Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dangerous charity caught in Harper Government web

Environmental charities 'laundering' foreign funds, [Minister of the Environment Peter] Kent says, CBC News, May 1, 2012
Some charitable environmental groups in Canada are "laundering" funds from offshore donors to obstruct Canada's environmental assessment process, Environment Minister Peter Kent says.

Kent made the comment Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview on CBC's Power & Politics when asked by host Evan Solomon to clarify a comment he made earlier on CBC Radio's The House.

In The House interview that aired Saturday, Kent said the government has been concerned charitable agencies have been used "to launder offshore foreign funds for inappropriate use against Canadian interest."
One year and $5 million later, Harper’s charity crackdown nets just one bad egg, Kate Webb, Metro News Vancouver, March 30, 2012
"An $8-million pot of money included in last year’s federal budget to crack down on charities suspected of engaging in “excessive” political activities has so far resulted in only one having its charitable status revoked, out of nearly 900 that were audited.

"...But Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) spokesman Philippe Brideau said after roughly 880 audits in the last year, the only charity whose status was revoked for exceeding limits on political activity was Physicians for Global Survival, a group dedicated to the promotion of nuclear disarmament.

"A CRA audit found the organization was using 26 per cent of its resources for political activities, including a letter-writing campaign urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper, party leaders and MPs to support an international treaty banning nuclear weapons."
Turns out former Global TV broadcaster Peter Kent is right. The doctors behind Physicians for Global Survival are embarked on a radical course, even overtly asking Canadians to send letters to politicians. The evidence of danger is clear. Hidden in plain sight, on the home page of the PGS website, is their manifesto, listing five objectives:
  • Abolish nuclear weapons;
  • Prevention of war;
  • Non-violent conflict resolution;
  • Social justice;
  • A sustainable world.
Records held by the Government of Canada demonstrate PGS has financial resources to at least partly fund their stratagem. In addition to cash on hand, they have long term investments of almost $18,000 and capital assets of another $3,000. With a little less than $300 billion in annual revenues, the Canadian government is strained to fight that sort of muscle.

Nevertheless, fight they must because an organization like Physicians for Global Survival would get in the way if Bruce Power resurrects its plans to build nuclear power plants in Alberta for resource extraction. And, if Project Oilsand, an old proposal to exploit the tar sands with underground nuclear explosions, is brought back to life, these radical doctors would be opposed.

Perhaps through the sniffing of CSIS, Ministers Peter Kent and Joe Oliver, along with Prime Minister Harper, know additional schemes planned by these agitators. Perhaps there is a document hidden away that would reveal all, maybe the Protocols of the Elders of 30 Cleary Ave, Ottawa.

I have it on good authority this Canadian charity is associated with radicals outside our borders, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. That group has a goal of global pacifist hegemony by subverting the morals of militarists and warmongers.
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"Humans have never dealt with nature's complexity..."

Allan Savory, on learning together:
"We have learning sites, where the boundaries are soft psychologically. We're all learning together because we don't have answers. We just have a way forward now, which is exciting. I am learning every day on our sites in Africa. So, it's a learning site and everybody comes to there to learn; nobody to demonstrate how clever that they are."

Allan Savory, on leadership:
"There is nobody at the helm. There is no leader. There is nobody going to lead you out of this and the leadership absolutely cannot come from any institution. It cannot come from a government, an international agency, a big NGO, a university. The leadership cannot come from an institution. The research shows you that because institutions are almost immune to new knowledge. The research shows you it can take anywhere up to 200 years to get new knowledge into an institution.

"...You're only going to get it from individuals. You are the leaders. You are. "If you want a better world, you start leading, you start getting involved..."
Savory's comments about institutions receiving knowledge reminded me of a bit from Nathaniel's Nutmeg, a book about early spice trades. It tells of how James Lancaster, merchant seaman in the early 17th century, issued sailors with containers of lemon juice and '...cured many of his men and preserved the rest.’
"How Lancaster stumbled upon the cure for scurvy remains a mystery; it may be that he noticed the spectacular recovery that men made as soon as they were able to add fresh fruit and vegetables to their diet of salted food. ...Tragically Lancaster’s cure was soon forgotten and more than 170 years were to pass before Captain Cook rediscovered the beneficial effects of citrus fruit in combating scurvy.
It took until 1795, well after Cook's death, before the Royal Navy accepted citrus fruits as a way to deal with scurvy.
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Suspended coffees

From the forum at Urban Diner, a Vancouver-based online magazine for food and restaurant lovers around British Columbia. By Publisher Paul Kamon:
"We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we're approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter - 'Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended'

They pay for their order, take the two and leave. I ask my friend:
'What are those 'suspended' coffees ?'

'Wait for it and you will see'

Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers - three for them and four 'suspended'. While I still wonder what's the deal with those 'suspended' coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks 'Do you have a suspended coffee ?'

It's simple - people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm beverage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal."
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BC Auditor General site down Mar 29-30

Since the website of the British Columbia Auditor General is inaccessible early morning March 30, and was down late March 29, I provide this access to recent reports from the Auditor General.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pacific Carbon Trust officials must resign

Finance Minister Mike de Jong must demand resignations of the senior executives and directors of Pacific Carbon Trust. They are officials of a publicly owned enterprise but instead dedicated their loyalty to vested interests that do business with PCT.

Additionally, director Mike Watson appears to have a conflict of interest since he is principal of a public relations firm hired by PCT to deride the work and reputation of Auditor General John Doyle.

John Doyle, British Columbia's Auditor General
"Of all the reports I have issued, never has one been targeted in such an overt manner by vested interests, nor has an audited organization ever broken my confidence, as did the senior managers at PCT by disclosing confidential information to carbon market developers and brokers. The orchestrated letter-writing campaign from domestic and foreign entities which followed this disclosure demanded considerable staff time, and resulted in the delay of this report. I cannot sufficiently express my surprise and disappointment that a public sector entity, with a fiduciary duty to the people of British Columbia, chose to expend its time and energy in this manner, rather than addressing the concerns raised in the audit – and that they did so with the knowledge of their governing board."

Pacific Carbon Trust Board of Directors:
Chris Trumpy, accountant, former BC deputy minister, Chair of PCT, Director of Puget Sound Energy, credit union director

Heather Holden, investment adviser with Swiss financial company UBS, a BC Liberal donor

H Anne Lippert, former banker

Margaret Mason, lawyer with Bull, Housser & Tupper, a BC Liberal donor

James Mutter, venture capitalist, lawyer, formerly partner with Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP, a BC Liberal donor

Steven Hnatiuk, venture capitalist, a BC Liberal donor

Mike Watson, BC Liberal donor and principal of Wazuku Advisory Group, instrumental in pro-Liberal anti-Dix advertising attributed to CC4BC and its frontman Jim Shepard.
Operating executives
Scott MacDonald, CEO, former teacher and Education ADM.

David Moffat, responsible for business development, development consultant.

David Muter, responsible for contracting offsets, forest based product analyst, studying to become a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Raymond Chan, partnerships and client relations, former ADM, BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

From the audit of carbon neutral government

"... [Carbon] offsets can only be credible in B.C. if, among other things, the revenue from their sale is the tipping point in moving forward on a project. It must be an incentive, not a subsidy, for the reduction of GHGs. Yet neither project was able to demonstrate that the potential sales of offsets were needed for the project to be implemented. Encana’s project was projected to be more financially beneficial to the company than its previous practices, regardless of offset revenue, while the Darkwoods property was acquired without offsets being a critical factor in the decision. In industry terms, they would be known as ‘free riders’ – receiving revenue ($6 million between the two) for something that would have happened anyway..."

Continue reading
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Failure perfectly OK with BC Liberals

Yesterday, British Columbia's government refused to release a report from the Auditor General that examined Pacific Carbon Trust, a crown agency set up to pass funds from schools, hospitals and other public institutions to private companies that claim to reduce emissions.

Today, we understand why Liberals tried to prevent release of the A-G's work. It is devastating and the Twitter world is alive with commentaries. A good starting point is @bobmackin.

The Pacific Carbon Trust had been circulating copies of the work in a campaign to discredit the report. Inevitably, the paperwork ended up in media hands. With the genie out of the bottle, Speaker Bill Barisoff, a person faulted strongly in the recent audit of Legislative finances, was forced to make the report public.

John Doyle's office provides a video summary that is well worth spending 15 minutes to watch.

By the way, for his fine work, Scott MacDonald, the Pacific Carbon Trust CEO, enjoyed a 14% raise in 2012. His salary in the last fiscal year was $195,168, which was $24,000 more than in 2011.
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"Planning is not an option or a luxury"

The audit found scattered and ineffective documentation of planning for these vulnerable children and youth, as well as a clear lack of emphasis by MCFD on comprehensive and regular planning and intervention.

“Government has a responsibility, as the prudent parent of these children, to carefully plan for them in order to increase their opportunities in life,’’ said Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. “Many of these children desperately need interventions and services to address their needs and a plan for how they will receive those things.

“This planning is not an option or a luxury, although this audit shows it has been treated as both by a ministry focused on crisis-management. Planning is a staple of good child welfare practice. MCFD must make this a priority going forward...”

By the way, for his fine work, Stephen Brown, the Ministry of Children and Family Development Deputy Minister, enjoyed a 19% raise in 2012. His salary in the last fiscal year was $230,238, which was $36,087 more than in 2011. (Source: BC Public Accounts)

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Income disparity grows

Incomes of bottom 90 percent grew $59 in 40 years, Natasha Lennard,
"Pulitzer Prize-winner David Cay Johnston has highlighted yet more statistics that illuminate the spike in income inequality in the U.S. in recent decades. Flagging Johnston’s analysis, HuffPo noted Monday, 'Incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans only grew by $59 on average between 1966 and 2011 (when you adjust those incomes for inflation)… During the same period, the average income for the top 10 percent of Americans rose by $116,071.' ...

"Plot those numbers on a chart, with one inch for $59, and the top 10 percent’s line would extend more than 163 feet.

"Now compare the vast majority’s $59 with the top 1 percent, and that line extends for 884 feet..."

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Torstar's 20% of Black Press valued at zero

David Schreck of Strategic Thoughts provides worthwhile analysis of David Black's Kitimat Clean proposal. If you think the refinery proposal is anything more than politically convenient fantasy aimed at boosting BC Liberal prospects, read David's Refinery Credibility: BC vs. AB. Here is an extract:
"Compare the numbers behind Alberta's NWR [a refinery planned near Edmonton], where $1 billion has already been spent on the project and environmental permits have been obtained, with Black's Kitimat Clean where a few news events have been staged.

"With NWR, after working since 2004, at a cost of $5.6 billion, 50,000 barrels a day will be processed by 2016. Black claims his refinery will cost $13 billion and process 550,000 barrels a day. Capital cost per barrel/day for NWR is $112,000; Black claims he can do the job for just $23,600.

"Something is wildly out of whack! It is true that labour costs are higher in Alberta and transportation costs to get machinery to Edmonton are higher, but that isn't enough to account for a five-fold difference in costs.

"No wonder Navigant's report is so qualified that it basically says don't believe what you read here."
Star investigator Bob Mackin reminded us of an article he wrote for The Tyee in August 2012. David Black Confirms BC Media Love a Tycoon with a Dream reflects Bob's skeptical view of the Kitimat refinery and he also relates details of another mega-project that, despite its fantastical proportions, excited Vancouver media. That is another story from the past worth remembering.

Kitimat refinery plans blown-up
People relying on Postmedia newspapers, or on Black Press publications, will be missing significant details about the Kitimat refinery proposal. It is the alternative media that provides missing information. Northern Insight reported on unusual qualifications and reservations Navigant placed on its consultants report, one that should have been paid for by Black and the BC Liberals. David Schreck scrutinized the refinery's financial elements and Mackin's 7-month old review adds questions about David Black's ability to proceed, if that is actually what he wants to do. Mackin's Tyee article notes this about Black:
"He is, however, downplaying the June rating downgrade by Standard and Poor's of Black Press from stable to negative, in part, for "less than adequate liquidity" and the "ongoing headwinds" it faces amid revenue and profitability declines."
As a private company, Black Press does not report financial data to the public but information can be determined through other sources. Torstar, parent company of the Toronto Star newspaper and other media properties, shows in its 2012 Financial Statements a 19.4% equity investment in Black Press. It states that Torstar has not been recording any share of the associated company's results because the carrying value in Black Press has previously been reduced to nil.

In 2002, Torstar invested $20 million for one-fifth of Black Press but reduced the investment to a value of zero in 2008. Black publishes more than 150 titles in print and online in North America but is still valued by Torstar at zero in 2012, with about $10 million of losses remaining unrecognized.

I don't know much about David Black's finances but it appears that his "I'm not a billionaire" statement is not false modesty. That's information not provided you by the Liberal friendly corporate press. Anyone suppose Christy Clark's one, two, three, four, five LNG plants have prospects similar to Bllack's Kitimat Clean bitumen refinery?

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

NEB serves industry, not the public

This article is an updated and extended version of one published in January 2012.

Particularly since it gained majority control of the House and Senate, Canada's Conservative Party has been crippling the mechanisms of environmental oversight. Harper's team slashed agency budgets, gagged scientists and installed political apparatchiks throughout government, including senior levels of the RCMP, to ensure that all messages were and are politically acceptable and branded with a prominent Harper imprint.

No function of government was more constrained than protection of the environment. Opponents of unrestricted oil and gas industry development have been labelled radical and disloyal, even traitorous, conspirators. At behest of the pipeline industry, Conservatives limited federal protection for waterways to a handful of rivers and 97 of Canada's lakes, which number in the tens of thousands. Almost none of these actions were subject of parliamentary debate; they were imposed by omnibus legislation of the sort Harper spoke against in the nineties.

Friday, the National Energy Board panel wound up its current stage of Northern Gateway hearings. In due course, they will announce agreement with the Enbridge project and authorize its construction. They can do nothing else. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Energy Minister Joe Oliver have already signalled the desired outcome. If the people at the regulatory agency ignore directions, they'll be replaced.

However, Harper's minions are unlikely to present any significant roadblock. The National Energy Board members are entirely drawn from the energy industry. This is government sanctioned self-regulation, the surpassing aspiration of all who seek to convert public resources to private. The final ground of conflict regarding Northern Gateway will be the Supreme Court of Canada. Ultimately, coastal lands will be preserved by the populations that have survived here for 500 generations.

I've long been aware of the NEB but never paid much attention to it. However, for my article Regulators throwing loaded dice, I had a look at backgrounds of the people involved in the NEB. I was immediately reminded of a quote from police psychologist Mike Webster used in June 2009 in the article State Sanctioned Violence. Here is the context and the quote:
One psychologist suggests that police violence is encouraged by expanded inventories of weapons and wider use of body armor and tactical assault training. The act of dressing in body armor and the discomfort of wearing it remind police officers of dangers they might face. They are encouraged to use violence by the anticipation of it. As Dr. Mike Webster said,
"When you think the only tool you have is a hammer, then the whole world begins looking like a nail."
The parallel is direct, I think. The NEB's objective is to promote transport and export of petroleum. For the most part, its members spent their adult lives facilitating the industry they now supervise. They are like armour clad persons carrying only a hammer.

Instead, the review agency should function like a jury, listening to arguments from experts, pro and con, with fairness and impartiality, laying aside all bias and prejudice. Where are the ordinary people, the social scientists, the environmentalists? Maintaining a National Energy Board almost entirely composed of professionals from the energy industry is like prisoners being told to manage the prisons and the parole board. Of course, they would run the system for the benefit of themselves and their associates.

Members of the NEB originate from and represent a very limited segment of Canadian society :
  • Chair Gaétan Caron, a Quebec engineer who has been a career bureaucrat with the NEB.
  • Vice Chair Sheila Leggett, a Harper appointee to the NEB, is a graduate of Montreal's McGill University who previously worked for the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), an industry facilitator Alex Nikiforuk accused of reacting slowly to public concerns. According to the writer, several recent court decisions show that ERCB fails to uphold its own laws.
  • Kenneth Bateman is a Calgary based lawyer who had been Vice President of Enmax, a large Calgary based energy supply, distribution and service firm.
  • Philip Davies has 30 years working in North American energy industries, most as an executive with large gas operator Encana and the associated Niska Gas Storage.
  • Roland George, also a McGill graduate, worked throughout most of his career as senior principal of an international energy consulting firm.
  • Georgette Habib is an economist who also came from the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the industry friendly facilitator (See Sheila Leggett above).
  • Lyne Mercier is a former executive of Gaz Metro, which distributes natural gas in Quebec and owns a number of financial interests in transmission, storage, gas and other underground systems enterprises.
  • James Ballem was a Nova Scotia Conservative MLA until defeated in 2007. He failed in a 2010 bid to become Nova Scotia Conservative leader. He owns an energy industry consulting business.
  • David Hamilton is a career government bureaucrat, much of his time spent in the Northwest Territories.
  • Hans Mathews is a geologist with more than 25 years experience in resource management industries.
  • Mike Richmond is a Toronto energy industry lawyer. He was once a Director of the Ontario Energy Association where his colleagues included executives of Enbridge, TransCanada Pipelines and other major industrial players.
  • Alison Scott is a former Nova Scotia civil servant and Director of Offshore Energy Research, which promotes in offshore energy development.
  • Bob Vergette is a pipeline engineer who has been active on many industry association initiatives;
* * * * *

Please don't miss Andrew Nikiforuk's article at The Tyee. What the Keystone Rejection Really Reveals emphasizes the central point I make here:
"Canada's National Energy Board, a half-hearted regulator at best, rubber-stamped the [Keystone XL] pipeline several years ago. The board expressed no interest in how the pipeline might grow bitumen's ugly mining footprint and carbon liabilities. Nor did it want to know much about the impact of raw bitumen exports on Canadian refining jobs."

* * * * *

Energy Minister Joe Oliver and NEB regulator Ken Bateman
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

On the monorail to oblivion

On March 7, BC Liberal Premier Clark spoke in the legislature about an industrial project mooted for Kitimat:
"Yesterday, Mr. [David] Black announced that he had found investors willing to back his bid to invest $25 billion in his project. He proposes to build a $16 billion refinery, $8 billion in pipelines and a further $1 billion in new tankers to carry the refined petroleum products to customers in Asia.

"This is a credible proposal from a credible B.C. businessman.

"And without question, this would be the largest single private sector investment in the history of our great province. And it would be, potentially, a tremendous game-changer for our children and their children..."
Roy Peterson from SFU Gallery
Talk of Mr. Black's incredible enterprise reminds me of a business proposal of long ago, also promoted by a superlative wielding Premier.

October 1957, then provincial government leader W.A.C. Bennett called a news conference and said, "This is the most momentous announcement I have ever made." With unstoppable enthusiasm, Bennett demanded his message not be undervalued. The day, he said, was "the most important that B.C. has experienced in its whole history."

Premier Bennett was excited by the project anticipated when his government signed a memorandum of intent with Swedish promoter Axel Wenner-Gren, by which government offered development rights to 40,000 square miles of the province. Centrepiece of the plan was a 200 mph elevated monorail system from southeast BC to the Yukon. It was claimed to be virtually maintenance-free and untroubled by grades. Other promises included forestry projects, mines, dams and hydro-electricity developments. The grand concept was fantastical but it excited only the dreamers, not the realists.

This was not the first momentous proclamation involving Wenner-Gren. Allegedly an arms dealing war profiteer and friend of Nazi leaders, the Swede had been party to other considerable but failed proposals, including a plan to amalgamate four Nordic countries, development of southern Rhodesia and an improbable New York transit plan.

British Columbians were mostly skeptical about the initiatives. Opposition MLAs were opposed and one observer claimed that Wenner-Gren made his money from investors drawn into schemes after carefully orchestrated publicity campaigns. Premier Bennett, who always had eyes on the next election, may have been enthusiastic for Wenner-Gren's projects or he may have used them as convenient levers in the political wars. Cabinet ministers in the fifties sounded much like the Minister of Graft and Corruption sounded this week when he claimed the NDP had no interest in the wondrous economic benefits of David Black's Kitimat refinery and associated Alberta-BC pipelines.

From Kitimat Clean's website - their vision of a bitumen transport and refining facility
There are other indicators that partisan politics are the primary motivators behind Kitimat Clean Ltd. The Globe and Mail reports "Enbridge is not backing the proposed refinery nor are any energy companies." Despite the years long design and approval processes that lie ahead, uncertainty involving input supplies and final markets and the need to gain First Nations support, David Black says the fate of his refinery will be determined within 60 days.

Perhaps a May election will enable that determination.

In Kitimat Refinery Project Demands Transparency, The Tyee published Peter Ewart's devastating examination of the Kitimat proposal. Supposedly, Oppenheimer Investments Group has arranged the funding David Black needs. To most, that claim sounds impressive. The Oppenheimer name has been famous, sometimes infamous, for generations. One Oppenheimer family accumulated billions as controlling shareholders of De Beers, long the dominant force of the international diamond industry. Except, the diamond entrepreneurs have no connection to this story and, as Ewart notes, "Oppenheimer Investments Group has no affiliation whatsoever with the investment bank Oppenheimer & Co, which is headquartered in New York." OIG claims offices around the globe but the only addresses published are email addresses.

Let's say the certainty of $25 billion in financing for Kitimat Clean is unproven.

However, as with the Wenner-Gren proposals of the fifties, David Black's project will have served a purpose if it provides a convenient boost to the government's fortunes. And, BC Liberals are much involved in Kitimat Clean.

Days after Premier Clark's announcement in the legislature, her government released a report from oil industry consultants Navigant, claiming "that building a refinery on the coast of British Columbia has economic merit and should be seriously considered by the government of British Columbia." However, the depth of analysis leading to this conclusion is suspect. On page two of the report is a notice to readers:
"This report ...was prepared for the Government of British Columbia... on terms specifically limiting the liability of Navigant Consulting...

"Navigant’s conclusions are ...based in part upon materials provided by the Client and others, and these materials have not been independently verified for accuracy or validity. Therefore, Navigant does not make any representations or warranties of any kind with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this report..."
Facts not independently verified? In other words, the consultant's report has little probative value, shaped as it is by the Liberal government for partisan purposes. Of course, the Chambers of Commerce, the Vancouver Sun and other fellow travellers are applauding uncritically but, given the Liberal record of deceit, we surmise that the entire Kitimat Clean project may ride Axel Wenner-Gren's monorail to oblivion.

By the way, Canada's last coastal refinery was the one built decades ago by John Shaheen in Come By Chance, Newfoundland. The province's heritage website gives this account of a project with less than one fifth of the capacity intended in Kitimat:
"During the mid-1960s, American entrepreneur John Shaheen, owner of Shaheen Natural Revesources Company and various other petrochemical businesses, arranged with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Joseph Smallwood to construct an oil refinery at Come By Chance, then a small hamlet on Newfoundland’s east coast. The plan, however, was ill-fated and in 1976 caused one of the single largest bankruptcies in Canadian history to that date. It also greatly added to Newfoundland and Labrador’s mounting public debt."

H/T prolific twitter contributor Pete Quily @pqpolitics. Follow him.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Senate: Study, Snooze and Spend

Between 2008 and 2013, the Canadian Senate was in session an average of 74 days a year. With other priorities and other careers, most Senators fall short of perfect attendance. Some - including Brazeau, Dallaire, Massicotte, Wallin, Braley and Brown - have fallen well short.

While the Senate's 105 unelected men and women don't spend every day at the office, most do spend lavishly. Here are the illustrations:

Who is Yonah Martin anyhow?

BC Senators are not the best custodians of public money, but not the most profligate either.

Information source: The Toronto Star

If anyone thinks the Senate is a worthy part of our Canadian democracy, this chart provides evidence to the contrary.

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Promise one thing, do another

In the Throne Speech delivered February 12, Premier Christy Clark promised that natural gas royalties could "exceed one hundred billion dollars over the next 30 years." She added, "This resource belongs to the people of British Columbia, both here today and those to follow."

That latter comment explains my discomfort with her government's gradual withdrawal from taxing natural resources. In fact, Liberals act as if those are the indivisible assets of companies given exploitation rights. Voters in the May election should judge Liberals resource taxation policies by their actions not by their promises.

In 2006, revenues from the resource sector were $4.5 billion and, in the current fiscal year ending March 31, the take is forecast to be $2.5 billion. $1.8 billion of that reduction relates to natural gas, despite the volume of produced gas rising by 24% between 2006 and 2012.

The current financial returns from the natural gas extraction industry are even worse than apparent in British Columbia's public accounts. Auditor General John Doyle qualified the 2012 financial statements, partly because of
"...the government’s failure to set up a provision or liability for the deep-well credits given to natural gas producers. ...Deep-well credits are actually an expense incurred by the government to promote the development of British Columbia’s natural gas resources, and should be recorded as a liability...

"The financial impact on the statements of not recording deep-well credits is as follows:

  • Natural resource and economic development expenses are understated by $702 million.
  • Accounts payable and accrued liabilities are understated by $702 million.
  • Deficit is understated by $702 million."
In fact, natural gas producers have been major contributors to the BC Liberal Party but not major contributors to the public treasury.

Clark talks of annual gas royalties flowing into treasury in amounts sufficient to payoff billions of provincial debt, eliminate sales taxes and invest in education and infrastructure. I suggest that Clark is as sincere in her plans for the BC Prosperity Fund as she was in this promise, made two years ago:
"In March 2011, government reaffirmed its commitment to Open Government and the goals of greater transparency and accountability, building public trust, and connecting people with government."
Under Clark, the Premier's office has been acting to lessen transparency and accountability by destroying and concealing written records of their actions. While publicly claiming commitment to openness, Liberals acted to cloak government business in secrecy. The same group now asks citizens to believe they are prepared to claim a fair share of future resource revenues from the province's gas producers. The record indicates that political promise would as be as hollow as the one pledging transparency and accountability.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Premier Photo Op and friends set the table

We're back from travels and almost recovered from jet lag, or whatever ails one after an extended trip. People vacation for rest and relaxation but sometimes return feeling astonished, weary and desperately in need of rest and relaxation.

We logged 40,000 km on 15 flights over 29 days. Not bad for an aging body (me) who spent a few years as a white knuckle flyer, worrying continuously about bumps, creaks and unidentified noises. Actually, that state of airborne apprehension was not entirely irrational, given a few experiences I don't want to repeat.

Most of the time away we spent in India, with visits to Delhi and the states of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadhu, Kerala and Karnataka. For a change of pace, and a weighty whack to the wallet, we also spent 5 days in New York City. Soon, I'll be writing on other pages about the trip.

At home, there are so many subjects appealing to a political blogger. I feel like a hungry and impoverished diner with a free ticket to the world's largest buffet. Indeed, the entire crew of the BC Liberal Party continues working to ensure all adversaries, new and old, enjoy a surfeit of opportunity to pile on this astoundingly corrupt and incompetent provincial government.

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