Opposition attacks on Royal BC Museum rebuild are some of the most repugnant in BC political history.

See update

Opposition attacks against against the proposed rebuild of the Royal BC Museum coming from the BC Liberals and Greens are sad, but predictable. It’s opportunist too. They both attempt to create a wedge issue (for which they are attempting to be on the right side of) by arguing that it’s a binary choice. They cast it as ‘Museum or healthcare’; or, ‘Museum or education’; ‘Museum or climate change’. You get the picture.

The reality is, and the BC Liberals know it – as they have served in government before (Greens too, in a supporting role in the 2017-20 confidence and supply arrangement with the NDP) – that government can do more than one thing at a time. In fact, we expect it; its literally their job.

Government doesn’t run its books like a household – it cannot do that…and it rightly shouldn’t.

As we continue to climb out from the effects of the pandemic, we go from high unemployment to not-enough-workers. Wages are finally moving up. Net effect? More tax revenue from more people working and at higher wages. BC’s economic performance is the best in Canada; better than most jurisdictions in North America.

This allows us to do things. Such as rebuilding a museum that has been asking for help since 2006 – and put on a shelf in favour of other vanity projects like the new Trade and Convention Centre, BC Place roof replacement, Port Mann bridge (and more, and all were grossly over budget).

What burns me is that in this era of recognizing the collective impact of European settlers harm to the First Nations of BC, this museum project allows a more accurate re-telling of what really went on.

This previous year (and more recent headlines) have showcased the thousands of unmarked graves of children who died while in care at the various religious/church operated, government sanctioned residential schools.

Were these children murdered? Neglected? Sick and died from natural causes? I don’t know. Their cause of death is important, but these children deserve to be known by name, their extended families deserve answers, and we must be accountable to this. All of it.

The lost children (the tens of thousands of them), the many complicated matters which need addressing in our delicate walk to full reconciliation, are journeys that need telling in a renewed museum.

Imagine a new museum that finally tells the (living) story of our collective failure in our relations with our first nations – not only to ourselves in BC, but to the world? That would be a good start.

The cost? Government says it will cost $768 million. But, like other large projects, expect it to go over budget. That’s just the reality of things. Especially in todays world where products needed for rebuilding and the highly skilled labour needed are in short supply.

The cost to refurbish? More. Asbestos removal, remediation of the current structure would clearly be a different cost structure than removal of the old, building new.

Over-spending on large projects is nothing new, and hardly controversial anymore. Taxpayers are used to this by now.

The opposition casts this as a thing that should be cancelled; possibly delayed into the future. But given the facts, this will inevitably be required, and there is no delay possible that makes the costs go down any.

I mean, I expect this from the BC Liberals. They cast the museum rebuild as a vanity project. Unfair, especially when the project moves forward in partnership with first nations. And who are the BC Liberals to lecture anyone on vanity projects? Have we forgotten already about ‘quickwins’, ‘om-the-bridge’, Port Mann fiasco, TransLink tinkering?

Oh I know; calls from those saying “that’s in the past, your guys need to worry about now and into the future”. They’re right! Voters are well aware of BC Liberal duplicity and hypocrisy here, but there is little to gain by rehashing it – they lost the election…electoral mileage made from their dismal failings is a credit well cashed in.

But this is about today and the future too. The proposal would only be finished its construction process in 2030 – two whole electoral terms away from now.

Every sign is pointing to a looming recession; a general hangover from the insanity over the pandemic crash – then its rocket-speed ‘recovery’.

Housing prices and general inflation has caused economic problems of their own. By pricing out working people from participating in a housing market (or rental market for that matter), there will be a huge underclass of folks unable to support the small and medium businesses who need free flowing, disposable income from paycheques from workers in order to survive. Folks are just trying to survive.

Government can sit back and do nothing, letting the chips fall where they may…or they can be proactive about it. BC needs a new museum as the old one can’t do it anymore.

The build, the narrative change and the location all serve an economic-health sensitive industry in Victoria well and would bolster the private sector; at a time when they could use it the most. Of course, Victoria isn’t the only place that matters in BC – but as I’ve mentioned, government is capable of handling more than one thing at a time. That’s what they’re supposed to do.

Opposing the museum rebuild is a knee-jerk conservative reaction that I expected from the BC Liberals, I did not expect it from BC’s Green Party. They seemingly have taken on the right wing talking point that funding a new museum is a binary choice ‘at the expense of..’ when it clearly is not.

I’m not going to pretend to be able to sway the opinions of those who hate the NDP and just found a new reason to bolster their hate.

No.

To the overwhelming of rational people in BC however, do not be swayed by the negative nellies on the opposition side. This is a government as you know that isn’t engaging in one-off populist things. Building a new museum – regardless of rhetorical nonsense – is a bold and justified program that will benefit our province in the near term and well into the future.

This is what coherent leadership is supposed to do.

my2bits

Edit: To anyone suggesting that the Royal BC Museum rebuild is a surprise that nobody wanted or talked about, this is incorrect. The earliest I have discovered that the RBCM board had discussed in public the notion of renovations or major structural concerns was in 2005 as part of their 2005/06 annual report.

Here’s the 2008/09 – 2010/11 service report with even more explicit references to the project idea now so controversial.

And this Tom Hawthorne, on twitter, reminding folks of this.

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Update:

Well it looks like the museum project is shelved for now. Blowback in the public space was overwhelming as many folks argue that now is not the time for such an endeavor.

That’s too bad. I was in favour, and I believe that the museum rebuild would have been a net positive for the capitol region and BC in general.

But I am no expert and certainly not in control of policy here.

John Horgan, as leader and Premier having to back down from a major initiative like this – is a setback to be sure. Instead of blaming others – he owned it personally.

If I understand one thing about BC voters, they’ll respect and support a political leader who comes across as human as we all are; including accepting mistakes as they come along.

So, with that, I note that from the folks who demonized the NDP and John Horgan for proposing the museum rebuild – now demonize him for cancelling it.

Folks are watching.

Partisan attacks against the NDP/ICBC policyholder rebates is manna from heaven for the NDP.

It was announced the other day that from the ballooning ICBC surplus, that the crown owned insurance company would send to policy holders a rebate of $110 for regular policy holders and $165 for commercial policy holders in response to record high gasoline prices.

The attack from the BC Liberals and their affiliated partisans was that the sum wasn’t enough. Others took an opportunity to politically eviscerate ICBC and the NDP’s reforms therein.

The NDP couldn’t be happier with this clumsy self-own from their political adversaries; and in doing so, the opposition made themselves out to be the elitist, corporate owned entity that they are. So much so that I predict they will be nostalgic for Andrew Wilkinson soon.

But first, some background on ICBC.

The Insurance Corporation of BC was established in the 1970’s BC NDP government under Premier Dave Barrett. The idea was that vehicle insurance should be a publicly held and controlled entity and that it should be provided at or near cost to the public.

It’s roll out was clunky to be sure and it we met with immediate hostility to a patchwork of private insurers at the time. Despite the chaos it was born from, its largely met its purpose, despite every effort by opponents of the NDP (Social Credit, BC Liberal) to hobble and dismantle it.

That is until the latter half of the last BC Liberal regime.

In the past, if there was a surplus in the operations of ICBC, it was utilized mostly to keep insurance rates low – or cap any potential rate increases. ICBC, like BC Hydro (for much the same reason) were the crown jewels in the BC advantage for residents and drivers.

The BC Liberals saw an opening though. They would direct both crown corporations to divert billions of dollars of their budgets to the provincial government as a backdoor tax increase – to increase revenue as other (‘trickle down’) ideas failed us.

They did this despite hobbling the operations of both crowns. In the case of BC Hydro, they were compelled to borrow the money for which the province claimed as income – creating a better bottom line budget number than what would have been revealed. For ICBC, this ‘dividend’ was taken regardless of the the plight of the insurance carrier and drained its reserve funds.

In both circumstances, world events and market conditions demanded that both crown corporations see some internal reforms so that they would remain solvent and viable operations into the future. The BC Liberal government went as far as commissioning a report to examine the operations of ICBC and what reforms were needed.

They had the information, they knew what to do. They failed to act. Not only did they fail to act, they attempted to conceal the truth from the public.

The ICBC dumpster fire is a narrative well told in BC’s political world, it partially led to the landslide re-election of the NDP in 2020 after a fluky minority NDP government that only took office with one seat parliamentary majority with the assistance of the BC Green Party.

Why is this relative now?

As a result of the ICBC reforms instituted by the NDP after 2017, the crown corporation now operates largely on a no-fault system. This cuts out much of the litigation costs; and more importantly, cuts out billions paid to trial lawyers who you can imagine are not impressed in the slightest. I mean, I can understand this to a point; especially if you’ve set up your entire legal practice based on the former ICBC adversarial litigation model.

For the rest of us, we saw this as a cash cow for lawyers that inflated premiums as ICBC had to pay awards – to clients and law firms…on top of everything else going on that shouldn’t be.

The reforms instituted by the NDP to ICBC has freed up billions; much has been returned to policy holders already. At least $1.4 billion has been returned and pledged (as of this last weeks announcement) plus a rate reduction last year of 20%.

Shouldn’t rate reductions and insurance rebates be celebrated? Of course. That this has been at all possible is quite a miracle compared to the direction ICBC was headed in 2017. Five years later, a large surplus – with billions going back to drivers.

Politically speaking, if I was a BC Liberal, I would avoid talking about ICBC at all – as the public will have a good memory their intentional, malicious ineptitude while handling this file.

So this was the time their MLA’s go on the attack?

The NDP could not have asked for a better opportunity to remind how badly the BC Liberals failed BC on ICBC.

In trying to score a drive-by smear that the NDP hasn’t done enough to help drivers, the BC Liberals inadvertently revealed their incompetence and why they should not govern..at all.

The BC Liberal approach is typical – lower gas taxes. This is modelled after what Alberta is attempting by suspending their own gas tax (cutting 13 cents per litre) to “lower gas prices” and provide relief.

good idea, huh?

The thing about this move is that it opened the door immediately for big oil to step up with price increases of their own.

WHOOPSIES

If you’re keeping track of this; cutting the tax as such, was a lateral transfer of money from government to big oil – that consumers still pay for…and may more for. There was no benefit to drivers at all; but exposed the BC Liberals as lackies to both big oil and irrelevant.

Even the notion they have floated about cutting the carbon tax (which they created) would suspend a one penny per litre increase slated for April 1. Same math applies, cut the tax, industry picks up the slack.

Gas taxes in BC are expressed in terms of cents per litre, so the BC gov’t makes no extra money if the retail price goes up. Only the GST (which is charged as a percentage) would increase its cash intake with a retail price increase.

Cutting BC’s various gas taxes would merely cut into provincial revenue; potentially harming the funding for programs which depend on said funds. We’ve already shown how industry would scoop up what the taxes would drop, so no benefit goes to the driver. This flawed ideology exposes the BC Liberals and almost every conservative politician pushing this narrative; a narrative that is a warm breath away from the proven failure of ‘trickle down economic theory’.

But, as General Napoleon Bonaparte once remarked – ‘never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake’.

My2bits

Just when you thought the BC Liberals couldn’t sink any lower..

President Joe Biden just signed a bill that allows foreign flagged cruise ships to bypass a foreign port on their way to another US port. In english, this means that a cruise ship is no longer going to stop in Vancouver or Victoria on their way from Seattle to Alaska.

This is meant as a temporary measure thanks to the Canadian federal cruise ship ban at our ports here in response to the pandemic.

This is truly a setback. Our Premier didn’t think it would come to this and had misjudged the resolve of Alaska based legislators who really wanted their cruise ship industry back.

So be it. Temporary, we’re told.

On cue it seems, the provincial opposition party launches a salvo at the NDP effectively blaming the provincial government here for losing 20k jobs.

What.

I get the partisan sniping, etc. But what the BC Liberals have done is a willful misread on what happened to fire a grossly partisan political cheap shot. They were cheering on this bad news as a win. Who does this?

They do.

I mean, what’s the position here for the BC Liberals? That the NDP should have pressured Ottawa into a premature port re-opening for cruise ship despite them being known incubators when an outbreak happens; now with covid19? In a rush to score a political cheap shot, they’ve revealed themselves to be horrible people.

In the last term of office, the minority government of the NDP/Green CASA deal, the BC Liberals behaved themselves relatively well once the pandemic set in. They knew how dangerous and politically stupid it would be to try and politicize pandemic related events. Free from the constraints of a minority parliament, idiotology pours on in from the BC Liberal caucus.

The Federal government put in place a cruise ship ban in 2020 as the pandemic set it. It was renewed in February of 2021 to last another year.

We’re not out of this pandemic and neither are the west coastal US States (including Alaska). By pushing for this legislation, they’re taking their own risks; cruising was halted for a reason. But I don’t answer for them nor will I defend them.

But the BC Liberals have to answer here. They tried to push a regional reopening last year just as the initial wave subsided; a proposal that if accepted would have seen astronomical infection rates as we weren’t ready for that. No vaccine, and the full strength of the virus was just beginning to build.

Imagine if we had taken that bad advice then? Or been pressured into pressuring Ottawa into a premature re-opening of our ports now? West coast ports aren’t the only ones suffering; this is a huge blow to the east coast tourist trade too. Halifax gains billions of dollars in tourist spending cash that sustain the city’s businesses and jobs. They’re hurting too.

The BC Liberals would blame John Horgan for that.

I want this pandemic gone like anyone else, but I still take it seriously. Its not as if by reopening every business and restoring concerts and every venue that covid19 goes away – it does not. If we’re not better prepared, such a premature re-opening would turn to a catastrophic shut down; and unnecessary loss of life.

Todd Stone and his BC Liberal opposition front bench are as useless in offering constructive criticism of government policy as they were when he was in government.

Taking some ghoulish victory lap as they seem to be doing on this cruise ship bypass law from America because it politically hurts the NDP is about as bad as it gets. Todd Stone needs to resign from politics and never return.

What a shameful, juvenile display he and his party have put on. May they never govern this province again.

My2bits.

Epilogue for BC Election 2020

So an NDP Premier was re-elected. That’s a first. Taking a precarious minority to a substantial majority is major news too. But nobody should be surprised by this. The NDP led a campaign that was disciplined and focused while their opposition flailed about. It turns out that the ‘steady as she goes’ narrative is what voters needed from their incumbent government.

The final results are as yet unknown, but from what’s been collected so far, the NDP won a substantial chunk of the vote from the BC Liberals and the Greens. The Greens – who keep three seats, replaced some lost vote by also grabbing a few from the BC Liberals. When its all counted, I expect the NDP to finish around 50% of the vote; the Greens off by 1-2pts and the BC Liberals will have lost up to 10pts.

The planning for the NDP for this campaign likely started the moment Andrew Wilkinson was selected leader of the BC Liberals. By his own legacy of a party insider whose record goes back to the days of Gordon Campbell winning his first term in 2001 meant that the whole BC Liberal set of terms were fair talking points of the NDP – and it was exploited well.

The fact that Andrew Wilkinson is really not a personable leader who comes across at elitist as the NDP was happy to portray him as didn’t help him at all. The BC Liberal party didn’t seem to get this and failed to sculpt a different persona – seemed ok with letting the NDP define him…which they did.

The BC Liberals campaigned on a 2001/2005 agenda. Big tax cuts and hope for the best; they didn’t even have a plan to pay for it. Well their shocking PST promise gave the NDP room to expand their campaign pledges by a modest amount compared to the $11 billion price tag of the BC Liberal/PST promise.

It was a perfect little trap – and maybe the NDP set it up this way, maybe it was by chance. But in order to jolt voters into paying attention to the BC Liberals, they had to promise something big – and in that regard, they didn’t disappoint. But it was wrong.

Their PST promise was sold as a way to help consumers in the middle/modest income brackets with some sales tax relief as incentive to shop and buy things, triggering a re-hiring and more production – as the theory goes. But that’s not the practice. Almost all the things needed as essentials by middle and modest income folks were sales tax exempt to begin with; this sales tax stunt would have been a tax win for those purchasing larger ticket items, not essential. So when the NDP came out with their $1000 cash payment to families, the BC Liberals were made to seem like reckless spenders.

It stuck.

Every party has so-called ‘bozo eruptions’. That is to say, candidates who say or do something stupid that causes embarrassment to their party and knocks them off message for a day. Well the BC Liberals had several of them – and they were not insignificant. There were the transphobic candidates outed for their hostility to the community, there was a candidate recorded saying something sexually inappropriate about a female NDP MLA, there was the candidate giving a wink and a nod to the anti-vaxxer/covid19-truther “movement” (despite Andrew Wilkinson being a doctor, apparently).

Again, every party has these candidate causing problems for their central campaigns, but in the BC Liberal matters, the foot dragging by the leadership opened up serious doubts about his ability to lead his party.

For an organization trying to convince voters that its better to change government than to keep the NDP in office, the BC Liberals were failing fast.

There is the power of incumbency that the NDP had. They were the government and by all accounts, even some opponents had admitted that the Horgan government had well executed its duties as a manager of public office – and that was before covid19. For the BC Liberals to turn around and try to demonize the NDP ran against what most folks’ perception was. That was never going to be an easy sell.

To be sure, it was controversial for John Horgan to trigger an election call – one year away from the legislated calendar date. The minority government was held in place by a special agreement with the Green Party through a confidence and supply agreement; or “CASA” for short. It was a calculated risk by Horgan that he should seek a proper mandate just as a second wave of the pandemic begins to go full bloom. The thought was that the pandemic wasn’t going away any time soon and we’re no where near a vaccine.

This part of the argument for an early election call makes sense – and it was over 3.5 years into a traditional 4 year term. The part where there was justification found in the election call because of some disagreement with the Green caucus wasn’t the best argument to make, but as it turns out – both the BC Liberals and Green parties would overplay their hands and take that problem away from Horgan.

The outrage of the early election call should have occupied no more than the first 30 minutes of either the Green or BC Liberal party talking points on the first day of the campaign. Believe it or not, voters want policy too; but the opposition benches spent almost the whole campaign litigating the election call itself. Well, that ship sailed – the election was called, go campaign.

There’s evidence that the election call caught the NDP off guard too. But they adapted, filled out their candidate list and presented a platform.

But there’s one thing I reject from the Greens and BC Liberals. Sure an election might have stunned them, but I dismiss as false the idea that they were unprepared for it; because it would be political malpractice if they were.

This was a minority government. Parties do not (or should not) let their campaign machinery go dormant in the intervening time; they ought to prepare for a non-confidence vote and election call that could come at any time. Indeed, the BC Liberals made a lot of noise to this effect as it was part of their weekly fundraising call to members and supporters.

Even the Green Party who is apparently very bitter at this call and blaming the NDP for catching their party off guard was preparing for an election they pretend to not have seen coming. They managed to nominate 77 candidates in 87 seats – only 6 less than their 83 candidate list in the 2017 campaign they did see coming.

The Green Party isn’t new. Admittedly they are smaller in structure and funding than the NDP or BC Liberals, but they have a campaign and support apparatus that has existed since the 1980’s. So for an election like this to catch them so unprepared reveals a sorry internal state of the party.

I was once quite worried about the Greens and their effect on splitting the centre-left vote – and it wasn’t without merit. But as their political machinery grew and organizational depth developed, so did their arrogance and bad behavior. Their partisan supporters are no less toxic and capable of bullying than anyone else’s; and this campaign has outlined some further problems for them.

This campaign has been a four week temper tantrum by the Green Party that has impressed no-one but their ardent supporters. What’s worse is a developing elitist attitude that presumes they’re exempt from scrutiny or electoral challenge. This might come as a shock to some, but the NDP has every right to compete in a Green-incumbent seat as much as greens can challenge anyone in any seat as well. The lecturing by former federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May is over the top given her leadership brass trying to expel three leadership candidates for her party mid campaign.

how dare the NDP try to ‘steal’ our seats.

Electoral districts do not belong to a party or a candidate. People hire an MLA for the duration of a term to sit as their representative from a party or sometimes independent, but there is no rightful claim to ownership.

The Greens do not get to claim a monopoly on good ideas. The NDP has climate change ideas too; ideas that are not without merit. This arrogance of the Greens as the *only* voice of the environment that should count adds to the elitist image they’re also stuck with.

The Greens chose their issues in this campaign as LNG and SiteC, but neither of them were decisive election issues. Voters had more pressing matters.

Voters were looking for (effectively) a commander in chief and steady hand at the wheel as we navigate through difficult times and a plan to rebuild after we clear this pandemic. Neither BC Liberal or Green Party campaigns offered that plan or that hope. Voters were not looking for radical changes, and weren’t prepared to support candidates who lit their hair on fire. Even if an early election call made a few upset, it wasn’t significant enough to move the needle. It was a risky political gamble for Premier John Horgan and he proved to be correct.

But now the hard part begins. The problems that existed before the pandemic are still here. A majority government with no partners to blame when things go wrong. A term that begins as the pandemic second wave spikes hard.

I hope that in the interim, that the NDP – regardless of its majority, continues to bring opposition party leaders fully into the circle with the pandemic response. The temptation will be huge to hog a spotlight, but please don’t do it. Dr Henry has been a rock star in this pandemic and she is the expert; let her do her job.

The higher the climb, the harder the fall they say. A massive majority might be a buffer against losses in 2024, and that election seems like a lifetime away…but, knowing what I know about campaigns, the planning for that one will start tomorrow.

For my part, its been my quest that since the BC Liberal policies that attacked the mentally ill in the early 2000’s were largely responsible for my brother’s death – that I get to see them lose handily in an election.

They don’t get to almost-govern like 2017; they needed the electoral pounding that they got. Maybe now they can emerge as a coherent centre-right political party that doesn’t willfully attack the vulnerable to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Everything that I have done politically since 2004 has been to this end. Now I will take some time for me and my son.

Thank you all.

my2bits

BC Liberals afraid to face voters

I’ve noticed something.

BC Liberal partisans are simultaneously trying to scare voters that this election isn’t necessary because its dangerous to vote while downplaying the pandemic to argue that the election isn’t necessary.

Why would they do that?

BC Liberals don’t want an election because they’re afraid to face voters. Voters will see a party with the same ideas, the same insiders and the same philosophy that left so many behind.

Instead of picking a sea-change leader, they chose in Andrew Wilkinson the most elite and out of touch insider possible. The months and years ahead will require bold changes that the BC Liberals are incapable of doing.

They offer the same tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation and service cuts for everyone else. We can choose to go backwards to the era of taking care of the 1% as the BC Liberals do, or we can move forward with the NDP.

My2bits

Coronavirus and its silver lining

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Look, there has to be a silver lining to the outbreak of a major pandemic in this modern age.

I don’t mean to make light or joke around at anyone’s expense; there are real people who have died in this pandemic – made worse by the actions (or lack thereof) of powerful leaders.

In watching the worlds’ nations reaction to #coronavirus, some nations are reacting swiftly, bringing all resources to bear, others – have different considerations.

We have seen some countries at first deny a problem exists, then ignore science, then ignore emergency protocols because their primary concern goes to the economic impact of the disease.

We have also seen places act proactively when given proper information, grant full disclosure and transparency, act with a life-preservation motivation at every step.

The first model is a politically driven response which attempts to mitigate financial and/or political fallout from any panic coming from the pandemic, while the other model puts aside the politics/money and mobilizes government resources and tools to whatever extent necessary.

The first model is being used by America and some European nations, the second is being deployed by Canada, most Asian jurisdictions and elsewhere. The first being a generically right-wing model, the second is a generally left-ish response.

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Guess where you’re finding the problems? Not on the left.

In fact, in a crazy sense of irony, the left wing approach may save the right. By using the full weight of government action, public healthcare and generally being proactive, the significantly larger cost up front may be the most efficient way to navigate this disaster.

Inversely, the right-wing model, loaded with its layers of political and fiscal policy tests, is proving no match for a virus that doesn’t give a shit about policy. So we lurch from willful ignorance to overreaction causing various financial markets to crash – in a world where markets are particularly sensitive to instability.

So what do the capitalists do? Unload $1.5 trillion into the markets to give it a jolt and make it better. It lasted 15 minutes and evaporated faster than rubbing alcohol.

Here’s the bottom line.

We’ll get through this, some places will fare better than others. I for one, am grateful for our public healthcare system that places patient-care above profits. For all of its flaws, this is a far superior model to one that is profit motivated and subject to the politics of the day.

Let doctors and healthcare pro’s do their jobs. Listen to first responders and civil authorities. Don’t over-react but don’t take chances either. These are uncharted waters for many. Whatever economic slowdown may happen as a result will be followed up with a recovery, and hopefully, positive change.

Hang in there everyone, we’ll be ok.

my2bits

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

gig

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