Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Zweisystem talks to us

Reader Zweisystem of Rail for the Valley commented on an earlier article. I believe his contribution deserves more exposure. It addresses a mounting concern, which is the efforts of hired guns to disrupt blogs that deal in inconvenient truths:
"The Rail for the Valley blog has been up and running for a year and a half, providing factual information on light rail; transit news from around the world; opinion pieces on local rail transit issues; and a spattering of transit history.

"The SkyTrain lobby has been incensed at the RFV blog and have done all they can to discredit 'Zwei' who writes many of the posts. The SkyTrain lobby has gone so far as writing libelous posts under the name Zweisystem and/or members of RFV in various Newspapers comments and blogs and made slanderous comments on radio stations.

"What puzzles me is why go to all the trouble in doing so? The time and effort to dream up ever new dirty tricks reveals to me that the RFV blog has been attracting attention from local politicians, etc. and the SkyTrain lobby, afraid to lose their 30 year monopoly on transit news are running scared.

"What Palmer and Baldry are afraid of is threat the 'blog' is becoming one hell of a lot bigger than the newspaper and radio and they too are scared as hell."
There are billions of dollars at stake in the economic wars. It is not surprising that dirty tricks are played by moneyed interests who have their agents working, anonymously and publicly. Mainstream media people are largely content with insults and belittlement of bloggers as Baldrey and Palmer like to do. That is changing though because online journalists now exercise influence at the national level and regional blogs are gaining readers steadily. Expressions of traditional media players about this amount to whistling past the graveyard; they don't want to admit the world is changing and their work is being examined like never before.

Baldrey is not a disinterested journalist; he's a Liberal partisan to be sure but Palmer is not. He's just grown comfortable with the existing power structure and knows that carrying messages is part of what earns him access and access means stories and speaker fees. And, like Bill Good, he's darn comfortable with those insiders. They become friends and friends do each other favors.

Managing the message through mainstream media is well understood and easily achieved. Initially, they pretended the Blogosphere was the land of flakes and looneys.  Keep whistling boys. In the words of the great Satchel Paige, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

Zwie though is talking about something darker. We live in a society where street level thieves harm innocents to steal a few dollars. Sadly, there are more sophisticated thieves who will also do harm but play where the stakes are higher. Much higher.  They may not engage in physical action. It may be impersonation, denial-of-service attacks or other subterfuge seeking an unfair advantage to protect a client's economic welfare.

For example Skytrain is a child of powerful influence peddlers who have had their hooks in the public purse and federal politicians, both Liberal and Conservative, for years. These people want to sell the uber-expensive, exclusive source, Skytrain and will do everything they can to attack the legitimacy of critics. Fish farming is another industry that is walking a fine line of interfering with Internet dialog by launching ad hominen attacks anonymously and with false names. Every business that sees itself threatened by online discussions is tempted to join the open queue of participants. That's fair  but only if done with full disclosure.

The blogosphere is an unusual information system. People can read blogs or not, entirely  by personal choice. There is crap on the web but nobody has to read it. The important fact is that there are unending volumes of intelligent communication that allow ordinary people to be informed as never before.

The satisfaction I get from writing Northern Insights comes from interesting interactions I have with others but I can't deny that rising reader stats play a role. Since beginning in April 2009, growth has been steady but this month, June, has been extraordinary. May was previously the busiest month here but June will finish with page reads up by many thousands over the preceding month. I think that a few important local political stories (HST and BC Rail) have much to do with the surge which I believe others are experiencing as well. Many readers see themselves badly served by the traditional news sources.

Tens of thousands of citizens are reading local blogs and that will keep going up and larger audiences will attract new writers. The quality of commentary will improve. You will read more exclusive scoops and viewpoints that the traditional media ignore. Whether those alternative voices come from progressive or conservatives views, its all good for democratic discussion.
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Making need an opportunity

"Conventional wisdom has it that education-obsessed Chinese parents send their children to years of arduous after-school tutoring to give them a leg up on the country's brutal college admissions tests. There may be more to it than that, however.

"Those after-school classes — whether they focus on academics, the arts or sports — are in some cases the most convenient day care available to families with two working parents.

Read more:

Strange. This story crossed my desk as I was reading through the Comptroller General's report on the Vancouver School Board financial difficulty.

One demand the Ministry of Education makes of the VSB is that charges for child care programs and other community supports be raised substantially. The Board sees these as worthwhile social programs that fill important needs of citizens and use facilities that would otherwise sit empty. The province sees them as profit opportunities. The VSB says higher fees will terminate programs or make them inaccessible to people most in need. The Minister of Education says, "Tough shit."

China, the country with burgeoning wealth takes education seriously. It is prioritized. They do not search for ways to cut expenditures and reduce opportunities for learning. Recognizing that education is the engine of the future economy, they dedicate ever more financial resources, particularly in science, most particularly in research. Since 1999, China's expenditure on R&D has risen 20% each year. It now ranks ahead of all others but one. By 2020, it will rank first.

In British Columbia, our government sees education as the place to score points playing political games. Vancouver City, burdened by the spiritual and financial poverty of the inner city is targeted for special treatment.

Close those programs that assist at-risk students, that feed hungry children. Increase barriers to community groups using otherwise empty rooms. Eliminate music and cultural programs, special education and ESL teachers. Cut every component of education that is not part of minimal core services. Don't fund according to needs; turn the equation around; match needs to whatever funding you are given.

BC can dedicate billions to the Olympics; we can spend $600 million for a new roof on BC Place and $20 million for a temporary stadium. We can spend billions on freeway and bridge improvements and billions on rapid transit. We can pay million dollar salaries to executives, like the ferry head who is paid 8 times what the head of Washington State Ferries earns. Other executives receive multiple pensions and we give them consulting contracts to earn even more. We can spend $35 million in retroactive contributions for MLAs who want larger pensions.

But education? We're just not into it. Leave it to the Chinese, they know where they're going. They are turning need into opportunity.
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Topicality is an illusion

Actor, director, writer, producer Jonathan Lynn is one of those Brits who thinks he can do almost anything in the entertainment business. And, in more than 40 years, he's pretty much done it all, successfully. After his days at Cambridge (MA in law) with John Cleese and Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame, Lynn became an actor and writer for stage and screen.  Later, he added director and producer to his credits.

For readers of Northern Insights though, his most notable achievement was, with Antony Jay, creation and scripting of 22 episodes of Yes Minister and 16 of Yes Prime Minister.  Sean Holman referenced this work in a comment here on the earlier article 'Smile' and it awakened pleasant memories for me. Starring Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne, these have been a personal favorite, watched repeatedly.

The show gained enthusiastic fans and it was claimed to be Margaret Thatcher' favorite TV series. The programs repeat now occasionally after more than two decades. Lynn was asked about why it holds up so well:
"The reason that the series is still so up to date after about twenty years is that nothing fundamentally changes. That's really the point of the series, too. The only things that change are the names of the participants and the numbers (due to inflation).

"For instance, when we started writing Yes Prime Minister in the summer of 1986, I went to the Daily Telegraph office in Fleet Street and looked up the news stories that the paper had reported during the same week of 1956, 30 years earlier. It turned out that all the stories were exactly the same: they were about the rising tide of violence in the Middle East, was there going to be a war between Israel and it's neighbors, should Britain be in Europe or not, should Britain's special relationship with America be sacrificed in the interest of being good Europeans, defence expenditure, fear of inflation/deflation/stagnation/stagflation, unemployment and so forth.

"In fact, although our series was perceived as highly topical at the time, the episodes were frequently written months or even more than a year before being recorded and broadcast.

"Topicality is an illusion."
Lynn answered another question about how the TV series portrayed government:
There was not a single scene set in the House of Commons because the series is about the government. Government does not take place in the House of Commons; some politics takes place there, and much theatre takes place there. Government happens in private.

As in all public performances, the real work is done in rehearsal, behind closed doors. Then the public, and the House, are shown what the government wishes them to see.
Topicality is an illusion. Said another way, that could be, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."
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British comedian Jo Caulfield says you can tell a lot about people from the newspapers they read. For example:
  • If they read the Daily Star, they can't read.
  • If they read the Sun, they can't read but want to look down on Daily Star readers.
  • If they read the Daily Mail, they can read but don't feel the need to think.
  • If you buy the Financial Times, you work in The City.
  • If you steal the Financial Times, you used to work in the city.
  • If you buy the Guardian, you don't enjoy reading it but you want to know what to pretend to be outraged by for when you meet your friends at the gastro pub in Islington.
  • If you read the New Statesman, you don't get many dates on a Saturday night.
  • If you're holding a copy of the Daily Mirror, you're eating fish and chips.
  • And, if you buy the Daily Express, she's dead. Seriously, she's dead. There's no conspiracy. The car crashed. That's it. End of story. Shut up.
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thanks John Les for doing your part

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Plain Truth

Rafe Mair says:

The plain truth is that the Campbell government has wallowed in deceit and sharp practice from the outset . . . [The] government and especially the premier, have told a number of untruths; they have persistently stated as facts that which they knew were not true.
  • [John Les] clearly was an insider on land deals while mayor and had special favours given him. 
  • When the Campbell government went to the people in May of 2009 based on a budget deficit of some $700 million it became known as out of town votes were still being counted that it was about four times as high.
  • When Mr. Campbell assured the voters in 1996 and repeated in 2001 that he would not sell BC Rail – and did so because he would lose heavily in many areas if he did not take this stance – then couldn’t wait to do just that on becoming Premier, he committed a falsehood made worse by his trickery in pretending that a 990 year lease wasn’t a breach of his promise.
  • He and his ministers have said over and over again that BC was a net importer of energy when the Federal Energy Board showed otherwise. 
  • He and his ministers have consistently said that the companies to be involved would be small, mom and pop operations whereas the very opposite is the case and huge international corporations are the benefactors. 
  • He and his ministers claimed that there would be no damage to the environment when even the smallest of projects have done enormous permanent damage to the rivers and the ecologies they support.
  • . . . the government knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that fish farms posed a huge danger to wild salmon and possessed documentary evidence of that. 
The plain truth is that the Campbell government has wallowed in deceit and sharp practice from the outset.
The above is a precis of a Rafe Mair Online article. Make his site one of your regular places to visit.

Ex-lawyer, ex-politician, ex-broadcaster, Mair is one of Canada's leading environmentalists and remains our province's finest political commentator. After years as a government insider, he spent the last few decades stepping on toes, making the comfortable uncomfortable and trying to save British Columbia's outdoor heritage for future generations.

When famed Jack Webster retired from broadcasting, Mair was the only person who could begin to fill Webster's shoes. Today, no one appears able to carry on that tradition. I read through an introduction given Jack Webster when UBC bestowed the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. Part of it applies equally to Rafe Mair:
"Hundreds of politicians and bureaucrats have had the misfortune to publicly cross swords with this eloquent defender of the common man. . . Committed to the concept that public awareness and involvement are the keys to a socially and politically active society, he has pursued the facts with dogged determination. His exposés in such areas as legal aid, the conditions and care of retarded children, rent gouging, and many others have forced governments to act, and in some cases affected the wording of legislation. He has taken to heart, as few others have, the journalist's credo of comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable. . . "
Thank you Rafe, on behalf of me and my family, especially my young grandchildren who are already learning to appreciate nature.
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Judged by the company you keep

Corus Radio and CKNW have long featured "Business Analyst" Michael Levy and lately he has been one of the point players in NW's effort to sell an unattractive tax to an unhappy public for an unpopular government. However, regular folks should examine an advisor's reputation before considering his advice.

Apparently expert in precious metals and currency trading, resource exploration and extraction, tax, economics, business development, finance and futurology, Gold Bug Michael Levy has been a broadcaster in Vancouver since 1986, often working with the Premier's brother Michael Campbell. Levy is associated with currency and precious metals trader Border Gold Corp. but has a history of promoting questionable stocks, some of them penny-dreadfuls.  Along with providing regular radio commentary on the intricacies of business and finance, laced always with his laissez-faire capitalist viewpoint, Levy also makes appearances on TV, Global TV of course.

David Baines, the multi-award winning investigative reporter for the Vancouver Sun business section, has done incisive examination of the ethical standards of promoters and compliant media personalities that assist extraordinarily lucrative "pump and dump" schemes. For example, in 2006, the CKNW program Money Matters hosted by Michael Levy touted Lexington Resources Inc. By 2008, the SEC was claiming that West Vancouver promoter Gordon Brent Pierce and others gained $13 million dumping Lexington shares through an offshore bank. After Baines raised the issue, Levi quit as host of Money Matters. Baines wrote:
"His departure from that program followed a series of bullish and upbeat interviews he had conducted with representatives of junior exploration companies that trade on the OTC Bulletin Board. Among them were Lexington Resources and Uranium Energy."
The Sun's David Baines began a new series this week, the first article: West Vancouver stock promoter works quietly, profitably and behind the scenes. Brent Pierce, Michael Levy's friend, remains active. Watch out.

In April 2009, Levy appeared on CKNW a short while after Gordon Campbell had explained to Bill Good why the minimum wage remained frozen at 2001 rates. Good asked Michael Levy if he agreed with not raising the minimum wage. Levy said, "Oh yes, I 100% agree that you can't raise the minimum wage."  Then Levy quoted from a supporting report produced by the Fraser Institute, bastion of the plutocracy.

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No retreat = certain defeat

Paul Willcocks at Paying Attention writes No room for retreat on HST. He applies his usual unemotional, logical mind to HST. He cuts through the misinformation, posturing and partisan rhetoric and says the average person's response to HST comes down to this:
". . . many of them don’t like the idea of paying more to provide tax breaks for corporations, not to improve health care or public safety.

". . . They are angry at being ordered to pay more taxes so business can pay less, with no discussion or consultation. And they’re insulted that Campbell and company say the problem is that voters can’t grasp the obvious benefits - that they are, in short, not as smart as their masters.

"Footnote: The government’s pro-HST ad campaign starts once the petition drive ends. The risk is a backlash when the public sees tax dollars spent to promote a tax change the public has rejected."
The title of this piece represents my analysis of the results due Gordon Campbell and his Liberal associates. They've never belonged in what traditionally was a centrist political party anyway. Like the radicals they are, Campbell and friends should head for the right wing fringe where they belong. Pigs fattened at the trough remain pigs no matter how they are labelled.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Support for HST echoes, again

  • VICTORIA – Finance Minister Colin Hansen noted that business people from around British Columbia are joining the ranks of other business people from around British Columbia who recognize that HST rebates* are key to long term economic prosperity of large businesses. (BC Ministry of Finance)

  • KAMLOOPS  A survey of recent lottery winners determined that 92% are in favor of prizes continuing to remain income tax free. (BC Lottery Corp.)

    • CLARENCE HOUSE, LONDON  Responding to a media inquiry, Prince Charles said he believes that divorce and remarriage should not preclude him from serving by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Lancaster, Lord of Mann, Duke of Normandy, Sovereign of the Most Honourable Order of the Garter and a whole bunch of other Orders too silly to name.

      • MONTREAL – Brian Mulroney stated today he believes that a statute of limitations should prevent filing of fraud charges against former Prime Ministers and that libel settlements should never be tampered with once paid to the recipient.
      * Rebates are government returns of all the sales taxes paid by business while it keeps all the sales taxes paid by consumers.

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      Wednesday, June 23, 2010

      Global TV reaches a new low, again

      June 23, Global TV News Hour Final led with the Education Minister's attack on the Vancouver School Board. It gave an in-depth, comprehensive, detailed analytical report on proposed service cuts (many seconds long) and then put up a talking head as representative of all those parents who are displeased with the VSB in this matter. Who was this non-partisan parent? None other than Liberal Finance Minister Collin Hansen's campaign manager, Mike Klassen.

      Not only a marketer of provincial Liberals, Klassen was one of former Mayor Sam Sullivan's puppet masters and is mouthpiece of the civic Non-Partisan Association, that very partisan organization of developers, real estate folks and downtown business types.  He also runs a number of commercial blogs and has an advanced degree in self-promotion, often appearing on CKNW to represent ordinary average guys.

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      Simple acts of defiance or a new game in town?

      Act of Defiance
      I'd love to know the inside stories at the westcoast newspapers now owned by American vulture capitalists and their frontman Paul Godfrey. I'll bet there has been smoking correspondence between the triangle vertices of Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto.

      We  know the important people at the Vancouver papers are wrapped in tight embrace with BC Liberals and that would be perfectly fine with Mr. Godfrey who has always skated on right wing and peddled furiously to keep ahead in the influence game. He has spent many years drawing paychecks from organizations that benefited from public funding or regulatory decisions.  He specialized in exotic deals that work out really well, at least for Mr. Godfrey. For example, he served on the board that created the Toronto Skydome, built at the bargain basement price of 600 million 1989 dollars, much of it from the public, of course. Godfrey stayed on the board of the Stadium Corporation until shortly before it declared bankruptcy. He emerged in 2000 as CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays and engineered the 2004 acquisition of the Skydome for about 4% of its original cost. (Sidenote: Wonder if BC Place will get privatized once the $600 million roof is in place.)

      I don't expect that new owners at our local papers will change anything from the Asper editorial directions and that is certainly apparent at two thirds of the dailies. So, what is going on in Victoria? The Times Colonist, which has generally been a compliant member of the Canwest clan, jumped way offside by actually doing some authentic inquiry about HST. They didn't merely read through the Liberal talking points and reword those, they actually showed initiative and intelligence and examined the tax implications for a variety of citizens and businesses.

      When part one of the series was published by the Times Colonist, it was routinely added to the Vancouver Sun website. It reported a Stats Canada position that the tax would have substantial impact on many ordinary citizens, nothing like the non-impact being claimed by the Fraser Institute. Ever alert, many bloggers read the T/C article and I downloaded the page to keep in my resource files. However, before the first evening was out, someone at the Vancouver Sun pulled the article, probably after a higher-up had realized that the story didn't fit with the newspaper's official line. To be certain the story didn't disappear, I posted the entire article at Northern Insights (instead of the usual teaser and link) and one of the sites kept it as well. Recognizing the cat had escaped the bag, the Sun put back the TC article. However, that didn't stop them from pushing the fubar Fraser Institute report as hard as they could.

      To add insult to internal injury, the Times Colonist bravely disputed the claims that their earlier StatsCanada report was incorrect and they had economists examine the think tank's execrable HST work.

      Has the Times Colonist flung off its shackles and escaped from editorial bondage? Are they going to be the newspaper of record in British Columbia, examining all sides of issues, reporting facts as they find them in objective examination? Or, was this simply an act of defiance by a few ethical newspaper people who will be forced to dive for cover as the bosses say, "Get back in line."
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      Hiring foxes to redesign the chicken coop

      Sean Holman at Public Eye says Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is not the only government watchdog whose suggestions have been sidelined by the ministry of children and family development.
      Last week, the ministry's political boss Mary Polak rejected Ms. Turpel-Lafond's recommendation to re-screen the adults caring for kids placed in the government's children in the home of a relative program. This, after the representative found some of those adults had criminal records or previous child protection concerns. But that's not the only example of the ministry not acting on a recommendation from an independent legislative officer.

      In May 2008, the province's auditor general John Doyle released a report into the management of aboriginal child protection services in British Columbia. In that report, Mr. Doyle made 10 recommendations. . . .

      But, as of January 2010, those measures were nowhere to be seen. . .
      After making the government angry by preventing distribution of a mailer supporting HST, Chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld was told his term would not be renewed or extended and he was finished Jun 5.  Neufeld's interim replacement, in a prompt reversal of principle, ruled the government was allowed to campaign in favor of HST using the Internet and other new media.

      Pesky officers of the legislature say things that make politicians uncomfortable. These cases demonstrate why the Gordon Campbell government is planning to remove authority from the authorities.  Campbell appointed a watchdog review committee chaired by Ron Hicks, formerly Alberta's Deputy Minister of Executive Council, that province's senior civil service position.

      New Liberal Watchdog
      Hicks' position on watchdogs is clear. He says they should never criticize government's policies and programs and must be restricted in how they engage the media. No doubt that view qualified him as an advisor to the Liberal Party as they prepare to de-fang the watchdogs.

      Hicks made a silly claim that effectiveness of the Alberta auditor general had "decreased dramatically" because, one recent year, the government had implemented only 77% of the officer's recommendation whereas other years it was 90% or more. Remember, the person making that evaluation was the senior officer of the Alberta government, the person most responsible for correcting administrative errors and most at fault for their existence. Hicks did not enjoy being under the auditor's spotlight. Well, too bloody bad.

      In British Columbia, Hicks is joined on the review committee by:
      • Brenda Eaton, former Deputy Minister to Gordon Campbell, now chair of the government's BC Housing Management Commission and a Director of numerous corporations and agencies, including BC Hydro.
      • George Morfitt, Liberal handmaiden who is one of the princes of insider entitlements dining at the public trough.
      • Tony Dean, former Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Ontario Public Service, a position that was preceded by appointments as Ontario Deputy Minister of Labour and Deputy Minister and Associate Secretary of the Cabinet.
      This committee of four consists of well practiced insiders, not experts in protecting public interests. Nor have they championed transparency and accountability. Quite the opposite. The Campbell Liberals, despite the certainty of their promises of transparency reversed direction not long after they made those promises.

      Gordon Campbell's government has been fighting the Davies Commission for years, seeking to prevent the Criminal Justice Branch from being held accountable for refusing to prosecute police officers involved in Frank Paul's death in 1998. Despite passage of almost 12 years, the CJB refused to explain its actions, even taking that position to the highest court in the land, where they lost. Yet, despite the Supreme Court ruling, they are still mute on the subject. Liberals must be dragged kicking and screaming toward the position of accountability
        Liberals have support remaining with only one of four citizens in this province. If they have the nerve to weaken the oversight capability of the eight officers of the Legislature, they will regret it because their members soon will be sitting on the opposite side of the house. Whether it is in 2011 through recall or an election in 2013, Liberals in opposition will favor strong watchdogs. For their own sake, they ought to back off Campbell's current plan.
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        BC Liberals bare all - updated

        Three of Gordon Campbell's executive assistants hold cue cards during a recent speech to defend his government. Squatting on a large stool at mid-stage, he said, "I am sorry but I didn't exactly mean all those things that were said before the election."

        Campbell decided to bare all after his movement plopped to an historic low approval rating of 26% 32%, 28 22 points less than a year and a half ago. He is worried his liberal movement will be flushed away by recent events.  The costumes were meant to demonstrate Liberals have nothing else up their sleeves, for now.

        The Premier noted that elections are a time for parties to lay out their plan for the future of the province. He said, "We did that, we just didn't share it honestly with anyone." Campbell explained that revealing the government's real intentions would have undermined confidence of voters and put his government at risk. The Premier called this unacceptable because he wants to preside at the Olympics aftermath, the one that will see the gigantic post-games economic miracles come to pass, for some of us.

        Campbell said, "Uncertainty and instability undermine confidence, drive away investment and put people out of work. Those would have been good people too, drawn from all levels of my Party."

        Campbell noted that the BC Liberals campaigned on stability and freedom from higher taxes. "Our platform stated now, more than ever, we need stability. During these turbulent economic times, our economy can ill afford higher taxes. . . " He said that statement is sort of true in principle. "We're merely removing a few billion dollars from the hands of consumers and giving it to businesses. After all, business owners are consumers too, so, we see that as sort of a wash."

        Campbell criticized the NDP for promising to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour. He said, "That promise is reckless and irresponsible. It's been eight nine years since the last raise and only now have we established the lowest minimum wage in Canada. We can't give up that sort of leadership when so many have suffered to reach this point."

        First published September 2009.
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        Monday, June 21, 2010

        Story the Vancouver Sun did not want you to read - It's back

        VICTORIA — The average B.C. household could take a hit of $521 to its bottom line next year as a result of the harmonized sales tax, according to a model prepared for the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper by Statistics Canada.

        The change could range anywhere from $78 for households with single parents and one child to $801 for a married couple with no children, the figures show.

        (You cannot) Read more:
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        Democracy begins at home, or not

        Ignatieff Tells Members, If You're Going To Speak Out, Shut Up!

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        Lie to me, some more - updated

        I wondered when folks at the Fraser Institute would weigh in, aiming to convince people that HST is good to great for ordinary British Columbians. That predictable message arrived today. Strangely, a spokesman claims their report gives impartial HST news to counterbalance misinformation being circulated by politically motivated truth tellers. The impartial research relied on for this report was published by the BC Government, their consultant Jack Mintz and the - wait for this - the Fraser Institute and the CD Howe Institute.

        We could assume that Niels Veldhuis, spokesman for the libertarian think-tank, was joking when he talked about his organization's impartial, non-partisan, fact based research but his messianic speaking style suggests he might believe his own script. I hope not, real detachment from reality is a symptom of a serious disorder.

        Hands up all those who think the Fraser Institute is a good source for a detailed and impartial study of any public policy?  In fact, no matter what the Institute examines, the answer is always the same. Defund government, eliminate taxes on business and investors, remove all business regulations except those that grant commercial monopolies or near-monopolies, trash environmental rules, give public forests to industry, open parks for industrialization, cut social programs and, of course, privatize education, healthcare, mangement of resource extraction and every other activity of government.

        Are we surprised that they favor a tax policy that shifts $1.9 billion from business to consumers in one year, perhaps $10 billion over the term of the initial agreement? No. Decidedly, no.

        Right wing think tanks want government revenues raised only through consumption taxes and they believe that out-of-country income and assets should be untouched by Canadian tax authorities. If the Fraser Institute policies were applied, Canada's wealthiest elites could earn income here without taxation and do the bulk of their consumption overseas in tax free jurisdictions of their own choosing. And, as written here before, the Fraser Institute is a paid servant of Canada's wealthiest elites.

        The Fraser Institute report and Niels Veldhuis, during his promotion on CKNW's afternoon show, provide  their own misinformation such as:

         - When businesses are charged PST on production supplies and capital inputs (i.e., machinery and equipment), productions costs increase and these increased costs are largely passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.
        • Except that in this province machinery and production equipment is exempt from PST and, of course, businesses acquire goods for resale, and materials purchased to be incorporated into goods for resale,  without paying PST.
          - The only shift is from low income families to high income families.
        • Except that the real shift is from business to middle income families. 
        - The reality is that business savings are passed onto consumers.
        • Except that no study has been conducted to support this claim. Most of the PST relief will go to exporters who sell at world prices not according to cost inputs (for example: gas and oil, minerals and forestry). Finished goods imported for resale also contain no PST (for example: shoes, clothing, appliances, etc.)
          - HST will make the tax system more progressive.
        • A strange twist to commonly accepted theory. Consumption taxes penalize lower and middle class families who spend all of their income to subsist so have almost their entire earnings subject to sales tax. High earners spend only a part of their income and typically save a significant portion so sales tax is a smaller proportion of income for the wealthiest earners.
          - HST will lead to more jobs and higher wages.
        • Considering the Fraser Institute's continued objection to raising the minimum wage, I am more than slightly reserved about their promise of higher wages for anyone.  However, according to economist Dr. David Schreck, ". . . some HST proponents acknowledge that the tax encourages substitution of capital for labour and hence has some elements of depressing long run employment growth."
        I wonder how the radio staff react to a program like that today on CKNW, which added more sales tax drum beats for the rich and powerful. Most production staff, excepting management and 'celebrities' are part-time, low wage workers without job protection. Christy Clark's temporary replacement, Simi Sara, is on her fourth or fifth employer in the last year, despite being a highly respected, award-winning broadcaster. Automated stations and small staff requirements result in fine profitability for the owners. Somehow, though,  job opportunities decrease and wages remain low.

         If you read through the Fraser Institute report, play this music to ease the burden.

        Don't miss EastofthSun for Ian's exchange with Dean Pelkey of the Fraser Institute. A two punch TKO.

        The Fraser Institute is quite dishonestly trying to mix tax measures announced in 2008 into the current HST discussion. Ian sets them straight:
        "No new tax reductions were introduced at the same time or after the HST in BC. I believe you are thinking about the tax break that was introduced in November 2008 to argue that new reductions were introduced to offset the HST in BC. Do you have special knowledge that the HST was planned as early as November 2008 and those tax breaks were intended as offsets for the HST? Or are you spinning that it should all be mushed together and treated as an offset even though it isn’t?"

        Have a look here to see an economist, a real one with a PHD, take apart the Fraser Institute "report."
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        Saturday, June 19, 2010

        Well, maybe not ALL of us . . .

        Premier Gordon Campbell, speaking in 2009:
        ". . . in these unprecedented times we must ALL take action that reaches beyond ideology . . .  we are facing a situation we couldn’t plan for.  We haven’t experienced anything like it before in scope, speed, scale, suddenness and synchronicity.
        It has been a stark reminder that no one can escape the global forces at play."
        The Vancouver Sun, using statistics from fiscal 2009, presents Number of B.C. public servants earning more than $100,000 up 22 per cent in two years
        The number of B.C. public servants earning more than $100,000 a year jumped 22 per cent in just two years, according to an exclusive database of government pay compiled by The Vancouver Sun.
        The increase isn’t just happening at the $100,000 level.
        Those earning $150,000 or more went up even faster, by 26 per cent.
        And the ranks of the very highest paid — those earning $200,000 or more — went up by a still significant 20 per cent.
        The B.C. government also introduced new pay scales for its most senior bureaucrats in the summer of 2008, which saw assistant deputy ministers awarded raises of 21 per cent.
        And at the Oil and Gas Commission, those earning six-figure salaries went up a stunning 10-fold, from just two employees in 2006-07 to 21 in 2008-09.
        Gordon Campbell is a leader of the sort talked about by Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said that morality appears 'topsy-turvy' to today's generation and Beatitudes of Jesus have been replaced by:
        • 'blessed are the famous, for they will enjoy the praise of men'
        • 'blessed are those who are rich, because they will inherit the Earth'
        • 'blessed are the mighty, because they will become more powerful yet'.
        Recommend this post

        Friday, June 18, 2010

        Meaningless apologies result in unchanged behavior

        Any person with reasonable observation skills knew early on that four RCMP officers erred badly when they attacked and repeatedly tasered a distraught traveler. Robert Dziekanski was unarmed, compliant, non-threatening and dead on the floor. The Pritchard video - that one RCMP tried to hide - proved the victim was dealt with improperly. One former senior police officer told me "there would have been no story without the Pritchard video. It would have gone away quickly."

        Ordinary folks could have led police management easily through the steps required next. That would have started with objective examination and honest gathering of facts, followed by accurate reporting. Instead, the RCMP went immediately into cover-your-ass mode. In Justice Braidwood's words:
        ". . . the RCMP’s public disclosures about the Dziekanski incident, during the early stages of the criminal investigation, were factually inaccurate. When the RCMP became aware of these inaccuracies, they decided not to correct them . . .

        . . . They were consistently self-serving — they painted  Mr. Dziekanski in an unfairly negative, and the officers in an unfairly positive, light."

        . . . The inaccuracies include the following: that Mr. Dziekanski was combative and violent, that chairs were flying, that violence was escalating, that the conducted energy weapon was deployed against him only twice, and that he continued to be combative, kicking and screaming after being handcuffed. Based on what the investigation subsequently determined, these descriptions were inaccurate and without question they portrayed Mr. Dziekanski’s behaviours as more threatening and dangerous than we now know them to have been.
        Unfortunately, the casual treatment of truth in initial reporting was similar in the RCMP's internal investigation. They chose to consider their members faultless and the examination was aimed at supporting that conclusion.

        Police actively sought information with which they could defame the victim and spent tens of thousands on sending a crew to Poland looking for negative information in Dziekanski's life. When they didn't find anything significant, they implied otherwise in statements leaked to the media.  Braidwood says there were suspicions that inaccurate information was released deliberately to cast the officers' conduct in a more favorable light.

        It is not difficult to go beyond Braidwood's judicious language and suspect that the entire investigation by the RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team was aimed deliberately at casting the officer's conduct in a more favorable light. That has been common to all examinations of police involved deaths.  As a result, not one officer in British Columbia has ever been held responsible in a criminal court for wrongful death.

        Braidwood did an admirable job despite terms of reference that crippled his work, intensive lobbying by countless lawyers and concerted court attacks funded both by the public and Taser International. One senses that, despite 470 pages in his final report, the Inquiry Commissioner exercised great restraint and could have said much about the perversity of RCMP officers at the highest level.

        D/C Gary Bass
        Even this week, documents obtained under Freedom of Information demonstrate that Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass was insincere in making the RCMP's public apology to Zofia Cisowski, mother of the dead man. Internal e-mails prove that, whatever the quasi-apology was for, it was not intended to be about the RCMP role in Dziekanski's death. The Prime Minister's office, which had stayed quiet about this sad affair, issued a statement saying the internal police messages were "disturbing." As I've written here repeatedly, the RCMP brass have been unable to do anything correctly in dealing with this file. Given their demonstrated incompetence, it is no wonder that a majority of ordinary members prefer union representation for protection of their interests.

        Police integrity remains soiled as commanders at the highest level, after almost three years, have taken no disciplinary action for what, without reservation, Braidwood calls 'shameful conduct.' Commissioner Elliott now admits that too much time has passed to allow discipline of the four officers. Police will never restore public confidence until the current senior officers, including William Elliott, Gary Bass and those around them, are removed. Their replacements should be individuals who honor the public trust more than loyalty to a dysfunctional police force.

        Now that Justice Braidwood has completed his task, the ball returns to the discredited offices of the Criminal Justice Branch. Attorney General Mike de Jong today appointed Richard Peck as Special Prosecutor to reconsider prosecutions of the four RCMP officers involved in Dziekanski's death. Well known lawyer Richard Peck recently issued a controversial report absolving a former Ontario Attorney General of fault in the vehicular death of a cyclist. A special prosecutor in the death of Dziekanski is unneeded. Thomas Braidwood, a highly respected man with long experience in criminal justice, has already spoken. His carefully considered report makes clear that charges should be laid. Already, there has been sufficient time since Braidwood delivered his final report to government. The prosecution should be underway at this moment.

        Recommend this post

        Thursday, June 17, 2010

        Take regular antidotes to the mainstream media calls itself "A REGULAR ANTIDOTE TO THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA" and I think it's good medicine, to be taken often. Sign up for the mailing list and you will get three or four messages a week about international and American stories. They promise not to sell or share your email address.

        Here is a sample from todays Tomgram:
        In the Gulf, BP now claims to be retrieving 15,000 barrels of oil a day from the busted pipe 5,000 feet down. That’s three times the total amount of oil it claimed, bare weeks ago, was coming out of that pipe. A government panel of experts now suggests that the real figure could be up to 60,000 barrels or 2.5 million gallons a day, the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez spill every four days -- and some independent experts think the figure could actually be closer to 100,000 barrels a day.
        This might surprise followers of mainstream media, particularly Global TV News viewers but readers of Northern Insights will remember this from May 22:

        For those who might rely on Vancouver television as a source of news and information, we examine a May 21 report on the Gulf of Mexico oil contamination. Pay attention to the introduction by Emmy Award Winner Chis Gailus on Global's TV "flagship news broadcast."
        From the Gulf coast, all the way up the U.S. east coast, frustration is growing tonight over the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil that have poured into the Gulf of Mexico. As more and more of that oil from the sunken rig hits the coastline, soiling at least ten locations now, critics are blasting BP for not providing enough information about what it's doing to handle the disaster.
        There are two possibilities that led to that report. Either Global TV's newsroom is incompetent, unable to assemble a factual report, or this is another example of shaping the news to fit an objective other than accurately delivering news. They report a spill of hundreds of thousands of gallons that has soiled ten locations along the Gulf Coast. In fact, by BP's lowball estimate, about seven million gallons of oil have entered the Gulf of Mexico. According to Purdue Professor Steve Werely's estimate, the flow has been closer to 100 million gallons of crude.[As of May 22] The statement that only a handful of locations are soiled by oil will come as a shock to residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and the many Gulf Coast families who earn their livings by fishing and tourism.
        Recommend this post

        Wednesday, June 16, 2010

        Stick out that noble chin, slap on a happy grin

        New math explained by Mark Jan Vrem
        News item:
        ICBC paid insurance claims of $2.3 million for the 4,800 vehicle fleet used by VANOC during this year's Winter Olympics. ICBC donated the insurance coverage, which it valued at $6.2 million.
        ICBC spokesman Mark Jan Vrem explained this was good news for the insurance company because it had, in effect, paid itself $6.2 million for the coverage and had claims of only $2.3 million. Therefore, he said, "For ICBC, it turned out to be a pretty good deal."

        Yes, sir. You made a profit, I think, of $3.9 million. Any chance you could use that system for my insurance?

        Those of us paying attention recognize the ICBC donation as one more example of spreading out the actual cost of the Olympics so the total is never reported accurately. Every government agency and crown corporation was in on the game, including not just ICBC but also BC Assessment Authority, BC Games Soc.,  BC Ferries, BC Transit, BC Hydro, BC Liquor Distribution, BC Lotteries, BC Pavilion Corp, BC Transmission Corp., Columbia Power Authority, Industry Training Authority and on and on through the entire list.
        Recommend this post

        BC Liberal shame

        There are a number of BC Liberal MLAs who should be feeling shame for their actions in the imposition of HST. They truly abdicated their duties as elected representatives.

        Paul Willcocks reports this and more HERE:
        One of the scariest and saddest revelations in the wake of the Blair Lekstrom resignation is that Liberal MLAs were told the HST was coming two days before the public.
        They weren't asked their opinions. The decision was already made.
        They were told the new harmonized sales tax was coming, it was the right thing to do and their job was to defend it.
        Recommend this post

        Reporter or advocate and apologist?

        John Stewart reacts to watching Global TV's News Hour Final on June 15. Stewart was expecting to hear a report on the BCR/Liberal Corruption Trial underway in BC Supreme Court and still featuring premier Gordon Campbell's Chief of Staff Martyn Brown. For some reason, there was no report from court.

        Instead, using his expertise and experience of in-depth reporting on thoughtful, provocative content, Global's chief political reporter Keith Baldrey was in Comox, looking behind the headlines.  As a result, Global TV gave us Baldrey's hard hitting feature on a middle school yearbook controversy, something about one student's picture missing from the school annual.

        Many news consumers might expect the chief political reporter at the province's highest rated TV news operation would have more than a passing interest in an ongoing trial that disgraces the governing party and may even end the Premier's career.

        Of course, Baldrey's unwillingness to cast the Liberals in a negative light has been highlighted before. Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight asked whether or not full-time political reporters ought to accept speaking fees from groups that lobby government or even from government itself. A Ministry of Labour and Citizens' Services website demonstrates that Baldrey was a featured conference speaker. He is advertised as a speaker at events of Reboot Communications, founded by Liberal financial supporter Greg Spievak and he has written regularly for BC Business Magazine, which is owned by Liberal supporter Peter Legge.

        Following is an interesting promo from the 56th AGM of the BC Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber had deleted this from their website but pesky cache files turn up in search engines:
        There is an exciting line-up of speakers and sessions at this year’s AGM. It all starts Thursday, May 22nd, at 11:00 am . . .  followed at noon by the Plutonic Power Corporation Delegates Luncheon, featuring the “Cutting Edge of the Leg.” Panel, Live & in Person. The panelists include Bill Good of the Bill Good Show, Keith Baldrey of Global BC, and Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun. That’s one not to be missed!
        Bill and Good Friend
        I think I recognize some of those names and I believe they took the same dog and pony show out to other locations, including ex-environmentalist Tzeporah Berman's PowerUp show for despoiling developers. My research did not reveal the amounts of speaker fees paid by Plutonic, if any. We could guess though.

        One other thing. The website of Baldrey's wife, Anne Mullens, says that, in addition to ghostwriting, she does contract writing and research for government and private clients. She also has written for BC Business and has done consulting for the Liberal government too. Not that I think the activities of Baldrey's wife should keep him from reporting but the potential conflict should be revealed.
        Recommend this post

        Tuesday, June 15, 2010

        New era of prosperity began for some in 2001

        An unpopular premier. A government on the slide. A resurgent New Democratic Party Opposition. According to Vaughn Palmer, those circumstances resulted in a private meeting when "some self-styled free-enterprisers began casting about for new leadership."

        "I've always felt that the chances for a third party were slim to zero unless one of the two big parties committed suicide," said one back room operator. However, he believed the government of the day was incapable of another election win, regardless of whether the leader stayed or departed. "At this moment, the NDP have got the next election won, it is an absolute lead pipe cinch."

        One of the self-appointed rulers at that meeting was Patrick Kinsella. The man they selected to lead the BC Liberal Party was Jack Poole. The year was 1988. Poole refused the political assignment and Gordon Wilson stayed on as Liberal leader until the money men turned to Gordon Campbell as their choice to be the next free-enterprise Premier.

        As predicted, the NDP were indeed an absolute lead pipe cinch to form government and they did, holding power for ten years until Premier-in-waiting Gordon Campbell took office. With him, of course, was the coterie of free-enterpriser deal-makers and bag-men, including Patrick Kinsella who served as co-chair of the Liberal campaign that found success in May 2001.

        One element of the extensive Liberal Platform, titled A New Era for British Columbia was to "Not sell or privatize BC Rail."  However, within four months, Liberal Campaign Co-Chair Patrick Kinsella was making arrangements, consulting with BC Rail for a $7,000 a month fee that earned his company a total of $300,000. Martyn Brown, Campbell's Chief of Staff, testifying at the BC Rail Corruption trial admits to "bad optics" when Kinsella was quickly made an insider involved with the railway they falsely promised not to sell.

        In pre-trial arguments, the Basi/Virk defense claimed that Kinsella had been paid six figures without even submitting an invoice.  Lawyer Michael Bolton, representing Dave Basi, suggested if the premier had a "secret plan" to sell BC Rail, he might use Kinsella to assist that plan. "That's one reason, yes," Brown conceded. More here.

        To be fair, the Liberals had promised to make changes within 90 days and they did exactly that and began a new era of prosperity for friends and insiders. It continues today with a vengeance, back-room deals even accelerating as public acceptance of Gordon Campbell spirals downward.
        Recommend this post

        More from 2001 Liberal Platform: What Canada Health Act? UPDATED

        Gordon Campbell:
        “It’s time to put patient care first. To do that, we must renew public health care, through better management, adequate funding, proper staffing, and sound strategic planning.”
        • We want our public health care system to guarantee all patients the care they need, where they live and when they need it.
        • We are going to put people’s needs at the centre of health care again.
        • The provincial government has an obligation to ensure that all British Columbians get the level and quality of care that they are entitled to under the Canada Health Act. That means all citizens should have a comprehensive, publicly administered health care system that ensures high quality, timely health services are universally available and accessible to all throughout the province. We are going to establish a Rural and Remote Health Initiative to ensure all families get the care they need, where they live, when they need it. Fund health regions at a level necessary to meet the needs of the people who live there, regardless of where a service is provided.
        • Give ambulance attendants better access to training and better life-support and communications equipment needed to capitalize on those skills.
        • Ensure that appointees to regional health boards are representative of their communities’ needs and accountable for their performance in meeting provincial health standards.
        • Provide better home support and home care services.
        • Ensure that BC health care is universal, accessible, portable, comprehensive and publicly administered, consistent with the five principles of the Canada Health Act. Fulfill BC’s obligations under the Canada Health Act to properly fund and provide access to all medically necessary services.
        The five criteria of the Canada Health Act guiding the provincial public health insurance plans are:
        • Public Administration: The public health insurance plan must be managed in a public, not-for-profit fashion.
        • Comprehensiveness: All residents must be covered for “medically necessary” health services.
        • Universality: All residents must be covered by the public insurance plan on uniform terms and conditions.
        • Portability: All residents must be covered by their public plan, wherever they are treated in Canada.
        • Accessibility: All residents must have access to insured health care services on uniform terms and conditions without direct or indirect financial charges, or discrimination based on age, health status or financial circumstances.
        Read more from the Council of Canadians

        Canada Health Act:

        18. In order that a province may qualify for a full cash contribution referred to in section 5 for a fiscal year, no payments may be permitted by the province for that fiscal year under the health care insurance plan of the province in respect of insured health services that have been subject to extra-billing by medical practitioners or dentists.

        19. (1) In order that a province may qualify for a full cash contribution referred to in section 5 for a fiscal year, user charges must not be permitted by the province for that fiscal year under the health care insurance plan of the province.
        Recommend this post

        Monday, June 14, 2010

        Strange wording indeed

        Another blogger makes an interesting analysis, asking about odd wording employed by Gordon Campbell when speaking on CKNW about HST.

        Perhaps, Campbell's non-denial denial style arises from the Premier participating in too many prep sessions prior to Chief of Staff Martyn Brown testifying at the BCR corruption trial. This is part of his review of a Good staged play:
        Gordon Campbell said some very interesting things today, one statement from the Habitual Liar really stood out, Campbell said...

        "There isn`t one shred of evidence that we were planning on bringing in the HST before the election. . ."

        Who would phrase it that way? Only a guilty lying Premier would phrase it that way, Mr. Campbell, is that what we have to do, do we have to find the SHREDDED EVIDENCE first before you admit you were planning it all along?
        Recommend this post

        Sunday, June 13, 2010

        Gifts to future generations

        It is worth remembering that BC Liberals created a new class of debt that is not reflected in traditional calculations. They force BC Hydro to make advance commitments to purchase electricity for billions of dollars. The exact amounts are unclear to outsiders; the total seems to be in the range of $40 to $65 billion, and growing, the value of that power is unknown.

        In other words, the total debt and payment commitments facing future taxpayers are far higher than the graph reflects, perhaps double.
        Recommend this post

        Saturday, June 12, 2010


        British comedian Miles Jupp:
        "I don't know why Obama is cross with the British. It used to be the case, if the Americans wanted oil, they had to invade somewhere and we're actually now delivering it right to their doorstep.

        You can't make people happy sometimes."
        Recommend this post

        Friday, June 11, 2010

        The leader reacts

        News Item:     Minister Blair Lekstrom quits B.C. cabinet in protest over HST

        An amusing side note is that Blair Lekstrom's replacement as Energy Minister is Bill Bennett who was elected to the Legislature from Kootenay East with 8,427 votes.  Already, more than 8,800 voters of his riding have signed the HST Initiative. In fact, the margin of opposition is higher than that in Peace River South where Lekstrom is MLA.
        Recommend this post

        May this be the first of a number more

        A couple of email addresses for Blair Lekstrom are re-directing to the BC Liberal Party.  If you want to send him a message of support, use this one.

        Recommend this post

        Who is failing the best interests of students?

        I have no doubt that provincial politicians are trying to pick a fight with the Vancouver School Board to distract people from issues that sent the Liberal approval rating crashing down.  Minister of Education Margaret MacDiarmid sent a letter to Trustees June 10 directing the VSB to:
        • develop a balanced budget that is drafted with the best interests of students, student achievement and parents as the paramount consideration.
        This direction was far from earth shaking since the School Act requires that each year, the Board must prepare and submit to the Minister an annual budget and the "estimated expenditures in the annual budget must not exceed estimated revenues."  The Minister did nothing more than repeat the requirements of the act, requirements that every school district in the province works with every year.

        Of course, this letter was strictly for public consumption. It was a political exercise to demonstrate the Minister was acting strongly and it was intended to raise the implication that the VSB was ignoring its statutory duties and planning not to submit a balanced budget. You know this was true when the government's press conference announcing the correspondence was scheduled before the recipients received the message.

        For a point of view different than that brought you by Liberal compliant talking heads of our local media, read
        Better a messy democracy than a bossy bureaucrat by Rod Mickleburgh at the Globe and Mail.

        I share the reporter's opinion that the Comptroller General was way off base, delivering a report that misunderstands the role of elected school trustees. Had Ms. Wenezenki-Yolland taken the opposite approach, she might have declared the Minister was failing in her duty to act in the best interests of students, student achievement and parents as the paramount consideration. That position could easily be argued.

        Friday, Dull Edge from the Ledge on CKNW, served a perfect example of Good corporate radio. In the 9 o'clock hour (at 47:55 in their archive) Jean begins her impassioned defense of Liberal policy. She continues, uninterrupted for more than three minutes, offering pearls such as:
        • I have no sympathy for the Vancouver School Board . . .
        • The Vancouver School Board is just being so defiant with the Government
        • There's no room for partisan politics
        • She [the Minister] went into the Vancouver School Board because the Vancouver School Board said, "Children were at risk." If the Government had not gone in, it would have been very irresponsible for the Government.
        • If these people cannot make difficult decisions, then they should step down.
        The response by Vaughn Palmer, "Umm, uh, I mean that's a really interesting discussion of the issue."

        Strange, on the morning of Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom resigning from cabinet and caucus, the most significant political news in weeks, Bill Good turns the forum over to a breathless government supporter to rant about the VSB.  I find that funny considering how much effort the Good Gatekeepers put into shaping calls to fit their agenda. Where was Sam when they needed him?
        Recommend this post

        Thursday, June 10, 2010

        The most open and transparent government never seen

        BCR Sale Filing System
        Read the whole story by Mark Hume at the Globe and Mail: Government staff used private computers for some files, corruption trial told.

        Ministerial assistants and other senior staff in the Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell were instructed to use privately owned computers for some of their files, effectively shielding the contents from freedom-of-information requests, the Supreme Court of British Columbia was told Thursday.

        . . . under cross-examination by defence lawyer Kevin McCullough, Mr. [Martyn] Brown acknowledged the use of private computers would effectively block FOI requests.

        Preparing for Court
        . . . Mr. Brown said ministerial assistants, or MAs, were all instructed to use home computers, but he denied there was an organized government effort to thwart the FOI act, which applies to more than 2,000 public bodies in B.C.

        . . . When the Liberals came to office in 2001, the party promised to deliver the most open and transparent government the province had ever seen. . .

        Numerous times Mr. Brown said he couldn’t recall conversations he’d allegedly had with Mr. Virk, or about events he’d allegedly been involved in. . .
        Recommend this post

        Down, heading toward out

        A new Angus Reid opinion poll measures BC Liberal support at 26%, trending downward. This approaches levels faced by the NDP government before voters decimated its MLA ranks in 2001. However, considering other factors, the depth of current public distaste for Gordon Campbell's government may be unprecedented.

        The NDP succeeded in two elections. First under Mike Harcourt with 41% of the popular vote in 1991 and, with Glen Clark as leader, with 39% of the vote in 1996. During ten years holding office, the party had almost no sympathetic media coverage and was subject to frequent and severe criticism over claimed budget deception, ferry construction program failure and alleged influence peddling that went unproven in court. Coverage of real and imagined scandals was relentless and the party was further troubled by its usual disunity from distinct interest groups - socialists, moderates, radicals, trade unionists - struggling within the party for influence.

        Additionally, third parties competed for attention throughout the NDP rule. Greens were bleeding leftist support and Gordon Wilson spent years trying to field his own populist movement. Despite the apparent personal popularity of post-Clark leader Ujjal Dosanjh, Gordon Campbell's Liberals, with 58% of the vote, won all but two seats in 2001. The NDP vote fell from 39% of 1996 to 22%.

        Consider the voting numbers again. In the last 5 years of NDP government, their popular support fell from 39% to 22%, a loss of 17% that left them holding only two out of 79 seats in 2001.

        BC Liberals began their reign with 58% in 2001 and saw that drop to 46% in 2005 and again in 2009.  The recent Angus Reid poll puts their current support at 26%, a fall of 32% from their beginning level and 20% from the election of last year. This political disaster happened despite general success of the 2010 Olympics that Campbell thought would be helpful in restoring his image.

        The assumption of allies is that Liberal unpopularity arises from imposition of HST and from their own version of budget deception. It is assumed that "tough" decisions early get forgotten and when the publicity machine kicks into full gear, all will be well. My own analysis is different. I believe that unhappiness with the Campbell government relates broadly to matters of ethics and ideology. Changes set in motion are so significant that the party will explore new depths of unpopularity, sufficient to become again the futile rump provincial Liberals were under Ray Perrault and Pat McGeer during days of Social Credit.

        The BC Rail Corruption Trial, particularly if it carries on until next year, will be opening wounds among Liberals that will not heal easily.  As the party begins to disassemble, new scandals of influence peddling will bubble to the surface. Additionally, old media has lost its influence. Global TV and the editorial boards at Vancouver dailies can shape their messages however they wish but they compete with new media as never before. If nothing else, the Internet can hold the press to account.

        I paraphrase English writer Samuel Butler:
        The most important service rendered by new media is that of educating people to approach old media with distrust.
        Recommend this post