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.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

21 thoughts on “Rafe: Clark getting free ride from media, Horgan just dropping ball

  1. We have the highest concentration of media ownership in the G7. It is all corporate media now. In the mid-1990s, there was 17% of Canadian media independent, now it is 1%. Without a diverse and independent media, how can we maintain a democratic process? We live in a nation of nearly ten million square kilometers and are 36 million people. We can not all gather in the local school house on Saturday afternoon to talk stuff out. We need a way to communicate with each other honestly. Also, the newspaper comic strips have no political perspective at all, no Doonesbury North. Rex Morgan is still practicing medicine though.

  2. Sadly the likes of Jack Webster, Pat Burns, etc have gone forever. They had the gumption to call a spade a spade. Shame on MSM, they no longer want to report the truth.

    Keep up the good work Rafe, I look forward to your weekly rants.

  3. Here is an interesting article on how it happens when a lot of money influences the debate. Unless a lot of money is available to both sides the journalists are the only hope for a fair and impartial political exercise like an election. Even then there is no gurantee. In BC only the few independent sites like this one do a good job. On the other side are the lickspittles (TF) that write for media like Black Press. http://www.thenation.com/article/how-false-equivalence-is-distorting-the-2016-election-coverage/

  4. For the readers information. A couple of days ago I ask about 20 people if they knew BC Hydro would have earned any asset equity by the end of the IPP contracts. Those who responded said they thought not but could not be certain simply because the contracts are secret documents. A reply from an officer at the BCUC confirmed that at the end of the IPP contracts they would own whatever were the asset values then, nothing owned by BC Hydro or the taxpayers of BC.
    If the IPP contracts have an average duration of 40 years and the total IPP contract amount is $50 billion ( as confirmed by a former CEO of Hydro) then about $1.25 billion is transferred annually from ratepayers to IPP owners for each year.
    That helps explain why BC Hydro is now seeking BCUC approval for several rate increases even after recent rate increases as directed directly by the Cabinet.
    To this toxic financial brew is being added the $9 billion for building Site C which at present is a project looking for a need. For the past ten years BC Hydro has reported provincial electricity sales at about 50,000 GWhrs so the message of growth and growth, used to justify irresponsible borrowing via IPP contracts, has been pure fiction at best.

    1. All of this makes one wonder why such actions are not resulting in any charges being laid against the government. Where is the RCMP Commercial Fraud Division in all this?

      1. And one wonders how long this wondering will go on! I hate to see this Province in a financial turmoil, but almost wish it would happen sooner than later in order that some semblance of order be forced upon us.
        Rafe, you’re the lawyer! Some guidance please.

  5. Rafe
    Funny that about both Dix and Horgan..they throw away their support by constantly being seduced to support the ‘jobs.jobs, jobs” lies of the BC Libs…and their support here on the Island is dwindling, fast..
    Once a bastion of support for the NDP, we are now evolving to the Greens in spirit if not actuality..there was a time when the island would never consider voting any other way..now? Not so much..
    Horgan was chosen because of two things, one he comes from the Island, where the party’s strength is now seen to reside, and two, he is an old hand at go along to get along, someone ‘safe’ to take the mantle unless and until someone comes along to lead this party back to the left, to democratic socialism, where it belongs..but who is there?
    I am an admirer of Elizabeth May, her style and work ethic if not always her politics..but she gets one thing right and that is the environment and the state we are in..because if we can’t breathe, nothing else matters..
    If the NDP doesn’t get their collective sh*t together by next election, I will do what was always something I never thought I’d do in 40+ years of voting..vote for the Greens.

  6. The ability of the BCNDP to create positive economical and social change for the citizens of BC is beyond their apparent comprehension. They have an internal ambiguous nature that defies change, it would appear they are incapable of positive modern change. I have supported the BCNDP wholeheartedly but now I highly doubt I can support them, that is until they work for the citizens first and foremost.

    I do wonder about David Eby, is he the catalyst of change that many BC citizens want?

    1. Sidney – I believe you’re right. The NDP seems to be, as the old song said,”Drifting and Dreaming”. Apart from the old mush words about integrity and that sort if stuff, I haven’t any idea what the hell their policy is except it’s not to oppose LNG in any way so that they don’t even demand the most routine of environmental and safety regulations and, for God’s sake don’t even utter a peep about Clark’s world travels selling LNG we don’t produce to countries that don’t need it, in competition with countries far closer with a cheaper product that’s available.

      But it’s worse. Clark has them spooked and they seem deathly afraid to deal with any of the fiscal or social issues. They have let Clark ruin BC Hydro, have their own way with Site C, get away with claiming a “balanced budget” and devoid of any fiscal plan.

      Worse than that, the social issues increase and Clark cares less as they do. Never in the history of the province have the mentally ill, the homeless, the child in need, the woman in danger, the poor, the sick, the elderly and more, been so neglected but the NDP seems confined to shrill bleats. It seems they’re, in fear that someone might call them “lefties” or some terrible name like that and have no coherent policy except to “do something”. Moreover, they are every bit as much in thrall to big unions as Clark is to the Fossil Fuel industry.

      This government is corrupt to the core yet easily able to dodge the few bullets the NDP fire.

      Now the housing crisis. You would think, looking at Campbell/Clark’s utter indifference, that it suddenly arrived yesterday afternoon on a slow boat from China. Yes David Eby has stood out but to Horgan seems a maverick.

      The NDP have been badly handicapped by a media which, being in bed with the fossil fuel industry, gives the government a free pass and has abdicated its traditional responsibilites completely. But Mr Horgan, that’s the hand you’ve been dealt and you clearly don’t know how to play it.

      Any other time I can remember, a government 1/10th as bad as this one would be easy pickings. It makes Vander Zalm and Dosanj look like political giants. But the public must see capable people people with a coherent policy ready to step in and as you have pointed out, Sidney, it’s not there and time is fast running out,

      1. Rafe, thank you. You have articulated my thoughts and beliefs formed and cemented since the last election. A lifelong soft NDP supporter, I am so confused by Mr. Horgan.

        If the work by you, Laila Yuile and Norm Farrell were to become the daily speak of the NDP, the Liberals would be surrendering.

        I just don’t get it. Especially since I think there is a growing anti Harper type sentiment among those who will vote provincially.

        Although probably a pipe dream because of voter apathy and blind loyalty, I feel stronger than ever, an attempt, or at least threat, should be made to toss the whole bunch of them, regardless of performance. The sitting independents, maybe not but the others, on both sides of the house, absolutely.

        It would teach the old timers they have torched their own value.
        It would teach those in their first term, they let their constituents down and therefore must forego their second term pension qualifier.
        Mostly it would teach all of them, if we can do it once, we can do it again.

        Yeah, I know, dream on MacDuff.

  7. Indeed Rafe…I have been calling the media out for years now…including my latest posting.


    John Horgan has made many major errors…I believe the unions are partly to blame, as in how the unions have major clout within the party…John Horgan is attempting to please everyone..

    Unions have one concern, getting their members jobs and collecting dues…Horgan has cowtowed to the unions pimping bad projects, pimping taxpayer funded boondoggles like Site C..

    The unions…I’ve lost respect, because..If a corporation ponied up money for a nuclear plant on the Sunshine coast or even in Stanley Park…if it meant union jobs…They would back the project..

    Site C and Petronas are perfect examples…

    John Horgan by trying to please everyone pleases nobody….

    What, BC Liberal light?….NDP no more…

    Even the housing issue…That is what is filling the provincial coffers..That is what’s driving the lowermainland economy, construction everywhere(albeit for Chinese)…Property transfer tax and those selling out are paying off debt and spending…

    Movie business, high-tech and construction for the Chinese who love and are taking Vancouver and surrounding areas..

    Don’t get me wrong, the Vancouver takeover by Asia is not hostile(except for local whitey worker who is now priced out of the market)….Asia is buying up the GVRD…They are paying handsomely for you to leave…

    Now what…if you ban foreign investment those few locals who have managed a big mortgage will be underwater…

    Seniors, who vote will be pissed over losing equity….and even if a Vancouver special house is reduced in cost by 50%….Local workers can’t afford a $1 million dollar shack….$2 million for a teardown rancher on a bland lot…..Reduce the price in half…Workers still can’t afford it..

    The genie should have never been let out of the bottle…any government clampdown on the Chinese will result in losing votes…

    This is not a racist comment, I like all people..

    The Communist party of China…$trillions has been siphoned off..That money needs a home and Vancouver and surrounding areas is the largest Chinese population in the world, more than any other city..

    Vancouver is clean air, clean water, a port city, temperate, gambling, weak taxation enforcement and…

    A person could fly out of Bejiing ..land in YVR and not even know he left Asia…Demographics..

    Good luck getting that genie back in the bottle

  8. Would that David Eby were leader of the NDP. He’s leading the charge against the Liberals who have thus far received 12 $million from the real estate gang as orchestrated by Bob Rennie, the “Condo King,” who is in charge of campaign financing, which in very large measure comes from the tsunami of foreign sourced (primarily mainland Chinese) ill-gotten funds being laundered into local real estate. We are being dispossessed.

  9. God help from the NDP as it seems that political party has a death wish.

    Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’s job is to oppose, not act like lick-spittals. Until recently one would have thought Vision(less) Vancouver Councillor, Geoff Meggs was leader of the NDP, but it now sounds like it is David Eby.

    Where’s Horgan? He is like a “Where’s Waldo” poster, lost in a crowd of ennui and hubris.

    Bloody hell, Horgan should be on a bus touring the province with a slogan, something akin to bringing back honesty in government or ” are you tired of one woman rule”.

    Letting our version of Marie Antoinette get away with the graft and corruption which one Gordon Campbell so evilly laid the foundation for, is sheer stupidity.

    Where’s Horgan?

    Where’s Horgan?

    The NDP’s leader has gone AWOL and left the public ina lurch.

  10. When the Media is not doing its job and is in bed with the “Liberals”; when formerly pit bull political columnists and talk-show hosts are made toothless and when the NDP MLA’s around the province are more content to keep their jobs at the expense of speaking out on principles, this is the result. You are right on Rafe but I will blame all of them. Our local MLA for example is NDP and isn’t worth his seat in the Legislature. We need a new government as well as a new opposition with some fire in their bellies.

    1. Hal … I respectfully refer you back to my 2 columns on “responsible government” and “solutions”. Your MLA does as he’s told – or else! If he’s like I was, he probably didn’t really comprehend that until he got there. In short, he had been, as we all have been, taught a load of rubbish and now, to save face, must make believe he has power when he has none.

      It’s not easy to fight. The penalties are up to political death. If your party is in power, the rewards glitter and the penalties are even more severe.

      If something is not done we will drift along with what I call a “soft” dictatorship and your MLA, like mine, will be as useless as teats on that proverbial bull.

  11. The BC & Yukon Territory Building & Construction Trades Council – made up mostly of US-based unions such as the Steelworkers – is in favour of Site C. Is their support for the NDP one of the reasons for Mr Horgan’s difficulty in speaking out strongly and clearly? It doesn’t even warrant a mention in the list of hot issues on the home page party’s website.

    It’s unfortunate that Mr Horgan and his big city advisers can’t envision the potential power of photo-ops he could get if he attended events like the upcoming Paddle for the Peace (https://paddleforthepeace.ca/). I think he’d gain a lot more support than he stands to lose. And as you point out, the entire BC Hydro file is full of opportunities to attack the Liberal government.

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