We can’t afford Christy Clark’s government

share of wealth in BC

If this government were in Russia, or China, the Balkans, or some developing-world country, it’s behaviour would just be written off as nepotism or corruption.

by Bruce Mason

We can’t continue to overpay Christy Clark and Rich Coleman & Company while they extract wealth for their election donors and foreign investors. BC’s in bad shape. For too long, the province’s deterioration has been ignored, neglected or deliberately misdiagnosed. Instead, the standing-government’s focus is the lucrative business of fund-raising, raking in $12.3 million last year – $8 million from corporations – including controversial pay-for-play dinners with the premier, some with a tab as high as $20,000. The pay-off included topping up Clark’s salary, a practice banned everywhere else except Saskatchewan.

A recent exposé of the corruption of Clark’s government by one of the world’s most-highly regarded sources, the New York Times, was greeted with a media maelstrom, long-overdue gasps and many red faces. “British Columbia: The ‘Wild West’ of Canadian Political Cash,” the headline screamed. But it’s not new news. BC’s local media has repeatedly reported on this issue. Why did it take the New York Times to shock a global audience in summing up the warning signs of our government’s bad habits? The rhetoric is a lot like confirming the causes of their persistent cough and shortness of breath to a two-pack-a-day smoker who has heard the warnings a million times.

Christy, apparently, has needed more than her $195,000 premier’s salary, plus additional perks and benefits. Post-Times fallout, she vowed to quit her additional $50,000 annual stipend – $300,000, in total – in favour of a filter-tipped expense account. But BC neoliberal outliers, caught sneaking an oil-addicted puff, with the other hand in a cookie jar, won’t quit or cut down on their consumption of large corporate and foreign donations.

Times reporter Dan Levin justified his disclosures as a “Kafkaesque dystopian nightmare of shady politics and conflict of interest. If this were in Russia, or China, the Balkans, or some developing-world country, it would just be written off as nepotism or corruption. Checks and balances are important and hopefully this will spur British Columbians to take a closer look at how their government behaves.”

Among other things, the Times noted Clark Liberals pocketed more than $718,000 from Kinder Morgan, the infamous, Texas-based pipeline giant whose Trans Mountain pipeline Christy just rubber-stamped with a wink, a grin and a green light.

Reaction to threats of corruption included our woefully out-of shape, out-of-touch, many-titled and entitled Deputy Premier, Minister of Natural Gas Development, and Minister Responsible for Housing Minister, Rich Coleman (whew). “Laughable,” he said, adding, “I do find it a bit rich when they’ve just spent about a billion dollars on the presidency in US.” Rich, who if re-elected may also be appointed Minister of Silly Walks, added, “We go out and work very hard to raise money and make those connections.”

That recalls his previous insults, especially the one regarding unaffordable accommodation: “I guess some people just have to get up and whine every day.”

The costs of making the Liberal war chest the top priority are enormous and twinge-worthy.

The Broadbent Institute’s PressProgress (www.pressprogress.ca) recently published three graphs, which confirm the results. The prognosis is as clear and worrisome as medical charts. While Christy took credit for jobs created, so-called balanced budgets and the elusive joys of pipe-dreamed fracked LNG, a very small group has absconded with BC’s wealth.

Clark’s carefully crafted takeaways and talking points don’t ever include this jaw-dropping divide between extreme wealth and poverty in BC, currently Canada’s highest and growing exponentially.

This disparity has also been reported (see Common Ground, June 2015) by Andrew MacLeod in his best-selling, award-winning book, A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour). Once again, it’s clear confirmation that this province’s obscene inequity is the direct result of the BC government’s deliberate policy to shift the tax burden away from wealthy donors.

Earnings of the top 10% began to spike at the 2000 millennium, while the share of BC’s bottom 50% sunk just as dramatically, as then-Liberal-premier Gordon Campbell introduced regressive tax policies to disproportionately benefit fat cats.

PressProgress also quotes the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, noting that the BC Liberals’ “decade of tax cuts” and “regressive changes to the provincial tax system” helped to “exacerbate growing income inequality,” a practice perfected in Christy’s reign. The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition reports our provincial income gap is growing the fastest in Canada, noting, “The average household income of the top 1% in BC has increased by 36%” since the mid-2000s; the most current data from StatCan highlights that 10% in BC now own more than half of the wealth in our province.

The results are ubiquitous across BC. More people are slipping through gaping cracks into homelessness, joining the skyrocketing number of workers with full-time jobs sinking beneath the poverty line. Half of the folks in BC who turned to food banks in 2016 were low-wage breadwinners, up 3.4% from 2015. We have the highest child poverty rate in the country and we are the only province with no poverty reduction plan. More than 12% of BC wage earners reported dealing with food insecurity in 2016, along with Canada’s highest rents and lowest business taxes.

Our heel-dragging BC Liberals’ minimum wage was frozen at $8/hr. for a decade, before gradually and reluctantly rising to $10.85/hr (2016), still Canada’s lowest. One-quarter of BC’s workforce – half a million folks – currently earn under $15/hr, well below what most families need to make ends meet. As wages stagnate, costs for food housing and child-care costs are rising. In Vancouver, the price of a detached home jumped 19 times, relative to median household income, and the ratio for condos increased six times.

The obvious next question from any patient who receives such a stark diagnosis would be: “How long have I got?” The answer: until the provincial election, May 9, 2017.

Clark, whose attention span resembles a hummingbird, is taking time out from serving her corporate donors to beak about the Liberals’ truly laughable, much too-late, inadequate and distractive efforts on affordable housing investment, clean tech innovation, etc.

Warning: watch your diet, including the flood of sugary, big-budget government junk infotainment. And exercise is recommended, such as protest marching, volunteering and door knocking on behalf of more organic and healthy alternatives. The Liberal status quo is unsustainable, even downright dangerous, for you and your friends and family – especially your children.

Please email the issues in BC that concern you most to: brucemason@shaw.ca.

The High Price of Dishonesty and Deception

For ruthless men and women who strive to win at any cost and make it in a Trumpian universe, the new president provided tactics. Always take control.

by Roxanne Davies

Of all the horror films to come out of Hollywood, the one that creeped me out the most was Rosemary’s Baby. The psychological horror flick was written and directed by French-Polish director Roman Polanski, who, despite his personal foibles, is a talented filmmaker.

Polanski’s 1967 film follows tormented wife Rosemary Woodhouse (brilliantly portrayed by the waif-like Mia Farrow). Unbeknownst to her, she was chosen to bear the Devil’s spawn. Farrow’s wide-eyed innocent face fills the screen as she experiences physical and emotional changes beyond her control. When she rips into a piece of raw chicken, it will turn the stomach of the most avid carnivore. Yet it’s the last scene that truly shocks. Rosemary walks into a dimly lit chamber to see her baby for the first time. Seated around the room are all the people she thought she could trust: her husband, her doctor, her crazy neighbour, every one of the people closest to her complicit in the diabolical scheme. What terrified me was the ease with which the people closest to the victim were able to cover their deception.

Deception: anything that deceives or is meant to deceive; a delusion. For Rosemary, the consequences of deception and lying resulted in the birth of an evil spirit. For our American neighbours, it seems to have resulted in the surprise election of Donald J. Trump. A New York Times columnist likened Trump’s win to a moral and ethical 9/11. A rich white guy with a trophy wife told his supporters the sky is falling and he would save them. A xenophobic, misogynist of dubious ethics and morals with a short attention span now has the nuclear code. A thin-skinned pugnacious Chicken Little was elected to the most powerful position in the free world.

How on earth could Trump win the election? He wasn’t a polished politician; he was an outlier who even alienated fellow Republicans. Because he says it like we think his supporters smugly declared. They were tired of lies from the chattering class, professional pundits, career politicians, financial analysts, industry regulators. Name an industry and its privileged leaders lie.

For Trump, lying is a form of communication and a way of gaining power. We watched and listened with a mixture of horror and fascination as he sniffed his way through an inaugural speech filled with jingoistic rhetoric.

Some say Trump is no fool. He is a communicator who used a kind of wonky neuro-linguistic programming to mesmerize his audience. In 3AM Tweets, he shared his most incoherent ideas and bypassed the bewildered mainstream media. Trump says he fiercely protected his five children against the danger of smoking, drugs and alcohol, yet he has exposed them to the most dangerous and addictive substance on Earth: a lust for power.

For ruthless men and women who strive to win at any cost and make it in a Trumpian universe, the new president provided tactics. Always take control. Act like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t. Brag about your accomplishments, and never your mistakes. Find your opponents Achilles’ heel and never let go. Tell people you will give 100% percent or make it look like you do. And most importantly: even if you lose interest in what you are doing, there will be times when you will have to stretch the truth or downright lie. If women can control their fluttering lashes, they have the uncanny ability to be better liars. Smart agencies and corporations know that. Women are often the face of a company about to deliver some bad news or ‘alternative facts.’ Intelligent and ambitious men and women must wean themselves off the toxic value of lying to gain power and privilege.

If there is any comfort to the majority of people who did not vote for Trump, this 45th president might be the most analyzed and dissected in recent history. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. If Trump fails to deliver what he has promised, let him remember that many of his most ardent supporters pack weapons.

Roxanne Davies lives in North Vancouver and is devoted to writing family memoirs and essays on a variety of topics. roxannemilanadavies@gmail.com

People power will stop Woodfibre LNG

protesting the proposed Woodfiber LNG project

Last month, MLA Jordan Sturdy and MP Jonathan Wilkinson hosted a meeting in Squamish with local government and indigenous leaders with the goal “to enhance transparency with respect to progress of the (Woodfibre LNG) project.”

More than 150 supporters stood outside to voice their opposition to Woodfibre LNG, as their representatives walked into the meeting at Squamish Municipal Hall, with banners reading “No Pipelines, No Tankers, No Woodfibre LNG.” People travelled from as far away as Vancouver, Bowen Island, Whistler and the Sunshine Coast, taking time off work on a Friday morning.

“Woodfibre LNG has donated more than $60,000 to the BC Liberals in 2016 alone. That’s pretty cheap to buy a rubber stamp for your environmental assessment. But Woodfibre LNG is not a done deal. Every community around Howe Sound has expressed their opposition to Woodfibre LNG. More than 10,000 people have signed the Howe Sound Declaration in opposition to Woodfibre LNG. People power will stop this project,” said Tracey Saxby, one of the co-founders of My Sea to Sky.

Following the demonstration, supporters wrote messages to their representatives in chalk:
“BC LNG is one big lie.”
“Focus on renewable energy.”
“Save Howe Sound.”
“For our kids.”

LNG tankers put Howe Sound residents at risk

Based on International Safety Standards, we know that Howe Sound is the wrong place for an LNG export facility. Canada still doesn’t have any safety regulations for LNG tankers and the information being used by the Technical Review Process of Marine Systems and Transhipment (TERMPOL) to develop LNG tanker regulations is old or flawed. Public safety is not being taken seriously.

Woodfibre LNG threatens the recovery of Howe Sound

Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent cleaning up the toxic legacies of previous industries, such as the Nexen chemical plant, the Woodfibre pulp mill and the Britannia Beach mine. As a direct result, Howe Sound is slowly recovering: the herring and the whales are coming back. Woodfibre LNG threatens this recovery through underwater noise, which impacts herring, salmon, whales and other wildlife.

Air pollution from Woodfibre LNG will impact public health at a social cost of over $20 million per year.

Even though Woodfibre LNG is using electricity as the main power source, there will still be significant air pollution during operation. Woodfibre LNG is estimating air pollution emissions of 295.7 tonnes of nitrous oxides (NOx) and 43.8 tonnes of sulfur dioxide (SO2) every year.



Source: My Sea to Sky, a volunteer organization that was started in early 2014 in opposition to the proposed Woodfibre LNG project. More than 10,000 supporters have signed the Howe Sound declaration. www.myseatosky.org

photo by Les MacDonald

Public consultation is a real chance to repeal unpopular legislation

photo of David Christopher

INDEPENDENT MEDIA
by David Christopher

It’s here. Almost a year into their mandate, the Liberal government has finally launched its long awaited public consultation on Bill C-51, and a broad range of privacy and national security issues.

Speaking at the launch, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said they had already identified a limited number of areas of Bill C-51 they wanted changed and that they wanted to get Canadians’ views on how to deal with the rest of the unpopular legislation.

Bill C-51, readers may recall, is the highly controversial spying bill forced through Parliament by the previous Conservative federal government. Notably, the legislation turns the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) into what the Globe and Mail has called a “secret police force,” with little independent oversight or accountability.

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Site C and LNG: a tenuous relationship

say no to Site C

Site C would be BC’s most expensive infrastructure project ever. Its debt funding will be loaded onto the shoulders of our children. It needs a convincing business case and, so far, that case is anything but convincing.

by Eoin Finn B.Sc., Ph.D., MBA

The relationship between the LNG industry and the Site C’s power is tenuous at best. To date, four LNG plants – LNG Canada, Kitimat LNG, Woodfibre LNG and now Pacific NorthWest LNG – have received export licenses and environmental certificates from Canada’s Governments. Only one – the small-scale Woodfibre plant in Vancouver’s Howe Sound – will use grid electricity to power its liquefaction process. All the much-larger plants will each burn about 10 percent of their gas intake to power the minus 162oC refrigeration process. If built, they would together add about 30 million tonnes to BC’s annual carbon emissions – a 50 percent increase. Upstream emissions would at least double that.

When I first settled in Vancouver in 1978, I went to a Canadian Club lunch. The guest speaker was BC Hydro’s CEO, who sternly warned the audience that, unless he got the OK to build three nuclear plants, the coal-fired Hat Creek and the Site C dam, we would in future have to munch on sushi in the dark. That was my introduction to “hydronomics”, and the engineers who want to keep on building dams – proving that, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

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Natural health products are not drugs

food and natural

Changing the way NHPs are regulated will have an impact on the products you will find on your store shelves. Providing the evidence required for drugs is vastly expensive, which is why the price for drugs is significantly higher compared to NHPs.

Tell Health Canada to leave our NHPs alone

 

by Helen Long

Health Canada has recently launched the Consulting Canadians on the Regulation of Self-Care Products in Canada document. Previously referred to as the Consumer Health Product Framework, this document has changed dramatically since its original inception, and proposes that, in the future, many natural health products (NHPs) be regulated using the same rules as drugs.

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Canadians want climate plan, not fracked LNG

by Bruce Mason

 

• On October 2, when Canada’s environment ministers met in Montreal, they were made aware of how Canadians view key climate issues. Topping the list: the majority (66%) of Canadians support an effective climate plan to meet targets.

The new public opinion research revealed a substantial majority of respondents (70%) believe climate change is a significant threat to Canada’s economic future. It also found that 60% support a price on carbon emissions everywhere in the country.

The survey of 1,000 Canadians, conducted by Nanos Research for Clean Energy Canada, was released as federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers gathered to prepare for a First Ministers’ Meeting on climate change later this year.

“The public is sending a clear signal. They’re tired of bickering among politicians,” reported Merran Smith, Clean Energy’s executive director. “Canadians want to see provinces do their part, but they also want the federal government to pick up the slack if provinces don’t deliver necessary results.”

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Why Non-GMO labels don’t go far enough

GMOs and glyphosate

by Jeremy Caradonna and Thierry Vrain

spraying herbicides• The total sale of products with Non-GMO labels is now in the billions and the growth of this market is certainly to be applauded. However, the Non-GMO label inadvertently shields health-conscious consumers from one of the scarier realities of the modern food system – that glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is also being applied to non-genetically modified crops.

The world now has 500 million acres of GMO crops: mainly soy and corn in North and South America; cotton in the US, China and India; and canola, sugar beet and alfalfa in the US and Canada. These crops are genetically modified to withstand the application of glyphosate, in the form of Roundup – hence the label “Roundup Ready” crops. Glyphosate is a synthetic amino acid, a glycine analogue that kills all plants except for the crop engineered with a bacterial gene that provides resistance to the herbicide.

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Monsanto tribunal in The Hague

For an increasing number of people from around the world, Monsanto today is the symbol of industrial agriculture. This chemical-intensive form of production pollutes the environment, accelerates biodiversity loss, and massively contributes to global warming.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Monsanto, a US-based company, has developed a number of highly toxic products, which have permanently damaged the environment and caused illness or death for thousands of people. These products include:

  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), one of the twelve Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) that affect human and animal fertility;
  • 2,4,5 T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid), a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant, Agent Orange, which was used by the US Army during the Vietnam War and continues to cause birth defects and cancer;
  • Lasso, an herbicide that is now banned in Europe;
  • and RoundUp, the most widely used herbicide in the world, and the source of the greatest health and environmental scandal in modern history – this toxic herbicide is used in combination with genetically modified (GM) RoundUp Ready seeds in large-scale monocultures, primarily to produce soybeans, maize and rapeseed for animal feed and biofuels.

Monsanto promotes an agroindustrial model that contributes at least one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; it is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide. This is a model that threatens peoples’ food sovereignty by patenting seeds and privatizing life.

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Syria in crosshairs of corporate pipeline war

deseert oil pipeline

The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949, barely a year after the agency’s creation… Syria’s democratically elected president, Shukri-al-Kuwaiti, hesitated to approve the Trans Arabian Pipeline, an American project intended to connect the oil fields of Saudi Arabia to the ports of Lebanon via Syria.

by Mike Whitney

The conflict in Syria is not a war in the conventional sense of the word. It is a regime change operation, just like Libya and Iraq were regime change operations.

The main driver of the conflict is the country that’s toppled more than 50 sovereign governments since the end of World War 2 [see williamblum.org]. We’re talking about the United States, of course.

Washington is the hands-down regime change champion; no one else even comes close. That being the case, one might assume the American people would notice the pattern of intervention, see through the propaganda, and assign blame accordingly. But that never seems to happen and it probably won’t happen here either. No matter how compelling the evidence may be, the brainwashed American people always believe their government is doing the right thing.

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