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Why approving Site C could sink NDP

Illustration by Jonathan Ramos

It’s getting down to the wire for the NDP-led government to announce its decision on Site C Dam. The corporate media and a some big guns for labour have been making a sales push to throw the beleaguered project a lifeline, and many fear they could succeed. That would be the biggest mistake the NDP could make. They didn’t create this monster, but they will own the consequences if they keep it alive.

There are three reasons given for carrying on with Site C: 1. We’d be throwing away $4 Billion if we killed it; 2. We’ll eventually need the power; 3. The jobs!!! All of these are bogus – and the cost of getting this wrong, for ratepayers and taxpayers (YOU), is astronomical.

A bottomless hole

Former TD Bank Comptroller: Site C Dam too costly, unnecessary

Even if you buy the overstated remediation costs for the project, even if you accept the far-fetched premise of $4 Billion lost (experts like the head of the Site C Joint Review Panel peg it closer to $3 Billion), you’d have to consider the cost of not cancelling Site C. For once, let’s be frank. Even the BC Utilities Commission, when it found the project could easily exceed $10 Billion, even go as high as $12.5 Billion (up from Hydro’s estimate of $5 Billion-6.6 Billion in 2007), wasn’t fully appreciating how bad this could get.

Just look at Newfoundland’s yet unfinished Muskrat Falls project, estimates for which have more than doubled from $6.2 Billion to $12.7 Billion. At $6.7 Billion spent, many there say it’s past the point of no return (familiar), but Site C isn’t nearly that far along, so it should be viewed differently. The net result for Newfoundlanders will be an additional $150 a month in electrical costs per homeownerforever! Newfoundland has a smaller population to absorb its cost overruns, but we’ve got our own share of problems to compound the damage from Site C. Think of the lawsuits from First Nations whose treaty rights are being undeniably violated (while both the provincial and federal governments tout UNDRIP – i.e. they know better).

But the biggest issue is the shaky ground on which the project is being built – literally. Way back in 2009, I interviewed a longtime farmer in the region, Dick Ardill. His family has been in the Peace going back as far as mine, the Beatties, who lost their ranch to the first big dam there, WAC Bennett. Dick must have been well into his eighties when I spoke to him, with a lifetime of practical knowledge of the soil and slope stability in the valley. He told me then the biggest reason not to build the project was the unstable land. He’d seen firsthand the Attachie slide of 1973 and many others over the years. The mixture of shale, clay, and alluvial soils made for an awful place to put an earthen dam.

Slumping around the Williston Reservoir, circa 2008

The 80 km section of the valley – from Hudson’s Hope to the foot of Fort St. John – where Site C was proposed was in some ways worse in this respect than where the Bennett Dam and Williston Reservoir were built (the Williston gobbled up far more land than originally contemplated, due to slumping, including my grandfather’s property above the planned reservoir). Granted, the Williston Reservoir behaves differently than would Site C, which is more a massive run-of-river project than a storage reservoir with large swings in water levels, but a 1991 report by geologist Norm Catto for the Ministry of Energy and Mines had this to say about the eastern Peace Valley, which includes the area where the dam itself is proposed:

[quote]Thus, all of the major terrain units present in the eastern Peace River region are subject to slope failure. Extreme caution should therefore be observed in any effort to exploit or utilize river valley slopes.[/quote]

This report appears to have been ignored by Hydro in evaluating Site C.

Cracks in the dam

Site C Dam construction site with tension cracks highlighted (PVEA)

Flash forward to the tension cracks formed around the dam site and the hundreds of millions of dollars of cost overruns already attributable to these very stability issues and you see that old Dick knew what he was talking about. And here’s the thing: There’s no bottom to this problem. Like a highly leveraged 2008 stock deal, we have no idea how deep this hole gets. Ten billion? How about fifteen? Or twenty?

If everything went perfectly according to plan (the opposite of what has happened thus far), Hydro intended to have the dam paid off by 2094! That’s now blown, so what are we talking? 2120? 2150? How many generations of your descendants will be paying for this mistake? And what’s the interest on $20 Billion amortized over a century, at much higher interest rates than we currently enjoy? (The BCUC rightly chastised BC Hydro for assuming low rates in perpetuity). In other words, what’s the real cost of this project? I could take a stab and say $60-80 Billion, and you could say that’s just a wild-eyed guess. Then I would reply, “Exactly – I’m using BC Hydro’s methods.” (For the sake of argument, though, at a rate of 5%, $20 Billion, paid off over 100 years, comes to roughly $100 Billion in principal and interest. Just sayin’).

Oh, and remember that the NDP wants to do all this while freezing Hydro rates. LOL! If they’re serious, they’ll have to raise taxes or make massive cuts to social services. They can’t have their cake and eat it too.

According to Moody’s, the single biggest threat to our Triple-A credit rating is BC Hydro-related debt. In other words, Site C – piled atop all the sweetheart private power contracts and financial blunders the crown corp committed under the Liberals’ direction – will cost us our rating. Then up goes the province’s cost of borrowing – for all our debt – and the house of cards comes tumbling down. We’re worried about (at most) $4 Billion in sunk costs, remediation and cancellation fees? Chump change!

But that’s not the worst of it. Dr. Vern Ruskin (PhD, MCom, BSc, Retired PEng [BC]) warned the BCUC of serious safety concerns, partly due to the above stability issues around the dam site. Dr. Ruskin is no less than the former Director of BC Hydro’s Planning Division, responsible for planning, designing, budgeting and contracting more than ten dams in BC, including WAC Bennett, Peace Canyon and Site C in its early stages. Among other things, Dr. Ruskin warned that changes made in 2011 to the original dam design pose increased risk of dam failure, as do these recent tension cracks and the instability they suggest.

The BCUC did not consider these concerns of Dr. Ruskin because dam safety was outside of the terms of reference for its review. But there is no reason the NDP-led government should ignore Dr. Ruskin. The enormous consequences of a dam failure – potential human injury and loss of life, widespread property damage – would make these financial concerns seem trivial by comparison.

“We’ll eventually need the power”

Here’s a thought: For the last decade, our population has been growing, we’ve been building bigger houses and acquiring more gadgets, but our power consumption has remained flat. Is it so wild a concept that ten or twenty years from now the same thing could be true? Our gadgets are getting more efficient, our building codes more stringent, and we’ve seen an exodus of heavy industry, which once consumed a third of our total electricity. Wait, are we stopping raw log exports tomorrow? Did I miss the memo about a whole bunch of pulp mills reopening? Are there dozens of new mines breaking ground this year? Will BC defy global economics and magically produce an LNG industry after all the years of failure?

But let’s play this out, for sake of argument. Say in 20 years we do need more electricity. We sure as heck wouldn’t be building Site C to supply it. At the rate renewables of all stripes are dropping in cost, we’d avail ourselves of the latest, best technology – which wouldn’t be a 70-year-old idea for a mega-dam. No less than the head of the Site C Joint Review Panel, Harry Swain, the BCUC itself, and other eminent energy experts not tied to Site C, Hydro or the government, have come to the same conclusion. We won’t need the power for a very long time and if and when we do, Site C will not be the best option, either environmentally or in terms of cost.

One final point that connects to the cost issue: Since we don’t need this power, it will have to go into our grid and across our borders to customers in Washington State and Alberta. In real terms, it will cost over $110/megawatt hour (MWh) to produce, yet the going rate to sell this power has been hovering around $35/MWh for years. You do the math. Every megawatt produced carries a loss to the ratepayer.

But the jaaaawwwbs!!!

A few quick notes:

1. BC’s big unions aren’t getting these jobs – a different, quasi-union called the Christian Labour Association of Canada, already has the lion’s share of this gig. It is also noteworthy that one of BC’s biggest unions, the BCGEU, has come out against the project, so there is a divide within labour on the issue.

2. We keep hearing 2,000 jobs – balderdash. With a series of layoffs and a significant decline in vehicles and visible work on the property – much of that related to these tension crack issues – local sources suggest the real number of workers is far lower than Hydro and the government claim, pegging the number at 500 or less. These jobs are temporary and have come under criticism for allegedly unsafe conditions.

3. If we’re prepared to spend large quantities of tax dollars and hydro fees simply for a make-work project, there are far better ways to employ far more British Columbians for far less money, as a new analysis from UBC’s Program on Water Governance underscores.

This jobs argument is the weakest link of the pro-Site C camp and the NDP should treat it as such.

NDP deciding its own future

If Site C proceeds, this could be the one and only time John Horgan and his NDP cabinet are sworn in by the Lieutenant Governor (Photo: Province of BC / Flickr)

The costs to ratepayers and taxpayers – along with all the other impacts on farmland, First Nations and the environment – are impacts Site C would have on British Columbians, fauna and flora. But the NDP would be wise to consider the impacts the project would have on them, politically. Had the BCUC come out with rosy outlook for the project, that would perhaps have given them some cover to continue forward. It didn’t. Now, the ball is in the current government’s court and it is not only deciding the future of Site C, but its own future.

Many in the environmental community appreciate the moves the NDP has made thus far – (partially) banning the grizzly hunt, (sort of) taking a stand against Kinder Morgan, reviewing professional reliance, reviewing Site C. Yet, I have spoken with many colleagues and seen scores of comments on social media to the effect that if the NDP proceeds with Site C, they will abandon the party.

On the flip side, if the NDP kills Site C, will it lose labour votes? Will union lobbyists Bill Tieleman or Jim Quail turn their backs on the party? Hardly. It’s unclear what the Greens will do in the short term, but this delicate, temporary arrangement will be severely strained and, in the long run, Site C will further drive a wedge through the Left, causing the NDP to lose votes in the next election. This will all be compounded by the fiscal woes that will accompany this inevitable boondoggle. Just look to Ontario and Newfoundland to see the  political fallout from poorly made decisions on large-scale energy projects.

Green MLA Sonia Furstenau said it best in the legislature last week:

[quote]Up until now, this has been a BC Liberal boondoggle. The cost overruns, the ballooning debt, the questionable need for such a costly project: this is the Liberals’ mistake alone. But if the government decides to continue with Site C, they will become responsible for the impacts. It will be on the shoulders of this government.[/quote]

Indeed, if this government chooses to flood the Peace Valley (again), we may look back in years, drowning in unbearable power bills and debt, and realize that 2017 was the NDP’s high watermark. Then came the flood.


Riding with Rafe: 10 years of stories from a BC icon

Rafe Mair in Campbell River in 2009, speaking out against GE’s $5 Billion proposed Bute Inlet private power project (Image: Damien Gillis)

Listen to Damien Gillis and Phil Johnson on Kelowna’s AM 1150 discussing Rafe Mair’s legacy (Oct. 10):

Few people are lucky enough to work with, let alone become close friends with one of their heroes. Over the past decade, I got to ride shotgun with mine: legendary politician, broadcaster and environmental defender Rafe Mair. But on our many road trips around this great province, hosting townhall meetings on pipelines, tankers, hydropower, wild salmon and the public interest, it was me who did the driving. Rafe supplied the music – from his ipods full of jazz and old-time classics – and, of course, the stories. So many good stories. As we remember Rafe, following his passing at the age of 85, I’d like to pass on a few.

This is not meant as hagiography to gloss over Rafe’s imperfections, which he readily acknowledged were many – rather as my own recollections of the tales my friend and mentor told me and the adventures we had together.

Rafe, reinvented

Like many British Columbians, I listened to Rafe on the radio during his hall-of-fame career, mostly at CKNW. He was my kind of guy – an intelligent, entertaining firebrand with a deep sense of justice. And a voice that seemed to cut through the bullshit spewed by our politicians and CEOs. He knew that elite world, having worked in the law and served as a prominent Socred minister, but he left it behind to go to bat for the little guy on the airwaves, which he’d do as well as any before or since. At his peak, he was the highest rated talk show host in Western Canada, with numbers that are simply unheard of today.

And yet, the time came when he no longer fit the mainstream media. It was their loss and the beginning of the end of their cultural relevance. Rafe always said his politics didn’t change – it was the party on the right that did. Even as Socred Environment Minister, Rafe stopped the raising of the Ross Dam on the Skagit river, halted the slaughter of wolves in the north, and placed a moratorium on uranium mining. This from a right winger…in the late ‘70s! When the BC Liberals took over from the party of the Bennetts, the right began to harden and lose touch with the public. Rafe would see journalism undergo a similar transformation.

The media of Edward R. Murrow, Woodward and Bernstein, Jack Webster, Marjorie Nichols, and Rafe Mair became consolidated, corporatized, Reaganized, sanitized.  Thus, it was they who changed – not Rafe. Well, he did evolve, but not so much in terms of his values, rather in the tools he used. Which is how our roads converged.

Damien Gillis (left) and Rafe Mair in 2007, three years before co-founding The Common Sense Canadian (Photo: Donna Passmore)

In the mid-2000s, I was a young documentary filmmaker, 48 years Rafe’s junior, taking on environmental and public interest stories. I began digging into the Campbell Government’s plan to give away the rights to BC’s waterways for hugely expensive and unnecessary private power projects, producing videos and online articles for Save Our Rivers Society. We knew we needed to take our campaign to the next level and that’s when a lightbulb went off. I’d met Rafe as he spoke passionately at rallies for farmland. He was greeted with a hero’s welcome by audiences who appreciated his wisdom and passion and were wholly unaccustomed to being in the same room as an ex-Socred minister, let alone agreeing with him. Moreover, Rafe had been an avid fly fisherman and knew many of the rivers at risk, firsthand. He was already outspoken against salmon farms and eager to reinvent himself in his post-radio career. I begged SORS’ President Tom Rankin and the board to hire Rafe as our official spokesperson, which, to their great credit, they did. (I also want to acknowledge the recent passing of another SORS alum, Charles Boylan).

And so it began.

Rafe was baptized by fire into the campaign, leading the charge in front of 1,400 people in the Pitt Meadows Secondary gymnasium. Channelling his own hero, Winston Churchill, he brought the crowd to its feet – and a private power company, which wanted to divert all five tributaries of the Pitt, to its knees. “When – not if – we win the fight for the Pitt,” Rafe proclaimed, “we must take the spirit of the Pitt right around the province and rally decent people against an indecent government…What we’re talking about here is the very soul of the province that we love. And we must fight and continue to fight until we’ve beaten the bastards and preserved Super, Natural British Columbia for all time.”

The following day, the project was dead. Tom and I shared a few high-fives. We were off to the races.

Hitting the road

We set off around the province, taking our message to every corner of BC. I would screen videos I’d made about the issue, while Rafe and others like Joe Foy and Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee (also sadly deceased this year – another huge loss), Andy Ross of COPE, and retired NDP Minster Corky Evans would thunder away at the podium. It was a particular delight seeing Rafe and Corky – hands-down the best two political orators in the province and one-time nemeses – finding common ground and mutual admiration over the protection of our rivers and public purse.

After the 2009 election, Rafe and I decided we liked working together so much that we’d create our own vehicle to do it on a more permanent basis. We shared a love for Thomas Paine – the Englishman who figured prominently in both the French and American revolutions. Perhaps it was the way he used the medium of his day – the printing press – to speak truth to power and rally the masses. The name of our publication was partly inspired by Paine, whose seminal work was titled Common Sense. But it was also in reference to our no-nonsense approach to the issues with which we dealt – pipelines, fracking, LNG, dams, fish farms, mines, and so on – often long before the mainstream media had even heard of them. We were interested in getting to the root of the matter, providing the public with good information and holding our politicians’ feet to the fire, no matter what stripe. Rafe wrote prolifically for other new media publications as well, including a great run at The Tyee. He even has a book coming out posthumously with Watershed Sentinel, titled Politically Incorrect: How Canada Lost Its Way and the Simple Path Home. It deals with a topic that preoccupied Rafe of late – democratic reform.

Rafe holding court in Merritt before the 2013 election

At The Common Sense Canadian, in addition to videos, articles and social media, we kept touring, which Rafe loved. I remember picking him up in Lions Bay for one of our first road trips together. The first order of business was plugging in his ipod (Rafe professed complete helplessness with all technology but curiously mastered the ipod). He hit play and out came the Gene Autry classic, “Back in the Saddle Again”. Rafe was rarely in great health in those days, but his spirits were high and he seemed reinvigorated in his new role. We traveled all around this great province, often driving for hours on end to packed halls in the Kootenays, the Okanagan, the Interior, Vancouver Island, you name it. The people came in droves to see Rafe. Everywhere we went, walking down Main Street – often to visit a book store as Rafe added to his massive library – people recognized him from his days in radio and voiced their admiration. It was remarkable what an institution Rafe had become, even in rural BC.

This all could have proved a tedious affair – the long drives, the motels, the fast food. Instead, they were some of the best days of my life. There was no question that we would listen to his music. If I had tried, say, to slip in a little hip-hop, I imagine I would have quickly found myself at the receiving end of one of his fancy wooden canes. And so we drove on, the voices of Ella Fitzgerald (his favourite), Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong providing the soundtrack to our voyage.

And Rafe would talk. And talk. (I’ve been known to do a little of that myself too – so there was plenty of give and take). I was an eager student of whatever the topic of the day. Often it was BC political history – a blend of big events, from his time as environment minister to shooting down the Charlottetown Accord, and anecdotes about the misadventures of our elected officials in the 1970s, most not fit for publication. From World War II to baseball trivia, Rafe was a sheer fountain of knowledge. Sometimes he shared stories about his many, many trips to London – one of which led to a chance encounter with one Wendy Conway, to whom he would propose just four days later. Impulsive, perhaps, but he’d say it was the smartest thing he ever did. As I got to know Wendy, it became abundantly clear that it was.

Taking down Goliath

Rafe also shared some of his previous battles, including a few triumphs. One of his proudest achievements was killing Alcan’s Kemano Completion Project, which top DFO scientists, in a detailed study that was hidden from the public, concluded would be devastating to wild salmon in the Nechako and Fraser rivers. A friend and then-recently retired DFO scientist, Dr. Gordon Hartman, slipped Rafe a brown envelope containing the buried report. Armed with that, Rafe hammered away at the project for years, in barrister-like fashion, alongside Prince George stalwart journalist Ben Meisner.

Ironically, the day Rafe finally gave up on this crusade, he took Wendy out for dinner in Horseshoe Bay. As they were commiserating over what he thought to be a failed campaign, a TV news crew came running up to them. The way Rafe told it, as they caught their breath, they exclaimed, “Mr. Mair! We’ve been looking all over for you. We wanted to get your comment on Kemano.” Premier Harcourt had finally caved and pulled the plug on the project earlier that day. For his work on the subject, Rafe would win the Governor-General’s prestigious Michener Award for public service journalism (he would later add the Jack Webster Foundation’s Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award and an induction into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame).

Rafe used the Kemano story to illustrate why, as Churchill famously said, you “Never give in. Never, never, never, never…” You simply don’t know when you’re going to make that breakthrough. Wise words for those still fighting Kinder Morgan or Woodfibre LNG or open net pen salmon farms or Site C Dam – all unfinished campaigns that Rafe continued to work on, literally until his dying breath.

It was because of Kemano that the Terrace City Council actually voted to declare the town a “Rafe Mair-Free Zone”. I’m not making this up. They were hungry for the jobs they thought the project would provide (they’d later learn the hard way that local jobs were the furthest thing from the company’s mind – instead preferring to sell the power through the likes of Enron across the border). So we had some fun with that when we ventured up to Terrace to talk about private power projects and, later, pipelines and tankers – another dangerous idea staked on inflated local job promises. No, Rafe wasn’t arrested, though he would have proudly sacrificed himself in such a way, as he swore he was prepared to do.

Channelling your inner Rafe

We also attended many bogus environmental assessment meetings together – though Rafe would say he’d rather have a root canal without anaesthetic. There, I saw and documented firsthand his greatest gift. The government and industry organizers – working hand-in-hand – would try to control the process, tamping down public furor with bureaucratic procedures and dry presentations by the proponent. Rafe had no patience for that. He would grab hold of the microphone the first chance he got. In Powell River and Campbell River, he spoke before packed houses about General Electric’s proposed $5 Billion, 17-river Bute Inlet project and was chastised by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency lady for his foul language – but the crowds had a different reaction.

Once Rafe got his hands on the mic, the government and company would lose control. Rafe opened the floodgates to every otherwise timid granny or young person who’d never spoken in public, now suddenly emboldened. You could see them nodding along to Rafe’s rallying cry, clapping their hands, as if to say, “Yeah, what he said, damn it!”  Rafe gave them all permission to release their inner firebrand, which they did, each getting up to the microphone and giving the powers that be a piece of their mind. So effectively that one-by-one, we killed multi-billion dollar projects – Bute Inlet, Upper Pitt River, Glacier-Howser in the Kootenays. Thanks to the Campbell/Clark Liberal government, we BC Hydro ratepayers have inherited $58 Billion worth of rip-off private power projects and dozens of damaged rivers. The problem would have been twice as bad were it not for the efforts of Rafe and his allies.

So great was Rafe and co.’s impact on these environmental assessments that our governments actually changed the environmental assessment process. Gone are these big townhalls with an open microphone and bully pulpit – replaced by “open houses” with people in green polo shirts, armed with clipboards, shiny pamphlets, tea and cookies, happy to “manage” your concerns.

Speaking truth to Brian Burke

During our time together, Rafe would also recount many stories from his days in radio. He revered CKNW owner Frank Griffiths, who always had his star broadcaster’s back, even when Rafe slagged the station’s big sponsors, like McDonalds or the Canucks. On the occasions Rafe spoke ill of the latter, management would be sure to get an angry phone call from then-GM Brian Burke, demanding Rafe apologize on air. Rafe would then get the predictable call from the sales director, hoping against hope that Rafe would throw him a bone and patch things up. But they all knew there was a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening. Rafe Mair didn’t kowtow to anyone, nor did he have to. Old Frank Sr. would tell his sales people, “If you can’t sell advertising with Rafe’s numbers, you’re in the wrong business.”

Well, the Griffiths family sold ‘NW to the Shaws and their Corus Radio behemoth and Rafe’s days were numbered. With him went the last of the golden era of Vancouver talk radio. If you want to understand this fascinating phenomenon which influenced media around North America, check out George Orr’s documentary, Talk!

But this was just a microcosm of a larger shift in journalism, which Rafe often lamented in these pages and in our conversations. This culminated in our largest newspaper chain, Postmedia, signing a five million-dollar deal to provide editorial and journalistic content to the oil and gas lobby.

The Ryerson story

One Rafe Mair story perfectly encapsulates this shift in the Canadian media landscape. Some fifteen years ago, he was approached by the editor of Ryerson School of Journalism’s annual review to pen its feature column. As Rafe told it, he happily agreed and soon thereafter submitted his piece, the thesis of which was essentially: As you idealistic, young grads go out into the world of journalism, you will inevitably find yourselves being censored or you will feel the pressure to self-censor to protect your career.

Weeks went by and Rafe heard nothing back, until, finally, a note came informing him that his column was “unacceptable” – but not for a lack of quality. “Unacceptable to whom? And why?” Rafe asked. They wouldn’t say, but they did offer him two options: 1. He could take a hundred dollars in compensation for his unappreciated efforts; 2. He could submit a new piece on a different topic. “There’s a third option,” Rafe replied. “You can all go fuck yourselves.”

A decade or so later, following his retirement, another Ryerson journalism student approached Rafe, wanting to interview him about “the greatest disappointment of his career in journalism.” Rafe agreed, but before the appointed interview, the student emailed him for a preview of his response. Rafe wrote back that the greatest disappointment of his career was the time Ryerson University spiked his column. You can  probably guess what happened next.

A man of many contradictions

The better I got to know Rafe, one of the big things that struck me was the contradictions he embodied. We’re all complicated people, but he more than most. He called wild salmon “the soul of this province,” and he’d fight for them to the ends of the earth – but he couldn’t stomach a bite of the stuff.

A former lawyer, he was likely the most sued journalist in Canadian history, winning a landmark battle at the Supreme Court of Canada which increased the protection of free speech against defamation suits. Our friends at the Wilderness Committee leaned on this precedent to stave off a SLAPP suit by Taseko mines over Fish Lake. Another pal of Rafe and mine, anti-salmon farm campaigner Don Staniford, also found Simpson v. Mair very useful in his own defence against a defamation case.

Rafe was a masterful public speaker, but surprisingly insecure. Every evening before a show, he’d nervously go over his notes, striking out a line, then putting it back, questioning his tack, wondering if his legs would carry him to the podium. He’d bring the house down, then, to my bewilderment and disagreement, apologize to me for fucking everything up.

He was as tough as they came, but a deeply caring, sensitive man. Seven decades after attending St. George’s Private School, he still spoke out about the horrors of corporal punishment on his young classmates. He offered open mea culpas about his family receiving the benefits of business assets “stolen” (his words) from interned Japanese Canadians. He was one of the first public figures to speak openly about his own depression, shedding light on mental health issues in the workplace at a time when that was still very much taboo. People like fellow broadcaster John McComb have acknowledged just how helpful this was to them.

He loved his chocolate labs (and chocolate bars – but don’t tell Wendy I let him have any on our road trips). He became a big bowl of mush whenever they sought his affection. I can see him now, in a better place, tossing a ball to Chauncy and Clancy.

Bombastic? Cantankerous? Sure, to people who crossed him – and they mostly deserved it. But I witnessed his kindness to strangers, always taking time to listen to their concerns and share a moment with them. He spoke everyday of his love for Wendy. He was proud of his children and absolutely loved his grandchildren and growing brood of great grandchildren. He could gush, telling me how proud he was of me or how much he valued our friendship. I wish I was half as expressive in return – but such words didn’t come as easily to me.

Giving up fishing

Roderick Haig-Brown (Haig-Brown Institute)

One of his most interesting contradictions came about later in life. He loved fly fishing and regaled me with stories of his trips to New Zealand, whose rivers he valued second only to those in BC which we drove by on our trips. He wrote a number of books on the subject and one of my favourite experiences with him was taking him to see the old home of Roderick Haig-Brown, the famous fisherman, author and conservationist, in my hometown of Campbell River. Haig-Brown is a legend, both locally and far afield – but Rafe was a particularly big fan.

We were in town for a show and had some time to kill, but it was winter and the house wasn’t open to the public. We drove up anyway and knocked on the door, to no avail. Just as we were walking back to the car, the husband of the writer-in-residence who was living and working there at the time opened the door and overheard us talking. “Is that Rafe Mair?” he yelled after us. “I recognized your voice. I loved your show! Come on in!”

Roderick Haig-Brown’s study in Campbell River (www.haig-brown.bc.ca)

We stepped into the post-and-beam study overlooking the river, which is perfectly preserved, right down to the pipe on the desk, the smell of old tobacco and leather book jackets perfuming the air. I looked at Rafe and he was having what seemed a religious experience. This was the dean of fly fishing and conservation philosophy, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to see Rafe as heir to that legacy.

And yet, a few years back, Rafe had given up fly fishing, one of his great loves. As we drove on, he described his epiphany: One day he had a fish on the line – I don’t recall if it was a rainbow or dolly or bull trout – but another fish swam up beside it, as if to show sympathy to his captured pal. Of course, the captured fish was due to be released, but Rafe had been reading about low survival rates from catch-and-release, and that was the last straw. “Damn if those fish don’t have feelings!” he exclaimed. Away went the rod for good and he wrote a book called The Last Cast.

“I used to hate Rafe Mair”

Rafe always said he didn’t change much – it was the media and politics that changed around him. But clearly he did evolve, and not just in the area of fly fishing. “With First Nations, there’s no question I’ve changed,” he conceded. This was evident on the evening of his 80th Birthday Roast, which I organized with Rafe’s longtime producer and dear friend Shiral Tobin nearly 6 years ago. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, explained that in his days as a young, long-haired native rights activist, listening to the radio, “I pretty much have to say I hated Rafe Mair. I couldn’t stand hearing that voice and those opinions,” but later clarifying:

[quote]We’ve seen an incredible transformation take place with respect to Rafe Mair. He has marched with us, he’s walked with us, he’s stood with us, he’s spoken out on all of the issues that are important to our people.[/quote]

Flanked by his Vice-President Bob Chamberlin and Secretary-Treasurer Marilyn Baptiste, Chief Phillip noted that this was the first time to his knowledge that the UBCIC’s full executive had ever come out to such an occasion to honour someone in this way.

In recent years, Rafe grew too ill to hit the road, and our literal journeys came to an end. But his mind and pen remained sharp, as a wander through the archives of The Common Sense Canadian will prove. At Rafe’s 80th, he was presented with a beautiful wooden walking stick, hand carved by the DFO scientist who helped him bring down the Kemano Completion Project, Dr. Gordon Hartman. It told the story of Rafe’s life – the battles he’d fought, some lost, but a surprising number won in the face of great odds. Six years later, that cane merits a half-dozen new etchings and a few more only partly finished – the battles left for others to carry on, perhaps with Rafe’s words of encouragement echoing in their ears.

Rafe Mair personified BC. He loved it, lived it, changed with it…and changed it.

Me, I was lucky to be along for the ride.

Happy trails, partner.


Rafe: Christy’s oily legacy is the stain that can’t be cleaned, as climate plan revelation reminds us

Photo: Province of BC/Flickr CC Licence

In 1988,  a year before the Iron Curtain fell, I was in Budapest and after a stroll I went back to my group in the hotel and said this: “Folks, this regime is in trouble…when I was in the main square, the money changers were doing their deals bold as brass right under the nostrils of the police. When moneylenders in a communist country lose fear, respect, call it what you will, authority is in trouble.”

I really had no premonition that 10 moths later, that ironclad border which passed through to Austria would be as open as the Ambleside Seawall on a Sunday afternoon.

People are that way. Where they will hide their actions at one point, the more time that passes, the more caution is fluttering off in the breeze. I thought of that when I read the National Observer yesterday and was horrified to find myself about to upchuck my Cheerios at a sight I thought was out of my life – the admittedly pretty face of the last premier, her full toothed, ear-to-ear grin of self satisfaction at something agreeably trivial.

What now, for the sake of sanity, was she back for? And what was the Observer, which had the guts to tell her to get stuffed when she was in office, doing with that god damned – forgive me, I lost my head – picture, hard hat and all?

It was a good story. The first line says it:  

[quote]Environmentalists expressed shock and outrage on Monday over revelations from internal documents that suggested that British Columbia’s plan to tackle climate pollution was written in the boardrooms of big oil and gas companies in Alberta.[/quote]

The story was broken by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – sort of. In fact, the Vancouver Observer tentatively broke the story in February, 2014 when they did a feature on the Tar Sands and told how Postmedia was holding hands with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. I got in the act, penning a series of editorials on the relationship between big media and big oil, including a similar deal between the Postmedia-owned Vancouver Province and Resource Works, the shills for the Woodfibre LNG project.

Now, patience dear readers, none of this is what I’m on about. The media, the oil companies and governments, federal and provincial, are thicker than thieves – in fact, they are thieves. It’s rather got down to this: it’s hard to set a thief to catch a thief when the whole bloody lot are thieves. No, my sights are where they’ve been for some years – on a provincial government that from the moment they took office were corrupt.

Now, I was scarcely the first journalist to notice this or to chronicle it. From the time Damien Gillis and I became colleagues in The Common Sense Canadian we had an outlet and were able to provide it to others. It’s a pretty narrow band, to be sure, but the alternatives are narrow too, and not many.

What we must all wake up to is that before our very eyes the provincial treasury and the treasuries of the two main Crown Corporations, the jewels in the Crown, BC Hydro and ICBC are in disrepair unto ruin.

A number of people have chronicled the several tales which have resulted in the complex fraud perpetrated on the public. I have no desire to pick jockeys and steeds for special attention and there have been many facets to the debacle. Few would disagree that Norm Farrell has been the main master chronicler, with other specialists in different areas. When you consider that BC Hydro includes Site C, political pay-offs, draining public assets into private pockets, environmental carnage and international trade shenanigans, there’s been more than enough chronicling to share, with the provincial debt and ICBC left over, not to mention countless associated shell games.

What is not missing are victims all the way from Hydro being cheated in its hugely overpriced energy purchases in sweetheart deals for independent power projects.

What surely is not missing is the miscreants who plotted and profited.

No, it was the hard hat, the cheerful visage, the Pepsodent smile about to burst into happy songs for all the happy kiddies to join in that did it. Something snapped. Doesn’t anyone have to pay for the party? Even a little bit?

Is this all a 16-year victimless serial crime? Is it just that the Campbell/Clark – not government, for God’s sake, perhaps frolic is the word – brought our youth back, eternal laughing youth, where Santa Claus was really in charge? Nothing cost anything because a guy in a 3 piece suit always methodically intoned yet another balanced budget; where the cash piled up in the corner was real stuff but the bills just took Monopoly money?

Were there no laws because there weren’t any bad people meaning no policemen and empty jails?

And it came to me, this was the punishment. Of course, the victims paid, and the crooks got to laugh endlessly in our faces at our stupidity.

So that was it – we all have to look at that fucking hard hat and the mocking smile for eternity.

And since our stupidity was unbelievable, it just goes on…and on…and on.

And there it is, the perfect crime.

When may we do it again, huh? Christy?


Why coal can’t make America great again

Donald Trump gets fired up about coal in West Virginia

Among the ways Donald Trump vows to “make America great again” is reviving the US coal industry. That’s a stretch considering the plight coal faces today in the US. 

The combined value of the top four US coal companies fell from $33 billion in 2011 to $150 million in 2015. Coal’s declining role in the US power supply saw it go from 50% in 2006 to 42% in 2011, to 30% in 2016. US coal production dropped 19% in 2016 alone. In 2015, between 11 gigawatts (GW) and 14 GW of US coal capacity went off line.

The US coal industry took some comfort in the fact that 2017 first quarter data marked a sharp improvement over the disastrous year of 2016, with a 14.5% increase in weekly production and a 58% increase in exports.  But this is just a blip in the industry’s decline since 2006.  All the long-term US and global indicators suggest US coal will continue its decline.

Renewables eat into coal’s energy market share

A solar ev charging station in San Francisco

Forty-nine percent of the US coal market slump is attributable to natural gas and 18% to the growth of the renewables market.  Moreover, the renewables market now represents the largest share of new US electrical capacity installations, with 68% of new power capacity added in 2015 attributable to renewable energy sources.  This latter trend can only increase, with renewables having reached a point where they are among the least expensive sources of supply.

Another 26% coal’s decline is related to lower than expected electricity demand and another 3- 5% to environmental regulations.  Yet in Trump’s view, regulations have been a key killer of the coal industry. Trump has got it all wrong.

As if that’s not bad enough, the least expensive, least costly and easiest to mine US coal sources have been fully exploited, making a return to the good old cheap coal days unlikely.

For many US utilities, investments in coal-fired plants no longer make economic sense.  The same is true for railroad companies hauling coal.  The US railroad firm CSX announced it will no longer be buying new locomotives to haul coal.

Opening public lands to coal

Nevertheless, Trump thinks he has come up with the rabbit out of the hat solution for the coal industry.  Specifically, he wants to make federal lands available to the fossil fuel sector.  This is a major policy thrust since 28% of the land mass in the US, 643 million acres, is federally owned and 40% of coal mined in the US is extracted from federal lands. 

Within these public lands is the Powder River Basin, in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming, one of the most productive coal mining regions in the US.

Conscious of environmental implications, the Obama administration had imposed a moratorium on new coal leases on public lands and adopted a ruling to eventually raise the royalties for existing coal mines on these lands.  In the interim, a three-year study on the industry’s environmental impacts was initiated.

But given the decline in domestic demand for coal, the Obama administration ban on coal on federal lands seemed, for some, to be a restriction on coal exports.

US coal industry depends on exports

With respect to foreign markets, the US coal industry is dependent on exports to China and India.  This spells more bad news for the US coal industry, considering China’s war on coal, solar coming in cheaper than coal in India and India’s targets for renewables.  To make matters worse, there is a lot of competition from other global suppliers of coal to Asian markets.

China’s war on coal

China's emissions drop, global cleantech boom are grounds for optimism on climate change
Chinese solar company Suntech at the Bird’s Nest stadium

In effect, half of the US coal industry’s revenue decline in the last 5 years is associated with the reduction of US coal exports to China.

China, the world’s largest energy consumer, represents half of the world’s coal demand and nearly half of global coal production.  With nearly 100% of its new electrical generation capacity associated with renewables, China saw its coal consumption slump for a third year in a row in 2016 with a 7.9% decline in 2016, a 3.7% decline in 2015 and 2.9% in 2014. This slump will continue given China’s commitment to invest a whopping $361 billion in renewables between 2016 and 2020.

The order of magnitude of China’s war on coal entails a 10% decline in the percentage of the nation’s electricity sourced from coal in just 4 years, from accounting for 80% of 2011 total electricity consumed to 70% in 2015.  By 2025, coal is expected to represent just 55% of China’s electricity mix.

Concurrently, China is cancelling coal power plants, both planned and already under construction.  In January 2017, China announced it had suspended plants totalling 120 Gigawatts of production.  This is part of a continuing trend.  China announced the suspension of 30 coal plants in 2016, representing 17 GW.

China is also cutting its domestic supply of coal with a commitment to close 1000 coal mines in 2016 and not open any new ones in the subsequent three years.

Beijing is equally impressive in its war on coal, having planned to cut 30% of its coal consumption in 2017 and having already pledged to completely ban all coal use by 2020.  The city had previously announced it would close its four major coal-fired plants in 2016.

US coal exports to India wane

As for India, a combination of cost declines for renewables and new government policies is shifting the electrical power landscape of the world’s other large coal consumer.

At an auction in May 2017, the state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India obtained a record low tariff of 2.44 Rupees (Rs) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for Rajasthan’s Bhadla solar park, a 10,000-hectare facility on the edge of the Thar desert. This places solar energy at a considerably lower price than coal-fired plants.  India’s largest power company, NTCP, sells electricity from its coal facilities at Rs3.20 per kWh.

At the policy level, India has targets for 100 GW of solar and 75 GW of wind installed capacities by 2022.  But these goals may be too modest.  In June 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that its 40% renewables target for 2030 may be surpassed by 2027.  This could mean no new coal plants being built in India until after 2022.

Recent data indicates that India is on track to meet its policy objectives.  Between March 2014 and March 2017, India increased its solar capacity from 2.6 GW to 10 GW.

The impact on the country’s coal sector is already being felt.  In June 2017, Coal India, the world’s largest coal producer – representing 82% of the country’s coal – announced the closure of 37 mines.  Around the same period, the Indian states of Gujarat, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh cancelled thermal energy plants.

This is quite the energy transition as 60% of the country’s current electrical production stems from coal sources.

In parallel, the India experienced a 21.7% decline in coal imports in January 2017.

The decline of the global coal sector

International Coal Summit's pipe dream of carbon capture and storageCollectively, the impact of the decline of coal consumption in the US and China is a projected stagnation of global coal demand for the next 5 years

Globally, a record breaking 64 GW of coal plant retirements occurred over 2015 and 2016.  Global coal production fell the equivalent of 231 million tons of oil in 2016 alone.

US coal industry job numbers confirm domestic and export market trends.  The industry went from 800,000 jobs in in the 1920s, to 130,000 in 2011 to a little over 70,000 today.

Yet, Richard Reavey, chief lobbyist for Cloud Peak Energy, a US coal enterprise with major investments in the Powder River Basin, described the Obama ban on new coal mining on public lands as a policy to restrict access to satisfying market demand.

Fittingly, the Trump administration repealed the moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands and froze the raising of royalties on these lands.

The 2017 spike in industry numbers may give the Trump administration the illusion (among many) that he is succeeding in reviving the US coal industry.  But the long-term trends will continue to paint a different picture.


Forget Paris: Justin takes LNG, Kinder Morgan over climate, democracy

Justin Trudeau joined by Canadian premiers at Paris climate talks in 2015 (Province of BC/Flickr)

Justin Trudeau is not as young as he looks – obviously. If he was, he would have noticed a sea change in public attitudes that this old man, more of his father’s generation, has not just noticed but takes as obvious and natural.

Prime Minister, lets take just a very short look down the road and start with parliament. You are in the lull before the storm, sir, and you would be wise to  think about it, not only in your interest but that of the country.

Canada is a complacent place. It doesn’t like change. We always avoid it by making perfection the enemy of improvement. That’s what happened in 2005 when BC narrowly defeated a new electoral system more because opponents cast doubt than demonstrated flaws in a governance method that worked fine elsewhere.

Please pay attention here, Mr. Trudeau. People are slow to react to injustice if it’s not accompanied by serious pain and people have become accustomed to what pain there is. But eventually the dam breaks and when that happens, all political hell breaks loose. I think – and I’m far from alone in this – that moment is nigh.

First, let me deal with the “democracy deficit.”

Government for and by elites

We’re taught to believe that the people, through their MPs, run parliament and pass laws for the general good of the people. That, sir, is demonstrable nonsense.

Parliament is run by the elite of the nation for the benefit of the elite who control the power structures – industry, organized labour, major lending institutions and, most notably, the editorial offices of the Mainstream Media. In fact, the elite have become so used to getting their way that they usually don’t even trouble themselves with parliaments – they just get you to  declare the desired policy. Tell me,  Mr. Trudeau, when did the people have that debate and vote in Parliament on the proposed LNG plant in Squamish? How about the Kinder Morgan pipeline? Or Site C Dam?

In all likelihood, a civic council proposing a crosswalk will have public hearings, a passionate debate, and a proper vote. You simply casually let it be known that a $15 or 20 billion project will take place and that no genuine public consultation, much less approval, will be sought. The press applauds like trained seals and those who will profit handsomely sing your praises while the public can only scowl in frustration.

Do you think this will go on forever, Prime Minister?

You have sung such lovely songs about climate change and became a world star at the Paris Conference, saying, “Today, with my signature, I give you our word that Canada’s efforts will not cease. Climate change will test our intelligence, our compassion and our will. But we are equal to that challenge.”

When President Trump opted out of the Paris agreements last June, your criticism was scathing. Your words were almost warlike!

[quote]We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth. Canadians know we need to take decisive and collective action to tackle the many harsh realities of our changing climate.

While the U.S. decision is disheartening, we remain inspired by the growing momentum around the world to combat climate change and transition to clean growth economies. We are proud that Canada stands united with all the other parties that support the Agreement. We will continue to work with our domestic and international partners to drive progress on one of the greatest challenges we face as a world.

This is not only about the huge economic opportunities of clean growth and the need to address the pressing threats of climate change. This is about an ambitious and unshakeable desire to leave a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet for our kids and for generations to come.

We are all custodians of this world…[/quote]

That’s been the talk, Mr. Trudeau, let’s look at the walk.

Where the rubber meets the road

From the moment you returned from Paris you have passionately supported the refining, use, and sale of LNG, the worst of all the fossil fuels in terms of impact on the atmosphere. You forced Woodfibre LNG in Squamish on us based upon fraudulent Environmental Assessments or, in the critical matter of fitness of Howe Sound for LNG tankers, no assessment at all and even contrary to industry standards.

Your consultations? None with the House of Commons, none with the public, indeed you didn’t even bother to inform the local Liberal MP!

Kinder Morgan protest in Vancouver (Photo: Lu Iz/Facebook)

Kinder Morgan. You have placed critical areas of British Columbia into certain disaster in Burrard Inlet, the Salish Sea, the Gulf Islands, the Straits of Juan de Fuca and beyond and threatened to use force on any who get in the way. This is your position: revive the filthy Tar Sands, use the sensitive coast of BC as a sewer, ship the highly toxic bitumen to Asia where it will burned, the resultant methane poison pumped into the atmosphere to pollute the entire world including Canada, all while you praise the business acumen and patriotism of Alberta and call British Columbians bad Canadians and threaten them.

And then there is Site C, not only an environmental disaster to all affected but a financial boondoggle of the first order.

I’ve warned you in the past and warn you again that if you do these things, you will split the country, if not politically, in terms of loyalty. We have values that all Canada once had – apparently we are now alone.

A new era

I warn you of this too: The chickens will soon be home to roost. People are waking up. The environment is no longer the private preserve of long haired youth. You wouldn’t have noticed, Prime Minister, but that summer day in 1993 in Clayoquot Sound when 900 so-called “tree huggers” were thrown in jail, British Columbia lost its virginity and came of age.

The public are not only noticing your assault on our wondrous, precious legacy but you’re doing it as a dictator. When I compared the ability of our Liberal MP to the effectiveness of a fencepost with hair, I was flattering her.

There have been two books – about to be three – on the market exposing this, the first two in 2014; the allegations have never been denied, much less disproved. The first, in time, is Tragedy in the Commons by Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan (Random House, 2014).     

It relies upon the evidence of 50 retired MPs and it tells how useless and powerless MPs have become, down to being little more than ombudsmen for the bureaucracy, ensuring that pension cheques arrive on time and that sort of thing. They jealously guard the right to personally deliver cheques of any size even when they are routine government payments they had nothing to do with. These payments always have the local press there, complete with cameras. 

The second, Irresponsible Government (Dundern 2014) is by Brent Rathgeber, an Edmonton lawyer who left the Harper government in disgust over the very matters I have mentioned here. Both books are easy-to-read, compelling presentations and from those who have seen the inside and know how to report. I personally felt a strong sense of déjà vu reading each of thess highly readable and irrefutable stories of prime ministerial dictatorship in action.

The third book is called POLITICALLY INCORRECT: How Canada Lost Its Way and The Simple Path Home. I wrote it and it will be out later this month.

There will be more. So my point, Prime Minister, is that the jig is almost up and soon the entire country will see that it’s been cheated of its prize possession – the right to govern itself. How the country handles that, Prime Minister, depends on how the elite handle it.

Perhaps my book will pass unnoticed but I can tell you, Mr. Trudeau, just as sure as God made little green apples, the story it tells will not go on untold much longer.

And your legacy will be secure – the last, arrogant tyrant to tromp his jackboots over this glorious province of ours. 

I pray that I’m still around to join nearly 5 million other voices yelling “good bloody riddance”.


Rafe: Christy, Libs let off hook for ruining Hydro, ICBC, failing on LNG

Christy Clark and Rich Coleman (center) meeting with Malaysian LNG officials in 2014 (BC Govt photo)

I have a bit of a knack for remembering doggerel as part of my brain’s principal function as a storehouse of useless information. Ergo this:

[quote]You cannot hope to bribe or twist
Thank God, the British Journalist.
Considering what the man will do
Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.[/quote]

It seems that this applies equally to our political writers with the odd, very odd exception, right here in Lotusland.

In 1986, Bill Bennett retired after 10 years as premier through some tough economic times with the province in good shape financially. He had managed public money carefully, been a builder with the odd overrun which were laughably tiny compared to those since, especially the whoppers of the Campbell/Clark bunch, and he gave us Expo 86, for which the boo-birds predicted a catastrophe but which turned out to be a huge win that’s still paying off. In a very careful move, he demurred on Site C after a referral to the BC Utilities Commission and even though in those days there was not the prospect of backup from alternative sources, there are, in fast growing terms, today. Yet many people bid Bennett goodbye with a shout of “good riddance”.

Liberals’ ruinous legacy

Christy Clark leaves government after playing a major role in an immense increase of the BC public debt. BC Hydro, once the jewel in BC’s crowns has been guided into virtual bankruptcy during good times, despite lots of customers all able to pay, no disaster like a burst dam, while ruining scores of rivers let out to private companies, charging Hydro triple the market price. These independent power producers (IPPs), by an amazing coincidence, poured money into the BC Liberal Party.

Ms. Clark leaves us with Site C, a $10 billion (at least) ad-on to the already bankrupt BC Hydro, a project for which there is no domestic need (filling that happens to be BCH’s mandate) and no customers, unless the  LNG mirage becomes a reality in time to take the power and convert it into massive atmospheric pollution and climate destruction.

ICBC is a hard company to lose money on given it has a virtual monopoly on car insurance, but it’s in deep trouble because of holding rates down to buy votes and pocketing a cool half a billion dollars as a dividend to government. This is an accounting masterpiece invented by the Campbell/Clark wizards, where you cure huge losses in Crown Corps like Hydro and ICBC by pilfering huge sums from their already deeply indebted treasuries. As The Tyee reports, “Last November, ICBC admitted that it would require the equivalent of a cumulative 117 per cent increase in basic insurance revenue to keep its capital reserves from falling below the government’s regulatory minimum levels.”

Then we have the huge bonanza brought to you by Christy Clark and the brains of the outfit, Rich Coleman, and with a roll of the drums I give you BC’s majestic LNG industry. The Christy and Rich Show kept up an almost never-ending sales extravaganza round and round the world selling LNG we didn’t have to countries that didn’t need it at prices they couldn’t afford. But prosperity was right around the corner said Christy who won the 2013 election because voters accepted her solemn promise of multiple new LNG plants, 100,000 jobs and enough money to fill a $100-billion prosperity fund to erase B.C.’s debt and lower taxes.

Surely Christy and The Brains didn’t lie to us, did they?

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

I’ll answer that question. Writer after writer, scientist after scientist, every international economist you can think of said that this was all nonsense. Mind you, to get this bitter truth you had to read The Common Sense Canadian or The Tyee, not the government organs of Postmedia. It was sheer drivel, yet the more Clark was told this, the more she and The Brains jumped into the 1st Class section and visited their valuable contacts in Asia – the ones not in jail – and got more assurances of even more sales. Somehow, at the end of the day, the multiple new plants came to ZERO, the 100,000 jobs came to NONE and, golly gee whiz, that $100 billion Prosperity Fund fell just $100 billion short.

But, in fairness to Christy, maybe the government overspent on health, education, welfare, help to children, assistance to women in distress, the homeless, the mentally ill, and those of our fellow citizens in distress who needed our help.

No, I can’t tease on this issue because this government was far and away the cruelest in modern history to those in need. I, for one, am ashamed – good God, if this is how we treat those in need during prosperous times, what will happen when the inevitable recession or depression comes?

As I close, I must comment that one well-known journalist, who ought to know better, lauds the government for 5 straight “balanced budgets”. What a crock of barnyard droppings. It’s not hard to balance your budgets if you get to leave all the bad stuff “off budget”. I am surprised that anyone would believe that bullshit from Finance Minister DeJong, much less an award-winning political journalist.

Now my question: Given the record above, which is scarcely complete, and given that one of the obligations of high office is a reasonable proximity to truthfulness, why in the name of God are you singing the praises of a woman who has driven the province into a huge financial mess, destroyed money-making public companies, spent millions flogging a product we didn’t have to people who didn’t want it while lying through her teeth at every turn, and let down the very neediest of our fellow citizens? Didn’t you do harm enough by failing in your duty to hold her to account while she was in office?

I hate to say it but my brand of journalism was both honest and accurate when I summed up her leave-taking in two words: Good riddance.


A short note on Gordon Wilson who just got canned from his ill-gotten sinecure flogging LNG, with singular lack of success after being vehemently opposed to the stuff until he needed the money.

From 1987-93 Wilson led the BC Liberals and surprised all by taking them from zero seats to Official Opposition in 1991. He badly mishandled his relationship with his House Leader, whom he married, and politically it was all downhill after that as he formed a new party after Gordon Campbell took the Liberal leadership away from him, moved over to the NDP for a cabinet post in the disastrous Dosanjh Government, and lost his seat in 2001. In 2013 Wilson completed the circle by becoming a right-winger again, supported Clark and, after she won, he became an LNG salesman.

I remember through all this a very courageous Gordon Wilson.

Wilson became Liberal Leader at the same time as the Meech Lake Accord. In spite of serious opposition from influential backbencher David Mitchell and other prominent Liberals, Wilson opposed Meech Lake and gave hearty and welcome support to Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells. At the same time, I was vigorously opposing Meech on my morning show on CKNW.

Wilson brought Premier Wells on my show where he became almost a regular and gained enormous popularity. By 1990, Meech was dead, Wells was, under duress, switching sides and we were into the Charlottetown Accord. In spite of losing his Newfoundland ally, Gordon Wilson stayed the course and supplied much assistance to me on my show.

I can’t help but remember Wilson’s fall from grace but I know what courage it took for him to stand by his convictions too. Luck, raw luck, has a lot to do with the seminal events of life. When I, as a cabinet minister, had an affair of the heart, such things were considered to be private matters and ignored. When I went hugely broke, was desperate and probably would have taken any job that came my way, I met CKNW’s John Plul at a party and a few days later was hired by CKNW, leading to a 19 year career, a Michener Award and the Hall of Fame. All just plain good luck. Similar circumstances, but Gordon Wilson didn’t have my luck.

It makes you think a bit when you assess what others do when they’re in a jam and makes it easier and appropriate to say “good luck” Gordon, good things could happen, for, as Margaret Thatcher, in one of her wiser moments, once said, “It’s a funny old world.”


Rafe to Horgan: Get Serious about Kinder Morgan, Woodfibre LNG

John Horgan being sworn in as Premier, with Environment Minister George Heyman looking on (Photo: Flickr/Province of British Columbia)

Dear Premier Horgan,

My congratulations to you and your new government. I can tell you that a great many British Columbians who do not usually support your party voted for you on May 9 last with the same feelings as Dr. Johnson ascribed to second marriages – a triumph of hope over experience.

I realize that over the past few years I have not been flavour of the month for either you or Dr. Andrew Weaver but I know that you would think even less of me if I allowed that to bother me. It doesn’t.

Until the Liberals came to power, it was not customary for the mainstream media to shower governments with praise. I intend to practice my profession the traditional way – the way I was treated when when I was in government.

Allow me a short anecdote, Premier. In 1975, during the Dave Barrett NDP years, I was the nominated candidate for the Social Credit Party for Kamloops. Each evening I would faithfully read the late Sun Columnist, Marjorie Nichols, chortling with glee as she regularly kicked hell out Barrett. Night after night I listened, enjoying every syllable. On December 11, I won a seat in the general election and on the 22nd, was sworn into cabinet. It wasn’t long before Marjorie, good old Marjorie, was kicking hell out of Bill Bennett! Then me! What the devil had caused her to change?

Well, she hadn’t – it was the government that changed!

M.r Premier, I have two points today. The first is on LNG – you seem to have a blind spot about Woodfibre LNG proposed for Squamish.

Do you not know Howe Sound, Premier? Allow me to introduce you to some of my neighbours in Howe Sound, my backyard.

Next to the beautiful Chinook Salmon, or Spring as we used to call them, those are Orca, commonly called Killer Whales, which abounded in Howe Sound when I was a young boy in the 30s, along with humpback whales, seals, porpoise, dolphin, all 7 species of Pacific salmon native to BC – and herring.

They all gradually disappeared from much of Howe Sound, largely due to industrial development. Some 20 years ago, the government, with massive involvement of ordinary people, went to work and began cleaning up the old pulp mill site in Squamish and the mine site at Britannia. Slowly but steadily nature healed and our friends were all back. Surely you have a soul, Mr Premier, and can understand what this means. Well, the biologists tell us that with an LNG facility in Squamish, with their discharges and tankers, we’ll almost certainly lose it all again.

Do you know, Premier, that the environmental process held for Woodfibre LNG was as phoney as Confederate money, having been conducted, so to speak, by the National Energy Board in hearings so roundly criticized by Prime Minister Trudeau, who now relies upon them?

Did you know, Mr. Premier, that Howe Sound is too narrow for LNG Tanker traffic by world standards, US EPA standards and – get this, Mr. Horgan – by the standards of SIGTTO, the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (the Industry’s own organization) and that the Federal Liberal government hasn’t taken this into account? You are our premier, Mr. Horgan, and Howe Sound, the most southern fjord in Canada, an internationally renowned beauty spot, is on the brink of ruin by the LNG industry, and you are on record as supporting Woodfibre LNG!

Why, Premier, in the name of God, why?

Now I turn to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, over which both you and your Attorney-General David Eby were dressed down by Justin Trudeau and you hung your heads like naughty schoolboys. I can’t speak for others, Mr. Premier, but I watched conference after conference attended by Premier Bill Bennett with Justin’s father – twice the man – time and time again standing up to him and for British Columbia. I have little doubt that Dave Barrett would have done likewise. You cringe because if, as you first suggested, BC works to rule, thereby delaying provincial permits for Kinder Morgan, BC will be sued.

I hate to mention this because he is a fine man, lawyer, accomplished author, teacher, civil rights advocate and activist – all accomplishments I admire and indeed he’s a man I admire – but David Eby is not a British Columbian of sufficient length to have all the assets, especially the animal life of Howe Sound and the Salish Sea, engrained in his psyche as is necessary for a BC warrior to be prepared to go to the wall for this province.

A man who has the commitment I’m talking about is Grand Chief Stewart Philip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs; others include Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who is personally prepared to go to jail; a man like Mayor Derek Corrigan of Burnaby; Vicki Huntington, former MLA; Kai Nagata, communications director for the Dogwood Initiative; Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr; but more than this, Premier, while your Central Canada-loyal Attorney-General is quaking in his boots because someone might sue us, for using the obvious “work-to-rule” tactic of delaying provincial approvals, you’ve also chickened out.

For God’s sake, Mr. Horgan, thousands of British Columbians are prepared to go to jail while you and the Attorney-General, leaders of the party of protest, heirs to the men and women of the people whose names you still mention in hushed terms of reverence, are afraid that if you stand up for our sacred environment, that nasty man Trudeau Minor or big, bad Kinder Morgan might sue us!

Do you think that real British Columbians ready to risk going to jail are going to be pushed around by a coward from Ottawa, propped by the oil industry, just as you apparently are?

Time is short, Mr. Horgan, and I suggest that you and the Kid from Kitchener, David Eby, look in the mirror at two politicians prepared to sell out their province, so that the Tar Sands can hum away, polluting the earth’s atmosphere and so Justin will be nice to you as he goes back to chasing old Tory seats in Alberta.

If Kinder Morgan happens on your watch, do you think voters will forgive you because some lawsuits were threatened? I tell you plain, Premier, it won’t be a mere 16 years next time if Kinder Morgan is forced on British Columbians who marched and went to jail while the quislings in Victoria skulked in their offices and sent obsequious emails to Kinder Morgan and Justin.

Yes, Mr Horgan, l’ll stand up to Ottawa for British Columbia. So, I suspect will most British Columbians. And what are you going to do when Ottawa shoves another environmental catastrophe under your nose and says, “Here, Premier Pussycat, sign or by golly you’ll be sued?”

Not a very good start, Mr. Horgan, not a good start at all.


As Big Oil tanks, why is Canada so slow to adapt?

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau (Photo: Premier of Alberta/Flickr)

The business model of Big Oil has already started to collapse.  The model is premised on strong growth to fuel high prices and render economically viable the exploitation of expensive-to-develop, non-conventional fossil fuels, including the tar sands and shale oil and gas.

Persistent low oil prices are having a devastating impact on global investments in oil discoveries, which have dropped to an all-time low of 2.4 billion barrels in 2016 , a substantive decline from the 9 billion barrel annual average of the last 15 years.

Sanctioned oil reserves – those identified for new development – dropped to 4.7 billion barrels in 2016, a 30% drop from 2015.  But that doesn’t tell the whole story because the numbers of “new development” projects receiving a final investment decision fell to their lowest level since the 1940’s.  Total oil output was 85 million barrels/day (MB/d) with 69 MB/d coming from conventional sources, 6.6 MB/d from shale wells and the rest from tar sands and heavy oil. 

Added to this portrait, there is currently a market glut due, in part, to US shale oil supplies, combined with existing tar sands production. 

Under these circumstances, BP anticipates stranded assets.

Stranded in Alberta

tarsands industry-kris krüg
Twilight in Fort McMurray (Photo: Kris Krüg)

Naturally, the first projects to be stranded are those extracting expensive resources – the Alberta tar sands being high on that list.  The cost of extracting oil from the tar sands is worse than for any other resource.  It takes one unit of natural gas to produce less than three units of oil.  Capital investment in the oil sands fell about 30% in both 2015 and 2016.  The decline is estimated to be another 11% for 2017.

In Fall 2016, Exxon made its biggest reserve revision in its history, cutting 19% from its reported reserves, most of the cut – 3.6 billion barrels – from its Kearl, Alberta oil sands project.  This is in addition to a re-assessment of 1 billion barrels of other North American reserves.  In keeping with the collapse of the high growth/high price business model, other oil companies, Chevron and Shell included, have lowered their valuations of reserves by more than $50 billion since 2014. 

Shell, ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil Corporation have also pulled back on their tar sands investments. For Statoil, it has been a total withdrawal from the sands at a loss of $500-$550 million.

Especially significant, Koch Industries, formerly the third largest leaseholder in the tar sands and a strong champion of Keystone XL to bring tar sands bitumen to Koch refineries in Texas, has indicated it’s pulling out of its $800 million Muskwa region lease in Alberta.  This, after a 50 years of Koch Industries involvement in the tar sands.

BP and Chevron are considering getting out of the tar sands business as well.

So far, 17 tar sands projects have been suspended or terminated and no major new projects are planned.

Equally important, Canada’s bitumen is a lower quality oil, which only the US Gulf Coast refineries are capable of handling.  Then, like compounded interest, the high viscosity of tar sands oil renders the cost of transportation higher than conventional oil.  This is because condensates must be added to improve the viscosity.  The result is Canada’s bitumen acquires a lower price in European and Asian markets.

Finally, economics aside, there aren’t any environmentally friendly options for exploiting the tar sands region, an area of 140,000 square kilometres, equivalent to the size of Florida.  The process to get a barrel of oil out of the ground is both energy-intensive and harmful to the environment.  One either has to bake the oil to the top or use open pit mining techniques.  Due to these procedures, there are 170 square kilometres metres of toxic lakes in Alberta.

Higher on the totem pole of environmental considerations, the tar sands are the greatest single source of current and potential emissions in Canada.  These factors mean Canada cannot meet its 2030 GHG reduction targets with a tar sands “business as usual” formula.  Presently, the petroleum sector represents 25% of Canada’s GHGs.

Trudeau stalls progress

Despite all this, the Trudeau government continues to adhere to the industry’s objectives to double tar sands production to 4.3 MB/d by 2030.

But scientists are warning us that to limit the warming of the planet to 2° Centigrade, the carbon budget that the planet will have left is 800 gigatonnes (Gt).  However, the existing and likely-to-be-exploited reserves of fossil fuels represent 15,000 Gt.  This means that Canada has a large role to play by in keeping tar sands reserves in the ground.

Clean Transportation – beginning of end for Big Oil

The transportation sector represents 55% of the global demand for oil.  Consequently, even a modest penetration of the vehicle market would have a major impact on the supply-demand portrait of the petroleum industry.

Volvo’s first fully-electric car is due to arrive in 2019

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, about 120 electric vehicle models will be on the market by 2020.  Case in point, beginning 2019, all Volvo models will be either hybrids or fully electric vehicles. Five new Volvo all-electric models will be introduced between 2019 and 2021.  Other European and Asian vehicle manufactures are not far behind.

Then there is China, which is destined to be the leader in the clean transportation revolution, thereby keeping the pressure on the rest of the world – the Trump administration included – to maintain or accelerate the shift to zero and low-emission vehicles. 

Not only has China legislated a 5 L/100km overall fleet corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) target for 2020 – the average fuel economy of each automaker based on its sales for the year in question – but it also has the world’s most aggressive legislation on electric vehicle sales.  China mandates that 12% of automakers’ sales in 2020 must be electric, with interim regulations set at 8% for 2018 and 10% for 2019.  These regulations apply to foreign and domestic manufacturers alike.

By comparison, the US CAFE standard for 2025, and the Canadian clone target, is 4.3L/100km for cars and 5.9L/100km for light duty trucks, as per the decision of the former Obama administration.  The term “light duty trucks” includes the highly popular SUVs, which represent approximately 60% of automakers’ new vehicle sales in Canada.

Of course, the unpredictable Trump administration may weaken the 2022-2025 CAFE legislation, or give them the total axe.  But the good news is that 14 US states are prepared to take the matter to the courts should President Trump decide to do so.

Moreover, California and 9 other US states, plus Quebec, have legislation requiring that 15.4% of each manufacturer’s sales be zero and low-emission vehicles by 2025.  This would apply to electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

The global picture also includes the fact that European Union emission standards are considerably more stringent than those of the US.

This leaves little wiggle room for the North American automakers to breath a Trump-related sigh of relief on the pace of the shift to clean transportation.  This assumes that North American manufacturers want to be competitive in the global economy.  Governments shouldn’t have to bail them out a second time.

Methane & Pipelines: Canada forgets Paris

Trudeau’s pipeline dreams cannot be achieved with Big Oil pulling out of the more expensive-to-exploit projects and the inevitable shift to clean transportation beginning around 2020, when electric vehicles will become competitively priced.

More important, Trudeau’s pipeline dreams are incompatible with the Paris Accord and Trudeau’s own modest targets for a 30% GHG reduction relative to 2005, by 2030. 

Trudeau also sidesteps the challenges associated with the global carbon budget by having postponed the required reductions of methane emissions to 2023.  Trudeau approved the Pacific Northwest LNG facility, whose proponent recently pulled the plug due to low global LNG prices. But with his government’s continued support for LNG development, we cannot expect to reduce methane emissions by 40% to 45% by 2025, relative to 2012 levels.  In other words, Trudeau had taken advantage of Trump pulling out of the Canada-US methane agreement that would have the two countries begin reducing methane emissions in 2020. 

Trudeau may have been too quick on the methane trigger though, since a US Court of Appeals in Washington DC has ruled that the Trump administration has overstepped its authority in suspending the rules on methane emission reductions.

Overall, between 2005 and 2015, Canada reduced its emissions by just 2.2%, which indicates it will be impossible to achieve a 17% GHG reduction by 2020, something that is necessary in order to meet Trudeau’s 2030 target.

Consequently, it is high time that the Government of Canada and the provinces start thinking of economic development and the green economy as synonymous…as opposed to the token gestures of the 2016-17 Budget of the Government of Canada.

No wonder Shell and Norway’s Statoil are already becoming diversified energy companies, with a new emphasis on clean technologies. If only Trudeau would apply that thinking to Canada.


NDP must name & shame or catch the blame – Don’t let Libs off hook for disastrous record

Former BC Liberal Premiers Christy Clark (Kris Krug/Flickr) and Gordon Campbell (Province of BC/Flickr)

One of the biggest mistakes Barack Obama made was not doing more to expose George W. Bush’s disastrous financial record as president. As a result, he was quickly blamed for America’s “Great Recession” though everything that set it in motion occurred on his predecessor’s watch. The BC NDP can learn from Obama’s mistake and be brutally honest about the mess they’ve been left by Campbell, Clark & co.

Already, the revisionism has started. The likes of ex-Deputy Premier Rich Coleman have taken to twitter, scolding the NDP for wasteful spending and poor management. Liberal-friendly pundits like Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey are bemoaning John Horgan’s much-needed house cleaning at BC Hydro.

But it will get much, much worse from here on out – both the depth of the financial disaster for BC and the size of the whoppers told about it.

The problems the NDP will face have already been baked into the system, starting with Gordon Campbell and carried on by Christy Clark. They make the NDP’s Fast Ferries look like chump change (at a mere $250 million over budget, that penny-ante boondoggle looks like a bargain by Liberal standards). Here are just a few depressing realities the NDP must be clear they had nothing to do with – the shortest list I could come up with:

  • Under the Liberals, BC Hydro’s total debt and contractual obligations rose by at least $74 Billion (through the crown corp’s debt, plus so-called “deferral” accounts – much like a giant credit card – and ruinous, unnecessary private power contracts)
  • Conventional provincial debt essentially doubled
  • ICBC was driven deep into the red, necessitating huge, impending rate hikes
  • BC Ferries continued their downward spiral, with increased cost to the public, despite being nominally “privatized” (right!)
  • Our other once-great, strategically invaluable crown corporation, BC Rail, was sold off for cheap under a cloud of corruption, secrecy and criminality
  • Vital social services for seniors, the disabled, children and youth in care, and the impoverished were neglected at positively inhumane levels
  • Rather than investing wisely in public transportation, BC doubled down on disastrously expensive, outmoded bridge and highway projects
  • The Liberal government presided over massive, taxpayer-funded capital projects which routinely doubled in cost (The convention centre, the stadium roof, Port Mann Bridge and Hwy 1 widening, Northwest Transmission Line, etc.). And that’s to say nothing of Site C Dam, bound for true white elephant status unless it’s prudently halted by our new government
  • Real estate and housing costs, as we all know, have spiralled out of reach for many, while income inequality intensifies
  • Day care is so expensive and hard to find, especially in urban centres, that it’s become a serious impediment to economic productivity, and a huge burden on BC families
  • The Libs presided over an unprecedented hollowing out of jobs in forestry, wood products and pulp and paper – at least 40,000 lost
  • The Liberals’ one big economic idea, the galactically stupid LNG industry, proved a massive bust, as this publication warned it would before even the 2013 election!
  • Not to beat a dead horse, but so bad is the situation at BC Hydro that it is likely to cost us our Triple-A credit rating, as Moody’s warned earlier this year. Again, not your fault, NDP. But it will mean a higher cost of borrowing, making all the above problems seem that much greater.

In other words, take all the messes created by all our previous Socred and NDP governments, add them together, multiply by pi, and you still don’t come close to capturing the scale of mess left behind by the BC Liberals – these self-styled shrewd fiscal managers (and I apologize to readers for all the other worthy items not on this list, but I’m mindful of your time). The sad reality is, thanks in no small part to our woefully inadequate mainstream media, if the NDP don’t hammer this home every day for years to come, they will wind up being blamed for all of it – and losing the next election because of it.

Get ‘r done

NDP Premier John Horgan and his cabinet being sworn in by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon (Photo: Province of BC / Flickr)

John Horgan has a massive challenge before him: how to get BC back on track fiscally while stimulating new economy jobs and getting back in the business of taking care of people.

Difficult but not impossible.

I’m with the NDP-Greens on scrapping Kinder Morgan. It’s a terrible deal for BC, creating virtually no jobs yet risking so much environmentally and economically. We are also past the point where it’s OK – legally, practically, morally – to thumb our noses at First Nations in their unceded territories. So KM is a non-starter. So are Site C and LNG (though the latter may not yet be clear to Horgan). But that all heightens the need for creative thinking in building the jobs of the future. And there is much the NDP can do on that front – from Super, Natural BC tourism, to the tech sector, real green energy, the film industry, a better-managed forestry sector, value-added local manufacturing and food production, and investing in smart infrastructure.

In terms of tightening our belts, on the Hydro front, go ahead with the BCUC review of Site C – just be sure to cancel the project, and quickly. Do whatever is in your power to unwind these sweetheart private power contracts. And quit pretending you can freeze rates. It’s not your fault, but the reality is they will have to rise for some time to come. Find a way for this to impact lower income people less than the rest of us – we don’t need to add to their poverty with astronomical power bills.

No one knows how long this NDP-Green partnership will last, so you need to prioritize which election promises come first, and the one that has the greatest potential to impact all the others is election financing reform. If you do nothing else, getting big money and “pay-to-play” out of our system would strengthen our economy and democracy.

But when it falls apart and you’re forced back to the polls, remember that if you haven’t successfully put the blame for all of this squarely where it belongs – on the shoulders of the BC Liberals – then it will fall upon you instead and crush you…and a lot of other innocent British Columbians too.

You don’t have to be brutal – just brutally honest.


Rafe to NDP: Now you’re the government…here’s what to expect that you’re not expecting

NDP Premier John Horgan and his cabinet being sworn in by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon (Photo: Province of BC / Flickr)

In politics, speculation is half the fun – the other half is figuring out how, with all your experience in the field, you could have been so bloody wrong.

Actually, for the new minister, the reasons he or she is usually wrong are predictable as hell to a guy like me – not because I’m smart, but because I was there once myself. I went into my new Ministry office back on December 22, 1975, full of piss and vinegar, not to mention urgent plans. After all, I had 3 1/2 years of mismanagement to clean up and there’s no time to start like right now.

Well, yes, there is, you quickly find out from your Deputy Minister, because there are several decisions to make first. Not that they’re earth-shattering, just that not making them means you’re going to be pestered until you do. You need a good parking spot, preferably better than Vander Zalm’s, a key to your private loo lost by your predecessor, and clear instructions on how to replenish your liquor cabinet.

This turns out to be a good thing because you quickly learn that you need to take a bit longer getting acquainted, but it will have to wait a few days because, at the Premier’s request – well, not really a request – you’re flying out to Ottawa that afternoon with two colleagues to meet federal counterparts to straighten out an issue that the Premier pledged to clean up personally the moment he was sworn in.

When you get back to your office four days later, you discover that priorities you were going to deal with up front will have to come even later because you have a cabinet meeting you’re already late for and, afterwards, your deputy has arranged for you to tour your offices, show the flag, and meet the people who work for you. Cabinet runs late and you’re off to meet the 120 pissed off employees that didn’t leave at quitting time. Welcome to government, Mr. Minister.

A sticky problem

Former Minister and friend, Dr. Tom Perry and I were talking about this not long ago and agreed that if you’re lucky, you run into a sticky, double-headed problem right off the bat because it re-occurs with nauseating frequency and best you get used to it and have some practice dealing with it. I’ll make up an example because it’s just the kind that happened to me and, later, Tom.

A rancher is irate and won’t leave your office. Once a year he must drive his cattle over a faraway piece of unused land but the Agricultural Land Commission won’t permit it. Exceptions are routinely made in cases like this, so my Deputy Minister tells me, but they won’t budge. He is sure that a nudge from me will get the job done.

Then, prepare a suitable letter and I’ll sign it, I say. “Minister,” my deputy replies, “the trouble is he’s a regional director of the opposition party, hated by your party, and we know that if you do him a favour he’s going to raise hell with your party for doing him, the enemy, a favour you were under no obligation to do. Your cabinet colleagues will shun you, your constituency president will give you hell, and the Land Commission members will badly lose face and accuse you of usurping their sworn jurisdiction.” Shit!

The other scenario is exactly the same except the rancher is a bagman for your party, is the premier’s wife’s second cousin, and the Opposition is just waiting to pounce, big time! Shit!

If you don’t think this happens, you’ve never been in politics.

Out to get you

Actually, we’re all in for a huge adjustment and we should get ready – a good, stiff, single malt whiskey should do it.

Are you ready?

The Postmedia papers, the Sun and the Province, will have columnists, editorial writers, the editor of the Op-Ed page, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Fraser Institute on high alert to pour it on this pack of Reds now running things and, at the suggestion of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, there will be a new feature in the Sun called “Oil and the Sun for everyone”. Resource Works – the BC LNG booster – will have a feature in the Province, their formal partners, called “Hey, hee, golly gee, LNG is good for ye, hotter weather for me and thee!”

Phil Hochstein will have a feature called  “Breaking the Union for Sun and Fun”, but Jimmy Pattison, having killed all the salmon, in a public display of contrition, will set up a benevolent society called Jimmy Pattison Pals in Poverty for fishermen, last place car salesmen and talk show hosts he’s known.

The biggest change will come in the media, of course, where the Masthead of the Vancouver Sun will holler, “Hating Horrible Horgan helps keep the climate crummy and casts comforting kisses to Coleman and Christy.”

The last big change may come when Damien sees this and puts his own masthead saying “Rafe’s Ready for Retirement”. [Publisher’s Note: You’re not getting off that easy, Rafe]