Monday, October 31, 2011

Boooooo

Great neighbourhoods are that because of great neighbours. We've shared one small corner of the world for 35 years or so with families who really are particularly fine. Each year, Halloween becomes a special time, led by one family's unique showpiece, ending tonight with kids of all ages enjoying fireworks.










2009 Planet K Halloween Fireworks Show
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

One person's voice echoes widely


Alexandra Morton has been nominated at The Tyee for The People's Order of BC and you are eligible to vote. These words — familiar ones to readers of Northern Insights — explain the nomination:
"Alexandra Morton has for many years sustained a selfless but articulate struggle against governments, industry and other financial beneficiaries of questionable ocean science. Her recent focus has been on fish farming techniques but she began living in isolation on the B.C. coast more than 30 years ago to study the marine environment of Orca whales. Her views have consistently called for preservation of natural ecology and application of the precautionary principle favouring preservation of natural order.

"She is a scientist, an author, an activist and, perhaps most importantly, a symbol of an individual's ability to peacefully confront larger and more powerful forces over issues of conscience. For most people, the combined strength of opponents would have been overwhelming but Morton has atypical perseverance and courage. She has added to the base of ocean science knowledge but she has mobilized countless ordinary citizens, including those not involved in scientific exploration, to take notice of threats to the Pacific environment. Citizen involvement may have moderated human sourced jeopardy but the marine environment remains at risk. Morton's actions are needed more than ever today."
Friday, the New York Times echoed what Morton has been saying, Virus in Pacific Salmon Raises Worries About Industry
"...Such a virus could have a deep impact on the survival of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Some scientists have suggested that the virus had spread from British Columbia’s aquaculture industry, which has imported millions of Atlantic salmon eggs over the last 25 years..."
Alexandra Morton has been sounding warnings for years, trying to be heard over the fish farmers' well funded PR reps and furtive trolls (some are both, are they not, Vivian Krause.) Worst of all, government officials — ones charged with protecting the oceans — ignore science and obvious resource degradation to further the patterns of destruction caused by a foreign industry with no loyalty to Canada or concern for the next generation of Canadians.

On one side, applying both science and common sense, stands Alexandra Morton and a groups of unfunded citizen environmentalists. On the other side are the legions of lawyers, flacks, astroturfers and trolls funded with millions from fish farms, aided by unethical journalists, ministry officials and politicians who sell their souls to the highest bidder. Morton says much the same thing, with more politeness and probably greater clarity:
"Salmon farms break the natural laws and viruses, bacteria and parasites are the beneficiaries of this behaviour. If you move diseases across the world and brew them among local pathogens, in an environment where predators are not allowed to remove the sick - you get pestilence. There is no other outcome.

"The reason I can see this, and where we are headed is not because I am particularly bright, it is because I have taken great care not to allow myself to become dependent on anyone's money. I am not climbing any social ladder. I don't want to be a politician, academic, or CEO of a "save the environment" company. I just want to be able to live between Kingcome and Knight Inlet and not watch it die."
Take the time to visit The Tyee at the link shown above. Our government would rather award the official Order of BC to a slum lord, a quadruple dipping lobbyist who thumbed his nose at BC laws or a Premier who lost respect for truth and took on deceit as a constant companion. This can be the authentic recognition of someone who did right because it was the right thing to do, not because it paid well.
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It is class warfare...

begun [by] the financial overlords who control all of the major levers of power in what passes for our democracy.

... three decades of rampant upper-crust greed ... will be well marked by future historians recording the death of the American dream. In that decisive historical period the middle class began to evaporate and the nation’s income gap increased to alarming proportions.

...The [income] share of financial professionals almost doubled from 1979 to 2005 and that “employees in the financial and legal professions made up a larger share of the highest earners than people in those other groups.”

...The [Congressional Budget Office] report also denies the charge that taxes on the wealthy have placed an undue burden on the economy, documenting that federal revenue sources have become more regressive and that the tax burden on the wealthy has declined since 1979.

...Maybe justice will prevail despite the suffering that the 1 percent has inflicted on the foreclosed and the jobless. But to date those who have seized 40 percent of the nation’s wealth still control the big guns in this war of classes.

Read more Robert Scheer, Thirty Years of Unleashed Greed, Truthdig

Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, can be heard on the political radio program “Left, Right and Center” on KCRW, National Public Radio affiliate. He is currently a clinical professor of communications at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Recommended by Robert Scheer: Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Vanity Fair, May 2011

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Liberals reward immorality

Without ethical foundations, leadership in government is merely random wandering among near infinite possibilities. A whim of yesterday had value then but none today. No one knows what will be expedient tomorrow.

I wrote earlier a belief that Gordon Campbell entered politics with a developed set of principles but exchanged those to satisfy greed and lust for power. Christy Clark on the other hand never paused long enough to develop or even think about canons of ethical behaviour. While contemporaries were learning powers of rational thought, Clark was considering if style should be guided by Lady Diana or Madonna.

Clark may be the essential Liberal, an attractive and glib person who might be elected but will never achieve a program of value, or one noted in time. She has no framework of principles nor interest in ethical governance. She will dance to the music selected by masters like Gwyn Morgan and Patrick Kinsella.

If Clark were principled, she would be outraged by the case of Dr. Douglas Sweeney, British Columbia's former Chief Inspector of Mines. She would remove from public service those who managed the Boss Power affair with illegitimate purpose, particularly the government executives who took or condoned actions aimed at ruining Dr. Sweeney. He was a man of the highest qualifications and impeccable reputation. I found these announcements at UBC's Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering.

In the News, December 8, 2006
"Mr. Douglas E Sweeney, a PhD student in the department, is the winner of this year's Lieutenant Governor's Award for Innovations in Public Safety, based on his mining safety PhD research.

"Doug is an experienced professional in risk management and occupational health and safety in heavy industry. He has practiced health and safety for 29 years in a variety of capacities including heavy oil, conventional oil and gas, steel production, nickel mining and diamond exploration. He has also served with the Alberta Government as a petroleum engineer, inspector of mines, chief investigator and manager of safety. He is currently the Manager of Occupational Health and Safety for Thompson Rivers University located in Kamloops, British Columbia."
NBK PhD Student Appointed as BC Chief Inspector of Mines, May 4, 2007
"Effective June 1, 2007 Dr. Malcolm Scoble's PhD student Doug Sweeney will become the new BC Chief Inspector of Mines, accountable for the development, implementation, administration and enforcement of province-wide legislation, regulations and programs.

"The position directs specialists and field inspectors, who review, approve and permit mining activity, set and enforce standards, encourage safe and environmentally sound mining practices and ensure compliance with the Mines Act and the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in BC. The Chief Inspector and staff ensure compliance through inspection, ordering remedial action, mine closure, or, if necessary, prosecution for failure to comply...

"I thank all those who have supported me and have been so generous with their kind words and encouragement. I consider the office of the Chief Inspector of Mines to be an institution in BC; an institution that I have long respected and aspired to."
Dr. Sweeney lost his senior mining position and believes he was permanently damaged by the Boss Power affair. That cannot be said for the wrongdoers. Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Richard Neufeld became Senator Richard Neufeld in 2009, earning a basic salary of $132,000 with almost no responsibilities. He can carry on a separate career and sit (or not) in the Senate until age 75 and retire with a number of fully-indexed pensions, not means tested.

Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Greg Reimer was rewarded with the post of Executive Vice President at BC Hydro where he earns $234,000 a year, plus "executive variable pay" (bonuses), expense allowances and the supplemental BC Hydro Executive Pension Plan that provides special provisions including the right to purchase additional pension service despite Reimer already having had full pensionable service. Joining BC Hydro two months into fiscal 2011, Reimer was also paid $84,000 that year as Deputy Minister of Mines. He too will eventually retire with a number of lucrative pensions for his public service.

Assistant Deputy Minister of Mines John Cavanagh is still employed as an ADM in Mining and Minerals. He was paid $182,000 in salaries and expenses in fiscal 2011. Hard times, by comparison with his more senior former associates but a comfortable sinecure nevertheless.

Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger was junior mines minister during the Boss Power event but his role was probably only as observer. Krueger has always been a recipient of management memos, not an originator.

In the end, transgressors in the mining department scandal carry on without penalties. Instead, they pocket indulgent rewards and the public pays millions, without even the moral satisfaction to which Dr. Sweeney is entitled.

I hazard a guess that at least he finds the eventual outcome satisfying on one level, the one described by Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra:
"If I lose mine honor, I lose myself."
Dr. Sweeney, unlike former colleagues, kept his honour.
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Shocking RCMP performance

Documents on tortured Canadian Almalki say he posed no terrorist threat, Andrew Duffy, Postmedia News, October 25, 2011
OTTAWA — Ottawa engineer Abdullah Almalki says new documents show the RCMP's assessment of his terrorist threat was both wholly unfounded and clouded by racism.

Almalki, a Carleton University graduate and father of six, spent 22 months in Syrian custody after his arrest on May 3, 2002.

He was arrested by Syrian authorities at the Damascus airport while on a family visit, then questioned based on faulty Canadian intelligence and tortured.

Almalki on Tuesday released explosive new documents obtained under federal Access to Information legislation, which reveal that RCMP investigators had found nothing against him both before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In an RCMP memo, dated Oct. 4, 2001, an investigator concludes: "O Div. (Ontario Division) task force are presently finding it difficult to establish anything on him other than the fact he is an arab running around."

Despite that internal finding, the RCMP, in a letter to the Syrian intelligence agency, labelled Almalki "an imminent threat" to Canada's national security and linked him to al-Qaida...
Continue reading


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The smoking gun is visible

If the linked article had been written by almost any other journalist in the province, one might wonder if it involved exaggerated criticism of a disrespected government. But, since the author is Paul Willcocks, one BC's most astute and ethical newspaper writers, the piece is a certain revelation of corrupt politics. The smoking gun is present:
"The provincial government's $30million payout to Boss Power Corp. stinks.

"Taxpayers are paying compensation to the company because the government bungled its ban on uranium mining.

"The last-minute settlement suggests the government paid a premium so damaging evidence wouldn't be heard in court...

"...deputy minister Greg Reimer, and assistant deputy minister John Cavanagh ordered [chief inspector of mines Doug] Sweeney to ignore the application. They had asked the Attorney General's Ministry for an opinion on whether it was legal.

"It wasn't, they were told, according to the government's admissions in the legal case.

"Then they repeated the order that Sweeney not fulfill his statutory duty. Sweeney had legal and ethical concerns. He was relieved of his responsibilities for the file, and the marching orders went to more compliant officials.
Read the full article at Cover-up feared as taxpayers pay $30M to mining company

By the way, Boss Power Corp is also entitled to recover legal costs and disbursements. The final bill will be millions higher than the settlement revealed.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Isolation in the midst of a crowd

Campbell and David McLean
The bubble of power mentioned in the preceding story suffocated Gordon Campbell. Gradually, he became isolated, surrounded chiefly by people desperate to please. Track his administration from 2001; it began with worthy objectives and civil servants initially hired by the Liberals were carefully vetted for capabilities.

Yes, there were favours and benefits owed to important backers at the beginning. BC Rail, for example, was to be delivered to David McLean of CNR, regardless of prior public statements. However, Campbell's broad initial objectives were largely worthwhile and in accordance with the clear and concise guiding principles his party published.

Slowly, the man altered. The circle of insiders grew larger but tightened. Rewards for loyal team members became paramount and wealth allowed them rose extravagantly. Policies were shaped for the advantage of a favoured few. Campbell's circle tolerated little dissent from the "official view" and talking points issued at the centre became the only acceptable messages, even for lowly ministry staff.

Eventually, the leadership group's isolation and arrogance became too much to ignore inside the BC Liberal Party. HST was merely a symptom of the developed disease. It was contrary to established policy, a path chosen without consultation or prior notice. The extent of public assets being distributed without value to future generations shocked Liberal MLAs as did the degrading of their status as voters' representatives. The boss expected elected members to mirror the same talking points given to all; original thought was hindered, made unwelcome. Buffoons were exalted, thoughtful contributors dismissed.

The circle of political destruction is inevitable when power collocates and isolation of leadership hardens. The Soviet politburo has been the comic book representation of this state but the behaviour arises from human nature. It is not a Eurasian peculiarity. One example is that, under British Columbia Liberals, the Legislature has averaged only 55 days in session each year.

Short sittings and the absence of an effective committee system in Victoria results in a paucity of meaningful work for government backbenchers. Despite 6-figure salaries and generous pension benefits (the government contribution exceeds 36%), some members of the legislature continue their regular careers. These people are public resources wasted.

Were the status of MLAs to be elevated and their duties enlarged, the public would receive more effective oversight of government activity and a better balance between partisan and consensual activities. We already pay for that kind of attention, we must demand it be delivered.

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We don't see what we most need to notice

Take note America: the public is angry, Moisés Naím, Financial Times, October 26, 2011
"Over a century ago Alexis De Tocqueville wrote that Americans’ higher tolerance for inequality relative to Europe’s was the result of more social mobility in the US.

"This is over; at least for now. The long, peaceful coexistence with income and wealth inequality is ending. Americans are now infuriated by the fact that chief executives at some of the nation’s largest companies earned around 340 times more than a typical American worker..."
Continue reading

Wilful blindness - why we ignore the obvious at our peril, Margaret Heffernan, New Statesman, August 8, 2011
"...If there is knowledge that you could have had and should have had but chose not to have, you are still responsible.

"...The narratives nearly always follow the same trajectory: years of abuse involving a large number of participants, plenty of warning signs, and, when the problem finally explodes, howls of pain - how could we have been so blind?

"Chief among culprits is power. When Richard Fuld was chief executive of Lehman Brothers, he perfected the seamless commute: a limo drove him to a helicopter, which flew him to Manhattan, where another limo whisked him to the bank's offices. Front and lift doors were timed so that Fuld could ascend to his office without encountering a single employee. Most leaders of organisations inhabit a bubble of power, of which Fuld's commute is a magnificent physical representation. They are isolated, or surrounded by those desperate to please.

"...F A Hayek wrote that "without a theory, the facts are silent" - but with a theory or ideology, inconvenient facts can become invisible..."
Continue reading
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BC Ferries costly but not innovative

I have been reviewing amounts paid senior officers of  BC Ferry Services Inc. and also the amounts paid to directors. In 2009, the Comptroller General of British Columbia reviewed governance of the organization and made strong observations. The response of BCFS leaders was a collective thumb in the eye of British Columbians. In 2010, not only was the grab for cash by senior executives higher, so was the take of directors:
"BCFS executive compensation was significantly higher than that paid by several larger public sector entities. For example, the Chief Executive Officer‟s (CEO) total 2008/09 compensation was more than double that of the larger public sector comparators. We also found that the performance measures and targets used to determine the incentive bonuses for executives made the bonuses easier to attain than we would have expected.

"The BCFS Board Directors' remuneration was also higher than public sector organizations we compared against, and the retainer fee portion, which was most of the remuneration, was three to five times higher than permitted under a Treasury Board (TB) directive...

"Our concerns regarding BCFS‟ compensation are compounded by the fact the BCFS Board sets its own compensation and approves the executive compensation without accountability..."
David Hahn received supplemental pension benefits that cost BCFS $450,000 each year, in addition to the approximately $1 million a year of other earnings. (The chief of Washington State Ferries earns $148,000 a year, one tenth Hahn's level.) Totals shown below include that extra pension cost. The generosity with public funds did not stop with Hahn, the directors were rewarding themselves handsomely too, for rather little work and almost no responsibility.



Despite being the most expensively managed ferry operation in the world, BC Ferry Services has been anything but the most innovative, except for the ground breaking payments to those who should have been exercising fiduciary responsibility. Former Chair Elizabeth Harrison in particular ought to be returning a pile of money for her oversight failures.

Washington State Ferries recently initiated an examination of powering existing and future large vessels with natural gas. Norwegian operator Fjord1 is already the world's largest user of natural gas powered ferries and is building a 242-car gas-electric system ship with a service speed of 20 knots. Payback on the system compared to conventional diesel is a short few years but the major advantage is clean and reliable operations.

BCFS has had a preference for doing its capital spending overseas but the company should already be working with one of the world's leaders in natural gas engine technology, here in this province. Westport Innovations has existing capabilities along with related technical contacts throughout the world. With British Columbia's abundant natural gas, it is a serious error for BC Ferry Services to have pioneered no work in this field.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Patience saves a life

We are critical when violent situations involving police end badly so its appropriate to applaud an opposite outcome, when the public is protected and the threat is taken down without serious injury.

Today on Commercial Drive, Vancouver City Police faced an unstable person threatening pedestrians with a large knife. The woman did not respond to voice commands or taser use but was eventually disarmed with less-lethal baton rounds, then taken to hospital.

To the brave officers of the VPD: job well done.



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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Another poll in need of a dog

Global BC reports a poll has Mayor Gregor Robinson ahead of NPA candidate Suzanne Anton by a margin of 2 to 1. The broadcaster's analysis is that Robinson is in trouble because "Vancouver could be headed for a divided council."

Is that a logical conclusion or a product of Global TV's wishful thinking? We consider their report along with the full Justason Market Intelligence survey, provided by Frances Bula at The Globe and Mail.

Global says, for example,
"...a new public opinion poll shows the City 'could' be headed for a divided council."
Yes, and the City 'could' be headed for quiet times during bar closing hours on Granville Street. Note Global's quotation marks surrounding the word 'could'; the punctuation probably indicates irony understood by the segment's writer.
"... the poll says Mayor Gregor Robertson is still on the right track for re-election. But the news might not be as good for his vision Vancouver councillors."
It might not be as good for Vision but there is nothing here suggesting that progressive voices will be quieted in the coming election. The only centre-right party in Vancouver civic politics is in decline, according to Justason.  The party of business, the NPA, dropped from 32% to 29% during the last three months, a time of aggressive NPA advertising. Strangely, Justason pegs the Greens at 19% although they were unmeasured throughout the preceding year. Since Adriane Carr, unsuccessful candidate in numerous federal, provincial and municipal elections since 1983, is the only Green candidate for City Council, it is disingenuous to call Greens a threat to the ruling civic party.

To be honest, there is little reason for the Justason poll to be reported as meaningful research. The organization identifies itself as an affiliate of the Vancouver Board of Trade so that raises immediate questions of partiality toward the Board of Trade's favoured NPA. Justason, like the NPA site City Caucus, has released a stream of claims of how Robertson, despite good polling numbers, is in trouble, either because of homelessness, Stanley Cup riots, the Olympic Village, failure to include Greens in his coalition,  or an excessively damp spring.

We have higher expectations of Global TV because they owe duties as journalists. Instead, they are unprofessional, engaged in incompetent news reporting. Here, a poor quality story omits important detail such as that shown in this press April 28, 2011 press release:
"COPE and Vision Vancouver Reach Agreement

"The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) and Vision Vancouver have reached an agreement in principle to once again cooperate on election efforts and run a common slate of candidates...”
The Justason poll, even if it were reliable, shows no risk is faced by the Vision/Cope coalition. The prospect of a "divided council" is a fabrication. The Justason research suggests instead that Vancouver voters are generally quite pleased about the activities of civic government:


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Taxpayers enable home movies on the big screen

Drifting across Movie Channel tonight, I noticed "Grown Up Movie Star" a 2009 title offering this one sentence lure:
"A 13-year-old gives in to sexual temptation after her mother abandons the family."
I don't know about you, but the descriptor gave me instant knowledge this was a Canadian film. I sought a little more information in Variety:
"Girl gone wild" describes the young, nubile and overly provoked Ruby, who, in debut helmer Adriana Maggs' "Grown Up Movie Star," faces enough crises to come of age a dozen times... "
Before anyone worries about a tender juvenile, I should point out the actress playing 13-year-old Ruby was almost 25, a fact that fits easily into TV's dreamworld where high schools are loaded with aged 30-something students.

Grown Up Movie Star played as one of 58 movies two years ago at the Sundance Film Festival. It made a few other appearances on big screens although not enough to hit the radar of Box Office Mojo, the industry's primary tracker of box office revenue. Having exhausted its minuscule market, the film now creeps onto Canadian pay-tv. Somehow I'm thinking a film about a sexy teen and her gay dad was never likely to play in about 97% of the USA.

I'm not at all troubled by the film's content. What does trouble me is the piles of money thrown at this and so many other Canadian film productions. GUMS for example grabbed about $400,000 from the Government of Newfoundland, which spent tens of thousand more promoting the movie from its annual filmmaking promotion fund of about $3-million. Federal government agency Telefilm Canada threw in hundreds of thousands (the information is not readily available) and the Government of Canada Film Production Tax Credit added most of the remaining cash used to make and market this movie.

Looking at the Telefilm Canada financials — who said Conservatives care about fiscal efficiency? — they report with pride that feature film funding reached $100-million in 2009-10, although recoveries dropped slightly to $8.5 million. In other words, they write off 93-cents of each dollar put into feature films. Along with other "investments" and operating costs, taxpayers are left with a net bill for $126-million, which is at least an improvement on the free-spending Liberals who were in the habit of dropping $200-million or more through Telefilm each year, much of it in Quebec.

Select people in British Columbia are beneficiaries of movie production but the public treasury pays substantial subsidies to bring in the work.  It is not a coincidence that David McLean and the McLean Group are major players gaining from BC Liberal film subsidies. Value of the industry figures reported are regularly dishonest. Actual sums spent here by filmmakers are far less than claimed by industry and government officials who add total project budgets, not the production amounts actually spent in BC.

The sad reality is that the business class of this province and this country cares nothing about film as art and culture. As always, it's all about moving money into the right pockets.


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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Will Hahnless BCF now build major ships here?

British Columbia's shipbuilding industry is happy today, gearing up to work on an $8-billion piece of the largest marine construction program in Canadian history. The federal government takes pride in what they claim has been a painstakingly fair, non-political, capability based process. A fairness consultant hired to monitor the process, said that, of 10 such projects reviewed during his career, this process,
 "was one of the best, if not the best."
In other words, Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards competed on a level playing field and proved itself capable of handling a contract 15 times the size of one David Hahn and BC Ferries sent to Germany in 2004 and 60 times larger than for the fourth German ship in 2009.

Today, Premier Christy Clark says,
"What this means is we will see thousands of jobs come to British Columbia ... thousands of high-paid jobs, people who are going to be able to support their kids, solid middle class jobs and I think it's so important,"
This also puts the lie to a claim by BC Ferries that it had good reasons to go overseas for construction of three Super-C vessels and the vessel Northern Explorer. The four German built ships were worth about $700-million dollars. BC Liberals refused to allow Vancouver Shipyards to participate in the final bidding process and a contract for the Super-C ferries was awarded to Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft mbH & Co. in September 2004. FSG was owned by EGON OLDENDORFF, a private German tramp shipowner that rescued FSG after a four-year bankruptcy. The company changed hands again in 2008.

Clearly, BC workers could have done the work but BC Ferries chose to create 5,000 jobs in Europe instead. They did this despite a proud record of successful ship construction and a powerful owner in the Washington Marine Group, the successful contractor in today's $8 billion award.

BC Ferries should have built its Super-C ships in British Columbia, updating the Spirit Class design created here in the nineties. These now teenage ships outperform the newer German ships in every important way, most particularly in fuel efficiency and capacity.

We as taxpayers are only left to wonder about the real reasons BC Ferries sent the better part of a billion dollars to a foreign builder, eliminating economic benefits that could have served the provincial economy. We know from escalating salaries and bonuses paid the Ferry Corporation's senior officials, that no one paid a price for this costly blunder.

That leaves me wondering if there were other factors at work: corruption as we've seen in BC Hydro's contracting, where benefits accruing to taxpayers were less important than the financial gains going into pockets of BC Liberal associates, the influence paddlers and insiders.

If Premier Clark wants more fine jobs for BC, she should pay attention to The Tyee where she might learn about other high paying jobs exported by provincial agencies who forget their obligations to citizens of the province. This is from Jobs Flow to Albertans Due to BC Hydro Deals Topping $1 Billion:
"BC Hydro, the publicly owned electricity utility, is spending $1 billion on transmission lines. But rather than hire B.C. companies to do the work, the bulk of it has been awarded to two Alberta companies. Those companies are themselves subsidiaries of Quanta Services, based in Texas."
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David Cobb flees scene of the crimes

"Every man has his fault,
and honesty is his."

- Shakespeare
Dear Customers,

As you may know, I have confirmed that I am stepping down as President and CEO of BC Hydro to accept a senior position with The Jim Pattison Group.

While I would welcome the opportunity to continue meeting the challenges and opportunities inherent in my role, I’ve been presented with an unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity with another iconic B.C. company that I simply could not pass up...

Read more:
This is a sad but inevitable development. Cobb is too bright and too capable to waste more time in the corrupt catch basin designed by Gordon Campbell's friends. Too bad for BC Liberals that Cobb is honest and refuses to paint more layers of lies to mask sad truths. Rich Coleman, eager puppy that he is, will play that role happily.

Numbers speak for themselves. According to Hydro's audited financial statement, in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2011, the minimum obligation to purchase energy rose to $42.976 billion, an increase of almost $26 billion in 12 months. Most corporate journalists ignore this situation; resulting in the single largest piece of evidence of media corruption.

Pass the bull (horn) please is one of the most read pieces at Northern Insights. It demonstrates the role of Victoria's press gallery dean in organized misdirection so the real state of BC Hydro is ignored.
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Redistributing wealth to pals and insiders

Private Power by the Numbers: Hugely Overpriced IPP's Mean Soaring Hydro Bills
Gwen Johansson, The Common Sense Canadian, Originally published in the Alaska Highway News
"...Besides having to acquire more electricity than needed, Hydro is also required to buy that electricity from private independent power producers (IPP’s) operating in BC. Hydro could buy it cheaper on the open market both now and in the foreseeable future.

"Purchases are classified as non-firm, meaning electricity that isn’t available all the time such as wind or run-of-river; and firm, meaning electricity that’s always available.

"Bids from IPP’s to supply electricity to BC Hydro recently came in at an average of $100 per megawatt hour for non-firm and $124 for firm. Recent spot market prices ranged from a low of $4.34 for non-firm to a high of $52.43 for firm. Firm power with delivery in 2012 was recently listed at $27-35 on the Pacific Northwest wholesale market. The further into the future you go, the less reliable the price predictions. Keeping that in mind, the 2030 price is suggested to be in the range of $81-85 per megawatt hour. So relying on the best information available, it seems BC Hydro is being forced to pay artificially high prices for electricity.

"Buying high and selling low doesn’t work for long. So who will pick up the shortfall between what Hydro is paying and what it can sell the electricity for?

"Well, that would be you, BC Hydro customers..."
Continue reading.


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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Virtue in short supply

ETHICS:
A matter of daily practical concern described glowingly in universal terms by those who intend to ignore them.
- John Ralston Saul

From West Coast Environmental Law, 11 October, 2011
In a recent post we explained that Taseko’s “New Prosperity” mine may be “new” in name only; however, while the mine project may not be new, the companies involved do have at least one “new” employee. Jason T. Quigley is now the Executive Vice President of Regulatory and Stakeholder Affairs of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s parent company, Hunter Dickinson Inc. (HDI). His job description includes providing “regulatory and Corporate Social Responsibility expertise in support of HDI interests.”

Until recently, Quigley was employed as the Regional Director for the Pacific and Yukon Regional Office of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), and for at least some of the that time CEAA was involved in the environmental assessment of the original Prosperity mine proposal.

... we cannot help but express concern about the appearance of a conflict of interest: a person who very recently worked for DFO and CEAA, and was responsible for regulating Taseko, now works for the parent company of Taseko, while Taseko is attempting to obtain authorizations from DFO (and other departments), and a favourable environmental assessment decision from CEAA in relation to New Prosperity.

According to Canada’s Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service:
Without unduly restricting their ability to seek other employment, former public servants should undertake to minimize the possibility of real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest between their new employment and their most recent responsibilities within the federal public service….
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Online journalists saved the bacon

Gordon Campbell and PavCo's David Podmore made an announcement in March 2010:
"Downtown Vancouver is getting a new $450-million casino and hotel complex to anchor its new "entertainment epicentre," B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell confirmed on Friday morning.

"Campbell made the announcement with David Podmore, the chair of the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, at a news conference at the proposed site for the complex — a parking lot between BC Place and the end of the Cambie Street Bridge.

"The casino... will also include two major hotels, five restaurants, and more than 100,000 square feet of gambling facilities, said Campbell, who called the project a catalyst for development of the area."
BC Business, cheerleader for a giant casino at BC Place had this to say in October 2010:
"Paragon’s Vancouver play is one more step in the expansion of the B.C. gambling industry, which may soon pour more money into provincial coffers than all corporate income taxes combined. Gambling – or gaming, to use the industry euphemism – is a lucrative business."
It was not mainstream media that provided probing analyses of the Paragon/PavCo partnership. They were egaged supporters while non-traditional media, bloggers and sites such as Vancouver Not Vegas, gave the project a rough ride. Today, we can be glad the casino/hotel project went away; it would have been another serious drain on provincial funds, probably double the $450 million Paragon talked about early on.

At Northern Insights in March 2011, readers got Gaming the taxpayers with more ersatz capitalism:
"There is double counting of benefits because they report expected revenue generation of the new facility without deducting revenues of the facilities it would replace.

"Paragon Gaming Inc. will count on its relationship with provincially owned PavCo to help bankroll its proposed $450-million Vancouver casino, says Paragon president Scott Menke.

..."No doubt PavCo will provide sufficient funds if Paragon cannot. Apparently, what this connected company does have in abundance is major influence with the BC Liberal Government and PavCo. Should we wonder why this generosity was not provided to a Vancouver company? No, we don't have to wonder. RossK explained it at The Gazeteer.
BC Business wanted us to believe gaming would pour money into provincial coffers but experience elsewhere suggests that Paragon's project would have been relying mightily on the public purse. That may explain why Paragon got T. Richard Turner involved; they needed more juice with the Liberal government.

The Guardian provides an interesting recap of what is happening in Las Vegas. In addition to being America's gambling capital it is America's foreclosure capital: Las Vegas hotels: hard times hit famous names
"Eyesores, faded legends, celebrity hangouts - the lowdown on Vegas's most famous hotels.

"A drive north along Las Vegas Boulevard soon shows how hard the city was hit by the recession..."
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Monday, October 17, 2011

Street protests ignored

The one-percenters and their agents in government remain deaf.

As rage at Wall Street rises, its moneymen shower cash on candidates, David Goldstein, McClatchy, October 17, 2011:
"WASHINGTON — Even as protests over its political influence grow louder, Wall Street is one of the leading sources of money so far in the 2012 race for the White House.

"Not surprisingly, the biggest beneficiary has been Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign-finance watchdog group.

"A former chief executive of a successful private investment firm, Romney has attracted $7.5 million from the financial community, the center found. That’s nearly twice as much as President Barack Obama has received from it, and almost a quarter of the $32 million that Romney’s campaign has taken in overall.

“Romney brings with him a lot of connections in the business world and Wall Street community and those connections are paying dividends as he runs for president,” said Michael Beckel, a spokesman for the center. “We noticed that, so far, the biggest financial institutions have all preferred Mitt Romney.”

"Indeed, the former Massachusetts governor is the top recipient of campaign cash from employees of the five biggest Wall Street banks. Goldman Sachs gave the most — $352,200..."

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Outside noise and the jetsetter toff

No person should be surprised when Community Living British Columbia next puts its large insensitive foot into another sticky situation. Friday, after the CLBC tossed CEO Rick Mowles, Board Chair Denise Turner said about the firing,
"There's no connection at all between 'outside noise' and our decision."
Hope Taylor, mother of a CLBC client, took great offence to that characterization:
"CLBC is here to serve us, the families and the self-advocates. We are not outside noise."
Turner's statement demonstrates her lack of respect for the dignity of citizens served by CLBC. Then, what else should we expect from a super-rich socialite who spends more each month on Mr. Reg, her hair stylist, than some agency clients receive in benefits. CLBC is mostly a plaything while Turner pursues other business activities. One company she and T. Richard Turner share an interest in is TitanStar Properties Inc (formerly DPVC Inc.) According to its information, the corporation's aim is to create a portfolio of real estate assets in the United States and to:
"Use the combined contact base of the partners to purchase “stressed” assets from banks, private lenders and brokers prior to these assets being offered at auction or generally to the public."
T. Richard Turner, readers might recall, was the major BC Liberal donor involved with the Paragon Gaming proposal that was a fundamental part of early BC Liberal plans for a renovated BC Place. It too was one of those deals not "offered at auction or generally to the public." Political blogger Ian Reid gave the real story:
"It’s also a proposal that resembles BC Rail in more ways than you can count – a deal constructed in the backrooms that benefits a major Liberal Party funder using a process that appears to have been fixed from the get go."
Reid points out that Mr. Turner did not register as an appointee to the Lottery Corp. board as required and his interest in Paragon was kept secret for a year and a half after it was acquired:
"Between 2003 and 2005 T. Richard Turner held an undisclosed interest in Paragon Gaming’s Canadian Arm. Sometime in 2005 Paragon decided to make a bid for the financially troubled Edgewater Casino. As a casino operator, Edgewater would have been obligated to provide the Lottery Corporation with its financial information from it’s inception in 2004. Turner, as Corporation chair, would have had access to at least some of that information.

"It’s a classic material conflict of interest. In Ontario it’s illegal – Lottery Board appointees are specifically prohibited from such conflicts. In BC that pattern gets you appointed Chair of ICBC after you resign as Chair of BC Lottery Corporation in December 2005, a month after your company initiates its takeover of Vancouver’s major casino."
There is of course no logical reason for non-elected part-timer Denise Turner to be overseeing an important public function. CLBC exists to shield the Liberal government, adding layers to absorb blame before politicians and departmental managers feel the heat for service failures. It achieves a secondary purpose for the BC Liberal Party by allowing rewards to be channelled from public funds to loyal party supporters, many of whom return part as political contributions.

We've looked here at the extraordinary payments made to BC Ferries directors and the BC Hydro board has been a subject of discussion for similar reasons. Throughout this provincial government there are many agencies spreading cash to party supporters under various pretexts. The head spins.

Here is an example of the 2011 report of payments made to CLBC board members. You might note that payments are made for expenses, retainers and meetings.


These were salaries of the six highest paid CLBC executives in 2011:

Rick Mowles  $ 210,393
Ian Scott  $ 159,865
Carol Goozh  $ 156,826
D.R. Woolard  $ 155,311
  Richard Hunter     $ 153,947
Paul Sibley  $ 152,552



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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pull up some dust and sit down







This is a change of pace, i could not resist.



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Willing to help with the oil resource curse

Aljazeera, US troops to help Uganda fight rebels
"US President Barack Obama has announced he is deploying 100 "combat-equipped" troops to Uganda to help efforts against rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), who have been accused of grievous human rights abuses over the course of a decades-long insurgency.

"The US troops, subject to the approval of national authorities, could also deploy from Uganda into South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo, Obama said in a message to Congress."
McCain on sending troops to Africa: Be careful, CNN
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona on Sunday questioned the president’s recent order to send American troops to central Africa, saying the move could put the United States on a slippery slope.

“I worry about, with the best of intentions, that we somehow get engaged in a commitment that we can't get out of,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Uganda is a developing country with potentially transformational oil reserves. The World Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy for Uganda for the period 2011-2014 states:
“Oil production will change Uganda’s economic outlook, … Even at conservative prices, oil revenue will be considerable..."

About Uganda, Global Witness notes:
"If managed well, this money could lift Uganda from one of the world’s poorest countries to middle-income status. Unfortunately, the current governance trend-lines in Uganda are in decline – underscored by a number of high-level corruption scandals in recent years – and the desired good-governance foundations for the management of Uganda’s natural resource-base appear shaky."
Oil and peace in Sudan, The Guardian
"Huge money is at stake here. Government revenue from oil production in Sudan was $4.5bn between January and September 2010. Sharing oil revenue was key to the Comprenhensive Peace Agreement, which brought Sudan's long-running civil war to an end in 2005. Since then the north has transferred $10bn in revenue to the south, but this agreement is now coming to an end..."

Is African sourced oil going to be a vital interest of the USA? It already is. From the Atlantic Council
"The area is a major supplier of oil to the U.S. (approximately 18% of the oil and 14% of natural gas imported by U.S. annually comes from West Africa, mostly Nigeria). The Gulf of Guinea has larger offshore oil reserves than the Persian Gulf and U.S. reliance on this source of energy is expected to increase in the years ahead."

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Phony issues from self-interested fronts

Canadian Federation of Independent Business wants municipal politicians to take the CFIB Taxpayer Pledge, committing to three principles:

1. Property Tax Fairness:
"A commitment to narrow the current gap between commercial and residential property taxes..."
Under this proposal, McDonalds, Canadian Tire, Tim Hortons, White Spot, Esso and other companies would pay lower property taxes. You and I and Widow Smith and her six children would pay more. In reality, businesses pay more civic tax because they consume more, services such as roadways, traffic management and policing.
2. Spending Restraint:
"A commitment to keep operating spending increases reasonable i.e. no more than population + inflation or growth in disposable income..."
Everyone should want to see government exercise restraint and fiduciary caution. However, for the benefit of its members, CFIB is happy for local government to make capital expenditures, building roads, arenas, convention centres, daycares and recreational facilities. CFIB wants operating funds curtailed and without staff and operating budgets, these facilities cannot function.
3. Municipal Accountability:
"A commitment to support the creation of a Municipal Auditor General for BC communities ..."
A phony issue. Municipalities are already examined by independent auditors. Here for example is an excerpt from the City of Surrey Statement of Financial Information for the year ended December 31, 2010:
"The Audit Committee [Councillor Gill, Hunt and Steele] is responsible for ensuring that management fulfils its responsibilities for financial reporting and internal controls. The Audit Committee meets with management, the internal auditor and the external auditors as required.

"The external auditors, KPMG, conduct an independent examination, in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards, and express their opinion on the financial statements. ...Their examination includes a review and evaluation of the City’s system of internal controls and appropriate tests and procedures to provide reasonable assurance that the financial statements are presented fairly. The external auditors have full and fair access to the Audit Committee."
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One Ronnie, encore

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One Ronnie


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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Robert Reich readings

Robert Reich is an American political economist, professor, author, and political commentator. He served in the administrations of Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton.

Reich is currently Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He was formerly a professor at Harvard and a professor at Brandeis. He has been a contributing editor of The New Republic, The American Prospect, Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The Rise of the Regressive Right and the Reawakening of America
"A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward.

"We are going to battle once again.

"Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity, and tolerance. Progressives assume we’re all in it together: We all benefit from public investments in schools and health care and infrastructure. And we all do better with strong safety nets, reasonable constraints on Wall Street and big business, and a truly progressive tax system. Progressives worry when the rich and privileged become powerful enough to undermine democracy.

"Regressives take the opposite positions..."
The Seven Biggest Economic Lies
"...Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough, start being believed — unless they’re rebutted. These seven economic whoppers are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth – and spread it on."

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Screw us and we multiply

Susan Heyes says, "Best sign I saw today…..Thanks to Geoff Olson!"


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Double standards, professional courtesies

Drinking led to officer's merit badge being stripped, CBC, July 27, 2010
[In 2006, RCMP St. Warren] Gherasim and a fellow police officer, both off-duty at the time, were enjoying an evening of drinks at a golf club in the Cutknife [SK] area.

There was more drinking at a house, and then Gherasim decided to drive himself home.

On the way, he crashed and rolled his vehicle on a local road.

Gherasim suffered a concussion in the crash.

He was not charged but an internal review was done after he admitted he had been drinking on the night in question...

Mistrial declared over Mountie's undisclosed history, CBC, November 19, 2010
Gherasim had been sanctioned in 2006 for disgraceful conduct after rolling his vehicle while off-duty.

He admitted at an internal hearing that he had been drinking, but he was never charged...

A Supreme Court ruling in 2009 said that police must tell the Crown about any misconduct records which may have a bearing on a case.

Under disclosure rules, the Crown would then be required to disclose this information to the defence.

Before Usselman could be sentenced, Judge Marilyn Gray declared a mistrial.

Mountie wasn't charged following drunken brawl, Ottawa Citizen, October 13, 2011
RCMP Sgt. Warren Gherasim hopes [Feb 17, 2010 is] the last time he'll pay a $925 hotel bill only to wake up in a Calgary jail cell after an explosive hotel-room party with a man he met at the airport lounge.

. .."When placed in the police van, Sgt. Gherasim started to kick the roof of the police vehicle and yelled comments such as: "I'm a (expletive) sergeant in the RCMP. . I hope you like lawsuits. . I'll have all of your (expletive) jobs."

Finally, he dropped their police chief's name, saying "Rick Hanson will know my name."

Though he was arrested and jailed for public intoxication and breach of peace, Calgary Police did not charge the RCMP officer.

Gherasim remains the sergeant at the RCMP detachment in Warman, Sask.

A friend and I talked once about personality changes when people drink alcohol. His assertion was that little changed. 'Mean drunks' were people who, without alcohol, might constrain their malice but, with inhibitions lost through consumption of liquor, real personalities surfaced. If a man was dangerous after drinking, he was also dangerous beforehand, like a ticking time-bomb.

Additional reading;

Shoddy policing and accountability show RCMP in B.C. have learned very little, Gary Mason, Globe & Mail, October 14, 2011

Audio tape revives anger of dead woman’s parents about RCMP conduct, Robert Matas, Globe and Mail, October 13, 2011


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Demonstrators and police should stay unmasked

The BC Civil Liberties Association, now in its sixth decade, does important and principled work in our province while advocating for individual rights, freedom and law reform. Their good work continues as they arrange trained observers to be on the front lines at Occupy Vancouver beginning this weekend.

However, BCCLA Executive Director David Eby got it wrong when he complained publicly about the Vancouver Police statement:
"For everyone’s safety, the VPD is encouraging participants not to wear masks and discourage anyone around them from doing so."
Writers, artists, organizers, street demonstrators or social critics in any form degrade messages if delivery is attempted in shadowy anonymity. Imagine Martin Luther King relating his dream with a covered face.  If principles are truly meaningful, heroes state them openly, despite expected consequences.

I realize it is a fact that individuals can be victimized for taking public positions offending others — occasionally, blog contributors at risk of retribution need invisibility — but that is unusual. Almost without exception, crowds don't need identity protection while on Canadian streets. During events in the past two years, masks were more about avoiding criminal prosecution than anything else.

And, that statement applies equally to police. There is no excuse for law enforcement to remove identification and cover their faces merely to avoid being held accountable for assaults, wrongful detentions or other misbehaviour. These things have been done routinely before now.

David Eby would have been better off supporting the VPD statement with an additional declaration that police too should leave their masks at the shop.
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Solution for continued wealthcare

Report: A quarter of U.S. millionaires pay taxes at a lower rate than some in middle class, by Lori Montgomery, Washington Post, October 12/11
"A quarter of millionaires in the United States pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than many middle-class families, according to a new congressional analysis that offers fresh support for President Obama’s push to raise taxes on the nation’s wealthiest households.

"...All told, 94,500 millionaires paid a smaller share of their income in taxes than 10 million households with moderate incomes, the report found..."
Obama's millionaire tax is class war, say Republicans, by Dominic Rushe, The Guardian, Sept 18/11
"Forthcoming 'Buffett tax' provokes fresh conflict between US president and rightwingers.

"US Republican leaders have accused president Barack Obama of "class warfare" as he prepares to unveil plans to increase taxes for millionaires..."
Counties turn some paved roads back to gravel, County News, National Association of Counties, Charles Taylor
"Several counties across the country are going back to the Stone Age — turning asphalt roads back to gravel, or considering doing so — as rising costs outstrip their ability to maintain their pavements.

"...County Engineer David Patterson, Washington County, Iowa, said, 'Our ability to maintain our roads has diminished, particularly over the last 10 to 20 years as we’ve experienced cost increases and funding shortfalls.'...

"...With the resources it has, Sonoma County will continue to fill potholes on non-priority roads. However, “at some point, the roads not on a priority system, it will be just too costly to provide those safety improvements. At that time we’re probably going to pulverize them and turn them into gravel,” Demery said.

"That’s exactly what happened in Brown County, S.D., and not everyone was pleased. Public reaction was “extremely negative,” according to the county’s highway superintendent, when a section of road was downgraded to gravel. One resident complained, “What the h--- are you doing with this road?” Schools voiced concerns about bus routes.

“There are some public relations issues that go along with unpaved versus paved roads,” said John Habermann, who heads up Indiana’s LTAP program and has conducted seminars about the revival of gravel roads titled “Back to the Stone Age.”
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Lost vision: efficient, affordable, customer focused

Gulf Islands bi-weekly newspaperIsland Tides promises an eclectic mix of local, regional, national and international topics — serious and light-hearted — to give readers a "relaxed, informed 'West Coast' feeling."

One of the contributors to Island Tides is Patrick Brown, a fascinating character, now a writer but perhaps a man still seeking his ultimate vocation. Born in pre-war England, he graduated from North Vancouver High School in 1953 and made stops in Ottawa, Calgary, London, the Middle East, Calgary and Vancouver before berthing his boat on Pender Island.

Brown is a regular traveller on BC Ferries and international business and consulting experience makes his comments about marine transit worthy of focused consideration. He understands that privatization of BC Ferries in 2003 was not about gaining service and value for taxpayers. It was a choice of political timidity, a renunciation of direct responsibility for a service vital to coastal communities. The party of "King Minus" had used ferry problems to sully Glen Clark's NDP government and they intended to be insulated from future difficulties that would inevitably materialize.

This is Brown's analysis of privatization in British Columbia:
"The current provincial government, in power since 2001, has pursued privatization of its public services with ill considered enthusiasm. First it was BC Rail, ‘sold’ to CN in a transaction which remains surrounded by thick clouds of suspicion. This has been followed by BChydro: too big to be swallowed whole, it has been contracted out in piecemeal fashion, leaving it with billions of dollars in future obligations to private corporations. Highways and bridges in BC continue to be built through what is termed a ‘public-private partnership’, in which the government guarantees that the private partner will enjoy a perpetual monopoly and handsome returns on its investment."
Discussing coastal transportation, Brown states:
"The entire structure—BC Ferries Services Inc, the Ferry Authority, and the Commission—was said to prevent ‘political interference’ with the ferry service. But its creation was, in itself, an act of long term political interference, together with dollops of deception and/or incompetence."
On this blog, I've previously referenced Washington State Ferries, an operation that carries more passengers and vehicles and pays a fraction of the executive salaries and benefits of BC Ferries. While leaders of the Canadian operation have focused on their own generous salaries, bonuses, pensions, and perks like private suites for NHL games, they forgot the real purpose of their work. Brown reminds them:
"...the object of the coastal ferry service was to provide, in the words of the mandate of Washington State Ferries, ‘to provide safe, reliable, and efficient marine transportation for people and goods…’ An additional hint: WSF’s vision statement is: ‘to be the most efficient and affordable, customer-focused ferry operator in the world.’ "
I said above that BC Liberals used the ferry service against political opponents. Undoubtedly, criticism of the NDP aluminum ferry program was warranted but nothing like the level of censure that partisans still enjoy bringing to the fore as proof of their opponent's everlasting incompetence.

In fact, the NDP achieved positive outcomes with the ferry system during the nineties. The two Spirit Class vessels, built in BC during Premier Mike Harcourt's tenure, today provide cost efficient and effective transportation, superior to the German built ships commissioned by David Hahn's organization. One of those newer vessels is seldom used, a $140 million white elephant.

However, there is a compact between Liberals and their supporters. The outrageous errors of current ferry managers and overseers is of little interest to corporate media. The insiders, protected by knowledge of truths uncomfortable to government, take advantage. Excessive salaries and benefits paid directly are common knowledge but less is known about other rewards.

In politics, favours frequently earn others in return and benefits given may create obligations needing repayment. This reality does not surprise and most citizens probably give tacit approval. However, there is an ever present risk that reasonable restraint will not be observed, that persons with power and influence will exercise muscle for inappropriate gain.

In the world of ferry operations, one is left to wonder about the munificence shown senior executives and board members. Here is an example that suggests further questions should be posed. The Board Chair of BC Ferry Services Inc. is one Donald P. Hayes. For this part-time obligation, he is paid handsomely, well over six figures annually.  Mr. Hayes is one of the family owners of a business operating in the province. Part of that operation is Hayes Heli-Log Services Ltd., a company indebted to the Ministry of Forestry, according to a Forest Accounts Receivable report of Oct. 11, 2011, more than $330,000 of which is aged over 84 days. Further detail is not published but the debt appears to be accruing interest at the rate of 6% p.a.


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Things may not go better with Koch




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Monday, October 10, 2011

Can we believe anything they say?

Pavco's convention centre and stadium deals fascinate me. People residing beyond BC's lower mainland are probably more pissed-off than fascinated. The arrangements clearly demonstrate disaster potential when public and private enterprises work together and no one gives a damn about the public interest. Taxpayers are lumbered with colossal commitments, while insiders flip hidden ancillary benefits (value increases on contiguous lands, for example) and convert long term revenue streams for instant cash gains. That seems to be consistent among public/private partnerships approved by BC Liberals.

PavCo has been an unmitigated disaster, its officers spending money like highrollers hitting Las Vegas with black American Express Centurion Cards for which they'll never have to account. The compulsive gamblers would be able to say what a wonderful time was had but no one will speak about value.

I can deduce the likely motivations of real estate speculators and developers when they climb into bed with politicians who are either corrupt or terminally stupid but I simply cannot understand why the corporate media pretends that nothing is amiss. The worst go beyond wilful blindness, allowing facts to be redrawn without even a hint of reluctance or unease. Consider the example here involving CKNW, a radio station that under Warren Barker, once set the standard for audio journalism in Canada.

Bill Good in recent weeks reminded listeners of the NDP's "fast-ferry fisasco," a project begun 17 years ago. Good was being protective of BC Liberals, trying to deflect criticism of a party that erroneously styles itself strong in "fiscal responsibility." According to Liberals in 2006, the BC Place renovation (references below) would cost $2.5 million with the roof expected to "last another 15 or 20 years." Two years later, the renewal tab had grown to $253 million, then, in the following year, to $365 million, later revised to $563 million. Bill Good apparently missed part of the price escalation. His Monday morning newscast on NW referred to the $240 million roof on BC Place.

Intentional misrepresentation or innocent error? You decide.

Here are a few extractions to recap media treatment of Pavco's most recent work. As with the $400 million Canada Place and the $900 million Vancouver convention centre projects, the corporate media expresses almost no consternation over cost escalations. I exempt Bob Mackin from this criticism; his work stands out for consistent thoughtfulness.

Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun, March 8, 2008
It was May 2006, a committee room in the legislature buildings, and the Opposition was raising prophetic concerns about BC Place. Not to worry, the B.C. Liberals insisted. Though completed back in 1983, the stadium was good for another two decades.

"It is not anticipated that BC Place will need a significant capital infusion," minister-for-the-Olympics Colin Hansen said. The government had budgeted a mere $2.5 million for the touch-up. The full amount to be covered out of the existing budget for the 2010 Winter Games.

With proper maintenance, [Liberal Minister Olga Ilich] insisted, "the roof is expected to last another 15 or 20 years."
Bob Mackin, Vancouver Courier
...They [Gordon Campbell and David Podmore] appeared together at the May 2008 renovation announcement, touting a lightweight fabric, Germany-devised retractable system reinforced by heavy steel. It would be done after the Olympics, but they kept mum on the cost.

Behind the scenes, PavCo-hired experts estimated it would cost $253 million but be completed only two weeks before the Olympics’ Feb. 12, 2010 opening ceremony.

The all-in cost was finally disclosed at $365 million in January 2009 but ballooned to $563 million by October of that year. Podmore still insists it’s on-budget.

The full business case has been shrouded in cabinet secrecy and the expenditure never debated in the Legislature or put to voters, the ultimate financiers...
Bob Mackin, Vancouver Courier, Sept 27, 2011
"...The installation of roofing fabric at B.C. Place was originally scheduled to begin in February but was delayed until June.

"The construction schedule was shuffled after the late installation of cables. Quebec-based steel contractor Structal blamed French cable subcontractor Freyssinet.
BC Place leaks to be sealed for reopening, CBC, Sept. 27, 2011
The chairman of B.C. Pavilion Corporation [David Podmore] is promising the new roof on BC Place will be ready for the stadium reopening on Friday — and there won't be any leaks.
Welcome to the new bc place, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, Vancouver Sun, Oct. 1, 2011
"And as of this weekend BC Place is open again - on time, and on budget."
BC Place Stadium still struggling with leaky roof, Mike Hager, Vancouver Sun, Oct 10, 2011
Stadium general manager Howard Crosley said a leak before the game sent eight workers onto the roof and several other leaks sprang up during the football contest.
Bill Good, CKNW News, 8:00 am news, Oct. 10, 2011
"Think of BC Place as an outdoor stadium and dress for the weather."

"The $240 million retractable roof was closed but the rain still made it inside..." [NW's reporter Jordan Armstrong.]
Charmaine de Silva, CKNW News, 8:30 am, Oct. 10, 2011
"Work on the $240 million retractable roof still isn't finished yet at BC Place."

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