The Last Word on the Hack that Wasn’t

At the end of my last post I wrote that the “spin and misdirection are so thick it’s impossible to determine if …. anything…. happened. “

That turned out to be prescient (first time ever?).

There was no hack. There were no criminal acts. But I count Independent MLA Vicki Huntington stepping forward and naming her own office as the source of Mike Smyth’s stories in the Province ….. Well that was the ‘revolutionary act of telling the truth.’

There were no dirty deeds by BCNDP HQ targeting the Liberals. There was no dissemination of private information by anyone except the BC Liberals themselves. The BCLiberals yesterday sent out a letter which in it’s first sentence tried to blame Independent MLA Vicki Huntington for the debacle caused by no-one but themselves.

Everything Christy Clark said in the last week on the subject of the hacking story was a falsehood including , I allege, the apology to Horgan. Left on a voicemail. Really? Can your people not talk to his people and arrange a time to talk? Unbelievable, Premier Clark.

But I leave the last word to this 8 minutes of Drex at CKNW who summed up this ridiculous attempt to smear the NDP, deflect from the real issues like dying children in care, and mislead the public again ….and again…  Have a listen. It’s real radio at a time the public deserves it. Click the link .


MCFD and Other Disasters – Update Feb 9, 2017


At 9 am Monday morning February 6th I posted my musings about the coming election campaign which began last August. If that sentence sounds strange it’s because we are behind the looking glass in Wonderland. Within an hour I felt foolish and didn’t “push” the piece on Twitter every four hours or so as I usually do. So much happened by 10 AM. (I won’t be surprised if I feel the same an hour after posting this.)

By Wednesday night Christy Clark and her minions were in a state of disarray I would never have anticipated.

At 10 AM Monday a report (Broken Promises) was made public by the Representative for Children and Youth on the death of an 18 year old in government care named Alex Gervais. That report is linked here. It’s essential reading, and I’ll tell you why shortly ..

At 10 AM Minister of Covering Up the Truth on Health Firings Terry Lake was announcing a $500 million rebuild of Royal Inland Hospital.

About 10 AM, BCLiberal Party spokesman Emile Scheffel alleged attempts to hack the Party website by “opponents”.

Whenever bad news for the government is released, there is some distraction thrown out accidentally on purpose for the media to chew on. Usually it’s a booze policy announcement, but the RCYBC report was very bad news. So those 10 am announcements may not be causally connected, but then again they may. A new hospital. A sympathy play over hacking mixed with dark allegations about the NDP’s dirty politics.

The account of Alex Gervais young life and early death had familiar and tragic themes… He was removed from incapable and abusive parents, thrown into a cycle of foster placements, booted around, behavioral problems, eventually drug use and drug dealing.

The details are shocking.. The agencies shuffling Alex around had the opportunity to place him with stable reliable family members, but they were too demanding of supports. So he was moved around in placements which cost the system far more money but demanded less ‘handling’ (ie. giving a shit).

Alex Gervais last weeks were spent alone in a Super 8 Motel. The person contracted to look out for him was paid  $8000/ month plus the cost of a room next to him, but was rarely with Alex and left it to Motel staff to text him if Alex caused any trouble. Alex reached out to a social worker, but after days on end alone and without money, high, he jumped out a fourth floor window.

The words of the Acting Rep who presented the report will end my discussion of this sad case except to say it’s one in a string of heart-rending cases to which the government always says the same thing. “We accept the recommendations and we are making progress toward making things better” .  The Reps words paraphrased “When government takes a child from its parents, it assumes the responsibility of a parent to care for that child.”  As challenging as that mandate is for MCFD workers, and indeed, for Minister Cadieux (who should resign) , can any of us think government lived up to what we expect? No.

By Tuesday, Christy Clark was in a friendly Facebook Live interview with the Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer. She chose to finish the interview by directly alleging without evidence that the BCNDP had attempted to hack the BCLiberal website three times. Vaughn Palmer sat there and said nothing. The Premier accused her opponents of a jail-able, criminal offense, and he didn’t even ask “well, really? How do you know? Where is the evidence? And why are you telling me if you’ve not gone to the police?”  I hate to dwell on it, but Vaughn Palmer is supposed to be the Dean… seen it all..cynical…BS detector infallible. Not.

In the meantime, Mike Smyth of the Province had been questioning the whole thing. A page on the BCLiberal website that should have been password protected, listing details about donors on Vancouver Island, had been wide open for weeks. Smyth had had a look in there himself January 19th I believe… He raised it with the party and the link was closed over the weekend. But the question arose, was Emile Scheffel making up the hacking story to cover up a self-inflicted security breach by the Party?

Wednesday all hell broke loose. Clark backed off on her claim the NDP had attempted a hack…sort of not quite…she said they wouldn’t admit it, but people had “heard them talking” as if they did it. When asked where the evidence was for her criminal accusation against an opponent she said “I … Don’t…Know…”

She claimed Mike Smyth of the Province had written it.. Front page… Well, read Mike Smyth on the subject here as he calls bullshit loud and clear:

Scheffel put out a release saying one of the attempted hacks originated at a computer at the BC Legislature. Stay tuned.

NDP leader John Horgan called a press conference denying any hacking attempts and challenging the Premier to put up or shut up with her evidence, apologize on all platforms where she made the allegation, or risk being sued.

Then it got worse!… Press Secretary Ben Chin was called in to spin for us.. He apparently told Gary Mason of the Globe that the hack came from a Legislature computer (one of hundreds used by BCliberal and NDP caucus employees and government employees ). But the hack couldn’t have come from a BCLiberal connected computer because all those had been scoured.  Think on this:

Workers in the legislature, regardless of whether or not they work for a partisan side, are employees of the government, so who did the scouring and on what authority? If the computers were looked at by BCLiberal Party people, that’s surely illegal, and if they were looked at by the Public Service Agency, who authorized the search and were the employees advised in the proper manner (in three days)?  Don’t worry, we are still in Wonderland.

But wait, it gets worse!! Ben Chin calls Gary Mason back and says he misspoke. The computers weren’t scoured (that would quite likely be the second alleged criminal act this week) , but there was “a way for him to know where each computer had been looking on the interwebz”.  Really? Is that news to the employees and have they signed a release for spyware on their government machines?    So many questions.

Nobody knows where this is going, and I’m extremely sympathetic to those pleading that this nonsense not be allowed to overshadow the Gervais report. I’ve said so myself. A kid dying needlessly and neglected matters.

But I’m thinking that this could be the end of Christy Clark unless she presents full on retraction and apology today.

Christy Clark has made stuff up many times, some of her fabrications are silly and some are serious. She has lied about polling being done in Lax Kw’Alaams supporting PNW LNG. She has lied about a poll supporting the government position on the South Okanagan park. When a cigarette was suspected of starting a wildfire, she invented the notion the culprit might be caught by a traffic camera on the highway and Global ran with it as if it were credible. At least one of her explanations of how $150K got promised in Old Massett and indirectly helped a councillor who favored her brother’s business interests coincidentally… At least one of the things she said about that was a lie.

Clark lied about the NDP position on at least three subjects yesterday in 10 minutes on CFAX yesterday :

The trouble has always been that the ProMedia called her out on the lies too infrequently… This time they aren’t letting her get away it. Even Les Leyne drew the Trump comparison this morning.

Blogger and visceral Christy Clark critic Alex Tsakumis was fond of saying Christy Clark is finished. He was wrong every time. So I won’t say that, but I wonder if it’s true this time.

Clark’s once feared and competent communications gurus must be drinking heavily at night this week wondering what the hell to do.

(Editor’s note: In the summary cited of the hacking of BCLiberal HQ, right down to the searching of legislature computers, there may be nothing which is factual. It’s all sourced, but the spin and misdirection are so thick it’s impossible to determine if …. anything…. happened).


Predicting the BC Provincial Election May 9th 2017

A fool’s errand? Of course.. but step by step, just like a real pundit, I’m going to tell you what will happen in the last three days of the campaign today….Okay I lied. I’ll do no such thing… But  I’ll tell you some themes which will develop, some I think will but won’t, and some that definitely should develop to influence the vote. Who will win? I won’t tell you that. You will decide it.

Who will be influencing the vote among media, political parties and activist interest groups (including unions and business groups led by people like John Winter)? How will they try to accomplish the election of a government that favours their interests?

You’ll decide the next government whether you vote or not. Hint: It’s better all round if you vote. And there’s a second thing I hope you’ll do. I hope you will engage in issues that make you feel passion, research responsibly, and engage your friends, family and co-workers.

First of all, walk down the street of your city or town, look at the faces of the commuters and shopkeepers. Realize many of them, almost certainly more than half, have not paid nearly enough attention to the last 4 years of BC governance. These good hearted people are happy to have it all explained to them in late April and early May. I’m not knocking the average Joe here… To obsess, as political junkies do, with things you only get to influence once every four years? It’s madness unless you can make a living and get your son through college on the proceeds.

Think of BC as a gigantic Mariposa, the town Stephen Leacock fictionally portrayed during an early 20th century campaign in Ontario..  The mayor, the judge, the banker, and the barkeeper are “in the know” (to one degree or another). They “know people”. They are “influential”, respected, and perhaps feared. What these few people say, including the newspaper editor, can become incontrovertible public opinion regardless of actual merit.

(I promise I’m getting to the meat of things…Soon)

There’s a cost to disengagement between elections. Governments are keenly aware that they can get away with anything if the electorate either doesn’t notice, forgets by election day, or doesn’t care.

Predictions, then what each party needs to do to achieve its goals:

Narratives have been nurtured by the three main parties over the last four years. Media are vulnerable and/or complicit in aiding those narratives. Easy access to ministers and unfettered access to millions in government and party advertising dollars matter, subtly or explicitly. Equally, advertising dollars from industry matter to the narrative spun by those who depend on that income (realty? New Car Dealers? Kinder Morgan?). To complain about that is futile, but to be blind to it is worse.

Some narratives nurtured by the governing BCLiberals and a portion of the media are:

The NDP can’t get it together. Nobody knows who John Horgan is. Horgan needs to solve the divide between the green and the pro-union factions of his caucus. Horgan can be hot-headed. Horgan is a flipflopper on Kinder Morgan (a complete fabrication.  I say this because there is no record of Horgan ever expressing support for the Kinder Morgan proposal that’s in front of us, or the process that got us here). And of course the big one: “Party of No”.

Still with the Liberals.. “Isn’t Andrew Weaver great? The Greens under his leadership are so constructive as they oppose everything we do at least as forcefully as the NDP.”

Clark proved in the last campaign she was willing to not only vocally support the Greens in the mission to erode the NDP vote, she would commit BCLiberal donation $ to buy advertising for them. I think she will do that again.

The above narratives are manipulations. They are effective because they are neither supported by evidence, nor do they require evidence to filter into public consciousness. They are repeated by members of media and punditry in a lazy and jaded fashion..

The positive narrative the BCLiberals advance will be similar to the one that worked so well last time. The BCLiberals are the party of job creation (nearly last in secure full time jobs, and the growth is outside their interior base in Vancouver and Victoria but never mind). GDP is strong. We have balanced 4 budgets in a row. The operating deficit is nearly eliminated (never mind tens of billions added in long term debt and contractual obligations). Where we promised LNG jobs and none came , this time around we will instead promise tech growth ( and retool education to support it, just as we didn’t quite for trades). Whatever, it works.

There are individuals in media who betray a bias or wish for an NDP win in May but they are few. So it’s up to the NDP to advance its own narratives successfully and province-wide. Those narratives are:

The negatives : The BCLiberals can’t be trusted. They care for their donors, not for ordinary people. Wages have stagnated while tax revenues from industry decline and export volumes and values soar. On real estate and on per pupil funding (see rural school funds) the BCLiberals are great at reacting when polls go south. They deny and deny problems that affect people’s ability to live until the evidence I overwhelming, and the public outcry so loud they can’t stand it.

Only when Vancouver property has driven everyone out of even dreaming of home ownership who isn’t already in the game, do we get a flawed Foreign Buyer’s Tax, which now needs to be revised to include a couple of NDP amendments they rejected at the outset.

Only when the Supreme Court of Canada ends a fifteen year battle in fifteen minutes do the BCLiberal suddenly agree class composition and size need to be priorities in public schools (and hire back 1000+ teachers).

Transparency:  From Triple Delete, to the Rod MacIsaac suicide, to Quickwins, to campaign funding, the BCLiberals are the party of cover-ups and naked political scheming. (Personal note: Until we know who fired the health researchers and why 4 years ago, I would not shake the hand of a single BCLiberal MLA. By this time, every one of them bears responsibility for the bullying, the lies, and the cover up and the suicide by not insisting their own government come clean. )

The positives: The NDP needs to get out a positive message that resonates in a way they didn’t last time. That’s clear. I don’t know if it’s enough, but here’s what I see so far.

Horgan has embraced a number of policies which have wide public support.

The first act of his government, if he wins, will be a ban on union and corporate donations. Public support in the high 80’s.  The impact of this is enormous: we can anticipate an end to wondering if the operators of Mt. Polley got off easy because Murray Edwards gave big to the BCLiberals. We can stop suspecting the fix was in for Kinder Morgan by virtue of some $700,000 in party funding lapped up by Clark from KM (not even a BC Company) and associated contractors.

Horgan embraces a ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears..

Horgan embraces $10/day childcare.

Add these: Adoption of the UNDRIP recommendations in relation to First Nations and the word and spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A move toward a $15 minimum wage. The elimination of regressive MSP premiums over time (rolling this cost back into the general tax system where it belongs).

I think John Horgan has made the case that public education is a priority for his team in a way it never has been for the Campbell Clark crew. Parents of school age children who want their kids to succeed without paying for smaller classes in publicly subsidized private schools should rejoice.

Lastly, an issue that I think should be much more important than it will be to the voter (sadly) … The NDP will get the $45/ year buspass back in the hands of the disabled who need it.

On to the Green narratives, positive and negative:

We are the only party to have actually banned union and corporate donations already, and in real time. How effective this is in the end is related to how many buy the idea that Weaver can form government. I’ll leave that to you. Otherwise you can vote for a ban by voting NDP or vote for the Wild West we have by voting for Clark.

Greens engage on issues. We don’t subscribe to “gotcha” politics. We will work constructively for positive change no matter who is in power. Greens think outside the box.

Neither Clark nor Horgan can be trusted on anything.

The Greens have more credibility than anyone else by leaps and bounds on the environment and climate change. We have actual scientists.

The Greens have a policy against whipped votes.. No longer will your MLA be forced to vote against his/her conscience or be banished from the island.

Greens have great candidates. Expect to see a lot of Sonja Furstenau. Her battle against the Shawnigan waste dump and the fraud perpetrated on the Environmental Appeal Board are now legend, and she deserves every bit of leverage she can get out of her success there. The other candidates will have to convince the voters they are, well, great.

Personal note: I don’t want to dismiss the Greens. I think their mission is 4-5 seats. My belief that it’s a high bar for them shouldn’t diminish their contribution to our discourse.

So last points –  What each party needs to do to achieve what it wants to achieve:

BCLiberals: In policy terms they have been visibly flailing and trying to maneuver the ship to safety. From transgender rights to taxing foreign RE buyers, to public education funding and many of its parts, the BCLiberals have been reversing themselves on long standing strongly held positions.

Their key flaw is arrogance. When you reverse positions you held arrogantly , and then hold the new position just as arrogantly, it’s a problem. I believe the only solution they can put into practice is some public humility… With issues like the health firings scandal, it goes beyond a brief apology and a continued unwillingness to make public the answers they know exist. A good dose of publicly stating “we were horribly horribly wrong and it won’t happen again” would be beneficial

But they’ve won four times by being exactly the overconfident people they are. Don’t hold your breath.

The BCNDP: John Horgan needs to talk past the media directly to people. The challenge is huge to hold Clark accountable forcefully and factually without being nasty, while at the same time making the case that life will be demonstrably better under an NDP regime. The media won’t make the case that the NDP plan for jobs with a renewed commitment to climate change may be more successful than what the Liberals are peddling. Horgan has to make that case himself, convincingly.

Similarly, on some issues which are admittedly huge, like Site C, the NDP must accept that some voters think the promise to send it to BC Utilities Commission review is too weak. Personally I think it’s the right position politically, and here’s why:  There is a large pool of swing voters who don’t know what’s right or wrong about Site C. They are likely to be skeptical of Horgan rejecting it out of hand after all the bafflegab they’ve been fed about future needs for the energy. If Site C is to be shut down, they’ll be far more convinced by arguments from the BCUC than from any politician of any stripe

But the point is, on KM, on Site C, on LNG, at this point in the cycle the NDP must stick to its guns knowing it will lose each argument with some voters on either side.

The Greens: Andrew Weaver, as much as I respect him, needs to stop being petulant and hypercritical and hypersensitive on social media. He needs to admit that on some issues, his natural enemy is Clark and not Horgan. The essays Weaver puts out on issues on the Green website are well worth reading. He does have good people attracted to running for his party,  but in order to get very many of them elected he needs to be careful not to offend those who disagree, or agree but hang naturally under a different party banner.

Thanks for reading.. looking forward to your comments on my sins of commission and omission in this highly individual and utterly unreliable piece of analysis. If you’re wandering the streets of Mariposa looking for someone who is “in the know”, who can tell you what to think, keep looking.

Cheers, Merv