Wednesday, August 31, 2011

They won big but it's still not enough

Forty years ago, American (and, by logical extension, Canadian) business worried about future survival of free enterprise. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce commissioned Lewis Powell, later a Nixon appointed Supreme Court Judge, to report on the crisis and design a campaign to deal with perceived threats. Powell's document is published online at PBS Supreme Court pages. It was a confidential message to the Chamber's senior officers and is published by PBS with this description:
"In this 1971 memo to Eugene Sydnor at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, lawyer Lewis Franklin Powell Jr. calls for business to play a more activist role in American politics. The memo was written two months before President Nixon nominated him to the Supreme Court. The memo is credited with inspiring the founding of many conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Manhattan Institute."
Reading Powell's work again might affirm fears that people held or hold or it might be simply amuse or bemuse. At any rate, its worth a read. Here are excerpts:
"...We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.

"The sources are varied and diffused...Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries ...These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history...

"The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians...

"...One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction.

"Favorite current targets are proposals for tax incentives... usually described in the media as "tax breaks," "loop holes" or "tax benefits" for the benefit of business...

"...American business "plainly in trouble"; the response to the wide range of critics has been ineffective, and has included appeasement; the time has come -- indeed, it is long overdue -- for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshalled against those who would destroy it.

"...But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

"...It is still Marxist doctrine that the "capitalist" countries are controlled by big business. This doctrine, consistently a part of leftist propaganda all over the world, has a wide public following among Americans.

"Yet, as every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation..."
Undoubtedly, the strategy Powell laid out in 1971 has been successful. Wealthy leaders of industry and commerce put up the necessary money, establishing budgets within businesses and funding organizations that ensured the appropriate messaging was delivered everywhere.

In British Columbia, the Fraser Institute is the best example of a think tank that follows Powell's prescription, representing the interests of the top 1%. Media organizations like Postmedia provide the platform, the Fraser Institute provides the content. Their misrepresentations are tiresome but they continue unfettered, at least in Postmedia publications, where qualities essential to fine newspapers are lacking.

In 1921, C.P. Scott, famed editor of the Manchester Guardian, listed those essential qualities as honesty, integrity, courage, fairness and a sense duty to the reader and the community. Scott's famous assertions include:
  • ‘Comment is free, but facts are sacred’,
  • ‘[Newspapers have] a moral as well as a material existence', and
  • ‘the voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard’.

Probably, Lewis Powell would have regarded C.P. Scott as a leftist extremist who was sympathetic to "revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic." At least, he would have considered Scott's would have been one of the disquieting voices from respectable society joining the chorus of unwelcome criticism.

Powell and business leaders of the seventies claimed to fear for the future of free enterprise. In reality, they wanted a bigger share of economic wealth for themselves and this chart demonstrates the success of their movement. In reading it, remember that income of the top 1% has grown substantially since 2007.

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Corporate tax dodging out of control?

Interesting report from the Institute for Policy Studies in the USA:
"Guns don't kill people, the old saw goes. People do.

"By the same token, corporations don't dodge taxes. People do. The people who run corporations. And these people — America's CEOs — are reaping awesomely lavish rewards for the tax dodging they have their corporations do.

"In fact, corporate tax dodging has gone so out of control that 25 major U.S. corporations last year paid their chief executives more than they paid Uncle Sam in federal income taxes.

"This year's Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess report, our 18th annual, explores the intersection between CEO pay and aggressive corporate tax dodging.

"We researched the 100 U.S. corporations that shelled out the most last year in CEO compensation. At 25 of these corporate giants, we found, the bill for chief executive compensation actually ran higher than the company's entire federal corporate income tax bill..."
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"The corporate coup is over - they won"

In politics today, trolls live in the sewers of think-tanks, communications firms, corporate media, old-line political parties and government ministry offices. They provide material to fill the airwaves and pages of the press with absurdities. So-called professional journalists, reduced to purveyors of gossip, participating in what they know to be theatre, blithely report pseudo-events as real.

Citizens' opinions are monitored through polls and focus groups, not because the opinions matter, but because political hacks know that by parroting back our own points of view, they can survive without the bother and risk of standing for principle.

Commentators on the public stage proclaim that voters must elect governments that favour the business and political establishment, or the economy will be destroyed and our futures made destitute. Right wing foundations overtly make war on the public sector, social programs, human rights and principles of equality and universality. They want no obstacle to impede the march of the corporate state.

The above is inspired by words of Chris Hedges at Truthdig, "The Election March of the Trolls." He also wrote:
"The trolls have gamed the system. There is no economic, political or environmental reform, from campaign finance to environmental controls, that can be implemented to impede the march of the corporate state. The rot and corruption at the top levels of our financial and political systems, coupled with the increasing deprivation felt by tens of millions of Americans, are volatile tinder for revolt. And the trolls are prepared for this too. They have put in place draconian state controls, including widespread internal surveillance, to silence our anemic left.

"They know how to direct the rage of the right wing toward the last pockets of the cultural, social and political establishment that cling to traditional liberal values, as well as toward the most vulnerable among us including Muslims, undocumented workers and homosexuals. They will make sure we consume ourselves.

"All conventional forms of dissent, from electoral politics to open debates, have been denied us. We cannot rely on the institutions that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. The only route left is to disconnect as thoroughly as possible from the consumer society and engage in acts of civil disobedience and obstruction. ...

"Most important, we must stop being afraid. ..We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to listen closely to the moral voices in our society... and ignore feckless liberals who have been one of the most effective tools of our disempowerment. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficiency that will allow us to survive. The corporate coup is over. We have lost. The trolls have won. We have to face our banishment."
The next Northern Insights article will point to the the inspiration and plan of action for the corporate coup.

Be sure to read Harvey Oberfeld's The Anti-HST Vote Result Spin Campaign Continues

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Outbreak of postpartum compassion

Jon Stewart, most trusted newsman in America, if you are under 40, laughs at the hypocrisy of Faux News bubblehead Megyn Kelly.

Recently returned following birth of a baby, Kelly defended her entitlement to maternity leave. This is a giant shift from her earlier claims that such entitlements are nothing more than "tentacles that government has placed into our lives", the "first step towards socialism" and "the creation of a welfare state."

Stewart observes:
"They're really only entitlements when they're something other people want. When it is something you want, they'e a hallmark of a civilized society, a foundation of a great people."
As the great George Carlin said,
"Have you noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?" (at 2:12)

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We can, but we won't

I recall voting Liberal in the 2001 provincial election and for years now, I've been wondering what led me to that regretful choice. Perhaps, I suffered early onset of age-related intellectual impairment but I prefer to believe there were other causes. In search of those, I read through the BC Liberal 2001 Platform. I suspected it would provide clues and it did.

It turns out my error was one of naivety. My mistake was believing what the Liberals said. I provide here a number of their promises and little editorial comment is required. I've held back items related to health and child welfare because those subjects deserve separate attention. What do you think readers, did he work wonders?

  • It’s time for a New Era of Accountability. Our plan will deliver real transparent, accountable government.
  • Our Vision: The most open, accountable and democratic government in Canada.
  • Establish workable initiative legislation, to make it feasible for British Columbians to call for a referendum on issues of province-wide concern that fall within the provincial government’s jurisdiction.
  • Establish workable recall legislation, to make it easier for citizens to hold MLAs accountable.
  • Give all MLAs and citizens a better voice in government through active legislative committees.
  • Hold open Cabinet meetings at least once a month that are televised and broadcast live on the Internet.
  • Give all government MLAs a meaningful new role in policy development and service planning through a new system of Cabinet decision-making.
  • Introduce free votes in the Legislature, to allow all MLAs to vote freely on behalf of their constituents on all matters not specifically identified as a vote of confidence.
  • Not sell or privatize BC Rail.
  • Vigorously defend the Crown's ownership of provincial land and resources.
  • Protect BC Hydro and all of core assets, including dams, reservoirs and power lines under public ownership.
  • Restore an independent BC Utilities Commission, to re-regulate BC Hydro’s electricity rates.
  • Pass a Living Rivers Act to protect and improve BC’s river systems with scientifically-based standards for watershed management, enhancements to fish habitat, and a 10-year program to correct past damage.
  • Push for provincial control over the management and revenues of BC’s offshore fisheries, to improve fisheries management and protect fishery jobs.
  • Adopt a scientifically-based, principled approach to environmental management that ensures sustainability, accountability and responsibility.
  • You shouldn’t have to pay higher than necessary electricity or auto insurance rates, because government wants to play politics with BC Hydro or ICBC.
  • Give school boards multi-year funding envelopes, to improve long-term education planning and budgeting.
  • Ensure that music, arts and physical education curriculums are fully funded in BC’s public schools.
  • Hold the line on court fees, to ensure that everyone has affordable access to our justice system.
  • Establish regional transportation authorities that are accountable to local taxpayers and give local communities more control over their transportation needs and planning.
  • Require taxpayer approval by regional referendums prior to authorization of any new type of TransLink tax or levy.
  • Outlaw “offloading” of provincial government costs onto the backs of local property taxpayers.
  • Restore open tendering on government contracts to allow fair competition for businesses and provide better value to taxpayers.
  • Implement a flexible, innovative program to increase the supply of affordable housing.
    BC Liberal 2001 Platform complete
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    Elections BC and the charade of secrecy

    Shortly after 11 am Friday, August 26, Acting Chief Electoral Officer Craig James delivered HST vote results to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Clerk of the Assembly and the Attorney General. At 11:15 am, James released details to members of the news media waiting in the Press Gallery.

    With the exception of a few people at Elections BC sworn to secrecy, this was allegedly the first release of voting results to anyone. But, not really.

    Days ago, I wrote that Elections BC had provided the the vote outcome to the Liberal Government before Friday's pageant. Indeed, Friday the Finance Minister admitted a transition team was already in place and a date chosen to reestablish PST. Additionally, negotiations on withdrawing from the HST had begun with Ottawa.

    Now, it seems that the vote result was circulated even more widely. Two hours after Craig James delivered results to the Speaker's Office, rating agency Standard & Poor's issued a bulletin.

    Because the bulletin reads like a press release from the BC Finance Ministry, it is a near certainty that Standard & Poor's had advance notice of the results and had been briefed by the BC Government as to how effects of the tax change were to be played.

    S&P refers to "forgone HST revenue" but there is uncertainty about that since BC was committed to dropping HST from 12% to 11% in 2012 with another 1% reduction to follow. The previous Liberal position had been that 12% HST was revenue neutral vis a vis PST so, if it relied on the public record, S&P could only be uncertain about the referendum resulting in tax losses.

    Standard & Poor's has been accused before about shaping its opinions to suit political needs and I think it is appropriate to raise the accusation again. I also note that, despite statements of professional pollsters that the result was impossible to call, pundits usually favoured by Liberals predicted the result accurately, to within a few points of actual. Lucky or informed guesses? We should ask.

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    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Financial report for all days

    Updown Court, Surrey England - yours for only $115 million

    150 carats & other flawless points, $30 million 
    Not everything is perfect
    Vancouver near Abbott Street

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    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Your application to express opinion is denied

    Globe and Mail editorial, August 26/11, Licensing journalists in Quebec would stifle press freedom
    "A licensing system for journalists being discussed in Quebec is a form of press regulation that would put limits on the free flow of information.

    "The licensing system would create a “professional journalist” designation, backed by Quebec law, that could provide for preferential access to government sources and extra rights to protection of sources.

    "That may sound seductive to some journalists. Exclusivity, bargaining power, prestige and money may be seen as side benefits to a professional licensing system administered by a body of journalists. But the damage to press freedom, and therefore to individual journalists, card-carrying or otherwise, would be considerable.

    "How? Controlling access to sources or to news conferences would by definition mute or limit some voices..."
    In British Columbia, we don't have formal licensing but we have a system that provides exactly what some in Quebec aim to achieve. One example was illustrated during the Basi/Virk/BC Rail trial where we learned that journalistic privileges in the Supreme Court depended on a small accreditation panel of mainstream newspersons who issued or denied licenses to other commentators seeking full access to court facilities and reporting aids.

    Today, for every outlier in professional journalism or online citizen reporter writing stories of substance, there are 50 hacks at Corus Radio, Postmedia, Black Press, Global TV and CTV who care very little about real journalism. For every take-no-prisoners reporter like Jack Webster was or Rafe Mair remains, there are ten Tom Fletchers, Vaughn Palmers or Keith Baldreys. Proven and entertaining writers like Alex Tsukamis are pushed from the mainstream media's stage because they don't follow the rules.

    BC Liberals, as political strategy established before 2001, aimed to capture and tether the media. Accordingly, trustworthy reporters have preferential access to government facilities and sources and they are fed both background and material for publication by ministry officials and underlings. The quid pro quo for such assistance is to ask no hard questions, present no surprises and repeat talking points even if shopworn clichés.

    Compliant broadcasting and publishing companies are rewarded with lucrative advertising contracts and individual journalists can earn private pleasures and direct payments for consulting, advising and appearing. Spouses of journalists might serve as proxies in the employment or freelance rewards theater. There are countless ways for one hand to wash another.

    Rewards are issued and media control is exercised directly through ministries, but also through industry groups such as the BC Chamber of Commerce, Private Power Producers Association, Salmon Farmers Assoc., Mining Assoc. of BC, and astro-turf groups like Clean Energy BC, B.C. Citizens for Green Energy.

    Politics in British Columbia has been systematically corrupted by an unhealthy camaraderie between government and media. The original blame attached to Gordon Campbell and his initial coterie - people like Patrick Kinsella. Continuation of this corruption is now the responsibility of Christy Clark and her coterie - people like Patrick Kinsella. An equal share of responsibility belongs to the cross-platform corporate media that is controlled in fewer hands than at any time in history.

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    Lifetime appointment starting at $250,000: a fine reward

    Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight wrote Craig James helps minimize sting of B.C. Liberal government's HST loss:
    "By releasing the numbers on a Friday in late August, James chose one of the very best times of the year from the perspective of government communications staff...

    "James did the B.C. Liberal government a second favour with his suggested wording of the question: "Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST Goods and Services Tax? Yes/No.”

    "Asking people who hated the tax to vote "yes" served to confuse the issue."
    This was not the first or last time that James stood accused of serving BC Liberal Party objectives. After signatures on the anti-HST petition were verified in August 2010, Elections BC did not refer the petition to the Legislative committee as required by law. Craig James decided to stall the referral until court challenges were complete. According to David Schreck, writing in The Tyee:
    "Section 10 of the act states that if the petitioner obtains the required signatures and satisfied the reporting requirements to Election BC, then "... the chief electoral officer must send a copy of the petition and draft Bill to the select standing committee.

    "It doesn't say the chief electoral officer must send a copy of the petition and draft Bill to the committee when he gets good and ready.

    "...Thanks to the outrageous decision of the temporary chief electoral officer, who was appointed by the government without all party agreement, thousands of British Columbians may question whether the government and its business allies unduly influenced Elections BC.

    "Whether it did or not, the damage is done. Craig James is respected by both sides in the legislature, but he comes to the position of chief electoral officer after decades as a legislative clerk. Legislative clerks come from a culture where the government is always right; it always gets its way."
    In July, James was criticized for delays and indulgent treatment of a Liberal MLA and former Cabinet Minister who violated the Election Act during campaigning in the 2009 provincial election. More than two years after the vote, Elections BC asked the Supreme Court not to remove BC Liberal MLA Kash Heed from his seat in the legislature over spending and reporting offenses.

    Harry Neufeld served without controversy as Chief Electoral Officer from 2002 until June 2010. Despite knowing the date Neufeld's term expired, the Government delayed establishment of a Special Committee to Appoint a Chief Electoral Officer. That led to Liberals assigning, without consultation, Craig James as interim chief. He had been clerk of committees at the legislature for more than 20 years.

    Shortly after, the interim Chief Electoral Officer made a major change at Elections BC. Ian Reid of The Real Story wrote about it:
    "James fired the deputy Chief Electoral Officer Linda Johnston, claiming he was reorganizing the non-partisan office to be more efficient.

    "Critics speculated the real reason for the firing had to do with Ms. Johnson’s ruling preventing the government from advertising against the anti-hst campaign. To critics, the firing looked suspiciously like government ordered payback."
    Paul Willcocks of Paying Attention wrote this about James,
    " 10 years in the Press Gallery I never saw a hint of partisanship or sneakiness or anything but quality public service. The New Democrats have stated they have “enormous respect” for James.

    "But the Liberals put him in this mess and created the perception of possible political interference. And it was unnecessary.

    "The critical qualities in a chief electoral officer are competence, non-partisanship and absolute independence. Otherwise, the risks of real and perceived election-rigging undermine democracy..."
    This week, we appear to have indisputable evidence that Elections BC was inappropriately communicating with the Government during the lengthy HST referendum count. Contrary to public statements, it is revealed that Liberals knew the vote results long before they were announced on August 26.

    Stephen Smart, CBC News Legislative Reporter, Victoria, talking about Finance Minister Kevin Falcon's August 26 press conference on the day HST results were released:
    "[The Finance Minister admitted] a transition team was already in place. Negotiations on withdrawing from the HST had already begun with Ottawa and a date had already been set to go back [to PST]."
    In the background of this is the fact that Craig James has been given another plum appointment by the Liberal Government, without assent of the opposition. Vaughn Palmer noted:
    "There are two ways to appoint the senior clerk of the B.C. legislature. The way it has been always been done. And the way the B.C. Liberals did it Thursday.

    "The way it has always been done involves consultation among all parties represented in the chamber, leading to all-party agreement on the right way to proceed."
    Rob Shaw at the Times Colonist explained conflict surrounding the appointment:
    "A low-profile but powerful job in the B.C. legislature sparked controversy Thursday after the Liberals installed a candidate without the endorsement of all MLAs.

    "...the Opposition NDP wanted the job vacancy posted publicly to seek applications from qualified people.

    "But the Liberals flexed their majority to approve the promotion of clerk of committees Craig James to the top post. James is also acting chief electoral officer, in charge of administering the referendum on the harmonized sales tax.

    "The clerk, who essentially acts as the chief executive officer of the legislature, oversees its rules and procedures and guides the Speaker in deciding all manner of issues. It is a lifetime appointment, with a salary of $250,000 a year.

    "James was installed Thursday by a standing vote that split along party lines.

    "The legislature is now in the unprecedented position of having a clerk who does not enjoy the full confidence of the house — the first time in at least 60 years such a situation has occurred.
    Since Harry Neufeld's term ended, Elections BC has been in the midst of controversy, criticized often for carelessness in protecting its non-partisan reputation. Repeating Paul Willcocks, the risks of real and perceived election-rigging undermine democracy. Willcocks also made this observation:
    "The legislative guarantees of independence and non-partisanship have been subverted, no matter who is in the job. There was no reason for the Liberals to create this problem."
    All but the scarred partisans of the BC Liberal Party must be wondering how this Government has managed to go so wrong in so many places.
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    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    Question not answered that still needs answer

    Charlie Smith: “What do you say to someone who wonders if the government has
    directed government advertising to Canwest in return for political contributions?”

    Off camera Bridgitte Anderson, Gordon Campbell’s Press
    Secretary interrupted and objected to the question...
    Hat tip: Paul, commenting at Harvey Oberfeld's site "Keeping it Real..."
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    Liberal truthiness after HST decision

    Canucks & Clark fall short in big tasks
    Premier Clark and Finance Minister Falcon say the return to PST will cost BC $3 billion and warn of required spending cuts and austerity for government programs and workers.

    In addition to the $1.6 billion transition payment that Ottawa may want returned, Falcon says PST will collect $1 billion dollars less than it would under HST in the first two years, being fiscal 2014 and 2015. Additionally, the Minister says 18 months and hundreds of millions will be spent hiring staff and equipping offices to administer PST and training merchants to collect the tax. (Business people have poor memories.)

    Falcon conveniently forgets his government's pledge to reduce the HST rate. On May 26, Vancouver Sun reported:
    "VICTORIA - If British Columbians vote to keep the HST in the referendum next month, the rate will be cut to 10 per cent by 2014, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced on Wednesday.

    "The cut would be in two stages, to 11 per cent on July 1, 2012 and to 10 per cent on July 1, 2014.

    "In addition, all families with children under 18 and lower income seniors will get by the end of the year a one-time transition cheque, which will be $175 for each child and $175 for seniors..."
    Is the newly projected revenue shortfall based on the higher HST rate or the lower rates? Perhaps Liberals never had a real intention of dropping the percentage by two points because it was cynical Liberal truthiness aimed at influencing the referendum outcome. I've heard no steno in the corporate media ask the question.

    In 2009, when former Premier Campbell and then Finance Minister Colin Hansen announced implementation of HST, they claimed this "single best thing" for business would save their corporate allies $1.9 billion. Liberals also claimed HST would be revenue neutral meaning that non-business consumers were expected to finance the billions in savings for Campbell's friends.

    Now, both Christy Clark and Kevin Falcon admit HST was not revenue neutral. They say indirectly that an extra half billion a year is being collected above the sum saved by corporate friends: an extra hit of $2.4 billion each year for consumers, almost none moderated by lower retail prices.

    In 2009, Liberals were less than forthright about the origins, purposes and effects of HST, and they have been purposely inaccurate about many other subjects. In the wake of citizens rejecting their HST policy, dare we believe anything they tell us about provincial finances.

    By the way, when people from the BC film industry claim the sector is at risk because of PST, don't believe it. I worked at a senior level in the industry for 20 years and am familiar with how deceitful the stated values of BC film and video production really are. For example, if a $30 million feature is partly filmed in this province, nearly all of the costs (producers, directors, principal actors, writers, editors, distribution costs, etc.) are paid to people outside BC. Perhaps $3 million is spent in the province but the whole $30 million budget gets added to the value of BC production.

    The film industry is like professional athletics and convention hosting. The public is asked to spend huge sums in subsidy or "lose the economic activity to somewhere else." One jurisdiction plays subsidy leap frog with other locations while vast and uneconomic financial aid is heaped on unworthy recipients.

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    More small dams for me and you

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    No effective way of managing private power thieves

    Visit The Common Sense Canadian for Gerry Hummel's graphic commentary on British Columbia. Join the mailing list of this alternative media. Donate if you can.

    At Facebook group Save Our Rivers!, Arne Hansen asks,

    "It's all about that BS term Independent Power Project. Seems to me the only thing they are independent of is proper regulation. They shld be called private "industrial" power projects - (PIPP) the "independent" of IPP means squat.
    An excellent June 2011 editorial in local newspaper The Powell River Peak commented on oversight of independent power projects in coastal wilderness (my emphasis added):
    "BC’s Forest Practices Board has concluded a significant investigation into the Toba-Montrose run-of-river power project, located just north of Powell River. Its report provides an excellent blueprint for consideration of future projects.

    "Two organizations, Sierra Club BC and Friends of Bute Inlet, triggered the investigation [into the Toba-Montrose run-of-river power project, located just north of Powell River] because of concerns about environmental impacts, government monitoring efforts and the effectiveness of consultation. While the board doesn’t have the authority to investigate all aspects of the complaint, it did investigate logging, road building and related planning under the Forest and Range Practices Act.

    "The board noted that its report provides a learning opportunity to promote sound forest management for future run-of-river projects. However, it also pointed out that care should be taken when extrapolating or generalizing about results, as each run-of-river project is unique. In particular, smaller projects that do not require an environmental assessment typically undergo a less rigorous review by agencies and the public, which results in fewer legally-binding commitments to manage forest resources than were required in Toba-Montrose.

    "... The board also considered the general issue of how the province manages independent power projects. It found that the province has no effective way of examining or managing the environmental effects of multiple activities and projects on a landscape. Another issue the board highlighted was that government oversight was uncoordinated and unclear.

    "The decision to proceed on any run-of-river project should be made after the most stringent environmental assessments and cumulative impact studies that are possible, as well as an assessment of where there may be lower environmental footprint alternatives for producing power. All of the most stringent environmental assessment and forest practice standards that exist should be applied to any clearing of forested land connected with any activity, including run-of-river power projects.

    "Now that the report has been published, the government and the public need to take a second look at what kind of environmental assessments need to be made of entire projects, including road building and transmission line clearing, before they’re given a green light. Particular attention needs to be paid to precautions that should be identified against some of the accidents that happen during construction. In Toba-Montrose, there were 100 fuel spills, all of which were cleaned up on site, and sedimentation escaping into streams, including fish bearing streams. Events like these could have much more significant risk in projects that were subject to lower environmental scrutiny than Toba-Montrose.

    "While British Columbians understand the need for clean power, the drive to advance independent power projects, including run-of-river developments, should not be at the expense of the environment."
    This editorial is one of the clearest media statements to be found anywhere about independent power production. Congratulation to Publisher Joyce Carlson and Editor Laura Walz.
    Recommend this post

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    Real messages of the HST vote

    In response to the vote rejecting the massive shift in consumption taxes from business to consumers, Christy Clark seems to have learned nothing, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon only a little. Falcon today backed down from the claim that the $1.6 billion federal transition payment would be returned in whole. Now, he says that will be a matter of negotiation but he will not discuss his strategies publicly. Since HST will stay in place at least until April 2013, the federal government will have received three years of the five it bargained for so 40% at most will be returned.

    Major issues in play during the referendum were:
    • Dishonest implementation of HST weeks after an election in which voters were told it was not under consideration;
    • Implementation of a massive change by the Premier and Finance Minister without caucus or cabinet consultation;
    • The HST was a $2 billion a year transfer of tax from corporations to consumers, with almost no flow through of savings by way of lower prices.
    While the vote was a sound rejection of tax relief for business at the expense of consumers, it demonstrated that citizens want greater honesty from politicians. Campbell and Hansen assumed they could implement any tax measure and smooth over resulting difficulty by marshaling big business allies and circulating lies and half truths with costly taxpayer-paid advertising campaigns. That didn't work.

    The referendum result comes despite potentially overwhelming efforts for the losing side by the entire provincial government, stenographers of the corporate press and radio mouthpieces who had already sold their loyalty to business groups that provided generous financial inducements in return for favourable treatment.

    The HST outcome appears to reflect the financial status of voters. Voting strongly to keep HST in place:
    • West Vancouver,
    • North Vancouver Seymour,
    • Vancouver Quilchena, Point Grey, False Creek, Fairview,
    • Delta South,
    • Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
    Voting strongly against HST:
    • Surrey, 
    • Vancouver Kingsway, Kensington, Hastings, Fraserview, 
    • East Richmond,
    • North Island,
    • Skeena.
    That indicates an unhealthy class division that all Victoria legislators should think about. We must take steps to heal divisions before they become wider.

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    Is it still bigger, better and largely empty? - updated

    Global TV is reporting that Vancouver tourism is down slightly in 2011 but says,
    "It might have been much worse if not for the new convention center."
    Is that good news? It might not be because if the opposite were true, Global wouldn't tell you anyway.

    Let's look at the Convention Centre bookings for 2012 as listed on the facility website August 26. Then, we should consider if the billion dollar addition (West Building) to existing facilities (East Building) really made sense.

    January, 2012
    West Building | January 18-20 | The Know? Show, a semi-annual sales and networking tool catering to Canada’s lifestyle fashion and action sports retailers.
    West Building | January 22 -23 | Resource Investment Conference by Cambridge House, Vancouver based resource conference producer. 
    February, 2012
    West Building | February 23 | Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Annual Symphony Lovers' Ball
    March, 2012
    East Building | March 1 | Study and Go Abroad Fair
    March 3-4 | Vancouver Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show
    West Building | March 8-10 | Pacific Dental Conference
    March 11-15 | WorldMUN 2012, an annual traveling Model United Nations conference for college students run by Harvard undergraduates
    East Building | March 14 - 16 | Globe Foundation, a Vancouver-based, not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding solutions to environmental problems.
    April, 2012
    April 20-22 | Canadian Health Food Association Expo West
    May, 2012
    No events scheduled
    June, 2012
    No events scheduled
    July, 2012
    July 24-28 | Congress in Veterinary Dermatology
    East Building | July 29 - August 2 | Congress on Animal Reproduction
    August, 2012
    August 11 - 14 | Canadian Bar Association
    September, 2012
    No events scheduled
    October, 2012
    No events scheduled
    November, 2012
    West Building | November 7 - 8 | Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating Exhibition
    December, 2012
    No events scheduled
    Quite an economic engine for the city, is it not. A few minor international events and one national gathering in two immense and costly structures. At this point, over 300 days of 2012 are not booked in both Western and Eastern buildings. Strange, because a tenet of convention organizing is book early. Most major events are scheduled years, not months, in advance.

    We have indications of a giant failure in the Vancouver Convention Centre yet Pavco's CEO and the Convention General Manager each earned six-figure bonuses in fiscal 2011.

    Read Northern Insight's 2010 look at the Convention Centre booking schedule:
    Recommend this post

    A new style at the former Top Dog?

    Corus Radio ran a promo at 8:35 am today that included Bill Good saying,
    "At CKNW, we make sure we bring you the news with a balanced perspective."
    I wonder when this new policy began. Michael Campbell wonders too.

    Actually, Good's show puts the lie to the claim of "balanced perspective." From Bill and his guest preceding the 9 AM news, oil industry consultant Roger McKnight, we learned the proposed tar sand oil pipeline across BC and the oil port at Kitimat are fabulous ideas, argued against only by a few misguided environmentalists. McKnight worries that "65 protesters" might shut off the American market to Canadian oil. Therefore, we urgently need Enbridge's Northern Gateway project.
    Recommend this post

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    One man's history with BC Ferries

    I first travelled as a coastal steamship commuter over sixty years ago. I was a city kid but spent summers with a cousin on a beach south of Powell River until moving there at age ten. Before the highway and Jervis Inlet ferry, this important paper-making town 85 miles north of Vancouver linked to the outside world by air, barge or CPR ship. Trips to the big city took considerable planning and time.

    In 1954, the small wooden Bainbridge, built near Seattle in the twenties, provided ferry service from Horseshoe Bay to Gibsons. The subsequent 50-mile drive for the crossing from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, 20 miles south of Powell River, was demanding. Connecting former logging roads, the partly paved track never went through, over or under obstacles; it always went around. Motion sickness on the road of endless curves was common for car travellers with children and even for those without.

    At the north end of Sechelt Peninsula, Quillayute, another aging wooden-hulled ferry, crossed Jervis Inlet in 65 minutes. From there, it was an almost one-hour drive to Powell River, half on gravel road.

    Both Quillayute and Bainbridge had kitchen facilities and old-timers remember happy anticipation of ferry food. Dining helped pass the time and since this was before days of pervasive food outlets, for many it was one of few dining-out opportunities.

    Travel memories were refreshed last week on board Island Sky, a 3-year old 125-car BC-built ferry that seems quite fine, except for the food. Factory-built sandwiches sold out in the first quarter hour so choices were limited pretty much to do-it-yourself microwave mac and cheese or a toast-it-yourself bagel. Of course, overpriced beverages were available for people happy to spend almost $3 for an item that cost BC Ferries 40-cents. Not just car and passenger fares are exorbitant in British Columbia.

    Our trip from Vancouver to Powell River this month started at Horseshoe Bay aboard the ferry Queen of Coquitlam. The passenger load was larger years ago but the crossing took well over an hour, longer than the Bainbridge needed in 1956.

    Today's 35-year old vessel is rated for 362 cars. It underwent refit in 2002, extending life until 2022, according to plan. The ship though is showing signs of fatigue and, to a layman, excessive rust in visible steelwork of the car decks. I ascribed the non-functioning elevator to poor maintenance. The ship, I'm told, runs occasionally below required manning levels. If traffic is heavier than expected, crew should be added to meet Canadian safety standards. This is not always possible on short notice but the ship might sail anyway. Luckily, the waters are sheltered and the risks low.

    Recommend this post

    It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are

    BC Ferries Admiral David Hahn is beginning work on a program to reduce expenses.
    Take a guess. 
    Are they likely to reduce maintenance on vessels?

    Or take a scythe to the executive suite?

    Recommend this post

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    Reading the HST leaves and fishy thoughts

    Elections BC changed the HST result announcement from Thursday to Friday, the take out the trash day when it comes to announcements from the BC Liberal government. The result will come "after the close of counting" which probably means when the politicians have cleared out for the weekend and the weekday deadlines are past.

    Additionally, Premier Christy Clark announced her government has a detailed Plan B ready to put into action if BC citizens vote to dump the harmonized sales tax.

    Obviously, the insiders know the voting trend that was revealed shortly after counting began. Citizens are too fragile for this information but it is no secret at Elections BC and that agency is no longer independent, it is an arm of government. For Christy Clark to talk of Plan B 48 hours before the final count is released, you can draw only one conclusion: the HST referendum has recalled the giant subsidy to big business.

    I expect that Plan B will result, not in the reinstitution of PST as it was before Campbell and Hansen made the change, a provincial consumption tax that  will have exemptions and application extensions making it decidedly like the provincial portion of the HST. In other words, we'll end up with a PST that applies much more broadly than it did before except that exemptions on big ticket items purchased by businesses will be extended so that the extra money collected from ordinary consumers will still end up in the pockets of the corporations.

    I admitted earlier to listening to Bill Good on CKNW Wednesday morning. He was advising public servants to be happy with the generous settlements they've received in recent years and get over their hopes for improved wages and funding for schools and teachers. After all, Good advised, if the HST is voted out, there will be a huge shortfall in revenue. Gosh Bill, don't you remember that the HST was "revenue neutral." Mr. Campbell and Mr. Hansen said so, on your show.

    Bill Good should be a little sceptical about the "cupboard is bare" story - he could talk to friend David Hahn -  since a young woman who worked as one of his producers tripled her annual remuneration when she signed on to Christy Clark's staff.

    At the Ferries admiralty, the million dollar Flag Officer proposes that major cuts to service are necessary. This is serious business because if sailings and operating expenses are not reduced, executive bonuses might suffer and these executive superstars of business will be recruited to work at other ferry systems, such as the one in Washington State, where the CEO is paid below $150,000 a year.

    I dropped into the Cohen Commission salmon hearings at the Federal Court rooms today. Dr. Kristi Miller is a very impressive witness. The room was full with lawyers, facilitators, officials, flacks and favoured hangers-on filling about 3/4 of the large room leaving space for about 75 public spectators, those bothersome environmentalists and aboriginal reps.

    I drew one strong conclusion from my short observation. If the feds funded scicentific work as well as they fund lawyers, we'd employ four times the people for the same money and probably get ten times the results. You can be sure that Dr. Kristi Miller earns far less than any of the lawyers present and knows far more about the fisheries.

    It did seem clear that DFO scientists are highly constrained by budget restrictions in the field. Time and time again, answers to questions indicated that much less work has been achieved than is necessary to finally understand the factors degrading ocean resources. There will be no simple answer, no smoking gun that explains the troubles.

    The lawyer for the salmon farmers seemed to take pride in saying that fish samples will be provided to Miller so that Atlantic salmon can be tested for parvovirus. I understand this decision to cooperate was recent after a long period of foot dragging. This by Damien Gillis at the Common Sense Canadian is worth reading for more information.

    Recommend this post

    Social malignancy

    When a healthy body is struck by cancer, the taint can grow uncontrollably, intrude upon and destroy the host area and spread beyond. Totalitarianism is a social cancer that also might begin in a confined spot but spread uncontrollably until it becomes disabling and, if not addressed, ultimately lethal.

    In the 21st century, nations that prized personal freedoms gained in the preceding years have become infected by the cancer of authoritarianism. Examples abound but one that astounds occurred a few years ago in West Midlands, England. the Daily Mail reported:
    "To the 12-year-old friends planning to build themselves a den, the cherry tree seemed an inviting source of material.

    "But the afternoon adventure turned into a frightening ordeal for Sam Cannon, Amy Higgins and Katy Smith after they climbed into the 20ft tree - then found themselves hauled into a police station and locked in cells for up to two hours.

    "Their shoes were removed and mugshots, DNA samples and mouth swabs were taken."
    Writing at a few year earlier, Anis Shivani provided this:
    "The New York Times wrote recently about Russia getting a new "Western-style" legal code: "The code enshrines the fundamental concept of presumption of innocence and gives new responsibilities–and, in theory, independence–to judges, while it will gradually strip prosecutors of the enormous powers they have wielded over almost every step of any prosecution, from arrest to trial. Defense lawyers will have the right to challenge the admissibility of evidence, throwing out, among other things, evidence collected by wiretaps without a warrant."

    "The Times writes without a sense of irony. None of these constitutional protections exist anymore in the U.S.

    "The Times goes on to describe Russia, but unwittingly provides a perfect description of the new Aschroftian fascist state in America: "…is…a country where suspects can be detained indefinitely, where arbitrary, politically…motivated prosecutions are common, where coercion of suspects is rampant, where the police can stop anyone on the street without any reasonable cause."
    Political commentator Peter Hitchens examined the avalanche of security legislation affecting civil liberties of people in Britain. Hitchens claims the nation is "sleepwalking into a Big Brother state." He asks if today's democracies need unprecedented laws that certainly restrict personal freedoms but arguably do not make people any more secure against risks.

    You can watch Hitchen's entire Channel 4 documentary "Stealing Your Freedoms" HERE. I recommend it but it is somewhat frightening if you value civil liberties.

    It is not only Britain that is attacking civil rights and liberties. This week the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police decided to urge the federal government to allow police, without a court issued warrant, easier access to online, email and cellphone conversations as well as detailed information about customers from telephone and Internet service providers.

    In the USA, this story is receiving wide notice:
    MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN, Huffington Post, August 24, 2011,
    NYPD CIA Anti-Terror Operations Conducted In Secret For Years:
    "NEW YORK — In New Brunswick, N.J., a building superintendent opened the door to apartment No. 1076 one balmy Tuesday and discovered an alarming scene: terrorist literature strewn about the table and computer and surveillance equipment set up in the next room.

    "The panicked superintendent dialed 911, sending police and the FBI rushing to the building near Rutgers University on the afternoon of June 2, 2009. What they found in that first-floor apartment, however, was not a terrorist hideout but a command center set up by a secret team of New York Police Department intelligence officers.

    "From that apartment, about an hour outside the department's jurisdiction, the NYPD had been staging undercover operations and conducting surveillance throughout New Jersey. Neither the FBI nor the local police had any idea.

    "Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD has become one of the country's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. A months-long investigation by The Associated Press has revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government. And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying..."
    As noted at the beginning, the cancer analogy seems to me appropriate. In the last decade, our right to political rights and freedom became infected. Sometimes, it was in the name of protecting human rights or protecting individuals from simple embarrassments; other times, it was to prevent or control serious crime or threats to national security.

    The measures individually may have been defensible but taken together, new political powers of police have become a threat to everyone. Like cancer, the measures pose danger to body politic. Government says they don't need restraints. "Trust us, they say." Police fight against effective oversight and civilian control. Spy services and agencies guaranteed secrecy operate in the shadows doing we know not what.

    Our human rights and fundamental measures of justice are threatened by those who claim to be our defenders.
    Recommend this post

    Pervasive misinformation

    After an hour with CKNW's mid-morning talk show, I conclude that it provides misinformation more pervasive than does a jock-sniffing sports call-in show. Unfortunately, Corus Radio has a province wide stage for its garbage.

    Bill Good led one segment editorializing about BC's failure to mete out vengeance against Stanley Cup vandals and compared this to Britain's rush to punish looters and street rioters. Good played a clip of Christy Clark inviting him to hold her accountable for prosecuting "those folks responsible" to "the full extent of the law." She said, they "will not be able to hide."

    So Bill Good began the process of holding Christy Clark to account. He did so by inviting Suzanne Anton, mayoral candidate for the BC Liberal farm team, on air to criticize Mayor Gregor Robertson for delays in prosecuting the rioters. "Surely some of those people could be fast-tracked for intense investigation," offered Good, apparently unconcerned about politicians interfering directly with police services.

    Anton reported that after the London riots, British Prime Minister Cameron pulled everyone back from holidays and had a full day's debate in the national Parliament. I assume Anton thinks Mayor Robertson should have done the same.

    Claiming political and legal responses in the U.K. demonstrate excellence, Anton said, "Our system is the British system, the BC system is identical to that in Britain. "There are some procedural differences and so on but the system, the test, is identical."

    Well, Ms. Former Prosecutor, that's not true and both you and Bill Good know it. Yes, the foundation of our legal system is from British jurisprudence but the two countries have evolved differently. In Canada, we don't have Ecclesiastical courts, a Court of Chivalry or Courts Leet. Nor do we have the Magistrates' Court system as have the British. Here is a recent excerpt from Tory paper The Telegraph by Magistrate Trevor Grove:
    "Normally, magistrates go about their business without attracting much attention. Even though these unpaid, legally unqualified volunteers deal with more than 90 per cent of the country’s criminal cases, their only reward is a sense of doing something worthwhile for the community. ...Then came the August riots. Suddenly, events inside our magistrates’ courts have become front-page news. Sessions have been held through the night, and even on Sundays...

    "Although much of the judicial work has been handled by professional district judges, JPs have been exceptionally busy. ...the whole point of the magistracy is that it provides local justice, administered by local people."
    Contrary to the information offered on CKNW, the legal systems are quite different and I think that, largely, the Canadian differences are defensible. Do we want unpaid, legally unqualified volunteers dealing with more than 90 per cent of the country’s criminal cases? I don't.

    However, I would like to see fundamental problems with BC courts addressed and a different response than the British "whack 'em and bash 'em" approach to antisocial behavior. Problems in our criminal justice system were evident well before the June 15 outbreak of violence after a hockey game. Moving more quickly on Stanley Cup rioters will set free impaired drivers, drug dealers and others now awaiting much delayed trials.

    A few links from before the present contretemps demonstrate current judicial sluggishness was entirely predictable:

    CBC News, December 20, 2010, Crown prosecutor shortage hits B.C.
    "There are no longer enough prosecutors to handle the legal work of convicting criminals in B.C., the head of the B.C. Crown Counsel Association is warning.

    "Association president Samiran Lakshman says the government has stripped the criminal justice system of resources, by closing courtrooms, cutting legal aid, and failing to hire enough judges and prosecutors.

    " 'What we've seen is a systematic stripping of the criminal justice system, from not filling provincial court justice positions, to cutting legal aid, to stripping Crown offices of the ability to do our job,' he said."
    Toronto Sun, March 6, 2011, B.C. court backlog may benefit defendants
    "A lack of funding for B.C.'s justice system could result in criminal cases being dismissed because a defendant's right to a fair and speedy trial is in jeopardy..."
    Vancouver Sun, May 11, 2009, Funding for police, prosecutors a contentious election issue
    "During Sunday's debate, NDP Leader Carole James asked why, if the Liberals were dedicated to fighting crime, did the party's budget forecast a cut in funding for corrections and prosecution services over three years?

    "Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell ignored the question..."
    Recommend this post

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Five reasons why I want BC to remain a great place to live

    Our grandchildren, on the beach near Powell River, 2011

    Recommend this post

    Sharing the tax burden with poor people

    David Wiegel, writing at says,
    "Republicans have finally found a group they want to tax: poor people."
    The Wall Street Journal asked former Utah Governor and Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman if working poor families and seniors should be brought onto the income tax rolls. He agreed, saying that,
    "we don't have enough people paying taxes in this country."
    Texas gunman and Presidential candidate Rick Perry agrees,
    "we're dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don't even pay any income tax."
    Michelle Bachmann had similar comments, adding,
    "We need to broaden the base so that everybody pays something,"
    Fox News' Fox & Friends business host Stuart Varney reported:
    "Yes, 47 percent of households pay not a single dime in taxes. And some of those households actually make a profit from the Treasury." 
    In fact, writes Pulitzer Prize winner New York Times writer, David Leonhardt,
    "47 percent has become shorthand for the notion that the wealthy face a much higher tax burden than they once did while growing numbers of Americans are effectively on the dole.

    "Neither one of those ideas is true. They rely on a cleverly selective reading of the facts. So does the 47 percent number.

    ". . . Over the last 30 years, rates have fallen more for the wealthy, and especially the very wealthy, than for any other group. At the same time, their incomes have soared, and the incomes of most workers have grown only moderately faster than inflation.

    "So a much greater share of income is now concentrated at the top of distribution, while each dollar there is taxed less than it once was.

    ". . . the modifiers here — federal and income — are important. Income taxes aren’t the only kind of federal taxes that people pay. There are also payroll taxes and investment taxes, among others. And, of course, people pay state and local taxes, too.

    "Even if the discussion is restricted to federal taxes (for which the statistics are better), a vast majority of households end up paying federal taxes. Congressional Budget Office data suggests that, at most, about 10 percent of all households pay no net federal taxes. The number 10 is obviously a lot smaller than 47.

    ". . . These numbers fail to account for the income that is hidden from tax collectors — a practice, research shows, that is more common among affluent families. “Because higher-income people are understating their income,” Joel Slemrod, a tax scholar at the University of Michigan, says, “We’ve been overstating their average tax rates.”

    "State and local taxes, meanwhile, may actually be regressive. That is, middle-class and poor families may face higher tax rates than the wealthy. As Kim Rueben of the Tax Policy Center notes, state and local income taxes and property taxes are less progressive than federal taxes, while sales taxes end up being regressive. The typical family pays a lot of state and local taxes, too — almost half as much as in federal taxes. . . "

    Recommend this post

    Looking beyond deception

    In a preceding entry at Northern Insights, I linked to a Times Colonist article by Jim Sinclair, President of the BC Federation of Labour. The way it was presented online, I didn't immediately realize this was an op-ed by BC's long serving labour leader, not an opinion column by a TC staffer with the same name.

    I still applaud the newspaper for publishing the item but it is too bad TC's editorial staff hadn't written this or something like it. That would have indicated someone at Postmedia Network knew how to look beyond self serving political BS, which is nearly always part of this government's grand narrative.

    Sinclair did the job that professional journalists should have done. Readers might claim his scepticism over the 2011 BC Hydro review demonstrates partisan bias but facts support Sinclair's conclusions. I am certain that Postmedia's lack of scepticism in describing the Liberal's BC Hydro position proves the company's partisan bias. Postmedia's major dailies have been blind to facts that are widely known, facts that diminish conclusions of the deputy minister panel.

    Sean Holman gave an example of the review panel's intellectual dishonesty when they claimed Hydro's communication staff was excessive:
    "This appears high," wrote Christy Clark's loyal civil servants. But what they failed to mention is that about 50 of BC Hydro's communications staff are summer students who promote the corporation's power conservation programs at community events and trade shows."
    The panel played loose with employment statistics when they claimed that Hydro's workforce had grown inappropriately. A more accurate view is that growth resulted from an enlarged network of customers and from moves to resolve failures of previous Liberal initiatives. That required reintegration of BC Transmission Corp and repatriation of purchasing and procurement jobs from Accenture.
    Recommend this post

    Police still investigating police misconduct

    CBC News posted a report of an incident where an apparently drunk man is assaulted by police officers, an incident partly captured on video. Footage shows one or two officers striking a man who is restrained by other officers. Afterwards, police accused the man of spitting although that is not apparent on the video. Clearly though, unnecessary violence was used on the man.

    VPD referred the matter to former VPD Deputy Chief Bob Rich's friendly Abbotsford Police Department.

    I think the CBC News headline should be something like:
    "Officers' assault leads to police investigation."
    Instead, we got this:

    On the video, spitting is uncertain but a violent attack on a restrained man is certain. Too bad the VPD can't afford spit-masks, they're commonly used in corrections.

    Global News provides an excellent quote from David Eby, Executive Director of BC Civil Liberties Association,
    “I can assure you that the only reason that this has gone to Abbotsford for investigation is because there is tape of the incident. Unfortunately, we are still in a situation where police are still investigating themselves. Even if this goes to Abbotsford, there are lots of close links between VPD and Abbotsford, but eventually we hope the province will be bringing an independent investigation office to do this kind of high-profile investigations.”
    One is left to wonder why, with years of clear evidence that police investigating police is unsatisfactory, it still carries on in this province. Former appeal court judge Thomas Braidwood, although speaking after RCMP tasered an 11 year-old child, also described this situation succinctly,
    “The most significant and important weapon the arsenal of any police force is public support, and the way to get public support is to have an independent body investigate situations like that,”

    Recommend this post

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Pass the bull (horn) please

    Jim Sinclair at the Times Colonist produced a column Saturday that demonstrates the exact opposite of the stenographic journalism discussed in the original text of this entry. Sinclair's Province hypocritical on B.C. Hydro stance is a must-read:
    "Two recent events illustrated the cynical style of politics as practised by Premier Christy Clark and her decade-old B.C. Liberal government.

    "First, the government asked reporters to assemble at a news conference in Victoria. The aim was to achieve maximum publicity for a report on the province's largest Crown corporation, B.C. Hydro and Power Authority.

    "Written by three deputy ministers handpicked by Clark, the report said that Hydro was in such operational and financial disarray that one in every five Hydro workers - as many as 1,000 employees - had to lose their jobs.

    "As they had hoped, the news conference garnered a slew of supportive headlines, including "Fat-cat Hydro," "Panel cites bloated staffing levels" and "Clark calls for job cuts to curb rising rates."

    "The next day, B.C. Hydro quietly released its 2010/11 annual report. No big news conference, no reporters in attendance - and no publicity.

    "(Government spin doctors describe Friday - a day when reporters and assignment editors, like many hard-working British Columbians, begin to focus on the weekend - as "takeout-the-trash" day. Simply, it's when the government puts out negative news it wants to go unnoticed.)

    "Yet, the news from B.C. Hydro was neither negative nor unwanted. In fact, it was both positive and historic.

    "Our publicly owned Crown corporation, one learns from reading the annual report, had just racked up its biggest-ever profit - a phenomenal, record-breaking $589 million. . . "
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 


    McClatchy's DC correspondent John Walcott wrote this about the failings of journalist colleagues:
    "They were stenographers; they were not reporters. . . very few reporters checked out their stories, and too many just ran with what they were handed. Instead, they handed bullhorns to people who already had megaphones."
    After the 2011 Review of BC Hydro was delivered by Christy Clark's deputy minister, Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer took out his stenographer's notebook and passed a bullhorn to the Premier's office.

    His August 18 column warned of the need for higher electricity rates OR an infusion of cash from the government that has for years been stripping every bit of "surplus" cash from the utility, including a "Payment to the Province" of $463 million in fiscal 2011 from Hydro's retained earnings plus another $305 million in water rental fees for the year. Quoting the internal government review, Palmer wrote:
    "The B.C. Liberals have quietly allowed a massive increase in deferred costs at BC Hydro, creating a multibillion-dollar shortfall that will have to be repaid out of future rate increases or an injection of cash from provincial taxpayers."
    When I began to read Palmer this weekend, I assumed the Sun's provincial affairs columnist of 27 years had finally targeted the almost $50 billion in deferred payments BC Hydro incurred in contracting with independent power producers (IPP's). But no, Palmer had set his sights on other matters:
    "The review panel report, released last week, documents the "significant growth" in cost deferrals at Hydro, from less than half a billion dollars in 2007 to $2 billion today and a projected $4.7 billion in 2014."
    Serious eh? In seven years, deferred costs are projected to grow by $4.2 billion. Palmer acknowledges a valid basis for deferring costs that benefit future periods but here is a more detailed explanation. This is from a tax department interpretation of deferred charges:
    ". . . costs incurred from which benefit is expected to be derived after the current fiscal period. GAAP accounting for these expenses would, in most cases, require that the expenses be matched to the year in which the benefit is to be derived (the "matching principle")."
    In other words, Palmer devotes a column to his concerns as a layperson about a technical accounting matter that BC Hydro's independent auditors found to be accurately recorded. KPMG LLP would have reserved their audit opinion if they believed the deferrals were not appropriate.

    In his analysis, Vaughn Palmer treats the statements of the government's panel as if they came from an authoritative and unconstrained review team. That is a false starting point because three deputy ministers in the Liberal Government are anything but independent examiners of this agency. The review is instead part of a campaign designed to shift blame for the bad political decisions imposed by BC Liberals. It follows the Government's decision to force out then CEO Bob Elton for perceived disloyalty to Liberal policies. This weekend, we have Minister Rich Coleman contradicting policy admissions by new CEO Dave Cobb.

    Further proof that Palmer is simply amplifying the present Liberal Government's effort to portray BC Hydro as suspect and out of step is that the columnist somehow missed discussion of a deferral ten times larger than the one he worries about. Of course, that is the vast sum owed to IPP's for future deliveries of high cost electricity, a business decision taken by Gordon Campbell, not BC Hydro.

    Here is a screen capture from the 2010 financial statements of BC Hydro. It shows a minimum obligation of $17.137 billion owing to IPP's as of March 31, 2010.

    This is from the 2011 financial statement, with the minimum obligation to purchase energy risen to $42.976 billion, an increase of almost $26 billion in 12 months.

    What was that increase that concerned you Mr. Palmer?  $4.2 billion over seven years? What do you think about another obligation rising by $26 billion in 12 months?

    Recommend this post