Hey BC.. We nearly all agree on something!

It’s our own fault, and it’s not what we want. That’s what I kept saying to myself as I walked on the beach today, thinking about what to write on the Premier’s $50,000 extra stipend from the BCLiberal Party. The stipend she lied about in 2012… (see to the end )

I have to praise Gary Mason for informing us of this.. Read his articles here https://t.co/6GfEtMAluy and here https://t.co/pB8d8d3B5g but you read that right. Christy Clark, who attends invitation only (as well as public) , big money fundraisers, receives a cool fifty grand for this work.

Board of Trade types.. Corporate execs.. who want government to shape government policy, often at the expense of the public interest, happily pay as much as $25000 to sit next to her at dinner. As Mason , and the NDP opposition pointed out today, the Premier benefits directly and monetarily from keeping them happy..

If you don’t have $10K to plunk down on dinner, you may be out of luck having this premier address your concerns.

Now I don’t mean the phrase “It’s our own fault” as a way of blaming the victim, or suggesting that we approved of all this. We don’t, and we didn’t.

An Insights West poll, released Monday, revealed that fully 86% of BC want big money out of politics. That includes corporate donations. That includes union donations. It includes 4/5 BCLiberal voters… See the poll results here: https://t.co/CGr1PslHci

With apologies to Jon McComb, Drex, at CKNW,, and News 1130 and various other radio stations, I have to say the uptake on this poll has been staggeringly small. When was the last time a respectable polling firm produced a number as emphatic as 86% on a matter of public interest? It’s a huge number of us….We agree…. If this large a segment of society agrees that the governing party should change its policy, we should have some influence! And we don’t.

And much of the media gave reporting this poll a miss…..That disempowers us, because we don’t know that everybody on our street wants big money out of politics as well.

Maybe we think Clark is bought and paid for?  Maybe we recognize that we don’t want John Horgan to be bought and paid for should he become Premier? It doesn’t matter.. We all agree on something that does matter. Right, left and centre, we agree.

We don’t want a system where a mining baron named Edwards can raise a million from out of Province for the BCLiberals, and then have Hydro deferrals approved for his mines. We don’t want a system in which the Bank of China, and PETRONAS (under investigation for fraud in half a dozen countries) can contribute to the governing party and perhaps dictate policy. We don’t want a  system in which citizens are last in the poll listing of who we think influences the government, well behind large donors. We don’t want a system in which , according to Integrity BC, a single man can donate $1M to the governing party masked through several companies. $25K for dinner? Chump change to a man like that.

There’s more…. Clark lied (or failed to correct the record).. When asked by Andrew MacLeod of the Tyee about the “Leader’s Allowance” she said she didn’t know the amount… it was like a car allowance. Read the link https://t.co/ZzMQeNiFgH

More than $4000 into her account every month, and Clark told a cheap fib when asked… She made fun of the NDP in the legislature today for “just discovering” the leaders stipend, the existence of which was known all along. But nobody knew the amount, and the one time she was asked, she told a cheap cheap lie .

That’s the state of political integrity in BC. And because the voters fail to inform themselves…. and because corporate media often fails to inform us… it will keep happening until voters of all stripes stand up and make it stop.

 

This is My Manifesto

There are many like it, but this one’s mine…..

I want a government committed to and capable of adult conversations. I want a government that respects the intelligence of its people.

Usually, I write with process, ethics, rule of law, deceit, and that sort of thing in mind, and those themes run through this post as well, no doubt. But in the wake of the national NDP’s roasting at the hands of the national media for agreeing to discuss the LEAP manifesto, I thought I’d write a manifesto of my own for BC politics and the campaign for power in 2017.

I offer it for everyone’s amusement, agreement, disagreement, ridicule…whatever you like.

No matter who, or which party, gains power in 2017, here are the things I’d like to see as features of the next government.

  1. The end of corporate and union donations to municipal slates and provincial political parties. Personal donation limits of $500/year (election year or not).
  2. A process by which the province can move toward proportional representation. I’m tired of tyranny by a minority.
  3. A legislated duty to document who makes decisions and why on behalf of government at all levels. (eg. It’s a travesty that we still do not know who fired the Health Researchers in 2012 . It’s an easy question and the protection of privacy for those who made this decision is demonstrably against the public interest. There are many other fine examples.)
  4. Public funding goes to public education, not to ever increasing subsidies for private schools. It will be pointed out correctly that this hasn’t been NDP policy yet either, but I’m for this change. It’s sickening to hear of the slow starvation of the public education system while private institutions get a higher proportion of public dollars every year.
  5. A Public Inquiry into the state of BC Hydro. Gordon Campbell’s mandate that Hydro cannot consider building any new power (except Site C) has handed financial benefits to Independent Power Producers far beyond their benefit to BC. We are forced to buy power , far into the future, at prices far above what we can sell it for, either publicly or to industry. It happens so often that when I write something, there immediately follows a post from another source that boosts my argument…. Read Norm Farrell on “Misappropriation of Public Wealth” here: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/NorthernInsights/~3/Dfi5KcQti48/misappropriation-of-public-wealth.html
  6. Laws requiring independent studies required of corporations due to public interest concerns to be published. It makes no sense that the Province can require water testing in Spallumcheen and then hide behind the “proprietary” nature of those studies. “We require you to test the water because it’s important to know if and how you are poisoning people , but don’t worry, we won’t tell the people either way..” ……. Um, No.
  7. An honest scientific look at methane release, water contamination and yes, earthquake issues due to gas fracking in the northeast. My personal doubts on LNG would be brushed off or confirmed by an independent scientific assessment. Let’s count the fugitive emissions. Let’s test the water and release the results publicly.
  8. An honest look at the economics of LNG. The reality is that until LNG prices rebound to double or triple what they are now….and that won’t happen for years, we can’t make any money from it.
  9. A stated position to Alberta, that bitumen pipelines are out of the question, but if refining happens at home, we can talk. Increased refining is already a position of the Notley government.  People will argue the economics. I think that exposes the fact that the extraction costs of fracked oil from Alberta are very high. Nobody is buying $100/barrel oil in a $40 market. (see LNG). Smart business people get behind things they can sell at a profit. Tarsands oil isn’t that product at the price point for the foreseeable future. This is the piece of my manifesto that is outrageous heresy to most of the nation’s pundits… I too drive Highway 1 out of Vancouver, or the I-5 to Oregon, and wonder if we will ever see the end of fossil fuels.. It seems madness to suggest it. But it shouldn’t be madness to factor in the safety of the environment, and the jobs for Canadian workers, and the long term future, into the equation.
  10. A plan to join the world in growing renewable energy from wind, tide, solar and geothermal. This requires an end to GCampbell’s fiat in which he prevented Hydro from exploring these options. Renewable energy is the fastest growing piece of the energy market. This is going to be true for decades to come. It’s a good business decision to get involved in it not just for the planet, but for the Prosperity Fund, if such a thing exists.
  11. A requirement that Ministers know their files and answer direct questions with direct answers in the Legislature. This past ten days alone…. it was revealed that an IPP in Campbell River is being paid $55 million annually to sit idle 90% of the year. Energy Minister Bill Bennett did not know that and took the question on notice. ……Claire Trevena , ferries critic, brought up the fact BCFerries has “requested a variance” to allow refuelling by LNG tanker truck onboard the ferries. This is done nowhere else in the world…Transport Minister Todd Stone did not know about it. This is unacceptable. It’s easy to set our hair on fire about the safety issues, but that would be going after the wrong target, however legitimate. A Transport Minister worth the title and the extra salary would have studied the issue and be immediately able to share the results after committing public money to building these boats overseas. ….. David Eby, critic for Translink, read off a laundry list in Question Period of what Peter Fassbender, Minister in charge, did not know when grilled in estimates… Ridership numbers? Fassbender didn’t know. Fassbender’s response? “It’s not my job to manage Translink”.

Seriously, these cases from #11 are the cases in which the Premier or a cabinet minister didn’t just recite the 2013 stump speech, as they do so often it’s nauseating . They actually admitted they had no idea what the answers were to serious questions in the public interest. Don’t they have people for that? Well, yes they do. They have teams of advisors whose job it is to make sure Ministers aren’t embarrassed in this way. Instead, the advisors are so obsessed with viewing everything through the political campaign lens that they simply don’t know the files.

A lot of nonsense has been thrown about with respect to LEAP, our collective commitment to climate change nationally and provincially, and especially an imagined flip flop from John Horgan on PNW LNG.

If Horgan is for PNW LNG he alienates the “Green NDP” voters..if he is against it, he alienates Tom Sigurdson and the building trades unions.

Horgan’s actual position, whether it infuriates you or not, seems to me to have been consistent. If PNW is to go ahead, it must accommodate the concerns about salmon habitat around Lelu Island. It must pass the “Tsilqhotin” test (in other words it must be legal). It must deliver benefits to all of BC. (Given credits and dodges around taxation already offered to PETRONAS, it’s hard to see how the Province could make any money from it before 2030, if ever, excepting the roughly 1000 jobs during construction).

Personally, what I find funny about the PETRONAS discussion is how it’s become such a massive red herring…Like Site C, it’s become a firestarter for a narrative about a party that “opposes all development’ while the other party “stands up for BC jobs” …….

Newsflash: There is no Party of No. Not even the Greens would oppose all industry, though if they did, the Premier would thank them for the constructive contribution and hope they gained some votes that would otherwise go to the NDP. She might even buy them Adspace in CAPP sponsored newspapers.  She’s done it before.

Newsflash 2: If PETRONAS doesn’t go ahead, it will be cancelled for legal and financial reasons… The BCNDP has no power to stop it and nor do you…When Christy Clark rants about the forces of No she is ranting about anyone who wants independent assessment of fracking. She is ranting against enforcement of FN rights and title as confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada. She is ranting against anyone who supports her own government’s stated climate targets.(PNWLNG would add 8% to our current emissions which are rising …whoops, don’t say that out loud.. we are “world leaders” don’t you know). Clark is ranting against anyone who wants a real financial benefit to BC, and realizes that the PNW LNG project can only be built if we give away the “fracking” farm.

If there’s one thing our fine Premier Clark is against, it’s adult conversation. I think our biggest problem is the childishness and avoidance of uncomfortable facts in our political discourse. It’s not conducive to good decisions, and it has to change.

PS. My personal view on the PNW LNG project: It will not go ahead, for financial reasons, and there’s not a thing anyone can do to help it make sense.

 

 

 

 

Every BC Government Press Release should be fact-checked

If you aren’t aware of Integrity BC, a non-partisan organization led by Dermod Travis, you should be. Here’s why, in a rebuttal to a published letter from the Energy Minister Bill Bennett. Reprinted with permission. Because Integrity BC posts go up on Facebook, which not everyone uses, it’s useful I think to raise awareness of the great work they do.

If I win Lotto Max, every newspaper will be provided funds to do this fact-checking on the spot, whenever a member of government speaks or writes.

Bennett’s original letter is the first link at the end of Mr. Travis’ rebuttal.

“Actually, not even close Bill.

A letter to the editor yesterday in the East Kootenay News Online Weekly by Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett – Keeping rates affordable, investing in the future – caught our eye.

We thought it would be an idea to set the record straight, but first a few points from last week’s Moody’s Investors Service’s credit opinion: “BC Hydro’s total reported debt has risen considerably since 2008, increasing from $8.1 billion as of March 31, 2008 to an estimated $18.1 billion as of March 31, 2016.”

Hydro’s financial metrics “are among the weakest of Canadian provincial utilities” and those deferral accounts (net regulatory assets) have “more than quadrupled since 2009.”

FROM BILL BENNETT’S LETTER TO THE EDITOR: “In the past year alone, BC Hydro has completed the following capital projects: The Interior to Lower Mainland transmission line, a 270-kilometre line stretching from Merritt to Coquitlam…The toughest section of the line, running across the Fraser River over two railways and a highway before going up and over a mountain near Spuzzum, was completed ahead of schedule.”

You have to be joking?

FROM THE GLOBE AND MAIL (21 APRIL 2015): “A series of conflicts and setbacks has plagued construction of a $725-million transmission line that would serve Metro Vancouver’s growing electricity demands, leaving the minister responsible refusing to predict when the project will be in service or how much it will cost.

Flatiron-Graham won a fixed-price, design-build contract in 2011. Mr. Bennett said the problems began with “serious delays” triggered in part because the contractor brought in faulty steel towers from India that twisted, bent and collapsed. Between the spring of 2012 and the fall of 2013, the contractor tested five designs and Hydro rejected each one as substandard.”

FROM BENNETT: “Each year Hydro Quebec publishes a study that compares electricity rates across major North American cities. Last year’s study showed that the average bill for a B.C. household using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity was $143.

In Halifax, a typical bill is $223 and in Ottawa the average is $207. That means electricity bills for Canadians living in Ottawa are almost $800 more than the average annual cost in B.C.”

Mr. Bennett, here’s the average high and low temperatures for Vancouver, Halifax and Ottawa in January: Vancouver 7°C high, 1°C low; Halifax 0°C and – 8°C; and Ottawa – 6°C and – 14°C. The average monthly bills are also higher, because it’s colder in the winter in Ottawa and Halifax.

Even though he was citing a Hydro-Quebec document, he didn’t highlight the rates for Montreal or Winnipeg in his letter. Why? Because they’re cheaper than BC in both cities.

Bennett also didn’t highlight the difference in MSP premiums between the three. Oh right, only BC has MSP premiums. And here’s the median family income for Bill’s cities: Ottawa ($94,700), Halifax ($76,500) and Vancouver ($67,090).

Ottawa is tops out of 28 CMAs, Vancouver is in 24th place and Abbotsford-Mission is dead last.

FROM BILL BENNETT: “Over the last five years, BC Hydro has completed over 560 capital projects totalling almost $4 billion dollars – and delivered these projects almost two per cent under budget.”

Too funny.

FROM THE GLOBE AND MAIL (14 MAY 2015): “BC Hydro rejected a plan to update its information technology systems in 2008, concluding the new SAP software program would take too many resources and provide too little savings. In 2010, the Crown corporation went ahead with the switch anyway.

Today, the 2008 prophecy is fulfilled: Incomplete and overbudget, the transfer is behind schedule and the promised savings have not materialized.

“There were judgments made that cost money. They were mistakes,” Energy Minister Bill Bennett, who is responsible for BC Hydro, said in an interview Wednesday.

“I apologize to the ratepayer for mistakes that were made in the past.”

VAUGHN PALMER, VANCOUVER SUN (26 JUNE 2013): “With Hydro, the news was far from status quo. The capital plan, already the most ambitious in government, had been boosted by another $440 million in the space of a mere four months.

Included were two new projects priced at $274 million and revisions in the cost of a half-dozen others, adding a further $166 million.

The Northwest Transmission line was budgeted by Hydro at $395 million as recently as the beginning of 2011, but has undergone a staggering escalation in costs ever since. As of February of this year, it was listed in the budget papers at a hefty $617 million.”

Some quick final points:

Funnily enough, Bill didn’t mention the cumulative rate increases between BC Hydro, Hydro-Quebec and, say, Halifax from 2007 to 2015. Here they are: 63.2 per cent, 17.1 and 38.7.

And last year Hydro-Quebec turned a profit. A real one. A profit of $3.1 billion. No borrowing required. Hydro rates went up in that province on April 1 by 0.7 per cent, in BC by 4 per cent. Hydro-Quebec pays its CEO less that BC Hydro does.

For other cost overruns at BC Hydro, please see the IntegrityBC thread.

#bcpoli #vanpoli #bchydro @eastknow

Sources:

http://www.e-know.ca/regions/cranbrook/keeping-rates-affordable-investing-in-the-future/

https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Canada/British-Columbia/Places/vancouver-temperatures-by-month-average.php

https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Canada/Ontario/Places/ottawa-temperatures-by-month-average.php

https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Canada/Nova-Scotia/Places/halifax-temperatures-by-month-average.php

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/conflicts-mar-transmission-line-project-as-completion-and-cost-still-unknown/article24057530/

http://www.vancouversun.com/Vaughn+Palmer+Surprise+Hydro+cost+overruns+hard+believe+with+execs+part+premier+inner+circle/8590060/story.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/hydro-québec-posts-net-income-of-3-1b-for-2015-1.3464289

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/hydro-quebec-rates-increase-1.3481227

 

Vaughn Palmer (senior pundit) runs interference for Clark

We have a problem when pundits are entertained by bullshit and deflection. If you’re a news outlet, and you want me to buy your product, deconstructing bullshit is part of the deal. Witness this headline and column from Vaughn Palmer.

Vaughn Palmer: Clark hammers NDP during question period

Really? Is that what happened this week?

The issues are these:

  1. The BCLiberals are taking a lot of heat from various sources, most notably Gary Mason and the Globe and Mail, for secret dinners with the Premier and cabinet members with high price tags. This is party fundraising by special access.
  2. A report by the Senior’s Advocate lambasted the current state of staffing levels in care homes across the BC, and charged that seniors were being wildly overmedicated with anti-depressants and anti-psychotics with no discernible link to any diagnosed conditions.
  3. News has been spreading, at last, about IPP contracts set up so that BC Hydro has to raise your rates because they are locked into paying for independent power (at a higher price than the price it can be sold for) when it’s needed, and when it’s not.

Now read the Palmer column linked above. Vaughn would have you believe that because John Horgan, opposition leader, got irritated with Ben James, this was proof that Clark hammered him in Question Period.

Clark and her government and her legions of communications bullshit artists (including Ben James) , have come up with no answers on the 3 issues above. (Apparently there will be a review based on the Senior’s Advocate’s work….I couldn’t be more thrilled.)

In fact, what Palmer’s column illustrates is that bafflegab on completely unrelated issues (Jobs Jobs Jobs SiteC PNW LNG Jobs Forces of No Jobs), passes in his view for brilliant riposte.

So let’s deconstruct the bullshit, otherwise known as talking points, first on party fundraising. Some of these points come from the likes of Ben James. Some from pro “status quo” pundits.

  1. “John Horgan is a hypocrite because he also attends party fundraisers, some of them private”. Well, to use a hockey analogy: if current NHL rules allowed pushing the puck and the goalie over the goal line to score, any GM in the NHL who wanted to change that rule would be barred from advocating a rule change until his team unilaterally stopped using the tactic.
  2. “There is no quid pro quo” in special access fundraisers. This is Norman Spector’s line. It’s a way of saying campaign finance reform is a solution in search of a problem. To quote him again, “The choice in BC is between a pro-industry party and a pro-union party.” There! It’s solved! It’s not an ethics problem at all. Federal rules and the rules in many provinces were changed in the last fifteen years because of Adscam and other high profile issues. Spector is arguing (unbelievably) that industry players donate to the BCLiberals tens of millions in election years and non-election years because they hate the NDP. It’s  not because they want lax regulation , non-existent enforcement, inside tracks on contracts etc. The collapse of government revenue from resource extraction (down about $4 billion annually from 2002, despite increased export volume) has nothing to do with a  steady stream of industry cash to the party coffers.
  3. Independent MLA Vicki Huntington got out ahead of the NDP on the fundraising issue, tabling a bill to ban corporate and union donations, and limit individual contributions. The NDP have tabled five such bills since 2009, the most recent came two days after Huntington’s, but Palmer, and on twitter, Rob Shaw, posted that Huntington was “out front”. It’s been NDP party policy , as it has been for the Greens and Conservatives in BC , to get big money out of party fundraising for years. All due credit to a fine Independent MLA, but Huntington is part of a wider chorus, not in front of the band.

On Senior’s Care… Palmer’s column cites Clark answering Horgan in Question Period with numbers on increased health spending (Numbers! My gosh!) and seguing to her usual stump speech on “100,000 jobs from LNG, opposed by the NDP”. This is unbelievable…The health care spending numbers may be true, but they in no way answer the Senior’s Advocate’s concerns that “of 292 government-funded facilities, 232 didn’t meet the ministry’s own minimum staffing guidelines”.

Nor do Clark’s talking points address this: “As a provincial average, one in four residents in these seniors’ facilities is diagnosed as being depressed — yet one in two is receiving anti-depressant drugs. One in three is on anti-psychotic medication without having been diagnosed as having a psychotic condition. One in 10 is under some form of physical restraint. This sounds more like North Korea’s repressive prison system than a care program in a progressive democracy.”

The above quotes in bold are from the Vancouver Sun’s own editorial board, which should have a chat with Palmer about bias. Read the whole thing linked here:

Editorial: Appalling seniors care must be addressed

And by the way Christy and Vaughn, regarding the “100,000 jobs” from LNG, as Raffi says “Nobody Believes You”. Clark’s insistence on parroting this completely discredited assertion is evidence of utter incompetence, not cleverness.

Lastly, on Independent Power Producers…. Adrian Dix asked a question on Tuesday about an IPP at Campbell River which is being paid $55 million annually to sit idle 90% of the time…the Vancouver Island grid only requires its power at peak times. Another piece in the Province explored other IPP’s which were being paid $17 million to not produce power this year because the contracted price if the unneeded power was bought would be $26 million….

Bill Bennett tells us Site C must go ahead. It’s absolutely needed. It’s been studied to death, and now is the time. But this fount of all knowledge on BC’s power needs had to “take Adrian Dix’s question….on…. notice”. Dear Mr. Bennett, here’s the issue, from desmog.ca

https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.desmog.ca/2016/04/05/b-c-hydro-paying-independent-power-producers-not-produce-power-due-oversupply&sa=U&ved=0ahUKEwi8_-2q3YTMAhUK8WMKHdyKC20QFggIMAE&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNGq9qqjDLBYsDZnjd9r6BxONNySxA