Clean tech, green jobs, and disruption

workers in a wind turbine factory

by Bruce Mason

There’s light at the end of the tunnel and it’s solar powered and unstoppable. Fossil fools, who still have their heads buried in tar-sands and other 20th century technologies, can’t see it and risk being totally blind-sided. But for those who “get it,” the bozone layer is lifting around the world, particularly in places where new, common-sense, but revolutionary, vision is promoted and nurtured.

One way to grasp the inevitable and transformative nature of this powerful emergent force is through the term “disruptive technology.” It refers to new approaches that overturn traditional business methods and practices. History dubs these pivotal times as ages, such as stone, bronze, iron and information. We’re taught how the industrial age quickly displaced agriculture and how steam speedily overpowered previous forms of harnessing energy. In our lifetime, we’ve actually witnessed, first-hand, the Internet overtaking snail-mail and the virtual disappearance of video rentals and industries, from media to music, which have been forced to cope, in desperation, with changed and challenging realities.

Just five years ago, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) completed its first survey of renewable energy jobs. In 2012, five million people were employed in the sector worldwide. In their just released report, that number doubled to 9.8 million for 2016.

The countries with the largest renewable jobs are Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan and the US. Remember when knuckle-dragging “Drill Baby, Drill” advocates rationalized turning their backs on reducing emissions, citing that China and India, highly populated and underdeveloped, weren’t up to the task so why did they have to be? Well, coal-rich China, which now has the largest share of renewable energy jobs – 3.5 million – is home to the world’s largest floating solar farm.

As Donald J. Trump touts massive job growth in something called clean coal, India cancelled plans for that form of filthy energy in favour of plummeting solar prices. In fact, 62 percent of the renewable jobs are located in Asia where much of solar panel manufacturing is taking place. And IRENA predicts renewable energy jobs will number 24 million by 2030, outpacing the loss of fossil fuel jobs.

Closer to home, where we don’t make the top renewable job list, Justin Trudeau approved Kinder Morgan with the statement, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.” That’s news to oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, which just launched a $50-billion investment in renewable energy.

In Vancouver, IRENA director-general Adnan Amin explained the massive global transition to renewable energy: “They’re doing this not because they’ve suddenly become climate advocates or they’re against oil, but because they see the future in a very different way and they know that energy in the future is not going to be what it is today.”

So-called “leaders,” from presidents and prime ministers to governors and premiers, are tone-deaf if they think voters are torn over the transition to clean energy. In BC, for example, the “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” mantra is now discredited oligarchy propaganda. A new poll from from Abacus Data indicates that two-thirds of Canadians favour prioritizing economic growth in ways that don’t involve fossil fuels. And Americans don’t lag far behind in the recognition of the urgent and essential need to tank fossil fuels.

A leading light in analyzing and predicting the impact of clean disruptive technology is Stanford economist, Tony Seba. In a jaw-dropping, comprehensive, two-hour viral video , he dramatically illustrates our future in the first few minutes. From a photograph of a New York’s Fifth Avenue, taken in 1900, he asks his audience to pick out the automobile in the packed crowd of horse-drawn vehicles. Then, in a picture from 1913, in the same location, it is just as difficult to spot the one horse amidst the automobiles that materialized in just 13 years. The experience is highly recommended.

New York City, 1908
New York City 1908. Where are the cars?

Seba earned his reputation through his spot-on predictions of the solar boom. His current projections, based on technology cost curves, business model and product innovation, include: 1) By 2030, all new energy will be provided by solar or wind. 2) All new mass-market vehicles will be electric and autonomous (self-driving) or semi-autonomous. 3) The car market will shrink by 80%. 4) Gasoline, natural gas and coal will be obsolete (nuclear is already obsolete). 5) Up to 80% of highways and parking space won’t be needed. 6) And not only will the auto insurance industry be disrupted, car ownership and the taxi industry will be obsolete.

Streets of Detroit, 1910
Detroit 1910. Where are the horses?

Not fanciful when you consider expensive automobiles now sit idle, on average, 20 hours a day and electric vehicles are price competitive, especially when you factor in maintenance. Just before going to press, Common Ground had a conversation with Guy Dauncey, an author – his latest book is Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible – and activist. Dauncey has developed a positive vision of a sustainable future and he is translating that vision into action. “Guess how many people in the Lower Mainland have joined the handful of car-sharing opportunities?” he asked. “The answer is 120,000!”

Dauncey had another question: “What if BC and Canada – like Norway – had governments that not only subsidized the purchase of electric vehicles, but also provided HOV lane access, free parking and free charging (from street light lampposts)?”

Our economy no longer provides what most of us, unlike Christy Clark, consider real, good jobs. Fighting climate change supports families, sustains communities and provides a more equitable distribution of wealth, which our current economy no longer provides.

In his most recent book, Just Cool It!, David Suzuki (co-author Ian Hanington) writes, “The economy is a human invention, a tool that can be changed when it no longer suits our needs. The environment is the very air, water, land and diversity of plant and animal life we cannot live without. Why not work to build a healthy prosperous economy that protects things?”

Drawing on new innovations such as grid power systems, biochar soil technologies and algae-based biofuels, the authors outline practical, forward-thinking solutions for not only resolving the climate crisis, but also to create more meaningful work to directly benefit more people. All that is missing is that people demand change and action, as they apparently have just done in BC. When finally this happens, the results will be monumental.

When looking for a new job, start by changing your mindset and searching for something society needs. And think disruptive. In the aftermath of the provincial election, it’s past time to demand that elected public servants not only take big money out of a reformed electoral process, but that they also take disruptive action in order to catch up and build a better, re-imagined, BC.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola Island-based banjo player, gardener, writer and author of Our Clinic.

Lead photo: Inside a wind turbine factory.

The Powers of GO – The Green and Orange evolution

happy about green and orange

by Joseph Roberts

Sixty-five years is a lifetime without a minority government in BC. Now we have, just by the slimmest of margins, one! It is 41 NDP and 3 Greens vs. 43 Liberal Members of the Legislative Assembly.

A blessed granddaughter was born the day of the election. And like a new born baby this relationship between the Orange and Green needs TLC and nourishing. We dedicate this edition of Common Ground to all of us finding common ground to grow a better democracy.

This is not the first Orange and Green agreement, but certainly the first here in BC.

The Irish tricolour flag (Irish: bratach na hÉireann) is Green White Orange. The green represents the older Gaelic tradition while the orange represents the supporters of William of Orange. The white in the centre signifies the lasting truce between the ‘Orange’ and the ‘Green’.

The Quare Fellas sang The Orange and the Green in 1960’s, later sung by the The Irish Rovers. The song’s lyrics tell the humorous story of a lad born into a mixed religious and political family.

“My father he was Orange and me mother she was Green” the son born of a Protestant dad and a Catholic mom. “My father was an Ulster man, proud Protestant was he. My mother was a Catholic girl, from county Cork was she.” It brought a smile to my heart, you can listen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=63m-6zxfUyE

Making peace and forming agreements takes courage, creativity and also forgiveness in order to make our lives better.

We have friends in both the New Democratic and the Green parties. Prior to the election there was a lot of friction and animosity. Suspicion and animus raged between the two parties now in agreement. A number of NDP’ers were troubled by the Greens because they saw them as splitting the vote and keeping them out of power against the neo-liberals. Some Greens disliked the NDP.

Both sides have their stories to tell, their blame games, and their personal pains. No person or party in this situation is perfect, but then perfection can get in the way of progress. To have a progressive, democratic, environmentally aware governance of BC things had to progress.

The Greens have a lot to learn from the NDP and the NDP have a lot to learn from the Greens. Rekindled appreciation and respect will allow this now.

For 16 years the extractive capitalist and the donor class of the ruling Liberal-Conservative-Socred coalition, renamed BC Liberals, had free-rein to feed the profits from our land to the 1% while the middle working class watched powerlessly as Gordon Campbell-Christy Clark governments sold our province to the highest bidder. Big money ruled the body politic. There was no proportional representation. 39% of the vote took 100% of the power from the people, leaving 61% with no real representation.

We had taxation and exploitation without fair proportional representation. The NDP felt the impotence of sitting across from a ruling party that voted down any progressive motion they presented, such as taking big money out of politics which was crushed by their first-past-the-post (FPTP) overlords.

The sting was personal for John Horgan and the NDP who previously voted against electoral reform when the Single Transferable Vote STV referendum was offered.

Since then, the NDP realized while sitting in opposition how FPTP condemned them to democratic poverty with no real power against a BC Liberal majority government who, with only 39% of the popular vote, pushed through egregious legislation and slashed health, social or education budgets.

After watching the Christy Clark train-wreck in slow motion, they have realized that in order to have a government for the people the system has to be unrigged from the infrastructure and process that served the Liberals donor class. Get big money the hell out of politics and instill a proportional representation electoral process.

The Greens had already built these two principles into their platform and so the common ground was in place for John Horgan and Andrew Weaver to cooperate in order to better serve the people of BC.

And the magic happened. A minority government with the Greens holding the balance of power! The first time in Canada’s history. So, we stand before this amazing opportunity to bring real democracy and fairness into the governance of BC.

It has been said that when the people lead the politicians will follow. And the only real safe place for democracy is in the hearts and minds of the people themselves. So lets take out some life insurance for this new and fragile unity by getting to know each other whether you are Orange or Green.

We at Common Ground invite the members of the NDP Party and the Green Party to actually party together and meet each other face to face, share food and joy.

Of course, all are welcome who voted Green or Orange to come out and really get to know each other.

We really have more in common than we know. It is through connecting in person that friendship is built. With direct experience of each other we can develop the necessary trust to grow strong. Let’s be resistant to the divide and conquer techniques of the previous FPTP divisive electoral rules. Yes, we can move beyond hostile partisanship into a joint appreciation. We can cooperate together and better operate the levers of political power through a fairer, more democratic process to serve the 99% rather than just the 1%.

This may seem radical but at one time it was deemed radical to have women vote, or, it was unthinkable if one was a slave, to be truly free. Such is the moment we live in now.

But our effort did not end when we cast our single vote. Rather, the recent election has given us this golden opportunity. Now let’s solidify our goodwill. We can reverse the economic and environment damage done by former government’s controllers, who, being in power for too long, became arrogant, entitled and corrupt.

This is a new day for British Columbia and a beginning of a new era for Canada and what better time than on Canada’s 150th birthday. Just as UN-Habitat I and Greenpeace were born in BC and spread east across Canada, then across the globe, we at this time can stand for a truly people-focused democracy based on our shared values and common goals. And done well, this will be BC’s greatest gift to the rest of Canada on our 150th birthday. Implicit in this renewal is the honouring of those whose cultures were here long before the most recent 150 years, and to work together in the spirit of reconciliation with First Nations for the betterment of all.

Here is the opening section of the agreement signed by the leaders and caucus of both parties. Please do take the time to read the whole document on-line at the NDP or Green Party’s website, or at commonground.ca

2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement between the BC

Green Caucus and the BC New Democrat Caucus

This agreement between the BC Green Caucus and the BC New Democrat Caucus is effective [2017], for four years, or until the next fixed date election as set by the BC Constitution Act.

Section 1 – Foundation of Relationship

This agreement establishes the basis for which the BC Green Caucus will provide confidence in a BC New Democrat Government. It is not intended to lay out the full program of a New Democrat Government, nor is it intended to presume BC Green support for initiatives not found within this agreement.

Both the BC New Democrats and the BC Greens campaigned for a government that put people at the centre of their decision-making. Our policy proposals included many points of agreement, including:

1. Making democracy work for people

2. Creating jobs, acting on climate change, and building a sustainable economy that works for everyone

3. Fixing the services people count on

4. Making life more affordable for people

This agreement sets out a new relationship between the two parties, founded on the principle of “good faith and no surprises”.

Both parties agree that the legislature works best when all MLAs are able to put forward good ideas – and come together – to support those that advance the public good.

Remember, this is only the beginning. May we all find common ground and make our province, country and world a better place for peace and prosperity from this day forward.

Erin is a derivative of the Irish word for Ireland – “Éire”. Erin used for both sexes, is principally a feminine forename. Erin is also a name for Ireland in Welsh and one of the most popular girls’ names in Wales.

The baby mentioned at the beginning is named Erin.

So host a Orange and Green house party, block party, musical concert, improv flash mob, country fair, farmers market or any other place where people can gather together. Get creative and initiate you own celebration to bring both Green and Orange together. It is up to each one of us now.

Canada’s democracy a convenient fiction

First-past-the-post unchanged

by Kelly Carmichael

Politicians hold up democracy like the gold standard although few would be able to define it. They affirm that expressing your will at the ballot box is key to a functioning democracy. Yet citizens have no power to effect change, despite the fact they fund the infrastructure of government through their tax dollars.

What many do not compute is that all policy decisions find their foundation in the way we allocate power through our electoral system. Winner-take-all majoritarian systems offer an illusion of choice, but are actually designed to keep the commons out. You can vote for a candidate, but your options to effectively elect an MP aligned with your political values is quite slim. In 2015, over 9,000,000 Canadians chose losing candidates.

The other problem with first-past-the-post voting is the system most often returns skewed results. When we say 39% ‘majorities,’ that illustrates the total amount of votes for a winning party, but the inconvenient truth behind that number reveals that half of those voters voted for the winning party in ridings where an opposition candidate won. Many would be surprised to hear that a mere 4.6 million Canadians elected the 184 MPs that hold all the power in our House of Commons.

Providing such a small minority all the power in our government makes accountability very precarious and illusive. For instance, it would appear the government is very busy consulting on a variety of issues: electoral reform, trade, climate change, etc. These exercises provide a slick semblance of transparency and government accountability.

Unfortunately, most of these consultations expose a well orchestrated political theatre and lack the proper mechanisms and outcomes for responding to the evidence or the will of the people.

When you drill down into the consultations set up by the Special Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE), you find 88% of the experts who expressed an opinion on systems told the government to implement some form of proportional representation (PR). Additionally, 87% of the public who testified at the public hearings asked the government to move to a proportional system. The ERRE’s own online survey found strong support for both the principle of PR and specific proportional systems.

This consultation was the 14th of its kind in Canada. Each one recommended moving to proportional representation. Add this to the fact that 80% of OECD Countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) use PR and a body of research spanning 50 years suggests you get better democracy and governance through PR.

Alarmingly, the more the evidence and public sentiment pointed to proportional representation, the more the Liberals seemed to retreat citing they could not find ‘consensus.’

In November of 2016, Justin Trudeau announced that perhaps electoral reform wasn’t as important since now he was Prime Minister. In February of 2017, the Prime Minister sent his newly minted Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, out to face the media and tell Canadians the government had chosen to kill the file. A few weeks later, addressing a room of citizens and reporters, Trudeau announced killing electoral reform was his decision to make. Most suspect the decision was made in the shadowy backroom of the PMO.

Trudeau has since admitted that he was, and remains, an advocate of the alternative vote system (AV) – a ranked ballot used in a majoritarian winner-take-all system – which is basically first-past-the-post on steroids, a phony reform that continues to guarantee that up to half of all voters in every riding remain unable to elect the MP they prefer.

The truth was the Liberals could not find consensus for Justin Trudeau’s preferred system so they killed it.

The Liberals are leaving the once condemned first-past-the-post scheme intact along with their own undeserved domination of the House of Commons. j

US may hit emission targets before Canada

by Tom Sandborn

As Jeff Rubin, former economist for CIBC World Markets and author of a number of books, including The Carbon Bubble and The End of Growth, prepared to speak to a full house of fund managers, bankers and NGO figures interested in responsible investment at a meeting sponsored by the Responsible Investment Association (https://www.riacanada.ca/) early on the morning of June 1, the room was buzzing with excitement and worry about whether Donald Trump would use a speech scheduled for later in the day to announce the US was going to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, also known as COP 21. Trump did make that tragically misguided announcement a few hours later.

But the well known and often controversial energy sector expert Rubin had other things on his mind. In fact, he told the packed ballroom full of fans of responsible investment that the US under Donald Trump was more likely to hit emission reduction goals than Canada under Trudeau!

(carbonbrief.org/paris-2015-tracking-country-climate-pledges)

According to this graphic posted on the Climate Action Tracker website (climateactiontracker.org/), without cuts more serious than those committed to in the Paris Agreement, global temperatures will spiral up to an average of more than two degrees higher than current world averages. Most experts agree that increases that high in global temperatures will lead to catastrophic climate change, melting polar ice with ocean level increases likely to drown many coastal cities.

Rubin said, “I believe that the US, despite Trump pulling out of COP 21, is better positioned to hit their emission targets than Canada.”

Steve Kux, Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation, told Common Ground on June 5 that Rubin made good points in his Vancouver speech.

“Canada has made some positive moves on climate change,” Kux said, “but we need a cohesive and coherent national policy and our continued subsidies to fossil fuels and approval for pipeline expansion take us in the wrong direction. Given the positive steps being taken by American states and cities on this file, Rubin may well be right about Canada doing worse than the USA on getting emissions down unless we get our priorities straight.”

Meanwhile, Rubin says, BC has become a major conduit for highly polluting thermal coal from the US to Asia, and the recent federal approval of Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is not only environmentally dangerous, it also makes no sense economically.

Rubin said the often-voiced argument from fans of the fossil fuel industries that Canada needs more pipelines in order to “get a stranded resource to tidewater” for export abroad makes no sense to him as an economist. “It is, frankly, BS,” he said in an interview before his speech.

Most of the petroleum Canada exports is bitumen from the tar sands, he said, and that product is priced well below other oils in both the Asian and European markets, a reality that would leave tar sands bitumen stranded by economics and Canada holding the bag for the environmental and economic costs associated with building more pipeline infrastructure. He said Canada should build no more pipelines.

Kux also agreed with Rubin’s rejection of the argument that Canada has to build more pipelines.

“Tar sands bitumen is not stranded by the lack of pipelines to the coast,” he said. “Every barrel of bitumen exported loses money and more pipelines won’t change that.” j

Tom Sandborn lives in Vancouver and is interested in energy issues. Contact tos65@telus.net

Photo: Wind turbines near Goldendale, Washington.

What Health Canada won’t tell you about their NHP proposals

pill bottle

– but you should tell your MP

Health Canada (HC) never changes! They say one thing when behind the scenes their true motivations are completely different. With the media in tow, they have launched another round of consultations attempting to whitewash their proposals for the regulation of Natural Health Products (NHPs).

See: “Report of Online Consultation on Modernizing the Regulation of Self-care Products in Canada” (March 2017): www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/consultation-regulation-self-care-products/full-report.html

Make no mistake; the sole purpose of these consultations is to ‘manufacture consent’ from stakeholders, the public and politicians for what HC is actually attempting, which is to provide a mechanism for pharmaceutical companies to monopolize NHPs for serious chronic diseases, as drugs derived from natural constituents appear, protected by use-patents.

As has been the case for over three decades, Health Canada’s policies on NHPs are being heavily influenced by the Therapeutic Products Division (TPD), which regulates prescription drugs. The TPD acts as an ambassador(s) for Big Pharma. It is all part of an international alliance between pharma and regulators called ICMRA, the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities. (See www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/intactivit/drug-medicament/icmra-eng.php)

ICMRA is looking to internationally harmonize regulations on all medicines, an agenda Health Canada has ardently supported and prime in their sights are NHPs. The current HC proposals boil down to a purely bureaucratic and corporate agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with the benefit of Canadians.

How can such statements be made? In light of examining what Health Canada is actually doing, what they are saying doesn’t hold water.

Firstly, their most prominent theme is that they are committed to “modernizing” the current regulations.
Fact: Canada already has the most modern NHP regulations on the planet! This is like saying you are committed to modernizing a car that automatically drives itself. There isn’t anything more modern. Our regulations are light years ahead of any other country, with mandatory Good Manufacturing Processes and testing of ingredients. As a result, Canadian-made NHPs are in high demand in international markets. So what is HC so intent on changing??

The answer involves the fact that when HC formed the NHP Regulations they never thought so many NHPs would be able to support their claims with scientific evidence demonstrating efficacy. In fact, it was assumed by both HC and the natural health industry that scores of products would be eliminated. One prominent HC inspector was quoted during a plant inspection as estimating that up to 70% of the NHPs on the market would vanish. But the NHP industry rose to the challenge.

As new science on NHPs continued to mount, HC was faced with a new problem: that a large number of claims were being approved by the HC directorate in charge, for example, the Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD). These claims were/are based on peer-reviewed scientific or traditional evidence. Hence, large amounts of information have been disseminated to the public about what NHPs are capable of. The pharmaceutical industry began to complain NHP claims were not supported, when in fact most were and the NHPs were approved by Health Canada.

Yet the HC document above states the following: “…Many participants from the NHP sector are not supportive of this proposed requirement for scientific proof to support health claims, fearing that it would negatively affect the affordability, availability, and diversity of these products.”

This is doublespeak. The direct inference that NHP claims do not have to be proven is totally false and a major deception being purported by both Health Canada and the media. Presently, to be licensed, a
product must make a claim and it must support it using at least two peer-reviewed human trials or show it has been used for at least 50 years for the claim in question. Also, every ingredient in a formula has to provide a scientific or traditional rationale for its inclusion. The Natural Health Products Directorate (still operating within the larger NNHPD framework) routinely rejects submitted studies for inadequacy because of poor design or small sample size, etc. So it is untrue that the new proposals are just trying to ensure that NHPs prove their claims because they already have to prove their claims, as per the Natural Health Products Regulations.

What HC is actually proposing is that if any NHP claim involves a medical condition, the company in question would have to run clinical trial(s) to be approved, just like pharmaceutical drugs, regardless of how many peer-reviewed third-party studies there are supporting the NHP claim.

This is ludicrous. Firstly, with zero Canadian deaths on record from NHPs in over 60 years, their safety
levels eclipse that of prescription and [over-the-counter] OTC drugs, virtually every one of which has caused death. Further, many NHP ingredients have been used for centuries and intensely scientifically studied for decades. So if both the safety and efficacy of an NHP have already been firmly established, what purpose do further clinical trials serve, other than making it more expensive? The answer: a scheme to keep NHP companies out of the market. This is where the pharmaceutical industry is planning to exert their patents, such as this one on apigenin from chamomile (or celery) for cancer: www.google.com/patents/EP2403497A1?cl=en

Other falsehoods being purported by HC are that they are taking a “Risk-based Approach” and the more serious the condition, the “higher risk” the product in question. This is totally invalid. For example, there is ample evidence that quercetin, derived from citrus or onions, is effective for allergies and is anti-cancer. But what you use it for doesn’t change quercetin’s inherent safety! By this logic, eating a teaspoon of cinnamon on porridge isn’t dangerous, but taking the same amount of cinnamon, at the same meal, in a capsule for high blood sugar is. This is not a “risk-based” approach, it is a “USE-BASED” approach and the only thing it protects is pharmaceutical dominion over disease. If HC was really taking a risk-based approach, they wouldn’t be lumping NHPs together with OTC drugs because their risk levels are not comparable. This exact point was already considered and decided on by the Standing Committee on Health and was one of the driving forces behind establishing a separate set of regulations for NHPs.

HC says it combined the two directorates to save money. Yet if they were really trying to save money, why would they abandon a set of regulations that took 10 years to complete, and at the same time create an entire new directorate, the Marketed Health Products Directorate (MHPD), just to monitor product claims?

Is this how Canadians want their tax-money spent? Inspectors roving all over the country inspecting NHPs who have killed no one? Just think about how disproportional the concern and resources that HC has spent policing NHPs is compared to the low level of harm they have caused, not to mention their benefits or how much money they have saved our health care system. Does this make sense? No, it doesn’t because that’s not what its about. It’s about money and market control.

It is critical that you provide your viewpoint to both Health Canada and your elected officials in Ottawa. The best form of communication is a letter mailed to your MP. But whether by letter, fax, phone, or e-mail, concerned Canadians need to communicate with the MPs and express their views.

Take action at www.citizensforchoice.com/action-page
Source: Citizens for Choice in Healthcare,
www.citizensforchoice.com

Lillooet mayor champions the return of the train

The Cariboo Prospector

interview by Ray Kowalchuk

They used to come for the Gold Rush. Now, they come for the rush. – Old BC Rail slogan

Ray Kowalchuk: What inspired your “Bring Back the North Vancouver to Prince George Passenger Train” petition?

Margaret Lampman: I was contacted by the general chairman of Teamsters Canada – they are the union that represents all the railways – to talk this up again because of the lack of accessibility and tourism opportunities for, not only Lillooet, but for the province of BC.

RK: Tell us about the history of the rail line and how important it was in the region.

Mayor Margaret Lampman
Mayor Margaret Lampman of Lillooet

ML: When it [the Cariboo Prospector] was operating, it used to come into Lillooet three times a week and it gave tourists the opportunity to visit with us for three hours at a time, which was an immense influx of money into the small business community. And it helped them through the leaner times of the winter months. It also allowed our residents to take the train down to the Lower Mainland to access family and medical help or to go north to Prince George for work or social activities. The business community really took a huge blow when the train was deleted due to the lack of those tourists and activity, which is too bad because we like to support our local businesses and it also dropped our tourism in general, which affects your bottom line immensely. Let’s face it, tourists can become residents. That’s the cycle and how economics works. It was really hurtful for our residents who couldn’t get out of town if they didn’t have a vehicle. I keep saying, and will continue to say, we have no bus service in Lillooet.

RK: How did this hit the community?

ML: We had so many BC Rail employees living in the community that, when it was dispersed, quite a few of those employees, in order to keep working, had to be stationed in other areas. So it hit us hard by taking those families who were living here and supporting the businesses, our rec centre, medical facilities and schools. It was tough on the community as a whole. We felt the effects of it all down the line.

RK: How has the deletion of the passenger rail service and the sale of BC Rail in 2002 impacted you personally?

ML: On the personal side, it has hurt me because I have been involved in government for so long that I hear stories of people who have had to hire someone to take them down for medical treatment at a really high cost and that individual then has to decide whether or not to even get treatment. That should not be taking place.

RK: Why did tourists love the rail line?

ML: It has to be some of the most gorgeous scenery anywhere in the world. As you leave North Vancouver, alongside the ocean to the west and the mountains to the east, and coming into Whistler, you travel along rivers and lakes, cutting through mountains and then into the dry air of Lillooet. It drops down and you see our desert canyons – I call it Canada’s only Grand Canyon – and then heads north to some of the most spectacular ranchlands around, right up to Prince George. And the scenery all the way up there is just fantastic.

RK: What steps are you taking to bring the issue to the current government and what is planned for the future negotiations regarding passenger rail service?

ML: I started a letter writing campaign with all of the mayors, regional district chairs, First Nations communities as well as tourism operators from North Vancouver to Prince George. That resulted in a lot of letters of support going to the premier and Minister Stone. We have been working as a little group of cohorts to go to the next step. The response was overwhelming so I am working with the mayor of North Vancouver. He kindly offered his office to set up the meeting and through him we also have the support of the mayor of the district of West Vancouver as well as the MPs from down there, and so the request is in. If we do get that meeting, all the mayors will sit down with the minister, ask him and his staff to contact a private company, like Via Rail, asking for a them to provide a business proposal, then a business plan. That would be a huge win for us.

RK: How optimistic are you?

ML: I’m always an optimist and I think if we have a meeting and the minister looks around at that table and sees all of the support letters and mayors, it will be hard not to agree. I’m still waiting for more support letters to come in from different tourist agencies and businesses, international tourism operators and the teamsters. We will hopefully then have convinced him to give that directive to make it happen.

Ray Kowalchuk is a semi-retired carpenter and naturalist who moved from his home city of Burnaby seven years ago into the mountains of Seton Portage, BC. kowal@writeme.com

Sign the petition!

bring-back-the-passenger-train

 

RCMP admits to cellphone spying

photo of David Christopher

INDEPENDENT MEDIA
by David Christopher

Finally. After years of obfuscation, the RCMP has admitted they are using invasive surveillance devices known as IMSI-catchers or Stingrays to spy on Canadians’ cell phones. The admission came early last month, seemingly prompted by revelations from CBC News that Stingray devices had been in use in downtown Ottawa and at the international airport in Montreal.

In those instances, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale issued a strong denial that Canadian agencies, such as the RCMP or CSIS, were involved, but the controversy brought a great deal of public attention to the RCMP’s own use of Stingray devices.

Stingrays are deeply problematic for a number of reasons. About the size of a small suitcase, they operate by mimicking a wireless tower, tricking all cell phones within a radius of up to two kilometres into switching their connection to the Stingray. Once that connection is made, instead of targeting just a single device, Stingrays indiscriminately vacuum up sensitive personal information from all devices within range, essentially making them a tool of mass surveillance.

There’s no need to be a target of a police investigation to have your private information compromised; you just need to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And when you consider just how many cell phones are located within a two-kilometre radius of, say, a downtown Toronto intersection, that gives some indication of just how many Canadians have likely been impacted.

Secondly, Stingrays are capable of collecting information on everything from your location to details of every call, email and text you make. They can even listen in on and record the content of cell phone calls. Nor should we be reassured by the RCMP saying they only use Stingrays to collect location and device identification metadata. As Brenda McPhail of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association points out, “Metadata includes location information. That is intimately personal. The fact that they only collect metadata doesn’t let them off the hook.”

For those of us working in the field of digital privacy, the RCMP’s belated admission did not exactly come as a surprise. It will, however, hopefully prompt the informed democratic debate Canadians deserve about whether the use of these surveillance devices can ever be justified and, if so, what safeguards are necessary to protect the public’s privacy?

Unfortunately, the RCMP left many important questions unanswered. Why not tell us how many innocent Canadians have had their private information compromised over the past 10 years? Or let us know whether Stingrays have ever been used to monitor a political protest? And why did the RCMP wait until just a few weeks ago before applying for permission from Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada to use the devices?

Last, but far from least, the fact that the use of Stingrays can apparently be authorized based merely on suspicion of wrongdoing is hugely worrying. Surely, a much higher standard of evidence should be required, given the serious privacy implications for the general public?

It’s clear we deserve answers to all these questions from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Canadians should keep up the pressure on the government by supporting our 48,000-strong campaign at StopStingrays.org

David Christopher is communications manager for OpenMedia, a community-based organization that works to keep the Internet open, affordable and surveillance-free. openmedia.org

Our special election issue

by Joseph Roberts
Publisher and Founder (est. 1982)

“Many (governments) make a mistake, not only in giving too much power to the rich, but in attempting to overreach the people. There comes a time when out of a false good there arises a true evil, since the encroachments of the rich are more destructive to the state than those of the people.” Aristotle / Politics

Doll house for sale cartoonModern apologists assert that arrogant politicians are generally of high moral character. That has yet to be seen in British Columbia’s last 16 years. Millions of dollars, usually from tax payers, are used to prop up the deception that the government serves the best interest of the poor, and upholds democracy.

Martin Luther King Jr gave his riveting Riverside speech 50 years ago on the day I was writing this introduction. He said “A time comes where silence is betrayal.” “That time has come for us…These are the times for real choices and not false ones.”

He suggested five concrete steps that government must take, and named “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.” Please listen to his compassionate sermon posted on our Facebook page. Many closest to King called it the greatest speech of his life, telling the truth about their government, “refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that comes from the immense profits of overseas investment”. A government who takes for their personal gain instead of giving to programs of social uplift is “approaching spiritual death.”

In King’s time, the US government was expanding its military invasion of Vietnam eight thousand miles away. Today, our government is selling BC’s resources to the other side of the world at cut rate prices. Both are corrupt and only serve the very wealthy. There are big financial interests, oil and gas multinationals and land developers, seeking influence with their political donations. Large amouts of money have gone to the BC Liberals while they refused to discuss campaign finance reform seriously – until caught, and with an election pending. They had plenty of opportunities to support the campaign financing reform tabled by the NDP and Greens, but they constantly voted it down. To figure out who that serves, follow the money.

Common Ground’s front cover lists five areas the BC government could have handled better, and each category starts with the letter “E” – representing the grade they deserve:

Education

Instead of negotiating in good faith with the BCTF, the Liberals wasted $50 million of tax money defending their amoral position in court for larger class sizes and school funding reductions. In parts of Surrey, if you now want your child to go to public kindergarten, there are not enough classrooms or teachers. So parent have to enter a lottery to “win” a seat in class for their child. Two high schools in Surrey have 500 students over their maximum capacity, so they have put teachers on shifts in order to double the class room availability. This is just one reason why teachers have been deeply concerned. If someone thinks education is expensive, try ignorance. The generations of students who have already passed through the underfunded school system have lost a precious chance for a better education.

Environment

Exemplified by the largest mining dam disaster in Canadian history, where a billionaire shareholder generously donated to BC Liberals, as did Imperial Metal whose Mount Polley mining wastes poured into the pristine Quesnel Lake, upstream from rivers that flow into the Fraser River’s salmon run. But that is just a start. You have Site C Dam, Kinder Morgan pipeline and Woodfibre LNG approved by Christy Clark’s neo-liberal government.

Economy

The economy is fake, the books are cooked. Bob Dylan said “money doesn’t talk, it swears”. We are told incessantly that somehow private greedy people will help out the public the most. When you look at the real numbers and not the cooked books for voter consumption, you realize that’s a boldfaced lie. The NDP performed better.

Equality

Number one worst child poverty in Canada. Homelessness hot potatoes tossed back and forth between the various levels of government. The basic minimum wage needs to be raise to a living wage. Corruption paves the “trickle up” of money from the workers to the financial elite. Some make a big show about giving millions to various causes, seldom mentioning the tax deductions and insider trading for legislation or re-zone of their other properties.

Ethics

It seems unfair and unethical that the biggest media corporations align with Christy Clark – who in turn runs wall-to-wall ads attacking John Horgan the leader of the NDP. These media corporations are little different in principle from their corporate owners and venture capital masters. They are rewarded with massive advertising budgets from pro BC Hydro, pro Site C Dam, pro LNG, pro pipeline, pro venture capital, pro bank, pro mega developer interests. Notice how Christy gets all the major attention, while John Hogan has been black-listed or ignored. Many people do not even know his name, so Common Ground decided to interview him to find out who he is, and even more importantly, what he stands for.

Martin Luther King Jr ended his speech that day 50 years ago with lines which still echo: “If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony… We will be able to speed up the day…all over the world, when “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Here is a lesser known writer whose words also ring true today. And for BC.s sake and the sake of future generations, vote to make BC a better place for the 99 percent on May 9.

“These tremendous powers have been wielded with such a lack of scientific or financial skill, and in so narrow and selfish a spirit, that its arbiters have repeatedly plunged the commercial world into bankruptcy, and confiscated or inequitably redistributed its accumulated earnings, either for their own benefit or else to save themselves from the effects of their own blundering.”
– Alexander Del Mar

An Interview with John Horgan

Meet the leader who would be BC’s Premier

interview by Bruce Mason

I believe we are among the most blessed people on the planet to live in  British Columbia. All we need is a government that’s working every day for the people who live here.

Common Ground: Counting down to a provincial election BC is awash in attack ads and you’ve got a bull’s eye on you. How do you respond?

John Horgan: You’ve hit the nail on the head. BC Liberals are spending $20m of taxpayers’ money and not talking about things that matter to people, about the services neglected for 16 years. For example, services for seniors. Nine out of 10 care homes don’t have resources for minimum staffing levels. That strikes me as a failure. Nine hundred people died from opioid-related overdoses last year, also a failure. Yet the government is taking our public wealth and promoting themselves.

On top of that, we’ve got the most well-funded corporate party ever in BC. The Liberals rake in enormous amounts of money from the corporate sector and we’ve been asking over the past 10 years to get big money out of politics. Case in point: the creators of feel-good advertisements, the Pace Group, got $23 million in government contracts as they were donating to the BC Liberals. To me, an obvious conflict, but not to the premier.

CG: With few opportunities for debate and the legislature, basically part-time, would you like a leadership debate?

JH: I believe it’s being negotiated now. The more important issue is our democracy and institutions; it was 200 days between sittings. Last fall, there were cobwebs in the legislature, rather than people representing BC communities. But the Liberals prefer to make decisions behind closed doors in a clandestine way and claim only they have answers to our problems. Whenever a government believes only they know best, that’s the time to throw them to the curb.

CG: Are fear-mongering attack ads really just the voice of the wealthiest 10%?

JH: My approach has been to let them throw the mud and hold the government accountable. If they think they’re getting a free ride, they’re sadly mistaken. I’m going to talk about yesterday and, more importantly, what are we going to do tomorrow?

CG: This is a very important election with a deeply divided electorate, along traditional right/left lines, rural vs. urban, between environmentalists and people who stress jobs, millennials and seniors. How will you bridge these?

JH: You’ve identified the challenge. I’m a born-and-raised British Columbian, had good fortune as an MLA for over a decade, to criss-cross BC, talking to people about the environment and economy. Everyone recognizes you can’t separate the two. If you don’t have an environment, you won’t have an economy. And you need to make sure that economy is working for everybody, not just the select few.

That means ensuring, for example, forestry, a foundational BC industry. I worked in the Ocean Falls pulp mill many years ago, helped pay for my education with a good-paying job. There’s 150 fewer mills today than in 2001; 30,000 fewer people working in the forests, and we’ve never exported more raw logs than we did last November.

In forest-dependent communities, or in downtown Vancouver, people ask why resources that belong to all of us, our natural heritage, are given away to large tenure-holders to do with as they will? Those types of things people want to discuss. The Liberals talk about Conference Board of Canada statistics, but people say, ‘You know, during that period of time I was struggling. I was worried that if I missed one pay cheque, I was going to be in financial distress. And as I was trying to make ends meet I saw the mill down the street, go down.’

And we’re not seeing re-planting and silviculture we expect from the tenure-holders. We should be demanding this, as the public stewards of our land and resources, for this and future generations.

CG: How have BC NDP governments handled the economy better than the Liberals?

JH: We left two balanced budgets to the Liberals and they immediately slashed taxes for the wealthy and corporations, increased medical services premiums (MSPs), claiming that was going to somehow trickle down to the rest of us. Of course, it didn’t work that way. They ran massive deficits for a number of years and declared victory.

My responsibility is to lead the NDP and discuss what people are talking to me about, like childcare. People tell me over and over that young families are looking for services to help them participate fully in the economy. So $10-a-day childcare is not a perk or a nicety. It’s a necessity for many families, especially women. They have anxiety about the patchwork they must set up: their parents, Monday and Tuesday, Aunt Harriet and Uncle Bill, Wednesdays, figuring out how to keep going. The BC Business Council and the Vancouver Board of Trade support accelerating childcare. It’s good for kids, parents and the economy. The Liberals say ‘you’re on your own,’ we’re going to take care of our friends, the rest of you, make do.

CG: What about a $15/hr minimum wage?

JH: There are people working two and three jobs to make ends meet and the premier is working one job and getting two salaries, as premier, and as a Liberal party fundraiser.

Most people are struggling and I believe the least we can do is give a pay raise to those who are paid the least in the most expensive jurisdiction in Canada. The premier wants us to think she’s benevolent. But we need a methodical way to get to $15/hr, lead the country in wages, as we used to, so all wages go up, not just those at the very bottom.

Wages have stagnated for a decade and BC is the worst place for young people to get ahead. The premier talks about statistics that fit her narrative, but the reality is when you’re flying around in a private jet, you’re not talking to people. I’m on the SkyTrain, on buses, in communities, meeting with people, answering questions and taking the heat. I’m hearing about the challenges people face. It’s time we had a government that was working for them, rather than wealthy donors.

When low income individuals have more money in their pockets, they usually spend it. When they do, they don’t go out of town or leave the country. They spend it in the community, which stimulates small business development. We need a systematic approach, to talk to small business owners. The notion of a serving wage, for example. Not only restauranteurs – many of whom have given a million plus dollars to the Liberal party – benefit from a wage that’s even more minimal. I was a waiter, worked for tips and was happy to get them. But I believe a minimum wage should be for everybody and it’s what we intend to do.

CG: We’ve benefited from extracting resources, but there’s a new consciousness that we should be caring for these, as well. Where are the new jobs and how will you stimulate them?

JH: NDP tax credits for the film industry in the 1990s led to a critical mass that’s second to none. That’s how the economy grows. It doesn’t happen with the wave of a wand. It happens over time. Whenever a government is taking credit for everything that’s going on, the chances are pretty good they’re doing that because they haven’t had any impact at all.

In rural BC, on our resource front, we have less revenue from forestry, mining and natural gas than from MSPs in the last budget. That tells me our traditional industries are in decline. Jobs are being created largely in the Lower Mainland, and south Island, skilled jobs in high tech, information technology, green jobs and building the new economy. That’s an area the Liberals ignore. That sector is growing despite the BC Liberals, not because of them.

We’re developing technologies to store energy for longer periods. Once you create electricity, you have to move it somewhere. The advantage we’ve had historically is our reservoir system, in the Columbia and the Peace, we’ve been able to use these as large batteries.

John Horgan
John Horgan speaking at Question Period

Living in a rainforest is advantageous. But as climate changes, we’re seeing different weather patterns, not as much snowfall (hard to believe after the winter we’ve had). With less snowpack, a thoughtful government would ask, ‘How can we supplement our water hydro-based system with technologies not dependent on water?’ The BC Liberals, in their haste to bring on private power, focused on run-of-river projects. They called them small, but some were 250/300 megawatts. Not small; that’s a dam.

I’m not averse to the technology, never have been, if appropriately located with minimal impact. No impact on fish, with an existing logging road in some cases, already a good fall, so you have the run to create energy. The better course of action, augmenting our hydro system, are alternatives like solar, wind and geothermal.

Interestingly, Dr. Harry Swain, chair of the federal-provincial joint review panel on environmental, economic, and First Nations impacts of largest public works, in his report on the Site C dam, said Hydro has a responsibility to look at geothermal. Yet there hasn’t been a penny invested. In the Chilcotin and other parts of BC, we have a tremendous untapped geothermal resource. And wind and solar power – other alternatives – to complement our existing sources. But the Liberals have been short-sighted in this regard.

CG: We’re in an affordability crisis with too many homeless. What can be done?

JH: Housing is a broad affordability challenge, the whole continuum of finding single occupancy opportunities for individuals in distress. Families are living in one bedroom apartments, with a second or third child on the way and no prospects. There’s nowhere for them to go because housing costs are absolutely out of control.

In 2014, when I became leader and appointed David Eby as housing spokesperson, he went like a terror and said, ‘Look at what’s happening around us. We see speculative investments and headlines: “Get Out of Gold and Get into Condominiums in Vancouver.”’ When housing stock becomes a commodity, you’ve got a problem. It’s a fundamental right, not a speculative investment, in my world anyway, and for the vast BC majority. Housing is a safe place to be, to keep out of the elements and grow your family and life. That’s not how the BC Liberals look at it.

When we raised these issues in the legislature, highlighting the extraordinary explosion in the cost of single family homes in Vancouver, the response from the BC Liberals was to laugh it off and say, ‘You don’t like people having equity.’ It has nothing to do with that. People are being priced out of the market and the development community, building condos to sell, rather than units to rent.

The federal government’s been out of the housing business for some 20 years now. Mr. Trudeau made a commitment to get back into it, a great opportunity for a new government led by me to reinvigorate the co-op movement in BC. People living in co-ops are absolutely delighted to be in a safe and affordable environment, with pride of ownership, without all the money to get in.

CG: People, worried about keeping their apartment, now open their Hydro and ICBC bills and can’t afford ferries, but hear about surpluses and balanced budgets.

JH: At what cost? The social deficit created by BC Liberals has to be put up against their so-called surpluses. They’ve been taking money out of our Crown corporations at an unsustainable pace, borrowing money when the companies are actually losing money, and then putting that into these deferral accounts – $6 billion by the end of this term in deferred debt, to be paid by ratepayers.

Before the last election, Christy Clark and Rich Coleman said they had wrestled Hydro to the ground, fired a few people and rates weren’t going up. They cancelled the rate hearing and BC utility process. When re-elected: in the first five years, 28% rate increases and much more to come. At the same time, they were taking an increased dividend from the Crown corporation, even though it was losing money. We have more energy than we need, demand is declining. We used to export to the US at a handsome profit, playing the markets. Now, the US is awash in electricity. So we’ve got nowhere to sell it and more than we need. The average price of electricity in 2006 was $35/megawatt hour. The average price today is the same. Yet we’ve been buying new supply at $100, $110, $120/mwh and building Site C at a conservatively estimated $90/mwh. You can’t buy high and sell low forever; it’s falling on us and on our families.

Liberals said they were gonna fix it, then shut the legislature. When your landlord just bumped up your rent and you look at your Hydro bill, that’s how homelessness happens. It’s critically important to look at the entire continuum of housing, not just those who are currently homeless, but also those on the edge of homelessness, what used to be called middle class. This inequality in our society is the biggest challenge that the new government will have, and, in fact, it’s the biggest challenge British Columbia has.

CG: What about the people who need treatment, but have fallen through the cracks?

JH: Mental health and addictions are rampant all over BC. The fentanyl crisis has highlighted to people in smaller communities that this is not just an urban problem. It’s a societal problem to be addressed. For example, I’m excited about revitalizing Riverview in the Tri-cities – Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody – not as a place to keep or warehouse people, but as a sanctuary for those who want and hope to break addictions. The best way is to have resources available for front-line workers.

I’m making an announcement: a new ministry of mental health and addictions. It’s critically important that there be champions inside government. As a public servant, I know the challenges that government faces and the silos that emerge within the system. But a champion for a cause, whether it’s childcare or mental health and addictions, is someone that’s working within government to make sure the pockets of cash that exist are consolidated towards delivering services for people. NDP candidate Selina Robinson from Coquitlam is a family therapist and front-line worker – an example from our team.

Riverview lands are an outstanding opportunity for a place of wellness to build support systems out into communities. When it closed, there was nothing to receive those who left. We need to reverse that, not as a warehouse, but as a place of wellness, healing and hope for vulnerable people, every day.

CG: Would a Premier Horgan submit Site C to the utilities process?

JH: Yes. It’s the only major project since the Utilities Commission was created that has not gone through the approval process.

CG: What about opening the books on BC Hydro, ICBC, BC Ferries? Are you going to review these with an eye to serving people?

JH: That’s a significant part of our platform and why I’m grinning like the Cheshire cat at those three Crowns particularly, fundamentally. Almost 800,000 people live in ferry-dependent coastal communities. I’ve forgotten more about this than the Liberals know. They don’t understand ferries, that’s why they do so poorly on Vancouver Island. The ferry system is an extension of our highway system. So, yes, we’re going to look at those three major Crowns – ICBC, BC Hydro and BC Ferries – with a magnifying glass and find a better way forward that has people at the centre.

CG: Christy Clark ignored recommendations of her expert panel on a climate change plan. How will you proceed?

JH: I met with panel members and was delighted with space for increasing the carbon price after 2018, a new government’s opportunity to look at existing programs, see how we can tweak them, whether that’s low emission vehicles or how to give people tools to reduce their footprint. That one-year hiatus gives me some space to have a real conversation, rather than a knee-jerk reaction, and time to hear all about their conclusions.

The task force wasn’t just passionate climate action people. Municipal leaders, advocates, industry leaders, the LNG Alliance, were also at the table, a bunch of people, horse-trading, to find a way forward. It disappointed me when a 2020 target was just thrown away. One assumes that, okay, let’s move to the 2030 target, but that was just thrown away, as well. The premier rested on reducing our emissions by 2050. That matters to my children and grandchildren. But I want to see action today.

Experts made it clear that carbon taxes are a valuable tool, but not the only one. The only measure of success is a reduction of emissions. If you have and meet targets, it doesn’t matter how high your carbon price goes; it just becomes a tax. We’ve reintroduced a 2030 target. The feds came up with their own strategy of a national carbon price, good news for Canada and for BC because we’re already ahead of the game. They’ve set a price of $50/ton by the year 2020. Our carbon pricing plan focuses on taxing the polluters, creating the largest emissions and giving tools to people who don’t have the wealth of large emitters to reduce their own footprint.

The first government in Canada to legislate climate action plan was Joan Sawicki’s BC NDP plan in 1999 – the only government to table a climate action plan following the Kyoto Accords. I’m passionate about climate action. In over 50 years on the planet, I’ve seen and felt the changes. I was cutting our lawn, taking advantage of a beautiful mid-November day. My oldest son reminded me we live in a rainforest, that climate is changing and that I got elected to do something about it.

I’m dedicated to do what I can, if fortunate to win the election, to make substantive changes and leave a planet that’s healthy. Instead of just giving tax breaks to people, I want to give money back to people so they can change their own behaviour and everything that’s surplus to that will be driven into new technologies, to transit investments, to programs that will reduce emissions. That’s the standard we should be measured by.

The creation of the Agricultural Land Reserve by the NDP Barrett government is the most forward-looking policy I can recollect as a history student and proud BC citizen. It’s endured multiple different governments over time and has stood as a symbol of what we can and should do with our arable land. I look at the First Nation in my community, the Sooke Nation. They’ve opened my eyes to alternative energy prospects with photovoltaic solar panels on all of their common buildings. They’re meeting their needs, selling back to BC Hydro, powering their greenhouses and growing wasabi for export.

They’re also doing shellfish aquaculture in the Sooke Basin with oysters on top of scallops, on top of sea cucumbers, a modest footprint. Food production is through the roof, protein being created by First Nations, with energy from the sun, in the middle of a rainforest. Imagine what we could do in Osoyoos or Penticton or Kamloops where we have arable land and abundant sun? As climate change continues, our imported food sources, Mexico and California, become less viable. It will be more important than ever to protect our arable land and put it to good use, not just growing hay.

I got into government with Mike Harcourt when the Treaty Commission had just begun. I have a masters degree in history and I’ve looked at Canadian history up and down and all ways to Sunday. Harcourt’s commitment to the treaty process really excited me at the start of the ‘90s. I worked with Mike on a range of files, but was passionate about the treaty process as the way forward. In 25 years, successive court rulings have made it abundantly clear: rights and title aren’t just theoretical. I’m excited about the certainty it gives us. To invest in BC, on a land base, talk to First Nations about how to do it.

CG: Electoral reform is needed for a healthy and fair democracy. Are you committed to proportional representation?

JH: I spent years in opposition, without any influence on policy even though the government of the day received less than 50% of votes while the opposition side had the majority of votes, but zero influence on outcome. So in 2009, I voted in favour of STV. It was defeated, but perfection is the enemy of progress. Let’s make progress. Whatever this is, it has got to be better.

I believe we are among the most blessed people on the planet, to live in British Columbia. All we need is a government that’s working every day for the people who live here, rather than the people that write the cheques. I think that day is just around the corner and a New Democrat government, led by me, will have people at the centre of it.

John Horgan interview videos

interviewing John Horgan

Watch Common Ground’s in-depth interview with NDP Leader John Horgan

Select a topic