Thursday, January 31, 2013

Myths do not make reality

Fiscal Record of Canadian Political Parties, The Progressive Economics Forum, April 2011

H/T Sandra H @savingthepeace
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Liberal sees no evil, hears no evil

Party-boy McDonald
BC Liberals selected Bruce McDonald as their candidate in Delta South, the riding held by independent Vicki Huntington. The incumbent MLA says her opponent is "an adamant and unapologetic supporter of Liberal government policies." McDonald told Robyn Smith of The Tyee that when events come down to a position of principle and ethics, "You have to be prepared to walk away."

Now there is a circle that cannot be squared. McDonald is an unapologetic supporter of the Liberals but implies he would walk away if he noted any affront to principle and ethics. So, why is he not walking right now? Has he not noticed any matters of principle and ethics in the last dozen years?
  • Not Premier Gordon Campbell being jailed for criminal behaviour while visiting Hawaii and not resigning?
  • Not BC Rail being corruptly delivered to one of Campbell's pals to have and to hold for 990 years while $6 million was paid to Basi and Virk as an inducement, along with wrist-slap sentences, to end their criminal trial before senior Liberals were called to testify about how the railway deals came to be?
  • Not BC Hydro being pointed toward bankruptcy by backroom deals for private power it doesn't need and cannot afford?
  • Not the conversion of South Delta farmland for the sake of industrial development and road construction, with huge profits earned by connected land speculators, not farmers.
  • Not the sweetheart deals with foreign contractors to build roads and bridges at triple the cost of earlier bridge and freeway construction after accounting for inflation?
  • Not Minister of Graft and Corruption Coleman cutting deals behind close doors to give away millions in tax dollars to people writing cheques in return?
  • Not Pavco doing a backroom casino deal with impecunious Liberal friends while competitors with financial wherewithal were forced to the sidelines?
  • Not spending millions of public funds for partisan advertising favouring the BC Liberal Party and using taxpayer funded legislative staff and facilities during regular office hours for Liberal electioneering?
I expect that Delta South residents will vote for Vicki Huntington, an MLA focused on issues important to the riding. Whether it involves coal dust pollution, the loss of thousands of acres of prime farmland to port expansion, highways and industrialization, river dredging and flood control, democratic reform, or other issues, Ms. Huntington cannot be told by party leaders to stay quiet.

Had we 20 more independent MLA's like her, good government would be assured no matter which party forms government in May.
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Enbridge: bad corporate citizen

From BigCityLib Strikes Back:
Two and a half years after the costliest oil pipeline spill in U.S. history, the company responsible for the disaster is balking at digging up oil that still remains in Michigan's Kalamazoo River.

The cleanup has been long and difficult because the ruptured pipeline was carrying bitumen, a heavy oil from Canada's tar sands region. Bitumen is so thick that it can't flow through pipelines until it's mixed with liquid chemicals to form diluted bitumen, or dilbit. When more than one million gallons of dilbit poured out of the broken pipeline in July 2010, the chemicals evaporated and the bitumen began sinking to the riverbed.

Two and a half years of bad corporate citizenship by Enbridge. They sent their lawyers around to weasel out of paying; they threw sod over-top polluted land and called it clean. And who knows how long the whole misery will go on? It took them three years to give this a quick tape-job.

The question is: why would we expect them to do a better job in the B.C. interior?
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North Coast no place for bitumen tankers

By Adrian Raeside 
As a diesel mechanic, after service on WWII troop ships, my father worked on coastal vessels in British Columbia. I recall times when he returned home still shaken by gigantic storms of BC's north coast. Now, we have the NEB, staffed entirely by drylanders, mostly from Alberta, weighing the potential risks of transporting bitumen through waters that rank among the most dangerous in the world.

Writing in the North Shore News, in North Coast no place for oil tankers, Master Mariner Roger Sweeney discusses the finite risks of disaster if bitumen shipments begin on our north coast:
"...Risk is the product of likelihood that something will go wrong and the fallout if it does. Modern machinery, navigation aids, communications etc. can have zero failure rate, but those who operate the equipment, though better educated and trained than ever, always have been and surely will remain the major stumbling block to a foolproof system. Look no further than Titanic, Exxon Valdes, Queen of the North, Costa Concordia - all testament to human folly. Nor does the presence of a pilot on the bridge guarantee safe passage: We read that a senior B.C. pilot was directing the ship's movements when the Cape Apricot collided with the Westshore Terminal on Dec. 7, 2012 (Vancouver Sun, Dec. 18). Consider, too, that all the proposed tanker traffic would be in foreign-flag vessels, which do not always measure up to highest standards of safety, maintenance and crew competence.

"The likelihood of a significant tanker accident between Kitimat and the Pacific may be very small, but it is finite.

"The fallout could be horrendous..."
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The Liberal record in BC

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Feeding frenzy has begun

When a kid, I lived with a marvellous black Lab. Usually a good-natured, well-behaved mutt, he discovered roast chicken unsupervised on the stove top. With no one around, temptation was irresistible and he made his move. I walked in and that chicken was on the floor, being devoured. Commands fell on deaf ears. In fact, he ate faster and growled angrily, turning in circles to shield the prize from expropriation. Dog knew the chance for real treasure might not come again so his aim was to maximize pleasures before opportunity ended.

I'm reminded of the dog story because a ravenous crew of BC Liberals is involved in a feeding frenzy, working to grab maximum treasure from public wealth and property before opportunities end on May 14, a short 15 weeks from now.

We watched Rich Coleman and BCLC CEO Michael Graydon growling angrily when Surrey council took away one opportunity to enrich their friends at Gateway Casinos and Entertainment.

Last month, no one stopped Coleman from delivering $10 million a year of BCLC revenues to the horse racing industry. The month before Coleman gave Pacific Western Brewing Co., his generous financial contributors, an almost $10 million tax break.

We witnessed the recent incorporation of the Mountain Resort Municipality of Jumbo Glacier, a community with an appointed council of three Liberal friends and grizzly bears and mountain goats as residents. Council's job: make land use and zoning decisions and increase the value of land without being accountable to a single voter.

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives analyst Ben Parfitt writing in Sunday's Province, Sneaky Liberals are planning a B.C. forest giveaway, says the government that will have appeared in the legislature only 19 of the 365 days preceding election 2013, plan to:
"introduce a scant two-paragraph bill granting it powers to fundamentally alter the course of forestry in B.C.

"...the bill would give the provincial cabinet powers to grant forest companies de facto private control over public forestlands without first having to notify or consult with the public.

Instead of companies enjoying rights to log set volumes of trees on public forestlands, companies would gain dramatically expanded powers to log trees on defined areas that in effect become their own semi-private fiefdoms.

"...the provincial cabinet could grant forest companies the rights to roll over numerous volume-based forest licences into area-based Tree Farm Licences. TFLs bestow by far the most secure rights of access to publicly owned trees of any arrangement with the provincial government. The new legislation could massively expand their use, beyond the limited number now issued.

" what remains of our forests away is lunacy. A responsible government would delay implementing such contentious legislation and give the public time to digest the implications of such a move. Or the Opposition could signal now that should such a bill pass it would be immediately repealed upon a change in government."
Ben Parfitt, this time writing in The Tyee, comments about the secrecy surrounding new trade in carbon offsets,
"In a month or so, BC Auditor General John Doyle is expected to release a report that will be highly critical of the Pacific Carbon Trust or PCT. The Auditor General's report has been fueled, in part, by hard questions raised about the validity of the offsets."
Of course, there is ongoing political dupery and sweetheart deals associated with private power contracts and forest lands slated for development. Will Horter wrote Vancouver Island's Great E & N Railway Land Grab for Watershed Sentinel. Note the involvement here again of BC's Minister of Graft and Corruption:
"...Rich Coleman’s decision to remove 70,000 acres of forestland from WFP’s TFLs in January of 2007 illustrates the continued erosion of a system with a scandalous history dating back over half a century. Since the BC Liberals were elected in 2001, forest ministers have selectively dismantled TFLs to create new windfalls for logging corporations friendly to their party. The latest scandal erupted with the announcement that WFP had put 6,300 acres of the former forestlands in the Sooke-Port Renfrew area up for sale. The listing of almost 5 kilometres of waterfront triggered outrage in the community.

"In July, John Doyle, the recently appointed Auditor General, also condemned the deal. Using language seldom seen from a government appointee, Doyle concluded the BC government lacked “due regard for the public interest.” Doyle’s scathing report condemned the Ministry’s inadequate due diligence into WFP’s financial status, and highlighted suspicious trading patterns, unusual patterns of political donations and conflicts of interest..."
The Vancouver Observer tells a story of efforts to log one of the last stands of ancient Douglas-firs on the coast. Heartwood: Forest Guardians of Cortes Island, by Daniel J. Pierce.

I wish my list were exhaustive. Unfortunately, it is not.
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Survival skills

Dr. Mike Webster offers an interesting piece at Surviving the RCMP (?) talks to police members who see themselves as victims of toxic workplaces but Webster reminds that people are not powerless to affect their situations or themselves.

He notes the ancient dictum that “It’s not the things in our lives that upset us, it’s our view of those things.” He says, "Your own attitudes, beliefs, judgements, interpretations, opinions and the like have the power to mitigate the stress you experience."

Webster presents more wise words, slightly obscured behind a veil of irony. This is a good piece, particularly useful to any of us, police or not, who have struggled with depression or a sense of being powerless.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Feet of clay

After Laura Robinson's September exposé in the Georgia Straight, John Furlong held a widely reported news conference where he defended himself categorically and accused the reporter of inaccuracy and "shocking lack of diligence in researching the article."

He also claimed that Robinson was involved in a personal vendetta against him and said that he had been told that, for a cash payment, the story "could be made to go away." Though not said, one implication that could be taken by a casual listener was that Laura Robinson was involved in a blackmail attempt. Lawyer Marvin Storrow reinforced the allegation, saying "We are very curious about the motivation that exists in this matter." Again, the imprecision of that statement is designed to smear Robinson.

In fact, the statement of claim filed by Furlong in Supreme Court says the request for payment came two years before Robinson's article and was made by an unnamed woman who claimed to be a victim of Furlong during earlier days.

Despite the writer having made numerous efforts to contact Furlong, directly and through his lawyer and publisher, the former VANOC CEO said,
"It is also beyond all belief that the Georgia Straight newspaper did not place a single call to me to validate any of the elements of this story."
Yet, lawyer Marvin Storrow stated they had warned Robinson and the Georgia Straight a number of times that a civil action would be commenced against them if defamatory remarks were made. Furlong's statement of claim also notes contacts between the Plaintiff's solicitor and the Georgia Straight.

Again, it appears these people want it both ways. They complain the publisher made not a single call to discuss the story but admit they had various contacts with those who are now defendants.

Furlong's September 27 news conference, ended by him saying,
"I am not in a position to provide further remarks."
Days later though, Furlong's personal website offered more remarks, including admission that he was employed at a Burns Lake school in 1969, a fact at odds with his autobiography which states that he came to Canada five years later.

Additionally, the Plaitiff's side found it worthwhile to continue its controlled media offensive by publication this week of a statement from Furlong's children, their mother Margaret, and their stepmother Gail, along with Furlong's 11 grandchildren. For someone who claimed regret about the effects of this story on his family, it seems contradictory to bring minor children into the public forum.

Earlier, Furlong accused Laura Robinson of having contempt for authority figures in sport.

Well John, sometimes that contempt is earned.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Furlong should step aside from publicly funded group

Despite numerous sworn affidavits accusing John Furlong of inappropriate conduct, despite what the Toronto Star calls "explosive new allegations", despite indications that Furlong has been incomplete or disingenuous in recounting biographical details, despite questions raised by CBC Fifth Estate about Furlong's lack of candour regarding track dangers perceived before the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, the former VANOC CEO continues as Chair of Own the Podium, a quasi-public  organization that draws most funding from taxpayers.

This sport administration body claims its activities are guided by strategic "Pillars of Excellence." It ought to ask Furlong to step aside until these matters are resolved.

Laura Robinson's defence argues that victims have been,
"retraumatized by the statements and actions of the Plaintiff [Furlong] and were further traumatized by those in authority implicitly dismissing their sworn statements by rallying to support the Plaintiff."
Just one example: Chris Selley of the National Post sees John Furlong as the victim here, writing,
"Maybe it’s time for understanding and compassion to make a comeback."
He was not referring to the 25 or so people claiming abuse, largely First Nations folk.


Laura Robinson's Response to Civil Claim

CBC's Death at the Olympics
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BC political alignments remain stable

When the watercarriers report that massive government advertising is making a material difference to BC Liberal fortunes, be inclined to skepticism. Last November, Stephen Smart, CBC's Liberal correspondent, said Angus Reid's poll gave new hope to the Clark government. Except an analysis of decided and leaning voters suggested nothing much had changed.

Angus-Reid's January poll again demonstrates that rather little has changed. Michael Smyth raced the folks at NW to announce that government strategy was working successfully. The news that excited them?

The two parties supported by big business remain at 41%. The two parties not supported by big business remain at 56%. Liberals up two points, Conservatives down two points, Greens gain one and the NDP lose one. None of this is significant because, as Angus Reid points out:
"The margin of error — which measures sampling variability — is +/- 3.5%."
My argument in November was that BC's political alignments had been relatively stable. That remains true although the fact is unlikely to be reported in the corporate media.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

The smartest guys in the room got it wrong

According to The Guardian's George Monbiot, after each of the richest 100 people gained an average of $2.4 billion in 2012, they now hold wealth near equivalent to the United Kingdom's GDP. The reasons, which he says are considered and chosen policies, will be familiar to readers of Northern Insight. They include:
  • Reduced tax rates, less enforcement, greater regressivity;
  • Refusal to recoup a decent share of revenues from natural resources;
  • Privatization of public assets;
  • Reduction of social services;
  • Creation of toll-booth economies;
  • Wage liberalization (deregulation, including open borders for migrants, undoing of pension obligations, etc.);
  • Debasement of unions and collective bargaining, resulting in wage stagnation and stalled demand.
Theorists and economic managers promised something different. In Monbiot's words,
"The remarkable growth in the rich nations during the 1950s, 60s and 70s was made possible by the destruction of the wealth and power of the elite, as a result of the Depression and the second world war. Their embarrassment gave the other 99% an unprecedented chance to demand redistribution, state spending and social security, all of which stimulated demand.

"Neoliberalism was an attempt to turn back these reforms. Lavishly funded by millionaires, its advocates were amazingly successful: politically. Economically they flopped."
To many, the arguments offered by Monbiot, with accompanying footnotes, will be convincing. He says the apostles of Hayek and Friedman "have conducted a 30-year global experiment and the results are now in. Total failure."

Yes, the verdict might be in but the apostles are unmoved. Most believe that recent problems result from markets not sufficiently free and regulations still too restrictive. True believers have religion and are not about to change their faith. In fact, they criticize John Maynard Keynes, the main intellectual enemy, because he often changed his mind, and not just when the facts changed.

Monbiot notes that lavish funding by wealthy individuals allowed neoliberalism to gain political influence in the last three decades. We'll have an an opportunity to see that effort in play here in British Columbia, particularly in the next 12 weeks. As I reported months ago, large sums of private money are committed, ready to supplement taxpayer paid messaging in favour of the BC Liberals.

However, for old warhorses aiming to buy an election, there are barriers today that didn't previously exist. PVR's limit the effectiveness of TV advertising and social media provides platforms for response and for original thought. The electorate will not be easily led by spinners and alarmists.

More reading:
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Friday, January 18, 2013

They held World War II in 6 years and a day

In 2001, the BC Liberal platform promised to improve administration of justice in the province through "determined leadership."

In 2005, Premier Gordon Campbell told the Canadian Bar Association,
"Improving access to justice and enhancing public confidence in the justice system can become a reality through the effective administration of justice."
In 2008, CBC reported,
" figures show the average person facing a traffic offence can expect to spend 10 months waiting to appear before the courts — up from seven months just a year earlier.

"Criminal cases now take an average of seven months to reach trial, one month longer than the previous year, and some are simply being thrown out due to time delays."
The deck chairs have been shuffled but only one of five occupants could mount a claim of competence; the current denizen least of all. This is the list of BC Liberal Attorneys General who guided BC to where justice is today:
  • Geoff Plant, 2001-2005;
  • Wally Oppal, 2005-2009;
  • Mike de Jong, 2009-2010;
  • Barry Penner, 2010-2011;
  • Shirley Bond, 2011-2013.
And where is justice today? Largely in disarray, managed by incompetents. Out of many possibilities, one example:
  • The M.V. Queen of the North ran aground and sank March 22, 2006. After four years, charges were laid against the ship's fourth officer. Three years later, his trial begins. Click on this timeline for an expanded view:

If the ship's fourth officer is convicted, inevitable appeals could keep this going for 12 years or more.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Conflict of interest: Not us!

Does government advertising affect the way media reports on political events? Maybe no, or not much, if the proportion of government advertising, compared to the total, is minor. However, when the taxpayers' deep pockets pay for significant air time, we have to wonder.

It's that old perceived conflict of interest issue. If it seems wrong, it probably is wrong.

On Saturday evening, Global TV, like Corus Radio, part of the Shaw family empire made rich through government regulation, presented spots from BC Hydro and a "Canada starts here" ad promoting the BC Liberals. The second Hydro spot was followed by an ad from TReO, a government agency in charge of ice bombs on the Port Mann bridge.

When the BC election campaign begins in a few weeks, people should recall that Advertising Standards Canada says:
  • "Truth in advertising matters"
  • "Dressing it up doesn't make it true."
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The evidence mounts

In the Times Colonist today, Rob Shaw provides information that should result in every citizen, BC Liberal supporters included, demanding a formal inquiry into disposition of BC Rail. Unfortunately, that's not likely to occur for another 17 weeks. Moving sooner would require the exercise of common sense and that is not so common when politicians are covering their backsides.

Journalist Shaw reminds us that when the BC government agreed to pay $6 million for the benefit of Dave Basi and Bob Virk, they said,
"it was unlikely to recover the money from either Basi or Virk based on their limited financial assets. Mike de Jong, B.C. attorney general at the time, said only a “minuscule” amount of money could have been recovered from the men.
Shortly after, Bob Virk was involved in a near million dollar property transaction. As Shaw writes,
"Virk’s involvement in land acquisition one year after taxpayers paid his legal bills “raises an awful lot of questions,” said NDP justice critic Leonard Krog."
Any person trained in investigations, whether financial auditor or detective, knows that you must first consider motive and opportunity. Why did the BC government agree to pay $6 million and arrange for slap-on-wrist sentences for Basi and Virk, days before senior Liberals were due to testify? Gee whiz. I wonder.

NDP justice critic Krog has been accused of being too soft when it comes to BC Rail. Maybe, as a lawyer, he has merely been patient, waiting for the process to complete. As lawyers know, in the long run, the guilty do pay.

It won't happen in the next 2 months. Christy Clark, protecting people close to her, is hoping for a Hail-Mary event that will keep her from a Kim Campbell experience.

As Leonard Krog said in December,
“If a B.C. Rail inquiry had been called from the beginning, we would have long ago gotten to the bottom of this. Instead the Liberals continue to drag their feet and the people of British Columbia still don’t have the full story behind the sale of B.C. Rail....”
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Good news

People using the Internet are familiar with scam, spam and phishing. For me, it seems to have accelerated in the last 2 weeks. Apparently, I'm a rich, respected person, even among people I've never heard about before now. Since nothing has changed, I don't need to rewrite an article, just republish one from 2009:

It has been a fine day today, one of the times when just everything goes right. It started early, even before the sun rose.

Shortly after 5 am, Western Union Foreign Payments Office® emailed a Notification of Payment®, advising they sent $5,000 which I could receive at any office in my country. The really good news is they will send $5,000 each day until $800,000 is paid. This is from the Nigerian Government as compensation  for being "defrauded or scam by It's Citizens."

I can't recall losing money to any Nigerian but a student from Lagos in Fort Camp residence at UBC 45 years ago didn't pay his share of the pizza one night. Not fraud, simply failure to understand our customs, I think. It wasn't hundreds of thousands of dollars but with interest compounding all those years, who knows. One can't look a gift horse in the mouth so I'm going to collect the first cash as soon as I raise $2 for bus fare.

Not even an hour later, an email arrived from Mr. Salam Sudu, director auditing and accounting department, Bank of Africa. He discovered $7.2 million belonging to a man who died in a tragic car crash and is willing to give me 40% if I pretend to be kin to the deceased. I vaguely remember an Uncle Salam, at least I think I do, and my share should be almost $3 million, not spread out over 40 days either.

Around 10 am, Dr Chan John (Managing Director and Deputy Chief Executive Hang Seng Bank Hong Kong) wrote that Iraqi Gen. Zaki Zazidel left $5.5 million on deposit when, sadly, he and his family were killed in bomb blast. Apparently the Chinese government will seize that money if no one claims it but Dr. John is willing to send it to me if I do a couple of little things. He didn't say anything about sharing but I won't count on more than half.

Another message comes from Ian George, a retired banker in the European Union, who has a 23-million pounds proposal that could be of immense benefit to both of us. Mr. George says he is sitting "on a 9 year forgotten financial inheritance that will be transferred to the state as required by law but not if we both collaborate and share the proceeds."

There are so many possibilities taking shape. I shall soon be wealthy!

On top of those listed, my email address just won 1.5 million in the Euromillion International Lottery and Li Park has offered a share of $44.5 million that once belonged to a dead client and a London barrister advises that Juriaan Krugger bequeathed $30.1 million to me. That name rings no bell for me but the barrister thinks that, being a widely travelled man, Krugger must have been in contact with me in the past somehow. Apparently, he was a member of the Helicopter Society and the Institute of Electronic & Electrical Engineers. I guess he knew about my interest in science.

Wow, I had not realized how many opportunities could come my way simply by having a public email address. Anita William advises they are giving out loans at affordable interest rates, with no upfront processing fees. And numerous people from Hang Seng Bank Hong Kong have written offering tens of millions. (That particular bank seems to have a problem with rich old clients dying without close heirs.) The FBI Anti-Terrorist And Monitory Crime Division is offering to help me access $11 million that should have come my way. All they need is a small payment for an approval slip.

When the big money arrives, that will likely be the end of blogging at Northern Insights. I have my eye on a little boat so my future activities might include admiring the sun setting on the Mediterranean, sipping wine and consulting with tax accountants. After all, the very wealthy should not pay income taxes and, as we care for our own good fortune, that will create economic stimulus that will benefit everyone, eventually, maybe.

BTW, I was reminded of this article by a researcher working at the Senate of the USA. Busy beavers they are.
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Citizens, wake up please

I mentioned in a comment on another article that I've heard reports from people doing business with the province who say they are encouraged to kick-back part of what they are paid by taxpayers. I've also had reports from contractors forced into doing business with BC through indirect agencies, then asked to reduce charges so that managers of the BC Liberal friendly agencies can take a bigger piece of the action.

This is not now subject to review by the BC Auditor General, although he's heard the same stories, which makes him dangerous to BC liberals if reappointed. Don't expect to read comments about this from Rich Coleman's Liberal operative Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation or from non-investigative journalists in the compliant corporate press.

BC Rail is the big issue and I'm told by insiders that the NDP is serious about conducting a full review of the transactions by which the province disposed of the railway's assets. It's not just the rail operations, it is about the involvement of someone very close to Gordon Campbell who paid particular attention to BC Rail's land bank; an asset worth hundreds of millions. I asked if the paperwork would be available to any inquiry and was told that copies are being held in numerous places and cannot be eliminated. An honest review will review almost everything.

It has been suggested to me that one of the prime operators orchestrating the sale of BC Rail is planning to flee the country so that he is beyond reach of any inquiry.

For years, we have had an economy in British Columbia based on corruption. Teck and other corporations paid for a friendly government and got it. Teck's profits rose by more than 1,000 percent during BC Liberal administration while the public share of natural resources dropped more than 30%. That might be worthwhile if employment increased but the capital intensive mining industry doesn't actually employ many people in this province.

Other winners are Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) and Joy Global Inc.(JOYG), the world's largest mining equipment providers. By the way, don't bother looking for the amount of corporate income tax they pay to British Columbia. They don't pay anything.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

When politicians aim to manage "freedom"

The federal Conservative government is creating an Office of Religious Freedom, intending to monitor and criticize religious persecution and to promote religious freedom around the world. Perhaps especially in Winnipeg, where the Harper Government's preferred religion is Youth for Christ (Winnipeg) Incorporated.

This organization received $6.8 million from government in the last two years, most of that from the Harper government. Grants of public funds enabled the charity to accumulate a surplus of $8.2 million at the end of 2011. Because of its focus on preaching to Aboriginals, the fundamentalist organization has been accused of trying to design a modern-day equivalent of residential schools, sad institutions of Canada's dark past.

Were the Harperites serious about religious freedom, as opposed to promotion of a fundamentalist Christian sect, they would not dump millions of dollars into minority institutions. Nor would they have cancelled the contracts of part-time prison chaplains, an act that eliminated non-Christian religious staff from federal correction facilities.

If they were truly interested in religious freedom, they would stop promoting any prayerful organizations. Freedom is about each of us making our own decisions and tolerance is about fellow citizens respecting those individual decisions.

Stephen Harper and fellow fundamentalist Christians should not design a policy that makes their personal religion the preferred sect of Canada's government and its taxpayers.
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Oppal inquiry: costly and unaccountable

To June 2012, Britain's Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press had cost $6.2 million CAN. In a commission British citizens thought was unbounded and never-ending, Lord Leveson examined relations of power between the press and the public, politicians and police. According to The Economist, Leveson uncovered excruciating detail of how press reporters and agents bullied, stole and cheated with impunity, with the assistance of politicians.

The Brits were lucky. Had BC's former Attorney General had his way with that commission, it might have cost $50 million. Unlike Wally Oppal's benefice in British Columbia, the Leveson Inquiry published detailed financial records and made them available online to anyone.

Instead, in British Columbia, we got scattered detail and obfuscation.

British Columbia's Missing Women Commission of Inquiry publishes no financial report but press reports claim Oppal's sinecure cost more than $8 million. Public Accounts for the year ended March 2012 provide no segregated detail of the inquiry but we can extract information about individuals. For example, commission counsel Art Vertlieb received $483,731 in the year ended March 2012 and started the new fiscal year at a monthly pace of $50,000. Jessica McKeachie, a newly qualified lawyer billed over $200,000, despite working less than the full year. Another legal novice, according to Brian Hutchinson of the National Post, billed even more than McKeachie in fiscal 2012. We're left to wonder if administrator John Boddie continued to bill more than $30,000 a month for the time he was suspended after allegations of sexist behaviour among commission staff.

We can speculate why these people fail to publish financial detail and we can speculate why they refused funding  to representatives of victims' families. I will speculate.

They had their eyes on the prize and no intention of sharing the lovely lolly.

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Message to Christy Clark

Anita Roddick, billionaire businesswoman, activist and founder of The Body Shop, said that when leaders are not ethically sound, innovation coming from them,
"Is only innovation on puffery."
Puffery, for people not paying attention to Terry O'Reilly's Age of Persuasion, is,
"exaggeration as to the degree of quality of a product."

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Enbridge: into the truth machine

In an extended campaign, advertising promoting the Enbridge pipeline has become incessant noise. One problem with this particular ballyhoo is that its words are not believable. Listeners don't need sophisticated knowledge to recognize a dishonest campaign.

Here's the wording of a recurrent radio spot:
"Northern Gateway project will strengthen British Columbia’s position as one of Canada’s most vital trading provinces. It will bring significant benefits to the economy by allowing us to export our natural resources to the growing Pacific Rim. And, it will ensure the future prosperity of BC by opening up a new gateway to world markets. Northern Gateway; it’s more than a pipeline. It’s a path to our future. Learn more about how it will strengthen trade at"

I ran the script through the truth machine. The result:
"Northern Gateway project will strengthen a handful of multi-national companies. It will bring significant benefits to oil producers, allowing exports to eliminate surpluses that would result from refining products in Canada. By shipping bitumen to Pacific Rim nations, their industrial prosperity is encouraged and consumers here will be allowed to pay substantially more for energy. Higher prices will ensure future prosperity of the world’s largest oil companies. And, the pipeline will provide a new gateway to world markets for any BC exporters transporting products from Bruderheim to Kitimat and on to China in a supertanker loaded with bitumen. Learn more about how Northern Gateway will strengthen the oil industry and harm your finances. It’s a project with many losers and rather few winners."
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Friday, January 4, 2013

After millions spent on advertising

Today's report from Statistics Canada:
"In British Columbia, employment was little changed in December and the unemployment rate declined 0.3 percentage points to 6.5%. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment was little changed."
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BC's slow ferry fiasco

Heading to Vancouver Island January 4, I noted something while checking BC Ferries schedules. Here are the vessels in service today on major routes to the island:

Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo
  • Queen of Oak Bay (built 1981)
  • Queen of Coquitlam (1976)
Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay
  • Spirit of British Columbia (1993)
  • Spirit of Vancouver Island (1994)
Tsawwassen to Duke Point
  • Queen of Alberni (1976)
  • Coastal Inspiration (2008)
Ships not in service
  • Coastal Renaissance (2008)
  • Coastal Celebration (2008)
When the NDP formed government, media kept the $450 million ($568m in 2012 dollars) "fast ferry fiasco" in constant play. For some, it's still a favoured topic, proving NDP unsuitability for governing.

However, where has been the analysis of the $542 million ($580m in 2012 dollars) Super C ferry inadequacies? Clearly, there are deficiencies if BC Ferries management parks them at every available opportunity so they can run ships that are 36 years old. We hear reports of high fuel consumption, inability to safely traverse Active Pass, mechanical difficulties and terminal damage but, regardless, BC Ferries management continued earning bonuses and other rewards these past few years. In fiscal 2012, the four top officers earned an average of $900 K, even though one of them, David Hahn, retired during the year.

Further reading:
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Thursday, January 3, 2013

As life moves on

The holidays are over, a season that pleased even the newcomer, grandchild #6, grand-daughter #2, from our youngest son and his wonderful wife.

I'm an old guy, a baby-boomer wearing out. But I care about BC for future generations. Can anyone doubt why we need steady hands guiding British Columbia?

Regular readers will know that we've been involved in a major house renovation for months. After a pause for the holidays, the contractors are back working on phase 2, which is to add a second story over the existing one story part of our house. That includes the attached garage, a segment of the house that is disappearing this week.

The good news is that our new furnace is working, the new kitchen is complete and the foundations are underpinned. We had a few bumps along the way in design and engineering but after changes, we have people working on the project whom we trust.

If you need a capable builder, get in touch with George of Bamford Construction (604) 986-2871. We also thank Mike Shafai of Tash Engineering (604) 986-2256, a structural expert who turned previous confusion into practical direction.

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A message to Christy Clark and friends

An old Turkish folk tale teaches:
The candle of someone who lies almost always burns just to midnight. After his candle goes out, nobody gives him any light. He remains without light.
This story illustrates:
A lonely princess, known by all, once had friends, family and respect but she sometimes told small lies.Then, she started to tell big lies. When her people complained, she promised to be honest about her job, but she didn't keep her promises. She lost the job, then her friends and then her family. Few people trusted and believed her.

One day, a fire started in her home. She ran to the center of town and shouted, "Neighbors, please help me. My home is burning. I need help or I lose everything."

Nobody believed her so the home burned completely. She was left alone and homeless, with no possessions.
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Hard for First Nations to get out the real story

Jon McComb, doing the morning show on CKNW today, had this to say about Attawapiskat:
"The housing crisis that has plagued her [Chief Spence] remote reserve of about 1,900 people has been in and out of the headlines for months. The federal government says that since 2006, they've spent $131 million on the reserve but the band refuses to release detailed financial records to residents or the media as to where all the money's been spent..."
My Tweet to McComb:
@jonmccomb980 U said on CKNW that Attawapiskat people refuse to release financial stmnts. What R these?
McComb, true to his reputation as a straight shooter, responded,
"@Norm_Farrell Clearly I was ill-informed. Thanks for pointing out the error. Mea Culpa. @CKNW"
Jon McComb is a skilled broadcaster who aims to uncover all sides of a story so I'm not surprised that he said mea culpa. Unfortunately, he can't take back the words and thousands of people will have prejudices reinforced.

Postmedia's National Post brought us the unveiled racism of Christy Blatchford, the idiot who suggested hunger striker Theresa Spence was committing an act of terrorism. Yet National Post also published The real math behind Attawapiskat’s $90 million, despite their confusion over who wrote the material. (It was Chelsea Vowel of âpihtawikosisân ) Please read through Ms. Vowel's explanation.

Update: I asked CKNW programming how this misinformation was to be corrected. Stay tuned.
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bloggers can change the political landscape

Reader G. Barry Stewart said this today in comments on 'A road to inevitable unrest':
"I had a thought today. (Pretty amazing, huh?)

"As a New Year's resolution, I am going to make little print-outs of the web addresses of my favourite BC political bloggers. I'll tack them on community posting-walls, leave them in coffee shops and pass them to friends or colleagues. I've already been sending links to friends via e-mail — but this could get the word out to new circles of people.

"I invite others to join me. Maybe we can start a fire!"
I appreciate those words and my colleagues in the world of independent political blogging would too. We don't advertise, we don't employ shills to populate the social media using taxpayer money or corporate funding and the mainstream media largely ignores us. So, it is word of mouth conducted by readers that leads to growth. Those of us who are active see regular growth in readership. Here is my experience at Northern Insight as the blog approaches its fourth birthday:

As you can see, the readership has been developing steadily and monthly readership is now measured in many tens of thousands.

Any power these blogs have or might have comes from the pool of engaged readers. My aim here is not to promote one party over another, or to advance one vested interest beyond another, as the CTF, the Fraser Institute or the BC Chamber of Commerce intends with numerous paid staff. The aim here is to promote ethical principles, accountability and transparency within public institutions. My clear view is that Liberals fail on each and every element and, no matter what they say in future, they cannot be believed. The Liberal Party has been sponsored by and beholden to big business interests. In my view, it's time to re-balance the influences that drive government in British Columbia. It's time for ordinary people to have a dominant say in public affairs.

The next administration needs to rewrite the rules by which government operates. We must enhance the power and influence of statutory officers of the Legislature, not to make policy but to ensure that it and its results are disclosed honestly:
  • The Auditor General, 
  • The Information and Privacy Commissioner,
  • The Ombudsman,
  • Chief Electoral Officer
  • Representative for Children and Youth,
  • Conflict of Interest Commissioner,
  • Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.
More importantly, the responsibilities of individual MLAs should be enhanced through meaningful use of committees and public hearings.
    Blogs like this one and others like it would be less needed if citizens had an accessible method of speaking about public policy or if the mainstream media cared consistently about the public interest.

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    A road to inevitable unrest

    Libs' 'Job Plan' not enough to tackle poverty, Trish Garner, The Province, Dec 2012
    "...B.C. has the largest gap between the rich and the poor, and the highest poverty rate in Canada. Over half-a-million British Columbians live below the poverty line, and most of them have a job, sometimes several, in the paid labour force.

    "...In the last 10 years the average household income of the top one per cent in B.C. has increased by 36 per cent while, for the rest of us, real median incomes have stagnated, even though we're working harder..."
    Here's an example of how the BC Government has steadily increased the tax burden on middle class citizens. During the period that the province's revenue from natural resources fell 32% and the Consumer Price Index rose by 20%, premiums for medical services increased 108%.

    Sources: CPI rate of change according to Statistics Canada, MSP revenue 2000-2012 from BC annual Public Accounts, MSP revenue estimates 2013-2015 from the 2012 budget documents.
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