Category Archives: Canada


Rafe: Site C Dam shows how broken our democracy is

BC First Nations Chiefs Roland Wilson, Liz Logan and Stewart Phillip took their anti-Site C message to Ottawa – to no avail (Liz Logan/ Twitter)

This week I said I would talk about Site C but little did I know what I had taken on. I spent nearly a day and a half with stuff that wouldn’t likely be in the article but knew I needed to read.

After devouring an enormous pile of material which I’d rather not have, I came to the firm conclusion that Site C is a terrible idea, founded on a professed need for energy in BC based upon highly suspect, self-serving research by Hydro, which has a long history of deliberately overestimating electrical demand and with no reasonably certain market except a very dubious LNG industry. The price tag, likely well in excess of $10 billion, will guarantee the bankruptcy of BC Hydro, which I suspect was the plan all along.

The whole story

It’s interesting and important to note a March, 2016 article by Justine Hunter in the Globe and Mail:

[quote]The author of a report the B.C. government used as a green light to proceed with the $8.8-billion Site C dam says there are better alternatives, but his review panel was not permitted to look at other solutions to future demand for more electricity.

In fact, Harry Swain, an associate fellow at the University of Victoria, whose May, 2014, report on the dam was viewed as a “mostly positive” study that justified the government’s decision to proceed, says British Columbia could meet its future energy needs at a lower cost with the stroke of a pen by taking back the power available under the Columbia River Treaty.

“In the report, we held back a lot of stuff because we were not allowed to talk about policy,” he said in an interview this week. “It wasn’t the whole story.”[/quote]

In short, in typical Christy Clark style, the report upon which the government bases its support of Site C, according to the Chairman of the Joint Review Panel that produced it, “wasn’t the whole story”.

Wow!  Even with this incompetent lot, that truly takes the breath away. 10 Billion bucks to be spent based on an incomplete assessment of the facts as honestly admitted by the Chair of the Committee!

Knowing that MLAs don’t have the guts to do anything about this, I realize that the real question is the same as that which I talked about recently with the Kinder Morgan pipeline. How was the decision to be made?

Democratic deficiency

Our version of a parliamentary system is totally unsuited to deal with a large controversy.

If you were to say that to someone ignorant of political philosophy, let’s say Christy Clark, she would respond, “Well we had an election in 2013, we got a majority and therefore we make the decision.” In fact, that’s just what her slightly less than cerebral colleague, Bill Bennett said.

That ignores a number of factors, not the least of which is that elections, including the one in 2013, are seldom over one controversy. They are held to elect a government, not decide a single issue which may not be well canvassed in the election campaign and indeed may not yet have become a recognized issue.

Secondly, under our system, we elect people of various backgrounds but who all have one thing in common – they will all, in every matter, do as they are bloody well told.

There is still this myth that great discussions take place in Caucus, which opinions the Minister responsible uses as the basis of his legislation. As the Duke of Wellington said when a man accosted him with “Mr. Robinson, I believe”.

“If you believe that, you’ll believe anything!”

These days, caucus is rarely even told about government policy, much less consulted. What they read is the same mindless, self-serving shit they mail out to you at public expense.

Kinder Morgan: A top-down decision

Let’s examine the federal government decision to approve Kinder Morgan, a flashpoint issue in BC the likes of which I have never seen before. It was publicly denounced by half a dozen Liberal backbenchers in BC, all of whom can now forget about promotion. The decision was made by Cabinet in accordance with orders from the Prime Minister.

Now, suppose you were vehemently opposed to Kinder Morgan and it so happened your MP was a Liberal. Let’s say that you know him/her very well, are a good supporter and even gave them money. Naturally, you go to this MP and advise them that you believe strongly that Kinder Morgan is a terrible idea, not only for the constituency but the whole province, and that you would be furious if the MP didn’t make that clear. Furthermore, you could say with accuracy that the vast majority of the constituency felt the same way.

What do you think would happen?

I can tell you what would happen: Nothing! Two times the square root of sweet Fanny Adams.

Now that is a democracy? That is the people having a say in the policies by which they will be governed?

There is an obvious solution to this problem – on major issues, submit the question to the people by way of referendum. I think I can feel the shivering out there as these words are being read. We don’t use referenda because this is a parliamentary democracy.

Well, that takes us back to where we started – our parliamentary democracy in practice denies individual voters any role in decision making for controversial issues like Site C or Kinder Morgan. Do we all just say “who cares?” and amble off to the pub for a beer?

The real reason we don’t use referenda more often is that the “elite” are afraid that the rabble won’t do what they’re told.

A lesson from Charlottetown

One only need to look at the proposed changes to how we elect MPs in Canada to see how vigorously – and illogically – the “elite” fight the idea of letting the people decide how they want to perform their democratic right to vote!

Isn’t that absurd when you think about it?

The most glaring example of the nations ignoramuses thwarting the wise decisions of the “elite” came with the Charlottetown Accord referendum in 1992 when the Rabble told “those who know best” to get stuffed and, in fact, in British Columbia, by 67.9%.

There were a number of us in BC who threw everything into the fight on the “No” side, including constitutional lawyers, professors of constitutional law, members of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, probably Canada’s most experienced constitutional lawyer and so on – yet the answer from the “higher purpose persons” (the late Denny Boyd’s wonderful phrase) was that these stupid bovine masses, following hypnotic broadcasters, destroyed the country.

Well, even though the “elite”, from the Prime Minister down, predicted that the country would fall to pieces if Charlottetown didn’t prevail, that not only did not happen but, I would argue, the county was saved. In due course, Quebec realized it would have to be like all other provinces if it wanted the benefits of being part of the nation and, although the last separation vote was close, the separatists lost and it also became clear that the changing population was going to make their case harder and harder to make.

The voter should be boss

I think the killing argument is simply this: If the principle is that decisions in our democracy will be made by ordinary people voting for their representatives, how can they be smart enough to elect good representatives but too stupid to give instructions as to what they want to happen?

No, don’t let me mislead you. I do not say that ultimate wisdom comes from referenda but I do say neither does it come from electing ordinary people to Parliament or from benevolent despots, for that matter. Nor do I support government by referendum; I support representative government where the voter is boss, not the Prime Minister, and, on major issues, by referendum.

I would argue from the Charlottetown experience that people in a referendum on a serious issue inform themselves far better than they are ever informed in an ordinary general election. With Charlottetown, it was remarkable what information the public demanded, what they observed on their own, the questions they asked of expert guests on my show and what they learned and learned so well.

What we really get down to is that the “elite”, whose motivation is not reaching an appropriate decision that’s beneficial to all, rather a resolution that suits their personal interests or those of their backers, don’t like it when the people they normally control in parliament or the legislature are not there to do what they’re told.

Yes, these are harsh words and betray a hearty mistrust of the system under which we govern ourselves. I say them by reason of a lifetime experience watching, participating and seeing just how willing we are to fool ourselves, rather than attempt any sort of change. We are masters of allowing perfection to be the enemy of improvement.

I am not so naïve as to think there is a perfect system available. What I do know, and I’m sure most people realize, is if you are never prepared to change, you will always have the same lousy situation.

Over the festive season I suggest you sit down with your mate or a good friend, with a glass of good BC wine and ask yourselves, “Do I really have a say, however minor, in the decisions that are made by the legislature or Parliament? The decisions on which my life is directed?”

If the answer is negative, you know that the big kids don’t want the rules to change – does that mean that you passively accept your fate?

Or do you go to work as freedom loving people always have when the “elite” run the citizen’s life from the comfort of their favourite chair at the Club?


Rafe: Trudeau, Notley’s defence of Kinder Morgan doesn’t wash for BC

Justin Trudeau is greeted in Alberta by Rachel Notley (Premier of Alberta/Flickr CC licence)
Justin Trudeau is greeted in Alberta by Rachel Notley (Premier of Alberta/Flickr CC licence)

I listened to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley on CBC with Rick Cluff this week and must say she said nothing to give me cause to change my mind on Kinder Morgan. To the contrary, I asked myself how could she be so indifferent to the problems 400-plus tankers a year full of bitumen would bring to the BC coast.

I have a lot of trouble with the Trudeau/Notley attitude because the position British Columbians take is so obviously rational and natural. Just why people in the rest of Canada can’t understand eludes me. Wouldn’t they protect themselves and their homes?

Clark cutting a deal for BC?

The light went on when premier Notley talked about Christy Clark trying to make a deal with Kinder Morgan for money, saying that she understood that they were pretty close.

Justin Trudeau and Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr CC)
Justin Trudeau and Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr CC)

Of course! Clark, being a far-right-wing airhead (forgive the redundancy) has never concerned herself with the impacts all these extra tankers plus would have on our coast.

It would never occur to her that the colossal damage done by the inevitable spill would be permanent. It would never cross her mind that a simple understanding of the law of probabilities tells you accidents will happen over and over again and that, given the filthy nature of the cargo of these tankers, the damage is bound to be extremely serious. If these things don’t bother her, why would others care?

I dare say that if you mentioned Kalamazoo to Christy Clark, she would immediately think of the old Glenn Miller song of the 40s;  it wouldn’t  occur to her that it now signified the worst pipeline spill in history, six years ago, which has never been cleaned up and never will.   

If the premier of our province is not telling other Canadian leaders how serious the Kinder Morgan issue is to her province, then the press, such as it is, won’t pick up the story and all people east of the Rockies will have read is Gary Mason in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Horgan ready to make Kinder Morgan an election issue?

The NDP's only shot at winning in BC: Embrace the NEW ECONOMY
BCNDP Leader John Horgan (BCNDP/Flickr)

Until very recently, John Horgan, leader of the BC NDP has been waffling, so any who gauge the opinion of a province by the pronouncements of their politicians would conclude that it was only a small group of crazies that were opposed to this pipeline. Somebody has obviously had a word with Mr. Horgan and he now realizes this is an issue upon which an election might depend. He’s seen the error of his ways and is now enthusiastically opposed.

The result of this misrepresentation of our general position makes us look bad in the eyes of other Canadians who simply don’t understand what our problem is. Although it is difficult for me to keep my cool on this subject I will try to put this in clear terms.

Public opposition based on common sense

Other Canadians must understand that the case against a multitude of bitumen loaded tankers on the BC Coast has never been stated by the government for the people. Quite, the opposite: the BC Liberal Government went as far as to sign away the province’s constitutional authority to represent its constituents on this matter, through a controversial “equivalency agreement”, which we’ve documented in these pages. Thus, it has been left to private individuals and groups. This is taken to mean that the environmentalists are hysterical and the government is calm and accurate.

In fact, environmentalists have all of the science as well as common sense on their side and, importantly, the law of probabilities. When you have this many tankers constantly using water ways such as exist in the routes out of Vancouver through the harbour and all of the channels involved, the law of probabilities says there’ll be more accidents as this traffic increases, as it surely will. 

What’s worse, the bitumen cargo ensures that an accident will have very serious consequences, especially near populated areas. Added to to this, Mr. Trudeau has approved an LNG plant near Squamish, sending tankers loaded with LNG  through Howe Sound to meet with the tankers coming from Vancouver. Mr. Trudeau chose to overlook the fact that even by standards of the tanker industry organization,SIGGTO, Howe Sound is far too narrow for the necessary tanker traffic. He doesn’t give a damn and neither does careless Christy.

It must also he understood that clean-up is a very iffy proposition. Both Kinder Morgan and the government play down the frequency and seriousness of spills and their inability to handle them, but they don’t mention that bitumen is impossible to clean up under the best of circumstances. I mentioned the Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010 and if one takes a moment to Google this tragedy, they’ll learn how catastrophic bitumen spills are, even when easily accessed.

Fellow Canadians, this is merely a thumbnail sketch of the consequences of the Kinder Morgan proposed pipeline extension.

Bad deal for BC

Now, here is the deal proposed to us by Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley:

Alberta gets to fully reopen the world’s biggest polluter, the Tar Sands, and ship its shit through BC by pipeline and then, by some 400 and ever-increasing bitumen tankers a year, ship it through the hazardous Salish Sea (formerly Straits of Georgia) to foreign markets. It bears no risk and neither do the Feds.

For its part, BC stops complaining about statistically certain ruptures in the pipeline and statistically certain bitumen spills on their coast with the calamitous consequences they bring, including the safety of citizens, and agrees to support the pipeline and bear the damage.

That way, we’re advised, both Albertans and British Columbian will then be good Canadians.

Well, Madame Premier and Mr. Prime Minister, in the politest phrase I can think of, get lost. Don’t go away mad, just go away.

Neither the Kinder Morgan line, nor any other, is going to get built, next year or any other year. We have the inherent right, like all good Canadians, to protect our homes from any outside threat and that sure as hell includes the Tar Sands.

You have pushed us too far.


Rafe Mair to Justin Trudeau: BC is not yours to give away

Justin Trudeau speaks at the Paris climate talks - flanked by Canadian premiers (Province of BC/Flickr)
Justin Trudeau speaks at the Paris climate talks – flanked by Canadian premiers (Province of BC/Flickr)

“They hang the man, and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from off the common;
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose.”

I’ll not waste too many words on Prime Minister Trudeau’s treachery.

Of all the many political sins, surely the greatest of all is hypocrisy and this prime minister has taken that sin to new levels. He basked in the glory of Paris and being portrayed as the hero of the earth but had scarcely got home when he cast aside the cloak of righteousness, reverting to being a cheap hustler for the fossil fuel industry, even outshining Stephen Harper.

May takes a stand

Photo: Laurel L Russwurm/Flickr
Elizabeth May (Photo: Laurel L Russwurm/Flickr)

The consequences that would flow from Kinder Morgan’s pipeline would be a monumental contribution to global warming and killing the earth’s atmosphere but he’s consoled by the fact that the fossil fuel industry loves him and with their captive pseudo-journalists are falling all over themselves in support. I can’t help but comment on Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail, who criticizes Elizabeth May because she’s said she’ll go to jail if necessary in protest of the Kinder Morgan line. Mason, the sneer undisguised, quips, “Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has already said she is willing to go to jail over Kinder Morgan. Less clear is what good she thinks she can do behind bars.”

Gary Mason knows the answer to that full well and fears it because it would do one hell of a lot of good. There’s not a public figure in BC who could rally people against Kinder Morgan in a more effective way then she. Elizabeth May behind bars would be Kinder Morgan’s all-time, number one nightmare – not to mention a political horror story for the Liberals and the Tories. She has that commodity the media has abandoned – credibility.

From Brexit to Trump

Ms. May, along with other leaders of this fight like Grand Chief Stewart Philip, head of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, understands something that Trudeau chooses to ignore: There’s been a sea change in politics in this world. The enemy is no longer the other political parties but the elite, regardless of individual political persuasion. Brewing for a decade, it recently manifested itself in the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. No one needs to explain this to Ms. May or Grand Chief Philip and I’ve neither the time nor the inclination to explain it to Trudeau.

Not long ago I said this about the Brexit result and in predicting Trump’s victory:

[quote]The media and pollsters have been caught out making outdated assumptions and asking irrelevant questions. They’re looking at this contest through the prism of elections past and are still declaring their choice of issues and missing the main one.

It’s an entirely new ballgame and I refer back to articles I’ve done here and elsewhere saying that society as we have come to know it is mortally wounded …[/quote]

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC Licence
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC Licence

The accepted media wisdom, an oxymoron if there ever was one, is that mostly kooks voted for Trump. In fact, interview after interview discloses the underlying reason was deep anger with what the Anglican Book of Prayer so neatly calls “those set in authority over us”.

The phenomenon is not Donald Trump but a worldwide movement of ordinary people who are angry. Whoever looked less elite was going to win.

Tired of being lied to

Who are these angry people?

Not the poor and disadvantaged, although they are part of it; not the traditional left, many of whom are unwelcome. These are people pissed off at the entrenched wealthy, the elite, who have the power to do as they wish. Mr. Trudeau, your ilk, sir!

What was the cause? The catalyst?

Clearly, it was pollution, a phenomenon that showed the elite to be incompetent, serial liars who, since the start of the industrial revolution, had assured the public that no harm came from gunk emitted from smokestacks even though cities like London were blackened by these emissions.

The denouement began with Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring. It was just a matter of time before people realized they had been, and were being lied to. For the first time, the need to regulate industry in order to protect the environment became widely accepted, and modern environmentalism was born.

Industry and politicians went into denial. Tobacco smoke, hitherto claimed harmless, was proved to kill both smokers and innocent bystanders, yet the companies fought every inch of the way like cornered rats. The chemical companies went into full denial, even though companies like Union Carbide became massive killers.

The list seemed endless and the evidence piled, up but the elite kept on lying and hiring pliable scientists and clever PR specialists. Governments were willing accomplices and, every day, the elite lost credibility, yet clung to their denial.

Then, in a different but related area of public health, there was that kook Ralph Nader, denying the wonders of America’s icon, the automobile and its ever-increasing safety features, in his 1965 book Unsafe At Any Speed. Suddenly, the courts demonstrated that Nader had been right all along. Jesus! Was there nothing sacred?

More valuable than money

Prime Minister, we’ve come to the crux of the matter. 

It has dawned on people that the elite have only one standard of judging value – money – and that they would risk destroying the earth to make it.

More and more, people see that there’s real, tangible value to water, more than just making electricity and slaking our thirst. What, they asked, if it does no more than be beautiful in its untouched state? Can it be said that water is only valuable when destroyed for a dam?

Trees have a dollar value when they become lumber and paper. What about the life they harbour and perpetuate? Is an uncut forest not valuable in itself? Do we have to destroy it before it’s an asset?

Environmentalism went from being semi-admirable Kookism practiced by, you know, those sorts of people, to the respectable, then became mainstream, moving into the realm of the sacred.

Unholy catechism

No one believes developers or governments any more, not even Prime Ministers. Projects that once would scarcely cause a ripple of adverse reaction became hugely controversial and it was no longer just the “usual suspects” picketing and demonstrating against those in authority. Suddenly “Jack was as good as his master”, perhaps better. The elite, the “higher purpose persons”, have their knickers in a knot, unable to comprehend what’s going on or why. Lying, bribery and blatant hypocrisy constitute the only catechism they understand.

You are in denial, sir, because you can’t think of anything except business as usual, always hoping this all goes away.

“National Interest”

Let’s move into contemporary British Columbia.

You tell us, Mr. Trudeau, that our environment and way of life is subject to what you say is in “the national interest” – whether we like it or not. Money counts, especially oil money. Your political commitments, not to say bribes, are paramount.

Justing Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould meet in Hartley Bay on the BC coast in 2014 (Flickr / Justin Trudeau)
Justing Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould meet in Hartley Bay on the BC coast in 2014 (Flickr / Justin Trudeau)

We must accept that pipelines carrying deadly bitumen go through virgin forest where spills can’t be reached or, more likely, there’s nothing to be done anyway. You glibly dismiss the horrible, ongoing risks of tanker traffic – plain statistics tell us what will happen.

We’re told we must, in the interests of the “nation”, put our rivers, inlets, shorelines, fjords, public safety and unbeatable environment at risk to enhance the interests of others.

Why, Prime Minister? Please spell out this national interest. Don’t you really mean the interests of the Liberal party in Alberta? The political survival of premier Notley? Don’t you mean really the masses of investment capital which hasn’t a soupçon of social conscience?

I would never hold this against them Mr. Trudeau but I remember so well going to first ministers conferences on the patriation of the constitution and watching Alberta oppose equalization for poor provinces, lecturing them that if they only managed their affairs as Alberta did, they would be fine. That these provinces had no resources and Alberta was sitting on all that oil didn’t seem to count. It seems as if shoes have changed feet in this country.

Rights and Wrongs

Let me ask you a niggling question: Are Property and Civil Rights not a provincial right under our Constitution?

Attitudes have changed, Mr. Trudeau, and people all over the world now believe that those things that you cheerfully donate to your corporate friends don’t belong to you or the government but to all of the people.

Yes, you have the legal right to give them all away but that’s because our political system is a couple of centuries out of date and reposes in your office dictatorial powers while you pretend to run a democracy. You know, as does anyone who thinks about it, that MPs, particularly in the governing party, have absolutely no power and are just expensive cyphers whose main job is to make sure that pension checks are mailed on time.

Let me put it perhaps more bluntly, Mr. Trudeau: We in British Columbia – and especially First Nations whose unceded territories are at stake – regard those mountains as ours, the rivers are ours, trees are ours; so are the oceans, the beaches, the coastlines, the lakes and on it goes. Your right to steal them from us and give them to oil companies only rests upon a political system that, frankly, stinks.

BC doesn’t belong to you

If that was just the position of one ageing pol living in Lions Bay, British Columbia, you would be able to rest easy. What I’m trying to make you understand, sir, is that the ever-increasing masses of people all over the world are fed to the teeth with a phoney political system that takes away from people what is theirs and gives it to greedy supporters of politicians in power.

In short, British Columbians regard all of our forests, rivers, coastlines, as having enormous value to us simply as they are – not in their exploitation but their existence. This is where we live. our home, our legacy.

Why can’t you understand that, Prime Minister?

You, the hero of the Paris conference, ask us to sacrifice our home so that the Tar Sands, the world’s biggest polluter, can spew its poisons full time again? Why are you telling us, Mr. Trudeau, that we must pledge what God gave us to the tender mercies of the fossil fuel industry? .

Sir, we aren’t fools. We’ve seen how your lot cares about BC. When we hear soothing words from industry and the federal government about how they will treat our assets with care and respect, we think of our sacred salmon, which has been at the mercy of industry and the federal government – a government flooding our waters with diseased foreign fish to this day – ever since Confederation.

You are dead wrong, sir, letting hubris overcome common sense and you’re clearly spoiling for a fight.

If that’s what you truly want, you shall have it.


Rafe: Trudeau will have hell to pay in BC if he approves Kinder Morgan

Recent Vancouver rally against Kinder Morgan (Photo: David Suzuki Foundation/Facebook)
Recent Vancouver rally against Kinder Morgan (Photo: David Suzuki Foundation/Facebook)
None should be in the slightest surprised at the anti-British Columbia stance of Justin Trudeau and the Liberals. As Talleyrand famously noted when, after the fall of Napoleon the Bourbons were restored, “they learned nothing and forgot nothing”.

Thus it is with the Liberals who, once safely back in power, turn their attention to repaying supporters, namely Ontario financiers and the oil industry, often the same people. This ancient Liberal policy never fails.

Whose interest?

This time Justin Trudeau has overstepped the mark and as Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson warns, if he approves the Kinder Morgan pipeline, “…you’ll see protests like you’ve never seen before …” His Worship is right. British Columbians know that the standard Ottawa patter that something is “in the interests of Canada” is ill-concealed code for “in the interests of Bay Street and whatever they’ve invested in or covet.”

The operative words are “the interests of Canada”. To Industry, they cover material interests only and no value whatever is placed on assets like mountains, rivers, lakes, forests for their own sake, wildlife, peaceful safe inlets, beautiful views, peace, quiet, tranquility, and so on. Why aren’t these things material Canadian assets too? They sure as hell are once they’re gone!

Enough is Enough

Don’t British Columbians have a real interest, say, in protecting their lakes and rivers from being industrially developed? Or Howe Sound, our gorgeous southernmost fjord? Or the Peace River? The list is endless.

Who is Justin Trudeau to say that letting industry make money on LNG tankers is more important than the safety of people and property where they sail?

British Columbians say, “enough is enough!” From here on, our values speak as loudly as those from the businessmen’s clubs of Bay Street and the nests of political party strategists.

We are inspired as never before by the bravery of the Kinder Morgan protesters. Their guts and steadfastness has inspired a province as you seem determined to discover.

The right to protect our province

The Constitution Act, 1982, clearly states in Section 92:
“In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,…13. Property and Civil Rights in the Province.”

We say to you, Mr. Trudeau, that for those words to have any meaning at all, they give us the right, the power and indeed obligation, to protect provincial assets, including all those assets so clearly threatened by Kinder Morgan and other fossil fuel undertakings proposed, notwithstanding the fact that the federal government approves them.

More than this, we have “right” on our side. It’s Kinder Morgan, and its ilk, who would disturb, threaten and harm our precious environment, our property and our homes.

We resolve that this will not be permitted to happen. If you approve Kinder Morgan, sir, there indeed will be hell to pay.


Pipelines being driven by private equity firms through ratings agency they now own

Former federal cabinet minister and Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, whose recent work with major private equity firm Warburg Pincus has seem him become a strong proponent for multiple pipelines. (Photo: Canada2020/Flickr)
Former federal cabinet minister and Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, whose recent work with a major private equity firm has him acting as a strong advocate for multiple pipelines.  (Canada2020/Flickr)

By Joyce Nelson

You may have caught the Sept. 12 headline in the Globe and Mail, the Edmonton Journal, etc: “Canada needs new energy pipelines, bond rating agency says.”

A new report from DBRS, Canada’s credit ratings agency (CRA), says Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline expansion, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, and TransCanada Corp’s Energy East pipeline are all necessary, but, as the Edmonton Journal put it, the “strong political, environmental and regulatory opposition” to these projects throws “a big question mark over Canada’s energy future,” the report says.

Ratings agency bought by private equity firms

DBRS is Canada’s (small) equivalent to the big three CRAs: Moody’s, Standard & Poors (S&P), and Fitch, which wield enormous power around the world by granting or downgrading the Triple-A ratings of companies, countries, and governments. The threat of a downgrade by a CRA can create scary media stories, especially if the target is a local government.

In December 2014, DBRS was bought up by two huge private equity firms – Carlyle Group LP and Warburg Pincus LLC. Both invest billions in energy projects around the world.

Conflict of interest

Since the 1970s the CRAs (aside from sometimes issuing unsolicited ratings) are paid for their services not by investors who want to know the safety of a bond being issued, but by the bond issuers themselves – who obviously have a stake in getting a Triple-A rating for their investment vehicle. These factors came into play during the U.S. subprime mortgage bubble, when some investment banks were paying the big three CRAs millions of dollars for Triple-A ratings on what turned out to be toxic assets.

In July 2014, I wrote a three-part series (“Debunking the Bogeyman”) on CRAs for, so I knew a bit about how these CRAs operate. When I saw that DBRS had been purchased by Carlyle Group and Warburg Pincus, my first thought was: I wonder what those investment giants will do with DBRS?

Prentice delivers message for private equity firms

Fast-forward to September 12, 2016 and the new DBRS report, stating: “If pipeline infrastructure is not built, Canada’s energy sector increasingly risks the eventual loss of global market share” and “could eventually see their credit ratings change without more overseas access…”

The next day, September 13, Bloomberg reported that PM Justin Trudeau is said to be favouring Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion, but former Alberta premier Jim Prentice “warned Kinder Morgan’s project alone won’t be enough.”

Bloomberg quoted Prentice:

[quote]’We need pipelines, we need pipelines to the West Coast, and most advantageous for Canada of course are pipelines into the Asia-Pacific basin and Trans Mountain would certainly be helpful,’ Prentice, a Calgary-based adviser in the energy group at Warburg Pincus, said Tuesday at the Bloomberg Canadian Fixed Income Conference in New York.[/quote]

The Bloomberg quote from Prentice continued: “‘But we also need to bear in mind that Trans Mountain won’t solve the problem,’ because tankers that can navigate the region are too small to service Asia, he said.  Canada needs an energy port that can ship up to two million barrels per day to Asia, Prentice said, and Canadians should be concerned that investors are cooling to the country’s oil patch. ‘The concern that really should alarm us as Canadians is low-cost capital is exiting the Canadian basin,’ he said.”

So Warburg Pincus adviser Jim Prentice is endorsing the views of DBRS, owned by Warburg Pincus and the Carlyle Group, which have billions they want to loan to governments for investment in infrastructure. Prentice had earlier been a paid advisor for Enbridge in 2014, helping the company negotiate with First Nations opposed to Northern Gateway. 

Revolving door

BlackRock's New York headquarters
BlackRock’s New York headquarters

Making the picture even more interesting, on September 12 the Financial Post reported that Mark Jenkins, global head of private investments at the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is leaving to take a senior leadership role at the Carlyle Group. The CPPIB’s Mark Wiseman has already left to work for BlackRock, the biggest asset manager in the world.

As I reveal in my forthcoming book – Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism – all these big financial players are central to the infrastructure and privatization plans being rolled out for Canada and North America in the coming months. The Justin Trudeau Liberals are planning to spend $120 billion on infrastructure (by borrowing from private sources), and are readying for their 2017 budget announcement, which will reveal Phase 2 of their big infrastructure plans.

On November 14, BlackRock (which manages trillions of investment dollars) will host a private summit for major international investors hoping to loan billions of dollars to Canadian governments for infrastructure spending. On the speakers list are Justin Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, and other federal officials.

Will the Carlyle Group and Warburg Pincus be at that private summit? You can safely bet on it. Will the press be allowed to cover this private summit that includes our elected officials? That’s a big question. Will DBRS be playing a bigger role in the next few months? Stay tuned.     

Joyce Nelson is an award-winning freelance writer whose sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be pre-ordered at now.


Rafe: With May staying on, what’s next for the Green Party?

Photo: Laurel L Russwurm/Flickr
Photo: Laurel L Russwurm/Flickr

Whither the Green Party of Canada after its recent convulsion?

In order to answer that question I think it must be understood, perhaps conceded is the better word, that the Green Party isn’t like other parties and probably never will be. If it struggles to be what it never can be, it will go the way of Technocracy and Esperanto.

The Greens’ dilemma

I have, as you might expect, a Churchhill anecdote which explains what I am on about.

Back in the 1930s, the “Wilderness Years” as they were known, a man approached Churchill and asked him what it was like to be without a power at this critical stage of history.

Churchill growled, as only he could growl, “out of office perhaps – out of power no”.

This is both the strength and the dilemma of the Greens. Almost everybody in our facsimile of democracy wants to be with a winning political party. The fact is that we don’t have a democracy because of the way traditional parties give all power to the leader, creating a chimera of a democracy, papering over the reality of a dictatorship. Happily for the political leaders, their members don’t seem to care and the general public doesn’t seem to understand. These parties often pretend to be “grassroots” parties but they are anything but and the least grassroots of them all the is the tradition-bound NDP.

On the other hand the Green Party is not only grassroots, it’s as “green” as its name implies and doesn’t suit the strange game everyone else has set up. The Green Party is an expression of a change of public philosophy regarding the use of public resources. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to raise a large sums of money from industry or other entrenched interests.

Again, this is good news and bad news. The good part is that their presentations of what the people want are usually pretty close to being accurate. On the other hand, getting elected and doing anything about these issues is well nigh out of the question because developers have all the football songs and the rest of us are stuck with hymns.

One answer to this dilemma is to simply say the hell with it, the system doesn’t want us, we’ll just go with the flow.

That was the prevailing the mood until about 20 years ago when the general public got sick to death of what the established interests were doing to them and the places that they live. They were lied to so often that eventually they could no longer take it and started to ask pointed and serious questions of the great leaders who were bringing them all of these industrial benefits.

Moreover, the rape of the environment moved from being just unpleasant to being outright dangerous. The political landscape changed as many of the”right” moved leftward and the “Left”, noting this, sidled towards the center, a fact very much lost on establishment reactionaries.

That still does not get us past the point where this new movement has difficulty in reflecting ifself politically in the legislatures. The old line parties pay a certain amount of lip-service to more gentleness towards the environment, adding to the Green Party’s fundamental difficulties in gaining access.

Power without office

Here is where the recent contest between certain factions in the Green party and the leader Elizabeth May began and as hopefully ended. It’s almost axiomatic that the less chance a party has to win, the more political rascals want to take it over. In any event, it seems quite clear that Ms. May just survived a coup attempt which had no stronger moralistic basis than a desire of others to get rid of her and take her place.

The basic issue was between those who want to concentrate on gaining power at the expense of philosophy and those, led by Ms. May, who knew and could see from history that “power” and “office” we’re not the same thing. Her obvious determination was inspired by the fact that the Greens in Europe and Australia particularly, were very powerful, even though never in office.

They are accomplishing what the rank and file had wanted to accomplish in the first place – effecting change.

I’ve not spoken to Ms. May on this but I infer from what she has said and done that she realizes power to change is far more important then the trappings of office, where change will usually be thwarted by the establishment in one uniform or another.

It is not easy to keep the foot soldiers in line when there is no immediate reward visible over the horizon. I think, however, that Elizabeth May has made precisely the correct decision in saying that she will remain as a leader for 18 months. That gives the party the opportunity to sort out just what it wants to be and how it will get there.

If the Green party plays to its strength and pushes the boo birds aside, it will become an ever-stronger force for protecting the environment from those who would sell their soul to the highest bidder.

If she were simply to leave now, the basic party would be on death row. There would be little reason to think they could form a traditional kind of party and get into the usual political morass and no reason to believe they could become a party of strong  influence as it is elsewhere.

I wish her luck and hope that I am around long enough to see the end of this movie.


Elizabeth May, Rafe Mair debate Israel, BDS and Green Party’s future

Elizabeth May (photo: Laurel L. Russwurm/Flickr) and Rafe Mair
Elizabeth May (photo: Laurel L. Russwurm/Flickr) and Rafe Mair

UPDATE: Following heated debate – including that with Rafe Mair highlighted below – Elizabeth May has decided to stay on as Green Party of Canada leader.

What follows below is my recent exchange of letters with federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May over her high-profile dilemma with the party endorsing the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. But first, a few words to set the stage.

I began to hear rumours as you all did that Elizabeth May was going to quit the leadership of the Green Party over its resolution to support The BDS initiative, a worldwide effort to force Israel to treat Palestine and Palestinians fairly.

I then received a copy of a letter, generally circulated, sent by the former Director of Communications for the Green Party of Canada, Kieran Green, to Ms. May.

I must tell you frankly that, along with many British Columbians, I was much impressed by Ms. May’s accomplishments, supported her editorially here and elsewhere. We became friends.

I was and remain extremely disappointed and believe that Elizabeth May has let a great many people down and, perhaps worse, has taken, forgive me, the evil side of an issue, on the wrong side of history, and an issue that has nothing to do with the cause for which so many supported her so wholeheartedly.

I only hope that we don’t learn that she carries an offer from Justin Trudeau in her handbag.

Here is the correspondence between us, plus some highlights from Mr. Kieran Green’s letter to Elizabeth May:

Kieran Green’s Aug. 10 letter – select passages

[quote]…Today, Israel continues to commit crimes – bulldozing homes, building illegal settlements. In fact, Israel has violated more different international laws than just about any nation in the world today, including, but not limited to: illegal use of inhumane white phosphorous munitions; violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; use of collective punishment against civilians; expropriation of property from an occupied territory; claiming sovereignty over land in an occupied territory; extrajudicial executions; torture; deliberate military targeting of emergency medical first response personnel and vehicles; deliberate targeting of civilians; denial of humanitarian aid to a civilian population; use of civilians as human shields by military personnel. Many of these are explicitly war crimes under International Law…

…In supporting BDS, the Green party of Canada has stepped to the right side of history. Which side will you stand on?[/quote]

Letter from Rafe Mair to Elizabeth May – Aug. 11

[quote]Dear Elizabeth,

I whole heartedly with Kieran Green’s letter to you.

This is not a matter of anti-Semitism as the state of Israel and now you would have one believe is the issue – so convenient to Netanyahu – but a question of fair play for a minority driven out of their lands, now, by international law, occupied lands to be returned to their owners. Why you would support contrived self pity over the clear rights of Palestinians under international law, not to mention civilized morality, is beyond me. Anti-Semitism is not even an issue except as a phoney, self-serving whine. I spent 25 years in radio receiving complaints from the Canadian Jewish Congress, as an automatic reflex, any time I criticized the state of Israel.

Indeed, there is anti-Semitism as a major social issue in the world but in this context it is an irrelevant issue, contrived by Israel, not to draw attention to discrimination against Jews, but to serve its national interests.

Of course there has been atrociously uncivilized behaviour on both sides – that is the hallmark of war, especially civil war with deep religious hatred. However you may wish to parcel out that blame, there’s plenty to go around. For the Green Party, a party of moral principles, to deprive the Palestinian people of international and Canadian support for nationhood after all these years and suffering in refugee camps is, frankly, unbelievable. There is no question but that the Jewish lobby, both in the United States and Canada, has flogged the case that any support for Palestinians is anti-Semitic, a grossly unfair tactic which should be condemned by all decent people. I can’t believe that the Elizabeth May I know and admire could fall for this crap.

It’s abundantly clear that by no means is this the attitude of Jewish people in general – certainly not those that I have known, was law partners and political associates with, and travel with and see socially. It is not easy for them to get into a societal row over such matters; it never has been and never will be. Demographic groups tend to avoid internal squabbles; certainly mine does. While I don’t say that’s right, it’s natural not to want communities and even families fighting one another. Having said that, it’s the clear obligation of those who supply money and other support to the state of Israel to make it clear that depriving Palestinians of their own nation, by occupying and destroying their homes, “legally” stealing the land and building houses on it, is not on and will not be accepted, let alone supported. 

I find it impossible to understand how Elizabeth May, the humanitarian I’ve come to admire so greatly, would stake her leadership of the Green Party not on a “Green”  issue, which would be understandable, but in support of an Israeli government whose policies violate principles of basic humanity. How ironic, how awful it is to contemplate that the person who established The Green Party as a political force for such good in this country is apparently about to preside at its funeral.

I beg of you to reconsider.

Most sincerely,


Reply from Elizabeth May to Rafe Mair – Aug. 12

[quote]I gather Rafe’s missive went to more than me? Perhaps I should share this with you.

The Green Party should not have tried out Robert’s Rules of Order.  We have always used consensus based decision making. We always find common ground through mutual respect and shared values.  We actually violated core values in leaving consensus decision-making. ‎It is an absolute parallel with the electoral reform debate. Parliaments that operate under FPTP are like Roberts Rules of Order – nasty. Majoritarian and prone to policy lurches thru winner take all votes. Proportional Rep democracies strive for consensus and operate much better.  We accidentally backed into a process that violates our core values-   Just as we make the case that Canada should move to consensus!

I want to be clearer about why I opposed the resolution on BDS. Of course, I do not condemn people in the BDS movement.  In fact I am sponsoring a petition to reverse the House of Commons vote to demonize the movement itself.

My concern is that it is very divisive and, fairly or unfairly, is seen as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.  How divisive it is is very clear from what it just did to our party.

Criticism of Netanyahu’s actions is appropriate. In fact, I was the only party leader to criticize the excessive reaction by Netanyahu in bombarding Gaza in 2014.   The demand for Palestinian rights is appropriate.  This is all in existing GPC policy. Endorsing a series of social movement tactics is not something a political party does. For example, we can call for a two state solution and for Israel to stop the illegal expansions in occupied territory. We do not need to support one particular set of slogans and demands from a movement that is not a political party and whose demands make no sense for a party looking for solutions the Canadian Government can deliver.

Unfortunately, as noted above, the debate was run under new rules – Roberts Rules of Order.  Had we followed our usual and time-worn practice of consensus based decision making, this resolution would never have passed. It was too divisive.  A compromise would have been found.

As well,  due to a misunderstanding, my microphone was cut off in my only intervention, after 90 seconds.  What I had wanted to do when my mic was cut off was support the call from retired members of the Israeli security forces. This new group, Security First, is taking on Netanyahu. It calls for an end to illegal expansions by pointing out it makes Israel less secure. Supporting the same demands as being made by an outside group, BDS, but coming from retired Israeli defense and Mossad members is much smarter and will be more effective.

The range of options to get Israel to live up to international law could include sanctions and consumer boycotts.  In fact language like that was in a compromise amendment I wanted to support.  But it was ruled out of order.  It would have allowed us to speak in our own words, to keep us from being hijacked by a one-issue movement.

So to be really clear, I respect what many in the BDS movement are trying to do.  And I do not think the movement can be condemned as anti-Semitic, although it does attract some who are. It is just wrong to make an outside, and highly controversial movement, our policy.

I also look at what moves governments to change as Gandhi used to – by examining what will be effective. He once said he knew non-violent civil disobedience would move the British to leave India because he knew their conscience could be pricked. But he did not think it could work against a dictatorship.  The sanctions movement against South Africa worked because South Africa was a country with Commonwealth colonial history. It really stung South African Afrikaners to be thrown out of the Commonwealth. They wanted back in. It was their “family.”

Israel is entirely different.  It is a country established from the ashes of the unspeakable genocide. It feels surrounded by enemies. Its leadership and citizenry is not pricked by conscience by these tactics; it does not feel excluded and wishing to be accepted.  It feels under assault and threatened. It draws more inward and erects more walls – figurative and literal. Through a history of victimization and genocide, boycotts and sanctions are experienced by the mainstream Canadian Jewish community, by Greens in Israel and by the Israeli government an attack on Israel’s right to exist.  It does not move or promote change.  I am convinced BDS will never advance peace or Palestinian rights. Working to promote the views of retired Israeli armed forces members and promoting more Canadian government support for Palestinian rights, for aid and development assistance is where we should be as a party.  Unfortunately,  I was not allowed to say any of this in the plenary debate.

You may still condemn my views, but at least you have the benefit of knowing what they are.


Rafe Mair’s reply to Elizabeth May – Aug. 12


I find it difficult to accept the breakup of a party in which Canadians placed so much hope on a failed microphone. For that’s what it amounts to. If you think the national party can carry on without you, you’re kidding yourself. Après vous, le deluge. Naturally that would have to change but for the next couple of years, the party and Elizabeth May will be synonymous unless, of course, you quit. The BC Party under Weaver is finished as I told you over a year ago. What a disaster.

I don’t need any lectures on the horrors of  the Holocaust. It happened at the most impressionable time of my youth and for the rest of my life I shall remember the Atrocity films we all watched and the dozen refugee kids that came to our school for Grades XI & XII. We all learned a hell of a lot from these brave contemporaries who became classmates and friends. One of them, Tommy Korican, became an outstanding Canadian diplomat.

Your letter betrays, however, a fundamental error and Netanyahu and his gang will love you for it.

The Holocaust had nothing to do with the Palestinians.

You can argue that they should all have read the Old Testament and embraced Zionism, but would you and your family have done so?

There is no point going over uncountable miles of tragic ground. There is an Israel and it must be able to protect itself. But surely to God those that support and finance her have to condemn and force a halt to her egregious lawlessness in simply stealing Palestinian land and displacing Palestinians with settlers, no? How can you even say a word about Israel without your anger rising at this massive ongoing crime, permitted if not encouraged by the US in particular? How would you feel to be a nation of ancient occupants told that you can’t be a nation until Mr. Netanyahu says you can? The only weapons at our disposal are aid and support.

We have an obligation to Palestinians to bring some order and sense to this tragedy. Do you have any idea, Elizabeth, how Israeli Arabs are treated? The gross discrimination in all matters, much including municipal and school funding? The constant harassment with checkpoints and intolerable delays? What the hell has this to do with the Holocaust?

Of course, as I said in my last letter, there’s blame on both sides, plenty enough to go around. But when you open your eyes and look at the 2016 situation, the next move is clearly Israel’s and as long as there’s a Netanyahu, and there always is one close at hand, undeterred if not actually encouraged by the West, there can never be justice for Palestine and Palestinians.

The Green Party self immolating in Canada is sad but we’ll get over it. The Green Party destroying itself because it can’t deal with international issues because a mic didn’t work, meaning I suppose that but for a short, sharp lecture from the leader all would have been well, makes you all look like damned fools who couldn’t run the Village of Lions Bay, much less a country. If it weren’t so serious it could be a P.G.Wodehouse book.

Leadership is much more than what one does on the hustings and, critically, includes what the leader leaves as a legacy.


Rafe Mair,
Lions Bay, BC[/quote]


Rafe: What it would take for the NDP to start winning

Outgoing NDP Leader Tom Mulcair at the party's 2016 convention in Edmonton (USW/Flickr)
Outgoing NDP Leader Tom Mulcair at the party’s 2016 convention in Edmonton (USW/Flickr)

I’ve watched the NDP with considerable interest since it’s foundation in 1961 as an amalgamation of organized labour and other left-wing groups. I thought that it would form government within a decade because  the Conservative Party would fold and go away, the Liberals would move to the right, leaving the NDP on the centre-left in position to win the big prize. Not for the first time, I was dead wrong. There were times, however, as after the Mulroney romp of 1984 and the Tory wipeout in 1993 that the time seemed right – but it was not to be.


It’s not that the NDP haven’t had influence – they have, especially during the Liberal minority of the 70s. The problem is that the NDP, like most political parties, has power as its raison d’être.

Why hasn’t that victory happened?

Nagged by that question, the NDP nationally is in a period of introspection, with a lame-duck leader, Tom Mulcair, for two years. What should they discuss?  I have a couple of ideas.

A party of factions

Be warned that this analysis is most unprofessional and based on gut feeling rather than political science.

I’ve always doubted that the NDP ever became a “real” party even after their exhaustive amalgamation process in 1960, when the CCF joined labour to form the present party.

Every party has factions and the leader’s main job is to bring them together, especially at election time. The Liberals and Tories are much better at this than the NDP – perhaps because they are used to winning, know what it takes and, therefore, are far less likely to fall back on principles when votes are at stake. Not especially honourable but effective.

Dave Barrett as BC NDP premier
Dave Barrett as BC NDP premier

I had the great honour to be invited to Dave Barrett’s 80th birthday a few years ago and the large crowd was really interesting to behold. It wasn’t a matter of who was there but who wasn’t. At NDP conventions these divisions are more visible than that those of other parties.

I want to stress that this is not a criticism but simply an observation of priorities, the groups of people each party puts together.

In the NDP, I would argue that this inability to coalesce is because supporters are unwilling to abandon the notion that occupation counts as much as political allegiance as the criterion of loyalty. If I were leading the NDP, God forbid for both of us, I would concentrate on this problem so that at least at election time, the NDP would look like a political party, not a coalition of otherwise not terribly friendly tribes.

Lessons from Labour?

The temptation is to look at the UK and ask how it is that the Labour Party took power there 25 years after it was founded, yet 55 years after the NDP was founded and nearly 85 years after its predecessor was started, that party is a perennial distant also ran.

But comparisons are odious. In the UK, Labour came to power as part of the self-destruction of the Liberal party that started in World War I, when Lloyd George usurped the premiership from Asquith. The first Labour government, under Ramsay Macdonald, in 1924, a minority, lasted but nine months. Macdonald returned to power—this time as the largest party—in 1929 but was quickly overwhelmed by the Great Depression, which badly split the inexperienced Labour cabinet trying to find solutions. In 1931, Macdonald formed a National Government in which only two of his Labour colleagues agreed to serve, the majority being Conservative MPs. It was dissolved in 1935.

In 1945, Clement Attlee became the first Labour leader to have a majority but lost it in 1950. A fair assessment would be that the first Labour leader to be a legitimate contender, election after election (the Liberals now a spent force), was Harold Wilson in 1964.

Still, the party has been subject to splits, the most important being the Liberal Democrats in 1988 and the present Scottish Nationalists. Under Tony Blair, Labour won massively in 1997 but only after a break with organized Labour and rebranding itself New Labour, a party of the centre.

Though comparisons are dangerous, it’s fair to say the UK experience has got some lessons within it. The alliance between the NDP and Organized Labour, while never as strong as in the UK, is there and a win/lose situation. The win comes from huge funding but the lose comes in the suspicion of Labour influence by much of the general public, not excluding union members.

The myth of worker support

Any union leader reading this, in public at least, would protest that the rank-and-file are solidly behind the NDP. But that’s not true, wasn’t true in Great Britain and probably never will be true. It is a myth by which unions kept enormous clout with the Labour Party until John Smith greatly lessened it and Tony Blair won with New Labour in 1997. When John Horgan recently apologized to a powerful labour leader for changing party policy without telling him, it demonstrated that Union leaders still have considerable clout with the NDP.

It is not, therefore, a fair fight. Liberals and Tories may lose portions of the swing vote but, by and large, they keep their core support – the very essential thing the NDP doesn’t do well. If they did, they would win elections.

What, then, can the NDP do about this?

Prepare to offend

It’s not easy because it requires offending ancient allies, notably Labour. Moving the party to the right offends many NDPers not in unions, who are traditionalists and want the party to remain as close to academic socialism as possible. That is the bad news.

The good news is that most of those annoyed people have nowhere else to go. Even better news is that issues previously seen as owned by the left are now spread across the political spectrum, the most obvious being environmentalism but including most social issues. People who hitherto would rather have been caught in a house of ill-fame than vote NDP, are prepared to be made welcome.

A clear choice

It seems to me, then, that the NDP face a pretty clear choice: Either they change their concentration to the new, larger and less committed audience or they retreat into dogmatic exclusivity.

Many would vastly prefer the latter. To them, their beliefs are almost religious and to amend them for political convenience would be unacceptable hypocrisy. Others, however, would like the chance to do something other than bitch.

The NDP has had some first rate leaders, both political and lay, but to stay in power has required almost inhuman tact and has sapped the party’s strength.

Deliberate and introspect, folks, but sooner or later you must your choose: Do nothing, remain pure and lose, or take positive steps, get a little dirt on you and win.


Rafe: Elizabeth May and the Greens should double down on BC

Federal Green Leader Elizabeth May with Provincial Leader Andrew Weaver (Green party/facebook)
Federal Green Leader Elizabeth May with Provincial Leader Andrew Weaver (Green party/facebook)

It being just over a year until the next provincial election I fret that people really have no choice.  The government is bloody awful and the opposition is scarcely a government in waiting and a lousy opposition to boot – what to do?

What about a new party “coming up the middle”,  something that pundits always talk about but almost never happens?

Wouldn’t be the first time

Well, it happened once in my lifetime, back in 1952, my 21st year. The government, a coalition of Liberals and Conservatives, was appalling, although nothing as bad as Christy’s bunch. The opposition CCF, now NDP, were led by Harold Winch, a highly respected man, their problem being that the right wing had done such a good job of demonizing them that they had a hard time attracting voters outside a select group of supporters.

Longtime Bc Premier WAC Bennett's dream is dead
WAC Bennett

The Coalition split, ran separately and, of course, the CCF ran, but suddenly there was another player in the game, former conservative backbencher William Andrew Cecil Bennett, running for something called Social Credit, which had little presence in British Columbia and no political leader.

To the amazement of all, Bennett wound up with 19 seats to 18 for the CCF and after a great deal of tooing and froing by Lieutenant-Governor Clarence Wallace, Bennett, who only became leader after the election, was premier and the Social Credit party became government – for 20 years!

A little harmless speculation

I don’t say that it’s 1952 again or, even if similarities are great, that the same thing will happen. It is, I think, both fun and perhaps even helpful to speculate a bit from time to time. If nothing else, it makes for great conversation over a beer or two.

I think that three principles prevail – my own, namely, “You don’t have to be a 10 in politics – you can be a 3 if everyone else is 2”; there’s this from former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson: “In politics, six weeks is an eternity”; and then the general proposition that “politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum”. With those thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at the Green Party as the logical third party in the game.

What would it take?

One must bear in mind, of course, that there were four parties in the 1952 election, although I don’t think it mattered much, as the Liberals were ill and the Tories terminally so.

We have questions: First, is the division in British Columbia such that people are looking for a new option?

Secondly, and most importantly, could that alternative be the Green Party, and, if so, under what circumstances?

Going on the 1952 experience, if you’d asked that question about The Social Credit League you’d have drawn a blank stare. 2017 is different in this respect – the Green Party does have a presence in British Columbia, in the nation and indeed in the world. It is the same as 1952 in that the Greens have never been close to gaining power.

There’s a second consideration, however, that arises out of the previous one. The big issue that concerns the public today – and the Green Party is the result of that concern – is the environment. This issue has taken hold around the world and no longer can the Greens be easily dismissed . The Greens’ problem is that people still see them as a one-trick pony, no matter how hard they plead otherwise. Will the public concern about the antediluvian attitudes of the others about the environment trump these concerns? Might people just say, “What the hell? They couldn’t possibly be worse than what we have and at least they’ll care about environmental matters.”

Greens have a shot in more than one riding

In 1952 there was only one constituency that Social Credit could see as a possibility, Mr. Bennett’s home in Kelowna. In BC today the prospect for the Greens is better in that Dr. Andrew Weaver, their leader, has a seat and has had a term in the legislature as a Green to get experience and strut his stuff.

There are other constituencies, very much including the one I live in, which could easily elect a Green – in fact I find it difficult to think of who else could win in the Howe Sound area. The Liberal MLA has been an appalling failure, having paid no attention to the deep concerns about the potential LNG plant in Squamish. The NDP, who might have a chance under normal circumstances, is a victim of Mr. Horgan’s commitment to LNG and are scarcely seen as friends.

The Greens ran a very good campaign in the last federal election but were victimized by strategic voting by a public that wanted to be rid of John Weston more than they cared about who they elected. That will not be the case in 2017.

LNG helps Greens

Artist's rendering of proposed floating LNG terminal in Saaninch Inlet - Malahat LNG
Artist’s rendering of proposed floating LNG terminal in Saaninch Inlet – Malahat LNG

Are there other constituencies similar to mine? I suspect the Cowichan area would be fruitful given the government’s support of an LNG plant at Bamberton in Saanich Inlet. There may be others. It’s probably true to say that most ridings have a fairly prominent environmentalist in their midst so that whatever candidate the Greens choose will be reasonably well known, a matter of great importance.

What’s unknown is the leadership ability of Dr. Andrew Weaver.

Does Weaver have the right stuff?

I don’t know Dr. Weaver but what I have heard is all good – except that he supported the Liberals’ horrendous private river power program back in the 2009 election. He is not well known in the province, is not seen as a particularly charismatic individual but is very well-informed, capable, and sincere. But can those qualities be translated into a winning leader for a party that until now has been a “no-hoper”.

It’s here I make one of my famous way-out suggestions.  It won’t be followed, so there’s no possible way we’ll know whether or not I might be right. Those are the very best kind of suggestions because if either the Liberals or the NDP win in 2017, I’ll be able to say, “If only those idiots had accepted my suggestion!”

May could pull it off

Elizabeth May with the Media (T.J. Watt/Green Party of Canada/Flickr)
Elizabeth May with the Media (T.J. Watt/Green Party of Canada/Flickr)

Here is my proposal: If Elizabeth May was the leader of the BC Green party, I think it would be in there with a chance not just for opposition but who knows, a repeat of 1952?

This isn’t a knock on Dr. Weaver. He has a done an excellent job. Elizabeth May, however, is a one-off, having had considerable electoral experience becoming extremely popular right across the country. She won an enormous victory in her own riding against the Trudeau sweep and is, if my riding is any example, very popular with the grass roots. She has that mysterious charisma as all who have met and heard her will attest. It also helps that she is extremely well-informed on all major issues.

As I understand it, the Green Party’s federal and provincial wings are separate so if Ms. May were to lead the BC wing, it would require 100% cooperation from Dr. Weaver.

Having a been a politician I know that Dr. Weaver is not likely to be thrilled at the idea of standing aside for Elizabeth May or anybody else. He doesn’t have enemies in the party that I know of and no one wants to see him turfed out. Weaver’s consideration is that if May can make substantial inroads into the Canadian political situation by a strong performance in BC, the Greens as a whole suddenly gain legitimacy. I don’t believe that the Green Party can do well nationally until the voting system changes to proportional representation and God only knows when or if that will ever happen – UNLESS,  it demonstrates that it could win in a Canadian province. That would have to be the reason that Dr. Weaver would consider any sacrifice.

Unlikely story

Being a reasonable man at heart, I don’t think that Dr. Weaver is going to step aside, nor do I think that Ms. May wants to be the leader of the BC party. That doesn’t mean that Dr. Weaver should not step aside nor that Ms. May should not come to BC – they would have to put the Party first – just that I don’t think it’s going to happen.

That being so, I don’t think the Greens can capitalize sufficiently on the horror story that exists in Victoria. My opinion is very different if Elizabeth May is leader because what voters are looking for more than just getting rid of the incompetent Clark government is leadership, something pitifully lacking in Christy Clark and John Horgan and a quality they’ve had every opportunity to see in Elizabeth May.

I leave my prediction like this – with Dr. Weaver as the leader, fine man that he is, the Green Party has two chances: slim and none. With Elizabeth May as leader, they’re in with a helluva good chance.


Rafe: MP’s Woodfibre LNG meetings to focus on climate…what about fish, tanker and health risks?

Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)
Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)

Well, there’s great excitement in the federal constituency of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country – Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones is having not one, not two, but count ’em, three public hearings on the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant, far and away the most contentious issue in this neck of the woods.

Sticking to climate change

No, that’s not quite accurate because the public hearings are billed to be just about greenhouse gases and climate change, not about such things as the emissions that would come from the plant, the dangers to the newly-revived sea life, nor, of critical importance, the narrowness of Howe Sound, making it totally unsuitable to LNG tankers. There is another issue which no one in government talks about, it evidently not being polite to say anything – Woodfibre LNG is run by a tax-cheating crook best known in Indonesia for burning down jungles.

A welcome change from Harper days

Now, I am writing this before the first meeting and my firm suspicion is that the above issues will be raised, thank God, even though they are distinctly not on the agenda.

It is, however, quite an exciting time because we’re not used to members of Parliament talking to us, except to tell us what government thinks we should be thinking. Indeed, when it was brought to our new MP’s attention that the folks back home were very restless about this issue and actively planning ways and means to make nuisances of themselves, within hours she had scheduled these meetings.

Publicity exercise?

Not everybody thinks these are a wonderful happening. I am not alone in believing it’s all a crock of crap and a political publicity exercise by the government.

The federal government obviously doesn’t give a rat’s ass about global warming or climate change.

Why do I say that?

Well, the issue was great for giving the rookie Justin Trudeau a stage for an early dog and pony show before the world in Paris, and it certainly looked promising when Canada decided we’d wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

Then Mr. Trudeau came home and the next thing we knew, pipelines were being built as usual, new ones approved, fossil fuels coming out of the ground in ever increasing amounts, then shipped to countries that couldn’t wait to send gunk into the atmosphere. Fossil fuel companies are acting as if the Paris conference didn’t happen and, for all intents and purposes, it didn’t. The fossil fuel companies not only control our newspapers but our governments too.

The actions don’t fit the words

Let me ask Pamela Goldsmith-Jones a question or two.

I confess to being a bit of a cynic, but when I look at Mr. Trudeau in Paris and then listen to him back in Ottawa it occurs that I have two stories to choose from and, based on his words and past performances, I can safely assume that the fossil fuel companies are in no danger, their subsidies will continue, their pipelines will be built, the National Energy Board will continue to be a sham and it’s business as usual. That being the case, why the hell would I waste one second of my time listening to you, Madam MP, explain how concerned the government is about climate change and GHGs?

Focus on Howe Sound

Now, if you really wanted to find out what your constituents are fussing about these days you wouldn’t talk about climate change and GHG’s, which, after all, is a pretty easy subject to bullshit about and then do nothing, but you’d deal with what are the issues specific to Howe Sound. I say that because greenhouse gases and climate change is a universal issue and, if not addressed, the world will expire. What do you expect us to add to Paris?

No, Madame MP, let’s take a look at the potential emissions from the proposed plant and what harm they will do will not only to people but also to the renewed sea life, now once more abundant thanks a great deal to be concerned and generous residents of the Howe Sound area who worked so hard for the last 25 years on their restoration.

Woodfibre boss is bad news

Woodfibre LNG- Shady PR firms, lobby violations, fraudulent owner - Is this the kind of business BC wants to welcome
Sukanto Tanoto (right)

Let’s talk, Pamela, if I may be so bold, about the ownership of Woodfibre LNG. Sukanto Tanoto is world-known in the industry as being bad news. His record as a big time tax cheat puts him in a class by himself. His environmental record shows him to be an uncaring industrialist who cuts down or sets fire to anything that gets in his way.

Furthermore, Pam, it’s easily demonstrated that his Canadian company is setup so that skating taxes and royalties into tax-free Singapore is child’s play.

Now, it may be that Mr. Tanoto will see the light and suddenly care deeply for the environment, pay his taxes like we all do and be a wonderful corporate citizen. And, of course, pigs might fly.

Shipping LNG is risky business

On the critical, fundamental issue of the width of Howe Sound, no scientist would deny there will be accidents and and with LNG tankers, they are very serious and deadly. The Department of Environment concedes that there will be accidents which means that it’s not a matter of if we have calamities, but when.

The United States and generally accepted international standards of width, as well as those of SIGGTO, the industry organization, make it abundantly clear that LNG tanker traffic in Howe Sound is too dangerous to countenance.

When are you going to talk about this issue?

Constituents ready for serious discussion

Many of your constituents, Pam, would like you to hold open meetings and deal with the questions which specifically concern the residents of the Howe Sound area. This is not a NIMBY issue but one for all of BC. Howe Sound is the southernmost Canadian fjord and one of the most beautiful in the world. Why would you, as our member of Parliament, not want to hear from us on these issues and why wouldn’t you not take them directly to the prime minister and make it clear to him that the people in your constituency are deadly serious about fighting WLNG up to and including civil disobedience?

Pam, I don’t join the enthusiastic applause for your sudden decision to have three meetings on climate change and GHGs. It’s a copout and, frankly, not only is no better than we got from your predecessor who simply ignored us; it’s worse. At least Weston was honest enough to say that his boss loved the idea of the LNG plant, that he, Weston, also thought it was a terrific idea and if his constituents didn’t like it, too bloody bad.

That attitude got him badly beaten by you in the election but I say to you that if you don’t take your constituents seriously, very seriously, on this issue, we’ll run a fencepost with hair and thrash you.

High Hopes

Like most Canadians, Pam, I had high hopes for Mr. Trudeau but now I see that when it gets down to cases, the fossil fuel industry with all its money and power will carry the day and Mr.Trudeau and the government will go along and, like Weston before you, you will too.

If I’m wrong, it will be my huge pleasure to shout my apologies from the rooftops – and from here.