For Ian Jessop –

Ian Jessop served as a radio host with commitment and guts. He handled topics others refused to touch. He was fired from CFAX radio in Victoria last week for reasons undisclosed by decision makers at Bell media whose names we don’t know…other than the name of Heather Kim, the local manager. Heather Kim, according to others’ reports, won’t say anything except to blather about ‘new direction’. She hasn’t responded to my email.

Here’s why Ian Jessop’s firing matters. It sends a not so subtle chill through other media who may be considering doing the kind of news talk that he did. There are two broad types of lies government tells us, the statistical lie and the integrity lie. Ian was devoted to exposing both.

The Statistical Lie:

Ian regularly had Norm Farrell as a guest. Norm’s blog “In-Sights” is the province’s go to source for statistical information on the devastating drop in revenues to the public purse from resource extraction under the reign of Gordon Campbell, but particularly under Christy Clark. Norm also discussed problems with the Site C project and BC Hydro’s bankrupting at the hands of 60 year IPP contracts.

On Site C, the $10 billion, largest infrastructure project in BC history, Harry Swain, chair of the joint Federal/Provincial review panel that studied the project, did not believe the load demand forecasts. That panel recommended Site C be reviewed first by the BC Utilities Commission. The BCLiberals refused.

Harry Swain is now on public record calling the dam a hugely expensive mistake. The reasons to be concerned are well documented at Norm’s site, and also Laila Yuile’s. But Harry Swain has not been on the six o’clock news as far as I’m aware. If you think about that , it’s shocking.

Swain isn’t some blogger one can dismiss lightly (and you know I don’t think bloggers should be dismissed just because they are bloggers ūüôā¬†)¬†. . Newfoundland recently had to admit its Muskrat Falls dam was a massive mistake. We should be very concerned that Site C is a mistake as well.

The Integrity Lies

I wrote in the past month¬†about Christy Clark’s strange trip to Haida Gwaii to promise school funding outside our jurisdiction, and the questions and contradictions surrounding that. Ian Jessop was the only MSM personality who asked the legitimate questions raised by me, and by John Horgan in the legislature. The premier hasn’t proposed¬†a credible alternative to the idea that the trip would help a councillor in a band election who favored a project of financial interest to her brother.¬† The third of three posts on that subject is linked here :

What Ian Jessop recognized is that contradictory and changing “splaining” by principal actors in a story are the red flag that should set media digging. Some lies were told, and Ian wanted to know who was lying and why.

Someone said to me last night.. “I’m surprised they haven’t gone after McComb, Simi, and Drex (of CKNW).”

“They” would be the corporate masters and political pressure operatives RossK refers to as the “wizards of Clarklandia”. “They” control journalist’s access, and advertising spends.

(Indeed, Jon McComb, Simi Sara, and Drex have all in their way criticized the Clark government pretty harshly on occasion. Kudos to them when they have done so..It’s not necessary to criticize the Clark government because it is right wing in philosophy, but because it is chaotic and dishonest. Witness the return of $25 mill of $54 mill cut from education… Witness the sudden spending on rural schools in threatened ridings…Witness how local school boards, the “local decision makers on closures”, are now being pressured by MLA’s to save particular schools a year ahead of the election.¬†All othis new spending and political backtracking occurred AFTER School Board budget work had been largely completed. Chaos. )

Another lie was exposed by independent media recently… In a piece by Discourse Media, we read that the Lax Kw’alaam’s sudden reversal on the PNW LNG project , hailed by Clark, was not true, and didn’t reflect the true community sentiment on the project at Lelu Island. It’s a long piece.. go read it now:

The Premier’s office had to backtrack on a statement that the Lax Kw’alaams had voted massively in favour of the project. The only recorded vote on the project was the opposite. The Premier’s office claimed that the First Nation had done its internal consultations prior to a stunning reversal, in which the new Mayor wrote to the Canadian Environmental Agency in qualified support, only weeks after opposing it. According to the link just above, nobody in the community, admittedly divided under pressure, had been consulted.

Sometimes, events smell like bribes. They just smell. And if you think that could never happen in BC, read this piece which also got no media¬†coverage, from last year….. In which the Haida nation claimed Enbridge was offering cash for individual signatures on a supportive piece of paper.

We need media to dig when these things happen.. We need people like Ian Jessop. We need media who not only report what a Minister or Opposition critic wants in the public realm, but dig for what they don’t. Orwell: “everything else is propaganda”.




The Face of Change

Some months ago I linked a video to an interview with Peter Lang and Linda Tenpas that was conducted by Drex of CKNW . I praised their dignified response to questions about the death of their son, and their pursuit of answers. I suggested that these people could be the face of change. By that I mean the catalyst by which an issue we gloss over or ignore in daily life somehow becomes personal.

Peter and Linda are the parents of Nick Lang, who died a year ago, while in the care of the BC Ministry of Children and Families. On the anniversary of his death, they produced a Youtube video linked just below. Please watch and share it.

From Nick’s Facebook page:

Nick’s passing shone a light on a Child Welfare system that is extremely dysfunctional and chronically under-resourced. It’s brought attention to a system that seems to accept death and serious harm of our Youth as “part of the business”. We won’t accept that.

We will continue to share Nick’s story, with the overall goal of ensuring other families can get the help for their children, when they need it and where they need it. “

Peter and Linda ¬†are working to make things better for other kids in care, and families of kids in care. They are doing it in a way that deserves our complete and non-partisan respect. Too often, government falls prey to “protecting its own” and avoiding accountability. (It may be my opinion that the “circle the wagons” syndrome has become pathological with the current BC Government, but ALL governments are prone to it. That’s why we need watchdogs like RCYBC and the Info and Privacy Commissioner. That’s why we need independent, determined journalism. That’s why we need the courts.) ¬†See the following CBC article from October of last year:

And read Christie Blatchford’s piece on other horrific failures of the Ministry of Children and Families here. It’s disturbing, and not fun to read, but the last line says it all…¬† Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond¬† : In her decade watching over British Columbia‚Äôs most vulnerable kids ‚ÄĒ and she estimates there are 500 year whose families or files move back and forth among Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. ‚Äď she said, ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt think of a single person who has lost a job.‚ÄĚ Read the whole thing…

Again on the Old Massett $150K grant information,

First and foremost I have to thank Ian Jessop for covering this story today. Here’s¬†a link via Norm Farrell’s piece (which is well worth reading), to the CFAX radio commentator calling out not only the contradictions on the “grant” to the Old Massett school, but also the media for failing to question stories told by the players which contradict each other and the evidence. Read Norm, and have a listen to Ian’s editorial.

Why has this story been ignored?

New information has come to my attention via Laila and Lew.

After all these shenanigans over a partnership between Province and Feds to fund a rebuild at the Chief Matthews Elementary School, it turns out the Feds arranged a different partnership with Old Massett to share the cost with the First Nation itself, 50/50. The link from the Government of Canada website is here:¬†There’s no mention of any BC involvement or financial commitment .

Of course it’s possible that the First Nation¬†is counting on something from the Province of BC to help with its share, but if that’s the case….

  1. Why would a feasibility study be commissioned (initially to be completed right about now, May or June 2016, months after the Feds have already committed to the build.?
  2. Why is the feasibility study not on the BC Bid website? Has it been awarded? Has it been completed? Has it been dropped?
  3. Why would Chief Ken Rea be full of denials in the Haida Gwaii Observer story of May 27th here ? :
  4. Why would our photo-op addicted Premier not be self-promoting this innovative Federal Provincial partnership? She seemed proud of a new way of doing things when questioned by John Horgan in the legislature….Seems to me BC got left by the wayside in all this.

Chief Ken Rea’s story in December (Globe and Mail) was only that he spoke to someone in the Education Ministry whose phone number was kindly provided by Bruce Clark – Christy’s brother.

Chief Ken Rea’s story now is that he invited Clark personally to visit Haida Gwaii with $150 K to pressure the Feds (who had been in office for 37 days) to commit to the school rebuild….If the Province showed dollars, the Feds would feel pressure to match.

Fine, except why did Ken Rea fail to mention the personal contact with the Premier when first questioned in early December? Why did the Premier’s office skip that bit? Why did Ken Rea not mention the Federal announcement from February when asked about it in May? (Let’s be truthful, we all should have noticed it, but Ottawa’s a long way from our minds out here since the bad man went away – ht Rona A).

And for goodness sake, why does the federal announcement in February 2016 not mention anything about Provincial funding? I noted in my last post that it didn’t appear that the Feds and the Province were really talking about this..

Too many changing stories. Too many contradictions. Thanks to Ian Jessop and CFAX for breaking radio silence.

Updated : Round 2 on the $150K grant in Old Massett.

Update: June 1st,  Ian Jessop (CFAX 1070 radio in Victoria) discussed this matter with Norm Farrell of In-Sights РLink to the discussion here beginning five minutes into the radio piece..

Also, the FOI response package is now linked at the end of the post. See if you can spot anything useful that I missed .. I have made some revisions for greater accuracy June 2nd. There’s also a new FOI release here which adds nothing substantial to our understanding as far as I can see¬†¬†

Good for Ian for going where Press Gallery angels fear to tread !

The axiom goes that “a lawyer should not ask a question unless he knows the answer”. As members of the public, or as leader of the opposition, or journalists, or bloggers, we don’t have this luxury. Below are 11 or so questions that must be asked regarding how and why Christy Clark spent $150 K on a whimsical project outside BC jurisdiction.

The failure to ask these questions and have them answered opens up the possibility of governing by personal fiat of the Premier in a way that is too awful to contemplate. That is not a partisan statement. It’s not left, right, green, orange¬†or blue. $150K isn’t much in the Provincial budget but it needs to be accounted for..And it’s not a box of post-it-notes either. It’s 66% more than the cheque that (arguably) ended Harper’s career as PM.

In my post of May 12th, here,¬† I recounted how John Horgan asked such necessary questions. Since then, the media has dropped the ball in every way. I urge the public again to ask why? Be vocal. Contact a newsroom. I’ve tried. I’ve had one or two polite exchanges with newsroom people. They’re nice people. And yes, they are people,¬†under resourcing and cost pressures I have no idea about…but… ¬†Mostly I’ve been studiously ignored.

Bloggers have picked up the story which has circulated among tens of thousands at various sources. Certainly the traffic on this one post has dwarfed anything I’ve written before. But the mainstream media did not touch on it until this morning’s column by Vaughn Palmer, linked just below.

Vaughn Palmer: Politicians operate with social media firmly in mind

It’s often the case that Palmer “handles” the tricky stories the rest of the Press Gallery won’t touch. He is often the one who, when some heat arises, will do a column which more or less addresses a hot issue and deflates the “media won’t talk about X” narrative. For that, he draws the outrage of the¬†ranters such as myself who find his columns wanting. I want to be clear that while I object to Vaughn dodging what I think are important questions,¬†he’s taking the heat for a failure by the entire BC¬†media here.

I have to say he’s outdone himself. He has made the problem one of the irresponsible blogworld instead of a problem of a Premier who has failed to explain how a spending decision was made. Do read it before continuing. And please read former School Trustee Reema Faris’ very fine off the cuff deconstruction of his column here:¬† It’s quite brilliant.

Here are a few of the questions media need to ask, in order to properly inform the public. Some were asked by NDP leader John Horgan. Some are my own or have been asked by alert blog commenters.

  1. In December 2015, comms. guy for the Premier, Ben Chin, said work on the Old Massett School Grant had been ongoing for over a year. If that’s the case, why did Bruce Clark need to give Ken Rea a number for someone in the Education Ministry?
  2. See #1.. If Chin’s story is true, why did Christy Clark on May 11th 2016, talk about the meeting with chiefs in September 2015, as the possible genesis of the grant?
  3. See #1.. If Chin’s story is true, why did Clark say on May 11th 2016 that Ken Rea “made the request directly to me” at or after those September meetings?
  4. Why, in response to FOI (I have the FOI production received by the NDP) , was there no record of a request for the $150K? Update: There is a briefing note in the FOI documents on page 17.. Dave Byng and Minister Bernier were advised of the suggested $150K feasibility study in the briefing note. Of note is that Old Massett Village Council was not aware of this idea. This begs more questions. Given that two feasibility studies had already been done apparently, why the proposal in November 12. 2015?¬† Did Ken Rea request it? And if so, was it requested through the Ministry or directly to Clark? Apologies that I missed that piece on first reading.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† There was a tiny dribble of a record for some interest on BC/Federal cooperation in actually building the school gymnasium extension going back to 2014, but I don’t think a few pages is enough to say this was serious. There is apparently no funding commitment from the federal government (whom Clark called recalcitrant in Hansard on May 11th) . It contemplated a couple of million in expense in that larger context. Regarding Bruce Clark’s windfarm, again, there was very little…an exploration permit, extended in 2014..just permission to measure winds. Pretty harmless.
  5. Why then, did Clark, personally travel to Old Massett, in the midst of Ken Rea’s election, to dole out $150 K (without informing the Haida Council of her visit) ?
  6. If the provincial interest in¬†Bruce Clark’s¬†windfarm and in the Old Massett school extension were so marginal as the FOI response indicates, why the trip to Haida Gwaii personally by the Premier on November 26 2016?
  7. There was no indication from the FOI response that any serious recent discussion between the province and the feds had occurred. On what basis did Christy suggest that the $150K might move the project along (to the benefit of all)?
  8. I don’t believe there was never a paper trail for this request, or the expenditure. There are signing protocols when the government spends significant amounts. Where is the trail? What budget was the $150K supposed to come from? Given the Clark government’s propensity for triple deleting, it’s surely not too conspiratorial to wonder if significant parts of the record have not been preserved….or perhaps they were illegally withheld? No matter.
  9. What cheque #? What STOB was the cheque drawn from? Who was the spending authority? (contributed by Paul Ramsay after I forgot :-))
  10. How was this First Nations school selected for this largesse? It’s on record that the school is outside normal BC jurisdiction, (issue flagged for legal advice when it came to the actual building project – see the FOI’s). It’s also on record that other schools in federal and BC jurisdiction may well have been in equal or greater need. (For the record, if there were a policy change, and a program by which the Province chose generously to chip into Federal efforts to do better by all First Nations schools, I would heartily support it. This is not that.) Why this school?
  11. Has anyone¬†in the government or the media offered a credible¬†alternative to the most cynical interpretation of these events…namely, that Christy Clark impulsively spent $150K to (indirectly) help her brother’s business interests by helping to get Ken Rea re-elected in Old Massett ? I’m not saying that’s the truth. What I am saying here is that an alternative explanation, backed up by documentation, is owed to the public. The media’s general failure to demand that credible explanation is potentially very damaging to its own role as a check on power. There is enough smoke here to call the fire brigade.

Vaughn Palmer opines correctly that “BC Government helps First Nations school” is not a headline to bring down a government. How about “BC Premier Assists Her Brother’s Business Interests?”. Would that bring down a government if it were true? Again, I’m not saying it is true, but I am saying the Premier owes us a better explanation.

You have to judge for yourself if the inconsistencies in the narrative are enough to demand more answers. As far as we can see, the federal government, who are presumed at some future date to be partners in this project, are not involved. The Old Massett Village Council as of the briefing note November 12, 2015, were not aware of the study proposal. The OMVC hadn’t asked for it. Yet on November 26th, there was Christy Clark flying up .

We aren’t lawyers. I’m not a lawyer. That doesn’t mean we should not ask questions to which we cannot prove the answers. In fact as members of the public we must do so sometimes, to maintain a check on the whims of power.

If you agree with me that Palmer’s column should not be the end of the story in the media on this, phone a newsroom. Just do it. I expect a media that is far less willing to pass on smelly stories just because the missing records will make it hard to prove anything. In fact, it’s the absence of records which should blow media’s fire sky high.