Thursday, July 30, 2015

A sad and costly police affair - UPDATED

In July 2015, Sheila Lemaitre initiated a lawsuit that accused the RCMP of responsibility in the death of her husband, police sergeant Pierre Lemaitre. Reported by Canadian Press:
The wife of an RCMP officer who killed himself two years ago claims that her husband was used by the Mounties [as] a scapegoat in the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport in October 2007.

In a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Sheila Lemaitre said her husband, Pierre, was told he would lose his job if he tried to correct misinformation given to the media about the night Dziekanski died.

The sergeant was the media relations officer who released information about the incident where the Polish immigrant was jolted with a police Taser and died on the floor of the arrivals area.

The lawsuit claimed Lemaitre wanted to correct the information, but was ordered not to say anything.

"As a result of this incorrect information, his immediate removal as RCMP spokesman, the subsequent public release of the private video ... he was brought into public contempt where he was accused in the public of being the 'RCMP liar' and/or the RCMP spin doctor," the statement said.

...The statement of claim said the RCMP knew Lemaitre was under extreme psychological distress caused by the negligence of the force and that it could result in his becoming suicidal.

...The court document outlined that Lemaitre was transferred to a job described as an RCMP "dumping ground," that he was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, and became depressed, angry, full of rage.

He went on sick-leave in February 2013 and "committed suicide" on July 13, 2013, the document stated.

The statement of claim alleged an RCMP chaplain took control of the funeral arrangements, determining which songs could be played, and said that it was an "absolute requirement" that he "vet" all of the eulogies.

Lamaitre's wife was told on the day before the funeral that she could not give a eulogy herself, and when she asked who was giving that order, the chaplain said "You know who signs my cheques," said the statement...
Before learning about the lawsuit, I noted unusual traffic landing on pages here that reference Sgt. Lemaitre. That caused me to re-read the articles and I also determined CBC's linked report on Lemaitre had not changed. The 2013 item at remains an unfair and incomplete record of Lemaitre's final contributions to the public and I said that when submitting feedback about their two year old report. I hope they will remove or amend the offensive material.

Items in the Lemaitre statement of claim mirror information I heard years ago. The whole Dziekanski affair has dragged on for almost eight years and is not close to finished. It is into one of the worst scandals in the RCMP's long history but, unfortunately, in this police world, incompetence is inexplicably rewarded. Wayne Rideout was seen as a manager worth promoting. Since failing to manage the Dziekanski cover-up, he's gone from Superintendent to Assistant Commissioner. Recently, he's had hands on the "terrorism" clusterfuck that had 240 RCMP officers trying to get two indolent drug-dependent crazies to do, as Ian Mulgrew reported, more than play video games, smoke pot and have sex.

What follows was first published August 15, 2013:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Last Sunday, a large group of family, friends and associates gathered and paid tribute to Pierre Lemaitre, an officer who once was the RCMP's senior media relations officer in British Columbia. I expected corporate media would be at the memorial — they cover biker gang remembrances don't they? — because sudden, unexpected deaths of police officers, often involving PTSD, are events worth examination.

The only mention that I noted in the corporate press was by CBC. However, it was incomplete and inaccurate. This is the entire written report on the CBC news website:
"Friends and family gathered at a memorial service in Langley yesterday to remember RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre.

"The former senior B.C. spokesperson for the RCMP died on July 29.

"Lemaitre is best known for his role as the face of the force following the death of Robert Dziekanski.

"At the time, Lemaitre was criticized for providing details of the altercation that were later contradicted by a video of the incident.

"Lemaitre is survived by his wife and two daughters."
Whoever wrote that piece had little knowledge of Robert Dziekanski's death, the events immediately afterwards or the Braidwood Inquiry that followed. CBC is grossly unfair to imply that Lemaitre knowingly misled the public after the Taser homicide at Vancouver Airport. The Sergeant was not at YVR, nor was he a part of the RCMP team that was investigating the incident. He merely repeated information provided him by IHIT and its supervising officers. Let Justice Braidwood's words provide the detail:
"According to Sgt. Lemaitre, ...he received a phone call from Cpl. Dale Carr of the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT). IHIT is a team of RCMP officers who investigate all homicides and in-custody deaths arising in areas policed by the RCMP, as well as in several Lower Mainland municipalities policed by municipal police forces. Cpl. Carr was the official spokesperson for IHIT.

"Cpl. Carr told Sgt. Lemaitre that there had been an incident at the Vancouver International Airport in which a man causing a disturbance had had a confrontation with some RCMP officers, a conducted energy weapon had been used, and the man had died. Although normally IHIT would handle media relations, Cpl. Carr asked Sgt. Lemaitre to become involved because there would be international interest in this event and because Sgt. Lemaitre was bilingual. Sgt. Lemaitre agreed to meet him at the RCMP detachment.

"They met at 6:30 a.m., and Cpl. Carr took Sgt. Lemaitre to a briefing room in the detachment building, where about a dozen IHIT officers were working on laptops. Cpl. [Monty] Robinson was one of the officers there. Sgt. Lemaitre asked Cpl. Carr what he wanted him to report publicly. Cpl. Carr told him what information he had cleared with his superiors that could be released, which Sgt. Lemaitre summarized for me as follows:
'That a man of unknown origin had caused a disturbance in the waiting area at YVR. He had entered past some glass doors; he had been banging on glass; had thrown a computer to the ground. Members arrived, they attempted to calm him down, communicate with him, and at some point they deployed their TASER, struggled with him, and as we now know, the man unfortunately passed away.'
"...Sgt. Lemaitre told me that after his October 16 interviews, responsibility for RCMP media relations was transferred to Cpl. Carr, a member of IHIT. Sgt. Lemaitre was confident that Cpl. Carr would release updated information in a timely manner. When it became publicly known that some of the information he had released was incorrect, the media criticized him. He was anxious to set the record straight and had discussions with communication strategists who he worked with, as well as some pretty animated discussions with his superior, Staff Sgt. John Ward. He accepted that in homicide investigations IHIT is in control and calls the shots, and that he had to have faith that in time the information was going to come out.

"...Cpl. Carr told me that in the weeks after the incident, he took steps to attempt to correct the misinformation that had been provided to the public. However, Supt.[now Assistant Commissioner] Rideout instructed him not to do so...

"...As more information became known about the incident, the factual inaccuracies took on more significance. They were consistently self-serving — they painted Mr. Dziekanski in an unfairly negative, and the officers in an unfairly positive, light. Supt. Rideout prevented Sgt. Lemaitre from correcting the public record and implemented a policy of commenting publicly only on matters of process, not evidence.

"...Supt. Rideout did not act consistently — in at least one instance he breached his own “process, not evidence” rule by authorizing Cpl. Carr to publicly defend their officers against allegations that they had stood around doing nothing before Richmond Fire-Rescue arrived at the scene..."
Clearly, CBC did not tell the proper story in that single sentence reporting criticism of Lemaitre for providing details later contradicted. Yes, he made the initial releases but Dale Carr and Wayne Rideout were the officers responsible for the misinformation contained. Rideout specifically prevented the public record from being made correct. His action was not in the public interest, it was part of an effort that continued for months; an effort to vilify victim Robert Dziekanski and to sanction the homicidal behaviours of Cpl. Monty Robinson and his crew.

Was Pierre Lemaitre haunted by this experience until his end? Was he scapegoated by his superiors for the RCMP's dishonest clumsiness in handling the Dziekanski affair? Did he suffer disfavour and retribution as a target of the RCMP campaign to dismiss members suffering stress disorders?

I can't answer those questions with certainty but my research shows that the RCMP and police forces in general fail to use modern techniques of human resource management. Inherently incompetent hierarchical structures used in most police services demand obedience to superior levels regardless of their competence. The results may be stress, frustration and dissatisfaction among the troops and the typical response of leadership is to paint sufferers as weaklings or malcontents.

In the most serious cases, usually ones untreated, suicide may be an unfortunate outcome. There seems too little study of mental health problems among police officers. One website cites American statistics and offers the following observations:
Police suicide is not a popular topic in the law enforcement culture. As we learn more through research and study, however, it becomes obvious that suicide is merely “the tip of the iceberg” in comparison to the more important issue of mental health in law enforcement.

It may well prove impossible to develop a program that can identify and prevent 150 suicides in a force of almost a million police officers. It is clear, however, that when efforts are focused on mental health, instead of the narrower 'suicide prevention,' there can be be benefits that include not only suicide prevention, but fewer:
  • officer deaths from shootings and accidents
  • lawsuits
  • complaints
  • sick leave
  • alcoholism
  • substance abuse
  • criminal and other misbehaviurs
  • on and off-job injuries
  • divorces
  • grievances
  • resignations

Recommend this post

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lumber and log exports, LNG and pay-to-play

The audio file below is a recording of my time with Ian Jessop July 29. We talk about lumber and log exports, LNG and political contributions to BC Liberals by resource companies.

Recommend this post

Avoidance / Evasion: often a fine line

The price isn't right, Corporate profit-shifting has become big business, The Economist:
DURING THE TAX-EVASION trial of Leona Helmsley, a flamboyant hotelier, a former housekeeper testified that she heard her employer say: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” These days, multinational companies stand accused of taking a similarly haughty attitude to their fiscal affairs, shifting profits offshore to cut their tax bills...
Shifting profits across borders, Prem Sikka, The Guardian:
...secrecy, complex organisational structures, tax havens and profit hungry accountancy firms [are] the key ingredients of the tax avoidance industry. They all come together in the biggest tax avoidance scheme of all, known as "transfer pricing". The name of the game is to shift profits to low tax jurisdictions and avoid taxes in countries where corporations have substantial trading operations.

Globalisation has enabled a computer microchip company to design its products in country A, manufacture in B, test in C, hold patents in D and assign marketing rights to a subsidiary in country E. Such a structure gives corporations huge discretion in allocating costs to each country and shift profits through internal trade. Around 60% of the world trade consists of transfers internal to multinational corporations. This gives them numerous opportunities for shifting profits across borders.

...Tax authorities lack the resources to combat the tax avoidance industry. Ernst & Young alone employs over 900 professionals to sell transfer pricing schemes. The US tax authorities employ about 500 full-time inspectors to pursue transfer pricing issues and Kenya can only afford between three and five tax investigators for the whole country...
Built-in biases put profits in tax havens, Martin Sullivan, Forbes
“Why is it so difficult for governments of advanced economies to prevent profit shifting to tax havens?” Part of the answer lies in the fact that long ago, governments willingly hard-wired into the system certain principles that have now evolved in a way that has made life easy — and profitable — for corporate tax planners.

...Under one-sided methods, these residual profits are, by default, assigned elsewhere. Multinationals have set up structures that ensure that “elsewhere” is a relatively small operation or even a pure holding company in a tax haven.
The Transfer Pricing Labyrinth, Michelle Fletcher, Global Financial Integrity:
Transfer pricing itself is a perfectly legal accounting method for MNCs [multinational corporations]. Though often necessary for risk management, such as harmonizing supply chains, legal obligations, and management structure, the flow of goods, services, and money across borders between MNC subsidiaries can enable companies to avoid taxes in some jurisdictions by shifting taxable profits (usually to where the tax rate is lower.) Although most transfer pricing does not result in money changing hands—rather, it’s only noted in the MNC’s books—it can have devastating effects on developing countries who cannot afford the due diligence to ensure they aren’t being cheated out of revenue.

...MNCs, especially those with complicated chains of production like extraction companies, can set transfer prices at any link in that chain between which assets—tangible or intangible—shift between subsidiaries.

In fact, the most flagrantly abusive transfer pricing is typically that of intangible assets, such as patents or trademarks, which can be licensed from offshore, low-tax jurisdictions. These patents can be held in low-tax jurisdictions as well, and facilitate the flow of extensive royalty payments (which are, by the way, tax deductible) to areas where they will be minimally taxed.
The Walmart Web: How the World’s Biggest Corporation Secretly Uses Tax Havens to Dodge Taxes, Americans for Tax Fairness:
A groundbreaking report reveals that Walmart has built a vast, undisclosed network of 78 subsidiaries and branches in 15 overseas tax havens, which may be used to minimize foreign taxes where it has retail operations and to avoid U.S. tax on those foreign earnings. These secretive subsidiaries have never been subject to public scrutiny before. They have remained largely invisible, in part because Walmart fails to list them in its annual 10-K filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Walmart’s preferred tax haven is Luxembourg, dubbed a “magical fairyland” for corporations looking to shelter profits from taxation.

...Walmart owns at least $76 billion in assets through shell companies domiciled in the tax havens of Luxembourg ($64.2 billion) and the Netherlands ($12.4 billion) – that’s 90 percent of the assets in Walmart’s International division ($85 billion) or 37 percent of its total assets ($205 billion)...
Tax havens: Super-rich 'hiding' at least $21 trillion, BBC News:
A global super-rich elite had at least $21 trillion (£13tn) hidden in secret tax havens by the end of 2010, according to a major study.

The figure is equivalent to the size of the US and Japanese economies combined...
Tax haven this, tax avoidance that; is offshore finance such a big deal?
Who Are The Losers Of Tax Havens?

For a broad answer, it can be argued everybody does. As outlined above, tax havens have an insatiable appetite for tax revenues, which has a wholly negative impact on public good provision. That everybody in society, in one way or another, depends on these public goods, it means everybody is made worse by these little far-away jurisdictions.

Of course, some are disadvantage by a greater degree than others. By far the largest loser is those that find themselves in the most financially constrained and often desperate position: the poor...

Recommend this post

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Huge cost, high risk, low government revenue, few permanent jobs, better choices

LNG and Employment in BC, Marc Lee, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Juy 28, 2015:
This brief examines the BC government’s claim that 100,000 jobs will be created from liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in this province. We find that this claim is not credible and that potential employment impacts have been grossly overstated.

In fact, based on data provided by the companies that propose to engage in the production and transport of LNG, BC’s LNG sector could be expected to support only 2,000 to 3,000 construction jobs per plant over three years and 200 to 300 permanent workers once operational. Real-world experience in Australia supports these numbers.
  • LNG job claims were inflated to 100,000 through a series of exaggerations and the misuse of input-output modelling techniques.
  • the growing use of “fly-in, fly-out” (FIFO) workers is an emerging issue for large resource projects, including LNG development. Using FIFO workers greatly reduces local economic benefits in the areas where development takes place.
  • To get to the “100,000 jobs” number used in the 2013 pre-election throne speech, in the weeks beforehand the BC government commissioned a consultancy, Grant Thornton (GT), to develop employment estimates. Included in the resulting Employment Impact Review was GT’s disclaimer that its analysis was based on information provided by the province.
  • if LNG merely leads workers to shift from an already existing job to an LNG job, this benefit is limited to the difference in income received by the worker. If LNG leads workers to move from another jurisdiction to BC, this could be shown to have positive economic impact for BC; however, doing so ignores the offsetting negative impact on the other jurisdiction.
  • The most suspect numbers in the GT report are in the indirect category, which comprises the majority of claimed new jobs...
  • The rise of temporary migrant workers from other countries has also been widely noted. Numerous cases show that BC is already bringing in temporary foreign workers for projects in the north, including the upgrading of Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter in Kitimat, BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line and northern coal mines.
  • Australia’s experience with a mature and expanding LNG industry is worth considering for lessons. Its LNG plants are located in relatively remote locations, similar to what is being proposed for BC. Construction is primarily done by migrant workers
  • In Western Australia, 87 per cent of the construction workforce and 60 per cent of the operational workforce in the broader mining sector (including gas) are FIFO workers
  • Recent data from Asian LNG markets shows that market prices have dropped substantially. Landed prices of LNG were $7.85 per unit in Japan and Korea and $7.45 in China as of February 2015.29 Thus, at current prices the export of BC LNG is not a profitable venture
Reducing BC’s carbon emissions to something close to zero within a few decades will require a lot of work to be done, including transportation, building retrofits and clean energy. If BC embraces that possibility, and plans appropriately, a full employment strategy around climate action would represent a pathway towards harmonizing environmental and economic policies — one that would create far more jobs than LNG.


Here's one of the better choices; one that is put at risk by Woodfibre LNG. It seems Sea-To-Sky Gondola offers about the same number of permanent jobs as the proposed LNG facility.

Recommend this post

Saturday, July 25, 2015

BC lumber exports drop $46 billion over 9 years

These graphs are drawn from softwood lumber exports data published by BC Stats. My aim is to compare results in recent years to those from the desperate nineties when wild-eyed anti-business socialists governed British Columbia. The NDP administered BC for nine complete fiscal years, April 1992 to March 2001. I have compared that period to the nine most recent fiscal years of the current Liberal government, April 2006 to March 2015.

The first illustration shows the quantities of softwood lumber exported, measured in cubic metres. (A typical North American home of 2,500 square feet is built with about 70 cubic metres of wood products.)

These numbers may surprise people who remember Liberal Ministers Steve Thomson and Pat Bell more than four years ago celebrating "exponential growth" of lumber exports to China¹ and promising more of the same for India and other nations:
"We continue to see staggering growth in the amount of wood we export to China, so I'm not surprised that in May we shattered another record for lumber exports to the world's fastest growing economy," said Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson.²

"This is great news for British Columbians who depend on the forest sector for jobs that support their families."

"I was shocked," Bell said. "I had to do the math three or four times to make sure that I was right."

He credits the expansion to work by the province and forest industry to diversify the market for B.C. forest products by expanding into China.

"This is the result of years of hard work by the provincial government and industry," Bell said.
Despite expensive marketing efforts in new regions, softwood lumber exports dropped 25 million cubic metres in the more recent period. However, the truly shocking news is that the value of exports, measured in 2015 dollars, is $46 billion less in the period of Liberal rule.

Converted to 2015 dollars using Bank of Canada calculator
There is a clear explanation: the unit value (price per cubic metre) of exported lumber dropped significantly.

There are a number of potential factors behind these results. It is possible that BC sawmill products have declined in quality, perhaps because high grade timber is now exported in the form of raw logs, although the unit value of logs shipped overseas has declined by a similar percentage. One bothersome possibility is fraudulent transfer pricing. In modern times, sales of materials seldom involve a direct connection between producer and distributor and when international transactions are involved, the layers become even more complicated. Physical goods may travel directly but ownership might move in a convoluted path, sometimes passing through offshore tax havens.

Liberal policy has been to reduce the number of public servants in all parts of government. As a result, the ranks of professional employees have been decimated and, in this more complicated globalized economy, the province has far less ability to ensure fair dealings in production and sales of its natural resources. How much of the billions of dollars of lost trade resulted in lost wages and lost taxes? Clearly, the impact is huge.

I cannot explain why the profile of forestry trade has shifted and I fear the BC government cannot explain it either. There's one difference though: I'd like to see it clarified, the Liberal Party and their corporate sponsors are quite happy with the way things are.

2015 07 24 Softwood Lumber Exports

¹ Is India the next China lumber market?, Gordon Hoekstra, Prince George Citizen, June 20, 2011
² B.C. lumber exports to China soar, CBC News, July 17, 2011

Recommend this post

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Log exports update

Once again, we review reports from BC Stats. However, instead of repeating 163,452 data points from January 1988 to May 2015, I aim to demonstrate trends that allow conclusions to be drawn from the information.

Converted to 2015 dollars using Bank of Canada calculator

The quantity of BC raw logs shipped overseas has increased by 500% since the nineties. Surprisingly, the unit value received - or, reported - declined by almost half, when measured in current dollars.

I encourage you to scroll through earlier entries here about log exports. One item includes the followingt points:
  • Sawmills and manufacturing facilities require significant investments in property, plant and people. The shortest route to immediate profit is export of raw logs. It’s what I call “the tyranny of quarterly reports.” Managers are concerned with immediate results rather than creation of a strong business that will prosper over time.
  • Various factors mean that mills have high fixed costs while logging has low fixed costs. Investors can ramp up a large logging operation for a few million dollars and do it within a year. Mill owners need permanent, serviced land and tens of millions of dollars. The time for plans, permits and construction will be years. As a result, the easy road for timber rights holders is log exports.
  • Highly automated mills are capital intensive. The BC industry has underinvested and is less efficient than it could be. This condition then “justifies” exports. Industry claims that BC cannot compete in manufacturing finished lumber products so the only choice is to ship logs elsewhere.
Today's government believes that serving the multinational corporate agenda is Job One. There is no political vision for the future, no desire for British Columbians to be more than hewers of wood and drawers of water. If it were different, government would decide to promote value-added efforts. However, that would displease influential people who profit from the present system. Again, the easy road is to export unprocessed resources.

The tough choice, although the right one for the long term, would be to ensure substantially more value-added activity in BC. Liberals are particularly devoid of vision because their only real expertise is selling. Like prostitutes and drug dealers, they aim for quick scores. Their disregard for wood industries and their thoughtless embrace of LNG fantasies prove this true.

Recommend this post

Behind the ostensible government

I studied political science at university long, long ago. In those days, I was naive and idealistic and a member of the Liberal Party. Because I did not stay naive, I did not remain a Liberal.

Yet, the theory of party politics makes sense. The system should enable people who share goals and principles to pursue common social objectives. If they are supported by sufficient numbers of citizens, they might determine or influence public policy. However, in practice, Canadian parties tend to work from the top down, with ordinary members providing little significant policy input. Party leaders control financial resources, appointments of staff, consultants and spokespeople and creation of platforms, policies and priorities. Or, just about everything that matters.

The unanswered question is, "Who controls party leadership?" That is little discussed in traditional media, largely because pro-media owners are part of the tiny population segment that exercises real authority, in both politics and the marketplace.

The Canadian political economy may be far less violent than Mexico's but the nations have similarities. Writing in The Atlantic, Lawrence Weiner described a fact of Mexican life:
Since the nation's founding, few private fortunes were made without colmillo ("fang" or cunning), the owner's ability to cultivate ties to the right officials and master the art of "mutually convenient" relationships.

In this scheme, the mindset of politicians drove (and was driven by) the mindset of business leaders: wary, secretive, suspicious, and cynical...

In time, the sense of "us versus them" gave rise to deep-seated paranoia, subtle and often unspoken expectations to keep outsiders outside -- the knowing wink, the sealed lips...
After secretive negotiations, BC Liberals gave Malaysian socialists — the sort so despised by Rich Coleman — an unprecedented financial deal for low cost BC natural gas. The arrangements were completed as the Wall Street Journal was reporting that almost $900 million ($CAN) was allegedly transferred into personal accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Razak once worked at Petronas and according to Fitch Ratings, as 100% owner, his government can exert significant influence over Petronas' operating and financial policies.

It may be that some Malaysians work in a culture of corruption, as did SNC Lavalin when its board was chaired by Christy Clark's mentor Gwyn Morgan. If it is suggested we cannot trust the foreign partners in the LNG deal, can we trust the domestic partners? Did bribery play a role in motivating representatives of the people?

In British Columbia, pay to play has been a guiding policy of Christy Clark and her immediate predecessor. Clark's political party banked millions of dollars from resource companies and the provincial share of production revenues dropped dramatically while output levels increased. Because mainstream media are "partners" of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and other resource exploiters, news agencies choose not to report these inconvenient facts. The Clark Government, favoured industries and media have "mutually convenient" relationships not unlike those enjoyed in Mexico by a handful of plutocrats.

Premier Clark admitted this week that climate change is real, that it is causing and will cause serious disruptions in the province. Parts of British Columbia are experiencing wildfires, water shortages and crop failures. Yet Clark's Liberals aim to vastly increase non-conventional production of fracked fossil fuel, flood Peace River farmlands and remove remaining protections of agricultural lands. Ms. Photo Op gathered a cast of firefighters and pretended to have sympathy for the environment. As she did that, her colleagues and their minions continued work to accelerate climate change and reduce food security.

Has there ever been a larger disconnect between the actions and the statements of a political leader? I think not.

A comment on an earlier article provided a link to a video in which politician Phillip Mamouf-Wifarts reveals the real question put to most voters. Of course it's unfair to the sincere people who seek office to achieve good but it fits Canada's old line parties that I've come to regard as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Here are the choices he says we face at election time:
"Do you want another spineless mouthpiece for special interests and lobbyists, or a spineless mouthpiece for special interests and lobbyists?"

The remaining words were written and published here in March 2012. A modern history of BC Liberals is worth reviewing.

Before Gordon Campbell, the BC Liberal Party had been roused from the nearly dead and invigorated by Gordon Wilson, then a youthful populist leader. However, business interests chose Wilson's party as the vehicle best suited to replace the discredited Social Credit coalition. Led by Patrick Kinsella and Gordon Gibson, the power brokers wanted as leader an ideologue who was pleasing to financial backers. The first choice was wealthy developer Jack Poole. He passed on the opportunity to serve on opposition benches so the former Vancouver Mayor was called from the on-deck circle.

When the fixers were ready to move Gordon Campbell into place, a media campaign was orchestrated against the existing BC Liberal leader. Wilson was involved with colleague and future wife Judy Tyabji, a relationship begun while both were married to others. Indeed, pious media accounts of the Wilson and Tyabji marriage breakups helped Gary Farrell-Collins advance a caucus revolt. leading to Wilson's ouster by Campbell in 1993. Since then, romantic alliances of Liberal politicians have been off limits to the once virtuous BC media.

Kinsella's group was well financed and vigorously supported by media, particularly the Hollinger newspapers of future convicts David Radler and Conrad Black. By the end of the decade, the Asper family's Canwest had taken control of the major BC newspapers along with TV news powerhouse BCTV and its Victoria sister station. Canwest enthusiastically joined the campaign for a business-friendly government. So did its eventual successors.

Most expected Gordon Campbell's Liberals to form government in 1996 but Campbell, with an unpopular promise to sell BC Rail, faltered in the campaign. Premier Glen Clark was reelected but faced a corporate media determined to end the New Democratic administration. Liberal Party managers designated Martyn Brown from the old Reform Party to stick-handle Campbell's political affairs.

The media soon found their issues. NDP internal squabbling helped as pragmatists and ideologues scrambled for dominance but fast ferries and gambling issues gained the most traction in public. By the end of the NDP mandate in 2001, the party had earned appropriate ignominy. The Campbell led Liberals cruised to easy victory with a smart platform promising the most open and accountable government in history. Having learned from the mistake of 1996, this time, they also promised not to sell BC Rail.

What we found out later was that the Liberal platform and its progressive promises were completely disingenuous.

Gordon Campbell is gone. Christy Clark will eventually be gone. What has not changed though is the guiding hand that is never subjected to a ballot. America's Progressive Party created a platform in 1912 that demonstrates how little has changed in one hundred years. It included this statement:
"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”
Needless to say, the unholy alliance continues undissolved. Christy Clark's tenure as Premier may end because Premier Photo-Op is seen by the public for what she is: an intellectual lightweight narcissist who is ridiculed and not respected. However, British Columbia's unseen leaders will remodel the coalition of big business and crown as leader an equally malleable person.

Even though the Premier's current term is marked by incompetence and steadily declining voter approval, Clark has remained Premier for four and a half years. The single most important factor protecting her is the gentle treatment accorded Liberals by the corporate media. That situation reinforces the accuracy of words written by American writer Phil Rockstroh"
"...It should be increasingly clear to see that the corporate media's job has never been to be unbiased chroniclers of the events and circumstances of a free republic. Rather, they are active agents serving to protect and promulgate the pernicious myths of free market capitalism. And they are a highly partisan lot. Moreover, they have been highly successful in their mission. Hence, our lives, both inner and outer, have been conquered and colonized by the corporate empire, and a resultant forced occupation dominates our days determining the trajectory of our brief lives upon this earth.

Yet, we, against all evidence, believe we are free actors in a spontaneous, unfolding democratic drama. When, in reality, we have been cast as dehumanized supernumeraries in a lethal farce that renders all concerned both oppressor and oppressed. This is the central paradox that binds us..."

ADDENDUM: My most viewed tweet of summer 2015, courtesy of Adrian Raeside:

Recommend this post

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The "creeping cancer" ...

A reader's response to the preceding article is featured here:
It's time to put the fear of consequence back in governance. Since it is obvious that the current checks and balances mean little or nothing, to political organizations, bent on malfeasance while in power.

A more structured form of political or legal retribution is now required.

Corruption comes in many forms, many of which have surfaced in this country and province, within the past 15 years.

I submit that terrorism as described by all levels of government, is not this country's greatest threat. The greatest threat to us is the "creeping cancer" known as corruption within political parties and governments at all levels, in this country.

This message has become very clear with the results of the Quebec Corruption Commission, the Senate scandal, the Robo Call Elections fiasco, BC Rail, the Healthcare Firing/ Big Pharma scandal and now the above judges ruling into the Social Services Ministry.

The whole concept of democracy and responsible, ethical governance in this country, is under serious threat.

The solution, will be a long painful, expensive exploration, into the values and ethics of political partisanship, malfeasance and manipulation of our democratic system.

That would be just a start...

Recommend this post

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ministerial responsibility dictates immediate resignation

A trial that began April 8, 2013 – seven months after appointment of Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux – concluded this week when Justice Paul Walker released lengthy Reasons for Judgment. The findings relate a thoroughly dysfunctional ministry but, rather than commenting directly, I’ll let the judge’s final words speak for themselves.


[1071] The Province is liable for misfeasance, breach of the standard of care, and breach of fiduciary duty on the part of the Director and her agents.

[1072] The misfeasance of [ministry supervisor] Mr.Strickland set in motion a series of events, including the Apprehension, which caused various social workers and Ministry employees involved in the file to view [mother] J.P. as manipulative and malicious. The Director failed to assess and investigate reports of sexual abuse as required by the CFCSA and the standard of care. The Director had no reasonable basis to apprehend the children. The Apprehension was wrongful.

[1073] The Director unreasonably and with a closed mind rejected at the outset the veracity of the sexual abuse allegations and took the view they were fabricated by J.P. before the VPD completed its investigation and before the children were interviewed. The Director did not consider whether the children were at risk of harm as a result of the children’s sexual abuse disclosures and other evidence. The Director concluded that the children needed protection from J.P. and not [father] B.G. without conducting any assessment and investigation of her own.

[1074] As J.P. continued to complain about the sexual abuse of her children and to protest the Director’s conduct, social workers’ antipathy towards her increased, and as it did, the Director’s focus turned away from the best interests of the children to J.P. As early as February 2010, the Director encouraged B.G. to apply for custody in order to return the children to him, regardless of information adverse to B.G. and even though she acknowledged the possibility that B.G. had sexually abused his children. In that latter respect, the Director acted in breach of her fiduciary duty to the children while they were in her care.

[1075] The children remained in foster care while the Director provided her ongoing support of B.G., until March 29, 2012 (when the Director withdrew her protection concerns about J.P.). The children could not be immediately returned to their mother’s care because of the need for appropriate reintegration having been kept in foster care for so long.

[1076] The Director rebuffed J.P.’s efforts to ameliorate the Director’s protection concerns and always, and unreasonably, assumed the worst of J.P.’s motives and conduct. In addition to Mr. Strickland’s misfeasance, for which the Director is responsible, social workers, for whom the Director is also responsible, engaged in a wholesale disregard of their statutory mandate and the requisite standard of care expected of them to protect the children from harm.

[1077] Social workers who became involved in the case for the Director sought to further the plan to support B.G. in a manner that overlooked the children’s best interests. The Director’s antipathy towards J.P. diverted her attention from the children’s needs for medical intervention in spite of [psychologist] Mr. Colby’s opinion evidence and reports of the children’s highly disturbing sexualized and aggressive behaviours provided by supervised access workers. That antipathy, coupled with the plan to support B.G., led social workers to rebuff J.P. personally as well as the information she tried to provide in support of her case and to provide services for the children. Based on the evidence available to the Director by mid to late December 2009, it should have been apparent to the Director that the risk of harm to the children from B.G. was very high.

[1078] The Director was put on notice that B.G. had sexually abused the children and would do it again, and she cannot say now that she did not know it was possible or could occur while he was given unsupervised access to his children.

[1079] The Director’s decision to provide B.G. with unsupervised access led to P.G. being sexually abused by her father. Her decision also placed the children in close, regular, and unsupervised proximity with the person who had abused them

[1080] In the course of pursuing custody of the children in favour of B.G., the Director decided that she did not have to abide by orders and directions of this Court about B.G.’s supervised access to the children. No credence can be given to the Director’s current advice to this Court, communicated through counsel, that she will abide by orders of this Court. Her advice is inconsistent with the position she recently took before another judge of this Court.

[1081] The Director provided false and misleading information (in the Form “A”) to the Provincial Court to support the Apprehension and failed to correct or amend even though its social workers (depending on whom and at what point in time), knew or ought to have known it contained false and misleading information. She also relied on the Form “A” and other incorrect affidavit evidence when supporting B.G.’s custody application in this Court, when pursuing her application for an extension of the temporary custody order in the First Trial, and seeking the restraining order against J.P. in the Provincial Court. The Director improperly interfered with Mr. Colby’s investigation because she did not agree with an order made by this Court.

[1082] The Director delayed in delivering documents requested by another branch of government in order to process the plaintiffs’ claims for compensation. Her conduct was either deliberate or the result of gross neglect but in either case the conduct was callously indifferent to the children’s needs.

[1083] In all, I found that the Ministry employees who gave evidence, who were involved with the plaintiffs, lost sight of their duties, professionalism, and their objectivity.

[1084] Even today, many of the social workers involved in the case doggedly stick to their adverse view of J.P., despite the Director’s decision to withdraw her protection concerns, the lack of any expert opinion evidence that J.P. suffers from a mental illness and the findings from the First Trial that the children were sexually and physically abused by their father. Many Ministry employees are unable to comprehend, let alone accept, any reason for the Director to have reversed her position, as she did, during the First Trial.

[1085] Some Ministry witnesses were openly hostile towards J.P. when giving their testimony. Many of them refuse to accept the findings of fact made during the First Trial despite the claim made by some of them that what they wanted all along was to have an independent third party examine all of the evidence and determine if sexual abuse had occurred.

[1086] Immunity afforded by the CFCSA to good faith discretionary decisions is not afforded to the Director and social workers in this case.

[1087] The Director is also required to pay for special costs of the First Trial in an amount that will be determined from further submissions.

[1088] In conclusion, I wish to add that J.P. assumed and carried out the Director’s statutory mandate to protect her children. If it were not for the Herculean efforts of J.P., the children would now, through the fault of the Director, be in the custody of their father who sexually and physically abused them.

Recommend this post

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The reason you can't see to the bottom...

is because there's so much life.

Despite growing up on the coast of British Columbia, I've not yet learned enough about our marine environment and the people who've lived here for ten thousand years or more. This summer, with the sagging Canadian dollar, a vacation in our own province makes more sense than ever.

We're headed to the northern half of Vancouver Island so activity at In-Sights will be limited for a week or so. Our plan is travel north from Campbell River to Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill and Alert Bay. We'll be on the water with Mackay Whale Watching and I'm hoping we'll find time to catch a salmon or two and introduce 8 and 9 y.o. grandchildren to a different world than what we experience in the city.

Recommend this post

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Liberal strategy emerges to contain health scandal

Rob Shaw's article in the Liberal Party's urban newspaper of record indicates a search for new scapegoats in the Health Research Scandal is underway. It is reported that departed ministry advisor Alana James is still worried about "conflicts of interest, contracting, privacy breaches, data handling and financial matters involving ministry health research and contracting."

This is more spin from friends of BC Liberals. James admits that MacIsaac — the person most deserving of sympathy — was a scapegoated victim but only refers to the other fired individuals as low hanging fruit. She reiterates accusations about "conflicts of interest, contracting, privacy breaches, data handling and financial matters involving ministry health research and contracting."

MacIsaac is the only person absolved by James and she wants the net cast even more widely, perhaps into the middle branches. She does not imply misconduct at the highest levels of the Christy Clark government.

Here is the real crux of the message in the Vancouver Sun:
James also rejected speculation that the firings were related to research about specific drugs, funding for the Therapeutics Initiatives drug evaluation group or the influence of big pharmaceutical companies on the B.C. Liberal party, calling those discussions “a red herring.”
This article may indicate the exit strategy Liberals hope to use.

They need to protect the Premier, the party managers and the business of their corporate sponsors. They can't admit this heartless effort to end independent drug research was designed by people who sit closely to the Premier. Instead, they'll leak information that, indeed, serious offences had occurred but crimes by researchers could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, "It's not that they were innocent, just that they couldn't be proven guilty."

plankHowever, the need to contain political damage and assign some degree of managerial blame still exists.  John Dyble and Christy Clark need a mid-level functionary to resign while admitting he or she could have done more to ensure a successful investigation. Public Service Agency head Lynda Tarras retired and former Deputy Minister Graham Whitmarsh lawyered up and refused to be a fall guy. Current Deputy Health Minister Stephen Brown is loyal and was elsewhere when the situation began. The search is for someone who will exchange a little discomfort for a half-million severance and a friendly recommendation or early pension. It's been done before.

In a case of life emulating art, I'm reminded of an episode of the TV series VEEP, from season 4. Show notes:
"The staff is caught in the middle of a large scandal and starts looking for someone to take the blame... Dan finds new work after being fired from the White House..."
Now who on that very long list of Christy Clark's political appointees is ready to move on?

Recommend this post

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Farrell and Jessop, CFAX1070, Jul 1 audio

Recommend this post

Wild fantasies and planned deceit

Click here for updated amount
It is now clear that LNG claims made by Liberals before the 2013 BC election were wild fantasies and carefully planned deceit. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — an organization targeted for a tax audit by the Harper Government — recently published A Clear Look at LNG. The main conclusions:
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the west coast of Canada have been heralded as economic salvation for the province of British Columbia. This report undertakes a reality check that reveals several major problems with this narrative, both in the stewardship of finite non-renewable resources by provincial and federal governments, and in the environmental implications of largescale development.
  • The NEB has, to date, approved 12 terminals with a total capacity of 251 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of LNG exports over 20-25 years. However, the NEB’s own modeling shows that only a small percentage of that amount — 18 tcf — is available for export, even with a three-fold ramp-up in BC production.
  • Medium to high levels of LNG exports from BC would require Canada to become a net importer of natural gas, simply to meet domestic needs.
The BC government’s claims of available gas supplies for export are greatly exaggerated:
  • The BC Oil and Gas Commission estimates BC’s raw gas reserves at 42.3 tcf, with a total “marketable resource” of 442 tcf. (Reserves have been proven through drilling or are close to drilled areas, and are considered recoverable with current technology and economic conditions. Resources are much less certain, as they are probabilistic estimates based on broad extrapolations with limited drilling.)
  • The BC government has publicly stated that marketable resources are six times higher than the Commission’s estimate: 2,900 tcf available for export. This is not a credible claim.
  • The amount of gas that must be produced at the well head is considerably greater than the amount that would be sold, due to losses in the conversion of raw gas to marketable gas, and to gas consumed in the extraction, liquefaction and transportation processes. About 1.44 units of raw gas must be extracted to deliver 1 unit to Asia.
Were the BC government to realize its hoped-for export target, the scale-up in drilling and associated infrastructure required would be massive, and would fundamentally alter the landscape of northern BC.
  • The gas required for export would come mainly from fracked wells in BC’s Northeast. (Almost all of BC’s future gas production is expected to involve fracking, which requires much more water and produces much more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional drilling).
  • An extraordinary 37,800 to 43,700 new wells would need to be drilled by 2040, more than doubling to nearly tripling the number of wells drilled since 1954 in northeast BC.
  • BC gas production would need to increase by four to five times. This would require the production of between 4.1 and 4.6 times BC’s current proven raw gas reserves of 42.3 tcf by 2040.
A major public concern is the amount of water and the chemicals and other additives used in the fracking process, as well as the potential for contamination of surface water through surface casing failures and improper disposal of fracking wastewater:
  • The rate of water consumption is a function of the play (area) the wells are drilled in. About 25 million gallons of water per well are required in the Horn River Basin, from which a large portion of BC gas will be sourced.
  • This requires some 2,300 truck trips per well, followed by a further 700 truck trips to remove the fracking waste water produced in the process.
  • In the BC government’s proposed export target, water consumed in the ramp-up phase of drilling would equal about 22,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools per year, or about half of the annual consumption of Vancouver or Calgary.
  • While the BC government has argued that water use will be a very small amount of the total runoff in northern BC, actual water use will be much more localized and therefore comprise a much larger proportion of available surface water in each drilling area.
  • Water supply impacts can vary markedly with the seasons, with increased stress during dry periods or droughts.
The BC government is understating the amount and intensity of land disturbance and water consumption in the development of upstream supply for LNG exports:
  • Land use disturbance is significant, and includes well pads, roads, pipelines and facilities. It also includes seismic impacts...
Exporting BC LNG will not reduce global greenhouse gas emissions:
  • LNG is an energy-intensive way to move gas, requiring some 20 per cent of the gas to be consumed in the liquefaction, transport and regasification process (assuming gas-drive facilities which are the most common).
  • From wellhead to final combustion, there are substantial leakages of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Given this, liquefied fracked gas from BC actually has GHG emission rates similar to coal.
  • Contrary to the notion that BC LNG would be “doing the world a favor” by displacing coal use in Asia, BC LNG exports to China would increase GHG emissions over at least the next fifty years, compared to building state-of-the-art coal plants. Considered on a 100-year basis, burning imported LNG would provide only a marginal improvement compared to best technology coal.
There are considerable risks to companies entering BC’s nascent LNG industry.
  • Chief among them are the potential for rising domestic gas prices and lowering international prices, eliminating the arbitrage needed to pay off the multi-billion dollar investments required.
  • The structure of BC’s LNG Tax, recently halved, means that British Columbians, the public owners of the resource, will not see peak revenue flows until these capital investments are paid off, making them the back stoppers of these risks, as well as the recipients of the impacts on public infrastructure and the environment.
  • It is unlikely that anything close to the revenue projected by the BC government for its coffers will ever be realized.
Oil and gas represent a one-time legacy that underpins virtually every aspect of modern society. Notwithstanding the desirability of replacing fossil fuels with lower emitting alternatives, it is highly likely that fossil fuels will be needed at some level for the foreseeable future. Canada and British Columbia have adopted a de facto strategy of liquidating these resources as quickly as possible in the name of the economic prospects of the government of the day. These resources are precious, non-renewable and come with collateral environmental impacts. They demand more balanced stewardship in view of the needs of future generations of Canadians.
The CCPA document is lengthy and filled with technical analyses. As a whole, the report sends a caution that should not be ignored. Instead, the British Columbia government is moving imprudently. They have been negotiating in secret, guided by economic globalists who believe natural resources should belong to industry and jobs should go to the lowest paid, even if they are temporary foreign workers. Staff and advisors were recruited from industry and will return to industry through the revolving door. A Greenpeace report titled Who's Holding us Back included:
Carbon-intensive corporations and their networks of trade associations are blocking policies that aim to transition our societies into green, sustainable, low-risk economies. These polluting corporations often exert their influence behind the scenes, employing a variety of techniques, including using trade associations and think tanks as front groups; confusing the public through climate denial or advertising campaigns; making corporate political donations; as well as making use of the ‘revolving door’ between public servants and carbon-intensive corporations.
Later this month, Christy Clark intends to pass legislation that will bind the hands of future government for decades with guarantees that would require taxpayers to pay damages if subsidies or production conditions are altered. No groups of manufacturers, builders or service providers in British Columbia are offered a protected and guaranteed future. Nor is any individual citizen.

Recommend this post