Thursday, May 6, 2010

Liberals master self-destruction

One thing that BC Liberals have mastered in this 39th Parliament is self-destruction. Oh, it's been brewing for a time but, like an aging airliner, this government is about to be grounded due to irreparable fatigue. The current stress concentration may be the Kash Heed appointment and resignation, x2, but that will be dangerous to the Liberals by causing citizens to carefully examine election funding and the role of influence peddlers.

The BC Liberal Party spent $12.1 million to conduct the province-wide campaign in 2009. If individual constituency expenditures are included, the total heads toward $20 million. I challenge anyone to explain why we should be concerned only about a single donation of $1,000 and not the sources of the remaining $19.999 million.

There are major problems in the political financing system of British Columbia but, let's be clear. The fact that Harper Grey LLP donated $1,000 to Kash Heed's election campaign is one item of minor significance.  Harper Grey is a partnership of more than 50 lawyers and that one donation by the partnership represents a $20 bill from each of them. Given our system of campaign finance, that is minuscule in relation to the big picture. And, the donation was disclosed clearly and properly on Heed's Election Financing Report filed August 7, 2009.

Elections BC publishes campaign finance reports for candidates and parties. The reports are posted as image files, not data files that can be sorted easily for analysis. That's a shame and it suggests that someone would rather we didn't bother. Nevertheless, a little time and diligence reveals interesting information.

Some of the funding comes in small amounts from individuals concerned about political principles but it mostly comes from people and entities with clear interests in dealing with a friendly government. It is also clear that many people donate through multiple vehicles. In one case, I counted 14 related companies each making four figure donations. The financial reports do not have to provide connections so individuals can (and do) give cash under their own name, their spouse's name and multiple corporations or partnerships.

There are a few specific donations shown on the Liberal election return that need further review. For example, the BC Milk Marketing Board donated thousands. I object because that donation gets passed back to milk consumers in the form of higher prices. The BC Government created that agency, why is the governing party receiving money from them? Another payment seems strange. It was $20,000 from the "Hazardous Waste Joint Trade Training Trust Fund." I don't know what kind of Trust that is but I doubt that contributing to the BC Liberals election fund is appropriate. Anyone know more?

I'm willing to bet there are other connections than the ones I noted but Terry Hui, Concord Pacific and associates donated over $200,000 to the BC Liberal Party.  I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the BC Government involved in a $1 billion project on lands adjoining Concord Pacific? Do we recognize one conflict of interest but not another?

Now consider how the mainstream media can become exercised over a small twist when the entire chain is distorted. Radio man John McComb called today's news "a stunning development." Really, it is damn insignificant. Fifty 50 lawyers donating $20 each to one Liberal sets hair on fire but lazy news jockeys don't bother to examine the entire world of political finance. Michael Smyth knows better but he loves the easy stories as long as he can sneer his way through them.

It would take a little intelligence and effort but they could consider potential conflicts that arise when the energy industry, private power producers and land developers kick in millions of dollars to fund the entire Gordon Campbell regime, year after year.

In this province, poor people have a chance to get rich through the lottery but the chance of winning large is minuscule. Political bag men offer chances to rich people to get richer. Guess who gets the better odds?

I've written here before that the Criminal Justice Branch is corrupt and that the Special Prosecutor program is a fraud and has been from the start. Acting on SP Terry Robertson's report with knowledge of the alleged conflict proves the CJB is also incompetent.

The members of the legislature need to stop shouting partisan insults and get down to the real business of campaign finance reform. Take the big money players out of the equation. A decision to authorize a mine, a pipeline or a port or to enforce environmental laws should not be influenced by bag men arriving with pockets stuffed with cash.

Additionally, the criminal justice branch has to be removed from the Attorney General's department and the administration assigned to a Commissioner of Justice, appointed by and reporting to the legislature. That office should be charged with creating an accessible court system that treats every British Columbian by the same standards.
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  1. "The fact that Harper Grey LLP donated $1,000 to Kash Heed's election campaign is one item of minor significance."

    I would agree if that was as far as it went BUT, since 1998 Harper Grey LLP has donated $54,00O to the BC Liberals (source CBC)

    Since 2005 Bryan (top dog at HG LLP) and Jane Baynham have contributed in excess of $16,000 to the BC Libs (source Elections BC database)

    In his spare (?) time Bryan Baynham Q.C. vets potential Liberal candidates (would this be a service to the party with value?) in an agressive and thorough manner (source Global News).

    Harvey Grey LLP, among other clients, represents the "largest casino and bingo operators" in the province (they prolly have Kevin Krueger's cell on speed dial).

    Perusing the Elections BC database gives the impression that the average Liberal donation is three or four figures while most NDP donations run from $10-$50. And when you get right down to it, even evil unions (most larger NDP donations) at least in theory represent PEOPLE, working people, not corporations or the elite whose agenda isn't necessarily compatible with that of the rest of us, in spite of the "golden showers" theory of economics.

    Perhaps elections should be publically financed, otherwise the rich and the corporations will continue to own the best government they can afford and the other 95% of the people our representatives are supposed to represent can just go sit on something sharp and "shut the f* up" (Madam Senator Ruth)

  2. You are correct. The Baynhams are contributors to and beneficiaries of the Liberals, Jane being one of the governments many patronage appointments.

    Indeed Harper Grey LLP will have cabinet ministers on speed dial and, more importantly, the rainmakers' phone numbers. But, so does every other major law firm in town. Harper Grey is not unique; they don't do business in an unusual outlaw fashion. Political influence is one of the tools of the downtown legal business and one that allows extravagant billing rates.

    Liberals will never allow real change in election financing laws. Too many insiders earn their wonderful livings from the way things are. Do you ever imagine that Patrick Kinsella will stand up and say, "Let's make this system fair to everyone."

  3. I guess you're right Norm, but then we don't take our democracy as seriously as the Greeks, but then we didn't start working on it a couple millenia ago either.

    Eventually if these guys, the greed bags aren't brought under control, they or their children will be dog food. A system totally out of whack cannot last forever and none ever has.

    It's hard to conceive of modern day British Columbians taking actual issues of social justice with the degree of seriousness that they devote to deciding which new flat screen TeeVee to buy - until they are wondering what they can eat and rich folks start looking tasty.

  4. Yes Mr. Farrell. YOu are so right. We are only watching the little picture on the big flat screen. Look into the background. Get the smell in your nostrils. Recognize system wide corruption, especially in resources (gas wind etc)



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