Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Comparative values

How we spend our money reflects our values, particularly for conscious choices, the ones we make after full consideration.

That occurred to me when reader Lew linked to a Jonathan Fowlie blog, B.C.’s government watchdog working among the rodents. Lew's comment came in response to my article about David Hahn's luxurious new offices, where the BC Ferries management team is presently conducting an internal austerity program.

For comparison, here is what Auditor General John Doyle told a Legislative budget committee:
“Currently we occupy space in Bastion Square, and we have been there for 30 years. ...We have little friends in the office. We’re running out of names for them. They’re about this big. There’s lots of them. We just can’t get rid of them. During the summer we had one situation where we had to evacuate the office because of the seagulls and what was coming in through the air vents, and so on. I could go on for half an hour.”
It is no surprise that folks in government care little about the comforts of the Auditor General. After all, he is far less important than he would be as a fourth Executive Vice President at BC Ferries. Of course, the compensation figures bear that out:

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Luxurious new offices and enduring gratitude

News item: BC Ferries hiking fuel surcharges, Andrew MacLeod, The Tyee
"Ferry fares will rise by 2.5 percent on Dec. 12 on the major routes as B.C. Ferry Services Inc. adds to the fuel surcharge.

"A press release attributes the hike to the rising cost of marine diesel fuel..."

I leave readers to draw their own conclusions about ferry fares and fuel oil prices. In the meantime, consider recent spending priorities of David Hahn and the BC Ferry Directors. At the least, taxpayers and ferry users ought to be concerned, perhaps outraged.

In 2008, the company announced plans to move into 90,000 square feet of a building at 800 Yates Street then under construction by Jawl Properties. B.C. Ferries sold its long time head office building, 53,000 sq.ft. at 1112 Fort Street, to the Jawls. By sheer good fortune, the new owners quickly found another tenant: Elections BC.

According to Note 12 on the BCF 2011 Audited Financials, the lease of new offices in downtown Victoria is for fifteen years, with four renewal options of five years each. The lease agreement includes payment of building operating costs and property taxes but other terms are undisclosed.

In addition to signing a long term lease before completion, BC Ferries lent the Jawls, developers of the $100 million property, $24.2 for fifteen years, secured by a second mortgage of the property.

What does BC Ferries get out of this? Certainly, it gets substantially more luxurious executive offices, almost twice the size of those in the old building. They also earn enduring gratitude of the influential Jawl family, people who style themselves as the largest private owners of premium offices and industrial space in the capital. Their properties include Cordova Bay Golf Course, Mattick’s Farm, Sayward Hill and Selkirk Waterfront. They are, of course, substantial contributors to the BC Liberal Party.

The Atrium, 800 Yates St., Victoria

As a footnote, the Jawls did not have to look long or far for a new prime tenant for the old BC Ferries HQ building. The new tenant: Elections BC.

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Advocates not reporters

Canada kept detection of salmon virus secret, Craig Welch, Seattle Times environment reporter, Nov. 30/11
"A decade before this fall's salmon-virus scare, a Canadian government researcher said she found a similar virus in more than 100 wild fish from Alaska to Vancouver Island.

"Canadian officials never told the public or scientists in the United States about those tests — not even after evidence of the virus discovered in October was treated as an international emergency, according to documents and emails obtained by The Seattle Times.

"The researcher's work surfaced only this week after she sought and was denied permission by a Canadian official to try to have her old data published in a scientific journal..."
Three weeks ago I wrote When up is down and down is up, about a press conference at which Canadian Food Inspection Agency claimed the Infectious Salmon Anemia virus outbreak was not happening in British Columbia. According to Ivan Doumenc, the government's message degraded quickly under intense questioning by reporters from the Seattle Times and the Yukon News along with Damien Gillis of The Common Sense Canadian.

Where has the Vancouver Sun been on this story? In November, part-time environmental reporter Larry Pynn wrote about marijuana, bears in garbage and float plane safety but not about ISA. Food reporter Randy Shore covered beer and chocolate for the Sun and found time in his blog to repeat uncritically reassurances from CFIA and fish farm flack Mary Ellen Walling that all is well.

Today, the Sun website re-publishes Craig Welch's Seattle report but Postmedia newspapers have largely ignored ISA and threats to wild salmon and other coastal fisheries. Had Seattle Times not led the way on this Canadian story, discussion of it in Canada would be left largely to the alternative media. Instead of journalistic balance and inquiry, from Postmedia, we get advocacy favouring unrestricted expansion of fish farms and elimination of environmental oversight and suppression of scientific inquiries.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More from Tyson Creek

I bring this article to the top because I wish to emphasize the first hand report in comments of a person who knows Narrows Inlet well and understands the effect on an area that should remain unspoiled. Wilderness Committee people have worked on this file and reviewed thousands of pages from documents that could not be accessed except for FOI.

From my examination, this project near Sechelt appears to have had little diligent examination by provincial environmental officers. The Liberal Government made this sort of development a priority, not for the benefit of citizens, but for the benefit of a few connected corporations. They were willing to ruin not just BC Hydro but rivers and lakes throughout the province. It is a scandal that will be visited mostly on our descendants. This is only one of the shameful legacies of Gordon Campbell and his cronies. Premier Photo-Op cares nothing about British Columbia's remote wonderlands. Providing intelligent stewardship over natural resources is hard work and she can't do that. She's got places to go and people to see. And cameras to stand before..

If you are moved by the Narrows Inlet story, remember similar projects are happening elsewhere with more planned. Thirty alpine lakes are at risk. Please email your MLA and ask for immediate action.

More reading at the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association

As a commenter said earlier, it is not "Run of the River", it's "Ruin of the River."

Visit the Wilderness Committee for more information

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Snoozing, slothful syndicate of political poodles...

At the Rafe Mair birthday celebration last week, we got to hear Rafe tell an anecdote about writing for Ryerson School of Journalism a piece that celebrated free speech, one Ryerson refused to publish. I suspect Rafe got more than a few requests to write the story for the website that he and Damien Gillis maintain.

By the way, while you are at The Common Sense Canadian, leave a donation to keep the website active. We cannot afford to lose another pillar of the alternative media.

If you despise what corporate media has become and hunger for what it could be, you'll enjoy Rafe's article:

Free Speech, Censorship, and Why Ryerson's Journalism Program Can Go F#@k Itself

After reading Rafe, consider Bill Good's often repeated claim that in 50 years of journalism, no owner or manager ever told him what to say or not to say. Mr. Good may not admit it, but he understands Rafe's words perfectly. The words?
"Either self-censor or be censored."
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Liberal MLA's search for the BC Rail story

Premier Photo-Op assigned her minions to look for clues in the BC Rail case.


Don't miss Bill Tieleman at The Tyee, Railgate? Asked and Answered, Says Clark

A great reader comment at the Tieleman article linked above, from 'metacomet'
By Audit or, If Necessary, Archaeology

The BC Liberals have spent a huge amount of capital, real and political, on BC Rail. The political capital alone has about broken the bank for the government: the original campaign promise not to sell the public-owned railway, cooking the books to make BCR look like it was losing money when it wasn't, breaking the promise not to sell BCR, corrupting the bid process, getting caught and hauled into court, perverting the course of justice by disclosure non-cooperation and by paying two BC Liberals to take the blame and keep quiet (with public money), and continuing to refuse calling a public inquiry. The cost: an irredeemably disgraced government, a Premier ignominiously forced to resign, a culpable caucus hostile to the complicit replacement, at a time when other BC Liberal transgressions are coming home to roost, facing a revitalized Opposition, a new, alternative right-wing party and an angry electorate going into an election they're doomed to lose.

Is this the good money Christy doesn't want to throw after bad?
About the only benefit they've ended up with is the licence to continue lying.

The tide-mark day will come in seventeen and a half months. If the BC Liberals lose the next election (which is likely) and the NDP calls a public inquiry into the BC Rail scandal (again likely), it will set off a chain of events that might see certain BC Liberals facing prosecution, and maybe the retroactive scuttling of the corrupt deal that would see BCR returned to public ownership.

Doubtless this will put another capital dent into the public weal; but it will completely bankrupt the BC Liberal party.

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Trending toward turmoil

The Poor, the Near Poor and You, New York Times, Nov. 23/11:
"...And times are tough for the middle class. But everyone needs to recognize a chilling reality: One in three Americans — 100 million people — is either poor or perilously close to it.

"...The worst downturn since the Great Depression is only part of the problem. Before that, living standards were already being eroded by stagnating wages and tax and economic policies that favored the wealthy.

"Conservative politicians and analysts are spouting their usual denial. Gov. Rick Perry and Representative Michele Bachmann have called for taxing the poor and near poor more heavily, on the false grounds that they have been getting a free ride. In fact, low-income workers do pay up, if not in federal income taxes, then in payroll taxes and state and local taxes..."

Further reading: The Alchemy Of Our Awesomely Affluent, Sam Pizzigati,

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More theatre of the absurd

Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender says negotiations are complete, an agreement for continuing the RCMP role in British Columbia is done. Attorney General Shirley Bond - the person who promised to slash top salaries at BC Ferries - agrees progress has been made but says negotiators are still working on resolving issues.

I'm told the remaining impediment is that British Columbia wants the RCMP to handle police complaints more expeditiously. In the past, serious cases have dragged on unresolved for years after citizens raise issues of RCMP misconduct. Shirley Bond hopes the RCMP will shorten the time it takes to absolve police officers accused of wrongdoing. She said,
"We want the complaint process to operate more quickly and more efficiently. Two years is plenty of time to impugn accusers and close internal inquiry files. There's no point in dragging out a process and leaving officers sidelined on paid leave for years when, from the beginning, everyone knows the outcome."
Really though, do we need all the theatre that has been served up with this alleged negotiation? One would be brain deficient to think the outcome is not already determined. In 2010, the BC Finance Ministry completed an audit of RCMP services but they refuse to make it public. A little bit of knowledge, it seems, is a dangerous thing and Liberals prefer voters stay uninformed.

BC Civil Rights Association President Robert Holmes said this,
“The Solicitor General is stonewalling the public and the Legislature by not putting forth this audit. It is required by law that transparency and accountability exist for proposed major expenditures like the RCMP contract being negotiated. Her bureaucrats may think that democratic government is inconvenient, but the public is entitled to the information and it is an affront to democracy for the Solicitor General to sit on the report. ...No justification for delay has been offered and none exists.”
The strongest clue that policing would continue as before is the construction of a massive new E-Division headquarters in Surrey's Green Timbers Urban Forest Park. The facility will house almost 3,000 police personnel in about 1-million sq. ft. As part of the federal government's green strategy to encourage use of public transit, parking at the facility will be limited to 2,000 spaces.

The project is being constructed for the Harper Government through a P3 led by French conglomerate Bouygues S.A with financing by British Bank HSBC.

Construction on the $1-billion headquarters started in 2010 while provincial and federal politicians were involved in the Kabuki dance, pretending that something material might change in British Columbia's policing.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

More Corus charitable work

Annual financial reports filed by Canadian charities with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), are rudimentary and largely unchecked by tax department officials. This suggests rather little oversight is exercised despite the billions of dollars involved in the sector.

I tried to raise this matter with Hoang Mai, the Official Opposition critic for the Ministry of National Revenue. I sent an email to the critic Nov. 2, with a copy to BC MP Kennedy Stewart. After no response or acknowledgement from either, I sent a follow-up on Nov.23. Still no response.

This was my inquiry,
I have been examining financial statements published on the CRA-Charities website, with particular interest in politically oriented charities, including but not limited to The Fraser Institute, Donner Canadian Foundation, Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation.

I notice year to year anomalies that suggest CRA may be doing limited or no examination of annual returns (T3010). Additionally, I have reason to suspect that non-cash donations are routinely overvalued, leading to losses on disposal that are common. Charities may accept in-kind donations for which they issue receipts higher than true fair market value and this is encouraged if they expect CRA's audit enforcement to be lax.

Could you please pose inquiries to CRA asking specifically what typical level of review they give each T3010 return and if they routinely compare financial information from year to year, looking for obvious anomalies. Also, the CRA should be asked if they pay attention to political activities conducted by organizations such as the Fraser Institute and Donner Canadian Foundation and if they have written guidelines for enforcement officials.
Fair questions, I think.

A separate but related inquiry reinforced my belief that inadequate oversight is exercised over charities. After, I looked at CKNW Orphans' Fund financial reports, a reader asked if I would do the same for another Corus charity: Edmonton's CHED SANTAS ANONYMOUS INCORPORATED.

Again, the financial information is basic. It is also sloppy, containing obvious errors. For example, the 2006 balance sheet shows a $400,000 asset noted as "Inventories." The asset disappears on the 2007 report with no offsetting expense report.

I don't know how the charity performs its good works but I would certainly examine it more carefully before donating. For example, in 2011, it reports total expenditures on charitable programs of $338,190 which is less than half the year's total revenue. Occupancy costs, which were zero in 2006 were $93,690 in fiscal 2011.

Again, Corus Entertainment seems to be gaining goodwill for a children's charity yet we are left to wonder what the company contributes.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

"The hypocrisy is quite sickening"

Paraphrasing Benjamin Disraeli's words to the British Parliament in 1845,
"The BC Liberal government is an organized hypocrisy."
I visited the BC Liberal website today and found this homepage. The frame from the lower right corner is extracted.

"Our Ship Building Contract" This Liberal government was not so enthused about shipbuilding in 2005 after David Hahn placed his order for new ships in Germany.

From Hansard in 2005, NDP member Gary Coons speaking,
"... our valued B.C. shipbuilders took a real hit when the contract for the three new ferries worth $325 million and providing 4,500 person-years of employment was cast over to a highly subsidized foreign corporation. Not only that, but during the election campaign it was revealed that B.C. Ferries awarded a contract to an overseas company with no public tendering process whatsoever. The $800,000 lifeboat contract went to an Australian company, beating out the traditional supplier from Richmond who had been supplying these for over 20 years."
From Hansard in 2007, when Liberal Kevin Falcon said,
"...the decision to procure new ferries in Germany. The members opposite fought viciously against that, were appalled by that decision and said that this was a travesty, that we must politically interfere and insisted that they be built in the local shipyards..."
So not long ago, Liberals, led by now Deputy Premier Falcon, had rather little regard for our shipbuilding capabilities.

Michael Smyth wrote about Liberal hypocrisy recently in The Province:
It’s amazing — and somewhat galling — listening to Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals going ga-ga over the federal shipbuilding contract when this is the same bunch that gave away our own shipbuilding work to Germany.

...But the majority of Liberals patting themselves on the back for the federal contract today kicked B.C. shipbuilders in the keester back then.

That includes Christy Clark, who supported building our ferries in Germany. It was right to reject Vancouver Shipyards for the work, she argued, because parent company Seaspan wanted an open-ended “cost-plus” contract where they could run up the price tag at will.

That was denied at the time by Seaspan chairman Kyle Washington.

“We’re absolutely willing to bid a bonded, fixed-price cost, so there would be no financial risk to the government,” Washington said. “All we’re asking for is a chance to submit a bid.”

But Seaspan was not allowed to bid on the ferry contract, something Clark supported. So did cabinet ministers Blair Lekstrom and Pat Bell, both now so giddy about Seaspan winning the federal contract.

...The hypocrisy is quite sickening.

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Net-zero mandate, not for all

Net-zero is OK for teachers, regular healthcare providers and the remaining public sector workers but not for important friends who do favours for Premier Photo Op. For example, and this is but one of course, check out Howard Waldner's tough road. This guy, CEO of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, decided after the position of in-house flack sat empty for 8-months, there was an urgent and secret need (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) to fill it with an associate of the Premier:

Waldner, by the way has enjoyed a 42% salary increase over the past 5 years, moving his salary before expense from $312,000 to $442,000. During that time, his annual expenses have ranged from $29,683 to $51,000. My, those business lunches are pricey!

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I see nothing, I was not here...

Premier Photo Op was born in the sixties, apparently influenced by one particular TV show. While it ended production in 1971, Hogans Heroes was in reruns long after. With a hat tip to RossK, this video clip demonstrates a lesson learned well by at least one future politician.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

On media, a reader's contribution

Ms.Photo Op,Mentzelopoulos,Muir,Waldner
Here's an excerpt from the Vancouver Sun that ran Nov 22nd about the hiring of the husband of the minister of corporate priorities by the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), and the link to the full story:
"VIHA president Howard Waldner, in an interview from Toronto, said he never placed an advertisement for the interim job: "I wouldn't call it a mistake. In hindsight, perhaps we could have put an advert out. And someone might say we should have put an advert out." "
Two days later (Nov 24) a story appears in the Victoria Times-Colonist on the same subject and written by the same reporter, Rob Shaw. However, this second story appears to contradict the Vancouver Sun story of Nov 22.

"Waldner admitted he made a mistake in approving the Muir contract. VIHA's board is not looking for Waldner's resignation.

"Howard has our full confidence," said Hubbard*. "Howard's leadership is very strong. People make mistakes. He's human."
*[Don Hubbard, chairman of VIHA's board of directors]...

The first story exposes, with a direct quote, VIHA's Waldner as an arrogant person who has not admitted any mistake was made, and who does not seem to believe he has to play by the rules.

However, the later Times-Colonist story presents a much more contrite view of Waldner stating that he admitted his "mistake".

Really? Where's the quote or even some attribution of the "fact" that Waldner admitted it to be a mistake? And mistake my foot. Health authorities damn well know the rules, it's not rocket science.

This looks to me like the media is helping to make Waldner look contrite so that VIHA can avoid being pressured into firing Waldner.

It's such a disappointment to see the media play these games helping government to white wash matters. And most people won't even know that they've been hoodwinked into thinking that Waldner is contrite.
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Democracy Or Plutocracy? A Chart

By Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future:


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Contributions of two MLAs in BC Legislature

According to Premier Photo Op:
“I think this [Auditor General for Local Government] is a vital step forward for British Columbia, and long overdue, I think it’s going to make a difference, I think it’s going to mean taxpayers money will be spent better and will ensure they get value for every single dollar.”
Every single dollar eh? I think idle, disinterested MLA's waste money and I wonder if Premier Photo Op is willing to demand a resignation when one of her own fits the description.

Hansard's index of members' entries for the Fourth Session, 39th Parliament – 2011, reveals something about the contributions of individual MLA's. It is not a complete record but a worthwhile indicator of whether we are getting "value for every single dollar." For comparison purpose, I provide extracts of the index for two members:

Heed, Kash (Vancouver-Fraserview)

(Yes, this is the entire record.)

Corrigan, Kathy (Burnaby–Deer Lake)

    • B.C. Liberal Party government
    • Cesar E. Chavez Black Eagle Awards

      • recognition of contributions to agriculture industry issues 7929
    • Chouhan, Raj

      • award for work on farmworker issues 7929
    • Community Living B.C.
    • Disabled and handicapped persons

      • community living services

        • services for persons 19 and older, transition from children's services 8106
    • Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2011
    • Justice system

      • criminal justice system
    • Martin family

      • support services for disabled son Jonathan and presentation to Finance Committee 8106
    • Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act
    • Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (Oppal Commission)

      • funding for groups participating in inquiry 8171
    • Offence Amendment Act, 2011
    • Oral questions

      • Changes to office to combat trafficking in persons 8660
      • Community living services for children in transition to adulthood 8106
      • Costs to B.C. of federal anti-crime legislation 8601-2
      • Court system funding and cameras in courtrooms 7981
      • Funding for groups participating in Missing Women Inquiry 8171
      • Investigation of election campaign for member for Vancouver-Fraserview 85178570-1
    • Private members' statements
    • Private members' statements (response)
    • Privilege

      • reserving right to raise a point of personal privilege 8406
    • Statements by members

      • RCMP services in Burnaby 8599
      • Women's History Month 8401
    • Tributes

      • Cesar Chavez Award recipient 7929
    • Vancouver

      • riot during Stanley Cup playoffs, charges and court proceedings 7981
    • West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund

      • report on women's rights 8171

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Friday, November 25, 2011

To be different, we must do things differently

Alexandra Morton has a new blog entry. It starts with this:
Dear Minister Ashfield:
I would suggest you stop treating us like fools...
Alexandra holds back little criticism because she has observed political lying and spin-doctoring first hand. Morton doesn't pull punches. Science is on her side; also truth, the coastal First Nations and other admirers of British Columbia's coastal regions.

Morton aims to protect the entire natural marine culture and wild salmon face an immediate threat. Ignorant politicians, disregarding the precautionary principle, twist and suppress science that doesn't serve the Norwegian fish farm industry now devastating parts of Canada's westcoast.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, along with Chief Bob Chamberlin and Chief Marilyn Baptiste, executive members of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs, attended the Nov. 24 celebration honouring Rafe Mair. It was a treat to hear each talk and share a sense of common purpose with the hundreds present, people that ranged from BC Conservative Leader John Cummins to retired NDP Minister Corky Evans.

Stewart Phillip, a man of my generation, talked of grandparents now seeing through the eyes of our grandchildren. Gwen and I feel that too. We want children to forever find joy in the magnificent living elements of British Columbia, unspoiled by the avarice of industrialists who pay no attention to environmental degradation.

As I wrote earlier, Milton Friedman thinks that avoiding pollution and caring about the environment is "pure and unadulterated socialism." If that were an honest definition, I would be a socialist. Unfortunately, the dead economist's views are shared by too many boardroom sociopaths.

Bob Chamberlin, elected Chief Councilor of the Kwicksutaineuk Ah-kwa-mish First Nation, sees the world much differently than coldblooded Friedman. These are words that Chamberlin spoke on another day:
"We put a greater value on healthy, abundant wild salmon stocks than we do on Norwegian companies' profit margins

"I think of the long history our people have in the Broughton Archipeligo, since time immemorial. it is a terrirtory with resources the creator has put there for our people to enjoy so we can develop the world that we know, in the way that we want it to be, not by some company's decisions to come in and pollute at their will. Industry will have one attachment to our territory and that's based on profit. The minute it's unprofitable, they will be gone and our people will still be there. Our people will still be relying on the resources that we know are there to sustain our people.

"We know first hand the impact that this industry is having. We know first hand the denial that the Government of Canada continues to perpetuate , to prop up and support an industry that just makes absolutely no sense at all..."
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Photo Op Princess, come back to earth

Christy Clark pretended that justice would be swift and effective for hockey rioters. The problem was - and everyone knew this - BC's court system had been starved for resources; systematically and consciously starved by the Liberal Government. Clark was promising what she knew could not be delivered. It's her style, government by photo op and newsclip, content beside the point.

The reality is laid out clearly by one of our highest ranking judges:
"B.C.’s court system is being slowly eroded by a lack of funding, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman said in a November 19 speech to the B.C. Branch of the Canadian Bar Association.

"And, citing the harms that flow from clogged courts, he urged members to speak out about the funding crunch and protect a system he described as being at risk..."
Read more at Cuts threaten B.C.’s judicial system: Chief Justice, Wendy Stueck, The Globe and Mail, November 24

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Best and worst of CKNW

I am quick to criticize CKNW, mostly because I remember the years it did excellent work. Its newsroom, when run by Warren Barker, was the quickest and best source for local news. Reporters like George Garrett were our trusted friends. The morning news talk show under matchless hosts Jack Webster, Rafe Mair or Gary Bannerman were necessities to any person wanting to be informed about British Columbia public affairs. The radio staff was generously peopled by other broadcasting stars, like Frosty Forst, Jack Cullen, Al Davidson (in his own way), Hal Davis, Jim Robson, etc.

Today, beyond John McComb and Simi Sara, the station is talent thin, unable to produce in-house commercials and promos without the spots sounding like the product of first year BCIT broadcasting students.

The career of aging NW newsman Gord MacDonald, now filling in for McComb in the afternoon spot, has been on a downward slide for years. Hanging on, he's trying a new "controversial" persona, bringing a sort of Faux News approach involving sensationalism, conflict, ignorance and intolerance.

Yet, I still have the radio station on pre-set. Someone who knows me well asked recently, "Why do you bother listening if you think it is so bad."

Good question. The answer has much to do with the absolutely pathetic competition in local broadcasting. I've never been able to take the CKWX format because it seems that news reports are merely short interruptions separating lines of commercials. If they ever dealt with a subject in any depth, I missed it. CBC can be good at times but I have a feeling that if Vancouver Island started literally drifting out to sea, it would rank in importance behind stories from Newfoundland and Quebec. Other radio stations don't even pretend to cover news.

However, at 1:30 today, I was listening to Simi Sara interview Vision pollster Bob Penner. He was intensely critical of the media performance during Vancouver's recent civic election and I suspect he had NW specifically in mind. Unlike a deaf interviewer like Gord MacDonald, Sara listened to Penner's comments and asked intelligent supplementary questions. She let the subject give his opinions and tried to ensure that all aspects were discussed. This is typical of work by Simi Sara; aside from McComb, she is the best interviewer at the station. Sara is also well informed and allows little BS to go unchallenged.

So, Simi Sara is one reason I still listen to CKNW. You should too, but always with a degree of skepticism.
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A snail's pace is quick by comparison

To emphasize that the Basi/Virk trial was merely meter-spinning theatre from the injustice system, I bring back a Northern Insights piece from almost 18 months ago. I think it captures reality, showing the trial was never about exposing truth.

This week another insider of the Liberal government was caught reaching hands into the cookie jar. People in that party are hooked on cash from the public. Like junkies, they are dependent, they can't stop and we, as citizens, have grown tolerant.

Thievery and hypocrisy are the government's main attributes. Tourism Minister Pat Bell proudly announces he has disciplined a staff member for an embarrassing clause in a brochure Bell issued without bothering to read. That is accountability in the BC Liberal world. No wonder that former Port Moody mayor Joe Trasolini joined the NDP team.

What follows was first published June 30, 2010:

"Ol’ Billy was right, let’s kill all the lawyers, kill’em tonight." — The Eagles

Fans know that Shakespeare wrote words like those in Henry VI but wasn't actually suggesting mass slaughter of black robed citizens. Actually, the Bard was ridiculing a revolting peasant who promised that, after he overthrew the King, common laborers would be newly respected and gentlemen who could read and write would be punished and the lawyers would be eliminated.

However, if Shakespeare spent any time in Vancouver's Courtroom 54, he might decide the words in Henry VI should not be ironic. My oh my. If lawyers ran car repair shops, you would buy a new vehicle instead of replacing a worn out brake pad. If lawyers ran NHL teams, you'd have the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Well, maybe that explains something; Brian Burke is a lawyer.)

I'm not suggesting that today's edition of the BC Rail Corruption trial was typical. After all, the jury listened to more than an hour of testimony as defence lawyer Michael Bolton questioned the Premier's main man Martyn Brown. However, the testimony proceeded at something less than a snail's pace because Bolton was reading from emails written in 2003 and Brown acknowledged remembering pretty much nothing, except that his then colleague, Assistant Deputy Finance Minister Paul Taylor - later the Naikun wind farm electricity promoter - if he had spilled any beans about Cabinet policy to friendly lobbyists, would only have done so with good reason. Brown also remembered that it would have been entirely appropriate assistance if the ADM seemed to be helping the lobbyists land a client and gain large fees and sufficient expense allowances for the entirely appropriate hospitality required (fishing trips?) so that lobbyists could entertain government insiders. I wonder how Glen Ringdahl and his automobile dealer clients will react to knowing the the lobbyee was helping the lobbyist set up the contract for the lobbyor.

Brown has been able to remember surprisingly little for a man with a memory so prodigious that he studiously avoids keeping file and meeting notes or copies of correspondence. However, Brown confidently remembered that Paul Taylor always acted with the greatest integrity, that he was ever trustworthy and trusted. The Premier's deputy also remembered that he never had policy conflicts with Ken Dobell, another insider with indubitable probity, in Brown's opinion.

Today, with an11:30 am start, the session ran longer than the day before but was complete by 2:30 pm, with a leisurely lunch break preceding the almost 30 minute afternoon session. In three weeks, hours the jury has listened to testimony could be counted on one hand. Now the whole gang breaks for the long weekend, planning three days for the trial next week before starting a summer adjournment and returning in September. At the current rate of progress, the trial should last for about four more years. It's a tough pace but a BMW X6 M is now over 100 grand. Work's gotta happen. Life's not all fun.

I have a theory about why courtrooms largely sit empty throughout the day. First, there is all the preparation needed for the material that couldn't be prepared in the years waiting for the trial to begin. And, the day can't start too early because judges just aren't morning people. Extended lunches are a necessity because that is prime meeting time for lawyers to spend with prospective clients and breaking early in the day allows for a full 18 holes before sundown.

If I can be more serious, it is amazing that we have a provincial government that wages war on hospital workers, paramedics, school teachers and others but raises not a peep about the privileged few who manage the vital justice system with virtually no accountability to anyone.  It is not a coincidence that more politicians are lawyers than any other profession.

If the AG is interested, I could recommend a retired sawmill foreman who was an expert ass kicker, able to drive the laziest green chain puller to complete a good day's effort.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Photo shopping in the U.S.A.

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Victoria's old-time policing continues

Victoria police assault probe not over yet, CBC News, November 23, 2011:
"A provincial court judge ruled [Victoria police sergeant] George Chong used excessive force in applying a chokehold that rendered Frank Blair unconscious in January 2010.

"The judge sentenced Chong to one year's probation and ordered him to take anger management counselling.

"...After an an internal disciplinary hearing, [Victoria Police Chief Jamie] Graham ruled that Chong's chokehold was reasonable and justified...

"...Graham also said Tuesday that Chong, a 29-year veteran of the force and the brother of B.C. cabinet minister Ida Chong, is fit to return to work."
Victoria police Sgt. George Chong found guilty of assaulting a prisoner, Jeff Bell, Times Colonist:
"...The incident with Blair began early on Jan. 15, last year when officers spotted him working the door at a nightclub. The police information system indicated Blair was violating a curfew that was part of his bail at the time, but he told police the curfew had been lifted.

"Officers decided to take him to cells, although it was later determined that his curfew had indeed been called off.

"[Provincial court judge Herb] Weitzel said video footage of what happened in the cells show that Blair was largely co-operative. He was hesitant about part of the fingerprinting process because of a sore finger, Weitzel said.

"Chong said he noticed a change in Blair's demeanour as his fingerprints were being taken and became concerned he might get violent. Weitzel said the hold that Chong applied is considered a "hard" use of force, and that consideration could have been given to other methods such as putting Blair in handcuffs or having other jail staffers hold his arms..."

More Jamie Graham

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A simple truth

For British Columbia Liberals, the BC Rail/Basi/Virk story is like a slow growing cancer. Left unresolved, it is metastasizing, nudging the afflicted party toward an inevitable conclusion.

I've tried to understand why Liberals, or at least ethical members within the party, have not demanded an end to this distress through a public inquiry that would label the villains and clear the innocents. Why put up instead with stalling and evasion of responsibility that tars all? I put that question to a person with a direct connection to the Liberal caucus. The response:
"More than anything, they hope to survive and they realize, if the full truth emerges, the Liberal Party is history and their political careers ended."
Obviously, this story will not go away. The circumstantial evidence of political and economic fraud at the heart of the Liberal government is extensive, so pervasive that no reasonable person can deny it.

Liberals missed the opportunity for confession and absolution after caucus pushed Gordon Campbell out the door. MLA's knew that Christy Clark's assumption of leadership ended opportunities to clean the slate. Her own involvement in the railway scandal meant that cover-up would continue. With exception of the obtuse Harry Bloy, caucus rejected Clark's candidacy in the leadership race. Liberal MLA's understood her culpability in the scandal that continues to undermine the party. They tried to establish new directions but the party leadership wanted more of the same.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Outrageous rhetoric from Clark Government

Hyperbole is an intentional and often outrageous overstatement, or exaggeration. This clips provides an example from lawyer Craig Jones, acting for the BC government.

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Rhetoric of Pepper Spray

The Rhetorica Network offers analysis and commentary about the rhetoric, propaganda, biases, and spin of journalism. This site features the Media Rhetoric Journal web log, comprehensive news media links, a rhetoric textbook, a primer of critical techniques, and information for citizens. The character of Rhetorica represents the purposes and canons of classical rhetoric. --Andrew R. Cline, Ph.D.

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Coming soon - this Thursday

Listen to this short Nov. 19 interview of Damien Gillis on SFU radio's Latin Waves program, hosted by Sylvia Richardson. The two discuss this week's Rafe Mair 80th birthday roast, Rafe's career in politics, media and the environmental movement - plus other key issues in BC today, including the battles over Fish Lake and oil pipelines and tankers. The proceeds from the Rafe Mair Roast - this Thursday evening, November 24, at the Wise Hall in Vancouver (1882 Adanac St.) - go to The Common Sense Canadian.

I hope to meet a few Northern Insights readers at Thursday's event.

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Moving forward by ignoring errors

Glenn Greenwald,
"The UC-Davis Chancellor responsible for the pepper-spraying of her students, Linda Katehi, today went on Good Morning America and explained why she should not resign or otherwise be held accountable: “we really need to start the healing process and move forward.” On a radio program in the afternoon, she expanded on this view by saying: “We need to move on.”

So apparently — yet again — the only way everyone can begin to “heal” and “move forward” is if everyone agrees that those in power with the greatest responsibility be fully shielded from any consequences and that their bad acts be simply forgotten. I wonder where she learned that justifying rationale?..."
Continue reading
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Costly $ilence, highest BCR operating losses ever

This partially updates a 2009 Northern Insights article, Patronage applied Liberally.

Silence in the BC Rail affair has been a costly purchase for the people of British Columbia as the BC Liberal Gravy Train rumbles through obscure and remote locations, boarding a few special travelers.

Despite disposition of its main operating assets in 2003, executive compensation since then at the near defunct British Columbia Railway Company, should cause public outrage. The Times Colonist noted in 2008 that management remuneration was astounding because this company employed only 30 full time equivalents to "run a railway that's a piddling 39 kilometres long."

Despite the criticisms, BC Liberals have been willing to use public money to reward people doing them favours. Kevin Mahoney, John Lusney, Linda Shute (replaced by Kevin Steinberig in 2009) and Gordon Westlake were the senior officers of BC Rail in recent years. In 2009, they burned through $38 million in operating expenses despite having almost no operations beyond receiving rents on long term leases and selling lands.

Ironically, BC Rail has suffered more operating losses since the railway was sold in 2003 than it did in the years preceding its sale. The four senior officers have taken total remuneration in the last four years of
2007:      $ 1,244,799
2008:      $ 1,209,167
2009:      $ 1,059,285
2010:      $ 1,234,546
Kevin Mahoney was terminated March 31, 2010 and paid $392,333 severance and $11,899 unused vacation. John Lusney was also terminated March 31, 2010 and paid $203,033 severance and $23,355 unused vacation. SOURCE

Many of us in alternative media complain about extravagant amounts paid BC Ferries senior executives but at least those folks have a business to run. Most of the millions tossed to the winds at BC Rail are simply buying silence about the fraudulent sale of railway assets in 2003 and facilitating the quiet giveaway of BCR's once valuable landbank. In my view, this latter theft is the most egregious part of the entire railway fraud.

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Deeply corrosive changes

Call to end ‘corrosive’ top pay deals, Brian Groom, Business and Employment Editor, Financial Times, November 21, 2011

Executive pay should be radically simplified to halt spiralling awards that are “corrosive” to the economy and threaten to create the type of inequalities last seen in the Victorian era, the High Pay Commission has said after a year-long inquiry...

“There’s a crisis at the top of British business and it is deeply corrosive to our economy,” said Deborah Hargreaves, chair of the commission...

“When pay for senior executives is set behind closed doors, does not reflect company success and is fuelling massive inequality it represents a deep malaise at the very top of our society,” she added.

John Varley, Barclays’ top executive in 2010, earned ...169 times the earnings of an average British worker, whereas in 1980 Barclays’ top pay was just 13 times the average. Total earnings of the bank’s chief were 4,899 per cent higher than 30 years ago.

At BP, the boss earned 63 times the company’s average, while the 1980 multiple was 16.5.
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Voters trounce P3 proposal

One interesting result from Saturday's municipal elections was Abbotsford voters' indisputable rejection of water supply privatization. New mayor Bruce Banman, an opponent of water delivery through a proposed P3, believes the single most important message was that citizens wanted,
"a more open, transparent government and more public involvement in important issues."
Public private partnerships universally reduce transparency, public involvement and accountability. In BC, the Liberal government shields significant projects - hospitals, bridges, highways, etc. - from complete disclosure because providing information to the public would "undermine the private company's competitive position."

Given the BC Liberal track record, we can assume that complete transparency would reveal benefits for political insiders and hidden costs such as the secret "shadow tolls" on the highway to Whistler.

Public private partnerships serve the aims of ruling politicians and their financial supporters, not the interests of the public. Just as home ownership is better than renting over the long term, public ownership of fundamental utilities is the lowest cost option. That Canadians believe ownership is preferred to renting forever is demonstrated by a recent poll:
"...the quarterly RBC poll shows that nearly 80% of Canadian homeowners 54 and younger expect to be mortgage-free by the age of 65, while younger Canadians - those under 34 - have the most aggressive views on when they will be mortgage-free. More than one-quarter believe they will have paid off their homes by the age of 45 and 12% believe they will have done so by the age of 35."
Outgoing Abbotsford mayor George Peary said,
"Certainly I was the champion of the P3 water project, and it went down dramatically. It was worse than I thought it would be quite frankly. It was repudiated big time by the public..."
Proponents of the P3 were selling it as a lower cost solution because the federal government was prepared to contribute $65.7 million to the project.

Citizens apparently saw through the idiocy of a plan whereby taxpayers subsidize a private profit-making company to give it advantage over a non-profit public enterprise. Also, a plan that had Abbotsford taxpayers spending hundreds of thousands to promote the P3 as preferred but relied on false and incomplete claims, disclosed no evidence of P3 advantages and ignored case histories around the world that demonstrate privatized water results in significantly higher user cost.

The only real argument that proponents of the P3 could mount came from willingness of the Government of Canada to contribute up to $65.7 million towards the Stave Lake Water Project. However, the purposes of the federal grant were claimed to be:
  • "to support important infrastructure projects that meet the needs of Canadian communities like Abbotsford,”
  • "...deliver a long-term solution for the City’s water supply..."
  • "... produce economic benefits and deliver greater value for taxpayers.”
  • "...the federal government is providing critical support for future economic prosperity,”
Since all of those reasons remain valid, no doubt Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Member of Parliament for Abbotsford, will ensure the $65.7 million remains available to the City of Abbotsford.

To do otherwise would lead citizens to conclude that the P3 Canada Fund is merely a multi-billion dollar gift from taxpayers to "free enterprise" business owners who might also be financial supporters of the Harper Government.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupiers hold NYC park by force

NYPD Occupying Liberty Square; Demands Unclear
"New York, NY — The NYPD have been occupying Liberty Square since 1:00am Tuesday morning, with the brand new occupation now set to enter its second day in just a few short hours. But will anyone listen to them when their message is so incoherent?

"What are their demands?" asked social historian Patrick Bruner. "They have not articulated any platform. How do they expect to be taken seriously?..."

Glenn Greenwald, The roots of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying,
"The now-viral video of police officers in their Robocop costumes sadistically pepper-spraying peaceful, sitting protesters at UC-Davis (details here) shows a police state in its pure form. It’s easy to be outraged by this incident as though it’s some sort of shocking aberration, but that is exactly what it is not..."

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Would law apply to all violent rioters?

News Item:
"OTTAWA - It could soon be illegal for rioters to hide behind masks.

"A proposed law would allow cops to arrest those participating in an unlawful gathering or a riot if they cover their faces with bandannas and balaclavas.

"This is exactly the kind of thing we need to see, this kind of law will create a deterrence effect," said Blake Richards, the Conservative backbencher who drafted the bill.

"He said police support a change to the Criminal Code."
Would rioters like these darkly clad gentlemen at UC Davis and in Seattle be subject to a law banning face masks?

First amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Section 2 from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
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Duelling developers fuel city election

As the NPA goes negative, Vision and COPE get help from NDP big shots, Charlie Smith,
"...the NPA launched its "Take Back Vancouver" campaign, which features a bunch of negative videos about Mayor Gregor Robertson. The tagline features this inexplicable line: "Play time is over. Take back Vancouver."

"...I have a question for the NPA: take back Vancouver from whom? Businessmen like Peter Wall and Ian Gillespie? So it can be given to another businessman named Rob Macdonald?

"Of course, this wouldn't be a story if the provincial government ever decided to impose spending limits on municipal-election campaigns. They already exist in provincial and federal elections, but in the banana republic known as British Columbia, they don't apply at the local level..."
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