CGL Pipeline debacle is a progressive values test.

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The trouble with the CGL pipeline is that you can make a compelling progressive argument either side of the proposal. Something that nobody anticipated.

To be sure, there are many complex layers in this debate, but the fact that its happening in live-time has brought out unprecedented protests across the country; blockading railways, harbours, marine transport, and several government offices.

To be clear, I’m not a lawyer nor am I of First Nation’s lineage, so my view on this is just that: an unprofessional opinion.

Make no mistake, the right wing is united on this. They’re rallying behind the law-and-order flag calling the protests illegal and demanding that politicians interfere with police and the enforcement side of things.

They have it wrong too.

Protesting, demonstrating, whatever you want to call it, is a protected right under our constitution. The line crossed between a lawful, peaceful assembly of folks highlighting causes and an illegal act is a determination made by a judge when asked to order an injunction: this is not a right granted to armchair pundits. So stop it.

As it turns out, nothing is clear and obvious about the pipeline proposal and the Wet’suwet’en (re)action.

The quick glance tells us that 20 elected first nations along the proposed route have given their blessing to the project while a handful of hereditary chiefs reject the idea. The 20 elected band councils cover 100% of the region, if we’re keeping score.

It was this simple look that CGL got its permission slip and required permits to begin this pipeline.

Not so fast says the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en.

Sure enough, digging deeper into this, there are layers of complex court rulings that have given rise to the protests we see today.

The compelling narrative seems to be the lack of consent regarding the proposed route as it drives through sensitive Wet’suwet’en lands and heritage sites. It opens up wounds around the colonial treatment that our First Nations have been treated with.

Competing with this narrative is an environmental one that takes a stand against the 30k job industry in BC. While natural gas as an industry isn’t without challenges or concerns, there’s a problem with the narrative that the Wet’suwet’en are against the CGL pipeline because they’re opposed to the NG industry: its misleading.

You see, consent was implied for a different routing of the pipeline that was eventually ruled out by CGL. It immediately begs a question: if the Wet’suwet’en were so anti-natural gas, why would they suggest an alternative routing of a pipeline that they would have approved of?

Why would the Wet’suwet’en suggest an alternative route for CGL? Because they’re fully aware of the Supreme Court decisions that give them a major role to play here; and to grant them this alternative routing would have been the very kind of reconciliation event that everyone wants to showcase long before it was coined as a popular phrase by politicians.

It also proves that the Wet’suwet’en leadership (elected and hereditary) aren’t unreasonable people, they were more than ready to do a deal; that they were plugged into the needs of their peoples.

The CGL Pipeline wasn’t proposed yesterday or last week, this is a multi-year project in its application phase. The decision to approve the CGL Pipeline as is was done in 2014 while Christy Clark was Premier in BC and Stephen Harper was your Prime Minister.

We get to this to this current crisis because of activists of the Wet’suwet’en in setting up road blocks and checkpoints along the access points within their territory that made it impossible for CGL to perform any work on the pipeline sites. As a result, CGL sought out and won court injunctions that required these activists to step aside and allow access by CGL to its work sites. Essentially to let the pipeline project proceed without the consent of the Wet’suwet’en. So this was done, by police, acting with an enforcement order.

That’s when the progressive world exploded.

It is a valid left wing argument to support unionized, family supporting high wage careers in resource development. Jobs that pay very substantial levels of taxes that support public healthcare, education, highways and the social safety net. Jobs that will also directly benefit the various first nations who have been on the suffering end of the economy for generations.

It is also a valid left wing argument to support a continued evolving reconciliation process that empowers first nations to come to full treaty status, gain full equality and shared decision making capacity with the various levels of government that surround us.

It is also valid left wing argument to support the fight against climate change; by requiring the industrial players to do more to mitigate legitimate concerns raised by the climate science community.

The false choice as presented by the big media and the right wing is that the left has to pick one of these avenues; so that they may define “leftists” as one of the above. The truth is that we’re all of the above and this is our test.

We’ll overcome this. If we work together.

My2bits

BC Liberals mishandling of ICBC is reminiscent of their failure on the real estate file

They were expecting to be re-elected and have time to extinguish the fire they started

To listen to the BC Liberals talk, everything was going swimmingly when they handed over the keys to power in 2017.

But as it turns out like everything, the truth was a lot different than the rhetoric.

The BC Liberals would claim success on the real estate front except the fact that their industry reforms in the early 2000’s led to the outrageous shadow flipping and affordability issues the lower mainland now faces. It’s taken a speculation tax and re-regulation to partially slow down an overheated market.

The motivation was obvious. When homes and property is sold, they pay a property transfer tax that amounts to billions in provincial revenue that doesn’t have to come from income tax or sales tax. The problem with this scenario is that it pushed real estate prices into the stratosphere with hyperinflation increases that all but ruled out home ownership for average people.

By the time the BC Liberals reacted and reigned in the shadow flipping cash cow they created, the damage was done.

What the BC Liberals never considered is that for the economy to function, you need your blue collar, front line workers an ability to live and work in the economy they’re supposed to provide services into.

Nobody can afford to live in Vancouver unless you’re well above $150k a year income level. Imagine trying to operate a restaurant where you cannot hire cooks or servers because they can’t afford rent in the area they’d need to work in, and the prevailing wage structure doesn’t come close to helping them.

The BC Liberals created a 1% economy that catered to the top tier and ignored everyone else.

The downside that nobody is talking about here is that eventually the real estate market will crash out unless there’s some intervention to let the steam out slowly. A crash here triggers a recession.

How is this related to the BC Liberals mishandling of ICBC? It’s the same pandering to their well financed benefactors. But instead of big real estate and big developers, it’s trial lawyers.

It’s the same re-jig of regulations that opened the door for friends to make a lot of money while ignoring the potential damages it causes.

In the case of ICBC, the BC Liberal changes allowed for more litigation and court fighting which amplified legal fees and payouts; all of which is covered by ratepayers premiums.

What the BC Liberals did, instead of taking the extra revenue from a property transfer tax, is they scooped reserve cash from ICBC for the same reason. It wasn’t a sales or income tax.

In hauling money out of crown corporations and cashing in the windfall from a white-hot real estate market, the government was taking in $3-4 billion per year that was unrelated to the performance of the economy, and literally it was unsustainable.

They were warned on ICBC. They chose to ignore it.

Fast forward to the current moment. The BC Liberals are spending heavily as opposition party in their chosen social media venues to attack the NDP over ICBC.

What kind of idiots do they take us for?

The NDP is trying to navigate a path to repair things the BC Liberals willingly broke. And they’re doing so while simultaneously fighting legal challenges by the benefactors who’re seeing their gravy train dry up.

Well I’ve got news for you. My ICBC premiums are for my protection, so that I’m insured while driving my vehicle; no matter what happens. It’s not the BC Liberal money tree they can freely pluck from because of their own financial incompetence.

The NDP might not be perfect nor get everything right. But I appreciate that they’re trying to fix what was broken and are moving the ball forward.

So while this process might be awkward and imperfect, I’ll gladly vote for the NDP in the next election for attempting the right thing.

The last thing BC needs is a return to office, the BC Liberals who deliberately and willingly tried to break and vandalize the things we hold dear. May they never see the inside of the halls of power again.

Gig workers are workers too and need labour code protections

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The NDP government needs to act without delay, to amend BC’s labour code to recognize gig economy workers who exist as “independent contractors” with employee-like labour rights as any waged worker has.

As a guideline, California passed “AB-5” that does very much the same. To be sure, California law making and BC legislation exist within different constitutional frameworks and in different countries. But the point is not lost here: gig economy workers are at risk.

As an independent contractor in the gig economy world, you don’t get fired, you get your contract cancelled. For those who’s paycheque is tied to a mobile app, annoy the company and you’ll get disconnected. Gig economy workers exist almost within an “at-will” employment scenario and its scary. Especially in an economy where most middle and modest income earners are struggling.

Being fair, I can’t say that I’m a big cheerleader of ride-hailing. Or gig-economy jobs; but maybe some folks are.

All I know is that this was a promise made by the NDP and kept.

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While it is true that certain NDP candidates said bad things towards the real ride-hailing cheerleaders, the BC Liberals; it was largely because the BC Liberals were planning a free-for-all system that would have been the worst outcome from every perspective.

Ride hailing isn’t a climate change savior; it won’t do anything to unclog an already over-capacity Vancouver regional highway system. It was only a transportation option that every political party made. All of them. Especially the Green Party.

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To recap. Ride hailing was an industry that burst into existence in 2009. Ride hailing was actually chased out of BC by the BC Liberals in 2012 when they tried to set up without regulatory approval. It wasn’t until the 2017 provincial election that the BC Liberals made the notion of ride hailing a campaign worthy promise after having not lifted a finger for it in the 8 years previous.

For whatever criticism one can throw at the NDP for the slow roll out of ride hailing, its at a breakneck speed compared to the bag of nothing delivered by the BC Liberals, and the NDP has added the class 4 license restriction to these drivers as a layer of qualification and safety. Now its time to protect the drivers of such business models; and all others who draw a paycheque from this sort of business to feed their families.

My2bits

Ironically, adding an extra “EHT” fee to restaurant guest checks doesn’t produce pushback

Story: https://globalnews.ca/news/6428076/employer-health-tax-victoria-diner-fee/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

So the restaurant operator is adding an additional 1% to guest checks to offset the new employer health tax brought in by the NDP for 2020.

In the article, patrons don’t seem upset to pay this fee, the operator says that he’s not profiting from it either.

Lesson: folks don’t mind paying taxes for healthcare.

We’re done here.

My2bits

Update: something fishy about the story.

For the above mentioned restaurant to pay $50k in new EHT fees to the government, his payroll should be about $2.5 million.

Given an industry standard that payroll shouldn’t exceed 35% of your revenue, that $2.5 million would be payroll costs of a $7 million business.

If these things are true and the company is charging an extra 1% on guest checks, he’s generating $70k to pay a $50k cost.

But, as he says, there’s no profit here.

Ok.

BC Liberals playing a dangerous game with ICBC

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Loudmouth BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal appears to have committed the BC Liberals to putting ICBC brokers out of business. In the article where the above clip comes from, Jas comments that by offering online insurance renewals, clients could save the broker share of the costs and pocket several hundred dollars as a result.

This presumes that an online apparatus is free to run (it isn’t), it assumes that no problems would arise as a result (unlikely).

Where does one pick up their insurance decal when ordering online?

But here is the kicker: there is absolutely no evidence that the BC Liberal Government prior to the 2017 handover was planning a roll out of online ICBC renewals. This seems to be another hot-air idea drummed up by overly ambitious BC Liberal hacks seeking out a position merely to attack the NDP with.

This doesn’t assume that online renewals cannot be done; you can do almost anything online. But to retain some buy-in from the industry, there will have to be some sort of check-off for originating brokers to get some residual fee from a renewal.

ICBC brokers charge a fee to resell insurance. Of course they do. EVERY insurance broker makes a percentage or fee from an insurance package they sell – whether car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, or anything. Its how a brokerage exists; those margins define the revenues for these independent brokers to exist…and provide a human contact between insurance company and client.

This latest pseudo-outrage over what ICBC pays out to brokers is a giant #nothingburger.  As a precentage, ICBC brokers change on average 8% back to ICBC as their margin. This is less on average than what other brokers charge for vehicle insurance elsewhere in Canada.

If anything, should ICBC be dismantled and a privatised model take hold, those rates could indeed rise; as would almost every other fee possible. ICBC isn’t perfect, and the upheaval its going through isn’t unlike others in the industry.

What this imaginary fiasco really is, is a distraction as the government is facing legal action by the trial lawyers association over legislated caps to soft tissue damage awards…caps that exist elsewhere in Canada and have withstood legal challenges there too.

I get it, turn ICBC into a phantom enemy so its easy to hate it and legitimise a campaign to destroy it. But the BC Liberals with their 16 year legacy of power saw no urgency in dismantling ICBC; they instead saw an opportunity to use the insurance corporation as a cash cow to prop up their imaginary budget surplus. That is the real scandal.

Sure the BC Liberals aren’t in office anymore and its the NDP’s show. Ok, so let them get it done. The reforms they’re undertaking were the ones originally hidden from public knowledge in the secret report into reforming ICBC that the BC Liberals didn’t want anyone to see. Its a report that highlighted problems *and* fixes.

Its a report that had the BC Liberals retained power, they would be enacting said reforms too.

The BC Liberals are now wasting time attacking the NDP for fixing the thing that the Liberals tried so hard to break and bleed white.

Look, the NDP isn’t perfect as they’re journey in power hasn’t been exactly smooth. But the alternative #partyofstupid is unthinkable.

My2bits

 

It wasn’t politics as usual to call out the ambiguity of Elizabeth May’s social policy flubs

Unfolding in Alberta right now is the full reveal of what happens when a seemingly conservative populist economic reform type party takes power.

Their attacks on all things public commence immediately; healthcare, education, the front lines in public service. But what comes next can knock the underpinning of a progressive society.

The UCP government is backing a private member’s bill that is literally going to reopen women’s health issues in Canada.

Technically, it’s not an official government position. But, conveniently enough, a regiment of hard right social conservative MLA’s just happen to agree with this private member’s bill, and it’s effect may be profound.

How does this affect the Greens you may ask?

Because the two narratives of the “I’m personally opposed to [issue] but would never impose that on women” and “I cannot tell or force my MPs how to vote” are not compatible.

Either you stand up for human rights or you don’t.

The Greens went bizerk at a handout the federal NDP launched in the south Vancouver Island region that outlined Elizabeth May and the Green Party ambiguity on social issues. What the NDP did was to quote directly from May and some of her candidates.

What the Greens pride themselves on is this utopian vision of “no whipped votes”, and the new found culture wars proves this ideal to be dangerously naive.

Except for environmentally conscious social conservatives. They love this right to vote their social conservative views while hiding in a party that pretends to be progressive.

These positions are incompatible for the left. In our view, social justice and environmental justice are inextricably linked, and there is no room in this movement for those who would take away from women.

But the Greens have made them welcome. That’s inexcusable.

In a federal parliament that is now sitting in a minority govt situation, the even harder-right conservative party is spoiling for a fight on social issues too. They sought out social conservatives at the grassroots level and they installed Andrew Scheer as leader.

As Alberta is showing, despite an official promise not to reopen such issues by “The Government”, the caucus is more than happy to unanimously endorse the proposal when offered as a private member’s bill.

Imagine now a strengthened Green Party with its “do not whip votes” greets such an issue.

So to those now call for a merger between the Greens and NDP can probably go pound sand.

Social conservatives and related libertarians have no place in a progressive party.

My2bits

Barack Obama endorses Justin’s re-election

I have no doubt this will lift the spirits of centrist liberals who prop up Justin Trudeau.

But consider this.

Barack Obama campaigned on hope and change in 2008, a generally Liberal agenda, he delivered a mostly incremental upgrade in domestic policy.

Don’t get me wrong, if I were American, I would have voted for Obama too.. especially given his GOP Presidential competition. Slam dunk.

But the centrist liberal incrementalism of Barack Obama gave rise to the popularity of people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among others in veering hard left in a country unfamiliar to actual socialist policies.

I guess what I’m saying is that while Obama’s endorsement may help shore up his base, Trudeau has failed on delivering the progressive agenda he pledged.

Now he will come across as desperate.

Look, I don’t hate the guy, I just think that Justin Trudeau is arrogant and entitled; just as much as his party.

Jagmeet Singh is that leader. He inspires hope, courage and change.

I’m voting NDP.

My2bits