Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The roots of violence

“Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles." - Gandhi

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Greenhouse gas emissions

It seems Canada is about to end a long tradition of coordinating greenhouse gas reduction targets with the United States. With much of the densely populated east coast at risk from rising sea levels, Americans know that climate change action is necessary. The Harper government, more firmly in the grasp of the fossil fuel industry, prefers change that is merely symbolic.

The Washington Post reported recently:
The Obama administration on Tuesday outlined an ambitious plan for slashing U.S. greenhouse-gas pollution over the next decade, calling for accelerating the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Documents filed with the United Nations formally committed the United States to lowering total U.S. carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. White House officials called the plan “ambitious and achievable,” and said the pollution cuts could be made without hampering economic growth...
Stephen Harper's government is reluctant to take action that burdens important sponsors who worry that even modest goals of reduction could result in critical injury. However, there is growing scientific skepticism about the accuracy of North America's current greenhouse gas reporting. If emissions are proven to be substantially higher than claimed by government, citizens will demand comprehensive responses and that possibility worries powerful financial interests.

Forbes, a business magazine not given to climate change hysteria, reported on Natural Gas Leaks experienced by producers:
A new study released Tuesday suggests that the global oil and gas industries allow as much as 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — and almost certainly far more — to escape into the atmosphere annually. The leakage rate represents at least $30 billion in lost revenues, the analysis found, and it reinforces previous studies suggesting that the much-touted climate benefits of the expanding shale boom are unlikely to be realized unless these so-called fugitive emissions are brought under control.

While the chief component of natural gas, methane, breaks down in the atmosphere more quickly than carbon dioxide, it has far more planet-warming potential while it is present. The gas escapes from storage tanks and vents at oil production sites, and in even greater amounts all along the natural gas production and delivery chain — rising from wells, poorly constructed processing facilities, and leaky transmission and delivery pipelines. Over a 20-year time frame, the cumulative leakage in 2012, the new study suggested, would represent as much as 7 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions — or the equivalent of about 40 percent of total carbon dioxide from coal-fired power production...
It is certain that Canada's system of counting GHG emissions is thoroughly flawed. It depends almost entirely on self-reporting by industry and the federal government refuses to approve resources for effective oversight. It is an open secret among oil and gas producers that fugitive emissions are largely ignored. The following are extracted from Environment Canada reports:

2013 GHG Emissions by Province2

2013 GHG Emissions BC

How complete is Environment Canada's report of GHG emissions? It is not worth much in BC nor is it accurate for the rest of Canada. In February, Vancouver Sun reporters Larry Pynn and Chad Skelton wrote The top 10 air polluters in B.C.. Excerpts:
...Industries are required to report data on some 300 pollutants where they meet the minimum threshold, [Francis Ries, a senior air-quality project engineer for Metro Vancouver] said, but the federal government lacks the staff to ensure accurate reporting.

...While pollution measurements from an industrial stack are relatively straightforward, the data does not account for “fugitive emissions” of which there can be plenty in the natural gas industry, both in pipelines and at processing plants, Ries noted.

“There’s not a lot of verification or oversight of the numbers,” he said.

...Ries noted that in 2012 industrial point sources represented about 44 per cent of the total human-generated emissions of the four pollutants analyzed by The Sun, transportation sources 41 per cent, and the remaining 15 per cent space heating, agriculture and other minor sources.

In terms of B.C.’s total greenhouse gas emissions of 61.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012, transportation represented about 40 per cent, point sources 31 per cent and other categories 29 per cent.

“The point is that industrial point sources are not the only big sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases in B.C.,” Ries concluded.
BC Ferries is one example of unreported GHG emissions. A fuel usage report uncovered by The Tyee's Andrew Macleod indicates the ferry company uses about 130 million litres of fuel annually. That suggests about 350,000 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent, which would rank it in the top 10 of the province's industrial GHG polluters.

I've written previously about fugitive emissions from natural gas production:
When regulators don't believe in regulation

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Hard hitting journalism by Black Press

Mount Polley Mine meeting important to attend, by Ken Wilson, Williams Lake Tribune (Black Press), Apr 17, 2015
Over the years companies, governments, and those in-between have created some major public relations gaffs (sic) by not addressing bad situations in time, hoping the publicity would die soon.

...Imperial Metals Mount Polley Mining Corporation (sic) has, in my opinion and many others, acted very responsible in keeping the public informed.

...Of course many meetings attempting to get the mine underway have been held and will carry on until the mine is back is in some capacity of production.

I suggest the public relations by Imperial Metals and Mount Polley since the tailings pond break has been very good.

It is a tough job and I congratulate Steve Robertson for all he has done to communicate with the workers, surrounding communities, and he should get some kind of PR medal for all he has done.

Thanks Steve.

...That was a long lead up to tell you about the Mount Polley Mining Corporation Community Open House at the Gibraltar Room in Williams Lake on Wednesday, April 22 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The Williams Lake Chamber is helping promote this event that everyone who is interested in the Mount Polley situation and wants updates should attend.

This is part of the ongoing communications of the company with the community and is a component of the public comment period related to permit applications for the proposed restart of the mine...
Black Press might be a leader in 21st century newspaper journalism. Apparently, it involves unedited copy from untrained hacks who pander to potential advertisers with deep pockets. The objective, of course, is lower costs and higher profits and the formula works for Black Press. Torstar, owner of 19.4% of the private company, booked $4 million as its share of Black profits in fiscal year 2014. In the preceding year, Torstar's share was $5.5 million so, while other media companies struggled, Black Press earnings over two years were about $49 million.

This item raises a separate but important issue. The meeting promoted here by the Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce, of which writer Ken Wilson is a director, is part of a process managed by a Regional Mine Development Review Committee. RMDRCs, formed and managed by the Ministry of Energy and Mines, are creatures of government initiatives to shortcut review processes and expedite mining operations.

The BC Government committed in 2012 to maintain a 60-day turnaround time for Notice of Work permit applications, which include work details and measures for protection and reclamation of land, watercourses and cultural resources affected by proposed activities. At Mount Polley, we saw the effect of inadequate oversight of self-regulated industrial activity.

Instead of learning from the disaster, Liberals pretend it was a minor event, caused by no one and now adequately healed. The picture here is taken from a government web page titled "Mt. Polley Mine incident" where readers are invited to view a portfolio of government pictures on Flickr. These include photos of politicians, a fawn, an owl and other pastoral scenes.

Truncated review processes that assume government should trust and work hand-in-hand with mining proponents, even ones proven to be callous toward civil responsibilities, are certain to result in more ecological mishaps. The Fair Mining Collaborative offers this overview of environmental assessment failings:
BC’s current EA law lacks a clearly defined purpose provision and decision-making criteria. This was not always the case: BC’s former EA Act contained an explicit purpose provision that included:
  • promotion of sustainability by protecting the environment and fostering a sound economy and social well-being;

  • provision of an open, accountable and neutrally administered process; and

  • participation of the public, First Nations and various other agencies.
The importance of the purpose provision was highlighted in a judicial review of a provincial government decision approving the reopening of the Tulsequah Chief Mine in 1998. In that decision, the BC Supreme Court held that the EA review did not adequately consider the sustainability of the Tlingit First Nation’s land-based way of life, and therefore ran contrary to the promotion of sustainability required by the purpose of the EA law.245 Issue Without an explicit purpose clause or principles to guide the exercise of discretion, BC’s EA Act provides inadequate guidance to government decision-makers reviewing EAs.
A photo that won't be found on BC mining ministry website.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Do you care?

This item was first published here July, 2009:

Radio talk shows are often wastelands of puffery, babble and prejudice. Well conducted programs, with knowledgeable listeners, occasionally break through with moments of simple passion.

One of those occurred recently on Bill Good's CKNW show. A Vancouver Island caller named Mike thought too much had been made of the Burrard Street Bridge bicycle lane changes. He said:
In Vancouver there, you’re are all high and mighty about getting off your cars and getting on bikes and walking around. You live in the biggest clear cut in Canada, in Vancouver. You don’t care about the fish, you don’t care about the damming of the rivers, you don’t care about the heart and the soul of British Columbia. You get what you deserve. So, if you want condos from coast to coast, you’re going to get it. Congratulations.

You should care. You should care about the fact we can’t take our kids fishing and catch salmon the way we used to right off the dock. You can’t get spring salmon 40 or 50 pounds anymore. That people are dragging the bottom and ruining the deep sea coral and sponges. We have nothing to pass on to our children. You should care. That’s what British Columbia used to be about. It’s what makes it special. It’s what makes it different and unique and vibrant. And you don’t care. All you care about is a fight over a stupid bridge in the middle of downtown Vancouver.

Mike struck a chord. I grew up on the coast near Powell River. At 10, I skippered an almost 8 foot punt with a powerful 2 HP Elgin outboard. We fished almost every day in summer and seldom came back empty, pulling in salmon, cod, dogfish and things with names we could only could guess. We shared the ocean with seals, seabirds and sometimes a pod of orca. We sunned and swam for hours most days from May until October. Every year, we could sit by the clear river that emptied into the ocean by our house and watch spawning salmon so thick they formed a barely moving raft, covering the river from side to side. Today that same river depends on a fish hatchery for its life.

Mike, I care. These little men are cousins, part of the fifth generation of our family to walk on this ocean beach. Will generations to come have the pleasure?

We hope.

Here, get me a bucket of water!

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Laila rules

Almost a year ago, blogger Laila Yuile reported on retaining wall defects along the Sea to Sky Highway. Pictures were included:
Troubling photos spark Ministry of Transportation inspections of Sea to Sky retaining walls, creating new concerns over Kiewit construction.
Laila followed that with additional information, including:
Sea to Sky retaining wall questions continue as ministry employee emails indicate Kiewit inspected their own work.
In 2014, the transportation ministry reported the problems were merely cosmetic although correspondence uncovered by Ms. Yuile suggested government was relying on inspections conducted by the original contractor, not by ministry staff or independent engineers. It seems the ministry of transportation and infrastructure is not revealing the full extent of problems with the highway. One thing is clear, Laila Yuile has been ahead of others in reporting on financial and engineering aspects of the Sea to Sky Highway and the ministry's responses last year to her inquiries are now proven dubious.

Today, CBC reports:
Sea-to-Sky Highway in need of repairs near Horseshoe Bay
The Sea-to-Sky Highway is to undergo repairs to a retaining wall near Horseshoe Bay — just five years after the Winter Olympics for which the B.C. government spent $600 million to widen and straighten large sections...
The depth and quality of CBC's current reporting may be revealed by their small ($195 million) error in quoting the cost of the roadway. As a matter of fact, the Auditor General revealed in 2012, "Capital costs increased from $600 million to $795 million." The watchdog office also reported:
...the Province (represented by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure) entered into a P3 agreement with the Sea-to-Sky Highway Investment Limited Partnership (a group of private companies) to design, build and finance about two-thirds of the highway improvements and to operate and maintain the entire highway for 25 years. The ministry is responsible for managing the remaining one-third of improvements...
Of course, the entire business deal has never been revealed. That's a benefit of public private partnerships, if you are a private partner; it's a disadvantage if you are a member of the public. However, we learn from public accounts about the stream of payments going from taxpayers to the private partner.

From B.C. Public Accounts (Updated for FY 2015):


Fiscal Year Payments Future Obligations Grand Total
2006 $ 7,104,157
2007 $ 25,369,209
2008 $ 36,364,125
2009 $ 53,795,523
2010 $ 58,293,523
2011 $ 63,003,619
2012 $ 66,140,676
2013 $ 58,173,389
2014 $ 53,578,713
2015 $ 55,656,106
2016 $ 51,000,000
2017 $ 50,000,000
2018 $ 50,000,000
2019 $ 49,000,000
2020 $ 48,000,000
2021 & beyond $ 451,000,000
Totals $ 477,479,040 $ 699,000,000 $ 1,176,479,040

More than three years ago, Laila Yuile wrote excellent pieces on the Sea to Sky Highway. Click HERE to begin looking at her work.
There was previous information about this roadway at Northern Insight:
Sea to Sky Highway subsidy $12-$15 each vehicle

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Liberal transparency: secret agreements, no oversight

If politicians become so focused on reaping rewards for themselves, their friends and associates, they begin to act as British Columbia Liberals are acting now. Like furtive night prowlers, government members seek the cover of darkness.

Publicly owned lands and natural resources have values minimized or ignored, then are privatized without oversight. Construction projects - Convention Centre, BC PLace, NW Transmission Line, Port Mann and other bridges and highways - are commissioned at contract amounts that elsewhere have no precedent. Lobbyists enjoy access and influence not allowed elected MLAs. While the disabled and the most poor are denied relief, senior insiders line their own pockets with multiple salaries, pensions and payments from the provincial public service and from what the British call Quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations).

Think the preceding are overstatements? Then, look at British Columbia's proposed Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. It would allow:
  • The Minister to enter into agreements with oil and gas companies without clear oversight, allowing backroom deals that hand-out public resources at rock bottom prices;

  • The minister to bind the province through secret oil and gas royalty agreements without Cabinet approval;

  • The minister to keep agreements undisclosed and secret;

  • Agreements that can last for decades under any terms or conditions the minister "considers necessary or advisable."

  • Future governments to be bound by agreements that cannot be altered without taxpayers paying damages;

  • Agreements that limit taxation of LNG facilities by local government for 25 years;

  • Oil refineries operated by Chevron and Husky be designated "not an oil and gas activity."
In 1958, Socred cabinet minister Robert Sommers was convicted and sentenced to five years for accepting benefits worth about $60,000 in 2015 dollars. The family of another minister had serial good fortune from owning vacant land at intersections on new provincial highways. Yet, those were comparatively small acts of individual mountebanks. What we experience today are comprehensive acts of organized crime where the entire structure of government conspires to subvert public interests for delivery of benefits worth billions to parties who pay to play.
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Sliding from have to have-not

Statistics Canada provides surveys that allow analysis of employment. In my opinion, one data set that gains too little attention is the employment rate. It refers to the number of persons employed, expressed as a percentage of the total population 15 years of age and over.

When the economy is difficult and opportunities are scarce, some individuals give up the search for employment and disappear from the ranks of the unemployed. When the economy is vibrant and opportunities are plentiful, inactive individuals are drawn into the workforce.

Recent events emphasize the BC government's lack of focus on delivering benefits to citizens. Instead, it is the servant of special interests. There is little interest in developing industries that add value to provincial resources and encourage manufacturing and processing, but Liberals are willing to spend billions on subsidies and megaprojects like Site C so that foreign owned companies can ship provincial assets overseas with a near zero share of value remaining for citizens.

Over time, BC has ranked poorly compared to other Canadian provinces. Not surprisingly, in measures of job growth, the province also ranks poorly, although that was not always the case.

We must admit these numbers could have been worse but for the actions of BC Liberals. Had government not spent millions advertising the BC Jobs Plan and employed platoons of public relations folks to imagine all kinds of scenarios aiming to turn bad news into good, even fewer jobs would have been created. We should be grateful for small mercies.

Source: Statistics Canada CANSIM 282-0002

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Would you trust a prevaricator with $128 million? - UPDATED

Less than three weeks ago, a 2,100 ft² house on a 3,350 ft² lot in east Vancouver sold for $2.2 million though the asking price was $1.6 million. Two weeks ago, a modest 60-year-old home near my North Vancouver residence sold for $1 million, also above the asking price. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said February sales were 20% above the 10-year sales average for the month and the average price for a single family detached property in Metro Vancouver is over a million dollars. Houses are routinely selling 100 to 200 thousand above asking price.

In other words, the residential real estate market in urban British Columbia is hot, hot, hot. In the Burke Mountain area, small building lots are listed over $600,000. Yet, the Province of British Columbia made a hurried deal to sell vast tracts of residential property at a fraction of appraised values. The buyer is a company controlled by Hassan Khosrowshahi, a large BC Liberal contributor. The responsible Minister? None other than Amrik Virk who was party to a scheme that demonstrated minimal dedication to protecting taxpayers' financial interests.

BC Minister Failed to Disclose..., Andrew MacLeod, The Tyee, June 2014
NDP Advanced Education critic David Eby is questioning why Premier Christy Clark is keeping Amrik Virk as the minister responsible for British Columbia's post-secondary system after the release of a damning report related to Virk's actions on the board of Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Payments scandal at Kwantlen University, Macleans Magazine, June 2014
B.C.’s Ministry of Finance reprimanded Kwantlen Polytechnic University in suburban Vancouver for flouting rules meant to limit public sector compensation. The school offered Alan Davis, its current president, and Anne Lavack, a former vice-president, $50,000 each in consulting fees before their terms began, plus more than $100,000 to cover unusual expenses, on top of maximum salaries. Kwantlen’s board of governors failed to disclose some of those payments to the Public Sector Employers Council Secretariat (PSEC), which acts as a compensation watchdog. Amrik Virk, now minister of advanced education, was part of that board. Opposition politicians have called for his resignation...
Amrik Virk moved..., CBC, December 2014
Beleaguered B.C. government minister Amrik Virk has been shuffled out of his post as advanced education minister... on the same day that a report into the pay scandal at Kwantlen Polytechnic University was revised to show that Virk was aware of secret bonuses paid...

NDP Leader John Horgan said Virk should be dumped from cabinet.

"Mr. Virk has demonstrated bad judgment not once, not twice, but three times and it's probably time for him to get out of cabinet," he said.
Hansard, April 14, 2015
John Horgan: My question is to the Minister of Citizens' Services. For some time now, we on this side of the House have been concerned about the government's haste with selling public lands to meet their budget objectives. In fact, we raised these issues before the election. We raised the issues during the election and we've been raising them in this House ever since.

So to the Minister of Citizens' Services, who is responsible for this through Shared Services B.C.: what steps did he take to ensure that we got fair value for land sold by this government?

Amrik Virk: Property sales are indeed part our government's ongoing plan to release unused and surplus government properties and assets for new development. There are properties that are indeed surplus that are indeed unused. It's in the best interests of the British Columbia's public to re-use, to reinvest that in education, to reinvest that in health. This province is absolutely committed to ensure we get the best value for the land that we sell.

John Horgan: Here I am agreeing that the government should get best value for properties that they sell. In the case of the Burke Mountain lands, recently sold for $85 million, that appears to not be6 the case.

When we raised this issue, we asked for an evaluation of the properties, and we were told "We can't have it." We went through FOI, and we got redacted documents. But we now, with the efforts of the Privacy Commissioner, have access to the appraisal documents, which show that the Burke Mountain lands were appraised at $128 million and sold for $85 million.

My question again to the Minister of Citizens' Services: what possibly went wrong when we had $128 million worth of property, and to meet your single-year budget objectives, you sold them for $43 million less than they were worth?

Amrik Virk: As I said before, it's important to ensure that those surplus lands that we have in the assets of government be reassessed, be re-evaluated on a continual basis. We continue to re-evaluate and reassess those lands that we have, and we continue to ensure that we get the best value for the land that we sell.

John Horgan: That border-lines on an outlandish answer to a fairly simple question. The government retained Equity Valuation and Consulting Services, as they should, to assess the value of public properties before they were disposed of. They must have paid a considerable sum for that evaluation. They got a 137-page report appraising the value of the Burke Mountain lands.

The report says in part:
"In determining value, the appraisers considered various sources, including area maps, consulting with the city of Coquitlam, MLS information, land core B.C. Assessment Authority, realtors, developers and other persons knowledgeable to the local marketplace." They said specifically that to get maximum value for the properties, they should be exposed to the marketplace for six to nine months to get with the city of Coquitlam, MLS information, Land Corp, B.C. Assessment Authority, realtors, developers and other persons knowledgeable to the local marketplace."
They said, specifically, that to get maximum value for these properties, they should be exposed to the marketplace for six to nine months to get full market value. Even though they hired someone to do the valuation, got a detailed report about how to best maximize the public benefit from this sale, instead of having the properties out for six to nine months, they did it in three. They did it in three, and they gave them away at $43 million less than the appraised value.

Again, to the Minister of Citizens' Services, if I had something that was worth a whole lot of money, I certainly would not sell it for 33 percent less its value — particularly when it wasn't mine, it was the people of British Columbia's.

Can the Minister of Citizens' Services put aside the speaking notes and explain to the people of B.C. why he gave away public lands when he could have got $43 million to go into health care, to go into education, to go into any number of good public purposes, maybe even an arena in Hazelton? ...

Selina Robinson: The minister speaks of best value. Well, one parcel was given a market appraisal of $5.6 million and was sold for $100,000.

Here's another example of best value. Another parcel was given a market appraisal of $17.5 million and was sold for $6.9 million. Another parcel was given a market appraisal of $20.6 million and was sold for $13.9 million.

To the Minister of Citizens' Services, why did government ignore its own real estate expert and sell these lands for far below their actual market value?

...To make matters worse, the Coquitlam school district will soon need to buy back some of these lands to build two new schools. So much for planning for the future.

To the Minister of Citizens' Services, why would government sell public lands to a developer and then force the school district to buy them back to build schools?
Ms. Robinson's points are important because this is a time when school districts around the province are denied money needed to maintain educational standards. Also, parents are told their children must attend schools that are not safe from earthquake damage because upgrades have been postponed yet again, for financial reasons.

Christy Clark and her BC Liberal associates believe that enriching themselves and political friends is the most important job of government.

In recent times, I have demonstrated that the public share of billions of dollars worth of natural resources extracted from these lands is negligible. If mining exploration tax credits are deducted from mining taxes, resource companies are paid to remove assets from the province. Additionally, companies like Teck and Imperial Metals, major financial supporters of the Liberals, buy electricity from BC Hydro at a fraction of what BC Hydro pays independent power producers, also Liberal contributors, for electricity.

As of March 2014, the Liberal Government had committed to pay $56.5 billion for private power at rates more than three times the average market price in the Mid-Columbia power hub. (The liability is reported on BC Hydro's audited statements and is in addition to $15.7 billion of term debt. The utility has not publicly updated the amount of the purchase obligation in the past year.)

Liberals plan to bring Site C power on stream and, at the same time, they are negotiating electric power deals with the gas industry at prices less than half of what Site C power will cost. Residential consumers and small businesses will pay extra so foreign companies can be subsidized.

BC Hydro has now deferred over $5 billion in costs. These expenditures, instead of being treated as expenses are deemed to be assets; assets a future government will write off at a future time. Except for the cost deferral, BC Hydro's 2014 equity would have been in a deficit position of more than $1 billion. However, government didn't want a deficit shown because that would have precluded transfers of borrowed monies from the utility to the provincial treasury. It is, of course, easier to pretend to balance a provincial budget than to actually balance it in real terms.

Citizens of British Columbia today, and the next generation of this province, are being dispossessed by BC Liberals. This government has ethics equivalent to infamous nations that rank among the world's most corrupt.


Elections BC report $716,376 in contributions to BC Liberals by Hassan Khosrowshahi and associates. This listing may not be complete.

Contributions by Khosrowshahi by NRF_Vancouver

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They're really good at ineptitude

Digital database incomplete, Justine Hunter, Globe & Mail, April 14, 2016
An $842-million project to transfer patient health-care records to an integrated, digital database has gone off the rails after three B.C. health authorities abandoned their contract with IBM, leaving 85 per cent of the job unfinished.

...Mr. Lake said a confidentiality agreement prevents him from explaining why the health organizations and the company “decided to part ways.”

...NDP Leader John Horgan, however, noted this is just the latest example in a string of B.C. government IT projects that have run into trouble. In another high-profile case, the province’s new $182-million computer system for welfare and child-protection services has been widely criticized for technical flaws, privacy risks and bigger workloads.

“Today, the people of British Columbia were shown the ineptitude of the B.C. Liberals when it comes to managing their dollars,” Mr. Horgan said.
I'm told the professionals involved saw this failure coming long ago. We must create a special gallery of BC Liberal megaprojects because they share common attributes:
Overdue - Overbudget - Off the Rails

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Takin' care of business

For each $1 million of Nestle branded water sold, BC is paid about $2. Mind you, this is a better rate of return than the province gains from resource companies mining for metals and minerals.

According to the 2015 Budget and Fiscal Plan, revenue from "metals, minerals and other" is forecast at $83 million. However, revenue from the mining sector is offset by "tax expenditures" of $114 million, all but $10 million credited to corporations. That suggests a current year deficit on direct mining revenues of $41 million, despite $6,989,151 worth of production reported by Natural Resources Canada for 2013. In addition, the Energy and Mines ministry costs taxpayers $30 million yearly.

Most people would be surprised to learn that the BC Liberal Party receives more in contributions from mining companies than BC citizens earn in direct revenues from mining of metals and minerals.

April 13, Emma Lui, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians, talked with Ian Jessop on CFAX1070 about the water issue. Here is the segment.

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

When the bells ring, political pets respond

Of course, not all journalists react in Pavlovian ways but the Black Press crew is reliable.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Canadian elites

North Van Grumps at The Blog Borg Collective brought this to my attention. As the creator J.J. McCullough says, this is not evidence of a conspiracy or of sinister intentions. However, it demonstrates:
"...for at least the last five decades or so Canada has been a remarkably elitist country, in which a very small group of inter-connected families, business associates, and political allies, have controlled most institutions of relevance..."

In his book Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, Sheldon S. Wolin,
“portrays a country where citizens are politically uninterested and submissive--and where elites are eager to keep them that way. At best the nation has become a ‘managed democracy’ where the public is shepherded, not sovereign. At worst it is a place where corporate power no longer answers to state controls…”

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Cracks in credibility remain

Two days ago, retired journalist and TV newsman Harvey Oberfeld headlined, "Bell Media President Brings Shame to CTV."

Today, the company reacted to disclosures Bell Media President Kevin Crull interfered with news coverage that affected Bell's business interests.

BCE announces departure of Kevin Crull from Bell Media
BCE Inc. today announced that Kevin Crull will depart from the position of President of Bell Media effective today.

"Kevin Crull departs Bell with our thanks for his contributions to our customers and shareholders," said George Cope, President and CEO of Bell Canada and BCE Inc...

"However, the independence of Bell Media's news operations is of paramount importance to our company and to all Canadians. There can be no doubt that Bell will always uphold the journalistic standards that have made CTV the most trusted brand in Canadian news," said Mr. Cope..."
While Crull's removal is a correct response, it is insufficient. Oberfeld asked the important question,
"...why did ALMOST ALL of its SENIOR news staff just go along with the directive..."
It may be that President Wendy Freeman and senior colleagues at CTV News fought in the boardroom against Crull's intrusion. If they did, the actions should be revealed because, if they did not, they also deserve removal.

Bell Canada took a step in the right direction. More steps are needed. Without them, there are cracks in Bell Media's credibility.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Shining a light

Glenn Greenwald,
"A key purpose of journalism is to provide an adversarial check on those who wield the greatest power by shining a light on what they do in the dark, and informing the public about those acts."
A BC political journalist,
"For sums paid to my agents at the National Speakers Bureau, you can engage my undivided attention and I will shine a light for you, enabling your organization to deal successfully with those who wield the greatest power. I won’t inform the public about acts done in the dark."
From the Code of Ethics of the 106-year-old Society of Professional Journalists:
Journalists should:
  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
  • Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
  • Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
An example of "civil dialogue" by BC journalists:

An old favourite here: Still ROTFL.

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Murphy's Law applies, universally

The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:
The EAST OHIO GAS CO. EXPLOSION AND FIRE took place on Friday, 20 Oct. 1944, when a tank containing liquid natural gas equivalent to 90 million cubic feet exploded, setting off the most disastrous fire in Cleveland's history. Homes and businesses were engulfed by a tidal wave of fire in more than 1 sq. mi. of Cleveland's east side, bounded by St. Clair Ave. NE, E. 55th St., E. 67th St., and the Memorial Shoreway.

At approx. 2:30 P.M., white vapor began leaking out of Storage Tank No. 4, which had been built by the East Ohio Gas Co. in 1942 to provide additional reserve gas for local war industries. The gas in the tank, located at the northern end of E. 61st St., became combustible when mixed with air and exploded at 2:40 P.M., followed by the explosion of a second tank about 20 minutes later. The fire spread through 20 blocks, engulfing rows of houses while missing others.

The vaporizing gas also flowed along the curbs and gutters and into catch basins, through which it entered the underground sewers, exploding from time to time, ripping up pavement, damaging underground utility installations, and blowing out manhole covers. The immediate area surrounding the burning district was evacuated and refugees were sheltered in Willson Jr. High School on E. 55th St. where the Red Cross tried to care for approx. 680 homeless victims.

By late afternoon Saturday much of the fire had burned itself out, electricity was restored in some areas, and the next day a few residents began returning to their homes. The fire destroyed 79 homes, 2 factories, 217 cars, 7 trailers, and 1 tractor; the death toll reached 130.

Here's why the Council of Canadians is calling for a stop to the Woodfibre LNG project:
  • It is one of 18 proposals to build LNG terminals along the Pacific Coast and could set a dangerous precedent if approved.
  • As noted by retired KPMG consultant Eoin Finn LNG tankers are categorized under Class 2 under the Maritime Dangerous Good Code for Shipping (1 being most dangerous, 9 being least dangerous). LNG tankers are massive vessels at 300 metres long (the equivalent to three football fields), 40 metres wide and 30 metres tall, are twice as big in width and height as a B.C. ferry and pose a unique threat to coastal communities if there were to ever be an explosion or accident.
  • The Squamish Woodfibre LNG plant will be cooled by sea-water from Howe Sound and every hour will discharge 17,000 tonnes of water -- enough to fill seven Olympic-sized swimming pools -- back into the Sound at 10 degrees above that of the intake. Hypochlorite will be added to the discharge to reduce growth of marine fouling organisms such as mollusks and oysters. This mixture will be discharged into Howe Sound 24 hours per day year round. We are concerned about how this will impact the marine ecosystem of Howe Sound.
  • The gas needed for even just five LNG terminals would increase fracking in the province, have significant impact on the lakes, rivers and streams in B.C. and would more than double B.C.'s current climate footprint.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Racism taints Kwikwetlem reporting

This week we learned that Ron Giesbrect has been re-elected as Chief of the Kiwkwetlem band. The following was first published here October 8, 2014


My initial reaction to reports of compensation paid Kwikwetlem First Nations Chief Ron Giesbrecht was wrong. Until details were gained, I assumed he had abused public funds. That reaction was encouraged by cursory media reports that were shaped by common prejudices, reinforced by what lawyer Joseph Fearon calls an "example of the 'corrupt chief' narrative."

In Fearon's excellent article, he explains the reality of income tax exemptions, which are tied to other issues and restrictions,
"For the most part, the tax exemptions in the Indian Act are also not a result of (fair or otherwise) bargaining between Canada and First Nations. In fact, the Indian Act is a piece of legislation that was imposed on First Nations people by the Canadian government."
In late July, federal Conservatives began posting audited financial statements of Canada's First Nations. Within hours, news organizations were churning out revelations that were short on detail but loaded with indignation. National Post immediately had writers Paula Simons, Sammy Hude and John Ivison on the subject. Every Canadian media organization was involved; a Google search [Kwikwetlem "Ron Giesbrecht" pay] showed 34,000 results.

The Kwikwetlem pay story was especially important news at Postmedia, with additional reports and commentaries by Peter O'Neil, Rob Shaw, Jennifer Hough, Jeremy Deutsch, Tamsyn Burgmann, Mark Milke, Kelly Sinoski, Chad Skelton, Chris Selley, Tristin Hopper, Jordan Bateman, Derek Fildebrand and others. Thousands of reader comments gave emphasis to the outrage, including many rants coloured by racism and ignorance.

I found that strange because while preparing a recent article about Postmedia, I discovered the failing company's CEO, Paul Godfrey, scored a 50% raise in 2013, bringing his compensation to $1.7 million. He got rewarded lavishly - a term Postmedia used in stories described above - even though his company has suffered losses in every year of its existence, has failed regularly to meet financial objectives promised investors and is sustained only by selling its assets, the supply of which will soon be exhausted. It is the corporate equivalent of an arthritis sufferer amputating limbs to lessen pain.

So, did Paul Godfrey's $600,000 raise draw attention from a platoon of Postmedia writers? Well, not quite. The only report about the boss's compensation was an inaccurate one that disclosed nothing of a massive raise and just part of his pay package. The equivalent would have been to report that Ron Giesbrecht earned $84,800 as Chief and Development Officer. In the Financial Post, Christine Dobby wrote,
"Postmedia said Friday it extended Mr. Godfrey’s contract, which includes a base salary of $950,000, until the end of 2016."
Ron Giesbrecht was rewarded by a percentage of gross profits on development projects that allowed the band to increase its revenues by $10 million or 455% in a single year. The money gained is controlled by the Kwikwetlem Council and is available for whatever purposes the band members decide.

Despite what has been reported by media, the Chief did not, by himself, make a deal for himself. The vast majority of his compensation was not from funds provided by governments for capital projects, education, social or other programs. It came from commercial arrangements, negotiated with outside parties who found the agreements satisfactory for their purposes. Were it not for bigotry, the business press (and the CTF) would be applauding Kwikwetlem FN profitability and movement toward self-sufficiency.

Undoubtedly, many organizations make arrangements to share profits earned by their enterprises. As noted above, some provide rewards even in the absence of profits. Arrangements may be lavish; they may be austere, but in nearly every case not involving indigenous people, those are the affairs of organization managers and stakeholders. If the deal between the Kwikwetlem band members and their Chief was properly authorized and documented, there should be little more to say. According to the audit report prepared by independent professional accountants, there were no problems:
"The Kwikwetlem First Nation maintains systems of internal accounting and administrative controls of high quality, consistent with reasonable cost. Such systems are designed to provide reasonable assurance that the financial information is relevant, reliable and accurate and the Kwikwetlem First Nation's assets are appropriately accounted for and adequately safeguarded.

"The Kwikwetlem First Nation Council is responsible for ensuring that management fulfills its responsibilities for financial reporting and is ultimately responsible for reviewing and approving the financial statements.

"The Council meets periodically with management, as well as the external auditors, to discuss internal controls over the financial reporting process, auditing matters and financial reporting issues, to satisfy themselves that each party is properly discharging their responsibilities, and to review the financial statements and the external auditors report."
Plutocrats and their media supplicants may be uncomfortable with shifting away from paternalistic treatment of First Nations and making fair resolutions for the harms caused. However, those are realities of 2014. The constitution and the Supreme Court of Canada dictate changed attitudes and a new style of cooperation.

Guess which person drew media outrage?

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No one said fares are fair

Tickets for once a week travel on the 57-year-old 49-car ferry North Island Princess, between Powell River and Texada Island, for a car, driver and passenger, cost $1,634.49 a year, including frequent use discounts and current fuel rebate. There is no land-based alternative for the 35 minute, 5.1 mile crossing.

Tickets for once a week travel on the 6-year-old 80-car ferry Osprey, between Kootenay Bay and Balfour, for a car, driver and passenger, cost zero. The land-based alternative to the 35-minute, 5.5 mile crossing means a drive to Creston is 90 km longer.

For no apparent reason, provincial tax revenues pay 100% of operating costs of ferries that sail on fresh water and 20% of operating costs of ferries sailing on salt water. I'm not aware of any traffic counts published by the private operators of interior ferries but government has claimed the cost of serving inland crossings is around $20 million a year. In 2012, Vancouver Sun's Pete McMartin reported it as $10 million. However, the actual expenditures of government for inland ferries is substantially higher. Public accounts for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 show the two main operators were paid over $72 million.

Here is a summary of charges faced by users of ferries on a handful of coastal and interior routes.


The following was first published September 2014:

A comment left by Lew on an earlier article deserves to be featured.
Here is Christy Clark, the premier of our province, speaking as a radio show host just before leaving to run for leadership of the BC Liberals:

“Ferry fares go up on Friday. It will be the eighth fare hike over the past five years, and this time BC Ferries says it needs to do it to find the money for rising fuel costs, and since the provincial government refuses to chip in, they’re dumping almost all of those new costs on users.

The impact of the new fare increases? Well, according to BC Ferries latest annual report, these unprecedented fares, as they say, could result in a decline in ferry traffic, and that’s a quote. No kidding! And I’m guessing that the fares have finally gotten so high that for every dollar they raise it will actually garner less in revenue. Higher fares mean fewer passengers, so the accountants will have to subtract paying customers from every new dollar they add to ticket prices, and at this rate how long will it be before they abandon the routes where they don’t make any money? How long before the provincial government abandons their responsibility to provide a public service to many of the people who depend on the ferries to travel and ship their goods?

Our transportation minister seems to have an insatiable appetite for funding highways if they require blacktop, and he seems perfectly at peace with providing free ferries on inland lakes in BC, but he doesn’t seem to have the same affection for our maritime highway on the coast.”
The audio clip can be found in the CKNW audio vault for September 24th, 2014 starting at 2:26 pm.

Contrast her comments then with what her transportation minister is now telling the UBCM in the face of their report demonstrating that what radio host Clark said was valid and quite prescient.

“Our government has no plans to roll back any service adjustments that were made,” said Stone. “We have no plans to interfere in the independent process respecting rates, certainly for the rate increase that the B.C. ferry commissioner has set for next year.”
All that I wish to add is an audio clip of Clark's remarks. It is from Mike Eckford's show on CKNW, September 24.

A year and a half ago, after Liberals asked Vaughn Palmer to explain why inland and coastal ferries were not comparable, this is the Sun newspaper photograph used as an example of an inland ferry:

Do you think this vessel consumed much of the $72+ million spent on fresh water ferries in 2013-2014?

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Harper, the anti-democrat

An item first published here January 2012 remains worthy of our attention:

Terry Glavin: Scrutinizing Canada’s pipeline to Beijing, Terry Glavin, National Post - one of the most powerful pieces in recent memory:
"Canada is at the brink of a radical shift in energy and foreign policy. But there has been no debate of any consequence about it — not in the House of Commons, not in the Senate, not in the proceedings of a Royal Commission. Certainly not in the news media...

“Are we going to sell the ownership of our natural resources to pay for consumer goods we can ill afford and thereby speed up the indebtedness of Canada as export revenue from those resources would be lost?” Turns out that’s exactly what we’re doing...

"... And now Canadians are being expected to provide Beijing with a steady supply of bitumen in a closed loop from Beijing’s own oil sands properties in Alberta, through Beijing’s own pipeline, to oil tankers, to its own refineries back in China, so that the black comedy of “world trade” can keep unfolding the way Beijing wants. Not only that, we’re all supposed to be grateful for it.

"...Well, wake up: Last year, nearly half of all the trees felled on the B.C. coast were shipped out raw. Over the past five years, raw log exports to China have gone through the roof, exploding 12-fold from 94,000 cubic metres to about 1.2 million cubic metres.

"This is why more than 70 B.C. wood mills have been shuttered. Meanwhile, you’re being asked to boycott bananas because Chiquita has said unflattering things about the oil sands.

"...Enbridge first announced it had obtained $100-million to fund its planning, lobbying, studies and surveys for a twinned pipeline through the Rocky Mountains and across British Columbia to saltwater at Kitimat. ...but we’re not allowed to know whose money it is. Do the Conservatives even know whose money is behind the Enbridge plan? If not, why not? If so, why aren’t they telling us?

"Stop and think about it for a second. After all these years, and after all the recent uproars about sinister American environmentalists, it took filings with the National Energy Board that were turned up only this month to reveal that Beijing’s very own Sinopec is accompanied by Suncor, Cenovus, Nexen and MEG among the Enbridge project’s big-money backers. That still leaves at least $40-million in boost-and-plan cash that’s coming from an unknown source.

"[Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver made] certain intemperate remarks about radical foreign “billionaire socialists,” by which he did not mean the unelected billionaires who run the Chinese People’s Congress in Beijing, but rather American matinee idols who enjoy heli-skiing vacations in the Kootenay Mountains.

“The servility of Canada’s political leaders (municipal, provincial and federal) to the obvious manipulations of Chinese strategists who flaunt world trade and financial market principles and jail democracy-promoting authors for 10-year terms is a national disgrace.” I’ll say. It wasn’t some dweebish umbrage-taker from the Kitsilano Civil Liberties Union who wrote those words. It was Tony Campbell, the former head of the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat for the Privy Council Office.

"Remember the Richard Fadden controversy? Seems like only yesterday that everybody was screaming at the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, demanding that he shut up. Fadden almost lost his job. Why? Among other revelations, Fadden reported that cabinet ministers in two provinces were under the control of a certain foreign government that Fadden thought it too indelicate to name, but he did go on to say that Chinese diplomatic missions are funding and organizing political activism in Canada.

"And I haven’t even got my boots on yet."
Read the entire article by Terry Glavin at the National Post.

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The BC Liberal way: some pay, some don't

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Getting what you pay for

Moody's upgraded the province’s financial outlook from negative to stable, saying,
"The province has presented a credible plan of consistent balanced budgets with little risk that the debt burden will exceed current forecasts."
Sure. I believe that. However, journalists like Matt Taibbi would not. This is from his Rolling Stone article The Last Mystery of the Financial Crisis:
But what about the ratings agencies? Isn't it true that almost none of the fraud that's swallowed Wall Street in the past decade could have taken place without companies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's rubber-stamping it? Aren't they guilty, too?

Man, are they ever. And a lot more than even the least generous of us suspected.

...we now know that the nation's two top ratings companies, Moody's and S&P, have for many years been shameless tools for the banks, willing to give just about anything a high rating in exchange for cash.

In incriminating e-mail after incriminating e-mail, executives and analysts from these companies are caught admitting their entire business model is crooked.

...The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission published a case study in 2011 of Moody's in particular and discovered that between 2000 and 2007, the agency gave nearly 45,000 mortgage-backed securities AAA ratings. One year Moody's doled out AAA ratings to 30 mortgage-backed securities every day, 83 percent of which were ultimately downgraded. "This crisis could not have happened without the rating agencies," the commission concluded.

..In the old days, ratings agencies lived on subscriptions sold to investors, meaning they were compensated – indirectly, incidentally – by the people buying the financial products.

But over time, that model morphed into the current "issuer pays" model, in which a company like Moody's or Standard & Poor's is paid directly by the "issuer" – i.e., the company that is actually making the financial product. ...Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, one of the few lawmakers to focus on reforming the ratings agencies after the crash, put it this way: "It's like one of the parties in court paying the judge's salary."

...In 2012, for instance, Moody's profits soared 22 percent, to $1.18 billion... [In 2014, net profit was $1 billion on $3 billion revenue.)

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