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

Charter rights are meant to be protected. Unanimously.

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If you’re wondering why the abortion issue has sprung up in this election, it’s because some folks have called out Elizabeth May and the Green Party’s ambiguity on abortion rights in Canada. 

Specifically, the Green Party prides itself on being “un-whipped” when it comes to it’s potential MP’s in that the party caucus won’t force it’s views on individual MP’s. The backdrop here is that several candidates, including from Elizabeth May personally, had been revealed as either pro-life or non-committal about ensuring a woman’s right to make these sorts of decisions freely. Since this all exploded into the open, Elizabeth May has taken a strong position herself committing to pro-choice and that the Green Party has taken an absolute position on the matter. Except that if your party refuses to “whip” it’s representation, any attempt to re-open an otherwise closed legal and private medical issue as abortion is, could be done so by the un-whipped Green MP’s that Elizabeth May wants elected. 

This is not a trivial matter. The right to access abortion services in Canada  was made possible by the Supreme Court throwing out laws that forbade access calling them a breach of Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

That is to say, access to abortion is a constitutional right. But laws and regulations could be passed by parliament that could obstruct or add layers of interference with this right. It is imperative that candidates for generally progressive political parties be unanimous in their support of women’s autonomy to make her own decisions without interference from politicians. 

Specifically, the Liberals, NDP, and Greens should have no daylight between them when it comes to women’s rights. Or human rights, since women’s’ rights are human rights. 

Elizabeth May and the Green Party want to have their cake and eat it too. You cannot be both an unwhipped party and be even remotely ambiguous about Charter Rights. 

So when folks charge that Elizabeth May is open to dealing with the socially conservative Conservative Party, there’s a legitimate worry here. Especially when the Green Party leader is only concerned about climate action.

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That’s why this is a big deal.

My2bits

The Greens stunning coup in grabbing former provincial New Brunswick NDP candidates turns to a lemon.

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Read the story: here

You’re a party member that discovers that some voters are racist. Do you defend your leader against this intolerance? Or leave the party because you don’t want to be identified with that turban wearing leader.

Today we found out.

The Greens, already stung by their party leader’s gross misfire in the “corporate restorative justice” stunt where Elizabeth May seemingly flings aside reconciliation and UNDRIP by proposing SNC Lavalin be given a no-bid P3 to rebuild water systems on reserve lands, now appears to be the home of political activists who are uncomfortable with a brown skinned dude with a funny name.

Elizabeth May presumably signed off on this plan, was she aware that some former NDP candidates were not comfortable with the brown guy with the Sikh faith? Jagmeet Singh? She should have told them to fuck off. We don’t want your racial intolerance either.

This is the sort of thing I would have expected from the PPC. This would have made sense. From the PPC. Greens?! Remember when they were pretending to be progressive?

 

No. The Greens are not progressive. This is a move unfit for a party seeking office who wants to hold the balance of power.

Sure, good catch, Green Party. Thanks for taking out trash.

Now wear it like the cynical opportunists you have become.

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

BC Liberals find new ways to look pathetic over ride hailing

The BCUC approved the ICBC proposal on a basic insurance product for ride hailing corporations ahead of the anticipated September 16 legalization date.

John Yap

The BC Liberals found a way to complain about it. The angle? The product is too cheap and other drivers will have to subsidize ride hailing corporations as a result.

This is of course after months of belly aching over the government requiring a class 4 license for ride hailing drivers because it was an expensive barrier to earn a few extra dollars.

But this should come as no surprise from a party that likes to stand on both sides of an issue and would have attacked the NDP no matter how they handled it.

What’s really going on here? The desperate and pathetic flailing by the BC Liberals in frustration as they witness a government getting things done compared to the dithering and triangulation that Campbell and Clark were famous for.

The BC Liberals had every opportunity to enable ride hailing in the last two terms (of the 4 they served) where ride hailing corporations existed. But, no. They went as far as chasing out Uber with legal threats when they began operations without proper authorization from the gov’t.

It was only an 11:58pm conversion in the last few weeks before the 2017 election that the BC Liberals found religion on ride hailing, but even then, they misread sentiment. They still do.

In 2018, a poll discovered that while the public overwhelmingly approved of ride hailing, it wasn’t without limits. They wanted drivers to carry class 4 licenses, wanted limits to how many ride hailers could exist as nobody was looking to put *more* cars onto the already over capacity lower mainland road system.

One of the advantages of waiting as long as we have to get ride hailing off the ground is we get to see what long term trends look like in large cities like Vancouver with the advent of this click-and-ride service.

Studies show that unrestricted ride hailing services adversely affect traffic congestion. So putting a regulatory cap in place on how many may drive for ride hailing corporations would have been wise policy for those cities. Good thing it’s coming for BC.

I’m not saying that I’m in favour or opposed to ride hailing. But if we’re to have it, the drivers should at least play by the same rules we expect of cab drivers they pretend to be.

It’s a newer business model and an alternative to traditional cabbies. But it’s not the answer for traffic congestion or climate change.

Even the Green Party is on the wrong side of history here.

My2bits