2015 End of Year Post

This is my last post of 2015. This blog has been running for about 8 months, and it’s been a rewarding exercise. I must express thanks to the readers here, and particularly to other bloggers (and media who have interacted with me)  , RossK, Laila, Norm, Paul Ramsay, NVG and all others and all commenters for reading, sharing, and helping out.

The blog has been born of a frustration with the dominant voices in BC political discourse, which I feel are too ready to parrot and defend the indefensible from the current government. In writing the posts I’ve been aware, to a healthy degree I hope, of the perils of generalization inherent in that statement.

My fondest memory of the past year is decidedly the defeat of Stephen Harper. After ruling for years by silencing the more rabid elements of his base, this year he either didn’t want to do so, or failed to do so. Either way, the government that would vet refugees by religion and would silence dissent on bitumen pipelines if it could, among many other misdeeds, is gone.

My fondest hope for the coming year is that Trudeau sticks to his promise of moving toward meaningful electoral reform before the next federal election.

Norm Farrell cited the term “minoritarian” to describe the party hacks from all sides that resist improving on our FPTP system… There is in my mind no more significant effort, than the effort to overcome this resistance to change.

In BC, the change to STV was initially endorsed by 58% of the electorate (with a 60% bar). The reason the change back in the early 2000’s was so widely endorsed was due to the obvious inequity in an FPTP result in 2001 which delivered all but two provincial seats to one party while the opposition retained more than a 3rd of the popular vote.

In practical terms, it makes no difference if the seat count is 78-2 or 53-47.. A system that delivers unchecked power to a government that represents a minority slice of electoral opinion is a bad system. We can change it federally and we can change it provincially.

All the day to day gripes and complaints about the graft and incompetence of the current BC government will continue in the new year. I wonder how many BCLiberals operatives and staffers will be facing charges by the end of 2016? It’s possible that the number will be much higher than now, and that may wake us and our media all up to how contemptuous they have been of law and due process.

It’s my belief that an NDP government would never have got away with “post-it note” government, or refusing to submit a $9 billion dam project to proper scrutiny. I will keep pushing for mass media in this province to live up to its role as a check and balance on power.

Thanks and Merry Christmas to everyone who has helped , supported, commented and read my minor rants… Whatever the issue you’re concerned about as a citizen, I highly recommend getting vocal. See you in the New Year.

 

 

 

Here’s Mud in Your Eye – Christy Clark December 18th


 

Christy Clark is doing it again, but it’s worse. On the promotion of Evan Southern….

Back in the summer, Clark made what turned out to be a social media gaffe. After her failed attempt to produce a “yoga on the bridge” event in Vancouver for party donors Lululemon and Altagas collapsed due to public outrage, she took to twitter with a photo of herself outside a Vancouver Island Tai Chi studio.

The tag line to the photo was something like.. “Hey yoga-haters! Wait til you see Tai Chi on the Bridge” or words to that effect. It was childish and stupid. It illustrated that Clark doesn’t get that if you make a mistake, you climb down with sincerity , even if the sincerity is pretense.

As noted in the press and on blogs province wide, Laura Miller, the Executive Director of the BC Liberal Party, will face charges in Ontario including Breach of Trust relating to the deletion of records in Premier McGuinty’s Office…

Miller’s temporary replacement as “Acting Executive Director” of the BC Liberals is (unbelievably) Evan Southern.

For some history, I just reread Commissioner Denham’s report on the Triple Delete scandal, and did a quick google on Evan Southern.

Evan Southern was the guy who handled FOI requests in the Office of the Premier of BC, Christy Clark. In testifying to Ms. Denham, BC FOI Commissioner, much was made of the fact he had only one hour’s training in Access to Info. He managed things his own way, with only verbal contact with staff…keeping records of those contacts on sticky notes. This no doubt resulted in delays, and failure to produce records responsive to FOI.

This practice was ongoing in the Office of the Premier. If your blood doesn’t boil at that, you’re not human. I don’t know about you, but I want to have a high regard for 6 figure civil servants even if they are on the political side of the government divide. I want to know they are thorough, that they understand the obligations of government, and can mentally accomplish separating the goals of government from political advantage.

But hey, poor Evan Southern only had an hour of training in Access to Info…Yet before going to work in the Premier’s Office, he was Chief of Staff to the Justice Minister, Suzanne Anton. Let me repeat….this guy who thought post it notes were a super-modern and unassailable method of carrying out the ever-so-serious duties in the Office of the Premier used to be a Chief of Staff in the Justice Ministry. Poor guy, in serving in the Ministry of Justice, the notion of following the letter and spirit of the law might have rubbed off. He must have an odd immunity to respect for those notions.

Evan Southern wasn’t trying. Or if he was, he wasn’t trying to be of service to the Province or its people. He was trying very hard to be something else.

So Evan Southern became toxic to Premier Clark. He had to be moved. He was moved to the BCLiberal Party Office. That move, by itself, attracts cynicism and furthers the notion that evasion of accountability and responsibility is A-OK with Christy Clark.

Now Christy Clark has thrown mud in your eye by promoting the guy, temporarily…to Acting Executive Director of the BCLiberal Party. She clearly thinks Evan Southern is bright and competent and will give good service. No doubt she’s right. He’s served at a pretty high level in government. He can’t be stupid enough to think that sticky notes are leading edge technology, or that asking staff verbally for records and leaving no paper trail of investigations is good enough to earn $100’s of thousands and serve at the top of government in BC.

But Evan Southern has served Clark’s purposes very well.

“Hey Triple-Delete Haters, Here’s Mud In Your Eye”, courtesy of Christy Clark.

 

The Loukidelis Report/ and Laura Miller

What better day to say a few words about the Loukidelis report? What better day than the day the BCLiberals Executive Director is criminally charged in Ontario in a case relating to the destruction of records in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office? Laura Miller was forced to resign today to defend herself in a case which, it is alleged, involved covering the tracks of a political decision which cost Ontario taxpayers over a Billion dollars.

Loukidelis largely supports the recommendations already made by Commissioner Denham on the appalling record of the BCLiberals political staff on document retention.

Here’s the report.. It’s a long read.. the most important pieces are near the end with a useful discussion of the relationship of Access to Information Laws/ trust in government/ and recommendations made to fix the problem.

https://t.co/S95BxDF83Z

Of course, there are two responses from Christy Clark.. 1) We accept all recommendations… 2) We stop using email…

What? Well, when the scandal broke in May 2015 according to the Denham report, Clark herself had responded to an FOI request with a small fraction of a couple of hundred emails she had sent during a two week period.. The rest were either hidden or deleted en masse prior to the request being made.

Now, in October, after ordering her staff to keep all emails while Loukidelis offered his assistance understanding what the fuss was about? Clark sent, if she is to be believed.. only two emails over two weeks. Georgia Straight has the summary here:

https://t.co/J3VjyNBJG6

There has never been , in the “triple-delete” scandal, any implication that non-political staff have misunderstood or evaded the responsibilities, of the FOI act. The problem has been solely in the political realm.

As Mike Smyth suggests in a piece published yesterday, the “culture” starts at the top. It starts with Clark, and her comments so far really give no assurance. Her actions since Oct 2015 inspire no confidence.. Loukidelis helped Clark punt the ball 2 months and added nothing to what was already on offer from Commissioner Denham.

Tim Duncan, whistleblower in May,  has some words in Smyth’s piece about the culture in the political arm of the BCLiberal government here:

https://t.co/2UCBN8v5eC

Here’s my take in a nutshell… In the course of a job in the public service, it is natural and appropriate to be deleting what are, as a matter of common sense, transitory emails.

For the Premier’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Michele Cadario, and the Premier herself or Minister Stone to be deleting emails en masse, has only one explanation:  preemptive avoidance of examination and accountability.

I went to work for a new boss in 2008, in a much smaller organization than government, who had a habit of giving instruction verbally in the hallway or on the phone. I trained her to put instructions in email form for two reasons…1) the risk of forgetting or misunderstanding what I was told and 2) to cover my ass if something went wrong. She did what I asked and it worked.

The motive for “political bosses” and “political servants” to expunge all records is similarly self-serving, but in a different way. Corruption is not a necessary consequence of secrecy, but secrecy is necessary for corruption to flourish.

That can cost billions.

Drift, Paralysis, Inertia…. and Cumulative Impacts. Thoughts of an Egomaniacal Nobody

“Drift, paralysis, inertia” It’s on display in the BC Pundit Gallery these days..

That’s the Press Gallery which for 36 hours has maintained a nearly uniform cone of silence on this story, with an allegation the Premier made a very out of the way trip to give funding in an area of Federal responsibility at the precise time her brother may have needed a little help with a band election and a business project…. I’m not arguing for a moment that anything can be immediately or ever, proven, but hard questions should be asked and I hope the FOI officers in Education, First Nations relations, and the Premier’s office have a busy week coming.  It’s unacceptable to me that the Premier can do interviews the very day this is published in the Globe and Mail and not have to answer some hard questions:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/christy-clark-accused-of-interfering-in-band-election-to-aid-brothers-deal/article27654979

Read Les Leyne  for an illustration of Drift, Paralysis, and Inertia, or don’t bother. It’s not really a column worth reading:

http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/columnists/les-leyne-not-much-achieved-in-fall-legislature-1.2113823

Leyne is right that not much was achieved in the Fall Session by the government. (Red Tape reduction day? Really? )

But Leyne is wrong to suggest there is nothing  that is more worthwhile to talk about than the lacklustre program of the current government. It’s been a couple of weeks since that column, and the cumulative impacts keep piling up… What am I on about?

One of the complaints of First Nations and environmental groups about the various gas projects in the Northeast and pipelines elsewhere, is that there is no effective regime for studying the impact of all the criss-crossing projects proceeding in their disorganized way , all or many at once.

I would argue the same is true when it comes to the many scandals attaching day by day to the current government. Each one arrives, whether it’s triple deleting of records that should be public property, or BCHydro apparently lying to the regulator about IT systems procurement, or the Ministry of Children and Families ignoring court orders, thereby putting a child in the way of sexual predation by her father, or children in care in Prince George living effectively in drug dens…. Each one is talked about , a little or a lot. And then forgotten.

But once in a while a face is put to the damage caused by a government that says to the child in line at the food bank…. “We might make welfare rates humane or provide the real means to live to the disabled, after the economy improves and we’ve given a few more billions in subsidies to our party donors. ”

There are two such faces at the end of this post.

The Vancouver Sun is doing a series this week on multi-million, 20% plus, IT procurement overruns in a variety of BC Governnment Ministries…It will be worth reading. It will be shared piece by piece among the politically obsessed such as myself, and then forgotten by May 2017. In the run up to  May 2017, perhaps some third party group with a connection to Phil Hochstein will put ads on the air reminding us of a botched ferry project from before some voters were born.

Perhaps Adrian Dix backdated memo will be brought up, while we forget about the current government that Deletes All the Fucking Memos.

Perhaps it’s the Shawnigan Lake toxic waste dump we have a passing interest in.. For a moment it looked like the permit might be pulled, as water that was supposed to be contained on site gushes past the containment pond and into the lake with every rain.  But the permit hasn’t been pulled…Maybe that was a tease to relieve public pressure a bit. The engineering firm that presented evidence to the Environmental Assessment had a profit sharing deal drafted with the proponent, but don’t worry, that was never acted on, and besides it’s before the courts so we couldn’t possibly comment.

The issue, whatever it was, is sent for a review by someone the Press Gallery Pundits find eminently credible.. Advice is given to the government which the government promises to accept.  (Watch this space on Tuesday) In each case it is difficult for keen observers to understand how the issue was mishandled in the first place.

Most of the electorate are not keen observers.. And Global’s Legislative Bureau Chief can accurately muse aloud about the ongoing Special Prosecutor’s investigation into the Quickwins scandal.. “Does anyone remember what that was about?”

I remember… it was about diverting lists of names of people in various multicultural groups from the BC government to the BCLiberal party to help the party with the 2013 election. We are still waiting to truly discover how far it went, or not,  but the reason most of the public doesn’t remember what it was about? That’s because some of the Press Gallery Pundits thought it was a “problem” for the governing party, rather than a monstrous fraud.

And you know “problems” are like dirty laundry.. wash em out, with an election as detergent, and it’s like no quasi-criminal wrongdoing ever occurred.

But hell.. Even Rich Coleman looked ashamed of it when the story broke. That’s how bad it was.

Now and then, some member of the public says, no…enough. And a face is put to the incompetence, graft, and miserliness in public services… Perhaps it’s Tim Duncan , who blew the whistle on Deleting All the Fucking Memos….

Or perhaps it’s the parents of a child who committed suicide. No matter that the  Ministry sends them threats warning them that there is much about their case they can’t dicuss….. No matter that MCFD workers hand out business cards without even their government email address. No matter that case workers hold meetings with parents of children in care without notes (to protect privacy…whose privacy??).

These parents of Nick Lang , are the face behind the cumulative impacts……Watch their dignified discussion with Drex at CKNW… I admire their courage. I’m sure you do too..

https://t.co/qKvALe3Nls

 

(I don’t blog to make the Press Gallery look bad..Without the Press Gallery I would know nothing about the issues I discuss on this blog.  I don’t blog because the economic arguments of the right wing have no merit… they do have merit, but not a monopoly on merit. I don’t blog to attack reputations needlessly. )

Please, can we not admit the current BCGovernment is pretty much in  chaos…that they are incompetent and dishonest. What is the critical mass of people needed to make Clark’s crew either tangibly reform or get out of the way?

Oh, and about the “egomaniacal nobody”? That’s me.. It’s a term of affection given me by a well respected BC Pundit for encouraging free and determined inquiry in the press.