Thursday, June 28, 2012

Inevitable outcome of overreaching

Christy Clark shuffled staff in the premier's office again today. However, when the critical fault is at the top, shuffling of underlings will do no good. Any Liberal who wants to continue a career in provincial politics had better convince colleagues of that conclusion or study the severance and pension package that Kevin Krueger suddenly found attractive.

A few years ago, Wharton School of business named 25 highly influential entrepreneurs and while assembling that list, they identified eight attributes of successful leaders:
  1. Able to build a strong corporate culture;
  2. Truth-tellers;
  3. Willing to cater to the under-served;
  4. Able to spot potential winners or faint trends before rivals;
  5. Adept at building competitive advantages;
  6. Excellent at managing and building their organization's brand;
  7. Fast learners;
  8. Skilled at managing risk.
Of those qualities, how would you rate Christy Clark? I rate her zero for eight but I'm willing to hear arguments that prove that score wrong. Christy Clark's only real skill seems to be spending like a drunken lottery winner, doling out contracts to friends and hired guns who she hopes might improve her personal brand. It's a loathsome performance that proves the collective shallowness of Liberal MLAs in British Columbia.
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Thumb in the eye of BC taxpayers

The BC Liberal policy is firmly established. Reward your important friends and give the rest - teachers, paramedics, etc. - a firm kick in the ass. Of course, agency directors and senior bureaucrats, especially ones who know where skeletons are buried, are prime beneficiaries.

Remember when David Hahn "resigned" in 2011 and it was announced that he would gain no severance package? Well, turns out he doesn't need one. He did get a healthy raise in fiscal 2012, including a huge increase to his supplementary pension, even though he departed three months before the fiscal year ended. Also, we were told Mike Corrigan, the new CEO, would receive about $564,000.

The SEDAR filing by BC Ferries gives the real numbers, without spin.

As with the Community Living British Columbia (CLBC) scenario, truth has been a casualty, abused in deadly fashion by Christy Clark's Liberal government. Most of the information Liberals gave out concerning executive compensation at BC Ferries has been intentionally deceptive.

For example, Hahn was employed for 9 months instead of 12 but cost BC Ferries, including the supplementary pension liability, $1.78 million, an increase of 25%.

Second-in-command Mike Corrigan - the person who has demonstrated inadequate knowledge of BCF operations (read Lying like a cheap rug) - cost $955,615, nearly four hundred thousand more in 2012 than in 2011, a 65% increase.

Number two at BC Ferries, Michael Corrigan, takes helm, The Globe and Mail, Dec 7. 2011
"Mr. Hahn attracted controversy for his $1-million compensation package, but the B.C. Ferries board of directors said Mr. Corrigan's total compensation will be about 60 per cent of that, about $564,000.

"Mr. Lekstrom said Mr. Corrigan's salary package meets government compensation guidelines introduced last year after Mr. Hahn's salary, including bonuses and pension, raised widespread concerns and earned him the million-dollar-man nickname.

"...BC Ferries' services board chair Donald Hayes said Mr. Corrigan's appointment as ferries boss saves the company $600,000 through his salary and the elimination of Mr. Corrigan's old position as chief operating officer.

"Mr. Hayes said the company previously announced it's phasing out long-term bonus programs for senior executives, saving another $700,000 a year..."
Scribd BCFS 4 Year Exec Comp Report
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REPLAY: "It's a tough spot but Premier Clark is thriving, I mean, she seems to really. ."

With Premier Photo Op and the Liberals stumbling through the worst month ever, I couldn't not bring this old favourite back again. First published April 3, 2011 and worth another read. Be sure you listen to the audio clip at the end.

CKNW's Bill Good and producer Jessica Hyatt want you critics of Christy Clark and BC Liberals to be quiet. You are all greedy beggars, demanding services from government while you are unwilling to pay for them. You just go on and on and on and on, don't you. Please, stop complaining so the Liberals can continue rewarding the people that really deserve rewards.

Remember, HST and increased carbon taxes and medical fees help fund corporate tax cuts. Giving away massive quantities of fresh water for nothing to gas companies in northeast BC helps keep that industry strong. We're not short of clean fresh water, are we?  As least, not yet. Royalty reductions and building roads for the oil and gas people are worthwhile too. If they had to pay their own costs, they might leave our oil and gas in the ground and then it could never be used, ever. This important industry supplies many jobs to companies in Northern Alberta. We need to treat our neighbors well; someday we may have to borrow money from them.

And please, stop talking about Independent Power Producers. People should appreciate all the new roads they build in the BC wilderness, a few of them are even open to the public, sometimes. Through dams, diversions, tunnels and penstocks, this good clean industry keeps small lakes drained and prevents rivers from being clogged with fish. Fewer wild salmon means a better market for farmed. On top of those benefits, IPPs provide employment opportunities and benefits to many journalists. Without the companies stepping up with speakers' fees and other extras, reporters would have to live on their own paltry salaries.

Luckily we've got Christy and she's thriving! Listen to this two minutes of Rah Rah Radio from April 1, a good day for it. Click on the play button below.
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History's mistakes repeated

 A Manifesto for Economic Sense, Paul Krugman, Princeton University, and Richard Layard, LSE Centre for Economic Performance
"More than four years after the financial crisis began, the world’s major advanced economies remain deeply depressed, in a scene all too reminiscent of the 1930s. And the reason is simple: we are relying on the same ideas that governed policy in the 1930s. These ideas, long since disproved, involve profound errors both about the causes of the crisis, its nature, and the appropriate response.

"These errors have taken deep root in public consciousness and provide the public support for the excessive austerity of current fiscal policies in many countries..."
A Manifesto for Economic Sense

The Perils of Prophecy, J. Bradford DeLong, University of California at Berkely, June 27, 2012
"...Indeed, we understood that monetarist cures were likely to prove insufficient; that sovereigns need to guarantee each others’ solvency; and that withdrawing support too soon implied enormous dangers. We knew that premature attempts to achieve long-term fiscal balance would worsen the short-term crisis – and thus be counterproductive in the long-run. And we understood that we faced the threat of a jobless recovery, owing to cyclical factors, rather than to structural changes.

"On all of these issues, historically-minded economists were right. Those who said that there would be no downturn, or that recovery would be rapid, or that the economy’s real problems were structural, or that supporting the economy would produce inflation (or high short-term interest rates), or that immediate fiscal austerity would be expansionary were wrong. Not just a little wrong. Completely wrong.

"Of course, we historically-minded economists are not surprised that they were wrong. We are, however, surprised at how few of them have marked their beliefs to market in any sense. On the contrary, many of them, their reputations under water, have doubled down on those beliefs, apparently in the hope that events will, for once, break their way, and that people might thus be induced to forget their abysmal forecasting track record..."
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Little research on effects of diluted bitumen

A Dilbit Primer: How It's Different from Conventional Oil, Lisa Song, Inside Climate News, June 26, 2012
"Bitumen extracted from tar sands has the consistency of peanut butter and must be diluted to flow through pipelines. And that's just the beginning.

"When emergency responders rushed to Marshall, Mich. on July 26, 2010, they found that the Kalamazoo River had been blackened by more than one million gallons of oil. They didn't discover until more than a week later that the ruptured pipeline had been carrying diluted bitumen, also known as dilbit, from Canada's tar sands region. Cleaning it up would challenge them in ways they had never imagined. Instead of taking a couple of months, as they originally expected, nearly two years later the job still isn't complete.

"Dilbit is harder to remove from waterways than the typical light crude oil—often called conventional crude—that has historically been used as an energy source.

"While most conventional oils float on water, much of the dilbit sank beneath the surface. Submerged oil is significantly harder to clean up than floating oil: A large amount of oil remains in the riverbed near Marshall, and the cleanup is expected to continue through the end of 2012.

"InsideClimate News spent seven months investigating what made the Marshall spill different from conventional oil spills. Part of the challenge was that there has been little scientific research on dilbit; most of the studies that have been done were conducted by industry and considered proprietary information..."

See also: The Dilbit Disaster: Inside The Biggest Oil Spill You've Never Heard Of, Part 1, Elizabeth McGowan and Lisa Song, Inside Climate News
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Move on folks, nothing to see (or smell) here

Adrian Raeside, author of 14 books, resident of Whistler, is one of British Columbia's most perceptive cartoonists. Visit his site regularly and be entertained and informed.

Here is one of his latest works along with another of my favourites from November 2011:

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After all, they're not transit riders

Securities regulators' fines called 'a farce, CBC News, June 28, 2012
"Nearly two-thirds of penalties levied by provincial securities regulators across Canada in the past five years have not been paid, a CBC News investigation has found.

"...Quebec had the best rate of collection, at 77 per cent, while British Columbia had the lowest rate, at 2.9 per cent.

"The B.C. Securities Commission (BCSC) says collecting fines is difficult because violators often skip town, run out of money or end up in jail..."
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Friends caring for friends

Bill Good mounted a defence of Christy Clark today following release of David Basi's accusations that Premier Christy Clark was very much involved in the corrupt sale of BC Rail and was leaking confidential information to fixers involved in the deal.

Good was joined by Keith Baldrey who wondered even "if it is a story."

They argue that no smoking gun has emerged to prove the Liberal government guilty of corruption and they say that Basi cannot be trusted. They didn't discuss who is preventing examination of the entire body of evidence or who negotiated and paid to end the court process that should have provided definitive answers.

Listeners should be asking if these media members are trustworthy.

Of course not. They've taken a side in British Columbia's political wars. For example, the BC Chamber of Commerce is a highly partisan organization. Directors and their companies have donated about $1 million to BC Liberals and Chambers have received millions from taxpayers in return.

The BC Chamber calls itself "the most influential business association in BC – the provincial leader in public policy..." One of the ways it gains influence is through the relationships it fosters with members of the media.

Good and Baldrey, along with Vaughn Palmer, appeared May 25 at the Annual General Meeting of the BC Chamber of Commerce. This has been a regular gig for the trio and their Dull Edge from the Ledge. The cost of attending this year's 2-hour bun toss at the Chamber's AGM in Penticton was $60 a person. The Chamber has not been the only customer of the Good/Palmer/Baldrey roadshow during the past few years.

Is it a conflict of interest for media members to accept appearance fees from industries and partisan groups who have a direct interest in their reporting and commentary? Is it at least an apparent conflict?

CKNW and Corus Radio claim they observe codes of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. One of those codes says this:
Article Six – Conflict of Interest

Electronic journalists will govern themselves on and off the job in such a way as to avoid conflict of interest, real or apparent.
In media, standards of conduct and transparency are more boasted about than actually observed. Additionally, if one person is in conflict, there is a quiet expectation that colleagues will not report the conflict.

It's an unprincipled situation that undermines credibility of the entire mainstream media.
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Video Enbridge (and Postmedia) wants hidden

Enbridge is presently engaged in a $5 million advertising campaign. It serves two purposes. One aims at convincing Canadians that what Enbridge does is benign and beneficial. The other is to provide tangible rewards to the corporate media that repeatedly echoes the same message through content, either by supportive coverage or by downplaying inevitable mishaps and ecological destruction.

Read Rafe Mair's background about the Province pulling this work by Dan Murphy. It is at the Common Sense Canadian:
Province Newspaper Pulled Cartoon Under Pressure from Enbridge

And, cancel your Postmedia subscription if you have one.

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The Sergeant Schultz theory, applied

Alex Tsakumis' release of Dave Basi's 2003 memo to file was an interesting test for British Columbia's corporate media. The results were mixed.

NW's Bill Good managed to do 3½ hours without noting the stench surrounding his pal Premier Photo Op. No surprise there since he's been consistent in saying the BC Rail scandal is old news, not worthy of our attention. Bill can't understand what the fuss is about but knows that BC Rail is causing headaches for his call screeners.

However, Simi Sara, Jon McComb and the people at the NW news desk were engaged, chasing down appropriate interview subjects, including AGT himself, and gaining confirmation of the source document. Those people did a fine job.

I understand CKWX News 1130 covered the story but their website has no reference to it Monday night. Daniel Palmer writing for Metro News provided Questions remain for Premier in BC Rail scandal.

Michael Smyth wrote Basi memo puts Christy Clark in hot seat at the Province. Now we'll have to wait to see if Editor in Chief Wayne Moriarty allows Smyth's story to stay or pulls it down as he did with Dan Murphy's criticism of big advertiser Enbridge. Laila Yuile has that story.

Global TV News didn't mention the issue. Too many other big stories were breaking. There was the 3-minute report on Lonesome George, a deceased tortoise formerly resident of the Galapogos Islands. That was followed by a 7-minute feature on free diving and a breaking sports story of Robert Luongo not being traded, again.

CTV couldn't cover the Basi memo. They were focused on high school streakers and on Premier Photo Op holding a photo op to announce a federal government program involving student loans.

I'm told the Globe and Mail was busy today scrubbing Tsakumis and Basi references from reader comments and their writers have been quiet in the 24 hours since AGT released the vital memo. The Vancouver Sun has been quiet on the issue.

Corporate media folks might be more focused on buy-outs and layoffs than news but we can hope they will catch up eventually.

I came across this quotation and left it first on Alex Tsakumis' site. It seems so appropriate to the issues at play here and fits the Liberals quite perfectly.
“The evil hate the light – the light of goodness that shows them up, the light of scrutiny that exposes them, the light of truth that penetrates their deception. Rather than blissfully lacking a sense of morality, like the sociopath, they are continually engaged in sweeping the evidence of their evil under the rug of their own consciousness."
The quote is from People of the Lieby M. Scott Peck. Good sweeping Liberals.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

A shill game

Ian Reid at The Real Story has proposed a new name for 'Concerned Citizens for B.C.', a group organized by aging Liberal toady Jim Shepard.
From BC Rail shill to straight out BC Liberal shill. Maybe his group should be called "Concerned Liberals for Saving Our Scandal Ridden Ass."

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Who is this guy, really?

In the book Criminal Profiling, Richard N. Kocsis described malignant narcissism as:
"an extreme form of antisocial personality disorder that is manifest in a person who is pathologically grandiose, lacking in conscience and behavioral regulation, and with characteristic demonstrations of joyful cruelty and sadism".
What he missed doing was including a photograph of Canada's prime minister. Maybe there were none available.

Harper gallery leaves MPs speechless, Ottawa Citizen, January, 2008:
"Citizens who really want a national portrait gallery in Ottawa can rest easy. The government already has one.

"All you need to get in is a Commons security pass, a Conservative party membership and a keen desire to view exclusive pictures of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, exclusively.

"...Photographs of Mr. Harper in various poses, at various sites, are hung throughout the private and cosy government lobby of the House of Commons.

"Ms. May and Ms. O'Malley were surprised and a bit speechless when they saw the exhibit recently as guest Commons Speakers during a youth Parliament.

""When you walk in the door, all you see are pictures of Stephen Harper," said Ms. May

"I'd say between every window, in every available space of the wall, at eye level, every available space has a photo of Stephen Harper..."
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Fraud prevention and recovery

Simi Sara made a worthwhile demand on her CKNW show today.
The British Columbia government should lift the gag orders imposed on Dave Basis and Bob Virk, part of inducements paid the defendants to end the BC Rail trial immediately before former Liberal finance minister Collins was to testify.
The public is not served by those gag orders nor is the cause of good government.

The only people served are BC Liberals and their friends who orchestrated this corrupt sale of public assets.

Some of those same people are involved in designing a deal today to privatize the BC Liquor Distribution Branch. (See Bob Mackin's website. He's got the lead on this and other stories that make the corporate media uncomfortable.)
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Rafe Mair raises his wise voice

No Souls but Lots of Cash, Rafe Mair, The Tyee, June 25, 2012
- BC's crucial environmental battles pit citizens against politicians' love of corporate money.
"Corporations have a legal body but no conscience or soul. They look out for themselves alone and don't give a rat's posterior for anything else...

"...Enbridge is embarking on a huge ad campaign to convince British Columbia that pipelines are good for them. Public relations flacks are there to avoid the truth and paint a wonderful image of their client. In Enbridge's case they will not be telling you that they have an appalling safety record with well over 400 ruptures since 1998, or that ruptures are not risks but realities waiting to happen.

"...What astonishes me, but I suppose shouldn't, is the shallowness of attitudes by government MLAs and MPs. My MP, a Conservative backbencher, with an eye no doubt on a Cabinet seat, told me that not only should Enbridge get its pipelines, but the more the merrier!

"We the long suffering public have no protection from the agendas of corporations because our governments, federal and provincial, are bought and paid for by industry. There are 3,500 industry lobbyists in Ottawa, all of which are handsomely paid, meaning, of course, that they're getting the job done.

"Will we neatly fall into cynicism that prompted Oscar Wilde to say "they know the cost of everything but the value of nothing"? ..."

The above cartoon included with The Tyee story is by Ingrid Rice. Visit The Cagle Post to view more of her fine topical work.

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Work newly attributed to Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens identified as author of mystery article, Alison Flood, The Guardian, June 25, 2012
An article championing the rights of the working classes, published in one of the journals edited by Dickens for more than 20 years, has been attributed to the author himself
Charles Dickens has been identified as the author of a previously unattributed article which attacks the middle classes for patronising the "working man".

"Who has not been outraged by observing that cheerfully patronising mode of dealing with poor people which is in vogue at our soup-kitchens and other depôts of alms?," runs the article, which was published anonymously on 18 April 1863 in the weekly magazine All the Year Round, under Charles Dickens's editorship. "There is a particular manner of looking at the soup through a gold double eye-glass, or of tasting it, and saying, 'Monstrous good – monstrous good indeed; why, I should like to dine off it myself!' which is more than flesh and blood can bear..."
Another resource from the BBC: Book of the Week - Charles Dickens - A Life
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Time for the corporate media to step up

The first thing you read today should be this piece by Alex G. Tsakumis:
Note: I don't normally consider The Tyee as part of the corporate media but anyone who offers them financial support should withhold that until The Tyee demonstrates they are not ignoring the evidence Tsakumis is presenting.
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Concentrated media ownership dangerous

Numerous times in past decades, politicians studied media ownership in Canada. Despite expressions of concern, concentration has increased and, with Conservatives determined to end CBC's meaningful role, the situation will be worse.

In Britain, the Leveson Inquiry began a year ago to examine the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. It is continuing to expose the real nature of the country's political class. The Guardian's John Harris says that is revealed as:
"a cloistered, incestuous bunch, whose obligations to courtiers too often outweigh the supposed demands of democracy."
Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger focuses on the Rupert Murdoch empire:
"...The combination – of market dominance, power, fear, political influence, inadequate policing and feeble regulation – became self-reinforcing. The more people believed these things of News Corp, the more they became real.

"This created an apparent reciprocity of interests. News Corp had its own ambitions and regulatory needs that politicians and public officials were in a position to assist or satisfy. The reciprocity could be implicit or explicit; spoken or unspoken. But it undeniably existed and was well-understood on both sides...

"It is dangerous in any sector to allow a single player to become dominant. It is doubly dangerous with the media sector because of the combination of factors described above. The press, rightly, argues that it exists to be a check on power. But when society's watchdog shies away from holding itself to account it thereby creates a very potent form of unaccountable power.

"Anything that concentrates power in the hands of fewer and fewer multibillionaire proprietors – whether corporations or individuals – will impoverish our society..."
Much of the above, particularly the last paragraph, applies equally well in Canada. Unfortunately, the considered objective of Stephen Harper's Conservative Party is to impoverish the land and the people of this nation.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

British Columbia invests in tobacco industry

Quebec launches $60B lawsuit against tobacco companies, Canadian Press, June 8, 2012
"More than half of Canadian provinces have now sued big tobacco companies in an attempt to recoup health costs, with the Quebec government announcing a $60 billion lawsuit Friday.

"Six provinces have filed similar lawsuits -- British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Manitoba and now Quebec -- while the others have announced plans to do the same..."
But, on the other hand, the BC Liberal government's investment agency has a more positive view of the tobacco business.

According to the most recent inventory of bcIMC investments made public, British Columbia holds these equity positions in the tobacco industry:

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Surette uses the F word

The conservative conscience is in turmoil, Ralph Surette, Halifax Chronicle Herald, June 23, 2012
"Are you among those baffled and alarmed by what’s going on with the Harper government — wild slashes to public services, every-thing connected to democratic process trashed, a bully-boy attitude that is soiling Canada’s international reputation, the attack on everything environmental, even the destruction of public records, all delivered in a dictatorial and malicious spirit?

"You have company. Among the growing numbers of your friends are conservatives — real ones — realizing that Stephen Harper is not one of them, but rather a right-wing radical, maybe worse, out to conserve nothing. As some ex-Tory politicians, federal and provincial, stood up to oppose the manipulative omnibus budget bill, the PC Party of Canada declared the Harper party “corporatist” — essentially rule by and for corporations...

Keep in mind that one of the dirty words for “corporatist” is “fascist.” Is that over the top? When I watch a guy like Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who acts as though he’d be comfortable as minister of Internal Security for most dictatorships on Earth, I wonder..."
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What's hidden from the Auditor General ?

Vancouver Sun's excellent business writer David Baines considers tax implications of government paying $6 million in legal fees for convicted criminals Basi & Virk.

$6-million question: Should corrupt aides pay tax for defence? David Baines, Vancouver Sun, June 23, 2012
"Is the $6 million in legal fees that taxpayers paid for the defence of provincial ministerial assistants David Basi and Bob Virk — who pleaded guilty to political corruption in the BC Rail case — a taxable benefit?

"Due to confidentiality rules, Canada Revenue Agency isn’t saying, but case law strongly suggests that it is.

"If it is, then Basi and Virk owe $2.6 million in taxes (assuming the benefit is taxable at the top marginal rate of 43.7 per cent). Of this amount, $880,000 would accrue to the province and the rest to the federal government...

"CRA interpretation bulletin (IT-99R5) states: “Where personal legal expenses of an employee (or of his or her family) are paid or reimbursed by the employer, the amount paid is a taxable benefit to the employee...”
Perhaps this issue explains why the BC Government is in court fighting the Auditor General's effort to gain full access to documents in the Basi Virk files.

Anyone involved with lawyers in arrangements that move material sums from one party to another will know that income tax considerations are always a focal point. A lawyer reviewing financial agreements who failed to examine and warn the client of potential tax consequences worth millions would almost certainly be guilty of professional misconduct.

The lawyers representing Basi & Virk are among the province's best so we can be certain that income tax liabilities formed a part of negotiations that resulted in guilty pleas in exchange for financial inducements and sentences with minimal impacts.

Was there a federal provincial agreement to waive tax liabilities? Was there an agreement for the province to cover tax liabilities that surface?

These questions are not likely to be answered until after Christy Clark and friends are sent packing.
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While local radio dies

May I recommend BBC Radio for its many worthwhile podcasts and online listening opportunities.

Currently, one of the many series available, free of charge, is the 2012 Reith Lecture series - The Rule of Law and its Enemies:
"The economic historian Professor Niall Ferguson presents the 2012 BBC Reith Lectures, titled The Rule of Law and Its Enemies. Across four programmes he explores the role of man-made institutions on global economic growth and democracy, referencing the global economic crisis and financial regulation, as well as the Arab Spring."
BBC gives us the Reith Lectures archives, dating back to 1948. It is an extraordinary collection of quality material that provides information and inspiration to anyone interested in the pursuit of knowledge.

One of my personal favourites is from 2003: Neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran: The Emerging Mind
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Friday, June 22, 2012

Reinventing the wheel, timidly

British Columbia has established significant domestic production of natural gas and there are enormous reserves of recoverable gas newly discovered.

Western Europe has identified major new gas fields and North America has vast reserves of natural gas. So has Russia and, using technology developed in the last decade, China is beginning to exploit vast stores of gas.

In other words, the best markets for BC gas are domestic markets. Like automobiles, trucks and marine services.

BC Ferries claims it is being crushed by diesel fuel costs that have almost tripled in the last decade. Fuel accounts for more than one fifth of operating costs.

“MF Boknafjord”: World’s Largest LNG-Powered Ferry Named, gCaptain, Dec. 2011
"Fjord1 has been considered a leader in the gas powered ferry market since the first LNG-powered ferry, Glutra, which is operated by Fjord1, was put into service in 2000. In 2006 and 2007, Fjord1 added five LNG powered car and passenger ferries to its fleet and the addition of the MF Boknafjord marks the sixth such ferry for the company. By the end of 2011, Fjord1 will operate a total of 12 LNG-powered car and passenger ferries along the Norwegian Coast.

"...the MF Boknafjord measures 129.9 m long by 19.2m wide and has the capacity for 242 passenger cars and 600 passengers including staff. The vessel features four azimuth thrusters that are run by a gas-electric system consisting of three large LNG gas motors and alternators, giving the vessel a service speed of approx. 20 knots.

"Aside from being LNG-powered, the ferry’s hull design and efficient engine technology help reduce fuel consumption and methane emissions by as much as 25%..."
BC Ferries looks to ditch diesel, convert fleet to liquefied natural gas, Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun, January 2012
"[BC Ferries] is doing a feasibility study on converting the Queen of Capilano, an 85-vehicle ferry that links Horseshoe Bay and Bowen Island, into the fleet’s first test LNG-powered vessel..."

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Bonuses for bureaucrats - a phony scheme

Fine editorial from the best daily in British Columbia:

CLBC bonuses call for inquiry, Times Colonist, June 22, 2012
"...Last fall, as reports of CLBC's mismanagement and cover-ups mounted, the bonus program became controversial.

"Cadieux ordered the agency's board to end it.

"And the CLBC board did just that - by increasing executive salaries by virtually the same amount as the maximum possible bonus. The 61 executives who shared the chance to earn about $300,000 in performance bonuses were quietly given raises worth the same amount.

"That highlights several issues. Most obviously, it suggests the bonus plan was a sham, that managers' goals were easily attained. Otherwise, there was no legitimate reason to raise the salaries by the full amount. (emphasis added)

"That in turn raises questions about the legitimacy of bonus plans across government and Crown corporations. The auditor general, for example, reported last year that B.C. Hydro executives were paid large bonuses based on inaccurate reports of its financial performance..."

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Fact free radio

Friday morning on BC Liberal radio, one of the trio assured us that BC Ferries has been cutting administration costs and its overheads had little or nothing to do with financial problems.

Shall we test the accuracy of the comment?

Combined passenger and vehicle traffic in 2012 is down by 4.4% over 2010. According to BCF audited financial statements, administration costs are up by 2.1% in the same time period.
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Nikiforuk examines Enbridge

Spill Crisis: 'Whatever, We're Going Home', Andrew Nikiforuk, The Tyee
"...damning U.S. regulatory reports portraying Calgary-based Enbridge as a company that ignored safety protocols and warning alarms as well as the recommendations of previous safety audits in what amounted to a botched response to one of the continent's largest freshwater pipeline spills..."

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Words from Hansard and Lindsay Kines

November 1, 2011, Page 8568
C. James:
"To the minister, to the Premier, to this government on the other side: if they wanted to look at affordability, they'd end those executive bonuses today and put that money into services. Half a billion dollars in bonuses paid at B.C. Hydro for running what is actually a deficit. More than $1 million in bonuses to just the top four executives at B.C. Ferries.

"Worst of all, this Liberal government actually paid bonuses to executives at Community Living to cut back on services for the most vulnerable. Now, as we've heard, the minister said that bonuses were wrong at Community Living, but there's still no guarantee that that money won't be rolled into salaries.

'My question is to the Premier. Isn't it time today to stand up, say no to bonuses and put those dollars into services and supports for people in British Columbia?
Mr. Speaker:
"Members. Members.
Hon. S. Cadieux:
"I'm pleased to give the answer that I gave before, relating to the situation of variable pay or incentive plans at CLBC. When it came to my attention that that was the practice at CLBC, I thought that was the wrong policy for that organization, given that it was serving people with disabilities and providing for their supports.

"I had a conversation with the board chair, who indeed agreed with me and has agreed to end that system..."
CLBC execs could still get bonuses, Lindsay Kines, Times Colonist, June 22, 2012
"Senior staff at Community Living B.C. could still receive bonuses for work they did last year despite a government promise to end the program, the Times Colonist has learned.

"Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux called for an end to the bonus system last October when the Crown agency was under fire for closing group homes and cutting services to people with developmental disabilities.

"But her ministry confirmed Thursday that the government and the board of Community Living B.C. decided to keep the system in place until the fiscal year ended March 31, 2012..."

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our pending meltdown

Are BC Liberals about to drag taxpayers into another economic calamity? Something akin to BC Hydro's private power initiative, where government has taken near $50 billion of financial risk and guaranteed abundant profits to private energy promoters.

[Russia's] Gazprom Biggest Loser as Shale Gas Upends World Markets, Bloomberg Businessweek, June 21, 2012
"...The U.S. no longer needs Russia’s gas, leaving President Vladimir Putin fighting to salvage Gazprom’s $20 billion Shtokman project in the Arctic. China, the biggest energy consumer, is exploring its own shale reserves and hesitating to accept a pipeline from Russia. Gazprom’s shipments fell about 14 percent so far in 2012...

"Russia, with about $13 trillion of gas deposits, has the most at stake in the energy revolution that’s blasting shale from Pennsylvania to China in rocks impossible to drill just a decade ago..."
China shale gas boom could surpass U.S., Reuters, Dec. 7, 2011
"China is set for a shale gas revolution which will surpass that seen in the United States, the chairman of Sinopec, the country's second-largest oil company, said a day after Reuters revealed Royal Dutch Shell Plc had begun shale gas production in China.

"Fu Chengyu, chairman of state-controlled China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) , said it could take five to 10 years but that China's output would exceed that of the United States.

" 'I think the total reserves are even more than the U.S. so production is not less than the U.S., but it is a matter of timing,' he told reporters at the sidelines of the World Petroleum Congress.

"U.S. energy markets were fundamentally changed by the development of shale gas. In the space of several years, the country went from natural gas shortages to a point where companies are planning to export gas to Asia, ..."
Site C and the Kitimat LNG Export Terminal: Christy Clark’s Program for Income Redistribution, Jim Quail's Blog, February 8, 2012
"...[Producers] are in a mad rush to suck the gas out of the ground and get it to China before the Chinese start exploiting their own huge shale gas reserves on a major scale: once that happens, there will be no Asian market for tankers full of LNG. That gives the Canadian developers maybe a bit over a decade to make their money and run.

"It takes a lot of energy to liquefy natural gas. Almost universally, around the world, LNG plants use a portion of their own natural gas supply to provide that energy. It appears, however, that BC Hydro is prepared to supply electricity, at BC’s below-cost industrial bulk energy rates, to the Kitimat LNG consortium, for their liquefaction operations.

"So what’s the big deal, you ask?

"The initial phase of the Encana plant would require about 250 MW of electrical generation capacity to provide it with sufficient energy. The three projected Kitimat LNG plants would require about 1,600 Megawatts of power to liquefy its billions of cubic feet of gas for export.

"How much power is 1,600 MW?

"About one-and-a-half Site C dams is how much power.

"Hydro would sell that much power to one corporate mega-project, at industrial tariff rates of around $35 per megawatt hour. That same power would cost Hydro at least $80 per MWh, assuming they built one-and-a-half Site C dams for that purpose, or around $129 per MWh if they bought it from Independent Power Producers. So we’d pay for Site C, through our Hydro bills, to sell the electricity it produces for less than half what it cost us..."
H/T Bob Makin, by Twitter, for the Bloomberg Businessweek article

Please visit Jim Quail's blog, an excellent one, for additional information about energy.

Energy critics roast Clark's LNG strategy, Frank Luba, The Province, June 22, 2012
NDP energy critic John Horgan believes Clark's changes should have been debated in the legislature.
"She's going to amend the Clean Energy Act by regulation," said Horgan. "These are detailed and generational changes we are making and we should do that with a thoughtful eye, not with an expedient political eye and that's what she did," he said."
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On the backs of the disadvantaged

Minister orders end to bonuses at Community Living BC, CTV News, October 21, 2011
"Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux has ordered an end to bonuses for managers at the Crown agency Community Living BC, which provide services to the disabled.

"...Cadieux says bonuses are not appropriate for an organization that's supposed to help people with developmental disabilities, and they're also wrong in a time of tight budgets.

"...NDP critic Nicholas Simons is suspicious about the Liberals' promise to reign in bonuses, saying they may try to hide them instead.

" 'They're probably going to do what they did for the former CEO and just roll his bonuses into his salary, and if that's the change she's suggesting I'm not sure people are going to be satisfied,' he said..."
Embattled Community Living BC pays out big wage hikes to management, Brian Coxworth, Global News, June 19, 2012
"Last year, there was a large public outcry when Global BC reported that the CLBC was closing group homes and cutting services to people with developmental disabilities, even as it paid performance bonuses to senior executives.

'The social development minister then announced that those bonuses would not be paid after all.

"However, those bonuses have not been eliminated. They've simply been rolled into the executive’s base pay, eight months later after the dust settled.

"Big wage increases have been doled out: almost 10% for top management, and 5% for directors and managers..."
Hansard, Page 8311, October 24, 2011:

N. Simons, MLA, Powell River Sunshine Coast:
"Every day it seems like some secret emerges from under the curtain of CLBC. Today it was revealed that Community Living officials who administer home-share contracts may in some cases have their own home-share contracts. These are the same people that administer and oversee these arrangements.
 Does the minister recognize this as a potential conflict of interest, and what does the minister plan to do about it?
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More of Harper's Canada

Private prison companies look to Canada as industry faces lawsuits in US, Bilbo Poynter, The Guardian, June 19, 2011
- US states are beginning to rely less on privately run prisons, but Canada may be a land of opportunity for the two biggest firms
"US private prison firms are targeting Canada for fresh opportunities as pressure builds at home on the troubled multi-billion dollar industry from human rights groups and legal actions, and as more states look to scale back their reliance on them.

"Two of the biggest operators in an industry once regarded as recession-proof, Geo Group and Management and Training Corporation (MTC), have been lobbying various government departments in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.

"With a massive prison overhaul plan already underway – as well as the passage in March of Bill C-10, a suite of crime legislation that most observers agree will see more Canadians face prison time and keep those already locked up behind bars for longer – it seems the American industry's interest in its neighbour to the north could not come at a better time.

"The private industry's lobbying of Canadian lawmakers has some Canadian prison watchers worried. "There is something unethical with having corporations seeking profits from locking people up," wrote a group of former high-ranking Canadian justice officials to the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper in March..."
Private prison companies look to Canada as industry faces lawsuits in US, ProPublica Muckreads
Two of the biggest private prison operators in the United States -- GEO Group, Inc. and Management and Training Corporation (MTC) -- have been lobbying officials in Canada to expand their footprint in the region.

While both companies have been connected to private prison projects in the country before, the recent lobbying efforts come at an opportune time in light of recent crime legislation in the country that will "see more Canadians face prison time and keep those already locked up behind bars for longer."
Judge Convicted in Pennsylvania Kids-for-Cash Scheme, Democracy Now, February 2011
"A federal jury has found a former Pennsylvania judge guilty of participating in a so-called "kids for cash" scheme, in which he received money in exchange for sending juvenile offenders to for-profit youth jails over the years. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr., was convicted Friday of accepting bribes and kickbacks for putting juveniles into detention centers operated by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western Pennsylvania Child Care. Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, are said to have received $2.6 million for their efforts..."
Prisons, Privatization, Patronage, Paul Krugman, New York Times, June 21, 2012
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Needing leadership, we get greed

Province pundit Michael Smyth slammed provincial court judges - bellyachers of the bench, he called them - for demanding richer packages of salaries and benefits. Maybe Smyth is grinding an old axe; maybe he prefers targets that don't answer back or don't buy him lunch.

Regardless, I'd like to introduce the columnist to a group in his own neighbourhood; a group that enjoys a free pass from media.

It is the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC), headed by Doug Pearce, the highest paid civil servant in BC with 2011 earnings of $1.063 million.

bcIMC manages $87 billion of investments for the province, mostly pension funds. Managing is a somewhat imprecise word here because bcIMC pays outside investment professionals and consultants more than $100 million for investment services. The company's overhead expenses, not including direct investment costs, amounted to $38 million in 2011. $29 million was for salaries and benefits, which means the average employee at bcIMC earns $166,000 a year.

The Washington State Investment Board fulfills a similar role in the neighbouring state. WSIB manages $62 billion of investments and its operating expenses, not including direct investment costs, amounted to $11 million. $9.5 million was for salaries and benefits.

In other words, the bcIMC manages funds worth 40% more than WSIB but incurs administrative costs 345% higher than the American agency. Much of that difference is caused by vastly different executive remuneration. Here is a comparison of the five top paid management people in 2011:

In previous articles, I referenced numerous examples of senior BC bureaucrats enjoying salary increases far above typical percentages garnered by average people in this province. No department or agency compares with bcIMC when it comes to lining the pockets of senior staff.

Between 2007 and 2011, a period where most public servants made very modest gains, these increases were awarded senior executives of bcIMC:
     Doug Pearce, CEO 78%
     Lincoln Webb, VP 233%
     Bryan Thomson, VP 60%
     Chuck Swanson, VP 69.0%

One of the common claims is that higher salaries are necessary to attract and retain staff. The above comparison suggests that is mere rationalization rooted in avarice. If retaining staff is such a key element of setting remuneration, why did bcIMC pay VP Chuck Swanson a 69% increase between 2007 and 2011, including 9% in 2011, his year of retirement.

One contributor to excessive wage costs at bcIMC is the large and hungry population of Vice Presidents. I suspect there are more VPs than office clerks. Here is the current list:

     Bryan Thomson, VP, Equity Investments
     Paul Flanagan, VP, Fixed Income
     Dean Atkins, VP, Mortgages
     Lincoln Webb, VP, Private Placements
     Mary Garden, VP, Realo Estate
     Daryl Jones, VP, Research and Risk Measurement
     Lynn Hannah, VP, Consulting and Client Services
     David Woodward, VP, Finance and Operations
     Carol Iverson, VP Human Resources
     Robert des Trois Maisons, VP, Legal Affairs and General Counsel
     Gina Pala, VP, Information Technology
     Shauna Lukaitis, VP, Trade Management and Compliance

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Lying like a cheap rug

Perhaps the largest barrier making re-election of Christy Clark's government unlikely is its lack of credibility.

The Liberal brain trust decided long ago that veracity should always rank behind expediency. The infamous 2001 platform document A New Era for British Columbia demonstrates that deceit was a Liberal strategy from the start. It was there they promised to "Not sell or privatize BC Rail" even though the mechanics of the sale were already being planned.

Throughout Christy Clark's government, the standard for reporting is not truth, it's political convenience. Too often, senior bureaucrat are appointed for PR skills rather than management abilities and they are expected to follow the lead of politicians in saying only that which serves the government cause. David Hahn was an example at BC Ferries. Sadly, it appears the same applies to Mike Corrigan, Hahn's replacement.

Corrigan appeared on Sean Leslie's CKNW program June 17. He was explaining how a net loss of $16.5 million at BC Ferries was actually good news.
"...Throughout the year, we lost $30 million more in revenue than we expected but we were able to claw back all of that and a bit more through good financial management...

"We're dealing with what every other major ferry operator is dealing with right now and that's a downturn in traffic... They're seeing something similar."

"...Our gift shops - that part of the business is actually really growing significantly over the last year. We're seeing double digit increases year over year. So we're doing what we can to generate revenues wherever we can and managing costs..."
Let's test the accuracy of those statements by reference to BC Ferries financial statements.

Did BC Ferries lose $30 million in expected revenues in fiscal 2012? In fact, tarrifs were down by only $1 million in 2012 compared to fiscal 2011. If they were truly expecting an increase of $30 million, they are bigger fools than we suspected.

Corrigan said that other ferry operators are dealing with significant traffic reductions but Washington State ferries reports almost no decrease in vehicle and passenger loadings in 2011 compared to 2010 or in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period a year before. But then, WSF doesn't have high priced management to screw things up.

The Alaska Marine Highway System is a substantially smaller ferry system. Nevertheless, its traffic in 2011 was up 3% over 2010. Traffic of Sydney Ferries in Australia has increased in each of the last five years, including 2% in the last year.

The BC Ferries CEO claims that gift shop business is growing by double digits. In fact, retail revenues were down by 3% in 2012 compared to 2011 and are down more than 5% in the last two years.

If this reflects Corrigan's knowledge of the company he manages, we must wonder how he is worth almost $600,000 a year.
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No news is likely bad news

With the first quarter of British Columbia’s current fiscal year ending, public agencies and crown corporations will soon release annual reports and audited financials for the year ended March 31, 2012.

A vast quantity of money is wasted, filling these PR publications with purple prose and graphics that few persons read, beyond the creators. Serious analysts pay attention to audited financial statements but rather little else is of interest in documents of management self-justification.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, I bet the annual report of the Tokyo Electric Power Company talked not of disaster but of unprecedented opportunities to modernize and renew operations.

Like other armchair auditors, I aim for a better understanding of public spending through review of annual reports. Unfortunately, most content is not designed to inform, it’s intended to promote the subject organizations and ensure that analysis is difficult. Publications are issued almost exclusively as pdf images, files that hamper data extraction. Additionally, reports tend not to be consistent from year to year nor from one agency to another. Nor do they routinely match other government data purporting to explain the same operations. I’ve often encountered this situation in reviewing executive remuneration.

Probably worst of all is that material amounts and situations are often given no more weight than comparatively minor issues, particularly if inconvenient. For example, BC Hydro’s last financial statements commit only five sentences to “Liquidity Risk”, the possibility that BC Hydro will encounter difficulty in meeting obligations associated with financial liabilities. Commitments under BC Hydro’s energy purchase agreements increased from $17 billion to $43 billion in fiscal 2011 alone yet the Annual Report provides almost no explanation and no trend expectations. It covers that amazing change with this statement:
“BC Hydro does not believe that it will encounter difficulty in meeting its obligations associated with financial liabilities.”
In British Columbia, it’s easy to be cynical but I see signs the Liberals are headed for rough times as detailed financial matters are revealed. The strongest indicator is delay. When corporations or agencies drag their feet issuing financials, arguments may be raging between external auditors and the spin doctors. When news is awkward, the PR staff must work on excuses and refined presentations. That results in delay. Last year, BC Hydro’s audited financial statements were dated May 18, 2011; the year before, May 10, 2010. Here it is mid-June and we’re still waiting for BC Hydro’s 2012 financials.

Hydro’s third quarter statement suggested BC consumers should be concerned. While the quantity of energy purchased was down by 1.5% compared to the same period a year before, the cost of energy was up by 33%. Notes to the unaudited quarterly financial statements fail to disclose Hydro’s energy purchase commitments although it repeats the relatively insignificant contingency arising from California pricing disputes in 2000 and 2001. This, I’m afraid, is the standard for financial disclosure in British Columbia. They’ll report harmless information and withhold the meaningful.

The Clark Liberals claim a commitment to open government and boast about granting citizen access to a broad range of datasets, such as birth rates, carbon emissions statistics and information on schools. Just don't expect anything that reveals their incompetence.

Between 2005 and 2010, the average date Pavco’s financials were complete was May 12. This year, we have no financials but we have lawsuits and a spate of resignations, including that of CEO Warren Buckley and directors Peter Brown and Derek Brindle. Along with executive turnover, Pavco’s delay in issuing financials and its failure to report on the final costs of rebuilding BC Place suggest the real news, when we get it, will not be good news.

Financials of the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation have historically been dated May 13 but as of June 17, the 2012 financials statements are not issued.

Until 2010, BC Ferries annual financial statements were dated, on average, May 12. As of June 17, 2012, they are still not available to the public although financial information was released to media late last week. Given the delay, not surprisingly, the company is reporting its worst ever operating loss. Spinmaster and CEO Mike Corrigan claims the result is actually good news since they had budgeted for an even larger loss.

Yeah, right. More good news like that we don't need.

Further reading:
The Profiligate BC Hydro, Erik Andersen, The Common Sense Canadian, June 18, 2012
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Smyth tells part of the story

I wonder if Province political columnist Michael Smyth spends only some of his time in this province and the rest on an isolated beach of Molokai. Occasionally, he seems plain ignorant of what's going on in British Columbia.

Today he applies his frequent smartass style to provincial court judges. I don't mind the style or him taking a run at judges but I object to Smyth's inexcusable inaccuracies.

Judges' demand for more pay seems a tad dishonourable,
"... Are B.C. judges such an elite breed of public servant that they deserve a handsome raise, additional gilding of their already gold-plated pensions and expanded fringe benefits?

Or should these bellyachers of the bench just suck it up, stop their judicial whining and choke down a big fat zero like everybody else?"
Michael. Everybody else?

Regular readers here will know that net zero applies only to ordinary folks, not to senior Liberal bureaucrats and their favourites. A few details about not-net-zero here.

Two weeks ago, Gordon Hoekstra of the Vancouver Sun added emphasis to what I began writing months ago.

Big salaries climb for B.C. public servants in health authorities.
"The number of public servants making a six-figure salary has jumped significantly at health authorities, according to The Vancouver Sun's fourth annual public-servant salary database.

"B.C.'s five regional health authorities, and the Provincial Health Services Authority which oversees Children's and Women's Health Centre and the BC Cancer Agency, saw a 13 per cent increase in 2010 in those being paid $100,000 or more over 2009.

"In fact, in the four years The Sun has been tabulating the database, the number of public servants at health authorities making six-figure salaries has almost doubled, from 1,655 in 2007 to 3,221 in 2010.

"The Northern Health Authority led the way with a 34 per cent increase in six-figure salaries in 2010 (217) from 2009 (162).

"The Vancouver Island Health Authority saw a 24 per cent increase year-over-year to 382 from 307, while the Fraser Health Authority saw a 22 per cent increase to 855 from 703..."
At the BC Investment Management Corporation in 2011, three executives averaged monthly increases of $3,800 over their 2010 remuneration. Hardly net zero, eh?
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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Une artiste qui dérange

Harper government targeted artist for her green conscience, internal documents reveal, Vancouver Observer, June 12, 2012
"Franke James, a Canadian artist and environmental advocate blacklisted by the Harper government, has obtained internal documents indicating Canadian officials worked behind the scenes to discredit her work.

"An internal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) media monitoring report from July 2011 lists James as "an inconvenient artist" ("une artiste qui dérange"), the headline of an article in La Presse. The document was part of the 1,500 pages of internal documents James obtained through Access to Information requests since August 2011..."

Ms. James offers more inconvenience to Harper's CPC:
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Crude lies

Pipeline spill risks are low, Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines
"... with modern pipeline design and mitigation measures, the risks are very low...

"What we can say is that at Enbridge, we take our responsibility very seriously. An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but we certainly don’t stop at an ounce. We adhere to the best safety practices available, and we pay close attention to pipeline integrity.

"And just so we’re clear, no spill is acceptable at Enbridge. When things go wrong, as they did in Michigan in July 2010, we act immediately and decisively, we don’t stop until we make things right..."
Enbridge stops cleanup work, The Michigan Messenger, Nov 15, 2011
"Enbridge, the company that spilled at least 800,000 gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River system last year, has announced that it is suspending efforts to scrape the remaining submerged oil from the river bottom..."
Crude Secrets,, April 11, 2012
"On the night of July 25, 2010, a section of the continent’s vast pipeline network spilled more than a million gallons of chemical-laden crude into western Michigan waterways. Though it was one of the largest inland oil spills in the nation’s history, the disaster went largely unnoticed. Most eyes were on the gusher in the Gulf as BP tried to cap the Deepwater Horizon well. But in the debate over our nation’s energy future, the Kalamazoo River spill -- and its aftermath -- may prove even more important than the BP blowout.

"That’s because the ruptured Michigan pipeline was carrying tar sands-derived oil from Alberta, Canada. At a time when the pipeline’s operator, energy giant Enbridge, Inc., and its competitors are seeking to greatly expand their pipeline network and the quantity of tar sands oil it carries..."
More reading:
Dare we trust Enbridge with BC coast?, Northern Insights, April 23, 2012

Pipeline spills are not the exception in Alberta, they are an oily reality, Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun, June 13, 2012
"Since 2006, province’s pipelines have spilled the equivalent of almost 28 million litres of oil...

"But I know from my reporting career, which was ushered in by a series of massive pipeline spills in Alberta more than 40 years ago, that these events occur with depressing regularity.

"The pipeline industry has had almost half a century to work on the problem, yet oil spills, explosions, fires and toxic pollution as a consequence of ruptures are anything but exceptional. They still happen on an almost daily basis.

"So when enthusiasts for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project rush to hype the safety of pipeline technology and denounce doubters as part of some sinister conspiracy while scoffing at questions about risk as public hysteria, take it all with several pounds of salt..."
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Politics over education of children

B.C. spends $1.7M on ads in teachers' dispute, CTV BC, June 14, 2012
"The B.C. government's ad campaign defending their position in the teachers' dispute has cost more than $1.7 million, leaving the union to wonder why that money couldn't have gone to the education system instead..."
Patti Bacchus, Chairperson, Vancouver Board of Education, responded by Twitter:
"We've turned down heat, cut days off year, decreased library time, cut staff, yet BC gov't wastes $1.7m on ads."
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Finding fibre for China

Timber panel eyes logging protected areas, Wendy Stueck, The Globe and Mail, Jun 12, 2012
"A committee looking for ways to boost B.C.’s dwindling store of timber is looking at logging protected areas such as old-growth forests as one way out of a supply crunch..."

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British Columbia, Potemkin village style

Part of the plan to arrest dwindling BC Liberal support is to announce and re-announce program changes and capital projects, large and small. There is a flurry of proclamations happening now for health care and other projects.

Friday, Christy Clark will be in Victoria presiding over introduction of new green technology for maintenance of the grounds of the BC Legislative Assembly.
"B.C.'s clean technology industry represents world-leading innovations and solutions for industries around the globe," Premier Clark said. "For British Columbia that means long-term, high-paying jobs in a sector that continues to grow year over year."
Today, Pravda's 'Top Story' is Premier Photo-Op announcing that
"...the redevelopment of St. Paul's Hospital is moving ahead with finalizing the concept plan...It is expected the final concept plan and a more detailed business plan will be complete by 2014."
Redevelopment of St. Paul's was also announced by the BC Liberals a decade ago. The concept plan then was to involve expansion and rebuilding of St. Paul’s Hospital where it stands. In 2003, the province changed direction and paid for a concept plan that abandoned the existing hospital in favour of a new P3 structure on Station Street. A firm decision was expected by fall of 2004.

By early 2009, a team was continuing to argue, debate, plan and re-plan but the hospital project was still unclear. In October 2010, health officials announced plans for revitalization of the existing hospital, saying it could be complete by 2016. St. Paul's VP Neil MacConnell said he hoped a business plan would be in place by 2011.

Today, Christy Clark says work will begin immediately on a concept plan to redevelop St. Paul's and a business plan will be ready by 2014.

Tuesday, the Health Minister announced "formal start of work on the redevelopment of Royal Columbian Hospital" and announced "immediate actions for improvements in all Fraser Health hospitals."

Last week, they announced a Request for Qualifications for a new North Island Hospital serving Comox region and Campbell River. A week before that, Liberals announced funding over three years for 190 nursing positions.

What's next, I wonder. Perhaps Blair Lekstrom will announce that BC Ferries plans to purchase new tie-up ropes for the Queen of Oak Bay.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Destructive attack on democracy

British Columbia's wealthiest citizens will soon be pressured to contribute unprecedented levels of cash for an intensive PR campaign aimed at ensuring reelection of a business friendly government.

This will involve a variety of initiatives supporting a re-branded Liberal Party. Presenters will represent major industrial and resource sectors, province wide business lobby groups and front groups purporting to represent small entrepreneurs, taxpayers and ordinary citizens. Supportive journalists and newspaper chains, radio and TV stations will be encouraged to echo the campaign.

If the present government's slide in voter approval cannot be turned around by late fall, activists want the Constitution Act amended to defer the next general election. There is no consensus on how to justify the move but it will probably involve an "emergency condition" arising from widespread labour disputes with teachers and other public servants. The argument is that if the "coalition" is headed for certain defeat in 2013, it can't be further harmed by staying another year in power.

The battle is intended to be no-holds-barred. In my view, a costly spin campaign, financed by large corporations and a tiny minority of wealthy BC citizens, would be contemptuous of democratic principles. I respect the words of Aristotle:
"Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers."
Unfortunately, the people financing the effort to block Adrian Dix from the Premier's chair would prefer the concept expressed by Winston Churchill:
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
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Message to the Harper government

IMF chief Christine Lagarde warns world risks triple crisis, The Guardian, June 12, 2012
"Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, has warned that the world risks a triple crisis of declining incomes, environmental damage and social unrest unless countries adopt a more sustainable approach to economic growth.

"Ahead of the Rio+20 Earth summit later this month, she said the rich should restrain their demands for higher incomes while there are still 200 million people worldwide looking for a job and poverty is on the rise..."
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Monday, June 11, 2012

For climate change skeptics

A comment by Tom Rand, the resident clean tech advisor at MaRS discovery district in Toronto. His life's work is pushing the needle on carbon and he presents some very practical ways we can make changes now to wean ourselves of carbon at a profit.
"I don't think the climate scientists are wrong but let's just say all the paranoid conspiracy theorists are right and climate science is wrong.

"Oops, we accidentally made ourselves more energy secure, we cleaned our air and created jobs for no good reason."

H/T to Ian at The Real Story. Read his article Plastic bag bans, the new Al Qaeda

The Tom Rand quote comes from the episode Alternative Energy, part of a fine CBC Radio series Out of Their Minds
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Subverting democracy

A month after Jim Shepard resigned as CEO of BC's second largest forestry company, the Liberal government appointed him Senior Policy Adviser. After a year, Shepard, 73, is leaving to form The Concerned Citizens for British Columbia, another campaign to reelect government friendly to large developers and industrialists.

This is not Shepard's first effort to influence this province's choice of government or to determine its policies. Bill Tieleman calls him an ardent NDP hardline opponent and Shepard's intransigence was demonstrated years ago.

A November 1998 piece in the National Post said NDP Premier Glen Clark had worked hard to improve the relationship between his government and British Columbia's business community. That month, nearly 1,000 business leaders gathered in Vancouver to develop new economic policies for the province. The B.C. Business Council of major corporations, headed by ideologue Jim Shepard, orchestrated the meeting.

According to the National Post, when government officials enquired about having Glen Clark or any of his ministers participate,
They were flatly told to forget it.

"They're not invited at all," said Jim Shepard, the chief executive of Finning International Inc. and chairman of the Business Council of B.C.

"We don't want any of them there."
So much for cooperation between the industrial elite and and any government not in their favour. Not surprising though because multi-national corporations act in their own interests, not in the interests of the general public. That leads to philosophical approval of companies residing in tax avoidance clouds while exporting our national wealth, resources and jobs.

Three months after BC Liberals took office in 2001, they appointed Shepard a director of BC Rail. The Liberal strategist and opponent of public enterprise stayed there until the CN's takeover of the railroad was completed in 2003. Cynics believe this reinforces claims that the Liberal 2001 platform promise to "Not sell or privatize BC Rail" was deceitful from the start.

Shepard has been a director of numerous large corporations and in 2007, he joined Canfor as CEO, Despite losing a third of its revenues during Shepard's tenure, Canfor is the province's second largest forest company. Industrialists may claim to believe in "free" enterprise, but dominant enterprise is a better descriptor. We're left to wonder how much that depends on the influence of political insiders, people that usually control the flow of money to politicians and extract favours in return.

I think Andrew MacLeod's 'We're Going to Lose another Mill' in The Tyee provides a strong indicator that Shepard and BC Liberals believe more in dominant enterprise than in free enterprise.
The head of a company whose British Columbia mill may have to close because it can't get enough wood blames the provincial government for the situation.

...WoodEx owns a medium-sized mill near Edgewater in the Columbia Valley, where it specializes in value-added products and custom-sized lumber.

In November 2011 its largest local competitor, Canfor Corporation, bought Tembec Industries Ltd., the only other major player in the area. The transaction, which closed in March, gave Canfor two more mills and added access to 1.1 million cubic metres of timber a year.

By WoodEx's reckoning, it also gave Canfor control of 99 per cent of the annual allowable cut on Crown land in the valley between Golden and Skookumchuck, making it difficult to bid against when wood comes available through B.C. Timber Sales.

..."By dominating the timber-sale bidding, Canfor could very well control the distribution of timber and WoodEx would be required to shut down or close its operation through lack of consistent wood supply," he said.

...The government, however, has failed to do its duty to keep the industry competitive, Riddell said...

It seems BC Liberals are not actually supporters of free enterprise. Monopolies are preferred.
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