BC Politics – more of the bait and switch

So, in a predictable fashion, the BC Liberals announced yesterday that our deficit is project to reach $1.4 billion dollars for this year. Yet, somehow, Christy Clark says her government will balance the budget in February while not cutting spending on health and education. I think she is full of crap if she thinks she can make up that kind of deficit by cutting civil service discretionary spending and implementing a hiring freeze.

Blaming all sorts of things like a real estate sale being delayed until June, lower property transfer tax due to a slump in real estate and low resource prices, the Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced cuts to discretionary spending and beyond that did not state how he will address the falling revenues. This information is in stark contrast to the rosy jobs picture Christy Clark likes to paint. The poor voter is left trying to figure out what is truth and what is fabrication with this government. Personally, I am deeply suspicious of everything the BC Liberals say; they are masters of duplicity and not above telling outright lies.

Here is my prediction: In February, when the provincial budget is tabled in the Legislature, it will be balanced. The BC Liberals will take credit for their ingenuity and jobs program that will have suddenly generated extra income that will magically take care of the deficit. They may float the idea of tax increases (as de Jong is not ruling them out right now) prior to the budget being released. However, we will all be saved from this horrible fate due to the strategic management skills of the BC Liberals. We will be told yet again that the private sector is our savior and our economy is just fine thank you very much.

The BC Liberals are counting on us to have short memories. They are hoping that we all forget the HST debacle, that we recognize their superior governing skills and that the NDP will kill the nascent prosperity in our economy. They will appeal to all of us to vote for them for our own good. Oh and in case we don’t get the message the BC Liberals have invested $63 million of your tax dollars in advertising to make sure we all get the message.

Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm  Comments (1)  
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Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘I hope’ edition

  • The most important thing for which I am hopeful today is that Barack Obama is re-elected tomorrow. This US election has been even more insane than normal. The attacks on women’s reproductive rights have been outrageous from blatantly false and crazy assertions that women’s bodies have supernatural powers and insistence that women carry babies they don’t want. I wonder how men would feel if women made decisions that forced them to undergo unwanted vasectomies. A Romney presidency would be a catastrophe of epic proportions for the United States and the world. We could expect an invasion of Iran,[1] further roll backs to the already patchy US safety net, and more economic disaster for the poor. At least Obama has the ‘incumbent’ factor, which generally favours the re-election of a sitting president.
  • I am hoping I can take next week off. I have had not had any significant time off in months that did not involve my mother. I do still have to go to Calgary weekend after next but if I can get a rest first that would be good.
  • Listening to Christy Clark announce the new Destination BC,[2] I am hoping she loses her voice. I am so tired of listening to her feign excitement when, really, she has nothing to be excited about and she sounds fake.

[1] Not that Obama’s foreign policy has been all that great either.

[2] Ya, we used to have Tourism BC.

Published in: on November 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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Democracy is for Sissies

Is it just me or does it seem that our politicians are ruling via subterfuge? It seems like most government made decisions are one big shell game: ‘quick, look over there, shiny’ while a new tax is shoved down our throats. We can’t even count on them to maintain the integrity of their own values and ethics throughout the course of their time in power. Democracy has become code for bait and switch.

This week in politics in BC, our Premier, Christy Clark, has decided that the culture at the BC Legislature is ‘sick’ and that she tries to stay away from it as much as possible. She likened it to the complaints made about the ‘beltway’ in Washington, DC. These comments, originally made in May, were released when it was announced that the legislature would not sit this fall. Clark clearly has an overblown sense of her importance. To compare BC politics to what happens in Washington, DC is like talking about your acne problem when you have a little zit.[1] All of senior civil servants, you know those people who provide crucial factual information to government politicians, all sit in Victoria. If she is not there, she can’t get all the information to make policy decisions. If her ministers behave as she does, they will also not be getting crucial information with which to make decisions.

Cancelling the fall sitting of the legislature is hubris at its worst. The provincial government just announced that revenues are $1 billion dollars below projections. If the legislature does not sit, then the opposition does not get access to this information to ask questions. I actually think there is a more sinister reason for not having a fall sitting. The timing of this supposed deficit announcement is curious. It is a little more than 6 months before the next election. I predict the BC Liberals will have a feel-good budget delivered in February and the shortfall will become a windfall. Everyone in government will slap each other on the back and congratulate themselves on their uber-financial management skills. They will then start the dog and pony show as they hand out the pre-election goodies. Personally, I am tired of being bought with my own money.

We can’t even count on politicians to stay true to their own beliefs in values. Apparently, once upon a time, Stephen Harper was against omnibus bills yet his government has passed one and has another one planned for the fall. Whoops! There goes your democracy right down the omnibus toilet.

All of this begs a much bigger question: when did democracy become a game of collusion and subterfuge? When did political parties abandon ideology and brokerage politics?[2] I used to think brokerage politics was a horrible development, now I long for those days where you could still tease a little bit of ideology from party platforms. Politics is now a game of confuse the voter, say whatever you need to so you are elected then do whatever the hell you want. Re-election campaigns start right after an election. We used to get a measure of peace in the first 2 years after an election, now the attack ads start almost immediately.

Leadership seems to be something that is missing from all politicians modus operandi. Real leaders build consensus, they answer tough questions and they lay out a vision for the future. We are so short on any kind of vision as everyone is focused on the next election. If you are an effective leader, you don’t have to resort to confusion and downright lies to convince people to follow you. If you want to lead effectively you have to be accountable; people watch your every move; you are a role model. I see no role models amongst the current crop of politicians. Instead they are all focused on maintaining their positions of authority even when they can’t stand to work at their place of employment.

 


[1] Primarily this is due to structural differences. In the US there is no party discipline to speak of so every vote is up for grabs. That means lobbyists are trying to convince 535 people of their position each time there is a vote.

[2] Brokerage politics saw the reduced reliance on ideology for policy decisions. Parties tended to move towards the centre so they had a better chance of getting elected.

Swampy Quote of the Day

If you vote to split the free enterprise vote, all you’re going to do is elect Adrian Dix the premier of B.C., and not for one term, probably two,”

Christy Clark, Premier of BC

The BC Liberals[1] are running scared. They keep harping about the Glen Clark or the Mike Harcourt governments as an evil specter of what the NDP can do if they are elected. It’s crap. They are acting like we are stupid and have fallen under some sort of NDP, Adrian Dix spell. Christy seems to think that we should forget about all the lies told by her party.

The BC Liberals are being encouraged to merge with the BC Conservatives. I think both parties are far too egotistical for this to happen. If they did manage to put their power issues aside I am sure the electorate will see it for what it actually is: a desperate ploy to hold on to power.


[1] We use the title “Liberal” loosely here. They are now defining themselves as the ‘free enterprise’ party. Ya, k, yawn.

Stanley Cup Riot Accused

I get that the Vancouver Game 7 Stanley Cup Riot perpetrators need to be punished. They terrorized innocent people, wantonly destroyed other peoples’ property, and assaulted people including police. They need to be arrested and charged. They must have their day in court. They must be judged. However, I am getting quite concerned about the vengeance expressed by some politicians and officials.

First off we have the premier of BC Christy Clark pushing to have television cameras in the courtrooms. I am not sure what she is trying to accomplish. If she thinks that we as the public need to see that the accused are being punished I think she wrong. I have not heard a loud outcry from the public thinking that they are going to be punished. In the same breath she is advocating cameras in the courtroom, she is saying we need to speed up the justice system. On this point she is correct. The justice system in this province is immovable just look at the slow pace at which people are being charged with riot related charges. Trying to televise the proceedings will only serve to slow down our already taxed system.

I am also concerned about the talk of minimum sentences for convicted riots. Apparently, when crimes take place during a riot they are viewed as more serious as the acts contribute to the riot itself. I believe the convicted rioters need to be punished. In cases where there is a history of this kind of anti-social behavior perhaps jail time would be warranted. I think the vast majority of the accused will be young people, fueled by drugs and or alcohol, who got caught up in the riot. This does not excuse their behavior but if they have otherwise clean records why would want to send them to jail where they will only learn how to become more criminal. They will be saddled with a criminal record and if Clark has her way, their pictures will be saved on the internet in perpetuity.

Instead I believe those who do not have a criminal record should be consigned to community service, a written apology and restitution. I am not talking about a little community service. Perhaps a group of victims could have some input into the number of hours the convicted rioters would need to serve.  Restitution should take the convicted a long time to complete.

Really what needs to happen is the convicted rioters need to have the epiphany that they actually did something wrong. They will not come to this realization in jail. Instead they will become angry and bitter. They need to give back to society. They need to invest themselves in society and their communities so that they can then become productive, civic-minded citizens.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘revelations’ edition

  • I have been quite absent from my blog as of late. It all started because I decided to crochet some presents for holiday season. I have made an intricate crochet piece and 13 very long scarves! I have also tried my hand at 2 afghans neither of which worked out yet. What I have discovered is that I find crocheting very relaxing. I have been crocheting while watching TV and I find it is almost meditative for me. I am feeling so much less stressed. The other thing I really like is that I can be productive while relaxing. I am now spending about 2-3 hours less per day on the computer.
  • We have been entertaining Maya the Maltese for the last month. She is going to my mother at Christmas. She decided she really wanted another dog. We have found her the perfect dog – she is a young adult, female who likes to play. She came already house broken. We had her spayed, microchipped and vaccinated. She will be great for my mother. She is also a great watchdog! She is making all of us mental though. She barks indiscrimantely, particularly in the middle of the night. She is hyper and omnipresent. She seems to try to walk on the backs of my calves. She does have her cute moments though!
  • We have been having some struggles with Bella. She has a hyper thyroid which, in spite being on a high dose of tapezol. We did blood work, which showed that she has cancer as well. She is 16 years old so we decided not to do any further investigation. The biggest problem was that she was not using her litterbox. With a little thought, we moved it into the living room. I took the lid off and I put her in there. She then used it and there was much rejoicing. She has continued to use it now for almost 2 weeks. At this point we are focusing on her quality of life. She is doing quite well right now.
  • Everyone else is doing well. There was some concern about Sienna as she developed a lump. We were all pretty sure it was a fatty lipoma and after 2 fine-needle aspirations it was confirmed that it was a fatty lump.
  • In political observations, I have to say that I hate the sound of Christy Clark’s voice as much as I hated Gordo’s. The face may have changed but the message is still the same and it is all lies if you ask me. Clark is every bit as mean-spirited as Gordon. Her call for cameras to be in the courtrooms when alleged rioters are prosecuted is cruel. It is not only going to humiliate the alleged suspects but also witnesses who may not want their names and faces broadcasted to the larger community. Her comments about CLBC are lame and there is no way she is going to fix anything. I really had dared to hope for more.
Published in: on December 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Today in Politics

I love the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). Today the SCC ruled that closing Vancouver’s supervised injection site would be a violation of peoples’ Charter rights. Basically, it would deny addicts access to heath care that helps keep them safe while they inject the drugs to which they are addicted. More importantly, Insite offers its clients a way out of drug addiction, if they choose. And really, what it all comes down to is choice. Just because people on Vancouver’s DTES are addicted to drugs does not mean that they are lesser citizens of the country. They have a right to appropriate health care for them. If that means that a nurse watches them shoot up to make sure they do it safely and that they do not contract blood-borne diseases then so be it. Apparently the number of new HIV infections among injection drug users is down as are serious infections and other diseases. In spite of the research and the evidence of the positive outcomes of Insight, the Harper Cons do not believe that drug addicts are really people, entitled to appropriate medical care. Luckily for us, the SCC does not have such ideology influencing their decisions.

Has anyone been listening to our Premier Christy Clark lately? I think she is a Stepford-Premier. She is always so happy, happy, happy! And what is making her so happy you ask? Well, it would seem that she is really, really optimistic. Optimistic about what one might ask? Well, we are not really sure. It would seem that she is sure good times are just around the corner. Today speaking to the Union of BC Municipalities convention she gave this speech in which she announced 30 million dollars to help municipalities with recreation facilities. Seriously, we are going to build more swimming pools and arenas when children go to school hungry, without proper clothing and without school supplies. Did she not see the coverage Carrie Gelson received when she sounded the alarm about the state of children in inner-city schools? While recreation facilities are important to communities as they give people a place to exercise and socialize, I suspect most people would be quite happy to see that 30 million go into fixing the problems Carrie Gelson highlighted. One has to ask where starving, ill-clothed children fit in to Christy Clark’s ‘families first’ agenda?

Still on our ebullient premier, it would seem she does not really have control over her ministers. This became apparent today when Mike de Jong mused about charging smokers higher health premiums. Of course this is a complete non-starter as it would be a slippery slope. It is the same thing as when doctors muse about charging an obesity-tax on fat people. The argument, as far as it goes with smokers, is that smoking is a choice and therefore smokers should pay for the health care they are doing to need when they get cancer. Smokers already pay more taxes than non-smokers through the taxes governments collect on the sale of cigarettes. What is bizarre in all of this is a senior minister floating this idea without getting the approval of the premier. Perhaps there are cracks in the veneer?

Oh, and Clifford Olsen is dead. I hope the families of his victims get some measure of peace knowing that he is finally dead and can no longer apply for parole.

Published in: on September 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm  Comments (2)  
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The BC Liberals and the HST mess

The BC Liberals must be completely delusional. They seem to think that a majority of British Columbians can be hoodwinked into supporting a tax that no one wanted, imposed by a party who promised not to, simply by bribing (some[1]) taxpayers with their own money and the promise of a 2 percentage point reduction by 2014. Just because Christy Clark is now the premier does not mean that the leopard has changed its spots. We still have Kevin Falcon as the talking head finance minister making these promises. If we have not learned by now that we cannot trust him and his merry-band of conservative Liberals then we deserve what we get.

The whole scenario gets worse. We will only get the purported changes to this tax if we vote to keep it. If a majority votes against the tax, then, the BC Liberals point out, we would have to pay back $1.6 billion dollars.[2] Now, it seems to me that if the BC government spent that money then it is going to be up to them to figure out how to pay it back to the feds if that is indeed what has to happen. Threatening us with this consequence is meaningless, as we had nothing to do with bringing in the tax, accepting the payment or spending the money.

We also keep hearing how the HST is going to create jobs. I am not an economics expert but I fail to see how a regressive tax can create jobs? Every pro-HST expert seems to say: “The HST is great for business because it simplifies the paperwork businesses have to fill out. Oh and it creates jobs.” I have yet to hear anyone explain to me how reducing the purchasing power of the average consumer through increased and excessive taxation creates jobs. Maybe it creates jobs in the civil service counting all that extra money.

I get that the HST simplifies accounting paperwork for business and that is good. However, the real issue with the transfer to the HST was that it applied to everything the GST applied. While the PST was only on certain things, it was not on restaurant meals and books in particular. The restaurant industry has really suffered with an increase of 7% on meals. A tax on books is just ludicrous. We need to encourage people to buy books and to read.

I think the only way to make the HST palatable is to remove it from the items that did not have PST on them. Make restaurant meals, books and other items and services that were not subject to the PST tax-free. I think then people would see some benefit to them. The way it is now, the tax is both odious and onerous.

If the BC Liberals seriously want people to support the tax they need to make the changes, I have suggested and codify them in legislation regardless of the outcome of the referendum. To tell us that we will only get this minor change to the bitter pill we have all had to swallow if we are behaved and we agree to let them keep it is insulting. I only hope that all the people who have been betrayed by the BC Liberals send them a very loud message with this referendum.


[1] If you have kids or you are a senior earning less than $40,000, you will get a one-time bribe payment of $175.

[2] Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP says it is more like $1.2 billion. But what’s a few billion among friends?

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 7:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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General Observations from a mind that NEVER STOPS!

  • The election – I think the Liberals are right on giving free tuition to veterans so they can earn a degree. I am not sure why this ever would have been discontinued from WWII days. Seriously, if we cannot provide a post-secondary education for our soldiers we are falling down on what we owe them. We also must restore disability payments not lump sum payments to injured veterans. We must ensure a basic income that allows for dignity to people who have served Canada in wars and other international incidents particularly if they have been injured.
  • I was pleased to hear that the new direction of the provincial government seems to be one of conciliation rather than deception. A protocol has been signed between the Children’s Advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and the Ministry of Children and Families. Basically this protocol will hopefully improve Turpel-Lafond’s access to important information she needs to ensure that BC’s children are safe in the care of the ministry. I am hoping that this agreement is a sign of things to come with Christy Clark as premier.
  • A many of you know, I go for weekly blood tests so that they don’t almost kill me again with Imuran. I have really small and buried veins, which makes getting blood out of me very difficult. I basically have one vein. They will never see it but they can find it. Of course this makes it very difficult. I agreed to let the student take my blood. However she became reluctant when she was having trouble finding the vein. Even after her trainer found it she was reluctant to do it. I told her I was fine with her trying. So she did and she did it! She let out a little squeal when she saw the flash. I think it is very important to be patient with students and to let them learn on you.
  • I had my mother do the Vote Compass and she came out as a Liberal. I just about choked when she told me. She has been a life-long Conservative. It seems that the Vote Compass tends to place people slightly to the left of where they normally vote.  I am not going to hold my breath for my mother to vote Liberal.

The Minimum Wage

Christy Clark is making good on her promise to raise BC’s minimum wage. The minimum wage has not been increased pretty much since the BC Liberals were elected. In a province with one of the highest costs of living, a minimum wage of $8 per hour is just not sustainable for those earning it. Factor in a single parent raising one or two children, even without needing childcare, they are living seriously below the poverty line. As prices for many goods and services have risen over the past 10 years, many of those working for those businesses have likely seen very little increase in their wage unless they work for a good employer. There are many employers who will only pay what the government says they have to pay.

Coalition of BC Businesses argues that a large increase in the will force small employers to hold off new hires and potentially reduce hours as a result of the increase. Another factor is that wage inflation will also ‘hit’ non-minimum wage earners in order to keep ratios between workers in place. I find the use of language interesting here. By using the phrase ‘wage inflation,’ the Coalition of BC Business is casting minimum wage increases in a negative way. After all when is inflation ever referred to as a good thing? Normally inflation is bad as it means we pay more for the necessities of life.

I remember a poster that they used to put up in income assistance offices. It was a poster designed to encourage people to take a minimum wage job as they would be better off than if they stayed on income assistance. While in theory this was true, if you factored in the costs of working (transportation, clothing, lunches etc) they would probably have a higher quality of living on income assistance. This would be especially true in the case of single parents. Even with a child care subsidy there is no way they could pay the parent portion and still feed the family.

The bottom line is that increasing the minimum wage puts more money into the economy. If a business cannot afford to pay a phased in higher minimum wage and survive then there is something seriously wrong with their business model. Paying people higher wages puts more money back into the economy, which, in turn, drives business.

The HST is also cited as having a seriously negative effect on business – especially restaurants and other hospitality industries. Perhaps the Coalition of BC Business would be better off trying to get a reduction in the amount of HST consumers are charged in restaurants. I am sure a couple of percent reduction would do far more to improve business than keeping wages so low employees have to make a choice between buying groceries and paying the heating bill.

I am disturbed that the province gave in when it comes to ‘gratuity workers’ or liquor services. While other industries will see the minimum wage rise to $10.25 an hour in the next year and a bit, those working in bars serving alcohol will top out at $9 an hour. The argument is that they actually have a higher standard of living slinging beer because they get tips. I suspect that the amount of tips varies wildly. I am sure those servers working at the No. 5 Orange on the Downtown Eastside would argue that they do not get enough tips to live on compared to others working in swankier places. I think the separation is ridiculous and all of them should be paid the same minimum wage.

The catch up to $10.25 per hour is just that – a catch up. It is still not a living wage for people in this province. If Christy Clark is to be truly visionary, she will build in an ongoing increase in the minimum wage on a yearly basis tied to the cost of living increase. The one good thing that came out of that announcement was that the abhorrent ‘training’ wage has been discontinued.

What would be truly progressive would be a living wage program or at least a minimum income for families with children. If we invest in families and children now, while the children are young, then they stand a good chance of being ready for school and succeeding. We all know that children who fall behind in school due to economic reasons are disadvantaged their entire lives due to fewer opportunities and lower overall health. I hope that Christy Clark’s ‘family first’ agenda means just what it says.

Published in: on March 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm  Comments (5)