Friday, November 29, 2013

Guess which photos come from Enbridge

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Investment in society and in human beings?

A paper published in the journal International Political Science Review considered if the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was "Democracy's Friend or Foe." It noted that reforms required by the American based IMF,
"may create an economically and politically marginalized population whose government is unwilling or incapable of responding to their needs. This may undermine the legitimacy of democracy for those who are marginalized..."
The article said research indicated a declining proportion of Latin Americans preferred democracy to any other form of government. In emerging economic powerhouse Brazil, citizens of the world's fifth most populated country showed only 41% preference for democracy. This compared to 74% in Venezuela, a nation that offends the world's financial elites and refuses to follow dictates of the IMF. Congressman Andrés Eloy Méndez said last year,
"Venezuela doesn’t owe a single Bolívar to the IMF or the World Bank… because we said goodbye to a type of debt that went along with lack of investment in society and in human beings."
Two years before the noted survey of support for democracy, Brazil had taken a $30 billion bailout from the IMF, one that injured disadvantaged Brazilians because it demanded cuts to social programs. Interestingly, the IMF funding was a little more than the debt owed to American banks such as Citigroup and J.P. Morgan.

The above is a lengthy introduction to small items in Canada's news today. The IMF, worried that housing rents in Canada are too low compared to the cost of housing stock, suggests the federal Conservative government end its 60 year-old Mortgage Insurance Fund, a program that helps Canadians secure residential mortgages. The IMF, always vigilant in protecting interests of the 1%, prefers housing that involves landlords and tenants. Private home ownership is a central element of wealth accumulation for individual Canadians and while that may serve our common welfare, it does not match goals of the financial elites who stand behind the IMF.

Political clout of the privileged is shown also by the federal government's direction to diplomats that the first order of business is advancement of Canada's commercial interests. Service to travelling citizens and humanitarian issues like health, food, water quality, human rights, peace and democracy are now subservient. Prosperity of private investors and traders matters most.

Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, wrote in Vanity Fair about the 1%,
"There is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.

"Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key.

"Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being.

"Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business."

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Diane, it's even worse than you claim

Diane Francis is a writer from Central Canada whose typical view of the country is about 400 miles wide. So, it's not surprising that in her New York Post expose, she ignores corrupt political acts in western Canada.

For example, the Confederation Bridge, crossing 13 kilometres of ocean (yes, thirteen) from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, cost $1.3 billion ($1.8 billion in 2013 dollars). Two Fraser River bridges near Vancouver will cost the public over $6 billion.

Nor does Diane Francis note that BC residents pay punitive carbon taxes while BC Liberal's largest financial supporter exports billions of dollars worth of coal while paying no carbon tax on the fossilized carbon and damn little in the way of royalties to the public that purportedly owns the mineral.

Diane Francis also fails to write about the poisoning of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations people so that multinational oil companies can extract bitumen with minimum cost and maximum profit. Nor does she cover the supposedly neutral National Energy Board coordinating spying efforts of CSIS, RCMP and private oil companies in a futile campaign to discredit environmental groups.

In Quebec, the mafia may have a directing hold on government; in the two western provinces, it is the mostly foreign owned resource companies. Ordinary people, east and west, are the victims.

However, Francis did give her view of scandals in the 400 mile strip of Canada she knows best. Writing in the New York Post, November 23, 2013:
"Toronto’s crack-smoking Mayor Rob Ford is the most famous Canadian in the world. The Charlie Sheen of politics opens his mouth simply to change feet.

"...But if Americans think Ford is an anomaly, they’re giving Canada way too much credit. In truth, the country is awash in scandal.

"Most unnerving is Quebec, Canada’s Tammany Hall... 'Acts of collusion and corruption exist everywhere in Quebec — in every region...'

"There are 20 more ongoing investigations outside the construction industry...

"In the province next door, the Ontario Provincial Police anti-rackets squad recently scoured the premier’s office. Its probe concerns the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of two gas plants in 2011 on the eve of an election at a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion.

"In London, Ontario, another mayor has refused to quit despite the fact that he has been charged with fraud and faces a trial soon on allegations that he used taxpayer money to help pay for his son’s wedding reception...

"A more king-sized violation in Quebec involves public official Arthur Porter and two executives of SNC-Lavalin, who were arrested this year for fraud involving the $2.3 billion contract to build the McGill University Health Center.

"Porter, who is now in Panama fighting extradition, was also charged with conspiracy and money laundering.

"Another eyebrow raiser was the fact that Porter had been appointed in 2008 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to be chair of the oversight committee of the country’s CIA...

"The [Senate] is a throwback from Britain’s House of Lords and an undemocratic patronage dump for friends, partisans and bagmen.

"...This week, Senate shenanigans reached into the prime minister’s office after police accused one of the senators, and the prime minister’s former chief of staff, of bribery, fraud and breach of trust...

"With such serious charges floating around, it’s hard to get exorcised about Rob Ford...

"So, the next time your Canadian cousins get smug about their superior culture, kindness and hockey, remind them that politicians behaving badly isn’t unique to the US...

"Canada gets just as dirty — so stay tuned and hold into your tuques."

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Friday, November 22, 2013

An example of coastal ferry fares, 5x inflation

One of my readers lives modestly on Texada Island and comes to the city occasionally for shopping and medical treatments and to visit family and friends. He retired on this northern Gulf Island after working there in the rock quarries and then as a gyppo logger.

My correspondent feels the pain of ferry fares. When he and his partner make a return trip to Vancouver, which is 75 miles distant as the crow flies, they face three ferry crossings that total about two hours each way. The fares for a small car and two adults is $199.55 return.

Five years ago, the couple paid $145.35 for the same trip, an increase of 37%, with the next price rise due in four months.

According to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator, a dollar in 2008 is equivalent to $1.074 today so my reader's ferry charges have risen five times the rate of inflation.
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Without fairness for all

Successful societies are based on equitable treatment of every citizen. That is not to say that individuals must be dealt with equally, rather that fairness should always be evident. Does the equity precept matter anymore to economic and political leaders of British Columbia and Canada? I conclude it does not.

This week we heard that assets of Canada's wealthiest billionaires grew by double digits. I  learned that one British Columbia mining company netted more from a single operation than the province grossed from every mine that extracts metals in this province. Also, that BC's coal exporters earned profits measured in the billions but paid no carbon tax while my neighbour, an unemployed widow, paid carbon tax to heat her home and to fuel the small car that allows her each week to shop for necessities and visit grandchildren.

We also learned that coastal communities will be hammered with ferry service cuts and further fare hikes and seniors will be denied discounts they've long enjoyed for travelling in non-peak times. In what seems an act of retribution for not electing Liberal MLAs, coastal residents are targeted for harsh treatment despite their reliance on ferries, which for many are the only means of exiting their communities.

This is from a BC JOBS PLAN news release issued June 13, 2012 by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure when it contracted for an 80 vehicle ferry,
"This project will provide good gobs for skilled tradespeople in British Columbia...

"Inland ferries are used on routes where lake or river crossings are a less-costly alternative to building roads or bridges..."
Notice the fine detail? Under BC Liberals, crossings of lakes or rivers are different than crossings of salt water where the preferred tradespeople to be employed are in Germany and user fares shall be paid.

I return to the principle of equity mentioned at the top. Each reader should ask the provincial government to explain the fairness of ferry service cutbacks and fare increases on the coast when inland ferry users pay nada. Nothing, zero, none.

I know the BC Liberals are little sensitive about this inequality. I know because they had Sun writer Vaughn Palmer tweeting out talking points that are supposed to provide justification. It's just a little unfortunate the pundit didn't do his own research because the tweets fell below his usual standard for accuracy. Examples:

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

They're awesome, so they say

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

They should have paid attention two years ago

News item, November 19, 2013:
"The B.C. government is disbanding its controversial Pacific Carbon Trust..."
Yeah, they should have paid attention to us, the humble nincompoops blogging in underwear, or to the Auditor General, members of the Official Opposition or others who knew this was another poorly conceived and incompetently managed boondoggle.

Again, we see that the party of big business is not capable of running any business.

My previous comments on the PCT can be found by scrolling through the articles linked here.
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New exploration

I've been examining the financial elements of legal gambling in British Columbia. Before looking at BCLC annual reports, I assumed the agency's revenues had grown steadily. In fact, they show a distinctly flat line and that is surprising. As I search for an accurate understanding, any relevant information from readers will be appreciated.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

The BC Ferry crisis is a political one

First, the idea that gaming profits will help solve the transportation issue is worse than laughable. We know from experience that the beneficiaries will be BC Liberal friends, the ones that will operate on-ship gambling services. We'll have to ask the Minister of Graft and Corruption who those people will be. You can bet the pro-media pundits won't ask or speculate; they will wait patiently for a press release that announces the real winners.

Secondly, raising fares for seniors travelling on low traffic days will gain BC Ferries little. One of the reasons for allowing the discount was to shift traffic from busy to slack times. That benefit to the ferry corporation is lost. Experience demonstrates that ferry customers are sensitive to pricing and that is particularly true for people on fixed incomes. If senior couples must pay $133.50 instead of $102.50 for a return trip between Vancouver Island and the mainland, many will decide not to travel. Instead of BC Ferries gaining $31, they'll lose $102.50 instead.

Senior staff operating the ferry system have suffered cutbacks but above the ferry management are two boards of directors involving 18 Liberal friends, each paid five-figure rewards and given free ferry passes for themselves and their families. The boards oversee ferry management as do two additional welfare bums, ferry commissioners who grab six-figure rewards for days of part-time service. No changes are proposed to this comfortable system of patronage despite obvious evidence of failure.

I asked BC Ferries for backgrounders on the changes. Their response said Monday's announcement was a government initiative and BC Ferries had nothing to add. Thus, it is proven the "private" company is an adjunct of government to be pushed or pulled in whatever direction the politicians desire, whenever the politicians desire to push or pull.

If we examine the financial results of BC Ferries, it is clear that higher fares have resulted in lower utilization. The present government response is to increase fares yet more and cut service even further. However, look at the operating profits generated in recent years:

The amounts deducted after operating profits are largely financing costs and asset amortization. BC Ferries through egregious blunders of prior years pays about double what the BC Government pays for financing. That results in almost $40 million a year in extra charges. Additionally, the federal government is collecting roughly $40 million a year in GST and the province pockets over $10 million in carbon taxes each year and substantial amounts in fuel taxes.

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Gangster love dealing in cash - REPLAY

With BC Ferries planning to create a moving fleet of gaming houses, it's worth re-reading this Northern Insight article from the summer of 2011.

News item: Catherine Pope, reporting for Global News, August 25, 2011:
"It's not clear how big of a problem money laundering is in BC casinos but the government admits it's not uncommon for people to walk into casinos with suitcases filled with tens of thousands of dollars in small bills."
You can bet that Global News, CBC News or their corporate media colleagues are not about to do any detailed investigation to find the extent of the problem. However, they will dutifully trumpet memos and reports issued from Victoria.

Money laundering is the subject of an August 24 government press release. BC Liberal minions pulled out the stops to assure us that, having been told by critics about the possibility of money laundering at gaming facilities, they are thinking of "...appointing a task force to report on the types and magnitude of any criminal activity..."

This is an example of governing by press release. The actual report "Anti-Money Laundering Measures at BC Gaming Facilities" was produced by the Solicitor General's office in February, six months ago. It was not a considered and expert view of illegal cash transactions at casinos, it was an internal political response to heavy criticism in the media following reports the month before of suspicious gamblers entering facilities with massive sums of small denominations cash.

Douglas Scott, Assistant Deputy Minister for Gaming, Solicitor General, Province of BC had this revelation while posing for the cameras at a Victoria news conference:
"The casinos of today are bringing in significantly more revenue than in the past so as a result that now makes them a target for money launderers where they would not have been previously."
That is a foolish statement because any person with an ear to the ground knows that money laundering has long been a prevalent activity at casinos. It didn't suddenly begin in the last few years. Besides, gambling revenues are down all over. Recession weary Las Vegas is now the foreclosure capital of the USA and Atlantic City gaming revenue has declined on the monthly year-over-year basis for 35 straight months. BC has not been immune and, according to Sun writer Pete McMartin,
"B.C. Lottery Corporation has paid out more than $400 million in gambling revenues to B.C. casino operators so that they can recoup their capital costs.
Perhaps Scott and his colleagues in Victoria had not been much concerned about money laundering because the BCLC had looked carefully at itself in 2010 and determined,
"BCLC, in terms of policies and procedures, has a robust anti-money laundering regime in place. Further, it was determined that GPEB has the required level of anti-money laundering expertise and is capable of discharging its responsibility to provide oversight as it relates to anti-money laundering and associated criminal activities at gaming facilities."
Katie Derosa at the Times Colonist wrote this,
"Currently, customers are given a cheque for their winnings and cash for the remaining amount of their original buy-in. Casinos will now encourage people to take a cheque that states the amount is for the original buy-in, which creates a paper trail for auditors and prevents people from claiming funds to be gaming wins.

"However, Scott admitted there is nothing to compel gamblers to accept a cheque or use electronic transfer.

"NDP gaming critic Shane Simpson said the review had failed to recommend limits on how much cash a person can take into a casino. For example, a gambler can still take in $400,000 in $20 bills and cash it in for chips, a practice which sounded the alarm for Mounties and sparked the review."
There you have it fellow citizens. We will fight money laundering by encouraging, but not compelling, crooks to accept a cheque from casinos when they are laundering proceeds of drug crime.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Jessop & Farrell on CFAX 1070, Nov 15

Listen at the CFAX website, November 1 at 2:30 pm or download an .mp3 file here.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The ever succinct Adrian Raeside

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Unplanned encouragement of opponents

A TransCanada Corp. executive has advice for people who oppose pipeline projects such as Northern Gateway, Energy East and Keystone XL.

He's quoted by CBC News:
"I used to believe if we got 55 or 60 per cent [support] … we'd be off to the races," said Alex Pourbaix, president of Energy and Oil Pipelines for TransCanada.

"And what I've found is that a very small minority of very vocal opponents, in any given community, can go a long way to harming your project."

Pourbaix made the comments in a speech to the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council Outlook 2014 conference in Saint John on Thursday.

TransCanada will soon be seeking regulatory approval on its pipeline proposal, which would send send 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Western Canada to refineries and export terminals in Eastern Canada...
While looking at the TransCanada annual reports, I noted that in the last fiscal year, the company's net income was down 14%. In the world of major corporations,  it's heads the CEO wins and tails the shareholders lose. Accordingly, despite declining profitability in 2012, the remuneration of TransCanada's CEO Russell Girling increased $145,000 a month, a 25% rise.
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Puzzled or muzzled?

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Big Liberal supporter: "sellout in progress"

Newspaper publisher Glacier Media and associated corporations have been major financial supporters of the BC Liberals: at least $283,000 since 2005. Nevertheless, a Glacier newspaper today published an editorial titled Sellout in progress.

Squamish Chief Editor David Burke refers to Premier Clark's latest lines of dialogue in the bitumen exports theatre.
"What she did, however, is send a strong message that a sellout may well be just around the next bend — before or after other hurdles are cleared."
The story arc of this pipeline sham has been predictable from the start. It is drawing to a close and newspaper editor Burke understands, as does anyone with more perception than a brick.

Liberals claimed that BC would assist in west coast bitumen exports only when five conditions were met. In succinct form, those are
  1. Successful completion of the environmental review process.
  2. Ocean oil spill response capability in place.
  3. Land based spill response capability in place.
  4. Aboriginal consultations addressed.
  5. Economic benefits satisfactory to British Columbia.
    The first three items are one and the same. The BC government had already ceded authority to review environmental elements to the federal government and the NEB serves industry, not the public so that outcome is assured.

    The fourth is the only real hurdle faced by oil companies. First Nations communities resolutely oppose major expansions of pipelines moving dangerous goods across traditional territories. Canadian courts state that sham consultations are unacceptable; they must be meaningful. However, it is the Supreme Court of Canada, not BC Liberals, that put this condition in place.

    The fifth requirement demanding economic benefits for British Columbia is inconsequential because what represents a fair share is vague and subjective. I've demonstrated here that BC Liberals have enduring ties to the resource industries and willingness to surrender public interests to friends in the private sector.

    There is no reason to expect BC Liberals will make significant demands on the energy industry for Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan or any other project. In fact, the reverse is true and the energy industry is in line for huge subsidies. BC Hydro will spend about $10 B on the Site C dam and the Northwest Transmission Line. Of course, residential electricity rates will soar.

    Remember that in fiscal year 2013, BC reported $169M in natural gas revenues. However, since the unrecorded liability to producers for drilling credits increased by $160M, the net gas royalty for the year was $9M. In the current fiscal plan, royalties expected in the next three years, net of credits owed producers is budgeted at $166M.

    As the Squamish Chief editor states, a sellout of the public interest is underway. It is firmly established Liberal policy.

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    Saturday, November 2, 2013

    On BC Ferries with Ian Jessop, CFAX1070

    Here is a list of directors that served British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. and BC Ferry Authority in the fiscal years 2009 through 2013. In this five year period, fees paid the directors totalled about $3.6 million. According to Elections BC, directors and companies associated with them contributed at least $1.3 million to the BC Liberal Party since 2005.

    British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. Current Directors
    • Jane M. Bird
    • Donald P. Hayes
    • John A. Horning
    • Guy D. Johnson
    • Brian G. Kenning
    • Gordon R. Larkin
    • Maureen V. Macarenko
    • Geoff Plant
    • Graham M. Wilson
    British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. Former Directors (2009-2013)
    • Mark L. Cullen
    • Christopher G. Gardner
    • Elizabeth J. Harrison
    • Holly A. Haston-Grant
    • A. Daniel Miller
    • Jane L. Peverett
    • Stephen E. Smith
    • Wayne H. Stoilen (brother of Ass't Ferry Commissioner Sheldon Stoilen)
    B.C. Ferry Authority Current Directors
    • Bohdan I. Bodnar
    • Christopher M. Causton
    • Roderick D. Dewar
    • Robin W. Kenyon
    • A. Daniel Miller
    • Randolph K. Morriss
    • Jane L. Peverett
    • John Radosevic
    • Stephen E. Smith
    B.C. Ferry Authority Former Directors (2009-2013)
    • Christopher G. Gardner
    • Thomas W. Harris
    • Gordon R. Larkin
    British Columbia Ferry Commissioners
    • Gord Macatee
    • Sheldon Stoilen (Assistant Commissioner)
    Here is a list of all the people that have served on Boards of Directors overseeing Washington State Ferries. In its last fiscal year, WSF carried 10 million vehicles; by comparison, 7.7 million vehicles used the vessels of BC Ferries during its last fiscal year.
    • No boards of directors manage Washington State Ferries.

    You can read my extensive commentary on BC Ferries by scrolling through the articles linked HERE

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