Category Archives: Western Canada

Rafe Mair: How Liberal myths about the NDP distort BC’s political history

Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr and John Horgan (BCNDP/Flickr)

Let’s look at some political myths and near-myths.

The BC Liberals are hammering away at the NDP, saying that the last time they were in office,  it fiscally ruined the province; this from the government that in 16 years, in 2016 dollars, has doubled the provincial debt.

They say that when they took over in 2001 from the NDP, the province was in catastrophic financial shape. In fact the NDP left a surplus of $1.5 Billion.

The Liberals claim they have had 5 straight balanced budgets.

Well, you can have one too. Form a little private company, put your house and car in it, give it the money to make payments, and, presto! Your household budget is balanced. That’s precisely how the Liberal government operates – if you simply take BC Hydro and ICBC out of the picture, their budget is nice and balanced.

Your company is in lousy shape, of course,  and your banker will soon catch up to you. Governments  don’t have to worry about things like that because they are hugely valuable customers and the bank knows the government always has the taxpayer to soak. 

Cartoon by Greg Perry

As so often is the case, the cartoon tells it best, as surely is the case here, proved by Greg Perry.

Dave Barrett, the first NDP premier, was the bête noir of my era and while he certainly wasn’t a great premier, was much better than we admitted, with several accomplishments still very evident, including the Agricultural Land Reserve, ICBC, along with very important reforms in the Legislature. He did some dumb things like buying Ocean Falls, a Victoria restaurant thereafter known as Barrett’s Beanery, Panko Poultry – giving the opposition the marvellous nickname Pinko Panko, “All Left Wings and Assholes” – and Swan Valley, a huge agriculture failure he somehow escaped blame for.

It’s too easily forgotten by the Right that, contrary to their allegations that Barrett favoured unions, he lost the 1975 election because of back to work legislation. In spite of solemn and learned pronouncements by Socreds of the day, like Rafe Mair, a Kamloops lawyer, the sky didn’t fall, business didn’t move en masse to Alberta, and communism was somehow kept at bay.

I’m going to leave out Bill Bennett because I was part of that government, except to observe that, contrary to opposition rumours, the hospitals didn’t close, the poor were not sent to workhouses, nor were unions disbanded and their leaders thrown in jail.

Bill Vander Zalm unquestionably destroyed the Social Credit Party, opening the way for Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark and was a first class, all-time example of how not to govern by consensus.

Rita Johnston was not there long enough to be judged and was the unofficial sacrificial lamb for everything associated with Vander Zalm.

Mike Harcourt was a weak premier, unable to handle a scandal he had no part in. I believe that his successor, Glen Clark, was a very good but most unlucky premier. The Fast Ferries were a mistake that was made to look worse by the giveaway price Campbell sold them for, but chickenfeed compared to any of half a dozen by Campbell/Clark.

If a fair-minded person does any research, it’s obvious that the Dimitrios Pilarinos scandal should have borne by the Crown for showboating in the original search of Glen Clark’s residence, intolerable delay, and proceeding on a paucity of evidence of wrongdoing – bloody stupidity, yes, but, as the trial judge said, “There is nothing in his conduct that crosses the line from an act of folly to behaviour calling for criminal sanctions.”

Dan Miller was simply a short stand-in but Ujjal Dosanjh indicates a justifiable reason one might be leery of the NDP – but more to do with the party than the premier.

Unity has never been the NDP’s strong suit and anyone who attended the leadership convention that made Dosanjh leader can attest to that. The dissension, which almost seemed funny at the time, carried over into government and from, my vantage point, Dosanjh was dead on arrival at the premier’s office.

What is the current state of affairs? The NDP lost in 2013, blowing a huge lead by choosing the last few days to hold their traditional eating of their young. How secure is Horgan, given his tepid-at-best record as Opposition leader? Would he lead a stable NDP Government, an oxymoron?

Libs stick together, no matter the consequences

The Liberals are the very opposite – they remain loyal when sane and sensible people would long before have thrown the leader under a bus, but you have to ask yourself if this philosophy, though directly opposite that of the NDP, is really any better if it just perpetuates the term of a lousy premier? For it sure as hell isn’t superior morality at work, but a huge desire to win – no matter what the consequences – that transcends all other considerations. Any damned fool, myself included, knows that if these were normal times, Christy Clark wouldn’t have a prayer in a leadership race but, at election time, all leadership failings are not only ignored, but the Liberal party, with its long tradition of lying through its teeth to win, goes to work on this speciality with an experience none can come close to, much less match.

You will not find a word coming from Liberals about the real issues, the actual – not phoney – fiscal situation; you will think that there never was a BC Hydro or ICBC, and you can forget about integrity, honesty and truthfulness. Needless to say, social services like mental illness, violence against women, kids in need, homelessness, health lineups and so on won’t even be hinted at. You will hear the carefully manicured mantra about balanced budgets, job creation, and the destruction of the province if the NDP are elected.

Why your local MLA doesn’t matter

If there is such a thing as mass hypnosis, it’s evidenced in the notion that the quality of the candidate should be the determining factor. Every day I read the comics online, having long ago given up making charitable donations to Postmedia, and every day I see ads for our Liberal MLA and allegations about his many achievements on our behalf. In fact, he’s done nothing that each of his colleagues haven’t done or, put another way, if our MLA was a scarecrow or a fencepost with hair, they would have as much right to take credit. Whenever I hear someone say Joe Blow or Sally Slim would make an excellent MLA, I ask, “Why?”

This will be hard to swallow, folks – unless your MLA winds up in Cabinet, they will have ZERO influence upon policy or statutes and if a cabinet minister, unless one of three or four key ministers, not much. When that road is built or the grant goes to the local sports event and you are the MLA, by all means, take credit, because the public is probably dumb enough to believe you. In fact, you know full well that the money came because the party wants the seat and couldn’t care less about whose ass occupies a government seat in the Legislature.

To put it bluntly, policy and legislation are made in the premier’s office, with a bare handful of ministers involved. It’s passed in a cabinet meeting where the ministers know that if they cross the premier they’ll be out and on the backbench, their car will be gone, so will 1st class travel and their pay cut in half. When former US House of Representatives Speaker Sam Rayburn said, “to get along, you must go along,” he knew what he was talking about.

When the bill is voted on and you are a government MLA, you vote yes. If you don’t, the penalty can be as high as being thrown out of caucus and the party. I beg of you to understand that there is not a particle of democracy involved and your MLA could be replaced by a voting machine operated by the premier’s foot with no loss of democracy – for the simple reason it was never there in first place. Under our so-called “Responsible Government” system, it’s the party, not the individual that counts. Thus, I leave you with this irrefutable advice:

Vote for the party and don’t trouble about who your MLA is because it just doesn’t matter.*

* Any who would like my paper on Responsible Government, free of charge, please contact the publisher.


Rafe: Christy Clark must go!

British Columbians have had enough of Christy Clark, says Rafe Mair (Province of BC/Flickr)

The Christy Clark government and Clark herself must go!

I am not a socialist but neither are the NDP. Of course, we must have a thriving economy that supports our necessities and has room for earned luxuries. What we can no longer do, if we wish to have a British Columbia useful for enjoyment of life, is let entrepreneurial ambitions and corporate influence on government trump all other values.

Even if you do place the economy above all else, you have to examine the Clark Keystone Kops’ self-proclaimed business acumen, which, even in these good economic times, has doubled the provincial debt and ruined our former crown jewel, BC Hydro, and, having bankrupted it in all but name, committed it to a further $10 billion for Site C for power we don’t need and for which we have no customers

If you’re thick enough to believe that the Liberals’ declared balanced budgets are remotely honest, leave now – you are beyond salvation and will obviously believe anything.

This is my bottom line: Let’s just say that there were no other issues of consequence than these in this election. Would you reelect any government that had doubled the provincial debt in the past 14 years and had presided over the ruination of the largest and most successful public corporation in the history of the Province?

Remember, the Liberals not only kept this secret – the horrific debacle that has ruined BC Hydro has been exposed entirely by private citizens. The IPP issue, the ruination of rivers, the loss of fish, the outrageous sweetheart deals in favour of private power donor pals of Christy to the huge cost to Hydro ratepayers. The pay-offs to cronies was dealt with in the elections of 2009 and 2013 only by private citizens like Tom Rankin, Damien Gillis, Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee and others including me, who spoke all over the province and have consistently written about it since and acquired their evidence from public-spirited people like Norman Farrell, Arthur Caldicott, and Erik Andersen, all private citizens. And at the end of the day, nothing from the Liberal party loyalist, Suzanne Anton, the pliant Attorney-General, not a resignation from any of the guilty, just massive incompetence with a load of political pay-offs thrown in.

This wasn’t rocket science – it was obvious, easily understood, oozing with incriminatory evidence from every pore. The Liberal government in a dozen years fucked up (no other term works) BC Hydro financially as well as ruining scores of rivers, without sufficient protest from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition or a soupçon of help from the Mainstream Media or the Greens. We know that the Green Party leader, Dr. Weaver, who’s about as green as last year’s Christmas tree, supported ruining the environment with so-called “run of river projects” because, without bothering to first look at one like the Ashlu, he proclaimed this outrageous environmental evil “clean, green power!” Here you have a hugely successful Crown Corporation, very popular, with a monopoly, a large customer base, ruined financially by this government, yet if it weren’t for a handful of persistent private citizens, over a decade of never quitting, no one would ever know!

As economist Erik Andersen said very recently:

[quote]I continue to stand by my words of several years ago. The board and management at BC Hydro have been either economic and financial illiterates or dutifully following the orders of those not having the public’s best interests in mind. [emphasis added][/quote]

All this plus, in constant dollars, the government virtually doubled the real provincial debt with Christy Clark, in four years, while pretending to balance budgets.

One has to wonder what else we don’t know!

I’m hard pressed to think of a single accomplishment of this bunch on the fiscal side and on the social services side their incompetence and lack of concern or even elementary decency borders on the cruel.

What about Horgan and the NDP?

BC NDP leadership race down to John Horgan
Time to give the NDP’s John Horgan a chance, says Rafe Mair.

I have no doubt that Mr. Horgan is an honest man and that alone makes him my choice as premier. I know many of his backbenchers and have no doubt of their integrity. I tell you straight that I’m very disappointed in some of Horgan’s stated policies, especially in my riding – specifically the proposed Woodfibre LNG at Squamish.

But I have learned some things over the past 8 1/2 decades, one being that you never really know about a new leader until they’ve had a chance. The premier’s office, in Samuel Johnson’s great phrase, “concentrates the mind wonderfully”.

On the other hand, there’s nothing left to know about Christy Clark. There can surely be no doubt that she’s the worst premier with the worst government in living memory. I would rather support someone for whom there is reasonable hope, and who couldn’t possibly be worse, than have the certainty of 4 more years of Christy Clark.

I don’t know about you but I often look at what’s seen as a minor thing in making my judgment on a person’s character. As we learn here from Mike Smyth, Christy Clark has cost taxpayers, not the Liberal Party, folks, for “photography: $923,374 to be precise, for the salaries and massive travel expenses of two full-time photographers to take still photos and videos for the government.

“The pictures and videos provide positive content for the government’s social-media channels on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.”

With typical raw, blatant hypocrisy, here’s what Premier Clark says in her latest Liberal Party election pledge:

[quote]Controlling government spending is the foundation, it’s the bedrock, of what we’re trying to do.[/quote]

This woman is not only vain and incompetent beyond description, she’s incapable of telling the truth as she makes us look like fools to the rest of the country and beyond.

Again, Cromwell’a words in dismissing the Rump Parliament seem so apt: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”



Rafe: BC Green candidate Lia Versaevel brings a lot to the table

Lia Versaevel (photo: BC Green Party)
MLA candidate for Nanaimo-North Cowichan Lia Versaevel (photo: BC Green Party)

This coming election, May 9, is the most unsatisfactory one I can remember since, perhaps, 1952,  when the old Coalition broke up. Most people I talk to throw up their hands, saying such a terrible choice – a corrupt, cheating, lying, government and an opposition that hasn’t shown any leadership at all and gives no confidence they’ll be any better the last NDP bunch.

I tend to agree.

At first, I wasn’t going to do any election interviews, mainly because I knew that neither leader would be much interested and I could see no advantage to the reader in  hearing from most of the candidates, David Eby of the NDP being probably the one exception.

My own political persuasion is Green but I am not a member of the party and while I support Elizabeth May federally, I think that Dr. Weaver is a distinct liability to the BC party. His views on IPPs and BC Hydro, propounded by him since 2009, are so thoroughly discredited that his continuing to hold them surely disqualifies him as leader of any party that cares anything about the environment and fiscal responsibility.

But there is the future to consider. It surely is not going to always be this way but I assume, and I hope I’m right, that the present lot in government have so soiled their nest that the political vacuum in the centre, now being filled inadequately by the NDP, will leave room for the Green party to become a substantial player.

Green space

The Greens are unlike other political parties in that they truly are a “movement” rather than a natural political entity and that brings strengths and weaknesses. The strengths have never been adequately recognized by Greens themselves. As Churchill remarked in his “wilderness years”, “I may be out of office but certainly not out of power.” Thus it is with the Greens in many parts of the world as they develop slowly but steadily into a political force. They are in many countries the conscience of the nation and the ones driving the agenda because governments are afraid of what would happen to their party if the Greens attained office. Great environmental strides have been made in Europe, South America, Australia and, when you think about it, North America as well, partly by reason of the Green presence.

Gaining office is a long, slow process and Greens must recognize that if they’re ever to succeed. With that thought in mind, I looked at a CV and the usual election crap from a woman named Lia Versaevel who is seeking election in Nanaimo-North Cowichan and I was intrigued to the point I wanted an interview. I am very pleased that I did because it turned out to be quite a rewarding experience.

A little about Lia

Lia – she’ll have to forgive my familiarity with a surname like hers – is a youthful 61-year-old teacher, who has a deep and active interest in community affairs. It quickly caught my attention that her central concern is the Salish Sea and, in particular, the fish that are there, but, more importantly, the ones that are meant to be there. What struck me is that she had a specific and very important social and commercial interest to get all “green” about. Coming from Calgary in fairly recent years, this has to be something that catches one’s notice.

I also saw that Lia had been very active in the Lions Club, which itself did not interest me very much except that she rose to be a Regional Director in what has always been seen as a business men’s club, with the little woman sort of a casual appendage for show. Obviously, for Lia, that sort of role won’t suffice.

She may, however, have a great deal to learn about how the political system is only a system for the premier, not the rest of the House and all of the things that I have written about extensively in recent years. I must say, however that she shows all the signs of being a very fast study indeed and when I went over some of the examples of dictatorship from the top she nodded her head and began to think of examples herself. I was satisfied she sensed a serious wrong even if she had not thought it all through yet herself. 

In reporting to you, I felt it important that I could say that she was not likely to just be another fence-post with hair, as all backbenchers turn out to be if they want to survive and be promoted.

I see in Lia the kind of person that a political party must have as a builder if it is going to occupy a position of power in the legislature, not just warm a seat in the chamber.

Greens face tough challenges

I personally think there is a very strong Green element in British Columbia which wants to help the Greens but is cautious, to say the least, in supporting their political party.

After the last federal election, I have no doubt that had Elizabeth May come to BC and led the party here, they would be competitive in the May 9 election. She chose not to and the local party is left with Dr. Weaver, who remains an unrepentant supporter of IPPs without concern for the damage they do or the monetary wreckage they have visited on BC Hydro. If he is a “Green”, he needs a new paint job.

In talking to Lia, I could see that she and Weaver are on a collision course, even though she didn’t completely realize it at the time. Unless I completely misjudge her – that’s happened before – she will not support the IPPs but may be reluctant to have a collision with Weaver in her first year, yet will not support this policy under any circumstances.

Regardless of how the election turns out, I believe that the government elected will need a strong Green element in the legislature and that Lia would be just such a force even on her own, although God knows it’s enough to try to make a difference in a small group, much less by yourself. People have done that though, including the federal leader of the Greens, Elizabeth May. She’s an outstanding person, of course, but she also has a movement that has a much broader appeal amongst the people than the votes indicate, which is more a criticism of the system than of Ms. May or the party.

I don’t say that Lia will be another Elizabeth May but I believe she will be a standout and, most of all, able to take a punch as well as give one and be happier in a mixup than on the sidelines.

Were I a voter in Nanaimo-North Cowichan I would without hesitation cast my vote for Lia Versaevel.


Rafe: BC Liberals taking heavy fire, but NDP need to pour on the gasoline

BCNDP Leader John Horgan (Flickr/BCNDP) and Premier Christy Clark (Flickr/Province of BC)
BCNDP Leader John Horgan (Flickr/BCNDP) and Premier Christy Clark (Flickr/Province of BC)

It’s not easy to write an article on politics in the quiet backwater of British Columbia in light of the tragedy in Quebec. I’m going to make this, then, a doubleheader. 

This past weekend, the initial story, of course, was all President Trump as he found new ways to prod anti-Muslims by pretending to be concerned about national security. At the same time, there was a story out of Austria that they plan to ban the niqab. To say that there is no connection between those and similar stories and the tragedy in Quebec is to be blindly naïve. This is not, of course, to say that Trump or the Austrian government are directly responsible for Sunday’s dead and wounded but it is to say that when leaders talk the same language as the bigot, it encourages the imbalanced, for whom very little encouragement is needed.

None of our business

What I find extraordinary is that anyone can get all worked up about what somebody wears on their face or anywhere else for that matter. There’s no outbreak of violence or bank robberies committed by women in niqabs. Muslim women wear it because that’s their religion and surely they’re entitled to their beliefs. It’s none of our business that we don’t care for some of the customs of Islam – if Muslims have problems with their religion then it’s for them to do something about it. Those who cry out against women would do better to take on the Catholic church, yet, during the long centuries Christianity has discriminated against women. there’s been no attempt I know of by Muslims to break into Catholic churches and insist upon women becoming priests.

There is one axiom which I’ve learned after many painful experiences, namely – it’s a pretty good idea in life to mind your own damn business.

BC Liberals taking heavy fire early on

Onto BC politics. There are three months and a bit to go before the election and no doubt there will be considerably more activity as time goes on than there is now. That said, there are some unusual aspects already.

I don’t ever remember a government being so hammered by so many people so hard and so soon. A lot of that, of course, is from social media, which has only recently become a force, but, aside from that, the mainstream media who have shown absolutely no ability to do their journalistic duty for the past 15 years are now coming out of their bolt holes and criticizing the government. The government must be pretty bad for that to happen.

NDP slow to take advantage

The NDP's only shot at winning in BC: Embrace the NEW ECONOMY
BCNDP Leader John Horgan has a tough road to hoe to win the next election (BCNDP/Flickr)

At the same time, the opposition seems to simply float. Once in a while an issue pops up but it doesn’t last long, not being a key issue on people’s minds. As I’ve said many times, John Horgan has hurt his party badly by taking LNG out of play. This should be a huge issue but won’t make the big stage unless the NDP force it. It’s such a hopeless issue for the Liberals they’re not going to raise it and Mr. Horgan approved LNG, without qualification, because he’s said, “We cannot be against everything.” This has torn a great chunk out of the NDP armoury.

Those who are anxious to see the Liberal government tossed out have no real choice but to vote NDP and it may be that Mr. Horgan’s strategy is to play possum and simply hope that the Liberals fall so hard there is no need for him to do anything except be there. That’s a very dangerous strategy, but I suspect that’s what he’s up to – unless he simply doesn’t know anything about campaigning.

Green Party not really a contender

When you reach my advanced antiquity, you’re entitled to break the rules a bit so I’m going to say that I’m sad that the Green party is not, at least so far, much of a contender. My sympathies are certainly Green and I’m not nearly as troubled as I once was by the notion that they are a one-trick pony. Having seen, in the last 20 years, the two other experienced parties with their hands on the tiller, I can’t see much to be worried about if the Greens took hold.

Rafe- Weaver, BC Greens should quit supporting private river power sham
Dr. Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green Party, has long supported IPPs

But they’re not going to take over this time and any seats taken will be a bonus and a surprise. I believe that their leader, Dr. Andrew Weaver, should have stayed in the classroom and left politics to someone who understands the “game” and is prepared to learn the unfamiliar areas.

Weaver was one of the early supporters of the Liberal’s IPP policy, which, as we now know (and had certified in no uncertain terms here recently by Norman Farrell), has been a disaster. It has ruined the rivers involved, including their fish, and has contributed mightily to BC Hydro being essentially bankrupt. We all make errors but Weaver has shown no interest in changing on this issue, even though expert opinion, including Dr. David Suzuki’s, is no longer with him.

On the other hand, he has the human frailty of being unable to risk losing face, so he continues in the belief that IPPs produce clean power – not because that’s so but because he’s unable to admit error. Because of that, he has all but destroyed the chances of the Green party to make the strides that, one year ago, seemed so possible.

A little humour – I just received an offer to go to a Green “do” and on the invitation was “Dr. Andrew Weaver, the current leader” will be there! Dr. Weaver, I’d be looking over my shoulder if I were you!

I regard the Green party in a slightly different light than others in the election because their realistic object is to build and secure a future and leave the attaining of office until better prepared to fight under this preposterous system we have. They are in the position where their greatest virtue will be patience and taking consolation from the fact that their support among people worldwide is far greater than their representatives in various legislatures suggests. What has happened is they are now part of policing governments and even sharing office and their influence is stronger by the year.

I look at the two main combatants as being pretty long in the tooth to be depended upon for anything new, innovative, and helpful – much like old journalists I suppose. That being the case, I believe that the Green party, if it plays its hand well – starting with dumping Weaver after the election – and works like hell on policy and membership, the public will find the party more and more attractive. But you can’t do that unless your leader is attractive.

And he isn’t.


How rich elites took over BC…and the Liberals welcomed them

Imperial Metals' Murray Edwards, Real Eastate magnate Bob Rennie and Kinder Morgan's Ian Anderson
Imperial Metals’ Murray Edwards, Real Estate magnate Bob Rennie and Kinder Morgan’s Ian Anderson

The following is re-published with permission from author Roy Hales and The Eco-Report.

It’s been a fortnight since the New York Times carried the story. The author, Dan Levin, told Global News:

[quote]If this were in Russia or China or the Balkans or some developing-world country, it would just be written off as nepotism or corruption, but here [in British Columbia], because it’s not illegal, it seems to just get a pass.[/quote]

Corporate and union donations to political parties are banned in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario, but not in British Columbia. NDP MLA David Eby believes the corruption runs much deeper than the $50,000-a-year “commission” Premier Clark has been receiving from her party’s campaign chest. In the firestorm of criticism following the Times story, she has swapped her stipend for what is potentially an equally rich expense account, but the issue remains: The rich and connected appear to run British Columbia.

All about access

NDP MLA and Housing Critic David Eby
David Eby, NDP MLA for Vancouver Point Grey

“We seem to be getting further and further away from the idea that citizens can directly influence government through traditional democratic avenues, whether it’s writing a letter or through a protest, or talking to a politician.  We are shifting towards a model where the people who get access to the Premier, to the cabinet, to decisions makers are lobbyists and political donors,” Eby told me in a recent interview.

“The government recently passed legislation allowing unlimited spending until the 30-day-writ period. Previously there had been a restriction on that spending.”

“I couldn’t get my head around why this is happening until we got the results from my conflict of interests complaint and that indicated that the Premier receives a very significant personal benefit from the existing system. She gets $50,000 from the Liberal party of BC, which comes from pooled political donations to that party. So she has a $50,000 incentive, each year, to not change the system. A change in the system would mean she would not have the money to take home because the Liberal party would not have as much money.”

Dermod Travis, executive director of the public watchdog group IntegrityBC, told the New York Times, “When anyone anywhere in the world can donate as much as they want to the system, you have an even bigger threat to the system…What it says to people is money talks and votes don’t.”

Did not respond

Neither the Premier’s Office or the BC Liberal party responded to, or acknowledged, the questions I emailed them.

Pamela Martin (red dress) & Premier Clark (r) 2012 courtesy Amber Strocel via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 Lilcense)
Pamela Martin (red dress) & Premier Clark (r) 2012 courtesy Amber Strocel via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 Lilcense)

This is a stark contrast to the highly efficient performance of individual ministries public relations personal during the past two years.

More so because,  according to a recent article in Common Ground, Premier Clark’s “communication army now numbers more than 200, 10 times the number of reporters in BC’s press gallery.” Many, like Clark’s old friend Pamela Martin, now the BC Liberal director of engagement, are well known media personnel.

Former BCTV Morning host Steve Darling and popular reporter Jas Johol have left journalism to run as BC Liberal candidates.

Eby explained, “The Liberals are confident that the volume of donations that they get insulates them from any public concern because they can just run repeated ads through-out the election cycle and convince people that they are not quite as bad as they might seem in the news reports. They do have millions of dollars to shift public opinion.”

$12 million war chest

Deputy Premier Rich Coleman did tell a group of reporters, including Metro News, that the New York Times story is “laughable.”

He explained, “We go out and work very hard to raise money and make those connections.”

According to a recent NDP press release, 1.5% of B.C. Liberal donors account for half of the more than $12 million the party raised in 2016.

“A tiny number of millionaires have our premier in their pocket, and it has to end,” said NDP leader John Horgan.

Real Estate donations and housing crisis

BC income growth declines to last place in country
Photo: Tourism Vancouver

Eby pointed to the province’s high priced housing as an illustration of what this means.

“We went through a two year period of trying to convince the provincial government that we were in a housing crisis. International money was driving prices beyond the reach of local buyers. Housing prices were putting the local economy at risk. The government made fun of us and said it was crazy.”

“I believe that the reason for the lack of action on the housing crisis is that 7 of their 10 largest donors are real estate development companies. The people who made these donations had a very strong interest to keep the high prices going because they were profiting quite handsomely. During the period that the government didn’t act,  the average house price in Vancouver went up $600,000.”

Kinder Morgan, Imperial Metals among biggest donors

The New York Times suggested that the provincial governments recent reversal of its’ position on the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is connected to some timely campaign donations:

[quote]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.[/quote]

Aerial image after Mount Polley mine tailings spill (Cariboo Regional District)
Aerial image after Mount Polley mine tailings spill (Cariboo Regional District)

Another big contributor is Imperial Metals, owners of the Mount Polley mine.

“When fossil fuel companies are able to throw their money around in our political process, it is a detriment to both our democracy and our climate. It makes our job that much harder,” Peter McCartney of the Wilderness Committee told me. “For a province with such an abundance of natural beauty that is in the cross-hairs of global mining, forestry and fossil fuel companies, that’s a recipe for disaster. It’s very clear British Columbia is far behind other jurisdictions who have banned big money in politics. It’s about time we caught up,”

Site C: latest example of big money’s influence?

Eby did not know if there were sizeable campaign donations behind the provincial government’s obstinate determination to build the Site C Dam.

“I haven’t done that research, but I’d be shocked if there weren’t. I get shocked if there is a major infrastructure project and the person awarded the successful project does not have a history of making donations and does not make a donation in the following year. It just doesn’t happen,” he said.

A recent Insights West poll found that 73% of British Columbians support sending the Site C dam for an independent review of both costs and demand, as recommended by the Joint (Federal and Provincial) Review Panel’s report.

The Clark government has steadfastly avoided this and Harry Swain, former Chair of the Joint Review Panel, has become one of the project’s most outspoken critics.

The Union of BC MunicipalitiesBC Hydro Ratepayers Association,  250 professors from across Canada, Union of BC Indian ChiefsAssembly of First Nations and National Farmers Union are among the many organizations that have voiced their opposition.

Law suits, govt errors may sink Site C Dam
Peace Valley ranchers Ken and Arlene Boon face the expropriation of their home for Site C Dam (Damien Gillis)

This is of limited comfort to Ken and Arlene Boon, whose farm in the Peace River Valley was expropriated by BC Hydro on December 15. They are the third generation to live on this property, which could soon be submerged beneath the dam’s reservoir.

“We are permitted to stay in the house until May 31st.  Then we will move back to our little strip of remainder land to a second small house we have there.  Biggest hope for us is the upcoming election…and maybe we will not even have to move this spring?” said Boon.

He added, “We have to take big money out politics to help take away corruption, or even perception of such.  We are slowly being drawn further into the world of election cycles where big money wins the day, and of course that is just wrong on many levels.  In fact, why do we even allow (corporate?) campaign contributions, and all the problems that arise from that?”

At least one of the companies connected to Site C has made extensive contributions to Clark’s political party. DeSmog Canada reports that KPMG – the accounting firm that reviewed the anticipated costs of Site C for BC Hydro – and its related companies donated $284,994 to the BC Liberals between 2004 and 2014.

Hitting the jackpot

The worst example that Eby has seen was a contract put up by the BC Lotteries Corporation.

“During the tendering process, one bidder made a $50,000 dollar donation to the BC Liberal party. They won the bid. Even if those two processes were completely insulated from each other, that looks pretty bad to someone from the outside. Sometimes the appearance of conflict of interest is as corrosive to public confidence as an actual conflict of interest.”

Having someone make a donation like that in the middle of a bidding process “really stinks.”

$20,000 a plate

“I think this government can’t be trusted to look after the public interest because they are so under the influence of their donors.”

He cited the example of the dinner parties that the BC Liberals now hold at private residences. Do you think participants are paying between $10,000 and $20,000 just to see Christy Clark and her senior cabinet ministers? Or are they hoping to get something for their money? Who do you think the Premier will pay more attention to, someone who writes a letter or the person who pays $20,000 for the opportunity to say, “Listen, I think the province should be doing this, or shouldn’t be doing that.”

“Corruption isn’t handing a bag full of money to someone and saying give us this project. It’s often a relationship built over time, through a series of things like donations and buying tickets for fund raisers and so on. That results in a relationship that causes someone to want to favour one particular proponent. It may not be one to one, but if a company has made 10 donations totalling more than $700,000 over three or four years, that’s going to have an influence over how the government feels about that company and whether or not they get government contracts,” said Eby.

Banning corporate and union donations

After the provincial legislature resumes sitting, on February 14, NDP Leader John Horgan will bring forward a private members’ bill to ban union and corporate donations and limit the amount private individuals can contribute.

This is the seventh time his party has brought a bill of this kind forward. For obvious reasons, they do not expect much support from the Liberal side of the House.

“There are two models. One is where you only permit limited donations from individuals and the other is where you have public funding on a per vote basis. Every vote you get, for example, would result in a 30 cent contribution from the public purse,” said Eby.

“The BC NDP support the model of limited personal donations, not a public funding model. I think that strikes the right balance. You still have to get out there and people have to want to support you, but it also sets limits to your political contributions.”


Clark’s big loss to teachers is an opening for NDP’s Horgan…at last

BCNDP Leader John Horgan (Flickr/BCNDP) and Premier Christy Clark (Flickr/Province of BC)
BCNDP Leader John Horgan (Flickr/BC NDP) and Premier Christy Clark (Flickr/Province of BC)

You have to feel sorry for John Horgan, the BC NDP leader. He has had a hell of a time getting traction and seems unable to find an issue he’s comfortable with. Even when a decent one has come along, he’s found a way to screw it up.

But the tide seems to have changed and landing on his lap is an issue a politician can only dream of in his wildest reveries. Here is the premier of the province taking on a huge, organized body of society, by deliberately taunting them, illegally stealing their hard-won rights, forcing the issue into the Supreme Court of BC (twice) and Canada, losing badly three times, and managing from a standing start to keep it going for some 15 years. What more could you ask for that?

This issue can’t be explained away in a one-liner, which is one of the reasons Mr. Horgan is quite inadvertently in trouble. I am speaking of course of the BC Teachers Federation’s smashing victory against Christy Clark, not once, but twice – I mean, when has that ever happened before? And there was no need for it to have started but for the Premier’s airheaded picking a fight and refusing to let go.

Teachers’ never-ending battle for rights

The issue goes back into the mists of time in terms of disputes between teachers as employees and one form or another of government, usually the department of education, as an employer.

This was not a BC issue alone, by any means. Teachers struggled right across North America to get what one might call union rights – the right to organize and the right to withhold their services. This one was hugely controversial, even back when I was a child and that’s a while ago.

The technical difference was whether or not teachers were professionals or “workers” and for activists in the profession that was a most unfair red herring, but holy writ to traditionalists. It was not unlike the long internal struggle the nurses had in getting bargaining rights.

Throughout this long struggle, there was scarcely unanimity amongst teachers and, in fact, there were bitter, deep divisions. Their long history of the struggle which is worth the google and the read, carefully ignores this inconvenient, internecine struggle.

I think a reasonable look back would say that the unionists had the better numbers but they by no means had all of their colleagues onside. That took considerable internal debate and resulted in lasting bitterness.

In those days, they scarcely had the entire public on side either and I have no doubt that governments took advantage of this nasty debate, with the NDP being the least guilty but by no means totally innocent, since they also had teacher members who were firm on remaining professionals.

Now, looking back in 2016 terms, it’s hard to understand why one can’t be a professional with full bargaining rights, but that was then and now is now.

Blaming Bennett

In order that it now be seen that the saints won and sinners lost, oldtime BCTF warriors find it convenient to find one bête noir, and there he is, the ever-useful target, WAC Bennett. Crawford Killian, an oldtime warhorse and propagandist for the BCTF, recently said this in the Tyee:

[quote]If the old patriarch W.A.C. Bennett had had a vision beyond highways and dams, he would have seen the need for a highly educated population. Instead he mistrusted almost anyone who’d spent time on a campus, and his political descendants haven’t learned any better.[/quote]

So, the battle is to return to the ancient trenches and all of the old rusty weapons cleaned up for use.

OK, let’s suppose that it was all WAC’s anti-intellectualism and we overlook the fact that he started the massive community college program and founded, amongst others, Simon Fraser University. This means that this government’s ghastly dealings with the teachers can be spread out and blame shared.

For a politician to have no colleague or bad luck to share a calamity with is very bad news and hard to deal with at election time. The best thing is for someone else to take the blame.

The very next best thing is a diversion. Premier Clark, who deserves no pity or help on this one, just had a neat diversion provided by long term NDP supporter Killian, who forgot that it’s not WAC that the NDP is fighting.

Horgan needs all the help he can get

I’ve had many a sip in days gone by with NDP protagonists on political stuff and not long into the grape we’d be into stories of famous NDP times where they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Leaders as recent as Adrian Dix in 2013 can tell you how quickly it can happen. So can Carole James before Dix. As has been so  wisely observed, in politics it’s not your enemies you must watch, but your friends.

John Horgan needs some luck not another knife to pull out of his back.


Rafe: How our “democracy” really works – the charade of party politics and whipped caucuses

Christy Clark being sworn in as Premier of British Columbia in 2011, surrounded by her cabinet (Province of BC/Flickr)
Christy Clark being sworn in as Premier of British Columbia in 2011, surrounded by her cabinet (Province of BC/Flickr)

Well, it’s the political silly season again, when we democratically come together to decide by secret ballot who will govern us for the next four years. It’s a system we’ve used with minor alterations for as long as there’s been a British Columbia. We pass it down to our children with the clear explanation as to how it works. We ought to be thoroughly ashamed. It isn’t intended to work but only look like it does. It’s an all-time classic in make-believe – it fools everyone of all ages.

You see kids, there are too many of us to all go down to the local hall and make necessary decisions so we select 85 people to do that for us. Every adult person has one vote and once elected these 85 members of our legislature – we call them MLAs for short – go to the legislative assembly to debate and decide the issues of the day in our name and under our delegated power.

Now someone has to be captain, just like baseball; the MLAs used to pick one, usually the personality kid, just like with baseball teams, but groups of them who felt the same about most issues, formed political clubs called “parties” so the party that had the most votes would elect the leader, whom they called the premier. He (always back then a male) then called together the party and appointed specific individuals to look after various jobs like finance, education, agriculture and so on and they, along with the premier, were called the “Cabinet”. Those who didn’t make it were called Government members or backbenchers because they traditionally sat behind the cabinet members in the Legislature. The whole House then chose a chairman called Mr. or Madam Speaker – and they were ready for business.

But what if the government brought a bill before the House and it didn’t pass?

In olden times, the King would say he’d lost confidence in the Tweedledum party and call on another MLA, traditionally from the next biggest party, so the Leader of the Tweedledees would form a government until they lost a vote and the King lost confidence again.

Sometimes the new premier, knowing he would likely lose any vote he held and get the King pissed off again, would call a general election. As long as the legislature didn’t have obstinate parties they didn’t need that election and the Tweedledums would see if they could form a government. If they had enough votes, they would stay until they lost a vote or it was legally time for an election anyway.

As you can see, kids, this was all pretty civilized.

But it didn’t last. Because, you see, we humans are lousy losers and it didn’t take long for premiers with a majority party to realize that if MLAs stuck together as a party they would never lose that vote that forced them to resign. The party bosses and bagmen liked this system because elections cost money, money that could be put to better uses.

How to make MLAs go along?

Easy – premiers had two bags, one full of goodies and one of sticks. They got to appoint and fire cabinet ministers, promote MLAs to parliamentary secretary, send MLAs on neat trips, appoint their law partners as judges – the list is endless. Premiers could also undo the favours but, critically, they soon also got power to fire MLAs who misbehaved – for example, didn’t vote the way they were told.

Now, let’s go back to that point where voters realized they couldn’t all fit into the Town Hall so elected delegates or MLAs. By doing that, the voter transferred all his democratic power to his MLA. Fair enough, because there would no government otherwise. But something happened so that the system still looked the same but the MLA no longer had the voter’s democratic rights in his pocket – he had transferred them all to the premier in exchange for possible promotion and the other goodies I mentioned and for membership in the Caucus.

Now the voter has no rights left except on sufferance of the premier. That is the alpha and omega of parliamentary democracy, Canadian version. As the former Speaker of the US, Sam Rayburn once said, “to get along, you must go along”.

The citizen can, of course, join the party and exercise his rights there. Dream on! For he’ll soon learn that only those tight to the premier have any real power. When the scales are lifted from his eyes, he will see that 99% of party policy is that of the boys at the top. Resolutions at conventions are often exercises in looking good politically, with no intention they’ll ever become party policy.

All of the above is officially denied and children are taught the nicely laundered version which – confining myself to parliamentary language – is pure bullshit.

So in the next 7 months, as the parties nominate their superior specimens, you’ll be assured that so-and-so will make an excellent MLA.

Ask yourself why?

There is only one honest answer to that question: because he/she will always do as they’re told.

And that’s the truth of the matter.

Under Liberal govt, BC is drowning in hidden debt

Under Liberal govt, BC is drowning in hidden debt


Under Liberal govt, BC is drowning in hidden debt

I always read the comments to this journal, the Tyee, Norm Farrell’s In-Sights and others and I often add comments of my own. What I’ve been interested to learn is what possible defence Liberal supporters can make for this wretched government we’ve had since 2001.

It might be argued that these comments are mostly from left wingers. I have no idea about that but I must say that if I were in politics and defending the government, these are the kind of places where I would do it because this is where those critical readers are. A better explanation for the lack of a defence of the Clark government in these papers is that there is none!

In reading comments I came up with the following one in the Tyee last week, which was the only one I could find where there was any kind of a defence one really felt compelled to deal with:

[quote]Fact is, right now, BC is highly successful given solid policies of the Christy Clark BC Liberals government. Best economy of ANY government in Canada; Lowest unemployment rate; balanced funding for healthcare and education and other programs.

BC is doing really well.[/quote]

The myth of “balanced” budgets

Let’s deal with the latter point first – “balanced funding for healthcare and education and other programs.” I am going to assume that the writer means “balanced budget”.

Many far more expert than I have written on the fraud that is implicit in the words “balanced budget” as they relate to this Government in particular. Obviously, the writer believes that “balanced budgets”, Liberal style, have provided funding for healthcare and education. Indeed, a proper balanced budget does demonstrate the true state of fiscal affairs throughout the government and may point to that conclusion.

These Liberal “balanced budgets” do no such thing and aren’t even close to being balanced.

It’s the old maxim “garbage in, garbage out”. If you only include the good things, or perhaps it’s better put the other way – if you leave out the bad bits, then you’re going to be able to look as if you balanced it.

Hydro drowning in private power debt

One of the fiscal catastrophes of this government is BC Hydro, which now owes $76 billion due to their pork barrelling policies in giving the making of power to their friends, Independent Power Producers (or IPPs) in the private sector, on a highly contemptible and scarcely subtle sweetheart deal. Below is the record in graphic form of what the Campbell/Clark government has forced BC Hydro to pay IPPs, their high donating supporters, for private power (in 2016 dollars).

Graphic courtesy of Norm Farrell
Graphic courtesy of Norman Farrell/In-Sights

In 2015 – get this now – BC Hydro paid these generous donors to the Liberal Party, $672 million more than market value for their power! As you pay your higher hydro rates, remember the money is going to these bastards! This money is owed by you, hence by the government, yet it doesn’t show up in their budget! Poof, it’s gonzo!

This is like you taking your mortgage payments or your bank loan or car loan out of your own personal budget and patting yourself on the back for great fiscal acumen.

Well, try that on your banker and see what he says about your balanced budget.

The premier, brash as brass, and the finance minister, looking embarrassed, tell everyone that the budget is balanced so all is well with the world. The fact is we are in terrible financial shape and the government is lying through its teeth.

True debt has skyrocketed under Liberals

Here are the real statistics as as the Liberals claim to be delivering “balanced” budgets while the province’s financial obligations increased $72 billion in the last six years, more than the provincial debt in the BC’s first 135 years. Liberal claims of balanced budget rely on accounting fashioned to mislead voters. It results in absurd situations such as: keeping BC Hydro’s huge debts off the government’s books while including “dividends” from BC Hydro to the government as revenue, although the utility has to borrow the money shifted into provincial accounts; and dividing expenditures into ordinary (operating) and extraordinary (capital) expense, while counting only the former as a budgetary expense.

Below is the real picture, in 2016 dollars.

Graphic courtesy of Norman Farrell/In-Sights
Graphic courtesy of Norman Farrell/In-Sights

BC is certainly amongst the lowest in unemployment in Canada and that is obviously a good thing. It’s just not as great as we would like to believe.

In many ways, to compare BC to other parts of Canada with far different economies makes as much sense as comparing it to South American countries. Unless the issues in other provinces are relatively the same, it’s comparing apples and oranges. There are similarities, of course, such as the value of the Canadian dollar, but here again, that affects different regions in different ways.

Probably the main reason B.C. is doing so much better comparatively than the rest of Canada is because its economy isn’t as vulnerable to changes in the price of oil. Plummeting oil prices have led to drastic job losses in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and parts of Atlantic Canada. In other words, comparisons are odious and produce a misleading picture which makes BC look better than it is.

More to life than employment numbers

The Liberals can’t claim credit for something that is beyond their control and is merely a comparison with other, very different economies. For the individual, life is not only the job but what that employment brings with it. The desired result is not just having a job but having security with it. Will the job bring the opportunity to own a home? How long, if ever, will it take to be able to afford that home? Will I be able to afford transportation to and from that job? What are the schools like? Is there a bad crime situation? Is the government in sound shape, sufficient to provide the social amenities today’s society has come to expect?

BC Premier Christy Clark touring Petronas' operations in Malaysia (BC Govt / Flickr CC licence)
BC Premier Christy Clark touring Petronas’ operations in Malaysia (BC Govt / Flickr CC licence)

We hardly need reminding of the housing situation and how until we got into an election year, Premier Clark acted as if there was nothing to worry about. She has dithered, taking her laissez-faire advice from rich condo builders, until this has become a full-blown crisis she is unable to deal with.

At the very same time that Christy Clark is losing money in government and in BC Hydro and taking useless trips to China and Singapore, she would have you believe that education, health, welfare, mental illness, services to children in need, services to women in need, shelter for the less well-off are in superb shape – combined with a superior education system which is fully funded. As the Duke of Wellington said to the man who greeted him with “Mr. Robinson, I believe”, “If you believe that, you’ll believe anything”. 

Not a pretty picture

The fact is the government is a fiscal mess. Its largest asset, BC Hydro, is technically bankrupt, facing an $9+ billion bill for Site C. The Liberals have a dismal record in their Health Ministry and a worse one in Children and Families, an Education Ministry in disarray, a disgraceful history of neglect of the mentally ill and on the sad saga goes.

I’m afraid to tell my friends, if any, on the Liberal party side that they have no argument and, in my barrister days, I would have been delighted to take a jury trial against them as defendants.

But that’s not the end of the matter. They have also turned out to be a corrupt government from top to bottom, starting with the premier. Her airline expenses are totally unacceptable. The fact she uses, at your expense, a permanent television cameraman for her photo-ops tells the story when you think about it. Her method of selling herself to the highest bidder in collecting money for the Liberal party is outrageous and invites insidious comparisons, scarcely respectful of her office.

LNG takes the cake

Rafe- NDP's LNG reversal is a game-changer in BC electionGod knows I could go on but I close by reminding everyone of the ongoing LNG fiasco. Warned by the experts years ago there would be no market, this spinner of fanciful tales has piled on one empty promise after another. She’s 0 for 22 in the LNG plants promised, has ignored all environmental concerns, used patently biased Environmental Assessment processes, not even bothered with one when she didn’t feel like it, made a firm deal with  a jungle-burning, tax-evading bully-boy owner of Woodfibre LNG proposed for Squamish, and continues her fanciful, First Class, tax paid sales junkets to non-existing markets and, in spite of even worsening market conditions, plans even more.

The only possible excuse for Christy Clark’s catastrophic leadership is that lack of education and experience has left her having no idea of what she should do.

And as Porkypine observed, “Pogo, the confidence of ignorance has not died out.”


Rafe: Clark getting free ride from media, Horgan just dropping ball

Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr and John Horgan (BCNDP/Flickr)
Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr and John Horgan (BCNDP/Flickr)

Before I start today’s piece, a quick report on the two columns I did recently on the Canadian government, starting with the ravages of “responsible government”, moving to suggested cures.

I received substantial feedback from across the country but not one word from an MP, MLA or an ex, questioning what I said about the effect of “responsible government”.

What to do?

Two things – raise hell with the Ministry of Education and teachers and make sure that our youngsters are taught what really happens with “responsible government”, and, secondly, test the bona fides of Democracy Watch, and its Founder and Coordinator, Duff Conacher, which claims to advocate for democratic reform, government accountability and corporate responsibility issues.


I’ve been critical of John Horgan, leader of the official opposition, because I don’t think he understands his job and hasn’t been performing it. There are so many issues that care must be taken not to lose one’s way in the morass of meanderings the Clark government has taken us on.

One of the major issues, if not the major issue, is BC Hydro and a former NDP leader, Adrian Dix, is finally doing the kind of job that proper opposition requires. He has the facts and is persistent at getting the arguments out everywhere possible.

Media quit doing its job

That leads me to a problem Mr. Horgan has and it started with the Campbell election in 2001 – the print and electronic media collapsed. Certainly in my time and in the NDP years, they took the position that government pronouncements were probably bullshit. When the opposition cross-examined ministers on policy and legislation, it was reported and reported accurately – although we in government always thought it was overblown in favour of the opposition. It was the major source of opposition information.

The principal BC newspapers, the Vancouver Sun and Province are owned by Postmedia and they have a written deal with the oil industry which I call, and I think fairly, a mutual masturbation agreement. If anyone wants a copy, I will be pleased to provide it.

When you think about it, that’s a free pass for Christy and Co. to do whatever they please. There is no serious criticism of Clark’s ongoing multi-screwup of the LNG issue because Postmedia is an ally of the oil industry. Furthermore, The Province is a partner with Resource Works, promoting the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant.

Proposed pipelines don’t get any serious static from local newspapers and when it comes to increasing production and export of petroleum products, Postmedia is in favour. Once newspapers start supporting a government to that extent, it goes right through the entire government record.

Private power fiasco

Let’s quickly look again at an issue I’ve been raising now for quite a few years. It is commonly agreed by independent experts that Gordon Campbell’s Energy Policy of 2002, continued by Clark, has not only been an environmental disaster but also a huge economic burden on what once was one of the finest energy companies in the world, BC Hydro. Campbell gave large, often foreign corporations the exclusive right to generate new electricity and BC Hydro is forced to take that power whether they need it or nor, at the time it’s offered and at a highly inflated price.

Wouldn’t you have thought that Vaughn Palmer, the slayer of premiers, would have been right there demanding to know why private corporations got this favoured deal and were making a bundle at the expense of the taxpayer who owns BC Hydro? That question has never been asked by anybody from the Vancouver Sun or the Province to this day. Why not?!

Hydro’s exploding debt

Here’s what economist Erik Andersen has to say:

[quote]So here is the Government’s and BC Hydro’s brilliance. The customers of BC Hydro have not needed any additional electricity for more than a decade yet, all the while, customer rates increased by 30% and the debt to run the crown corporation has been increased by 1,170%, from $6 billion in 2005 to $70 billion in 2015.[/quote]

No one in the media has demanded to know why?

Return on investment

Now, don’t for a moment think the companies haven’t been grateful, even before they got their leases. The record, always available to Postmedia, shows that from July 1, 2008 to September 30, 2010 – when B.C. Hydro was making its decisions – 14 proponents donated $268,461 to the Liberals. One donated $1,000 to the NDP. Ten of the 14 were successful.

Their before and after donations are interesting.

For the 10 successful proponents, their donations doubled from $112,801 (January 2005 to June 2008) to $229,471.

After the deals were done, they settled back again. Seven donated $112,345 to the Liberals (2010 to 2014).

It’s now 2016, less than a year from an election, and this has to be dug out by Mr. Dix rather than already be common knowledge through newspapers doing their job. That’s no little matter!

A different Vaughan Palmer

Mainstream Media Ignoring Real Story on BC Hydro Debt, Skyrocketing Power Bills
The Sun’s Vaughn Palmer (Weekday on KUOW)

It was instructive to see Mr. Horgan going after the premier for her strange gift of $150,000 to the Haida Gwaii school board when native schools are the responsibility of the federal government, with the curious involvement of the Premier’s relatives. Instead of it being reported by Palmer as an exposure of strange government happenings, he criticized Mr. Horgan for the way he questioned the premier!

Whatever the reason, Mr. Palmer used to get deeply into issues like this and now barely touches the tangential issues. If you doubt what I said, just ask former Premier Glen Clark.

There are also no radio talk show hosts today with a mandate to hold the government’s feet to the fire. The one or two who dare try must be cautious and anything but persistent.

This is a very important issue because in days gone by, the talk shows and the interplay with the audience were integral to informing voters as to goings-on in the government. Ministers and the premier came on the shows or their absence was noted with derision both by the host and the audience. Ministers learned that that was part of their job, that when you occasionally got the crap kicked out of you, that went with the territory. That’s no more.

The conclusion is pretty obvious – in days gone by the public had from newspapers and radio a good idea of what the issues were and what both the government and the opposition had to say about them.

Now, in Mr. Horgan’s time, he and his party must do it without any help from the media whatsoever – at least none of any consequence – a substantial advantage to the premier going in to the 2017 election.

Horgan made big mistakes

But the NDP can’t lay all their woes at the media’s feet. There are far more matters that they have left untouched, going back to the very beginning, and that’s Mr. Horgan’s responsibility. Horgan’s job – which he’s never really understood – is to oppose, whether or not the press is doing their job.

He made the catastrophic mistake of supporting LNG in all its manifestations, meaning the NDP abandoned issues like fracking, conversion of gas into liquid, transportation of LNG, environmental damage, the nature of ownership, the market situation and more, all without a question much less criticism from the Official Opposition – sheer political madness!

That does not alter the fact that the voting public has been left short of that source of information which media have always provided.

They deliberately don’t do their job because the government is their pal, unlike Mr. Horgan.


Rafe: NDP’s LNG reversal is a game-changer for BC election


Rafe- NDP's LNG reversal is a game-changer in BC election

Important events don’t always seem to be so. So it is with the changes last month in both the Green party and the NDP.

Going back, say a fortnight, the ruling Liberals were unpopular as hell, led by an airhead who likes to have her picture taken and ride in airplanes. Despite that, I would have said – indeed I think I did – that she still had a very good chance of winning next year’s election, if only because of Mair’s Axiom I, “you don’t have to be 10 in politics, you can be a 3 if everyone else is a 2.”

Not only was John Horgan a 2 at that point, he was harried by the Green party who showed every sign of moving into second place, a humiliation that would have damaged the NDP for a considerable time to come.

The Green party was basking in the huge popularity of its national leader, Elizabeth May, undoubtedly the most popular politician in BC and perhaps in Canada. No one seemed to care that voters didn’t really know who the provincial leader, Dr. Andrew Weaver, was – let alone what he really stood for. A substantial number of British Columbians, wavering between voting Green or NDP didn’t like the NDP from another movie. That was the moment for the Greens to make a clear, concise, and comforting statement of their policy emphasizing, of course, the environment.

Dr. Weaver seemed reluctant to support the environment too enthusiastically because he wanted to demonstrate that the party has other strings to its bow – an awkward problem, to be sure, because the Green party is seen by many to be a one-trick pony. This changed somewhat when Elizabeth May arrived and gave a fair impression that even if no one else did, she knew what the she was doing. That’s why I suggested that the BC party drop Weaver and co-opt Ms. May and that if they did, their success in the next election could be truly remarkable.

Weaver blows it stumping for private power

BC Green MLA Andrew Weaver
BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver

In any event, Dr. Weaver destroyed himself on a talk show on 1070 CFAX in Victoria with host Ian Jessop . The issue was the Gordon Campbell Energy policy of 2003 as carried on by Christy Clark. Under this policy, the right to make new power was taken from BC Hydro and given to so-called Independent Power Producer (IPPs), who were permitted to destroy beautiful rivers in order to make the power.

In the 2009 election, this was a non-issue in spite of the efforts of some of us to make it one. One person who supported this government policy was Dr. Weaver, then a professor at the University of Victoria. To us going around the province speaking against the policy, that was a pain in the ass but no big deal.

Fast forward to last December 17 and Dr. Weaver appeared on the Ian Jessop show where the main question was his Party’s stand on IPP’s. This issue was  finally getting traction because economists like Erik Andersen had publicized the fact that the policy had all but bankrupted BC Hydro and many prominent environmental groups pointed out the horrendous damage done to these rivers, the fish and other wildlife that depend upon them, and at the ecology around. The public, slowly, step-by-step, was becoming au fait with this issue.

Dr Weaver evidently didn’t know this and clearly was taken by surprise when Ian asked whether or not he and the Green party still supported this Liberal policy that had destroyed so many rivers and all but bankrupted BC Hydro. Weaver babbled and the more Jessop questioned, the more he babbled. I suggest that you listen for yourself here – starting around the 41 min mark.

Far from trying to make things better, Dr. Weaver took to blaming me and a column I wrote and got into a slanging match, on Facebook would you believe, with publisher Damien Gillis. Whether or not he was right or wrong – he was wrong as hell – the point is, this was not a time for shrill name-calling but damage control; time for party to come to grips with this question and declare themselves against the IPP policy and in favour of public power and keeping BC Hydro solvent. That simply didn’t happen.

Now, silently, the NDP slipped into the game.

Horgan steps up to the plate

Photo: BCNDP/Flickr
John Horgan (Photo: BCNDP/Flickr)

Late last March, John Horgan, the leader, wrote the federal minister of Environment, announcing his Party’s opposition to Pacific NorthWest LNG and, while doing so, laying out four conditions that had to be matched before his party would give approval to any LNG project. The first three are pretty routine but the fourth one, a sort of omnibus clause, covers damn near any environmental eventuality one can think of. It states that “BC’s air land and water must be protected and resource development must be as clean as possible.” It then gives specific numbers with respect to greenhouse gases.

As a one time legal beagle, I don’t see how the NDP can make any exceptions to that blanket guarantee.

The scene has changed

It’s no mystery why this revelation was made privately: John Horgan wanted to save face. He’d have a hell of a time getting an appropriate motion from a convention because so many put jobs before the environment, as we saw in the 2009 election. Union members won’t understand that jobs can never trump the environment and that the terrible shape the world is in is proof of that. The Party knows this but never wants to start quite yet. They’re like the lad who is told that if he doesn’t stop masturbating he’ll go blind, and who in turn responds, “I’ll quit just as soon as I need glasses”.

In any event, the NDP have now pushed the Greens out the environmental field entirely.

Will their deeds match their words?  We’ll see when other LNG proposals come to their table.

But the scene has changed and, as has been so well and truly said, in politics, six weeks is an eternity.