Clark Needs to Back Up Her Words – Part II

In my last post I took issue with Rob Shaw and the Vancouver Sun printing a front page hit piece full of unsubstantiated, ad hominem attacks by the pink shirted Premier Clark. For another take, a little calmer but better I think, head over to Norm’s Place… https://in-sights.ca/2017/03/17/hit-piece-journalism/ .

Now I want to address what should fill the page devoted to the efforts of a Press Gallery member. How about what actually happens during legislative debate or question period? As always, to slag the entire membership of the gallery , or even individual members in a blanket manner would be a disservice. But nevertheless, I believe the Press Gallery has become jaded and largely partisan. Tired after 15 or 20 years watching the theatre over and over,  reporters and pundits are mailing it in, convinced that nothing matters except who has the power and who is winning the propaganda war.

As an example, Keith Baldrey tweeted once (paraphrased) “I never cover opposition bills because they never pass!!”.

That’s an astonishing statement about his view of what journalism should be. On the day the great New York columnist Jimmy Breslin’s death was announced, let’s remember his words… “Whatever someone (in power) doesn’t want you to print, is news”. The  role of media should be to hold power to account. Opposition MLA’s in a parliamentary system perform the same function. To fail to report what they propose simply because it will be outvoted is to fail to inform the public on potential improvements to public policy and government behaviour.

So what happened in the Legislature this past several weeks? Why did the government cut short the session by two weeks? It’s my firm view the governing party was getting hammered and needed to escape scrutiny. I’ll quote some exchanges from Hansard and I want you to first judge for yourself, and secondly think about where you heard these issues discussed first. Was it here? On social media? In a newspaper? On the 6 PM news? If the opposition asked questions, was the answer adequate? Scroll through to the last few from David Eby to Rich Coleman on the land swaps and mortgage deals hidden from us by BCHousing if you wish….. That said, all of these questions and non-answers are important.

On the suicide of Alex Gervais, a child abandoned in a hotel while he was supposed to be looked after:

M. Mark: I must say, for the record, it sounds like a broken record in this House, when it comes time for the advocacy for our kids in care. The representative’s report made it clear that Alex would have thrived had he been placed in the care of his extended family. My question is for the Premier……Why did she choose to pay a contractor more than $8,000 a month to ignore Alex rather than have him cared for by his extended family?

Hon. C. Clark: The issue with respect to contracted resources is one that the ministry is taking on, because that was clearly a problem for Alex. Alex was not supposed to be alone, and yet he was. So this issue…. Making sure that contractor resources are appropriately hired and managed, that they have the appropriate background checks, that they are there and that they are supervised properly are changes that the ministry is going to be making — part of the response in learning from the tragedy of Alex Gervais’s death.

M. Mark: Alex had a right to be in a home, not a hotel. It wasn’t just Alex’s stepmother who wanted to care for him. His aunt in Quebec also offered to become his guardian.

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Alex could have been with his family, where he would have experienced love and stability and access to his Métis culture. That was his right, and it would have saved government thousands of dollars — thousands of dollars that could have been used to help other children in government care.

Given that opportunity, why did this government refuse to place Alex with his family?

Hon. C. Clark: The government, the minister, does not make decisions on those kinds of matters, those issues. Those decisions are made by front-line social workers, who are the experts on these issues. They make the decisions. It is very, very hard work.

Ed. Did Clark just throw social workers under the bus? Running from accountability.


The next day, the NDP presented Bills with the following titles which are self-explanatory. Each one offers improvements in government processes and accountability, but remember, there’s no point in paying attention. A majority government will shut down any attempt to improve itself.

BILL M207 — BANNING PUBLICLY-FUNDED
CAMPAIGN ADVERTISEMENTS ACT, 2017

BILL M208 — ELECTION (SPENDING LIMIT)
AMENDMENT ACT, 2017

BILL M209 — FIXED FALL ELECTION
AMENDMENT ACT   (important because public accounts aren’t complete in the Spring when we vote – ma)

BILL M210 — MEMBERS’ CONFLICT OF
INTEREST AMENDMENT ACT, 2017

BILL M211 — FIXED LEGISLATIVE
CALENDAR ACT, 2017  (to prevent government running when it’s in trouble and shutting down two weeks early – ma)

BILL M212 — EMPOWERING LEGISLATIVE
COMMITTEES ACT, 2017

BILL M216 — WHISTLEBLOWERS
PROTECTION ACT, 2017

That’s a partial list. Back to Question Period….. On Zero Compliance in Foster Care monitoring. ….


C. James: This government would have put the resources that were requested by the Representative for Children and Youth and the hard-working social workers in this province, who need the resources in the field. That’s what the government would have done if they took this issue seriously. They would have put those resources in place.

Yesterday we raised the fact that this minister has achieved a zero compliance rate for monitoring the safety and well-being of kids’ foster homes in the northwest, in the Kootenays and in the east Fraser Valley. So in three regions of this province, the minister could not or would not ensure that there were enough social workers to make contact with children in care at least once every three months.

My question is to the minister. Can she explain why she is apparently unable to enforce a law that she is directly responsible for?

Hon. S. Cadieux: The member opposite would have you believe that she and the NDP are the only people in this province that care about children. She couldn’t be more wrong.

The system is not perfect, not by a long shot. There is plenty to do. Quality assurance is one of those areas that we have acknowledged needs more resources, and more have been put in. There is no question that it’s unacceptable when we do an audit and our compliance is not in line. It’s not okay. Then our directors go in and they put in place an action plan with supports to fix those problems.

On an IT disaster in Healthcare. Doctors are refusing to use the system…Did you know?

D. Routley:

On Friday afternoon, the minister’s inability to ensure that health care IT systems protect patients was on display yet again. On Friday, the CEO of Island Health told staff at Nanaimo Regional Hospital that they were going to cease using key elements of the minister’s new $50 million IHealth system because physicians said it was putting patients at risk — serious risk.

Can the minister explain why he waited so long to acknowledge that IHealth was putting patients at risk?

Hon. T. Lake: Well, in fact I didn’t wait. I went to Nanaimo. I met with the medical team at Nanaimo. I met with Island Health. We commissioned a report by Dr. Doug Cochrane, a B.C. patient care quality officer, who listed recommendations and a workplan. We set up an oversight committee. But it, despite best efforts…. I will say this, hon. Speaker. The physicians and the medical team at Nanaimo and the people at Island Health in charge of this project all have a common interest in making sure we get a product that delivers a single electronic health record for the people of the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital that keeps patients safe.

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There are a number of physicians at Nanaimo, as the member well knows, that still have some concerns, so we are working with them, with Island Health and with the doctors and other medical staff to ensure that this system remains safe for patients while those improvements are taking place.

On two BCLiberal MLA’s announcing $1M funding for a youth centre in Maple Ridge that shut down two years previously:

C. James: Last week the members for Maple Ridge–Mission and Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows announced $1 million for the Iron Horse youth homeless shelter. The problem? The shelter actually closed two years ago. At that time, the government said no to the mayor’s request for support to keep the doors open.

My question is to the Minister of Children and Families. Where was the minister and where were the two
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local MLAs two years ago when this homeless shelter shut down?

Hon. R. Coleman: Thanks to the member for her question. She should know, however, that Iron Horse was actually under a federal program when federal walked away from the funding.

We’ve been building a suite of transition housings for youth that were in the market and continue to do. As we came in, they were looking at the issues in and around Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows. Some of the community people brought this up to us. At that time, we were actually looking for something that might work and thought this particular facility might work. We have the operating dollars for it. So we made the announcement, along with the MLAs.

Can you imagine the ridicule the Press Gallery would shower on an NDP MLA who announced $1 Million real for a centre which didn’t exist ?  Crickets except for one piece in the Maple Ridge News local. – MA

Here is Speaker Linda Reid shutting down the first of many questions about party fundraising and the Wild West gong show. It’s my opinion this is a partisan ruling, because government decides the rules or lack of same that political parties follow, or not….

. Horgan: Last spring media reports exposed the B.C. Liberal practice of fundraising at exclusive dinners in people’s homes and in private locations, with large sums to get access to government decision-makers. Most recently we heard from the New York Times that the practices of fundraising here in British Columbia were considered the Wild West by North American standards — quite something when you look at the super PACs that exist in the United States.

Most recently, even though we could have been sitting in this Legislature, in fact, we were not here for over 200 days. We could have been putting forward legislation to ban big money, to make sure that we’re amending our practices so that big money doesn’t distort our politics. But instead of doing that, the fall session was cancelled and the B.C. Liberals were sent off to raise money — so much so that the Minister of Agriculture cancelled a scheduled debate on agriculture issues sponsored by the B.C. Agriculture Council so he could be in his constituency raising money.

This weekend we learned that Elections B.C. is now investigating the practices of the B.C. Liberals. My question to the minister responsible, the Attorney General: if all of this doesn’t provide enough evidence to the government that they should amend their practices, what will?

Madame Speaker: Hon. Members, I will make a comment. Questions addressed to ministers must relate to matters for which those ministers are currently and officially responsible. This is the only basis upon which ministers can be expected to answer questions. Accordingly, the question is out of order.

Now to questions on Real Estate, Bob Rennie, and the 508 Helmcken $40 Million loans…. This is a scandal that could blow up and get very ugly indeed for Rich Coleman…It was handed on a platter weeks ago to the Vancouver Sun by SouthVanParks Society , but so far, not much press…A notable exception is coverage by Steele and Drex on CKNW…

D. Eby: I know the Premier doesn’t want to talk about her cozy relationship with Mr. Rennie and how that led to two years of the opposition trying to get her attention while home prices in Metro Vancouver spiked over $600,000. But we’re going to talk about that, because the Premier’s relationship and her Housing Minister’s relationship with Mr. Rennie, as chief fundraiser, is very clear.

The Housing Minister exchanged multiple emails with Mr. Rennie in which he and Mr. Rennie discussed budget measures related to real estate and the environmental approval process in relation to a major housing development near Squamish that Mr. Rennie surely hoped to market. They also talked about classic cars.

As for the Premier, Mr. Rennie forwarded a proposal for the Metro Vancouver real estate market to Carole Taylor, the Premier’s special adviser, saying: “We need a very visible approach to curbing speculation and the optics of working towards affordability.” That email was forwarded by the Premier’s special adviser to the Premier’s director of policy. Mr. Rennie apparently forgot that he talks to the highest levels in this government about real estate policy.

Will the Premier now admit that Mr. Rennie — major fundraiser, dinner party host, B.C. Liberal Party insider and friend — had it right the first time when he talked to the reporter and said he had advance notice of the foreign buyers tax?

Hon. C. Clark: I’m sure a lot of developers and people in the development industry had a lot of feelings about the foreign tax. What we discovered after we introduced it is that almost to a person, they don’t like it. Just like the NDP, they oppose the foreign buyers tax.

D. Eby: I know the Premier doesn’t want to talk about her relationship with Mr. Rennie. Again, no answer to the question.

But it wasn’t just email access to the highest levels of this government that Mr. Rennie got for being chief fundraiser for the Premier and dinner host. It got him so much more. Mr. Rennie met with the Premier’s special adviser in April of 2016 and again in June of 2016, just weeks before the foreign buyer tax was announced.

Imagine Mr. Rennie’s joy when the Premier formally announced, a few weeks later, that she’d be bringing in a foreign buyer tax but that she’d be exempting the speculation on presale condos. Now, why would Mr. Rennie be happy about that? Well, selling presale condos is why Mr. Rennie is the Condo King. That’s his core competency.

How can the Premier defend giving her chief fundraiser access to the most senior policy members in her office weeks before the foreign buyer tax was introduced and then exempting his core business from that same foreign buyer tax and then, when he told the media that he never talked to the Premier’s office and never talked to her ministers about real estate policy in B.C., not setting the record straight, because it wasn’t true?

Hon. C. Clark: Just like all the members of this House who, on that day when the legislation was introduced, were shocked because they had no advance notice, nor did anyone in the industry have any advance notice that this was going to happen.

D. Eby: In 2015, the Wall Corp., a massive development company in Vancouver, walked in a proposal to B.C. Housing. They bought some land on Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside where the zoning required them to build rental housing. Just over half of the units were required to be affordable.

Their proposal? B.C. Housing should provide them with an interest-free construction financing of $39½ million. They also proposed that B.C. Housing pay them a 10 percent developer fee worth $3.3 million for the privilege of giving the Wall Corp. interest-free money to build something they had to anyway under the zoning.

My question for the Minister for Housing is simple. Did he agree to provide interest-free financing and a multi-million-dollar fee to a rich developer to build something they would have had to build anyway under the zoning rules in Vancouver?

Hon. R. Coleman: I don’t have the details of that particular project at my fingertips, but I’ll certainly provide them for him. It would be unusual for us to do what the member described, but it is not unusual for us to enter into an agreement to take affordable rental units that we can subsidize in the marketplace for people that need housing in Vancouver or anywhere else in the province of British Columbia.

D. Eby: It’s interesting that the minister forgot about this unusual project, because B.C. Housing also forgot about this unusual project. When we asked them, under freedom of information, for a list of projects where they’d provided construction financing, they sent us a list of non-profit organizations building housing projects worth an average of $3.2 million, for interest rates between 1 and 1¼ percent.

The project they forgot? They forgot to list the project worth ten times their average construction financing. They forgot to list the project where they didn’t charge interest. They forgot to list the project they were financing that is 62 percent for-profit market housing and commercial space.

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We didn’t find out about the Wall Corp. project through the Freedom of Information Act. We found out about it because someone leaked the proposal.

So why does the minister charge interest to non-profit organizations building 100 percent affordable housing and not charge interest to a for-profit developer building a building with only 38 percent affordable housing?

Hon. R. Coleman: You usually never have any facts to back up what you’re saying with regards to anything that you do.

I will get the information for the member, and I’ll let you know exactly what happened with that particular proposal.

I do know that we do deals, where we go in…. We will do construction financing on portions of projects that are ours that we’re going to have the benefitfor the public, for affordable housing in British Columbia.

D. Eby: B.C. Housing gave a $40 million loan to a private developer to finance the presale marketing of condos that start at $1.6 million each. Who was on the board of B.C. Housing when this loan was approved? Bob Rennie, the Premier’s fundraiser-in-chief, the man who made the Premier’s extra $300,000 in salary possible by raising millions in big money for the B.C. Liberals.

How did Bob Rennie get on the B.C. Housing board? Well, he was put on the board by his friend the Deputy Premier through order-in-council. And who was the lead real estate agent on this condo development “designed for daily luxury”? Why, yes, it was Bob Rennie.

Why did the Premier allow tax dollars intended to build housing for the poorest of the poor go to financing a presale condo marketing campaign by her chief fundraiser?

Hon. R. Coleman: To the member opposite: I notice that you didn’t go out after last week’s question period and repeat what you said in this House, because you knew you’d probably be sued for what you said in here simply because you didn’t have the right information. You accused the government of financing a project where we financed the affordable rental units that we built as part of a mixed-use project.

This one’s a bit more complicated. Not only did we step up and make a deal work, where we actually doubled the amount and number of social housing units in a project on redevelopment; we’ve put more affordable housing in the city of Vancouver. We had no involvement whatsoever in the marketing of the market units in the project.

. Eby: In the minister’s own mortgage for this property, it says: “Give us updates on the presale condo progress. How well are you selling presale condos?” So I’m not sure this minister has any idea what he’s talking about. Not only that, but I was absolutely right about everything that I said about the last project this minister did, where they provided interest-free money to a major donor to build a project that the donor had to build anyway. And not only that, but they provided them with a fat developer fee as well.

The minister says this is such a good deal for taxpayers that B.C. Housing forgot to put it on the FOI list. They forgot to put it on the freedom-of-information list that they sent to us of projects that this government funded. Somehow they forgot the $39 million loan. They also forgot that same project, that Wall development corporation project on Hastings Street. They didn’t disclose that one either.

So my question to the Premier is: how many secret loans are there to B.C. Liberal major donors?

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Hon. R. Coleman: I know there’s one word in this House that we can’t use with regards to whether you’re telling the truth or not. I will say it to the media when I get out of here, because I can’t say it in here.

But you’re wrong. What you are saying isn’t true. There was no interest-free loan, none whatsoever. As a matter of fact, we got a number of units out of this project for affordable rental. A whole bunch of them, 50-ish, were all for core need at $375 a month. We actually went into a partnership to develop a project to make the numbers work so we could create more affordable rental housing in the city of Vancouver.

(Why wasn’t the loan disclosed through FOI Rich? It seem there was roughly 1.5% interest, not zero, but why wasn’t this loan disclosed?- MA)

D. Eby: Thank you, hon. Speaker. I did. I withdraw.

We’ve been asking questions about two major B.C. Housing financing initiatives worth about $80 million in public money for buildings connected closely to two major B.C. Liberal donors, including the Premier’s fundraiser-in-chief, Bob Rennie. To all of our questions, the Housing Minister has repeatedly suggested that we’re just making stuff up. He’s even threatened lawsuits. Yet even though we’ve been asking for these documents for five days, he’s produced not a single document to show that we are, in his more polite moments, as he describes it, wrong.

Now, it’s not unusual that the opposition has to wait for a freedom-of-information request or estimate or someone to leak to get the information on a story. But
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when even the media can’t get the information they need from the minister, you know there’s trouble. Five days have passed since media asked for details on a public loan to a private luxury condo building marketed by the Premier’s fundraiser-in-chief, and neither B.C. Housing nor this minister has given them the information they’re asking for.

To the Housing Minister: if everybody is wrong, where are the documents; where are the numbers; what happened on this deal?

Hon. R. Coleman: Madame Speaker, through you to the member, I at no time said that I was interested in suing the member. I said he should go take the comments and the accusations he said in this House and gladly take it outside and say the same thing — which I, by the way, have noted has not happened.

Um, not true Rich. Mr. Eby was on CKNW talking about this very thing….ma

D. Eby: Beyond the facts that the mortgage was registered on an entirely different property, that it asked for updates on the sale of presale condos, that it was registered the month after the social housing was built, the minister’s numbers simply don’t add up. The city owned the land. It set it aside for social housing. The city put in $30.6 million in community amenity contributions to build the project. Then B.C. Housing loaned $15.1 million to the society to lease the finished building from the city.

The 162 units were built. That puts the cost per unit at a high but reasonable $288,000 each, on average, where the city provided the land. But if we believe this minister, this deal never would have been done unless B.C. Housing gave a $39 million loan to a luxury housing developer to help that developer market presale condos marketed by the Premier’s fundraiser-in-chief, who was on the B.C. Housing board when this deal got approved. The explanation makes no sense.

Again to the minister: if everybody else is wrong, where are the documents; where are the minutes from B.C. Housing; where are the numbers on the project?

Hon. R. Coleman: Just so you’re clear, B.C. Housing had no involvement in the financing, construction or marketing of the market housing, relative to the land swap that took place on this. Our involvement was to finance the project to get 162 new units of affordable housing in downtown Vancouver, in a partnership with the city and a developer.

It was the city and the developer that worked out the idea of a land swap. We came in as a partner on this because we thought it was a good idea to add additional low-rental housing, affordable to people in Vancouver, by doing a partnership — that this would work. But on the market side, at no time were we involved.

I know that the member likes to make the other accusation with regards to the person that marketed this project. I can tell the member this. When this project came before the board of B.C. Housing, the individual recused themselves.

D. Eby: One piece missing in that answer was whether the minister was going to release the documents, release the numbers, release the minutes from B.C. Housing. And just like with Mr. Rennie’s luxury condo project for
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the 288 Hastings Street project, the minister also said we were wrong. He said there was no construction financing, no loan, nothing like that for the B.C. Liberal donor, but let’s look at what we know.

We know that B.C. Housing bought land at 288 East Hastings from Wall Financial, a major B.C. Liberal donor. When choosing a developer, we know that B.C. Housing didn’t put the contract out for tender. Instead, Wall Financial, a major B.C. Liberal donor who gave $400,000 to this party just last year, was hired directly to build a $33 million project. Now a public city of Vancouver report makes it clear that B.C. Housing plans to sell the finished market rental housing units on that site directly to the same major B.C. Liberal donor. Again, no bids, no public process, just a direct sale.

We also know that not a single unit beyond the bare requirements of the local city of Vancouver zoning was added through this arrangement. Less than 40 percent of the square footage of this building is affordable rental housing.

If it’s not construction financing, can the minister explain why B.C. Housing issued an untendered contract worth tens of millions of dollars, then agreed to sell completed rental units worth more than $10 million to a major B.C. Liberal donor with no public process?

Hon. R. Coleman: Again, the other day when the member brought this question to the House, he accused the government of giving a zero-percent-interest loan to a developer to build a building in Vancouver, which was not true. The construction financing on a combined project is not unusual — to be financed with cooperation of your partners. You do that. It has takeout mortgages when they’re taken out, and what happens is you end up with a project.

Now, just so the member knows…. I know he lives in Vancouver, but just so he understands, this area of Vancouver has been designated by the city of Vancouver as requiring 60 percent non-market and 40 percent market housing for rental. It makes projects difficult to deliver affordable rental housing in Vancouver, but we were successful in this particular case.

Just so the member knows, the building is going to provide 104 new units of rental affordable housing in Vancouver, which now takes the total up to almost 180 units by two projects, a product that wouldn’t get built in Vancouver if there wasn’t a partnership between B.C. Housing and the city of Vancouver and whoever is developing the project, along with a non-profit. We do not hold financing. We did not finance the market units. We financed the social housing units, 104 units, which are in the market today, are being built in the market so that people have affordable housing in Vancouver.

Of course, there were a range of other issues canvassed:… Seniors Care Homes 97% out of compliance for staffing levels. Seniors with broken hips waiting in hospital hallways for days. Sewage spills into the water supply in Spallumcheen.. Mary Polak’s refusal to acknowledge what a court has said on the Shawnigan Waste dump, namely that Active Earth Engineering lied and covered up its profit sharing deal withCobble Hill Holdings.

But Minister Coleman has carried the housing file with him wherever he goes for over a decade. Why is BCHousing helping rich developers (Brenhill, Wall) and Pre-sale condo marketers (Rennie) with multi-million dollar loans to simply comply with Vancouver bylaws on affordable rental units? Did the public know this was how BCHousing operated? As a mortgage slush fund ?

BCHousing promises to release some documents this week after redacting, er, vetting for privacy. But why did those loans come to the NDP via a leak, rather than through FOI?

If there’s one thing the press should be all over, it’s this story, and I haven’t seen much (with apologies to Steele and Drex, and “MetroVancouver”. Instead, we have the Vancouver Sun wasting space with printing Christy Clark’s ad hominem attacks on John Horgan. It isn’t good enough.

So why did the Legislature shut two weeks early without passing the government’s own “priority” bills?

Clark Needs to Back Up Her Words. Part 1

Premier Clark (via the Vancouver Sun), graced us with “her opinion” of John Horgan’s opposition leadership and Premier potential on the front page this morning. It may be an entertaining read, but it contributes little to actual understanding of our electoral choice May 9th.

What I think is that the Premier has a record of running from accountability at every turn. This now includes closing the legislature two weeks early without passing bills which got quite a bit of press. Those include the Green Private Members Bill to stop employers requiring female workers to wear high heels. The Liberals also ran away before passing Clark’s “real time disclosure bill”..  (A failed attempt to change the conversation on banning big money from distorting the power of donors to warp policy decisions by government.) Hell, they didn’t even pass their own budget, opting for an “interim supply bill”. 

What’s just as bad, the government failed to produce documents to disprove allegations that Minister Coleman and/or BC Housing loaned $40 million of our dollars directly to one of Bob Rennie’s big dollar condo projects with no affordable housing included in that same project….”Land swaps”, “the mortgage was in lieu of security on another project which did include low income homes” …..Prove it Mr. Coleman. Your Ministry didn’t release the details of the loan via FOI. You haven’t released them now.   Running from accountability.

Back to the VanSun front page…..

Spoiler #1, she characterized her opponent negatively. Yes, I know it’s a shock.  Full article here, and yes, it does include quotes from Horgan as well. Fair is fair. http://vancouversun.com/news/politics/premier-clark-dismisses-horgan-as-leader-who-lacks-a-spine

Spoiler #2…. What follows is my opinion. Where it differs from Clark’s is that I’ll offer facts to back it up. Clark should be challenged to do the same at every turn.

We all understand the political art of war enough to know that defining your opponent is a well-worn strategy. It’s up to us to decide if the “definition” has merit. I don’t believe it does have merit and I’m going to do two things here…1) Ask if there’s evidence… 2) If there is evidence, show what it is, pro or con.

Quotes from Rob Shaw’s article in italics, then my comments:

“John, he is not as strong a leader as I thought he would be,” said Clark. “He hasn’t been able to corral his caucus, there’s so much disunity in the group, they are always fighting with each other.”

This is pure negative campaign politics. First it was “John who?”. Then it was “Say anything Horgan” in an ad campaign fully funded by an industry front group.  Now it’s “John Horgan is weak”.

The facts are there has been no visible and quoted division in the NDP caucus. Nothing to back this up at all except an admission I saw Horgan make himself along the lines that internal debates happen and can be vigorous.

Personally I think it would be a damned shame if there were no debates within the BCLiberal caucus on important issues, like ‘getting to yes’ on answering the mystery of who fired the health researchers and consequently cost us who knows how many dollars in legal action and multiple investigations. Why did that happen 4 years ago? What is it that caused a PhD candidate , Rod MacIsaac, to commit suicide?

I think it would be a damned shame if nobody in the BCLiberal caucus advocated for welfare recipients to get a tiny raise from ten years at $610 a month. It’s terrible policy like this that grows petty crime, desperation and homelessness by government’s ideological intransigence.

I think it would be a shame if nobody on the Liberal benches wanted to stop funding Jumbo several 100K a year. That’s the town with no buildings and no citizens, perpetually awaiting being built, for a ski resort that’s been on hold for twenty odd years.

He can’t seem to take a position on any of the important policies, things it’s obvious we are all going to have to take a position on.

Let’s see… I’ve followed John Horgan’s statements pretty closely. Here are some very consistent ones. They almost certainly don’t please everyone but they are consistent.

Horgan on SiteC…. “Send it to BCUC and have somebody who isn’t a BCLiberal tell me it’s a good idea. “ I can trace this back to well before the last election. He’s not held a different position.

But what about the 1000 jobs?… According to Horgan, the plan is to create more jobs saving and producing more energy at a lower cost…. Read the Power BC plan and judge for yourself here:

https://t.co/iuWvzLDRBI

It’s an approach that needs vigorous discussion during the campaign, and fleshing out so people understand. And that must happen before we spend any more of $10+ billion on a dam which hasn’t had independent oversight.

Horgan on Kinder MorganConsistently Against. JH made one error, in which he said famously “I could be convinced”. It was a mistake because it could be repeated out of context. What is not widely shared is that the paragraph that contained that quote ended with….”I can’t see how Kinder Morgan is in BC’s best interests”. Every statement JH has made since he took over as leader has included…”I can’t see how Kinder Morgan is in BC’s best interests (in its current form and with the hopelessly twisted review process that studied it). Horgan’s position on Kinder Morgan has always been “No”.

Prove me wrong. Send me an unedited link.

LNG- Horgan: Pro building the industry but minus the fantasy trillion. Supports Woodfibre’s project…wants Petronas moved from Lelu Island to Ridley or a less ecologically sensitive salmon salmon rearing area (that’s a no-brainer).

Horgan on Education: Pro.  Often talks of how a pubic school teacher straightened him up in his teen years and helped him become what he is today. Spoke consistently against the violation of teachers bargaining rights that Christy Clark championed until she was laughed out of the Supreme Court of Canada in less than twenty minutes but more than a few million dollars wasted.

Clark on the other hand, has gone from that position to being delighted by the opportunity the SCC graciously handed her to hire more specialist and other teachers and make kids lives better, when otherwise she was kinda hamstrung.

Getting Big Money out of politicsPro. Horgan has said this will be the first act of an NDP government. Consistency? It has been NDP policy since the 2005 election with multiple opposition bills introduced in the house over 10 years…Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop.

Clark may promise to study the issue after the election, but clings to the idea that we aren’t pained by giving contracts at a higher rate to construction firms who donate to the BCLiberals, and at higher dollar values, than to firms which don’t donate to the party. Don’t believe me? Read this Carl Meyer piece : http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/03/07/news/new-revelations-about-christy-clarks-donors

(Ok let’s move on, because I don’t think there’s an issue that shapes the integrity of our governance and therefore every other issue than that last one.)

Clark again..  “I know how hard this is to do, but I think in John there is kind of a profound, maybe it is fear or weakness I don’t know, but he really hasn’t turned out to have the spine that Adrian Dix had.”

Be serious. Nobody who has actually heard Horgan in the house, or interviewed, or make a speech could agree with the characterization that he is spineless. It’s complete bullshit.

“I’ve got a good record to run on,”

We’ll be the judge of that, Ms. Clark, but let’s review

LNG dollars generated 0

15 years of conflict instead of honest negotiation in education.

Triple delete…

Federal investigation into lobbying scandal in progress

Home prices allowed to skyrocket out of our “affordability zone”. Leading Canada for one year at least in economic growth, but near the bottom of the heap in full-time secure job creation.  All about families..

$170 billion in combined debt, deferrals, and contractual obligations.. all of which have grown faster under the Clark regime than any other.

After Mt Polley, complete failure to rein in the practice of tailing pond lakes, when the Mt. Polley investigation recommended dry stack tailings in mining. Speaking of mining….Is it $5billion in unfunded liabilities for environmental reclamation and cleanup? Because donors.

Health care researcher firings. The single biggest act of bullying in the history of the BC Public Service, and still running from accountability.

Accusing NDP falsely of a criminal act (hacking) then after days running from it, finally admitting error and leaving an apology by voicemail.. Trumpish I have to say.  Even more so while announcing it will be a dirty election campaign because NDP. Really.

Being there when it matters… When the diesel spill happened in Heiltsuk territory, it was the NDP MLA Jennifer Rice, who spent a week there. John Horgan went too… Christy did not.

Relations with First Nations… Christy, you’ve been asked not to appear at Haida Gwaii during the Royal visit. You had Rich Coleman and his LNG booster team drummed out of a meeting with local First Nations in Ft. St. John after attempting to completely exempt LNG projects from any environmental review whatsoever… You had to back off..  See this article and video.. http://commonsensecanadian.ca/first-nations-collision-course-lng/

Okay… This rant is way too long.. It had to be, but I could go all night on the actual record….I’m done and thanks for reading and sharing. It’s clear from comments received on twitter regarding this piece there needs to be a Part II…. Watch for it over the weekend- Merv. (March 17, 17)

 

 

 

 

Speaker Linda Reid Disgraces the Office and Other Stories

Update: Today, March 14 2017, Linda Reid doubled down on refusing to allow NDP questions on governance of party fundraising.  Also, Minister of Housing and Natural Gas Rich Coleman refused three (or more) times to table documentation to prove his claim there was nothing fishy about a loan to a developer for up market housing in Vancouver. Verbal denials are not enough….

And notice the correction within item 4. Thanks

 

  1. Right at the core of the Parliamentary system is the notion that the Speaker of the House or the Legislature must be non-partisan and fair. At least, she must try.

Yesterday Richmond MLA and Speaker of the BC Legislature disgraced herself in that regard. Spectacularly.

Moments before attempting to shut the NDP down and ruling John Horgan’s questions to the Attorney General about banning big money in BC politics out of order, the AG Suzanne Anton had introduced a bill requiring political parties to disclose donations in the BCLiberal version of real time.

How is it then that the Minister can introduce a bill making a legal requirement of political parties, and then the Speaker shut down questions on donation limits by size or geographical origin?  Arguing that banning big money is not Ministerial responsibility? With only about five minutes space between? This is ridiculous behaviour from Linda Reid, who is required by her mandate to be much much better than this. Horgan’s second supplemental question, to which he was fully entitled to an answer, was prevented by Reid’s insistence on a new questioner.

Bullshit Ms. Reid…. Bullshit.

2. While the NDP is pressing the advantage of recent coverage of donation reforms we desperately need, two very interesting pieces were published yesterday.

Martyn Brown, former COS to Gordon Campbell, calls Christy Clark out on the idea of an independent panel to recommend electoral (and donation) reforms after the May 9th election. He calls it a love letter to the RCMP. Knowing that lobbyists and possibly party staff in the BCLiberal Offices may face charges, it amounts to an offer to fix the problem after and if she is re-elected. Worth the read: http://www.straight.com/news/880776/martyn-brown-decoding-christy-clarks-love-letter-rcmp ..

Quote:

We shouldn’t kid ourselves.

It’s not just politics that has forced the government’s hand. It is also the prospect of having the governing party, and/or its unnamed actors, contributors, or agents, being charged with contraventions of the Election Act—perhaps even the Canadian Criminal Code. And by that, I don’t mean to in any way impugn any individual, as such.

Clark’s new directive calling for an independent review of B.C.’s campaign financing system is a metaphorical “love letter” to the RCMP that silently pleads for forgiveness for any unintended wrongdoing by her party that may be unearthed by its investigation.

3. Kai Nagata, of Dogwood BC, opines that the lobbyist donation scandal could be the start of a wide ranging Charbonneau Commission style affair in which all sorts of political corruption gets exposed as player after player gives evidence and  names. Here’s his argument in part, advice to the lobbyists, copied from the Facebook page..

The smartest thing to do right now is get ahead of the story: tally up the illegal donations, turn yourself in to the Mounties and cooperate fully, in the hopes you can get off with a $10,000 fine.

Even better, blow the whistle on this whole filthy system. Give an exclusive interview to a news outlet explaining how the party bagmen shook you down, how you never meant to break the law but hey, all the other kids were doing it!

You’ll look like a regular Boy Scout compared to the holdouts. I’m talking about the cockroaches that have to be dug out of their holes and dragged into RCMP cruisers, feebly trying to cover their faces.

Don’t believe it’ll get that bad? You’ve never witnessed the early stages of a corruption inquiry.

I was a reporter in Montreal in 2009 when the whole dirty puzzle began coming together. Like in B.C., straw donors were one of the first warning signs. Employees at certain firms were making political donations above their pay grade.

Around the same time there were rumors of funny business in the awarding of public works contracts.

It turned out the companies supposedly competing to clear snow, pave roads and build bridges were actually colluding with each other. They would agree ahead of time who would submit the lowest bid – which of course included a little padding.

Why did they charge extra? So company staff could cut thank-you cheques to the governing party, or even pay a cash bribe to whatever bureaucrat signed off on the project.

Don’t act shocked. B.C.’s Wild West system leaves us open to all the same abuses witnessed in Quebec. (Indeed some of the same companies now operate here, and we’re seeing the same suspicious patterns.)

Of course, these inquiries take years to develop, and while I agree there’s lots to investigate for the RCMP, I personally have no confidence the BC RCMP has the stomach for it. I hope I’m wrong because…..

4. David Eby with the help of information partly gleaned from VanParks.ca has been on a story of $40M dollar loans going out to wealthy developer donors from the BCHousing Society.. to build luxury condos….

Rich Coleman is in full bluster, denying it all…. Every deal enhanced the number of affordable housing units built, he says. But there are two fundamental elements to the story which scream for further inquiry. I do need to say at the outset that the full details of what happened are not known. There are allegation and denials, on a story where we need the full truth.

First, the loans in question were not part of an FOI package released to the NDP and Mr. Eby on the question, though it’s clear  the loans occurred. VanParks has the loan numbers on their website.  https://t.co/4dvhDsjURN

The government of Triple Delete and coverup strikes again? Certainly looks like it.

Second, Coleman’s denials so far do not include the tabling of documents which would refute the story. Coleman threatened to call Eby a liar outside the legislature yesterday. As far as I know he didn’t follow through. (I’ll update if I’m wrong).

The key to this is that Vancouver zoning already required the buildings to include a percentage for non-market, affordable housing. I doubt if we believe it should be the Provinces role to monetarily assist wealthy BCLiberal donors and their companies to comply with City zoning bylaws. That’s absurd. And there is even a question about one of two loans going to finance a full market building that contained no down market rental at all.

One of those beneficiaries allegedly is Bob Rennie, until recently the BCLiberals fundraising chair, and until recently enough, the Board Member of  (you guessed it) BCHousing. (mea culpa…I had Rennie down as a Board Chair of BCH. I apologize, but the optics are nonetheless brutal.)

Listen to this interview on CKNW yesterday afternoon and ask yourself how wide ranging the RCMP’s investigations into corruption in this province should be….. https://omny.fm/shows/steele-drex/david-eby-ndp-housing-critic-on-bc-s-affordable-ho

BCHousing is meant to help poor people with affordable rental space, not grease the business bottom line of wealthy corporations. Rich Coleman needs to table a documentary rebuttal STAT.  Don’t bet that he will. So the media will have to follow up.

 

Blacktop Politics

I was a child, but this is the story of the moment I became aware of politics in BC. My family was driving to a remote resort on the Northern Gulf Islands..We hopped one ferry to another..We landed on the island but had to drive across it to our destination. From the ferry, for about a mile the road was blacktop, which ended at a paved driveway into a gated estate….The summer property (I recall being told) belonged to a Socred highways minister.   The rest of the island was rough gravel.

At the height of the triple-delete scandal, I made the following observation:  “Corruption is not a necessary consequence of secrecy, but secrecy is a necessary condition for corruption”. However that blacktop road got built, I saw it as evidence of “corruption”, in the sense of an unjustifiable distortion of power, money and influence.

About that time, (it may have been the same summer) , with stories like the one above bursting through the news cycle about a tired and cynical Socred government, we threw the bums out and gave Dave Barrett and the NDP a chance. It’s high time we do the same on May 9th , and I believe John Horgan is the man to give us all a rest from the distortions of power foisted on us by the Clark Liberals. Horgan can’t be all things to everyone, but from what I know of him, he’s a normal, honest man with a vision of helping ordinary people in a way that’s only ever a matter of political convenience to the Clark crew.

To make that happen though, we have to have a memory. We have to share memories. Blacktop politics has been a force in BC for a very long time. Money flows to friendly ridings.  As an example, Dermod Travis of Integrity BC has been noting how “affordable housing” announcements since the end of September have focused nearly exclusively on BCLiberal held ridings. Blacktop politics has been proven effective in BC over and over. People are people. They often vote based on narrow short term  interests and the very latest news from an often lazy television media.

The latest from the weekend, via Kathy Tomlinson of the Globe and Mail, is a dramatic confirmation of the “pay to play” culture of the current government. Read this : http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/wild-west-bc-lobbyists-breaking-one-of-provinces-few-political-donationrules/article34207677/?utm_medium=Referrer:+Social+Network+/+Media&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links The money quote for me is here: ““At that point I realized – I have been totally corrupted.” .

It’s about a system of government in which if you don’t pay, you don’t play. Lobbyists break rules, falsify proper disclosure of the sources of funds to the ruling party and probably break tax law in the name of career survival. Companies understand that donations to the BCLiberals are a necessity of getting on with business, but don’t necessarily want the scale or frequency of contributions known.

Rich Coleman shrugs it off, saying if rules have been broken it’s not the party’s fault……. But this has apparently been going for years, common knowledge to insiders and a complete surprise to the Press Gallery. And to be fair, Horgan’s NDP is now reviewing its own records of donations to find out if the same thing has gone on in their own camp.  Although less likely, Mr. Weaver and the Greens should do the same.

Ah well.. It’s today’s news and history shows May 9th is a long way off. I honestly don’t think Rich Coleman or Christy Clark care very much.

Back to secrecy:  When the triple delete scandal broke, the BCLiberals promised not to do it again and an order went out to keep emails and so on in the civil service…. At the same time, they eliminated the application of the Offenses Act to the improper destruction of government records. They weakened the rules. And anyone who follows Bob Mackin knows that FOI requests are coming back “No Records” as much as they ever were.

Once again, it’s not necessary to prove corruption to note that the conditions for it have been created. And then we must wonder why…. And then we must vote.

I won’t tell you who to vote for. I’ve only said who I will vote for.  But like the dying days of the WAC Bennett Socred regime, the stories are legion, and between now and May 9th we have to share them widely. Get active. Get involved.

 

 

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 .

https://t.co/hmJByLCPnY

 

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 .. https://t.co/UbqU1wzSne

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: https://t.co/4OUSNijQgQ

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 :  https://t.co/sp1WXdtLN1

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

 

 

 

Clark disappoints with response to NYT

Friday evening, Jan 20, 2017 was not only Trump’s inauguration. It was also when Christy Clark climbed down (in the well-timed shadow of the empty bleachers on the Washington parade route) from one of her most offensive positions. She will, at some point, stop taking $50,000 in salary from the BCLiberal Party as compensation for fundraising and party leadership duties.

As always, the climb down was graceless and offensive just by itself. It didn’t have the ring of truth, and she unleashed a number of straw men to defend her from the prying reporters (who no doubt wanted to follow the inauguration news). Here’s a short history of the issue. At the end I’ll list the strawmen and lies told by the Premier

It’s an adjunct to the (far worse) practice of accepting 6 figure donations over the years from companies headquartered both within and outside BC and Canada. That will not change. The opportunity, and therefore the perception of conflict and influence peddling by the BCLiberal government will remain until we vote in a new government.

Gordon Campbell first received a stipend  in the 90’s when he ousted LNG shill Gordon Wilson from the BCLiberal leadership. In those days the dollar figure was apparently more, but the circumstances were not comparable. Campbell had no seat in the house and no other job but to lead the party to the promised land, as he eventually did.

The practice of giving the leader a stipend (smaller we imagine, but the numbers have mostly not been revealed) continued until this week.

The heat on this issue began on the low burner with this exchange between Andrew MacLeod and Christy Clark on Dec 12th 2012. MacLeod is no longer being granted “Christmas interviews”:

Tyee: I have a detail question for you. Gordon Campbell while he was premier claimed on his conflict of interest disclosure statement a stipend from the BC Liberal Party, and you do as well. I’m wondering how much it is and what the rationale for it is?

Clark: “I don’t know. Doesn’t it say in the thing?”

Tyee: No, I think you probably tell the Conflict of Interest Commissioner the amount, but what gets reported publicly does not have an amount.

Clark: “It’s a car allowance.”

Tyee: Why? I’m wondering what the rationale is.

Clark: “I do a lot of driving. I do a lot of driving for party events and those kinds of things.”

The burner got turned up to high in April 2016 when Gary Mason and the Globe and Mail discovered the amounts she was being paid. The stipend wasn’t secret, but the amount of extra money the Premier received was never disclosed. See below:

“What Ms. Clark fails to understand is that this is serious. There is a matter of grave public interest here. The Premier, the head of government, is selling access through party fundraising events. That is without dispute. And she is benefiting from the proceeds that access generates. It is a clear conflict. And yet, she and her party treat it like a big joke.

The Liberals say they have been open about the “allowance” she gets from the Liberals as it is mentioned on her disclosure statement. But she doesn’t disclose how much she gets. That has only come out as a result of The Globe and Mail’s stories. I asked the Liberal Party how much her predecessor, Gordon Campbell, received over the previous 10 years he was leader but did not get a response. The party is open only when it’s forced to be.

One other thing to consider about all this: The people whose donations fund Ms. Clark’s Liberal Party salary get a tax receipt. In other words, taxpayers are subsidizing the $50,000 income that the Premier’s party gives her on top of the $200,000 citizens are already paying her as the head of government.

I wonder how most people feel about that?”

In the interest of brevity (people rightly wonder if I can spell the word, never mind attempt its achievement), let’s skip to last week’s NY Times article. Full link here before I quote the juicy bits : https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/13/world/canada/british-columbia-christy-clark.html

The key takeaways from Dan Levin’s piece are that in most places in North America Clark’s stipend is illegal (in a later interview he called it “bribery” – look it up in the Criminal Code if you’re from BC and the word has fallen into disuse). Further, he covers the strange position of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, whose son is directly appointed by Clark with a senior role in Government Communications, and the fact the Commissioner has never found anyone from the BCLiberals to be in conflict.

Quotes:

“Personal enrichment from the handouts of wealthy donors, some of whom have paid tens of thousands of dollars to meet with her at private party fund-raisers? No conflict of interest here, according to a pair of rulings last year by the province’s conflict-of-interest commissioner — whose son works for Ms. Clark.”

“Unlike many other provinces in Canada, British Columbia has no limits on political donations. Wealthy individuals, corporations, unions and even foreigners are allowed to donate large amounts to political parties there. Critics of the premier and her party, the conservative British Columbia Liberal Party, say the provincial government has been transformed into a lucrative business, dominated by special interests that trade donations for political favors, undermining Canada’s reputation for functional, consensus-driven democracy.”

“On Thursday, Ms. Clark’s government approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline project, after opposing the proposal at hearings last January. Political donation records show that Kinder Morgan and other oil industry supporters of the project had donated more than 718,000 Canadian dollars, about $546,000, to the BC Liberal party through March 2016.”

As recently as last week, pundits such as Keith Baldrey were on the news telling us nothing would change because the public didn’t care about the integrity of government decision making and whether or not favorable decisions were being bought by big industry.  Gary Mason, whose outrage on the matter is, I believe, real, lamented more than once that nothing would change because again, the public didn’t care enough.

BCLiberal party insiders told Gary the party was laughing it off, and he wrote about the display of arrogance. Well, it turned out it was no laughing matter after all. The public line has been that the public wanted transparency and real-time disclosure, not the end of corporate or union fundraising….Never mind the April poll indicating 86% of us on the other side of the fence and halfway to a farm near the next town on this issue.

On Friday night, Clark said the following: She would stop taking the extra money. She would “instead” look to the party for reimbursement of expenses. She encouraged opposition leader John Horgan to follow her example.

The mind boggles. I have questions, though the assembled press gallery seemed only slightly troubled before their weekend.

1 – In a system that demands no accounting or public disclosure of how political parties operate or spend their money, how can we be assured Clark won’t find a work around? Could take us years to discover it.

2 – Clark’s stipend has always been billed as salary,  as compensation for extra work. Even Green leader Andrew Weaver (mystifyingly) said it was justified due to the demands of the job. Now Clark is implying that she has never billed for travel and other expenses for these invitation only party fundraisers? Why wasn’t this “reimbursement” a part of the defensive PR line long ago? I don’t believe it, but of course the secrecy around party operations mean we can never probe the truth

3 – From the beginning, the NDP has stated by comparison to the $50K, Horgan was compensated for a couple of suits each year. In what universe does Clark get away with implying that accounting at NDP HQ is as bad or worse than her own?

4 – Why did Clark lie to Andrew MacLeod in 2012? “Isn’t (the amount) in the thing? It’s like a car allowance.”   That is breathtaking. And if I was a reporter it would be the first question I asked Clark. Why did you make up this cheap story? What does it reveal about your character?

The big money donations to political parties are a hot issue and I hope that remains true through May. Trudeau has been on the hot seat for attending fundraisers with a cap of $1500, and more so for the admission that business interests of the participants do get discussed at these things.

The Greens have made it a highlight of their early campaign that they have stopped accepting corporate and union donations. Curiously, they have made it an attack point on the NDP opposition, rather than using it as a wedge against the party who can change it today, and who never will (the governing BCLiberals).

This illustrates to me that the Greens are more interested in growing by a few seats if possible than in changing the system.

Because I guarantee, if John Horgan wins in May, the bribery will stop.

In the meantime, it’s left to us to enjoy the fact that the old pundits who so often tell us we don’t care about scandals, or about integrity issues…. the old pundits who tell us that only a simple “economy stupid” narrative will matter at the next vote….were wrong.

Clark, however ham-fistedly, had to execute a 180 degree turn and sacrifice a pawn (to borrow a chess term), to remain in the game. The polling must have shown the BCLiberals that a strategic retreat on the $50K was needed to save their chances of continuing in power.

 

It’s Up To Us in 2017

I want to talk about ideals, and why they matter. I want to talk about attitudes to the most vulnerable and less well-off, (with statistics and everything) . I want to talk about music, Bruce Cockburn particularly,  and of course, about BC politics and the upcoming election. All of these things matter, to us as individuals and as members of our communities. I think this will be a much more personal post than usual. There are several threads running through this . Thanks for your patience.

As I’ve contemplated a New Year’s post for 2017, one emotion has become increasingly clear, and it’s born in the shadow of Trump’s victory in the US election. That emotion is a sense of isolation, and of loss… even dread. What do we do? A friend who is a retired policeman was on the phone to me after Trump’s win, choking back tears as he contemplated what his fellow officers in the US, his colleagues, might  be ordered to do in the coming years.

I know these days Gord Downie (bless him) and the Tragically Hip are the face of the nation to itself. I can’t commend Downie enough for what he’s done bringing indigenous issues into the comfortable living rooms of Canada. But I grew up with Bruce Cockburn, and he still means more to me.

As a young guitarist with more ambition than talent in the 70’s, I absorbed Cockburn as well as I could through my skin. Cockburn is a good but inconsistent songwriter, yet his lyrics often define what it is to be Canadian with a conscience. As a guitarist, Cockburn is world class.. inventive, smooth, unassumingly brilliant. He’s the kind of player that players are in awe of, yet non-musicians hardly notice.

Cockburn is an idealist. He sang songs over his long career about military atrocities in Central America, about religious and existential joy, about justice and environmental issues. In his way, he has always been an artist committed to bringing the truth (as he sees it) to light. Running through his 40 years of music is a yearning for a better, more caring society.

Cockburn, love him or loathe him, has never been shy about looking where we’d rather not look, sharing things about ourselves and our society we would rather not see.

As a Canadian, I’m an idealist too. I don’t think idealism is fashionable at the moment, and that contributes to the feeling of isolation. I still believe however, this idealism is a Canadian thing. And it’s always been true that “looking away” from the darker side of ourselves , tempting though it is, makes it harder to confront the change we need.

“BC Politics is class struggle”. “It’s a polarized choice between a pro-business government and a pro-union government”.

Those sentiments were expressed to me by a member of the pundit club. Class struggle. Really. I think of government as how we all take care of each other, particularly those who need more help. If it’s a class struggle, when they win they get ice cream and caviar and the rest of us get gruel. When we win it’s the reverse. They don’t care to help us, and we don’t care about them.

I think we are better than that.

This month disabled people adapt to a new regime with regard to their transportation “choices”. I’m not disabled myself, but I’ve been hearing from those who are.  Here are some highlights.

Until this year, disability rates were frozen in BC for 9 years. This year they were increased by $77/month.

A buspass that used to cost $45/year now costs $624/year.

Administratively it’s a nightmare. Clients must opt in or out. As their need for food vs transport and ability to budget changes, they may opt in or out. Every time they opt in, they get a new card. While they opt in “until further notice” , if they opt out because they are too hungry or need to pay a late Hydro bill, they will then have to opt in again…. The administrative cost adds up.

But fear not, out of that generous new money ($77/month after 9 frozen years X 99,000 people = $91,476,000) , the government will claw back at a rate of $52 or $66/month depending on the transport subsidy type as much as $89,960,009 ).   This figure is based on everyone opting for transport instead of food, and is therefore inflated… but you see my point.

And government will save administration costs for those who choose food instead.

The shelter allowance for disability clients is $375/month, whether you live in Chetwind or Metro Vancouver. Even with the increase, people who physically or mentally can’t work are being asked to live on roughly $1000/month… in 2017.

Disabled people, whether they are able to earn income or not, need transportation in most places to get to appointments and socialize. Those with cognitive impairments will find this month to month system (transit stickers etc.) especially difficult to manage.

Comparing inflation of rents (over 9 years), Hydro, phone, and other normal costs, especially food,  to that $77/ month, it’s abundantly clear to me as an observer that government is saying “choose between mobility and food”.  That’s a cruel position. It leads to a level of desperation I find completely unacceptable, and my rage isn’t about Class Struggle. It’s about shared humanity..

Here’s what one articulate person affected said about it, quoted from a Twitter feed.

“I believe many – if not most – who vote for BC Liberals are not ignorant of consequences re-electing them will have on people like me. If I tell them there are days without food, they will say – ‘budget better’. If I say I budget quite well, they will say ‘don’t smoke’. If I say I don’t smoke, they will say ‘don’t drink’. If I say I don’t drink they will say….

I’ve had these conversations. They have a death grip on their bias. If they have a conscience it’s how they sleep at night. They tuck into a blanket of ‘I would not let that happen to me’ and count tax cuts instead of sheep.

They think just because they worked hard for what they have, there are no people who have worked just as hard and have nothing”

There you have it… To say this is a class struggle, or it’s about fiscal conservatism vs tax and spend, or it’s about who is going to create jobs or chase them away, or about how photogenic a party leader is…. All of these artificial arguments make us look away from government’s responsibility to guard our dignity and the welfare of those who can’t make it on their own.

Our ideals are not about economics. They are about improving lives.. Taxes are a cost to individuals and businesses and there is an ideal harmony to how they are constructed to allow the greatest opportunity.

Yet in my ideal BC and Canada government has a duty of support to those in great need. We’ve never completely lived up to our ideals, but isn’t that one that we share across party lines?

Adrian Dix made a mistake in the 2013 campaign. It was little noticed among his other mistakes. His promise to the disabled was an extra $20/month. It was far too small…. He caught himself in the trap of trying to convince conservative-minded voters that the NDP weren’t fiscally scary .. (Mulcair and the balanced budgets anyone?)..

When it comes to disability rates, this is the wrong frame to think inI want a government that owes a duty of care to the dignity, health, and self-worth of the vulnerable.  It will cost money to go there…. but put it the right way and I think folk will understand. There are many nations and societies that operate without any such concept of collective responsibility.  But I see this as one of the better Canadian ideals, even though it’s historically recent.

It’s really up to us. It’s up to us without the artful divisions of class struggle or team jerseys.

If we don’t “look away” from the wheelchairs lined up outside the soup kitchen , we just might realize it could be us there, waiting for the door to open.

In May, for a host of reasons, we need a new BC government. But it’s up to us to make it happen. We need a government that won’t triple-delete public information or spend four years covering up the cause of Rod MacIsaac’s suicide. We need a government that deals respectfully with teachers and school boards, instead of wasting millions and years on court fights. We need a government that acts to correct an injustice before a bad headline occurs, at least as often as after the headline. We need a government that believes part of its responsibility is regulation of environmental dangers posed by industry.

As individuals and as community members, we have to not look away.

Now back to Cockburn and my despondence over Trump’s win. I can’t think of anyone who embodies selfishness quite like Trump. Put aside the other well documented horrors of his personal history.  Put aside the prospect of chaos or accidental wars at any moment from this unpredictable orangutan.

It seems to me after all these years moving slowly toward a fairer and more just and stable world, we’ve been thrown sharply backward. And there’s a Cockburn lyric I’ll share that expresses the emotion, though I’m taking it out of context.. Maybe I’m just feeling old 🙂 .

Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it’s pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you’ve lived too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage

Read more: Bruce Cockburn – Pacing The Cage Lyrics | MetroLyrics

But progress, as Obama said, is not a straight line.

We have a natural tendency to perceive the current situation as permanent. It isn’t.  So I have hope for us after all 🙂

 

 

 

Spinmasters in Overdrive on Misleading $20B LNG Ad

Yesterday’s post got quite a bit of attention from journalists, government spinners, and the Advertising Standards Council.. Here’s what you should know.

Questions about the truth of the government’s claim that $20Billion has already been invested in LNG in BC are not new. Bob Mackin, writing for Business in Vancouver, asked questions with less success than an ordinary citizen had.

Bob asked for justification of the figure down to the nearest million (not dollar for dollar) and got very little of substance , but conceptually it mirrored what I wrote last week… Read his piece here.. https://www.biv.com/article/2016/11/bc-liberals-claim-lng-and-site-c-are-green-new-ad-/

The government is piecing together industry press releases, adding them up to a very big number without verification of any of the claims. My other objections remain.  .. 1) arbitrary assignment of a percentage of activity to LNG versus other industry activity… 2)  inclusion of large buys of stakes in projects by O&G companies from each other.

Again, to evaluate the BC government’s own justification for the figure, see my first post here.. http://www.bcveritas.com/index.php/2016/12/11/about-that-20billion-lng-investment/   It’s my opinion that the government ad doesn’t meet the standards of public usefulness and truthfulness we have a right to expect, but I want you to judge for yourself. Read the government’s own document.

Andrew MacLeod, on December 22nd, published a Tyee article linked here which has most of the new stuff that needs to be addressed today: https://thetyee.ca/News/2016/12/22/Govt-Pulls-LNG-Ad/

After yesterday’s post , either because of Andrew’s poke into the matter or coincidentally, there was some action between the BCGovernment,  the Advertising Standards Council, and the good man who made a complaint to the ASC.

The government line is that the ASC got it wrong. First of all, the offending ad was due to be pulled out of rotation anyway, and that had nothing to do with my complaint or my reader’s…. Secondly, it was decided the ad should be pulled a little early rather than going through a meeting with the ASC. The meeting was scheduled roughly the same time as the end of the ad run, so government decided to pull it early and avoid the hassle….. Oh, and one more bit..Government decided to pull the ad early because it was generating complaints! Imagine that.

Another curious thing happened: My reader got a second letter from the ASC yesterday.. The first letter, the day before, clearly linked the advertiser’s corrective action to its decision not to pursue the matter. They’re pulling the ad, so let’s not bother.

The second letter, from someone higher up the organizational flowchart, said the first letter contained inaccuracies.  Further, it said the ASC had communicated with government, received some supporting materials and proposed a meeting to discuss the issues based on an earlier complaint. But again, since the ad run was winding down, it didn’t seem necessary to pursue the matter further.

Now what has my conspiracy-theorist-blogger senses all a-tingle is this:  Andrew MacLeod wasn’t able to reach anyone for comment yesterday at the Advertising Standard’s Council.. It was the government that told MacLeod about the second letter. I can back that up because no one else had the opportunity to inform MacLeod before the article was published. Why on earth would an agency in charge of independently “self-regulating” the advertising profession be sharing details of its communication with media spinners in government?

In my opinion it’s clear the PAB-bots leaned on the ASC to “correct the record”. As Ian Jessop said to me regarding the Premier’s Haida Gwaii trip last year, “When stories keep changing, it means somebody is lying. We just have to find out who and why”.  What surprises me is that the government’s bluster aside, it’s the ASC who have changed their story under pressure…

I’m sure the ASC is surprised by the fuss this has generated, and I’d ask them the following question.  “Isn’t it true that damage to the public interest has been done because the ads ran, even if they are now pulled?”. And to the government: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have some laws to save the political operatives from embarrassing themselves by stretching the truth for partisan gain? Shouldn’t government be, you know, separate from the “Party”?

(For the record, there’s a misperception out there that the ASC did a full investigation and found the ad violated standards. That’s not the case, and it isn’t what I wrote, though I’m convinced the ads would not survive any serious analysis by a sober judge of the matter.)

STILL.. If the $20 billion figure is no longer used in tax-funded advertising, I’ll count that as a win. 

RossK just put up a great post, and asked a great question.. If Christy’s spinners had got to the ASC before the citizen who launched this complaint, how might the story have evolved differently? Read his piece here, http://pacificgazette.blogspot.ca/2016/12/this-day-in-clarkland-20-billion-dollar.html

And Merry Christmas to everyone. Thanks so much for reading my tripe this year!