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.

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.

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

The brilliance of the gas price inquiry

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Looks like Andrew Wilkinson laid another rotten egg; this time in relation to fuel prices.

Oh?

When gas prices spiked to $1.70 (or higher) per litre a few months ago, it triggered the NDP to convene an inquiry to ascertain the reasons why BC’s gas prices were so out of tune with the rest of the country; with an eye towards collusion if it could be discovered.

Well the report came back, and while collusion (between big oil companies) couldn’t be proven, the report did cite the virtual monopoly of only 5 companies that controlled the marketing and delivery of fuel to BC. And something about an inexplicable 13 cent extra that we’re paying in BC compared to anywhere else.

13 cents per litre extra.

That’s not ‘taxes’ either.

Taxes, while significantly higher than the rest of Canada on BC’s regional fuel prices, are probably the most transparent part of what costs go into your fuel tank. At any rate, if one is looking for blame on that file, the NDP increased the carbon tax on fuel by one penny; hardly justification for this price differential.

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Where Andrew Wilkinson has screwed up badly here is where he hitched his wagon to the narrative that the NDP’s fuel taxes are too high while simultaneously ‘blocking’ pipelines. Well the taxes, though higher, aren’t the NDP’s fault, and it was legitimate court action by first nations who have brought delays to Kinder Morgan. I’m not sure the BC Liberals want to instigate that kind of fight.

But in banging that drum, the BC Liberals have exposed big oil, though not necessarily acting in collusion, but acting like a virtual monopoly. That 13 cents per litre is a significant boost to a profit margin, now it has a political defender (at the expense of regular commuting drivers) in Andrew Wilkinson. This is not the position he wants to find himself in; defending big oil at the expense of average folks.

But there is a silver lining here.

In boosting fuel prices thanks to what can be best described as profiteering, its pushing electric vehicle sales, and its making driving less affordable (incentive not to drive); achieving a climate change goal in one fell swoop. Best thing about this? Its completely a market driven result.

Good work Andrew.

My2bits

Elizabeth May’s SNC Lavalin idea is a clusterfuck

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Where do we begin.

In a wide ranging interview, Elizabeth May ended up talking about SNC Lavalin and the appalling state of water quality in several First Nation’s communities.

She linked them.

The major issue for SNC Lavalin is the pending legal trouble and the various corporate crimes they have been accused of. They had been seeking a differed prosecution agreement – the very issue at the core of the #LavScam scandal.

Separately, the Federal Government who has constitutional jurisdiction on First Nation’s peoples is responsible to their many communities; communities whose access to clean drinking water in many areas is curtailed due to contamination. These are third world conditions. In Canada.

Elizabeth May chimed in with the notion that a corporation should be compelled into fixing these inadequate water systems as part of their sentencing as a means of “corporate restorative justice”; on their own coin to be sure.

So, we’re to tell an affected first nation community that the badly behaving company is going to build them a new water system and the company is going to pay for it.

Shades of “we’re going to build a wall along the Mexico border and Mexico will pay for it”.

Let me list off the issues that come up with this proposal.

Now is not the time to go soft on white collar criminals.

Anything that gives the slightest ‘out’ for badly behaving corporate bosses is a non-starter with me.

This isn’t the same as handing a juvenile convict a sentence of 100 hours of garbage pick up and graffiti removal for the crime of vandalism.

Corporate criminals get convicted because they conspired to defraud clients, the taxpayer, or both. They do not fit on the same table of ideas.

If more corporate criminals saw the inside of a jail cell and lost 90% of their illegal wealth, then perhaps we’d see less of it. Giving them an out is the last thing we need. Especially in times of the expanding gulf between rich/poor and the disconnect between powerful elite corporatists and average folks.

This is the slippery slope to corporate personhood

It was a famous quote by then Presidential candidate Mitt Romney who uttered the phrase that “corporations are people too..” that lit the left on fire. He was wrong then, and centrist neoliberals are wrong to embrace it now.

By assigning ‘community service’ as a means to make the Corporation feel guilt and remorse. The victims of corporate crime are often taxpayers, shareholders or innocent clients; the only thing that the victims want after the fact (if not their money back) is to see that the people responsible are sent to prison like any other common thief.

Corporations don’t feel. They’re a box or a machine. They don’t get that sort of protection, people do; and the people-victims of badly behaving corporate bosses need to see justice being served.

Collides hard with Reconciliation

This is one of the trickiest areas of law and First Nations relations to be in the public sphere in a long time. Its overdue. We’re a long way off, in my opinion, but need to find a path forward.

I’m not a First Nations member, as my family tree I recently discovered is almost 75% viking and the remainder is ‘other’ European. But as a Canadian, I agree that our performance and treatment of those here first, those who’s land was taken, who’s cultures, languages and belief systems were systematically razed by a government bent on a genocidal assimilation of otherwise peaceful people.

I believe this proposal by Elizabeth May runs afoul of any solid effort on reconciliation.

Her idea is to say that here’s a badly behaving corporation, fresh from a criminal conviction, and we’re requiring them to rebuild your water systems…not only the ones in disarray, but all of them: see below.

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No input. No consultations. No effort to reach out and see if there are other, just as capable engineering and construction firms able to the tasks.

SNC Lavalin stands accused of some shady things, but as far as I’m aware, none are related to the sad state of potable water in various first nation communities.

Politicians let off the hook

The sorry state of drinking water in several first nations communities didn’t happen overnight. This took several decades of neglect; by governments more eager to subsidize corporations or hand tax cuts out to the one-percent folks.

Elizabeth May is clever here even if she’s not aware of what she has done. She’s made funding and construction of water services available only if there’s a conviction. What if there isn’t?

It is the government’s duty here, and Elizabeth May is giving politicians an easy way out here. “we’ll let the bad guy pay for the thing we’ve neglected for 40 years”.

What fuckery is this anyways?

Judicial interference

The court has the right to impose an adequate sanction for a criminal conviction. But to hear it from Elizabeth May, “we’re not letting the judge decide” and that is a dangerous game to play.

The government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the losing end of a Supreme Court decision when his government passed legislation adding layers of interpretation to sentencing criminals.

Granted, it was for different reasons, but the politicians threatened the independence of the judiciary. They lost.

Further observations

The Party of Elizabeth May wants to be King maker and power broker. This is a real possibility in the next parliament, so moments like this are critical for voters in judging who has the wisdom to lead.

It’s been noted that this issue, while not explicitly designed as such, has turned into a perfect “Liberal” trap that some NDP folks walked straight into.

False.

It’s a centrist neoliberal Band-Aid solution to an institutionally broken system. But doesn’t offer any real solutions.

Maybe it’s consistent with the stunning shift of the Green Party shifting to more Liberal/centrist philosophy in the hunt for votes; so let’s call it what it is.

Pathetic.

My2bits

Update:

This matter has been debated online by several folks and since the first outbreak of this scandalous idea, Elizabeth May has walked back a couple of items;

She’s recognized that the court (judge) has the jurisdiction to decide a sentence upon conviction.

She’s argued that her initial scheme wasn’t privatization, but in my opinion it looks more like punishment-by-P3.

What hasn’t changed is the tone deaf messaging and chaotic defense put up by Green party partisans.

Look, I’m not First Nations, but if I was, this clusterfuck would have been the moment I ruled her and her party out as an option.

Elizabeth May put reconciliation (consultation) and local water systems up as bargaining chips to be considered when figuring out punishment for white collar criminals.

WTF did first nations do to Elizabeth May to be degraded to the level of any other community service (restorative justice)?

It’s gross. And under further examination, it’s still pathetic.

Done.

Strike two, Ms May

Not everyone wants to vote Liberal or Conservative. This has been traditional fertile ground for the NDP for those left of centre folks or provides an opening for right wing competition to the conservatives.

And let’s be honest. 3rd and 4th parties want a minority parliament because that gives them the opportunity to leverage their legislative votes for concessions from the major parties. That’s how this thing works.

But. If your mapping out the campaign for one of these smaller parties, you must do so with a plan to win outright. “If [party] wins this election, we’re going to do these things that are on our agenda.”

It is unwise however to preemptively underline the handful if items you want if you’re a minority partner *prior* to the election. You could see those ideas gobbled up by a major party only to have your team made to look irrelevant, or you could trap yourself. By trap, I mean that in preemptively marking your legislative items, it might implicitly point to *one* party that you’re interested in working with, which may box your team in: you could be subject to the same opponent attacks, and you could subsequently limit how you criticize your potential partner.

Elizabeth May came out and said that if the Conservatives under Andrew Scheer were to embrace climate change and the carbon tax, she may support a Conservative minority government.

To the 65% of Canadians who would identify themselves as liberal-to-progressive and reside in the three major non-Conservative parties, you just ruled yourself off the ballot in their world.

This is a major mistake and a revealing window into the strategic chaos that Leader Elizabeth May is taking her party through.

That’s strike two.

Strike one was the hiring of political street thug Warren Kinsella as an advisor. By doing so, Elizabeth May and the Greens lost all right to claim that “we do politics differently”. No they don’t. Now they can’t.

Incidentally, as Greens are finding themselves on the defensive over this missive, they’ve gone and dug up a 10 year old story where the NDP voted to uphold a Harper budget in the fall of 2009. The narrative being, if the NDP can strategically support the conservatives, why can’t we?

The budget question at hand included improvements to EI at a time that the 08/09 meltdown had caused a major economic slowdown and job losses. The NDP used their legislative clout and votes to demand improvements for the unemployed. It delayed a premature election call; one that when it happened, reduced the Liberal Party to 20+ seats.

What the Greens have done here is different. They’ve set a price for their support *before* they have the bargaining chips in their hands. That’s a fatal mistake.

Campaign on your values, let the voters decide. When or how your party utilizes it’s influence and who they may or may not support in a minority parliament is a move left to play after voters have dealt you the cards.

Elizabeth May seems to have counted her chickens before they hatched.

My2bits

Update

Further observations: now that Elizabeth May has set the price for her support (solely environmental matters), Andrew Scheer could meet that price in theory, and also pledge to do a whole raft of socially conservative things that satisfy his base. But, technically that’d be ok since Elizabeth May already placed her chips. For her to withdraw the offer, this leaves her open to charges by Scheer that she can’t be trusted to ‘deal’, and he’d be right.

This is a disaster for the Greens.