Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Amateurish and sneaky" according to Palmer

According to the Liberals, Lynda Tarras, head of BC's Public Service Agency, conducted a thorough investigation into Ken Boessenkool's misconduct with another political appointee. Premier Clark's Chief of Staff was not asked to step aside while government employees of lower rank investigated his behaviour.

Vaughn Palmer of The Vancouver Sun notes that Christy Clark has not been truthful in discussing the affair.
" 'Our review immediately began and that review followed the processes that are set out and laid down by B.C.’s Public Service Agency,' she told reporters after the news broke on Sept. 24. 'All of the procedures were absolutely followed.'

"Really? Agency procedures are posted in detail on the government website. The emphasis is on putting things in writing, particularly regarding matters serious enough to warrant a resignation, as did this one. Not much about the word-of-mouth option..."
We've seen previously that senior bureaucrats who are loyal to the Liberals gain generous rewards. Lynda Tarras, she who handled a difficult personnel issue without a single written record, is one of the lucky few. In a time of supposed restraint, her salary has been growing steadily. The graph below does not reflect Tarras' expense claims, which have recently averaged about $1,000 a month.

According to a recent survey, two-thirds of British Columbians do not approve of Premier Photo Op's performance as Premier. The other one-third does not follow politics.

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RCMP prefers to conceal embarrassing information

Four months ago, the Northern Insights article What's the next dump of grungy news? included this:
"In a May internal memo, Commissioner Bob Paulson warned that several salacious incidents were about to surface. He said,
'Sadly there is a lot to choose from if you want to criticize us.'
"As one of the principal players, Paulson was not merely guessing. He's the guy in charge of doing next to nothing."
I was wrong about the RCMP doing next to nothing. They were busy chasing critics of Canada's once iconic police service. Within weeks of Commissioner Paulson's lament, seven RCMP members raided the home of Grant Wakefield, a man who says he was helping unhappy RCMP members post their concerns online. The police squad executed a search warrant relating to a criminal code allegation of defamatory libel officers and seized two computers, an iPad and an iPhone. Police claimed the libel occurred in a comment posted to an erotic website, in a private email and by Twitter messages.

At the request of RCMP, the warrant was sealed. It remained unavailable until the BC Civil Liberties Association, Postmedia and CBC gained a court order allowing public access. The court papers suggest to me that RCMP and New Westminster Police were improperly using due process to punish Wakefield and suppress information critical of police and, in particular, information about one Coquitlam member involved in "salacious" activities embarrassing to him and his employer.

According to the BCCLA,
" unsealed information reveals for the first time the full extent of the RCMP Major Crime section’s efforts to seize Wakefield’s computers and phone.

" 'When Mr. Wakefield received threats against his life after bringing his information about Jim Brown to the RCMP, he called 911. When the New West police responded, they spied on him, gathering information about his computers and providing that information to the RCMP,' says David Eby, Executive Director, of the BCCLA. 'The RCMP then used that information to seize the same computers Mr. Wakefield was using to help disgruntled and anonymous RCMP members.'

"Eby said that despite the fact the threats appeared to have been made against Wakefield by someone with inside information about the Jim Brown investigation, the RCMP appear to have focussed their resources on seizing Wakefield’s computers..."
According to the warrant, Wakefield "contacted New Westminster Police Department to report threatening phone calls end text messages from Corporal BROWN."

In his decision to make the warrant public, Judge P. D. Gulbransen writes,
"[35]...[RCMP] Sgt. Chauhan's affidavits provide the respondents' reasons for seeking to have details of this investigation (that is, those details which are included in the ITO) kept from public access. These reasons are not clear - both because they are somewhat convoluted and because they assert that the investigation may be adversely affected but do not point to any evidence which supports that assertion.

"...[37] Neither Sgt. Chauhan nor the officers from the New Westminster Police to whom he has spoken refer to any specific evidence to justify these claims. ...These are standard police procedures. They have all been completed. How could their effectiveness be compromised?

"[43]...there is no evidence that public access to this information will compromise the nature and extent of the investigation or that it will compromise the effectiveness of police investigative techniques,..."
Judge Gulbransen's decision was not a difficult one; his judgement is unequivocally in favour or lifting the complete veil of concealment. The RCMP's reasons for having had the search warrant sealed are feeble and, had the police service any commitment to public accountability, the BCCLA action would have been unnecessary.

Commissioner Paulson has demonstrated repeatedly that, at the RCMP, it's business as usual; protecting the RCMP from criticism, legitimate or not, is Job 1.

Further reading at Cameron Ward's blog: The heavy hand of the RCMP – your tax dollars hard at work
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Monday, October 29, 2012

Not a Monty Python sketch

The editor of a Canadian faith magazine to MP John McKay,
"I have just received an official “reminder” from Canada Revenue that our charitable status may be in jeopardy because of too much “political advocacy” on the part of our publication, citing six different editorials and articles as evidence..."
McKay in If we silence dissent we silence democracy
"When I subsequently spoke with the editor, he told me that he had phoned Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), to ask which six articles were “offensive”. After a few days, and much searching, the CRA official was eventually able to find the impugned articles. If it was not so serious, the exchange would have had all the elements of a Monty Python sketch.

"If this was an isolated incident, it could potentially be ignored..."
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Liberal bagman gains healthy ROI

Last week, investigative journalist Bob Mackin wrote Premier Photo Op and the $185,000 charter bills
"On CKNW AM 980, during The Investigators segment on the Oct. 22 edition of the Bill Good Show, I revealed that Premier Christy Clark has spent $185,027.86 on 25 trips from March 18, 2011 through Aug. 1, 2012 on a charter airline owned by a prominent BC Liberal bagman..."
Most provincial employees know that David Mclean's family enterprises are favoured suppliers and the amount referenced by Mackin is only a tiny piece of the rewards flowing to companies associated with the McLean family.

For example, during fiscal years 2010 and 2011, Blackcomb Helicoters Limited Partnership received $ 6,032,729 from the BC Government. Since 2006, the total is more than $11 million.

Detailed Schedules of Payments issued by the Office of the Comptroller General provide only part of the story because vendors are listed by name without disclosure of corporate associations or beneficial ownership.

Anonymity for recipients of government lolly is just a numbered company away.
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No spectacle of division, not a whit

Vaughn Palmer is pleased with the BC Liberals. His weekend column in the Sun offered this:
"...the Whistler convention struck me as a relatively happy affair.

"The public sessions — on the convention floor, in workshops, and receptions — were models of respectful discussion and, in several instances, energized. The mood carried over to the corridors and the after-hours receptions I attended as well..."
Palmer compares supporters of today's government to their counterparts, the last time an unpopular BC party was headed for oblivion:
"...when the New Democrats wound down their term of office at the end of the 1990s, the party's annual gatherings became spectacles of division, full of backroom disputes that spilled onto the convention floor..."
Palmer is too keen to share the upbeat Liberal message so his analysis misses the real story. He should have been writing that the event was stage managed by the party's central committee and the clique of loyalists made sure there was no spectacle of division. Not a whit.

This was a rubber stamp conference, designed not to listen to policy concerns of the grass roots but to make sure those members know their role as silenced sycophants.  This party, rejected by seven out of ten British Columbians and four of five women, had not one person stand up and ask for change.

No one said stop the looting of BC Hydro. No one suggested that senior bureaucrats should take their greedy fingers out of taxpayer pockets or that petroleum producers deserved no production incentives and subsidies from the carbon tax paying public. No party members asked why the Basi/Virk trial was halted nor why the Liberal Party has been blocking the Auditor General's review of bribes paid to halt due process.

Frankly, I'd have been pleased if a few Liberals used the convention to ask why Corky Evan's words from a dozen years ago are still true. He said the BC Liberals were a
"wholly-owned subsidiary of the B.C. Business Council." 
* * * * *
When Corky Evans retired from politics, one news person wrote,
"The legislature will be significantly poorer for the absence of Corky Evans."
Read the 2010 Northern Insights article "Some cultures would call us elders, think we're cool and listen to us"
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Harper's deputy attacks free speech

The following is from the blog The Sixth Estate, a place that is on my regular reading list, although it's not on Margaret Wente's list.
The following is the official opinion of the Conservative government, as stated by Stephen Harper’s Parliamentary Secretary Dean Del Mastro, who by all indications is a man with a deep and abiding respect for the law:
This morning I read comments on a news story posted on an electronic news publication… The common denominator is that none of them identified the person that wrote them; this strikes me as something that Parliament should address.
I’m kind of surprised to have to tell a supposed Reform Party libertarian this, but freedom of speech is actually absolute. We don’t carve out exceptions just because someone is saying something we don’t like, or because we happen to think that they’re a useless brain-dead moron. That is certainly why you are allowed to continue speaking, you pompous, egotistical, hypocritical fool...
Keep reading at The Sixth Estate
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Pay equity in British Columbia

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guest post regarding Narrows Inlet

Please read through the following article. It's lengthy but the Environmental Review is the last chance to stop a large, potentially destructive project about 50 miles from Vancouver. It should not proceed. Raise your voice, make a submission to stop Narrows Inlet power.

Link to Environmental Assessment Office.  Here is what needs protection:

* * * * *

Submission to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office
regarding the proposed Narrows Inlet private power project

Submitted by:
     Joan and Soren Bech
     Roberts Creek, B.C.

Public consultation process

On Oct. 12, we attended the Open House in Egmont, expecting to be able to provide comments on the NI Holding Corp. proposal to construct a total of six power plants (two on Ramona Creek) in Narrows Inlet.

The notice issued by the Environmental Assessment Office clearly indicated that we would have this opportunity: “In order to provide information about the Application, and to receive comments from the public, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) invites the public to attend Open Houses….” (emphasis added)

We were very disappointed that no such opportunity was provided. Indeed, we were informed by the Environmental Assessment Office that it was sponsoring the open house strictly for the benefit of NI Holding Corp. Despite the promise contained in the invitation, the EAO advised us that the only opportunity for the public to comment was by e-mail or letter.

That a public agency, established to protect the public interest, should actively sponsor opportunities for a private corporation to make its case while simultaneously severely limiting public comment is deeply disappointing.

Our disappointment in the EAO is exceeded only by our disappointment in the dismissive attitude that NI Holding Corp. displays towards the many people who enjoy the wilderness experience of Narrows Inlet, and especially towards those who own property in the Inlet.

Long term degradation of Narrows Inlet

The various reports commissioned by NI Holding Corp, and the information it provided at the open houses, underline the serious impact of this project. It is not run-of-river. It converts three alpine lakes to reservoirs. Two dams will be constructed. A total of 4.75 km of penstock will divert water from Ramona Creek (Executive Summary, page B-4) New transmission lines will be constructed, bringing the total to 41 km above ground, plus 2 km submerged cable. (Introduction and Project Description – Part 2, page 2-1)

The dam at the outlet of Ramona Lake will raise the maximum level of the lake by 3 m, inundating 5.8 ha of shoreline. At other times, the lake will be drawn down by 45 m from its natural level. (A10 SREIP Overview Terrain Stability Assessment)

Every phase of the project – construction, operation, and de-commissioning – will degrade water quality and change habitat. (Ramona Creek component effects assessment – Part J, Table 14-86, page 267)

A summary of terrestrial wildlife and vegetation projects effects for the upper and lower Ramona Creek projects lists 52 adverse effects, many of them long term. It describes these adverse effects as reversible if the dams, penstocks, tailraces and power plants are decommissioned, and concludes that they are therefore not significant. (Part Q – environmental effects assessment, Table 23-20, Pages 23-30 to 23-34)

A comment regarding the loss of mature forest habitat for tree-roosting bats is typical: “This effect is reversible, as the habitat can return to the baseline condition once the Project is deactivated and the forest is allowed to re-grow.” (Part K – Interconnection effects assessment, page 15-117)

If this project is ever decommissioned, it will be a very long time in the future.

“Ongoing maintenance re-fits and upgrades can extend the normal operating life of a hydroelectric project indefinitely into the future. Similar projects are typically long-lived with an expected (projected) design life of 75 to 100 years.” (Introduction and project description – part 2, Page 2-108)

In other words, if we allow time for the forests to mature, this “not significant” damage can be reversed in 155 to 180 years.

For recreational users and boaters, the effect on the visual quality of Ramona Falls and Narrows Inlet would “exceed acceptable levels despite mitigation” in both construction and operation phases. (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, Table 19-91, Page 19-186)

Again this is dismissed as something that can be repaired in 100 years or so. A Robertson Environmental Services report says, “The residual effect of reduced aesthetic quality of the landscape during the construction phase is negative and occurs on a disturbed landscape (Ramona). The residual effect is localized to the Ramona Creek area, and is long term and continuous as permanent structures would exist on the landscape throughout the operations phase. The effect can be considered reversible if all infrastructure is dismantled and removed during Project end‐of‐life decommissioning, and the landscape reclaimed to its baseline condition.”

The construction environmental management plans explaining how NI Holding Corp will limit environmental damage are all drafts. Draft plan 2A says the environmental resources at risk, and the location of sensitive areas and features, are identified in Appendix A. There is no Appendix A on the EAO website.

Impact on property owners

There has been very little consultation with property owners who are directly affected by the Ramona Creek / Ramona Lake component of this project. The reports prepared by NI Holding Corp. detail considerable potential damage – undrinkable water, noise, declining property values and more – but the company and its principals dismiss these concerns out of hand. One report goes so far as to say the property owners are not significant because there are so few of them.

Quoted in the Coast Reporter, Oct. 19, 2012, Peter Schober of Renewable Power Corp., one of the principals in NI Holding Corp., said:
“Where we are is well above their property. They will not even know it’s there.”
His statement is plainly not correct, and contradicted by the reports submitted to the EAO.
“The construction of the Ramona Creek facility will also include the construction and operation
of a powerhouse that will be situated adjacent to the east boundary of the properties.” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, Page 19-149)
“(T)he Lower Ramona Creek component will have a substantial negative effect on the quality of experience for recreational property users at Ramona Creek, a sub-set of the recreational property user group. Project activities are likely to have an effect on this group that would lead to adverse relocation or behavioral change. That is, a substantial portion of the sub-user group is likely to sell their recreational property or visit their recreational property less often, as a result of Project activities. This effect however is considered ‘not significant’ as it affects only a sub-set of the recreational property user group.” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment – Part 1, page 19-133)
If the project is approved, blasting and drilling will occur year round. “As construction will oc-cur all year long, except for frozen periods, notification will be given to Ramona Creek property owners as to the duration, timing and nature of construction activities that may cause them direct disturbance, such as blasting and drilling.” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment – Part 1, page 19-130)

In Appendix 71, the consequence of failure of the proposed Ramona Lake dam is classified as “high”. Residents and visitors in four privately owned cabins would be at risk of inundation by 2.1 million m3
of water.

Appendix 18 – Noise Baseline Assessment, notes that noise levels at the Tyson Creek powerhouse measure up to 76 dBA. This report says noise levels from the Ramona Creek powerhouse will be 40 dBA at the nearest residence – a lower level to be sure, but otherwise of little comfort. People do not go to Narrows Inlet to stay in their residences; they go for the outdoor experience.

A Cordilleran Geoscience report, based on a helicopter flight over the properties and study of maps, notes that the proposed road to the powerhouse is located on 50% slopes behind private properties. It concludes there is a moderate risk of landslides – and a high risk of sedimentation in Ramona and Barbie Creeks due to the steep grades on the proposed roads adjacent to these creeks.

A report by Cunningham and Rivard Appraisals predicts a market discount of 0 to 20% as a result of this project.

The report notes the impact of:
  • Increased boat, float plane and helicopter traffic in Narrows Inlet
  • Blasting and machinery noise during construction
  • Visual pollution of the Ramona Creek Lower powerhouse, tailrace and penstock
  • Ongoing machinery noise from the powerhouse
  • Changes in flows of Ramona Creek
  • Risk of vandalism, theft and trespass as a result of increased traffic, and new road access to the rear of the properties
Again, NI Holding Corp. dismisses the impact on people who have owned property in this area for over 30 years.
“The residual Project effect on a decrease in property value is considered ‘not significant’.” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, Page 19-180)
Jobs and the economy

In its public statements, NI Holding Corp. has exaggerated the economic benefits of this project, and failed to mention or downplayed the economic costs.

The Coast Reporter, Oct. 19, 2012, says (presumably on the basis of an interview with Peter Schober who was quoted earlier in the article) that 106 permanent jobs are projected.

The company’s own submission says there will be three part-time direct permanent jobs.
“Average permanent employment of approximately 75 individuals per year over the course of the 6 year construction period and 3 part-time individuals required for operations over the project life span.” (Introduction and project description, page 1-9)
There is no mention in NI Holding’s reports of the string of rate increases being imposed by B.C. Hydro, at least partly a result of the purchase of unneeded power from private producers.

It cost the public $180 million to fulfill contracts with IPPs during the 2012 spring melt – a time when BC Hydro was forced to spill water because of a glut of electricity in the system. Under these contracts, BC Hydro paid IPPs an average of $68 per MWh for electricity that was available on the open market for about $10 per MWh.

Paying more for electricity does not stimulate economic activity and job creation. It has the opposite effect.

Ramona Creek habitat

The various reports that have been submitted by NI Holding Corp. in support of its application make it clear that vital fish habitat will be lost.
“Ramona Creek is considered an important sea-run cutthroat stream. The foreshore, accompanying marine habitat and lower reach is critical to the health of this species.” (A58 - Rearing Salmonid Distribution, page 35)
“Construction of the Upper and Lower Ramona Creek components will result in long-term effects that cannot be mitigated and reversed until component infrastructure is fully decommissioned.”  (Part J, Ramona Creek component effects assessment, page 14-57)
“You should anticipate measurable changes in fish (salmonid) habitat, including upland riparian impacts, through the proposed development of hydro opportunities in the Tzoonie River and Ramona Creek watersheds. These changes will result in the harmful alteration disruption or destruction (HADD)of fish habitat as defined under the Federal Fisheries Act.” (Letter from FSCI Biological Consultants, April 4, 2012)
“The fish and invertebrate communities in Ramona Creek are likely adapted to life in clear-water conditions, making them vulnerable to negative effects from suspended sediment inputs.” (A28 – Surface Water Quality)
Despite these risks, no on-site habitat assessments have been conducted.
“To date, no on-site riparian assessments have been conducted to verify and evaluate riparian habitats on Ramona Creek.” (Executive summary, page B-11)
At least one report – although it acknowledges more sampling is needed – directly contradicts the first-hand evidence from experienced fishermen who have visited the area.
“To determine fish distribution in Ramona Creek, Ecofish conducted snorkel surveys and a barrier assessment in September. All three of the barriers located within the 51m of the downstream reach were deemed barriers to fish migration. Thus, the lowermost falls is considered to be the anadromous barrier (3m falls located 468m upstream of the mouth of Ramona Creek)…. However, further fish sampling is required in order to confirm that Ramona Creek is non-fish bearing above this barrier and below the 79m falls.” (Executive summary, page B-11)
Poul Bech, a former B.C. fisheries technician who has conducted such assessments for the province, accompanied by Rick Hafele, a professional entomologist from Oregon, have caught and released cutthroat trout well above what NI Holding Corp. describes as the anadromous barrier. (See photo on previous page.)

Finally, there is no assessment of how the family of river otters that make their home in the portion of Narrows Inlet that borders Ramona Creek will be affected by the degradation of water quality and fish habitat that the project will cause.

Water quality – damage to public health and habitat

Various reports confirm that private power production from Ramona Creek / Ramona Lake will seriously damage water quality, threatening the cutthroat habitat and, potentially, the health of people who depend on Ramona Creek for their water supply.

For most of the year, the project will increase Total Suspended Solids (TSS) in Ramona Creek to 12 to 14 times the level at which B.C. Health issues boil water advisories.
“The quality and supply, and therefore use of, the water is anticipated to be altered by Project
related activities.” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, Page 19-149)
“Exposure of the lake bottom sediments during drawdown will result in erosion by raindrop impact, by rill and gully erosion, and possibly by slumping of water-saturated sediments (especially if over-steepened by gully formation). The potential for this to occur has been demonstrated by recent siltation events in the Tyson Lake hydroelectric component in 2010.” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, Page 19-153)
“Ramona Lake will have a proposed drawdown of 45 m instead of the 10 m for Tyson Lake, and consequently a much larger area of lakebed sediment will be exposed.” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, Page 19-154)
Sediment has been accumulating in Ramona Lake for at least 5,000 to 10,000 years. The “moderate” estimate of the amount of fine sediment in the proposed Ramona Lake drawdown zone is estimated at 259,052 tonnes. (A10 SREIP Overview Terrain Stability Assessment, Page 33)
“The analysis indicated that at all except very minimal drawdown levels the turbidity in Ramona
Lake during the fall storm season (and on into the early winter) will be too high to be adequately diluted by the flows in Ramona Creek at design penstock flows.” (A10 SREIP Overview Terrain Stability Assessment, Page 34)
“Even with reasonable levels of mitigation, there will be increases in TSS and turbidity. For most of the year, TSS will be in the order of 300 mg/L (roughly 60-70 NTU), well below MAC, but nevertheless undesirably high…. Given that BC Health issues boil water notices when turbidity exceeds 5 NTU, this is not a preferable outcome.” (emphasis added) (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, Page 19-157)
The dramatic increase in suspended solids and turbidity may have other significant effects on water quality and public health.
“High TSS (total suspended solids) could exacerbate total coliform counts.” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, page 19-61)
“High TSS may not be the only water quality parameter of concern. Numerous studies have re-ported on the relationship between turbidity and both pathogenic and non-pathogenic organisms.” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, Page 19-155)
Another concern identified in the reports is the possibility of acid rock and metals leaching into Ramona Creek.
“It is essential that an initial operating plan contains an assessment of the potential for acid rock
drainage from the site.” (A68 – Site Reclamation Plan, page 7)
Despite such an assessment being described as “essential”, no on-site assessment has been conducted.
“The qualitative ARD/ML assessment was performed by completing an extensive desktop level examination…. Accordingly, no field site visit or sample collection/analysis was performed as part of the assessment.” (A35 – Qualitative Acid Rock Drainage and Metals Leaching Assessment)
The proposals put forward to deal with these issues – public health, sedimentation, potential leaching – suggest that the authors are not familiar with the location of the properties that will be affected.
“If other forms of mitigation, for example, reduction of drawdown, erosion control of drawdown zone or water treatment, are determined to be, upon further study, unacceptable, a last resort is to obtain alternative water sources for the water license holders in Ramona Creek. Water could be diverted from an adjacent creek (such as Barbie or Clements), or even trucked in (sic).” (Part N – Socio-Economic Effects Assessment, page 19-156)
There is no road access to Narrows Inlet. You cannot truck in water. Even if water was brought in, there is no existing infrastructure to store it.

And, of course, providing other sources of water for property owners would do nothing to protect Ramona Creek habitat described as “critical to the health” of sea-run cutthroat.

Greenhouse gas emissions

The extraordinary and self-contradictory statements made by NI Holding Corp. regarding greenhouse gas emissions raise further questions about the company’s credibility.

The company states,
“Reduction of out-of-province GHG emissions and in-province gas-fired and other GHG by a large net amount. It is estimated that 12,000,000 to 19,000,000 tons of GHG emission is eliminated per year.” (Introduction and project description, page 1-9)
Greenhouse gas emissions for the entire province are estimated by the government of B.C. to have been 62 million tons in 2010. (

Electricity production contributes just 2 percent of the total, or about 1.2 million tons. (www.

We don’t pretend to be experts, but given those numbers, it seems a bit much to suggest that this project could, all by itself, reduce British Columbia’s total emissions by 19 percent to 31 percent.

And in fact, the claim is undermined in another portion of the submission:
“At this time, because the fate of the generated power is unknown, it is not possible to determine the extent to which the Project would offset carbon-intensive sources of electrical energy and greenhouse gas emissions.” (Part C Environmental Assessment Methods and Scope, page 5-12)
In other documents, NI Holding Corp. presents varying estimates of how much the project will add to greenhouse gas emissions.

In Part C – Environmental Assessment Methods and Scope (page 5-11), the company estimates that 17,426 tonnes of CO2 equivalents will be emitted during construction.

In Appendix 24, Table 1, it estimates CO2 equivalents during construction would be almost twice as much, 30,812 tonnes. Table 2 estimates the emission of CO2 equivalents during operation at 70 tonnes per year.

Appendix 22 has a third number. It estimates total emissions during construction will be 135,000 tons of CO2 equivalents, including deforestation of 98 hectares and soil removal.

What else aren’t they telling us?

Appendix 06 - First Nation Correspondence and Issues Tracker, reports on page 6, that Dan Soprovich and Dave Bates, representing the proponent, met with Sid Quinn and Jasmine Paul of the shíshálh First Nation on March 25, 2010. The document states:
“Dave noted that water temperature an issue of concern, citing Ramona where water would be drawn at depth. Dan and Dave discussed the approach of evaluating different scenarios for the assessment. Dan indicated that from his perspective should look at options from a biological perspective as well. Dave indicated that he would not sign off on Ramona at 90 m as a professional.
Dave indicated that there are a lot of unknowns and that he has suggested the possibility of drawdown from the surface. Dave noted that there has been some shift in temperature for Tyson but that it is well within allowable limits for salmonids. Dan noted that the Ramona proposal, at 90 m, was for a permanent on average 11 m drop in lake levels for that scenario.
Sid indicated concern over such a drop in lake levels. Dan asked that information around these kinds of drops and scenarios be kept confidential.” (Emphasis added)
Such comments suggest the proponent is more interested in doing and saying whatever it takes to win approval for this project than it is in fully informing the public and meeting its obligations to the public interest. The current proposal is for a drop of up to 45 m in the level of the lake.


Narrows Inlet is a magnet for recreational boaters, kayakers, recreational fishing and hunting. It is home to a vast variety of fish and wildlife. All of this – according to environmental assessments prepared by the company that plans to build five power projects in the inlet – is at risk of “long term” degradation as high quality habitat is destroyed.

Ignoring risks, shifting the cleanup to future generations

The proponent dismisses these concerns as “not significant.” The company says they can be reversed once the power plants are decommissioned, 75 to 100 years from now. It’s like saying the thousands of acres flooded by the WAC Bennett dam could be reclaimed if the dam is removed. It won’t happen in our lifetimes. Nor will it happen in the lifetimes of the fish and wildlife that will be affected.

Long term damage to fish and wildlife habitat

Narrows Inlet is home to Roosevelt elk, grizzly bears, mountain goats, wolverines, mule deer, western screech owls, rare plant species, river otters, pacific salmon, herring, sea-run cutthroat trout, seals, sea lions, and many species of marine birds. Dolphins and porpoises are occasional visitors.

According to the company’s own assessment, every phase of the private power project – construction, operation and decommissioning (if that ever happens) – will create long term harm to the habitat that supports all of these species and more.

High risk through every phase of the project

Roads will be constructed in areas with a 50% to 85% slope, creating a risk of landslides. In addition, according to a Cordilleran Geoscience report,
“Due to the steep grades on the proposed roads/trails and the adjacency to Ramona and Barbie Creeks the sedimentation risk is considered high.”
During the construction phase, barges and crew boats will roar through the Inlet 200 times a month, as will float planes and helicopters.

The magnificent spectacle of the Ramona Creek waterfall will be visually polluted by a power-house, tailrace and penstock.

Blasting and machinery noise during construction, and on-going noise from powerhouses will drive away birds and animals.

A beautiful alpine lake – Ramona Lake – will be transformed to a holding pond, and drawn down by as much as 45 meters to feed the powerplant. The proponent’s own analysis says tonnes of sediment from the lakebed, exposed to erosion for the first time in thousands of years, will be too much for Ramona Creek to handle. Water quality will deteriorate, posing a risk to both fish habitat and public health.

This company has not earned public trust

All of this is especially worrying considering how this company has acted in the past. The company failed to take any action after a huge sediment dump at the existing Tyson Creek site until it was forced to do so by a public uproar. According to the company’s own environmental assessment reports, the potential for damage from fine sediment at the Ramona site is even greater.

The Tyson Creek experience is clear evidence of this company’s poor track record in managing environmental risks.

A cavalier attitude towards environmental damage

Throughout the volumes of reports it has prepared, the company admits that the proposed expansion of its power plants will harm Narrows Inlet for the long-term. It dismisses this harm as not significant, and reversible if the power plants are torn down. In other words, the company’s position is that our great great grandchildren may be able to repair the damage.

This project should not go ahead. The expensive electricity it will generate is not needed. It will create wealth for a few, while imposing all of the environmental risks and higher electricity rates on the rest of us. And Narrows Inlet will be damaged for generations.

PDF version of the submission:
Bech Submission to EAO Re Narrows Inlet
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Things that still make you go "Hmmm"

This is a replay of a piece from last spring. It fits today's subject since it demonstrates that BC's most senior public officias aren't playing catch-up.

Washington State schools enrol just over a million students while BC public schools register about 740,000. Washington's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency overseeing K-12 public education. It is headed by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn who earned $121,157 in 2010. James Gorman, Deputy Minister, British Columbia Ministry of Education (0.74 million students), earns a salary of $232,000.

Washington's largest district, Seattle Public Schools, pays Superintendent Susan Enfield (47,575 students) $225,000. North Vancouver School District Superintendent John Lewis (16,200 students) made a total of $245,891 in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, after a two year increase of 17%, or about $3,000 monthly. SOURCE Mr. Lewis has three Assistant Superintendents, each averaging $179,200 in annual compensation. Seattle, with three times as many students, has only one Assistant Superintendent. He earns a salary of $175,840.

Washington State Investment Board chief investment officer Gary Bruebaker has annual pay of $303,562. The top five paid executives of the WA State Investment Board average $244,375. British Columbia Investment Management Corporation CEO Doug Pearce earned $1,003,659 and the top five paid executives of the BC Investment Management Corporation averaged $643,862, 263% more than the five WA counterparts.

David Mosely, head of Washington State Ferries, earned $144,220 in 2010. David Hahn, head of BC Ferries, earned $997,199 plus $425,000 in supplemental retirement.

Dan Newhouse, Director of Washington State Agriculture, earned $120,151. Wes Shoemaker, British Columbia's Deputy Minister of Agriculture, earns $232,000

Uriel R Iniguez, Executive Director of the Washington Commission on Hispanic Affairs, earned $77,954. Steve Munro, Deputy Minister of British Columbia's Ministry of Aboriginal Relations & Reconciliation, earns $225,000.

Stan Marshburn is Executive Manager of the Office of Financial Management in Washington State. In 2010, he was the highest paid official in Washington's OFM, earning $132,187. Peter Milburn is British Columbia's Deputy Minister of Finance. He earns $250,000.

Brian Sonntag is Washington State Auditor. His 2010 salary was $116,950. British Columbia Auditor General John Doyle earned $314,233 in 2010-2011.

Julie A Martin heads the Washington State Lottery Commission for a salary of $112,392. The five top paid executives of Washington's SLC cost a total of $484,574. Michael Graydon heads the BC Lottery Corporation for a salary of $421,084. The five top paid executives of BCLC collectively cost $1.57 million, some 325% more than the five highest paid Washington managers.

Washington's State Convention and Trade Center paid its President John Cristison $196,188 and the five highest paid CTC executives averaged $145,788. Warren Buckley, CEO of the BC Pavilion Corporation earned $563,707 in 2010-11. (Despite massive capital cost overruns, higher than anticipated operating losses and difficulties with low facility occupancy, Buckley earned $100,000 incentive plan compensation for the year.) PavCo's five highest paid executives averaged $332,923, 245% of the average paid the top five paid managers in the equivalent Washington organization.

In 2009-2010, Gordon Campbell was paid $207,494 as Premier and MLA for Point Grey. In the USA, the average Governor earned $130,595. Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire's salary or $166,891 is tenth highest among U.S. Governors. The Governor of Oregon earned $93,600 in 2009 and our neighbour Montana paid its Governor $100,121 in 2009.

The chief administrator of the Washington State Senate is Tom Hoemann. HIs 2010 compensation was $143,691. Brad Hendrickson, Deputy Secretary of the Senate, earned $133,271. Clerk of the BC Legislature George MacMinn earned $252,560 in 2010-2011 and the 81 year-old continues to reside in his old office and is still paid despite having been replaced, over NDP objections, by Craig James, who earned $213,151 in 2010-2011 at his former position as chief electoral officer.

In British Columbia, Provincial Court judges and Supreme Court Masters earn $230,066, Supreme Court judges earn $271,400. In addition, lavish pensions for the judges cost the public approximately another 25%. In Washington, Supreme Court Justices make $164,221, District Court Judges, $141,710.  The following data is from 2008.

British Columbia's 2010-2011 public accounts report that three Deputy Ministers averaged expenses of $52,000 each while the remaining 39 DMs and ADMs managed to survive on an average of $16,000 each..

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New adventures in not-net-zero land

It is a tough time for British Columbia. Natural gas producers are producing more but paying less to government. With bark beetle destruction and boundless raw log exports, the province's forest industry is a shadow of its former self.

Tough times dictates tough economic medicine and BC Liberals are dishing that out to everyone: paramedics, nurses, teachers, BCGEU workers, social services and community agencies. Everyone goes without.

Well, almost everyone. Here's a list of 31 Deputy Ministers and Associate Deputy Ministers. Collectively, their salaries jumped by 13% in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2012.

Not bad in a time when a net-zero mandate was government policy.

Note: Some of these names will be familiar. I've written previously about this government's generous treatment of the loyal few.

Sr Staff Salary Comparisons 2012 to 2011
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

No doubt about the winner in a contest of one

Ian Reid and Bob Mackin have been the leading journalists examining Paragon Gaming's past relationship with Pavco. We knew Paragon had an inside track for the proposed casino at BC Place but it now seems theirs was the only horse in the race.

Reid's BC Place meet Paragon Gaming, along with his earlier reports, exposes information demonstrating a back-room deal was in progress until public exposure and Gordon Campbell's ignominious departure led to the deal imploding.
"...[Pavco consultant Brent] MacGregor’s meetings with Paragon – there were many more – suggest that BC Place wasn’t looking for the best casino operator, they were working with just one – Paragon.

"...From the pattern of events emerging from MacGregor’s billings it can be argued that the RFP for developers issued by Pavco was little more than window dressing. Paragon Gaming was the only one at the table right from the beginning.

"A 250 million dollar development of public land. One real proponent who happened to donate $50,000 to the government in the 2009 election – after achieving a rezoning permitting a casino expansion. Plus a part owner who’s a friend of the government chairing a major government corporation.

"A plan so badly put together it went down to defeat at a real public hearing two years later, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

"And taxpayers paid MacGregor up to $150,000 a year for four years for this?"
An early order of government business in 2013 will be revamping of the Pavco board of directors. (Susan Anton is a director!) Behind-closed-doors handling of the BC Place casino deal suggests Howard Crosley should be gone even before then. I realize the Paragon relationship was orchestrated at the highest political level but Crosley, as CEO of BC Place, cannot avoid responsibility for this shady deal-making. He was a tool for the dealmakers not a guardian for the public.
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Platform for hatred

In my childhood long ago, Canadians used ethnic slurs without much thought. My east Vancouver family, not  hateful people, disdainfully labelled central and eastern European war refugees as DP's or Bohunks. In those days, a black child was a Pickaninny or a Tar Baby; their parents called Spades, Spearchuckers, Coons, Spooks, Niggers or Porch-Monkeys. The corner store was operated by Chinks, Chinamen or Slant-eyes. Italians were tagged as Wops or Dagos; Mexicans as Wetbacks. Men wearing turbans were Pakis, Towel-Heads or Hindus, all of them.  Aboriginal men were Injuns or Redskins; the women Squaws. Light skinned natives were Half-Breeds.

And, of course, there were Hebes, Yids and bloodsucking Christkillers. When father negotiated for a better price on anything, he was trying to "jew-down" the seller.

Progress came slowly and its not achieved universally but today, those expressions are deeply offensive to nearly all of us. Not all, unfortunately. Reprehensible hate-speak is still acceptable to some in our country.

Here's a sample reported by The Canadian Journalism Project in Ezra Levant under investigation for alleged hate crime surrounding Roma broadcast:
"In the broadcast, Levant accused the Roma of cheating the Canadian refugee system, and stereotyped them as criminals. He said:

" 'These are gypsies, a culture synonymous with swindlers. The phrase gypsy and cheater have been so interchangeable historically that the word has entered the English language as a verb: he gypped me. Well the gypsies have gypped us. Too many have come here as false refugees. And they come here to gyp us again and rob us blind as they have done in Europe for centuries … They’re gypsies. And one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging.' "
I suspect this is the carefully considered output of a shallow, empty-headed egotist who will do or say aything that draws attention. Levant's hero is probably Ann Coulter, another serial troll whose contributions are calculated to produce outrage and, more importantly, notoriety.

Cliff Lee's words in the Globe and Mail could easily have been about Levant:
"Coulter is no better than an immature school-aged bully who uses words to hurt others."
I wonder if the present styles of Coulter and Levant are rooted in school days when they were not the bullies but were the victims of bullies
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Austerity only for the "plebs"

The most read article at Northern Insights is Adventures in not net zero land. It begins with this:
"Helping manage the BC government's war on school teachers and public education is Deputy Minister of Education James Gorman. He is a long time senior bureaucrat.

"Public accounts show his salary in fiscal 2006 was $164,085. In fiscal 2011, it was $228,942, an increase of 40% in five years. During that period, Gorman's expenses were $136,616."
Since Gorman was wielding a sharpened stick in the BC Liberal war on teachers, it's worth noting what happened to his own pay package in fiscal 2012.

The Comptroller General's Detailed Schedules of Payments indicate that Gorman's salary was up 9% in 2012, rising to $248,962. That raise of $1,700 a month was more than the annual earnings of a minimum wage worker.

Gorman's expenses of $27,498 were up by 31% in fiscal 2011-12.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More lipstick please

Attorney General Shirley Bond sounds like a new arrival to BC as she presents another Liberal plan to improve court administration. Current backlogs result in serious charges not laid, stayed, thrown out or negotiated down to offences with meaningless consequences.

In Britain, the BBC reported that The National Audit Office found victims and witnesses faced long delays in criminal trials, with about half of all cases in Surrey, Sussex, London and the Thames Valley taking four months to begin.

The average in Britain for all defendants in indictable offences (the most serious) is noted in this U.K. government report:
"In June 2011, the average time between the date an offence was committed and the date the defendant’s case was completed in the magistrates’ courts for all indictable cases was 98 days. This represents a decrease compared to June 2010 (106 days). However, prior to June 2011, the average offence-to-completion time had been on a generally flat trend since mid-2008."
By comparison, British Columbia prosecutors took six months to lay the first charges against people involved in the June 2011 Stanley Cup riot. Today, 16 months after the event, five more charges were laid. Prosecutors expect more charges will be laid, eventually. Trials, if ever held, will be months, perhaps, years from now.

Responsible for almost 12 years of legal system mismanagement, BC Liberals have no credibility in claiming intention to address chronic failures within the legal system. They repeatedly promised improvements but only made the situation worse. Legal bureaucrats and failed politicians (names like Plant, Oppal and Seckel) departed with problems left unsolved but their briefcases stuffed with cash and IOU's. Shirley Bond and Mike de Jong will soon do the same.

We could argue that focusing the courts in large cities and tolerating, even encouraging, constant delays, serves only the large firms of urban dwelling lawyers. By sheer coincidence, or not, these are the ones that write large cheques to the BC Liberal Party while the taxpayers write larger cheques back to the law firms.

The Campbell/Clark government closed courthouses in Burnaby, Castlegar, Chase, Chetwynd, Creston, Delta, Fernie, Grand Forks, Hope, Houston, Invermere, Kimberley, Kitimat, Lillooet, Lytton, Maple Ridge, Merritt, Oliver, 100 Mile House, Parksville, Princeton, Revelstoke, Squamish and Vanderhoof.

They closed jails: Terrace Community Correctional Centre, Rayleigh Correctional Centre, Chilliwack Community Correctional Centre, Mount Thurston Correctional Centre - including Chilliwack, New Haven Correctional Centre, Stave Lake Correctional Centre, Alouette River Correctional Centre, Vancouver Pre-trial Correctional Centre, and Hutda Lake Correctional Centre.

They made dramatic cuts to legal aid budgets and defunded diversion programs.

These people are like car repair scam artists that tinkered endlessly with the engine, swapped the transmission, installed new tires, re-chromed the bumpers and slapped Bondo on the fenders. Now they want you to pay more for a paint job. They're getting rich while you have a sad old jalopy in your driveway, one that works occasionally but not well and always needs more repair.

Take a quick spin through the news archives and find many examples where Liberals have been asked to recognize problems or where they've claimed to be addressing them.

In February 2002, a group promoting increased mediation as a way of unclogging the system, tried to meet with Geoff Plant. The BC Liberal Attorney General snubbed the group and made no response, according to Peter Allik-Petersenn, a family law lawyer in Kamloops.

In April 2002, in a confidential letter written on behalf of 146 provincial court judges, Geoff Plant, the Attorney-General of British Columbia, was told the province's judiciary no longer had confidence in him.

In May 2002, more than 1,000 BC lawyers passed a vote of non-confidence in the province's attorney general because of cuts to court administration and legal aid funding.

In the first Liberal term, a senior police officer said "British Columbia needs an integrated prosecuting team to combat increasingly complex organized crime." Instead, BC Liberals directed the illegal gambling team funded by the province should focus on mid-level rather than high level targets. It was more convenient to pretend that organized crime did not exist.

In 2004, Attorney General Geoff Plant said BC's civil justice system is complicated, costly and out of reach for the average citizen and needs change. He said the government had established a nine-member working group to look at civil justice reform.
"For many ordinary British Columbians our superior courts are coming close to....a point where they are nearly, and perhaps tragically, irrelevant."
In 2005, Attorney General Wally Oppal said that people have no faith in the current system. "What we are doing now is not working," he said. In 2008, he had no solution, just resignation, saying "Public confidence in Canada's justice system is at an all-time low."
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Sunday, October 21, 2012

We can help

As a journalist, Jody Paterson often wrote about Canadian children and families. Now, she and partner Paul Willcocks do humanitarian work in Honduras through Cuso International.

One of their projects assists forty children without families. Jody and Paul set out to raise $8,500 for the foster home housing these children. Today, they are only $600 short of the target sum.

Please go to The Children of Angelitos Felices and help our noble friends meet this modest goal. Even a small donation makes a difference because every dollar that reaches Jody and Paul helps the children directly.

H/T Ross K, The Gazetteer
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Would we vote for someone who promised to:

  • "Protect BC Hydro and all of its core assets, including dams, reservoirs and power lines under public ownership."
  • "Restore an independent BC Utilities Commission, to re-regulate BC Hydro’s electricity rates."
  • "Pass a Living Rivers Act to protect and improve BC’s river systems with scientifically-based standards for watershed management, enhancements to fish habitat, and a 10-year program to correct past damage."
  • "Adopt a scientifically-based, principled approach to environmental management that ensures sustainability, accountability and responsibility."

Well, we did. And, they didn't.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

More Narrows Inlet

Exploiters are taking us from


If you want this to end, visit the website of British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office and voice your objections.

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A non-partisan citizen speaks a powerful message

Private developers behind the Narrows Inlet power project are already assured their place at the public trough. BC Hydro will buy more power they don't need. If you are happy to see additional risk-free profits flowing to private companies using public waters, do nothing.

If you want this to end, visit the website of British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office and voice your objections.

For more information, read through old Northern Insights stories linked HERE. Here is one originally published September 2011.

Motorcycleguy, a regular reader here, left a lengthy comment at The Vancouver Observer in response to efforts by Nigel Protter and Tzeporah Berman to defend private power producers that interfere with water systems all over the BC wilderness.

Berman is an oft criticized former environmentalist  who, in addition to working for Greenpeace International, tours as a professional speaker and greenwash consultant. Protter has been an administrator for aboriginals near Pemberton and has consulted for a Toronto-based subsidiary of Manulife Financial that wants to establish a power plant on the Ryan River, a major tributary of the Lillooet River near Pemberton. The project would divert water through a 9.5-km tunnel that will be burrowed through Sugarloaf Mountain. Protter had claimed IPP critics were providing "repetitive class warrior chants." and unfounded observations.

Motorcycleguy's response:
I take great offence to being labelled a chanter. I absolutely stand behind my great distaste for the present group of people that make up our provincial government, regardless of the name of the party. The deceit has surfaced on all topics, not just this one. Political priorities? None before the IPP industry got me involved. Yes, this is a class war..... you just need to put a new definition on class… is not what you infer as bound by income levels, political parties and profession….it is one bound by those who revere our province and recognize the commons are not best protected if boardroom profits are involved….a class that does not appreciate finding out in bits and pieces what is going on. Unfounded concerns? I challenge Mr. Protter and Ms. Berman to appear on camera at such sites as Tyson and Ramona Lakes in Narrows Inlet. I challenge them to present to the public photos during construction, views of the transmission lines linking clusters of projects together, views of the service roads. How about a view of the silt deposits flushed all the way into the ocean at Tyson Creek?.....and then you can tell us there is minimal impact. A sequence showing opening the financial statements of the parent companies would be good. These are major hydroelectric are misleading the public by not acknowledging this. This power is for export. Conservation on any level will not be considered.....profits are the motive. You are correct that there is no one answer....but using our lakes and rivers at the scale you propose is absolutely not a step in the right direction.......if it were, you would not be hiding behind the "run of river" moniker. That is bunk. Tell the public you are tunelling into alpine lakes like Ramona and Phantom on the Sunshine Coast….and draining them by levels of 20m....tell them you are building real dams….tell them you are diverting waterfalls….take them kayaking down the Ashlu now....tell them the truth at meetings in easily accessible venues, not the Egmont Community Hall. Show me the projects that have been disallowed. Show me one baby you have thrown out. Show me the actual amount of fossil fuel generated electricity that has been displaced....and I don't mean displaced because of lower price on the commodities ticker....I mean displaced solely because of lack of hydroelectric supply. You have already misled the public by saying it is for self-sufficiency and that IPP’s are small and locally owned. The whole premise of this industry has been built on deceit and lack of information being made available. The fact of the matter amount of hydroelectric power in our part of the world can offset completely the dependence on alternate sources. In the winter it doesn't matter who owns the rivers, the water is hard and it doesn't flow....maybe not so much for the legacy BC Hydro dams, but particularly in the vast number of watersheds developed for IPP's. The benefit for disrupting all watersheds in the province is just not there....the only reason is a vehicle to provide monetary benefit for owners with taxpayers paying 3 times the rate ….that is what makes them feasible for the short period they do operate. All you are doing is adding more electricity to the grid, you are not doing anything to alleviate fossil fuel use during times when the water is “hard”. You are making a lot more electricity available for resource extraction in the north….at taxpayer expense. Why not hold IPP EAO public meetings in places other than the Egmont Community Hall? Why is it necessary to pay professional journalists to teach the IPP industry how to put a spin on things? How is carbon credit trading with subsequent tax free profits in our province going to help climate change? Show me a legally binding document, that will be recognized in world courts, that proves foreign corporations will not be able to dictate the future uses of our rivers and alpine lakes. Certainly there are a couple of good projects out there, too bad the good engineers and good locally owned enterprises hooked up with the wrong people. Once the projects get EAO approval they are flipped on the stock market to foreign corporations and investment funds. Am I wrong? Prove it.

“No two ways about it we are blessed in Canada with wide-open space and nature the likes of which many Europeans have simply never seen. So I wonder in my first days back why I feel this nagging sense of loss?”

I’ll tell you lowly members of the general public that nag are starting to have some effect….we may not be as eloquent or as polished in our writing skills, but we sure do know what we have at stake with our BC wilderness areas…..and we sure know when the governing party (and those who benefit monetarily from their polices) has pulled one too many sheets over our eyes.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Just asking

According to audited financial statements, BC Hydro's debt for future energy purchases was $7.9 BILLION in 2006, not including Powerex. In 2012, that number had gone up almost seven fold, to $53.1 BILLION, not including Powerex.

Can anyone direct me to a discussion of this fact anywhere in mainstream media?


Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements

  2006 (Page 98)

  2012 (Page 86)

Interesting fact:
British Columbians own a per capita share of this debt:  $12,055. Hmmm. Six people in my house means our share of the debt: $72,330 including $36,165 belonging to three children six-years of age and under.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Media fails to give an honest account
Yesterday, the Liberal government claimed its diligent examination of TransLink had resulted in $139 million in annual savings. As I noted, the claim was easily determined to be false. Yet that did not stop the media echo chamber from repeating, even amplifying, the delusive assertions.

A news commentator recently referred to the NDP's "fudge-it" budget in 1996, implying therefore, today's opposition is unsuited to manage the economy, come 2013. Yet, if one examines fiscal realities of the Harcourt and Clark administrations, their records, while imperfect, were not disastrous.

The fudge-it budget meme was a creation of right wing business interests, acting on behalf of Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals. Party member David Stockell, with funding from far-right organizations, filed a lawsuit (Leonard Friesen, Holly Kuzenko, Mildred Umbarger v. Sue Hammell, Graeme Bowbrick, Ed Conroy) aimed at overturning the 1996 election. The unsuccessful lawsuit was about modest differences between estimated and actual budget numbers.

Nevertheless, through the period of NDP rule, media was an energetic political opponent of the government. I'm fine with that because intense scrutiny is the way of keeping politicians on the right track. All of us should be demanding, regardless of which politicians are in power, that open government and maximum transparency are ruling principles.

Media today does not hold politicians' feet to the fire. Instead, they are compliant mouthpieces for the BC Liberals. With few exceptions - Bob Mackin and Jon McComb, for example - corporate media reporters and commentators avoid and consciously ignore scandalous situations that, had they happened when the NDP was in power, would have been headline news, day after day.

I've written here about the growth in BC Hydro's obligations to purchase private power. Those rose from $20 billion to $55 billion between 2010 and 2012. The debt has been growing rapidly and steadily but that is barely mentioned in the corporate media. Guys relentless in criticizing NDP Finance Minister Elizabeth Cull for missing estimates by $100 million, can't muster energy to examine a billion dollars a month added to sums owed Liberal friends — if any friends are left that have not flipped the projects for quick riches — for electricity we don't need and can't afford.

My numbers regarding future energy purchase commitments are taken from BC Hydro's audited financial statements. They are linked here: 2012 2011 2010
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Radical environmentalism on the rise


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TransLink "audit" is political and worthless

The BC government claims it "found significant savings" following a performance  audit   review of TransLink conducted by the provincial Ministry of Finance. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mary Polak says,
"As we conducted the audit, we told TransLink about many of the efficiencies we were finding... a total of $98 million in savings. The completed audit... found a further $41 million, bringing the total potential savings to $139 million per year.
I think internal performance reviews of public services should be stringent, routine and non-political. Based on the minister's statements, this one is not any of those things. Her release demonstrates it is partisan political rubbish.

Polak takes credit for unspecified "savings" already gained and claims to be advising TransLink of another $41 million in savings. Shall we examine the latest items:
  • $6.3m by service reductions;
  • $1.5m by reversing the contracting-out of IT and engineering services;
  • $3.0m by eliminating sinking funds, which are reserves for debt repayment;
  • $30.0m by eliminating surpluses through less conservative approaches to budgeting.
80% of these savings are not savings at all. They are instructing TransLink to employ budget tricks that BC Liberals find convenient but even the unschooled recognize that savings are gained by lowering actual expenditures, not by phoney cuts to projected spending. We should complain about TransLink's extravagance, in procurement policies and in executive compensation for example, but not about conservative budget making.

Sinking funds are merely reserves put aside to ensure that cash is on hand to repay debts when they become due. Sort of like holding next month's mortgage payment in a savings account to ensure its availability when the amount must be paid.

Interesting to see BC Liberals admitting that money can be saved by directly hiring people to provide administrative and technical services. I wonder if the province is prepared to apply that strategy throughout government. BC Liberals spend tens of millions to employ loyal friends as consultants and double dipping contractors. Where are you now Ken Dobell? I suppose it really depends on whose palms are being greased.

The Finance Ministry team states that TransLlink can save a further $6.3 million through service reductions, although they describe the reductions with less plain language: "costs saving opportunities exist in areas such as low performing routes and driver scheduling." So, TransLink users, you get fewer buses or buses without drivers. Take your pick.

An organization serving a large and diverse customer base has unique challenges and this government report actually finds that TransLink is performing quite well. Perhaps the greatest proof is this:
"Throughout the review the Steering Committee observed an overarching emphasis by TransLink in its business decisions and culture to focus on customer service."
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Circulate this video

H/T Richard Hughes
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Call to action

On October 22, 2012 join and support people from across Canada in BC’s Capital in defending our coast from tar sands tankers and pipelines. Then, on October 24th, in communities across BC let’s show BC’s unbroken wall of opposition by linking arms at our MLA offices.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is talking about putting a price on the west coast. The view is that for enough money we should ignore the voices of over 100 First Nations and put communities throughout B.C. and our environment at risk to the on-going threats tar sands tankers and pipelines would pose.

Prime Minister Harper has spent the last year silencing the voices of opposition by gutting environmental protection, cancelling more than 3,000 safety assessments of industrial projects and attacking Canadians who care about environmental values. Together we must tell the B.C. and Federal government that the protection of the west coast is not up for discussion and Canada’s coast is not for sale!

Read more and pledge support at Defend Our Coast.
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Pretend capitalists loot and pillage BC

I've been examining audited financial statements of two favourite public enterprises: BC Hydro and PAVCO. I completed preliminary examination but a paucity of meaningful data makes that a difficult task for an outsider. I'll write more about these subjects in weeks that follow.

After assuming leadership of BC Liberals, Christy Clark promised voters "enhanced stewardship of assets" but she has been no better than Gordon Campbell. Instead, she has managed a decline in stewardship as looters fill their pockets with a quickening pace. They know that voters will soon end the trickery.

Auditor General John Doyle reported the province's deficit is understated and he criticized P3 projects, lax IT controls, uncontrolled spending and improper accounting of Legislature expenses. He also reported that BC Liberals have lost track of British Columbia's forest resource and are failing to protect the future of provincial forests. He says they have not defined objectives and cannot ensure that management practices are effective.

In response, BC Liberals heap disdain on Auditor General Doyle and force him to seek Supreme Court orders to gain access to hidden documents.

Hiding documents from public view is one strategy to subvert open and accountable government. The most recent annual report of BC Hydro is 100 pages long, most of it expensive puffery of zero importance to analysts. One single paragraph provides news that should shock every taxpayer and consumer of electricity. That paragraph reports BC Hydro's commitment for long-term energy purchase agreements had grown to $55.6 BILLION, as of last March.

In the first eight years of Liberal rule, BC Hydro's energy purchase commitment averaged $13.6 billion. Since then it has quadrupled and if the rate of growth continues, the total will exceed $100 billion in little more than two years from now.

Remember that I said document hiding is one method enabling misinformation. Were you and I to seek details of the huge sums that BC Hydro owes to private power producers, we would get nowhere. The details are hidden by claims that disclosure would harm private business interests. Well, no one can argue with that statement. If the truth were known, we'd have to build new courthouses and new prisons.

Another method of subverting the public interest is to issue an avalanche of information - so much material that meaningful data is lost in drifts of useless and tedious bumf. The private power industry knows how to play that game, a fact proven by 18,000 pages of material put on display at a recent open house allegedly held to inform the public about the Narrows Inlet projects near Sechelt. These add more unneeded private power to the public utility system. Remember Hydro CEO Dave Cobb stating,
"If it doesn't change, it would be hundreds of millions of dollars per year that we would be spending of our ratepayers' money with no value in return."

I wrote this a year ago in BC Hydro - ultimate comfort station for pretend capitalists, a rant warning of the extent of financial misconduct that is crushing BC Hydro:
"Providers of private power generation face no marketing, revenue or cost risks. They will have no unsold product, no price uncertainty and no selling costs. BC Hydro has become the ultimate comfort station for pretend capitalists.

"Something happened with the Campbell government a few years ago. The Premier, his associates and beneficiaries simply lost the ability to constrain their own greed. Philosophically, many Liberal supporters agreed with privatization but they expected it would happen honestly. Instead, the public assets of British Columbia were treated like those of the former Soviet republics.

"BCR's railway assets went into hands of the Premier's friends but its fabulous land bank was eased into private hands almost without notice. Because the carried value for land on BCR books was far below its market value, the extent of the fourberie was not apparent. The corruption of this dishonest privatization may yet bring down the Campbell/Clark government but, in comparative terms, BC Hydro is even more egregious."
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