to examine a few cases apart from Dziekanski and Bush, two of British Columbia's highest profile police involved tragedies. The consideration is whether or not the problems indicate systemic disorder or isolated failures of individuals.

* * *
Case 1: Sulz v. Attorney General of Canada, et al.

After six successful years, a female member's service with Merritt RCMP became problematic following appointment of a new detachment commander. In mid-1995, her difficulties were taken up with the divisional staff representative and she submitted a detailed written history of harassment by supervisors.

The detachment's commanding officer had been found involved in prior incidents of harassment at an earlier posting. Another detachment supervisor admitted saying to the member that as a female she had to work twice as hard as a male member and three times as hard to regain his trust.

Despite informal efforts at resolution, continuation of difficulties led to a formal investigation of harassment complaints. That continued until 1998. Three years after allegations were raised, the charges were upheld but no disciplinary action was taken because the commander retired. The complainant remained mostly on sick leave until she discharged for medical reasons. The force encouraged her to accept this outcome and she did so but filed a statement of claim.

After awarding $950,000 and generous level 4 costs, the trial judge stated, "This was a difficult trial containing numerous issues, the complexity of which is not readily apparent from these reasons [for judgment]."

Despite that caution, lay readers of the court documents will readily sympathize with the RCMP female member who was left unsupported and ill-used over a number of years by what the judge called a male-oriented paramilitary, out of touch with standards of current days. In addition, the defense fought to overturn the award on appeal. They lost that effort in December 2006, more than a decade after the initial complaints.

For 11 years, this lone individual -- denied union representation by statute -- stood at odds with supervisors at the RCMP. Courts held that she was victimized by a superior with a prior record of harassment. In 1997, a Staff Sargent serving as divisional staff relations representative wrote:
There is always another side to this BUT if any of this is true, S/Sgt. S. should not be in the position he is in. . . . Another question that has to be researched is the fact that S/Sgt. S may have been investigated for harassment of a female member a few years ago while stationed in the Yukon and the outcome is believed to be founded. If this is true WHY is this man still in a command position?

The performance of the senior levels of RCMP management was incompetent and profligate in this case. Add the judgment and plaintiff costs for trial and appeal to the defense costs, the internal investigatory expenses and the costs of wasted training and medical and retirement leaves. Now factor in the human tolls in lost and ruined careers. The final tab is immense, in the range of $3 million cash.

This trouble and waste resulted from failure to act promptly and effectively despite widely known misbehavior of detachment commanding personnel. One must conclude that higher level officers were prepared to tolerate or support illegal harassment.

* * *
Case 2: R. v. Fidler

This current case is noted because it reveals that a small RCMP detachment failed to follow police policies, used excessive force, kept inadequate records, erased video evidence and gave faulty testimony in court. Four separate police officers were criticized by a Supreme Court Justice, including the detachment's acting supervisor.

Justice Madam Koenigsberg acquitted a man on a charge of aggravated assault, saying she did not believe testimony from the Mounties involved in his arrest. She says officers used excessive force in subduing Andrew Fidler following his arrest in October 2006 for assault, and breached his charter rights.

The judge was troubled also by failure of the police to keep records required by policy and to make complete and timely disclosures to the court. Additionally, the judge noted the RCMP decided to conduct an improper search and seizure despite knowing that to be illegal.

Based on Reasons for Judgment, Justice Koenigsberg, 09/14/09

In October 2006, two Burns Lake RCMP members investigated an assault complaint. That led to a violent arrest and incarceration of one Andrew Fidler. He complained of pain in the morning and asked to be taken to the hospital. He was taken to the hospital (handcuffed behind his back by Constable Wamsteeker). During his examination by an emergency room doctor, he was still handcuffed behind his back. Fidler testified the doctor asked that the handcuffs be removed so proper x-rays could be taken. He testified Constable Wamsteeker refused to remove them.

Under cross-examination, Constable Wamsteeker had no recollection of much of this event, and had made no notes. The only documentation of Fidler’s stay overnight at the detachment and his hospital visit were cryptic guard logs and a form filled out by Constable Wamsteeker. That form contained no dates and the form contained at the least, inaccurate information as to what was found at the hospital when Fidler was examined there. Fidler’s evidence of what occurred at the hospital was proved likely very accurate and was not consistent with the evidence of Constable Wamsteeker.

Constable Esson provided assistance during struggles at the jail. He made no notes of his involvement with Fidler that evening despite policy that violent interactions between police officers and detainees are to be documented in Incident or Occurrence Reports. There was no such report.

In addition, as acting supervisor at the time, Constable Esson was asked about documentation practices at the Detachment in 2006. He testified that he did not recall if video cameras were in place or if they were operating if they were in place. He was unaware if any video tape had been requested by anyone of the “violence” on the part of Fidler. Subsequently, court was advised that cameras were trained on the booking counter as well as within cells and that logs were kept of all activity and the video cameras were operating October 19, 2006. Evidence was given that disks were to be made of video surveillance of “violent incidents” within the Detachment.

Constable Esson was questioned about the policy within the Detachment regarding prisoners taken to the hospital. He testified that generally a form may be filled out. He testified the form isn’t always filled out. He thought there might be some old forms under the counter. He testified he didn’t know if there was a “paper trail” documenting Fidler going to the hospital for complaints of pain in his rib area.

The guard logs relevant to Fidler’s stay during the late evening of October 19 and early on October 20, were not disclosed until after Constable Esson’s evidence. When the log was produced it showed Fidler’s request to go to the hospital and that he was transported there. It also noted that the cameras were operating in the cell area on October 19, 2006.

Throughout the trial, difficulties were encountered with disclosure of documentation from the Burns Lake Detachment. Not only was there late disclosure, the disclosure was piece meal and necessitated the Court, in exasperation the last few days of the trial, to order the entire file of Fidler’s encounters with the Burns Lake Detachment on October 19-20, 2006 to be brought to Court.

The effect of the late disclosure, lack of disclosure, lack of record keeping and what can only be described, as a somewhat cavalier attitude toward documentation of violent incidents and the taking of prisoners to the hospital, at least as displayed by Constable Esson, who at the time was Acting Supervisor at the Burns Lake Detachment, coupled with the accuracy and truthfulness of Fidler’s evidence, when documentation was disclosed or found to support it, leads to the following conclusion. Generally, when Fidler’s evidence conflicts with that of the Constables, Fidler’s evidence is preferred.

The police officers both testified that, Occurrence Reports are to be done when there is a violent incident. No such report was done or if it was it has never been disclosed. Neither Constable remembered writing one up. Constable Esson did not make any notes of his involvement despite his evidence of Fidler’s violence” and his application of “pain control”. Despite the availability of a video tape of the cell block booking counter area on October 19, 2006, no one thought to have a record of that incident made, apparently until over a month later when it had apparently been taped over. Thus the court is left with two versions of whether there was a need for violence causing pain from the Constables to Fidler.

In the absence of documentation, which should be present in the form of Incident or Occurrence Reports and the failure to make a copy of the video recording of the event – the court prefers Fidler’s account of the incident. I do not believe that Fidler actually posed a serious threat to the Constables justifying punching him as described, such that he was taken to the hospital next day in serious pain.

There is one last issue to address . . . Constable Ferris re-attended the Fidler residence. . . . he thought he smelled marijuana. He phoned the Detachment for instructions . . . was advised he could not investigate further. After asking Fidler, then in cells, if he would allow entry of his home and being refused – the Constables took Fidler’s keys which had been seized during his arrest, and entered his home and found a relatively small marijuana grow operation.

All the plants and equipment were seized. No prosecution was initiated. A decision was made apparently . . . to effect what is known as a “no case seizure”. In other words, the RCMP know that their actions in investigating and then searching and seizing property are unlawful and cannot be used as evidence in court and decide to seize the property anyway. . .

* * *
Case 3: RCMP and Justin Harris

Cst. Justin Harris faced internal code of conduct charges after an RCMP report produced in 2002 named him in a complaint from at least one prostitute. The RCMP decided to proceed against Cst. Harris in 2005 but an internal disciplinary hearing was halted days after it started. The panel of three senior officers from outside the province ruled that the RCMP had failed to investigate complaints against Harris within a one-year time limit.

Assistant RCMP commissioner Gary Bass testified that police didn't do anything about it at the time because allegations were being made against as many as nine officers in Prince George and Bass said most were thin, third-hand and lacked corroboration.

Asked whether he would have ordered a criminal investigation after reading the direct complaint from the woman against Harris, Bass replied "I don't know," adding that the investigator who wrote the report didn't indicate whether he believed the prostitute.

In a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court in 2008, Cst. Justin Harris said he suffered a psychological condition that made him "unfit to return to his regular policing duties for an indeterminate time" as a consequence of an RCMP investigation into allegations he and other officers paid to have sex with teen prostitutes.

The prostitutes were at the heart of the case against former judge David Ramsay, who was found guilty of committing sexual offenses against the underage sex workers and sentenced to seven years in prison in June 2004.

* * *

Case 4: RCMP and Tim Korman

Six weeks after a sexual harassment complaint was dismissed due to procedural errors, the RCMP officer at the centre of the issue was promoted. Sgt. Tim Korman is currently stationed in Rosthern, Sask., but four years ago when he was a corporal in the Buffalo Narrows detachment he was accused of sexually harassing an officer under his supervision.

An investigation determined the allegation was well-founded, but a discipline process related to the complaint was terminated because the Saskatchewan commander at the time, Darrell McFadyen, botched the paperwork.

* * *

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Papering the house

Opening and closing pageants, figure skating finals and the hockey medal round; those are easy sells. Hockey tickets for Germany vs Belarus or for sports such as skeleton, curling, biathlon, synchronized snow boarding; not so easy. And, empty seats don't look good on television.

During a radio interview, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie offered a clue as to who will accompany him to Olympic events that don't have main stage appeal.
The city has invested in a lot of tickets and we’re in the process of giving them away and working with various community groups to spread those tickets around the community.

Richmond spent $200,000 on tickets and City of Vancouver $340,000. Other municipal governments are helping out too. Thank you, Mr. & Ms. Property Taxpayer.
--------------------
September 11 story updated September 22, 2009:

NDP MLA and energy critic John Horgan says that while funding cuts are being finalized to school sports and other programs, BC Hydro is buying Olympic tickets "so some fat cats can sit in a luxury box watching hockey games."

Horgan revealed that BC Hydro is spending $264,000 to book a 30-seat box suite for 33 ice hockey events at GM Place in Vancouver during the 2010 Games in February. It is buying other Olympic tickets as well for a total of $616,000.

ICBC and the BC Lottery Corporation also acquired games tickets. The three crown agencies admit to spending $1.4 million collectively.

VANOC has been asked to reveal total ticket purchases by government and government agencies. The number, if ever revealed, together with federal agency and municipal government purchases, may shock critics of the Olympics.

This can also have an unintended consequence. A number of years ago, so many free BC Lions football tickets were kicking around town that walk-up sales became negligible. If VANOC encourages or enables papering of the house, regular ticket sales will stall.

Observers might remember that, during Expo86, senior government officials from across Canada discovered pressing reasons to visit Vancouver during the world's fair. So, in addition to tickets, the public will pay for travel costs too. And, when these folks travel, $1,200 a day is a frugal excursion.


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Sunday, September 20, 2009

BC Liberal movement grows stinky

How many Liberal MLAs does it take to change a light bulb?

Forty-nine. One to do the job, one to supervise the motion from the Speaker's chair and 47 to blame the burnt-out bulb on fast ferries.

Read the rest of the story by Rod Mickleburgh, The Globe and Mail

Three stooges have nothing but hot air . . .
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And, the winner is . . .

KABUL, Sept. 20 -- The big winner in the fraud-ridden, never-ending Afghanistan elections is turning out to be a party not even on the ballot: the Taliban.

A stream of revelations about systematic cheating during last month's vote has given the Taliban fresh ammunition in their propaganda campaign to portray President Hamid Karzai's administration as hopelessly corrupt. Infighting among U.S., U.N. and European diplomats over whether to accept the results with Karzai the winner or force a new round of voting has also fed the Taliban line that the government in Kabul is merely a puppet of foreign powers. . . .
Taliban Capitalizes on Afghanistan's Election Controversy

by Craig Whitlock, Washington Post


My comments, Sept. 12/09:
Not out sight, not out of mind
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Slow ferry fumble

Judging by the increases in BC Ferries' executive compensation, I must be missing something. Fares are up and service is down. Ridership has declined after years of unbroken growth. Something else must be going very well to justify giant raises and bonuses for head office folks. They wouldn't give themselves increments, just because they can.

Perhaps, the high stepping executives did an extraordinary job of improving personnel relations, the corporation's long standing Gordian knot. Apparently not. No, it must be shrewd management of capital spending. You know, modernizing the fleet, buying new super efficient ships, so advanced they could not be built in BC. No home-built ferry fiascos for these bonus babies.

I thought a driving trip to Victoria this week would allow review of a German built ferry, since Coastal Celebration serves Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay. Trouble is, we had to depart Tuesday or Wednesday, both days that the new ship sits at the dock while 15 year old Spirit class vessels handle traffic.

So, I thought, maybe other days, the Coastal Celebration works a little harder. After all, it is the third and newest Coastal class ferry. I checked the website and found this schedule for the ship:
  • Monday - 10 am & 2 pm
  • Tuesday - no sailings
  • Wednesday - no sailings
  • Thursday - 10 am
  • Friday - 10 am & 2 pm & 6 pm
  • Saturday - 10 am & 2 pm
  • Sunday - 2 pm & 6 pm
The ship makes ten back and forth crossings in a week. During the same time, the two older Spirit class vessels each make 28 round trips on the same route, almost three times the utilization. Operating cost disadvantages seem the most likely explanation for leaving a near-new ship tied up in port while old reliables ply the same waters.

The Tyee reported some time ago that fuel efficiency was a problem on the new German vessels and that employees had taken to calling them the "Gas Guzzlers."

. . . B.C. Ferries fuel-use charts show that on some routes the new vessels used as much on average as 52 per cent more fuel than older vessels. We later noted the company planned to save fuel by having captains and crews learn to drive the ships better, following more direct routes, and changing light bulbs.

The new ferries have had various problems since arriving in B.C., the most serious of which include high fuel consumption, heavy vibrations and noise while docked at the terminals. The problems may all be linked to a design flaw that has their propellers sitting too high in the water.

Of course, this is an issue that BC Ferries management does not care to discuss in public, nor are they required to do so under its present status as a private company owned by the public.

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Liberal movement - shovel ready

Vaughn Palmer wrote it:
Some days, the only thing these guys seem ready to shovel is the stuff piled up behind horse barns and bull paddocks.

Any guesses about whom he was talking?
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Not easy being clean . . .


Hot day, cold fudgsicle. What else would you expect?
Now fully grown, she turned out quite perfectly.

Happy birthday Jenn!
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wild Salmon Circle, a citizens' group


A RALLY FOR WILD SALMON SAT. OCT. 3, 2009
Turn the Tide - Stand up for Wild Salmon


WHERE: The Vancouver Art Gallery, on Georgia between Hornby and Howe

WHEN: October 3, 2009, 1:00 p.m.

WHAT: A rally for wild salmon at the Art Gallery. Guest speakers, Tum Tum the wild salmon in costume, information, petitions, and with luck some wild salmon cultural activities.

PURPOSE: To demand the DFO immediately remove salmon farms from the BC coast, and begin restoring our stocks of wild salmon-- and to begin a non-partisan, democratic citizen movement for the preservation of wild salmon.

The Wild Salmon Circle* is calling all concerned citizens in British Columbia to a rally in Vancouver on October 3, 2009 to stand up for our wild salmon.

If we do not demand change, we may see the demise of these amazing fish--upon whom orcas, grizzlies, forests and humans depend-- in our lifetime. While we recognize there are many factors affecting wild salmon, salmon farms have been proven undeniably by Canadian and international research to result in disastrous collapses for wild salmon, everywhere they have been placed. We must address this issue first.

We don't need to trade thriving biodiversity for economic growth.There are better ways to create jobs from our wild waters.

We demand an end to DFO denial, broken promises by government and industry, and to the endless delays that keep these farms operating in BC's coastal waters.

Dozens of conservation groups and scientists in B.C. have fought for years to remove open-net salmon farms from BC, and to preserve wild salmon stocks in many other ways. We can't leave this fight up to them alone, or put our faith any longer in government agencies who care more about politics than wild salmon. These are our fish.

We need to rally together and speak to the federal government with one voice: Open-net salmon farms out of BC waters, now.

Please join us! Show up on October 3, 2009 to show your support for wild salmon. Let government and industry know we won't stand for further delays in removing open-net salmon farms from our waters. Our salmon have waited long enough.

Go here for Event Updates: < http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=125938871793 <http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=125938871793> >


>>> Another Rally will be held September 16 at noon in front of the DFO offices at Burrard and Pender. If you can join us on this day as well, that would be great. The purpose of this event is to also recruit as many people as possible to the October 3 rally.

BACKGROUND FACTS:

 Open-net salmon farms have wiped out populations of wild salmon and sea-run trout in Norway, Ireland, and Scotland.

 In BC's Broughton Archipelago, salmon farms have caused catastrophic collapses of pink salmon stocks. There is good reason to believe, based on research by Alexandra Morton and others, that they have also played a role in the decline of Fraser sockeye.

 Ninety percent of BC's 130 farms are owned by Norwegian multinational corporations, who reap profits while polluting our waters and killing wild salmon.

 Over 80% of BC farmed salmon is sold and eaten in the United States.

 In August 2009, the Canadian government hosted a pavilion at the Nor Aqua aquaculture trade show in Norway. DFO Minister Gail Shea and other DFO staff put out the red carpet there to more multinational salmon farm corporations, offering up still more of our waters to this toxic industry.

* The Wild Salmon Circle is a group of citizens concerned about the possible extinction of wild salmon stocks in BC. We do not represent any particular NGO, agency, special interest or lobby group. We are BC citizens who want wild salmon to thrive for our children and all future generations.

Contacts:
Jill Schroder, 604 662-7561 <jsmr@uniserve.com>
Maria Morlin, 604-728-4580 <mariacoho@telus.net>
Tyee Bridge, 604-879-2203 <tyee@tyeebridge.com>


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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not out of sight, not out of mind

Afghanistan is a conflict that can no longer be out of sight or out of mind. Bill Moyers made that statement to Americans but it is apt in this country with the Canadian fatality count risen to 25 this year, 131 in total.

Do Canadians understand the goals sought in Afghanistan? Without that knowledge, we cannot determine success or failure or judge if Canadian lives are wasted there. Jonathan Couturier, the latest dead soldier, considered the mission pointless, according to his brother.

Governor-General Jean says Canada's mission is improving lives. The Prime Minister says deaths will not deter Canada's mission to rebuild Afghanistan. Yet, neither goes beyond platitudes to communicate meaningful detail of what we are likely to achieve. Harper's statement is particularly trite:
Be reassured that an entire country stands behind you at this difficult time. It is only through the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of remarkable Canadians like Corporal Jean-François Drouin and Major Yannick Pépin that Afghanistan will once again flourish and stand on its own.

Will Afghanistan flourish and stand on its own? Has it ever? Not in recent history, not since the middle ages. These lands are where numerous civilizations crossed paths and armies have battled since ancient times. The people have been subjugated by most every bygone empire that crossed the region.

From the 19th century, Britain tried to rule the area until independent Afghanistan was created following WWI. Royal authority presided uneasily over the fractious state until a 1973 coup resulted in formation of a republic. A secular government, sustained by the USSR, attempted major social changes: land reform, religious freedom and female emancipation - ironically, values that western nations now seek to impose. Then too, cultural discord and foreign influence led to armed strife. American agencies encouraged anti-government forces as part of their anti-communist strategy.

To help its client state, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Callous fighting continued until the invaders withdrew in 1989 and, with that ideological prize gained, America lost interest in remaking Afghanistan. Internecine violence continued with control exercised by regional warlords and religious extremists. By 2000, Taliban fundamentalists dominated the country and repressed most disorder.

After 9/11, Americans resolved to punish the Afghan government for sheltering Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. Eventually, western special forces and Northern Alliance militias overthrew the Taliban regime. Hamid Karzai headed the transitional administration and was made Interim President in 2002. However, his influence was limited and his place depended on US military power. Karzai was often derided as the Mayor of Kabul and much regional control remained with residual Taliban elements and militias.

Nevertheless, with support of the US and it's allies, Karzai remains President, even if he holds incomplete power through corrupt election practices. In 2009, a UN-backed commission in Afghanistan said it had found "convincing evidence of fraud" in the presidential election. Britain, the US and others in the NATO mission are reluctant to condemn irregularities strongly, partly because supporters of Karzai are responsible for the worst abuses. Of course, widespread corruption undermines the case for continued allied military intervention.

Dexter Filkins, New York Times (September 2009), says Afghan corruption is boundless, affecting every element of society:
From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban government seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it.

A raft of investigations has concluded that people at the highest levels of the Karzai administration, including the president's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, are cooperating in the country's opium trade, now the world's largest. In the streets and government offices, hardly a public transaction seems to unfold here that does not carry with it the requirement of a bribe.

Carlotta Gall, New York Times, called Afghan corruption widespread and the government effort to change lethargic. She mentions a housing scandal from 2003:
. . . cabinet ministers, in Karzai's absence, awarded themselves and friends prime real estate in Kabul, where land prices have shot up since the U.S. invasion.

An investigation was quietly dropped and the officials were allowed to build their ostentatious villas, which now tower above passers-by as a constant reminder of official excess. Elsewhere, though corruption is small in scale, it has an enormous impact on the poor, which is most of the population.

Nancy Youssef is the Chief Pentagon Correspondent for McClatchy news. She covered the war in Iraq for four years, including two as Baghdad Bureau Chief. Appearing recently on Bill Moyers' Journal, she talked about the Afghan people:
Well, the democracy they've seen is from their perspective a fraudulent election that's brought about a government that's more corrupt, in their view, than even the Taliban was. And by the way, they don't get any more basic services. They have to pay a lot more in bribes to get basic things done. Their warlords in some cases are more empowered under the system, not less. Who would want democracy under that? I think we have to think about how we've defined democracy in their minds. It's really become about survival.

I was in Zhari District, which is about 20 miles west of Kandahar. When the Canadians first came in, they painted schools and they built new schools for the residents. And you know what happened? The NATO forces eventually had to destroy them, because the Taliban took them over. They own everything. They own the terrain. They know the terrain better than anyone.

Bill Moyers asked Youssef about $32 billion of foreign aid that's been splashed across Afghanistan in the past few years, "Can you see any of the effects of that?"
It's very, very minimal because at the core it's security. I mean, that same number, you'll hear talked about how much has reached the Afghans. It's something ridiculously small. Like $4-$6 billion that actually has reached the ground in Afghanistan. Do you see it? Not really. You'll see it in pieces. You know, you'll see the ring road, or a paved road of some kind there. Or you'll see a new water system, or a new school, or a new crop buildup. But there's nothing linking all those things together. That's what's missing. So, it's very piecemeal. So, it's sort of like a mirage of a big pool of water in the middle of the desert. You know, you see it and then it sort of disappears, because it doesn't have any real long term impact.

Canadians have no territorial ambitions, no historic involvements or obvious ties to people of the region. And, we can hardly justify military action as a defense of moral values, democracy and human rights, given that both sides of the Afghan hostilities stand a world apart from Canadian values. Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan is, more than anything, Stephen Harper's deferential response to American wishes. We are not defending democracy, we are serving American political rhetoric.

With escalating costs and casualties, painful collateral damage inflicted on non-combatants and continued failures of the corrupt Karsai regime, NATO must re-evaluate its participation. It seems clear that too few in Afghanistan cherish the values of universal liberal democracy. There are no pleasant solutions now nor will there be later. History suggests that westerners should now depart, as every failed transient conqueror has done before.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

The Pundit's Progress

vaIn the archives of this blog, readers might find one or two blusters directed at very experienced - and highly visible - professional pundits.

For example, I wrote that both Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey had reported carelessly on the regulator's rejection of BC Hydro's Long Term Acquisition Plan. Both appeared to base reporting on inaccurate talking points obtained from interested parties rather than the actual BC Utility Commission decision.

In the case of Global TV, coverage of this important matter was so badly informed that, even a week later, a news anchor wrongly reported that the regulator's decision was primarily aimed at stopping development of green power projects in British Columbia.

I also claimed that both Palmer and Baldrey had, for some time, invested too little energy and attention to turpitude underlying the disposition of BC Rail and its valued land banks. Who knows if that story will ever see the full light of day because powerful forces aim to keep evidence from public view. Without a vigorous and resourceful press, corrupt politicians have free rein in this and other fiduciary failures.

However, having recounted those unfavorable appraisals, I want to specifically applaud some recent work of the very same pundits. This past week, Keith Baldrey caught my attention in a television report from the Legislature. It was uncompromisingly critical of the dissolute Liberal government in Victoria. Baldrey, writing his weekly column for Canwest's community newspapers, follows up and starts with this:
There is a rising stench enveloping the B.C. Liberal government right now, and it shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon.

There are numerous reasons for this growing cloud, and most of them are tied to the issues of credibility, truthfulness and transparency.

Vaughn Palmer also pulled few punches in recent days:
. . . Minimal disclosure was all but confirmed as official policy during the recent budget lock-up when reporters were rebuffed when requesting the kind of information that had been available in the past.

. . .Meanwhile, every day brings new disclosures, new controversies. Last week it was cuts in grants to charities and arts groups. This week, school sports and parent advisory councils. As news emerges piecemeal, the Liberals' own agenda is derailed repeatedly.

. . . So the Liberals stumble onwards and mostly downwards. On the days when they aren't struggling to explain the botched deficit projection, they scramble to justify the nickel-and-diming of programs they once touted.

Hard to think these guys pride themselves on their news management skills. These days they have trouble even keeping the excuses straight.

It's fair to complain that hard coverage 44 months before the next election doesn't excuse softball journalism preceding the May general election. However, we don't know what licenses or limitations the employers impose on its commentators. We can guess, perhaps not with accuracy.

And, we should be aware that overall news-gathering policies will always be determined by corporate self-interest. A Vancouver Sun editorial published September 10 is a partisan defense by Liberal apologists who probably don't even appreciate the irony of their own words:
When it comes time to vote, we pick leaders who make choices that reflect as closely as possible the values we hold. So we need to get as clear a view as possible of both what is being lost and what is being saved so we can judge for ourselves whether wise choices are being made.

Yes, Canwest minions, we do need as clear a view as possible. And, you should focus on giving it to us, without interruption, confusion or hesitation.
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Stop BC Education Cuts!

A forum to help all BC parents and public education advocates stand up together and send a strong message to our MLAs and provincial government that our public school students cannot afford another devastating round of budget cuts.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Too good to miss

At Public Eye Online, Dawn Steele, a person who makes comments that are always perceptive and incontrovertible, talks about schools being unfunded for urgent maintenance while gigantic infrastructure projects proceed. She says:
So how is it that tough economic times call for investing in construction jobs to fix bridges while requiring us to cancel construction jobs to fix schools?


Oh well, what's the rush to fix all these schools? My kids have graduated.
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Keeping BC strong


Pre-Election - The Promise

"Proven Leadership for BC's Economy."

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon talks about building BC's transportation network:
We’re providing TransLink with $4.8 million to purchase a new, third Seabus and help reduce traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.


Post-Election - The Actual

Translink, the agency responsible for delivering the services says it does not have enough money for the third Seabus. Service will continue with two vessels, as it has since 1976.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One more election promise betrayed

This man is guilty of deceit.

Remember when he asked for your vote and promised to protect education and health care?

It's one thing to let an old guy wait for by-pass surgery or hip replacement or to start charging tolls on a bridge paid for, by tolls, in 1963, or to cut legal aid to drug addled burglars, or restrict your assistants to fewer than three smart phones at one time. But, it's quite another thing when you put small children at risk so you can fund your promises to wealthy supporters and sponsoring corporations:

Funds for hungry school kids, classroom computers and schoolyard jungle gyms are being cut this year in B.C., even as the province's education minister maintained yesterday the province's public school system is “well-funded.”

Parent advisory councils were notified yesterday that their gaming grants will be halved this year – money that goes to enrichment programs like libraries, play equipment and sports uniforms.

Later in the day, gaming officials quietly unveiled cuts to a program that provides counselling and school meals to the province's most vulnerable students. The CommunityLINK fund will receive $48.6-million this year, down from $50.5-million last year.

It's the latest in a round of aggressive cost-containment measures that has school officials wondering what will come next in what they are calling a funding crisis.

Already the province has cancelled maintenance grants to schools that totalled $110-million last year. Boards have been told to rely on an estimated $98-million in reserves – money that had been put aside for larger projects. The boards contend that money is already earmarked or spent, leaving needed projects in jeopardy.

Read the rest of Justine Hunter's story at the Globe and Mail.
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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Waiting for the rest of the story

June 9 2009, Delta police recommended charges of dangerous driving causing death and impaired driving causing death against RCMP Corporal Benjamin "Monty" Robinson.

The Delta police department refused to explain why it took 7.5 months to investigate the incident or why no charges are filed more than 402 days after Orion Hutchinson's death.

Robinson was senior officer among four RCMP members involved in the Robert Dziekanski homicide at Vancouver Airport. He is uncharged in that incident as well.

Related post: Equal justice or no justice
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Friday, September 4, 2009

The Piper extracts payment

Are recent BC Liberal supporters - the ones who claim to be leading guardians of the environment - satisfied with 2009 Budget Redux?

We should ask the David Suzuki Foundation, Tzeporah Berman, ForestEthics, CommonEnergy, Pembina Institute, Lisa Matthaus, Casey Brennan, Guy Dauncey and others if they are happy now with four more years of BC Liberals.

One can only wonder what play for power was underway when erstwhile environmentalists endorsed Gordon Campbell over Carole James as a superior choice to form government. I assume a confederacy of professional greenies unsuccessfully tried to dictate NDP policy. Like scorned lovers, they organized to extract maximum revenge against Carole James. The May election gave that opportunity.

Now, the piper must be paid. September's post-election budget allocates 19% less to the BC Environment Ministry than February's pre-election document.

One of the BC Liberal boosters responded. "We have seen our hopes dashed, says Christianne Wilhelmson, managing director for the Georgia Strait Alliance, "there's absolutely no doubt about it."

And Ms. Wilhelmson, what were you expecting from the plutocracy? You should remember they will allow you to work for them but not to be one of them.

Sadly, this outcome was predicted. Dan Bouman of the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association wrote an open letter before the election to environmentalists. It included these excerpts:

According to a West Coast Environmental Law survey in 2007, environmental law enforcement has been brought to a virtual standstill in BC.

This was achieved primarily through budget cutbacks to enforcement agencies like the BC Conservation Officer Service. Cutbacks have also been used to curtail the activities of most of the independent agencies of the legislature like the Forest Practices Board, the Ombudsman’s office and the office of the Auditor General.

. . . Unfortunately some misguided environmental elites have responded to this situation by trying to punish Carol James, by supporting Plutonic Power and General Electric, and supporting the re-election of the Minister of the Environment!

These are absurd responses that show BC’s environmental leaders are politically naive at best and likely just plain indifferent to peoples’ experiences under Liberal government.
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Verdict unanimous: guilty of deceit

The consensus is clear. Gordon Campbell, Colin Hansen and their Liberal colleagues based the 2009 election campaign and the two 2009 budgets on centrally crafted deceit. Both deserve no confidence and should resign.

According to an Ipsos Reid online poll, 72 per cent of British Columbians believe Premier Gordon Campbell and the B.C. Liberal party "intentionally misled voters" during the recent election campaign about the state of the province's finances.

Gary Mason's Globe and Mail headline is: Deficit tally fictitious, and Liberals knew it:
No one believed the government would be able to hold the deficit at half a billion, except, it seemed, Mr. Hansen, the Premier and anyone running for the Liberals.

As I say, they maintained this position throughout the election campaign. Even with members of the government's own economic forecast council – the same people the government had relied on to come up with the $495-million deficit figure – having long ago changed their tune.

. . . Sorry, but I don't buy it. Mr. Hansen would have been getting regular economic updates from his staff throughout the spring, leading up to the election call on April 16. And his staff would have told him that their own forecasters were changing their revenue projections downward. And that those forecasts would have a colossal impact on the budget numbers released in February.

. . . In the spring of this year, the Liberals campaigned on budget numbers that were complete fiction. And now we know that even they knew it. I guess they just didn't have the heart to tell anyone.

The Globe and Mail's Justine Hunter:

British Columbia's Finance Minister publicly maintained confidence in his $495-million deficit forecast eight weeks after he learned of a gaping revenue hole that would triple his budget shortfall.

. . . The issue of the budget figures played prominently throughout the spring election, as economic reports pointed to a serious economic downturn. Speaking during the campaign, Mr. Hansen maintained it would not change the Liberal platform.

Les Leyne of the Times Colonist in Campbell's 'liar' strategy haunts him:
But people still feel significantly misled by a post-election budget that's six times deeper in the red than the pre-election version.

And the Liberals are in far more trouble than they ever dreamed they would be.

Michael Smyth at the Province:
You know what's challenging? Trying to swallow this government's tortured excuses for its broken election promises. That's challenging.

Vaughn Palmer concludes the September budget is:
" . . . the least forthcoming budget in many years. . . . it also reinforced the impression of a government that was making things up as it goes along, withholding key information as a matter of course, releasing it only when backed to the wall."

Palmer again:
"The answers sounded scripted. And from where I sat in the legislative press gallery, the Liberal duo appeared to be working from a common text, set in large type with key passages highlighted for ease of reading."

"Indeed, on several occasions when it was Hansen's turn to answer, Campbell plunked down a page in front of him and jabbed a finger at the relevant passage, as if to say, "Here's your line -- now read it."

". . . Hansen perhaps hopes to defuse a bigger bombshell down the road."

Raphael Alexander, writing in the National Post:

The excuses just don’t wash. This is the provincial Finance Minister claiming he wasn’t apprised on the financial state of the province. And the people of B.C. aren't buying. A recent poll puts the premier’s support at 17%, the lowest of any provincial leader in Canada. In a media scrum yesterday, he told reporters that perhaps the budget was a little too difficult for them to understand. We’ve seen this song and dance before. When Gordon Campbell’s back is to the wall, he lashes out, patronizes doubters and then goes into hiding until things calm down. But unlike the B.C. Rail scandal and the carbon tax, the premier won’t be able to lay low on this one. The dominoes are toppling, and all we can do is stand back and watch the show.

Kelly McParland of the National Post wrote The amazing shameless government of British Columbia:
Throughout the entire mess, the only thing the B.C. Liberals have consistently done is ignore all the warning signs. Even back in February leading economist Helmut Pastrick predicted a much larger deficit, but the Liberals dismissed him as "pessimistic". And they accused Carole James of "fear mongering" every time the New Democrats warned that B.C. Liberal revenue projections were out of touch with reality.

Paul Willcocks writes Campbell, Hansen fail the smell test:
So after rejecting the HST as bad for B.C. during the campaign, within four weeks the Liberals had committed to a deal with the federal government to introduce the new tax. No one outside of a handful of insiders was involved in the decision. No analysis or public or business consultation.

Even looked at in the best light, the explanations paint those involved as incurious bunglers, making policy on the fly based on short-term political interests.

Most British Columbians, the poll suggests, also believe they were dishonest.

David Berner at the Berner Monologues:
The current Liberal Government was elected on a lie. The $495 Million deficit they announced at election time was easily in the Billions. They knew it and perhaps some of you knew it. Now we all now it.

Harvey Oberfeld at Keeping it Real:
I said the provincial government had opened a war front on the middle class, The proof is now before us all in black and white: the latest budget update. There is absolutely no doubt the big winners are business … and the bigger the business, the bigger the winner!
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Letter from Alexandra Morton

BC is in the Pink! Thank you all.

As I cruise the waters of northern Vancouver Island, near Sointula, Port McNeill, Alert Bay and the Broughton, fat and sassy little pink salmon are leaping and wriggling everywhere. I thought I would never see this again. These fish are a powerhouse - feeding watersheds throughout the south coast, growing trees, wildlife, tourism and people. I want to give thanks to everyone who made fish farms reduce their sea lice. If the lice levels I discovered in Broughton in 2001 and off Campbell River in 2005 had persisted these salmon would not be here. I would be happy to debate any person, government, company or organization on this anytime, anywhere!

I want to caution you that this is temporary. The scientists I met in Norway warned me: DO NOT RELY ON DRUGS. All parasites whether boll weevils, head lice or sea lice become resistant to drugs. Using chemicals against pests is an arms race we humans lose every time. These fish farms must be removed from the Fraser River migration route before the few sockeye eggs being laid this fall hatch and go to sea. However, we have bought time and in no particular order I have to thank:

The Broughton First Nation Villages who are standing strong against renewal and expansion of salmon farm licenses, Gilford, Kingcome and Hopetown.

Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Broughton who has filed a class-action suit against the fish farms and is a powerful voice for wild salmon in BC.

The Musgamagw Tribal Council, The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, Wilderness Tourism Association, Raincoast Conservation, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Western Wilderness Committee, Save Our Salmon, Wild Salmon Circle who have each added significantly and relentlessly in different ways to bring this to the public, pressuring politicians who seem unable to act and get Marine Harvest to actively reduce their lice to allow this generation of pink salmon to reach the open ocean.

The late Dr. Ransom Myers, and Drs. Rick Routledge, Larry Dill, Martin Krkosek, John Volpe, Mark Lewis for the powerful scientific effort with me towards understanding of the impact of fish farms.

Steve Bergh and Jody Erikisson for years of work in the Discovery Islands helping us understand sea lice infection rates on pinks, chums, sockeye and herring around the fish farms.

Young biologists from throughout British Columbia who have volunteered on the science projects on fish farm.

The nine hundred small donors to www.adopt-a-fry.org who have fueled my legal challenge to Provincial regulation of fish farms with their ten and twenty dollar bills.

Through this effort and brilliance one salmon farm company began de-lousing their fish to protect the pink salmon. Unfortunately the drug of choice, SLICE, only works for about 6 weeks and so the later runs of sockeye were not thus protected. Earlier this week the Provincial government quietly announced they are pulling out of fish farm regulation. That leaves the federal government holding the now red-hot potato. The federal government managed our cod to commercial extinction and so our work is cut out for us to save the salmon, but at least now the DFO is solely responsible. No more passing the buck. That the Province bailed so soon after the sockeye collapse does make me wonder what they know about this.

If we want our wild sockeye there must be full accounting of disease on every fish farm from Campbell River to Port Hardy in 2007 when these fish went to sea. Only the sockeye that migrated past these farms are in collapse. While there are indeed many impacts, Norwegian fish farm companies have become gatekeepers to our salmon runs. Whether we get our wild salmon home hinges on what the fish farmers do. DFO MUST now apply the Fisheries Act to fish farms www.adopt-a-fry.org .

In my successful legal challenge Judge Hinkson ruled fish farms are a fishery. All the other fisheries; commercial, sport and First Nation, have been told by DFO to reduce their fisheries on sockeye and the salmon farm fishery must do the same. Salmon farms do not belong on BC’s most valuable and important wild salmon migration route – the Fraser sockeye. Halfway measures will not work.

Thank you to all who have brought us the miracle of the life-sustaining runs of beautiful pink salmon home to British Columbia. Clearly we can bring our wild salmon back, lets get on with it!

Joyfully,

Alexandra Morton


Follow Alexandra's important work here.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to front

With the pols back at work or play in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, I thought an early entry at Northern Insights should come back to the front. It will help those who want to develop an old fashioned but precise way of dealing with the pesky press. Read the BBC's Interview from Hell, with Dr. Hastings Banda:

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

HST wound festers

In his blog Paying Attention, Paul Willcocks makes an interesting point about the impact of HST on ordinary citizens. The effect is larger than initially announced.

Paul offers The six things you need to know about this budget. The first is, "The February budget has been revealed as bogus." I suggest you follow the link to read all six.

Consider also these points:
  • The new budget predicts HST will raise $5.6 billion, up from PST's current $5 billion revenue;
  • Business will save $1.9 billion by recovering HST it pays;
  • Consumers therefore must replace the tax lost to business and contribute an extra $600 million, a total of $2.5 billion being consumers' new share of sales tax.
At the initial announcement, Premier Campbell and Minister Hansen stated the new HST would be revenue neutral. That is not what they actually expect according to the new budget so we can add that statement to the large stack politely marked "Disingenuous."

The promise that prices will decline broadly because of tax savings "pass-through" will be added to that large stack of lies as time passes. Price declines will not occur in any large proportion because much of the tax savings will be realized by producers who charge according to "world prices."

Almost all of British Columbia's $6 billion mineral production is consumed outside the province and priced, as forest products are, according to world markets. If Catalyst Paper pays less sales tax, don't expect them to lower the price of paper. And Shell won't lower the price of gas because refining costs less. Movie admissions won't reduce because producers save money. Cablevision rates won't decline. Transit fares, parking fees and tolls will stay the same or increase.

As Dana Carvey might have said about lower prices, "Ain't gonna happen."
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Stones from glass houses

South Okanagan-Similkameen growers are Canada's leaders in the advancement of organic principles and in recognition of the values of land conservancy. The Similkameen Valley has the highest concentration (40%) of organic farms in Canada. Approximately 15% of farmland in the Similkameen Valley is in a nature conservancy.

This idyllic region is at risk.

The Public Utility District No. 1 of Okanogan County, Washington is permitted to examine feasibility of the proposed Shanker’s Bend Hydroelectric Project located on the Similkameen River, north-west of Oroville, WA. A portion of the reservoir would be located in British Columbia.

It is estimated that the flooded area could cover more than 9,000 acres in British Columbia. This area would impact two Indian Lands southeast of Keremeos, at least two provincial protected areas, at least 20 provincially declared blue- and red-listed species, a potential national grasslands park, and valuable agricultural land. The Similkameen Valley is home to high value and high quality fruit and grape growing.

Lee McFadyen is owner/operator of Mariposa Organic Farm in Cawston BC, near Keremeos. She says:
We who are affected by the proposal understand all too well that a lake will not be created but instead, a mudflat for tourists to enjoy during the late summer, fall and winter months.

Alex Atamanenko, the NDP Member of Parliament for the area has brought the proposal up in the house on several occasions. The Feds are not responding. The Provincial Government did apply for Intervenor Status after much pushing. We really need to push Mr Penner to apply again when the next window of opportunity opens.

This proposal does nothing for those who live in Similkameen communities this side of the border. We do not benefit from the electricity, from water storage or from construction activity. We just get the mosquitoes and mud flats.

However, the bigger issues are destruction of critical habitat, loss of prime farm land, displacement of the people living in the area and the destruction of a really beautiful bit of the planet.

Just one more little step toward ecological disaster. How is British Columbia going to argue against American power producers destroying habitat when we are doing that on major river systems throughout our province. Additionally, B.C. salmon farming is blamed by Washington State for a large share of the disappearing salmon fishery.

You can't argue that your neighbors should cleanup their yard while you are desecrating your own.

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