Two Stories On Mining Regulation and Alaska BC Relations

Bill Bennett, BC’s Minister of Energy and Mines took a trip up to Alaska to meet with officials there over concerns about mining and our shared watersheds. It’s often interesting to compare multiple media reports. If you want to skip the details, you can scroll to the last paragraph, where I reiterate why the media slant matters.

Here is Tom Fletcher, Black Press apologist for all things industrial. He has our Bill Bennett agreeing that an old mine leaking stuff into the Taku should be cleaned up, but fails to follow with natural questions over why it hasn’t been done for decades :

And here is Judith Lavoie in the Tyee

Note the differences.. rather than write about our similar approval processes, Lavoie interviews Alaska fishermen’s spokespeople and hears their concerns over accountability for damage potentially caused by BC mining. With no compensation agreement in place, the Alaskans feel that BC’s overly lax regulation poses a risk to their livelihoods. And isn’t that a fair point? If there is no clear liability risk for companies operating in BC who cause damage in Alaska, there is less incentive to, for example, move to dry stack tailings ponds. That’s what the expert Mt. Polley disaster panel recommended, but it’s being ignored.

Black Press reprints Tom Fletcher’s articles throughout smaller communities around BC in free (ad-funded)  papers which for many, are the only newspapers they see. It’s a significant community service…these community papers are invaluable for keeping up with local news and events. But the relentlessly pro industry spin from Fletcher misinforms the electorate in these regions. I think if I were to do a PhD in journalism today, a fascinating thesis would be: analysis of the success of Provincial and Federal Political Parties by region, overlaid with analysis of the reach of particular media companies with a measurement of their bias.

Is Partnerships BC Just a Conduit for Crony Money?

Back in the spring of this year there was a fuss over Partnerships BC Chair Larry Blain being awarded contracts by the body he chaired. But it was all okay, because he left the room while the contracts were awarded.

Here’s a link to a Vaughn Palmer minimalist piece on that:

Partnerships BC was a body designed by Gordon Campbell with a mandate that nothing of any size would be built in BC unless via Private Public Partnership. No ferries, no hospitals, and so on.

But apparently, there’s more. And I’m beginning to think a total audit on the 12 years of Partnerships BC’s operations might be a good idea. Kwantlen College has certainly seen a disproportionate share of controversy recently, along with Amrik Virk.

An ex VP of Partnerships BC had a large contract sole-sourced from Kwantlen College. It got cancelled when someone noticed it violated rules around sole-sourcing, and also agreements with other Western Provinces.

It raises questions about how much money is flowing to insiders under the Christy Clark regime that we don’t find out about. See Bob Mackin’s Tyee piece from yesterday here:

Can Harper Hide for 8 More Weeks? (updated)

Update: Have a look at this Justin Ling piece on Harper’s media strategy, which Nick refers to in the comments below. It really is completely bizarre….



I’m told there is a Conservative lawn sign somewhere in Campbell River, on a residential street. Somewhere.

In Victoria, I haven’t seen one yet, but it is early, and this riding is an NDP/Green fight.

It’s not surprising, the low profile of the Conservative voter. The leadership, (Harper) is equally low profile. A sitting Con MP put it out there that he would not be responding to media at all until after the election.

In Courtenay, the Harper campaign ran an event at the Black Creek winery at 4 PM. Local media, I’m told, were advised of the location at 3:47. It’s a half hour drive.

MP John Duncan jumped to run in the newly formed Courtenay Alberni riding in which this event was held, attended only by vetted tried and true Conservative supporters. There were about 250. Mulcair drew 800 in the same riding in the same week.

The secrecy of the events run by the Cons is something I don’t think any of us have ever seen in Canadian politics. It does serve to help them avoid banks of protesters at every stop.

Is this campaign being run by a team determined to win us over? Or shut us out and hope the opposition can’t organize enough of a turnout to defeat them?

Surely even the insiders must be wondering..why is Harper running?


One Honest Conservative on the Duffy Scandal

I think it’s important to recognize that it’s as wrong to be anti-conservative, with a Big C or a small c, for its own sake, as it is wrong to be anti-anything-else in the blind.

Conservatism in Canada has a long and thoughtful history, which is marred by the revelations of PMO control on many files, not only the Senate and Duffy. While I’m not a right-winger on economic or social issues, it’s not the right-wing perspective that I reject out of hand, it’s the abuse of power demonstrated ad nauseum by the Harper crew.

So it’s refreshing to read a simply worded, honest, conservative evaluation of the Duffy scandal as of this day, the 21st of August. The money quote is, “it’s hard to see how this isn’t a bribe on both sides of the equation now.

The blogger who wrote it is unknown to me, but identifies as “LT” . Here :



It helps to have friends in politics

One of Harper’s best friends, obviously, is Ray Novak. That would be Schroedinger’s Novak, who can be both in, and not in, key meetings (hat tip to Paul Wells) related to the $90K Duffy cheque and the whole Senator.

One of Christy Clark’s friends is Laura Miller, Exec Director of BCLiberals. As I’ve noted before, it’s said by the OPP that she got her boyfriend to wipe hard drives in Premier McGuinty’s office as the Gasplants scandal raged. He is cooperating with the OPP.. At last report, she is not. Now it turns out that Ray Novak is not only a friend of Harper, and of defector Dimitri Soudas, but also of Laura Miller.

See this from the Toronto Star..

A great video which should go viral

Copied from Laila’s place, an ordinary man stating some obvious truths about what’s wrong with narrow partisan politics.. As in, yes, it’s okay to disagree with your preferred party on some issues… And I would argue, it’s okay to do so out loud.

What’s not okay, is to swallow your beliefs and principles in the service of gaining power. If we are citizens, it’s up to us not only to vote, but to talk about our beliefs and ideas and inform the policy direction of party leaders and goverments, and not let them off the hook when principle is abandoned.

Please watch and share :


“Scandals Don’t Matter” Lessons from BC 2013

The title of this post is the lesson apparently taken by BC pundits after the BC Election in 2013: “Right and wrong are irrelevant constructs in the political game of winning and losing.

Last night Keith Baldrey (Global news commentator) was on twitter suggesting that the Duffy trial would not significantly alter the polls come election day. It’s just an “Ottawa bubble” , leftist echo chamber thing. He may be right in the end. But I hope he’s wrong.

(In the meantime, the President of the “OhSoIndependent” Legislative Press Gallery, Tom Fletcher, writes off anyone who criticizes as exhibiting “Harper Derangement Syndrome”. Thank god for the intellect of the fourth estate.)

In February of 2013, a scandal broke in BC. It was discovered that Kim Haakstad, long-time Clark loyalist and member of the Premier’s personal staff, had circulated a strategy memo in which sharing of voter lists between the department of multiculturalism and the BCLiberal party offices could be actioned.

This bears similarity to the fixing of a Senate audit in that the Premier’s inner circle knew about it, the Premier denied all knowledge, and she said it hadn’t been actioned anyway, despite the repayment of $70 K in salary on behalf of Brian Bonney, who now faces Elections Act charges on a matter more distant.

A Special Prosecutor continues to investigate.

But in the big TV debate, in the run up to the election, there was one ethics question put to the Premier. Christy Clark was asked about having run a red light, not about staff planning to illegally share voter data with the party.

And we know what happened. Premier Clark is still premier. She should not be. The Quickwins plan was so monstrous that even the planning of it should have ended her career. She was First Minister, and as such, responsible for the dirt within her office. But I blame a far too complacent NDP campaign for failing to push the issue hard for six weeks. It was a huge mistake. Most voters never knew about it.

And this, if anything, is what Harper is counting on now. The Prime Minister is lying daily, peddling the “media line” that as soon as Wright’s payment was uncovered, he made the information public (it was CTV’s Robert Fife who did that.)

The Duffy trial is detailing a plan to fix an independent audit report to exonerate Conservative Senators on residency issues in advance, with the help of Conservative bagman Irving Gerstein and several other Senators who chose to represent the PMO instead of their constituencies. And all Wright did faced with an intractable problem was what all big money men with no ethics would do… he spent some money to buy a solution.

It may stick. It may not. But beware the Tory faithful within the press. While in the heat of the campaign (late September, early October) , we will remember how wrong and shameful the PMO under Stephen Harper has become. But the Press won’t educate any of the public.

Because of the 3 million , or 10% of the Canadian Public, who have paid attention this week… only a fraction are Conservative-base voters… And the rest may never find out how truly debased Harper’s inner circle has become.

Advice to Mulcair, Trudeau, and May. Don’t let us forget.



Day One of Wright Testimony

I don’t intend to do a lot of blogging on the Duffy thing. It’s big and complicated, and for once, I trust media overall to get it right. The CBC’s At Issue panel covered all the main points last night pretty well. Please watch if you missed it.

So far, we have Wright’s testimony that while he “cleared the plan” with Harper to get Duffy’s expenses repaid, the detail that Wright was cutting the cheque himself was not relayed to the PM.

But very far from exonerating the Conservatives, the testimony and the emails dumped yesterday open a complete partisan cesspool to public view. The PMO and Con Senators were manipulating an “independent” audit report by Deloitte and Touche. This calls into question every f-ing audit commissioned by governments in this country. Does it not?

The emails detail a conspiracy of many , in the PMO and in the Senate, to cover up Duffy’s problems on residency, to get his questionable costs covered by Con party donation funds, and to lie to the public en masse about how they were repaid.  This is a level of collective dishonesty I don’t have the words to describe.

And yes, Harper is implicated. Wright consulted him on the media lines (lies) frequently. Wright was not a Chief of Staff who kept his PM in the dark out of habit. Worse, specific changes to the DT audit report were suggested at Harpers personal direction.

Some of the emails from a short “Buzzfeed” summary. It’s explosive stuff, and as Bruce Anderson noted on At Issue last night, pretty much all the players still live in the good graces of the Harper Conservative Government.

Media should stop accepting this crap.

Here’s a link to a fine column by the Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin, in which he recognizes the work of the Tyee, BC’s most successful alternet news service.

The killer quote for me was this: “Journalists treat the undermining of our (democratic) system like any other policy debate. They shouldn’t”. Precisely Mr. Martin.

And here is the Tyee piece referenced, “Harper: Serial Abuser of Power” which lists many of the ways Mr. Harper has attacked the system built up over generations to make Canada an admirable country..attacking science and scientists, the judiciary, and any independent watchdog worth the name.

That abuse of power extends to “disruption” of media’s questioning even the most carefully vetted Conservative supporters at a campaign rally in Richmond.

The last link is to RossK’s blog account of an incident involving a CKNW reporter in Vancouver last night being turfed from a Harper campaign rally. A side reason for linking it this way is to acknowledge RossK’s amazing work over the years. Because the “alternet” exists (and this blog exists) to address real failures in the structure of informing the vote. It’s like a finger in the dam, preventing a collapse.

On occasion, the blogs and online journalism get discounted by established media. Accusations of bias are often well-founded but as Martin’s G&M column illustrates, the MSM does pay attention, and does learn.


Mt Polley one year later

After the Mt. Polley mining disaster of August 2014, the Province appointed an expert panel to examine what happened and recommend measures to prevent a similar disaster.

That panel’s chief recommendation was to move to a system of dry-stack tailings. I’ve pointed this out before, and it bears repeating, because the Province has neglected the issue. I have seen some say in the media that dry stack is not appropriate everywhere, that in wet climates such as BC water accumulates and tailings ponds have to be designed for that. Mining experts are welcome to weigh in, but to this layman, the argument seems nonsensical. Are they arguing that because it rains here, a system which relies on huge amount of pumped water to move and contain the tailings at the storage area is necessary? Are they arguing that jurisdictions such as Alaska have less rain? Not saying that all mines in Alaska run with dry stack technology, but many do. It’s the more modern way.

In the meantime, the Mt. Polley mine has re-opened, with inadequate compensation to the community, and according to this report, the company and the Province are behaving “as if they have won the lottery”.

See also Laila Yuile’s piece comparing the language of Bill Bennett, then and now, and the attached video of the yet un-remediated land.