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

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 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

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.

The Greens are trying their hand at populism and its just as disingenuous as anything on the far right

unpopular opinion

I get the antipathy towards fracking; its a drilling technique fraught with risks to carbon pollution; potential groundwater contamination and seismic activity.

Its also the exclusive technique used to extract natural gas and shale oil. Now for the sake of this article, I’m not considering the environmental aspect of the Green’s argument – because at this point, it doesn’t have legal or constitutional standing.

92a

This however is the snippet of the Constitution Act (1982) that the Green Party hasn’t considered.

If the Green Party was to win an election outright and invoke this part of their platform, they would immediately be met with a challenge from energy producing provinces. As they should: infringing upon a clear right of a provincial government will trigger a very serious national unity crisis.

Worse, imagine the Greens playing a role in a minority government where this pillar is key to their cooperation.

While this awkward promise sits out there unchallenged by anyone in the media, Elizabeth May went on the offensive against the announced bus expansion of the Victoria regional transit service. Accusing Justin Trudeau of playing ‘lip service’ to climate change, she rips the agreement. See here.

For reference.

space-required-to-transport-60-people-car-bus-bicycle

Granted, some of these new buses would be powered by natural gas, the larger objective is to get more people out of their cars and into transit. The advantage is two fold: folks save fuel and pollution by taking a bus instead, and it clears up some congestion from roads and highways.

Seriously, Liz. WTF.

Look, fracking is controversial. But its also a changing science; and fracking looks different today than what it did 40 years ago when it was pumping up natural gas in BC. There’s no reason why it cannot continue to evolve.

Whether or not the Greens sentiment is right or wrong is up to you. But for them to advocate something they cannot constitutionally do will have unintended consequences.

Upon losing a Supreme Court case against the provinces who move quickly to uphold their rights under 92(a), the Greens would further strengthen the hand of pro-fossil fuel parties and may serve to elect even more conservative regimes across the country.

How does that look? See Alberta where they elected the UCP government out of a frustration to get their tar sands oil industry back on track, but are getting a hard right socially conservative administration that’s rolling back rights of LGBTQ folks ‘while they’re at it’.

There are seriously dangerous consequences to opting for a rhetorically populist party.

Update: September 15
some of the more rabid Greens cite Section 91 of the Constitution Act as license to override the provinces in their plan ban fracking.

Here’s the problem. Section 91 holds that the Federal government has the right to pass laws or regulations in areas of jurisdiction not explicitly laid out in Section 92. Well, natural resources are explicitly defined as provincial jurisdiction. We can thank in part Federal/Provincial scrap that Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program of the 1980’s where Alberta won in the Supreme Court on a related matter.

Feel free to read up on Section 91 if you wish.

So, in my opinion, the Greens are promising something they cannot deliver for the sole purpose of gaining votes.

I must add that in watching supporters of the Federal Greens demonizing the Federal NDP over the the BC NDP govt policies on natural gas. Fine I suppose if we’re going by “all is fair in love and war”, but it opens up another problem where the Greens risk another national unity collision with the provinces.

That’s very unwise.

My2bits

Update: new Green MP joins the attack on new buses for Victoria.

Green party sneaks a change into their climate change agenda while nobody* noticed.

* Almost.

The hint is #13 of their “Mission Possible” document.

Before. After.

The point is that in #13, the Green Party, as a government would compel changes that would both end subsidies to fossil fuels while simultaneously investing (taxpayer money) in new and expanded fossil fuel infrastructure in Canada.

I may not be an energy expert or the wisest political observer, but investing taxpayer dollars in an industry that is already highly profitable is still a subsidy; regardless of the edit.

There are many other concerns I have with this document, but this one jumped out at me. Makes me wonder what other sneaky changes the Greens may drop in there while nobody is looking.

screenshot_20190713-103810_docs

My2bits

Everyone calm the fuck down

The NDP is not going through some existential crisis, the political ground that’s moving is on the right and far right; and this is not a playground the NDP should dabble in. Ever.

Its worth reminding folks that Saint Jack Layton was a relative centrist in his overall philosophy; this is why he appealed to so many independents and made it possible to draft folks like Thomas Mulcair. It was Jack Layton who made a pitch to the “progressives” of the (then) freshly disemboweled PC party to come aboard. If you’re keeping up, that means appealing to folks like Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell, or “red tories”.

The left of the NDP didn’t protest much as they saw the electoral success of opening that tent further and it shocked the federal Liberals to see Jack Layton eat their lunch.

So when I hear folks complain that the NDP isn’t left enough, remember that this is how we ended up with our little putsch that dumped Mulcair after his inaugural election that saw the NDP with its second best showing ever. We weren’t left enough. So we picked Jagmeet Singh.

There is some racism that’s alive and well in Canada who won’t vote for the brown man, but then those folks aren’t the type I want my party appealing to anyway. Go vote PPC since that’s more appropriate to your hateful thinking.

But in changing from the relative centrist Mulcair in favour of Jagmeet Singh, we got a left wing party whose platform is the most progressive I’ve seen in a generation. It has a green new deal and a tax on the 1%.

Oh yes, some will say it’s not enough, and some will say it goes to far. Thing is, it’s the Greens that are saying the NDP plan doesn’t go far enough and the Liberals saying it goes to far.

Wonderful! If radical Greens say your plan isn’t radical enough and do-nothing Liberals say it goes too far, then we’re probably exactly where we need to be.

As long as the NDP doesn’t fumble around in the bigoted anti immigrant tropes that the PPC/CPC are mired into, there’s plenty of room to expand the reach of the NDP.

Liberals have revealed themselves again as the party that will say anything to get elected, while doing as few possible progressive things except as necessary to stay in office.

We’re done with this.

The neoliberal economic philosophy is how we got here. The major gaps in rich and poor, the crushing of unions, the disregard towards the environment and climate change; it’s all related. None of the other party’s are prepared to tackle the system. The NDP will.

So stop your navel gazing. Let the reactionary radicals in the Greens and PPC light their hair on fire, let the Liberals and Conservatives engage in platitudes and dithering, the NDP just needs to plow forward. We’re on the right path.

My2bits

Repeat after me: “tax cuts do not pay for themselves”

Trickle down economics has never worked. Ever. Yet it was tried again here in BC when the BC Liberals took office in 2001 with results that literally anyone could have predicted.

Now a former Gordon Campbell cabinet minister reflects back on the times that were and thinks it wasn’t good times. We could have told you that Mr Abbott, but you went along with it anyways.

It’s worth noting that former BC Premier Gordon Campbell is advising the Ford gov’t in Ontario, ostensibly with a mandate to uncover areas worth cutting funds to.

New Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has also diverted some of that stinky BC Liberal bathwater to help his new govt settle into power.

This isn’t going to work out well for Alberta or Ontario.

“Tax cuts pay for themselves” is a rebranded “trickle down economics” and it’s never worked, not a single time. Yet we’re drifting towards parties that believe in this mythology.

Don’t fall for it again.

My2bits

I’m not in a panic over teacher negotiations and neither should you

I’m not unfamiliar to contract talks between unions and their bosses, and I’m old enough to remember that most of the noise is the rhetorical hot air that both sides breathe in order to rally public opinion to each respective side. So with that being said, I’m pretty much ignoring the noise being made publicly about what’s going on in the negotiating room between the BCTF and the employer, the BCPSEA.

It however wasn’t long ago that the BC Liberals, directly interfering with negotiations last time, trotted out heavy hitting cabinet ministers and Premier Clark with their “affordability zone” mantra.

Since then, the teachers union won their appeal at the Supreme Court that restored class size and composition language that was illegally stripped away by legislation introduced by none other than (then) Deputy Premier and Education Minister Christy Clark when Gordon Campbell was Premier.

I do have to inject a reality check here. Both sides are free to ask for whatever they think they’ll get in contract talks. Aim high and see where negotiations take you. The employer is free to ask all they want for movement on CSC language, but it doesn’t mean teachers have to agree to any changes there – that was a win in court. The union is also free to ask for whatever they feel they’ll get; see how this works?

What is harmful though, is that the rhetoric can get toxic outside the negotiating rooms. Teachers are a powerful ally to the NDP and some loud mouths online are using this delicate negotiating period as a means to drive a wedge here. As if by electing the BC Liberals back to power will mean any better gains for teachers (hint: it won’t).

Do yourselves a favour and let the negotiating teams do their work; ignore the rhetorical hot air like its a bad smell..because it will blow away.

My2bits