31 December 2010

Of Decades Past and Future

As 2010 comes to a close, my hope for the coming decade is for an overhauled Canadian Parliament and similar changes to the BC Legislative Assembly. I doubt anything substantive will change in terms of policy or direction - for this country, this province or its communities - if these changes do not happen.

I hope for the people's representatives to be elected through a new inclusive electoral system; that the powers of back-benchers be returned; that the power in the office of the heads of governments be vastly reduced; and that Question Period, a farce today, be returned to a venue for vital rigourous debate on issues important to Canadians.

I hope for a reversal of the power and responsibilities of Canada’s three tiers of government. Local governments must have more power, greater areas of responsibility and additional means for acquiring their own, direct, revenue. Many Canadians appear, rightly, to have had enough of the paternalism of the federal and provincial governments toward municipalities; the governments closest to the people are those that should have the greatest political power to effect change.

Of the years 2001 through 2010, they constituted the most miserable and worst decade for me personally. The misery was lessened, however, through new friends and learning that this community truly was a ‘community’ in the old-fashioned sense. My rapidly-acquired and subsequently persisting straitened circumstances also came with a silver lining. They forced a reassessment of my values and shoved the activist in me out of the closet. Had my personal circumstances not been so bad I may never have opened my eyes to the distress around me or become such a strong proponent and activist for democratic (and housing) reform.

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29 December 2010

Simplistic Interpretation of Female Support Shift

I take exception to Keith Baldrey's simplistic interpretation of why female voters will play a key role in the next BC election - not that they will, but why their support may be shifting from the NDP to the Liberals.

According to Baldrey (chief political reporter for Global BC - oh dear!), one of the pillars pushing women's support away from the NDP is "the brutal take-down of a female leader" by members of that party.

I submit the reason instead to be the problems with the NDP leadership, provincial council and other internal machinery.

Baldrey's second pillar is squeezing that former NDP female support toward the Liberals.

were [Liberal leadership candidate Christy Clark] to become premier it is likely the Liberals would stand a good chance of corralling a huge chunk of the electorate denied them in the past. I suspect Clark appeals to a lot of young and middle-aged women voters...

Why? Because she's a woman?

Women have been voting for men for decades.

We also don't vote as a block. Women don't vote on the basis of gender but on a candidate's ability to represent the values and concerns that each female voter deems important. Just because a candidate wears a skirt doesn't mean she shares another woman's concerns.

As for female support leaving the NDP, Baldrey has more to say:

The NDP has long prided itself as a champion of the interests of women, and it even implemented an affirmative action policy to ensure more female candidates in the last election. But it is now seen as the party that undemocratically turfed a female leader, and it will undoubtedly elect a man to succeed Carole James.

In fact, it will be interesting to see if any women even run for the NDP leadership... If none do, it will be a stunning commentary about the party's true commitment to the interests of women.

Traditionally, the NDP has drawn more female voters than have the Liberals. According to Baldrey's logic, that must mean the NDP has always had female leaders.

As for that "stunning commentary about the party's true commitment to the interests of women" should no female candidate for leader come forward... again there haven't always been female leaders or female candidates for leader.

Should we construe from this that the party has never previously had a commitment to the interests of women? And does it have such an animal now - specifically to women, rather than to people, men or women, who share similar concerns?

Putting Baldrey's simplistic interpretation of the situation aside, women are more likely leaving the NDP because they see, as many men have seen, that trouble is a-brewing. A party that can't manage itself shouldn't be given a mandate to manage a government.

As for Clark's alleged appeal to an alleged mysterious block of women because she's a woman, I suggest instead that the appeal is her (again, alleged) outsider status to the Campbell government. That appeal has drawn interest from both men and women and as more becomes known of Clark's background and (absent) policy, that interest will again likely shift.

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Our Hearts Bleed

An interesting comment appeared on economicus ridiculous to my post about anti-HST sentiment plummeting.

Actually, the HST screwed my mother-in-laws [sic] best friend out of 15 thousand dollars when she sold her last home. She was looking to move into a retirement home and already had to sell her house at a reduced rate because of the poor shape of the economy. She got double dinged by the HST. It's a shame.

Yes, such a shame.

Let's look at the math, shall we? From my response:

There is no HST applied in BC to the prices of resale homes. It is only applied to real estate fees, which were already subject to the 5% GST.

In other words, your mother-in-law's friend would have paid an additional 7% on the real estate fee only. If she paid $15,000 more than she'd have paid otherwise, then we can calculate that the real estate fee alone was $214,285.71.

Real estate fees are usually set at 6%. Assuming that's correct in this case, the house sold for $3,571,428.50.

Had the real estate fee been less than 6%, the situation would be even worse in terms of this woman making a case that she was hard done by. At a 5% rather than 6% real estate fee, the sale price of her "last home" (how many did she turn over for investment purposes?) would be $4,285,714.20.

It behooves me also to point out that someone with a multi-million dollar house likely engages in activities or uses services that the rest of us plebes do not; at the least, she makes use of them far more often. For example:

A multi-million house consumes more energy than the poor abodes which house the rest of us. The drop in tax on residential electricity and heating from 5.4% to 5% would save someone owning such a house a bundle.

For people who travel in BC, the 13% hotel room tax has been reduced to 12%.

For rental vehicles, one no longer pays the $1.50 per day Passenger Vehicle Rental Tax.

For people you enjoy wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages on the many occasions they dine out, the 10% PST charged previously has been reduced to 7%.

For people who purchase vehicles priced over $55,000, the higher PST rate of 10% is gone. Now it's 7%.

If that shiny new vehicle runs on propane, the motor fuel tax no longer applies.

If one's family income derives from owning a business, one likely has saved from the conversion to the HST from the combined PST+GST. It's well known that the HST saved most businesses money.

Do Daphne and I bleed for the poor woman who had to pay $15,000 more in tax for the sale of her $3.57 MILLION investment home? NO. (The annual income of each of our households is two-thirds that amount: $10,000.)

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24 December 2010

What does it take to become a columnist?

More to the point...

What does it take to become blacklisted from future employment as a columnist by Canada's traditional media?

The Globe and Mail has removed the unsupported-by-evidence column by Norman Spector regarding PM Harper's marital state. But let us not forget this opinion also expressed by the same man and unapologeticly repeated by him.

Most media outlets seem keen to rewrite history. They have removed articles referring to that too. They forget Google. I've linked to the cache version of one of those articles.

So what does it take?

If there comes a vacancy, I wouldn't mind the job, to be truthful.

ETA: In case that cache version is removed too, this is what Norman Spector said of then MP Belinda Stronach on CKNW's Bill Good Show, October 30, 2006:

"I think she's a bitch... I mean it's as simple as that, and I think that 90 per cent of men would probably say she's a bitch for the way she's broken up Tie Domi's home and the way she dumped [Foreign Affairs Minister] Peter MacKay. She is a bitch."

What infuriated me at the time: Spector placed no blame on TIE DOMI for breaking up his own home (or on Peter MacKay for any role he may have played in his own breakup with Stronach). Spector's comment was not just inappropriately personal but more to the point for me, it was flagrantly sexist. All the blame rested on the woman, none on the men, as though the men were helpless to stop themselves.

ETA 2: I don't give a damn about the love affairs or marital accord or discord of politicians or other public figures. Doubtless, most of the public doesn't either. If only traditional media would get that message.

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23 December 2010

Anti-HST Support Plummets

From approximately 85 percent at the height of the period during which signatures calling for the HST referendum were collected, to the latest figure of 54 percent, anti-HST sentiment is plummeting.

British Columbians are thinking twice. Some have privately told me of regret for having signed the petition calling for the referendum, or for having too hastily judged the value of the tax.

British Columbians are signalling it was the process, not the tax, that so stoked their anger.

I am glad to see the change in these numbers. I support a taxation policy that favours taxing consumption rather than putting a price on enterprising activity, i.e., taxing earnings.

Provided voters get enough credible information about the HST prior to the referendum for them to make an informed choice, I suspect the referendum will fail.

The changing numbers regarding the HST could play a role in the BC leadership race. Kevin Falcon says he will reduce the tax from 12 percent, to 11, then ten percent. Mike de Jong wants to keep the tax at the current rate and favours the type of taxation policy that I do. George Abbott says he supports the tax and has not signalled anything with respect to reducing it; same also with Dr. Moira Stilwell.

Christy Clark... Well, who knows what her position is on the HST? She says she supports it and would like MLAs to vote on it. Would that be in its present form, or changed? Conveniently, not being a MLA herself, Clark would avoid the vote.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

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20 December 2010

Response to James Bow's "The Forgotten Bloc"

Fellow non-partisan James Bow writes an important article on The Forgotten Bloc - the 40 percent of the electorate who are non-voters in this country. I wrote the following response in the comments section:

James Bow’s comments are bang on, including the one to Robert McClelland.

[To Bow's question "Why is no party leader or policy maker going out and talking to the 9.5 million Canadians to ask them why they don’t vote?," McClelland responded: "Because non voters are generally imbeciles that are impossible to placate. So it’s simply not worth the effort."]

After voting at municipal, provincial and federal elections throughout my eligible years, the last straw for me federally was the election of Oct 2008 and provincially, the May 2009 election and failed referendum for electoral reform in BC.

I declared myself [at 58 years of age] henceforth to be a non-voter until substantive democratic reform took place. Having done so, I was surprised and sadly gratified to discover others coming out of the woodwork.

Let’s face it, if you’re a non-voter, the arrogance, derision and hostility of many members of the still voting public do nothing to encourage non-voters to self-identify. Attempts to explain why we don’t vote are brushed off as irrelevant because “if you don’t vote, you have no right to be heard or complain.”

We are labelled ‘apathetic’ when, for the majority of us, apathy is the antithesis of what we feel in terms of the state of politics in this country or the options provided at ballot box.

Many non-voters, including those among youth, are more, not less, involved in their communities and globally, working to effect change, than are most voters. This participation and engagement is discounted, yet is more meaningful given the state of our politics than a 15-minute act every four years. For some voters, that act may be the only participation in civil life they engage in. Yet it is non-voters who, as a bloc, are labelled ‘lazy’.

With all this and media types perpetuating the myths, no wonder this huge minority - which threatens to become the majority - remains largely silent.

[Cross-posted at NADER]

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17 December 2010

BC's Political Scene: Voting age hypocrisy

For decades I have supported lowering the voting age to 16 for election of officials to all levels of government. I might even support lowering it to 14.

This week BC Liberal leadership hopeful Mike de Jong was first out of the gate with the proposal to lower the voting age in this province to 16. None of the arguments against the change have borne up, not even under the most halfhearted scrutiny.

The No side's primary objections: that 16-year-olds are immature, lack the skills to think critically and cannot form opinions independent of the influence of others (isn't the latter what political campaigns and mid-term communications strategies are about? - peddling influence?).

I recently suggested that those 18plus-year-olds who are slagging 16-year-olds observe their own chatter in terms of maturity, critical thinking, independent opinion... In other words, pot meet kettle.

I leave it to another to flesh out why lowering the voting age makes sense and to rebut the nonsense arguments of the naysayers. For me the bottom line is this:

The BC NDP allows members as young as 12 years old to vote for the party's leader. The BC Liberal Party permits 14-year-old members to vote for leader. Therefore, anyone against lowering the voting age to 16 who also runs as a candidate on behalf of the NDP or Liberals - for party leader or for a MLA spot - is a hypocrite.

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BC's Political Scene: The 'I am proud' waffle

I loathe the formulaic pseudo-answers politicos give to avoid answering specific questions asked by members of the voting public. One of those responses includes the 'I am proud' waffle.

As I tweeted to BC Liberal candidates yesterday: Voters don't give damn if you are "proud" of policy x or the track record of y. We want to know what YOU and your government would do now and in the future.

Politicians' habit to fill airtime with fluff like 'I am proud...' only raises my cynicism metre.

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14 December 2010

BC's Political Scene: The 'family values' theme

A few recurring themes have come up in the Twitter stream regarding the BC Liberal leadership race.

First is the nauseating use by leadership contenders of the 'families first' or 'focus on family' theme.

It is meaningless fluff intended to make people feel good.

Somewhere, sometime, someone (likely Frank Luntz) did a 'focus group' and determined that family could be a key into manipulating public opinion. That the family mantra leaves so many Canadians cold appears to have been overlooked by our politicos.

A more appropriate theme than family values (whatever the hell those are) would be community, specifically returning power and autonomy to local governments.

Communities are, after all, where families live. If communities were not so strapped for funding, or limited in terms of areas of responsibility and means to raise funding, then fewer families would be struggling.

The biggest problem facing communities is that of autonomy or the reluctance of upper tier governments to return power to them, the result of which has been communities with their hearts wrung out. Senior governments dictate one-size-fits-all policies for problems which they, and not locals, identify. Then they dribble money attached to those policies to a few lucky municipalities.

This typifies the funding problem. Money is attached to top-tier policy while the needs of communities, all unique, rise up from the bottom where families live.

So I say to Liberal (and future NDP) leadership candidates: Enough with 'families first' or 'focus on family' talk. Let's talk communities.

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06 December 2010

Responsibility and Leadership - UPDATE

Here is the audio video version of today's resignation speech and scrum by BC NDP leader Carole James.

James: "I'll be stepping down..." from Sean Holman on Vimeo.

Nowhere does James take responsibility or ownership of problems faced by her party. Indeed, she may only have furthered the divisions by blaming the 13 MLAs - to whom she refers as "bullies" - who were calling for a OMOV leadership convention.

The message in James' scrum is that these "bullies" wouldn't toe the line that she dangled.

Around 13:35, someone asks (I think Sean Holman): "Do you think you bear any responsibility?"

James' answer: "No."

Another reporter follows up: "Do you think you could have done anything better?"

James' response is again denial.

I am surprised and disappointed she didn't take at least some ownership of her party's difficulties. That she took none is only further evidence that James should never have been leader of a political party.

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Carole James Resigns - UPDATE

Took bloody long enough.

Let the speculation begin!

Maybe now British Columbians will have viable options, including substantive policy, for which to vote at the polls.

Maybe now the Liberals will be challenged by public opinion regarding their leadership choice.

Maybe now public opinion, not just the opinions of party members, will sway the choices for both parties. Which is only right, given that the leader of the governing party will become the Premier of this province.

ETA: It's unhelpful that the labelling continues right in the midst of Carole James' resignation speech. Seemingly her resignation was "a win for the bullies."

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BC's Political Scene: Chaos

For political junkies, the political brouhaha in British Columbia surrounding our (currently) top two parties provides a high ride. Its end may not come before Spring 2013.

First, we have the NDP imploding with dissidents and loyalists fighting over leadership, democratic process and control. The labelling largely thrown by the 'loyalists' at the 'dissidents' is loathsome. The media of course has perpetuated it and so, therefore, has everyone else. Loyalist, dissident: it's all about perspective, people!

Second, we have the Liberals at the start of a leadership race, with Gordon Campbell having resigned the post he still, ahem, occupies.

Four candidates have officially declared: Former Cabinet Minister Dr. Moira Stilwell; Former Cabinet Minister George Abbott, who claims the support of 11 MLAs; Former Cabinet Minister Kevin Falcon, who also claims the support of 11 MLAs; and former Cabinet Minister Mike de Jung. You may detect a pattern.

Expected to announce her leadership bid this week is also Christy Clark, who once was a Cabinet Minister but resigned for 'family' reasons mid-term through the Liberals' second mandate and has been out of government for six years. Clark has huge name recognition, largely I suspect not because of her role in government but because of her role as a radio show host.

Clark consistently leads strongly over the declared candidates in public opinion polls. However, it isn't the public Clark needs to convince in a Liberal leadership race, but members of the party. Given Clark's comments on her radio show, some members of the current administration, including fellow leadership candidates, could bear a grudge. That said, if the party has learned anything, it will listen to what the public is saying, especially given that listening heads the campaign theme of the four declared candidates.

So now we have the leadership status of both the NDP and Liberals up in the air, not to mention the continued existence as we know it of one of those parties.

In terms of the Liberal race, we have Clark without a seat in the Legislature and thus looking for a safe one to occupy. She may get help on that score from one Gordon Campbell, who spoke yesterday of the awkwardness of current leaders having former leaders hanging around. While Campbell said he would wait to decide on resigning as a MLA, he did put the issue out there. Further, should his seat become empty, it wouldn't be hard to suppose it to be a safe seat for any future Liberal leader. Vancouver-Point Grey constituents are, after all, used to having a Premier as their MLA.

Now consider the Liberal race within the context of the NDP implosion.

If Had Carole James hangs hung on, then given the public damage that has been done to her leadership, together with other public exposures of NDP processes and powers, then even a new leader of the Liberal party with strong ties to the current administration would be likely to win in 2013. In other words, it is was doubtful a James-led NDP could win against the Liberals, regardless of who headed the latter.

Given current polls, if the Liberals were headed by Clark, there would be no doubt of a Liberal win against James. Further, should Clark be the new Liberal leader and she occupied the Vancouver-Point Grey seat vacated by Campbell, it is likely she would call a by-election or a snap election. In either case, it would be for the purpose of obtaining a clear mandate, given Clark had been out of government for six years.

If Carole James resigns and a new leader of the party emerges, however, then the NDP might stand a chance in 2013 if the new Liberal leader has strong ties to the current administration. But again, against Clark, the odds of a NDP success fall, especially if there's a snap election.

In any event, if James were replaced by a new NDP leader, the latter would have to, and be seen to, have done serious restructuring within the party - and quickly - and be charismatic, open and forthright with the people.

ETA: Carole James is to talk to the media at 11:00 a.m. Oh, the suspense! ...CKNW's Penny Daflos reports James is expected to resign.

ETA 11:00am: Carole James has resigned.

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03 December 2010

UPDATE: Alberta, look behind your back

Alberta, your buddy Steve has done another number on you. He's done it to British Columbia and Ontario too, this time with plenty of company:

In April, the Conservatives announced with great fanfare Bill C-12, which would add 30 seats to the House of Commons, taking it to 338 from 308, to address severe underrepresentation among Canada's fastest-growing provinces.

Sounds good, although this was only a start to correcting that "severe underrepresentation." But what sounded reasonable, equitable and fair, rang alarm bells among certain folks who have benefited from that unfairness, most notably MPs who represent their parties constituents in the Maritimes and Quebec.

One can only suppose that Albertans, British Columbians and Ontarians don't matter as much to the leaders of Canada's political parties as do the voters in other parts of the country.

What other reason could there be for the leaders of all parties having "agreed to quietly sink" the legislation?

There is nowhere for (certain) Canadians to turn. Every one of Canada's rotten political parties have allowed the travesty of unequal representation to continue for decades. Now, in refusing to begin to correct it, they have tacitly agreed that all Canadians votes should NOT be treated equally.

Why am I surprised? Whenever parties have been in or near power they have resisted electoral reform; once relegated to the political wasteland, they have been in favour of it.

It's Shamocracy 2.0.

ETA: Desperate denials are now shooting forth from the PMO.

Tweeted from Althia Raj of Sun Media: "PMO sends out info alert denying Globe story on C-12 saying govt no intention to kill. But is silent on how they'll push it forward."

A few minutes later, Raj writes: Reality check on #C-12. There have been precisely 0 speeches on this bill. http://bit.ly/eZ4tLm

That aligns with Rosie Barton's sardonic comment of the bill appearing to be "at a molasses like pace."

In my view, if no action is taken on a Bill, it's as good as dead.

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Post Revival 2.0: We are Separatists

This is starting to become an annual event!

What is it about this time of year that makes Canada's federal parties suppose they can write off citizens' rights, in the service of their own self-interests? Perhaps they think we won't notice.

The prompt for this reprise of a reprise of an original post written two years ago is another collective, self-interested act by all parties, done in full knowledge of its result being further erosion of the democratic rights of a large swath of the electorate.

January 2009

For a long time, I've pondered the benefit of my community, now Vancouver Island, being part of the political entity that is the Dominion of Canada. Not because of any dislike for Canada's land, waters or people - that aspect of being Canadian makes me go all mushy inside - but because I can't see how a nation so large, structured as Canada is politically, can fairly represent and administer and distribute justice to all of its people.

As long as Canada maintains the power structure that it has now, then I would prefer that British Columbia be a nation unto itself - i.e., separate from Canada. Even better, that Vancouver Island go it alone.

Our top-tier government has only grown more powerful over the decades, not less. It has been steadily sucking political power from the nation's provinces, territories, regions and municipalities. Thus the federal government, together with its puppet masters, has steadily been eroding the ability of citizens in their communities to directly influence change.

More and more, citizens are taken as irrelevant by our politicians. The support of the federal government by large corporations powers the agenda of Canada's politicos. Their concern for the people functions only as an electoral device to "win" a mandate to govern, one that is rigged by our outdated voting system. And then the winning party governs for the CEOs. For "ordinary" Canadians (to which our political parties so fondly refer), to think otherwise is to be delusional.

Recently, I emailed these reflections to Daphne, and asked: Have you ever thought about things like this?

We don't always agree and I wasn't expecting agreement here.

"Yes," replied Daphne, "have pondered this and have talked to others over the years... At one time, I printed T-shirts which depicted Vancouver Island as forming the Vancouver Island Liberation Organization, hence breaking away from the rest of Canada."

Vancouver Island Liberation Organization t-shirt

Vancouver Island Liberation Organization T-shirts, anyone?

We are not alone in wanting to detach ourselves from the rest of Canada, friend Daphne explained. An emerging notion is that of Cascadia. The boundaries of Cascadia vary but in most proposals, all or part of British Columbia, Oregon and Washington state are included.

While some notion of Cascadia might be workable in the future, Daphne and I prefer thinking only in terms of BC or Vancouver Island separating from Canada.

Seriously, we're fed up with successive governments which are supposed to be OF, FOR and BY the people being instead OF, FOR, and BY Canada's CEOs. And a heckuva job those CEOs have been doing lately!

Consider one example which exemplifies the joined-at-the-hip relation between Canada's government and big business.

Successive governments have been selling off our1 resources under the guise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership "agreement" endorsed by the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the USA. (Don't be fooled. The name keeps changing, but the agenda remains the same.)2

Instrumental to the SPP is our very own Grand Ayatollah, one Tom d'Aquino, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. Mr. d'Aquino is one busy guy! Read the article. You'll understand why we two, having trashed our rose-coloured glasses long ago, prefer to divorce ourselves from Canada Inc.

1 A sizeable chunk of "our" natural resources are on and in traditional native land and water.
2 Excellent Canadian sites for information on the SPP include Global Research and the Council of Canadians.

[This post was co-written by Daphne Moldowin and Chrystal Ocean.]

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02 December 2010

In Defence of Jenny Kwan

Jenny Kwan, the BC NDP MLA who spoke out yesterday on behalf of true democratic process in her party... she, who thus ultimately spoke out on behalf of the people of British Columbia... That Jenny Kwan was lambasted today by the majority of guest commenters on the popular Bill Good Show.

One commenter accused Kwan of having been silent throughout her tenure as one of only two NDP MLAs sitting as Official Opposition from 2001 to 2005. The man's observation didn't mesh with mine. It was Kwan's feistiness during that period that first drew my attention to her.

Another commenter remarked that Kwan had done nothing useful over her 14 years as an MLA and that she had been a constant annoyance to the party. Worse, accused the man, he couldn't count the number of times Kwan had cried in public.


How positively sinful!

How so much more appropriate that politicians endlessly express (manufactured) outrage - OUTRAGE, mind you -, that they bluster, shout, wave their arms about. I mean, really, that's so much more... what's the word I'm looking for... manly.

That Kwan has indeed been an MLA for 14 years; that 12 other MLAs in the party refused to don the famous yellow scarves two weeks ago (40 percent of the NDP caucus, in all); that MLAs, their constituency associations and their canvassers are more directly in touch with voters and their intentions... all these are irrelevant.

Why? Because the three governing institutions of the NDP have decreed it so. The party, they say, determines the leader. MLAs have nothing to say in the matter.

That suggests a major and fundamental flaw in either the party's constitution or its application.

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30 November 2010

Analysis: Kevin Falcon Enters BC Liberal Race

Kevin Falcon just now declared his intention to run for the leadership of the BC Liberals. Should he win, Falcon would instantly become Premier of this province.

The website of Falcon's campaign is now up and his inaugural speech for the Liberal leadership is available.

From this non-partisan's perspective, Falcon appears to deserve the "Campbell light" label others have stuck to him. His speech contains largely - almost to the point of ad nauseam - references to building and investing: building the economy and increasing the built environment.

There's no reference to the preservation of the natural environment.

More worrisome to me are these statements:

I'd like to begin a discussion about how people would feel about lowering the HST rate over time to 10%. Perhaps a 1% reduction in 2011 and a further 1% when provincial revenues are sufficient to accommodate it....

the best job we can do as government is ensuring we maintain a low tax environment

If a Falcon government would lower the HST, how would it maintain current programs, reduce the deficit, or pay for new programs (for, say, helping parents with dyslexic or autistic children, as Falcon suggests)? Where does Falcon suppose the money will come from, if not from increased income taxes? If Falcon were to lower the HST, he would have no choice but to raise income taxes or to increase fees, which is a form of consumption tax.

An increase in income taxes in conjunction with lowering the rate of the HST is the wrong direction to go in terms of overall tax policy. The HST is only 12 percent now, the lowest rate of HST in the country; it need not go any lower.

If Falcon is going to be 'Campbell light', then he must at least retain what good policy Campbell's government introduced. He must continue its direction of using consumption taxes to encourage or curb spending in certain areas and stop punishing earnings through income taxes. In other words, Falcon should

  • NOT lower the HST - tweak it, yes, so that, for example, expensive luxury items pay a higher rate.
  • increase the carbon tax, and
  • lower income tax.

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29 November 2010

Recall This When Christy Clark Campaigns for the BC Liberal Leadership

All democratic and electoral reformers, get out your notepads, do write-ups in your blogs and include the following video:

Did you get that? During British Columbia's 2009 referendum on electoral reform, Christy Clark may have come late to supporting BC's version of the Single Transferable Vote (BC-STV); but once she did support it, she did so passionately, without reservation and on-air.

Therefore, I've a question for Ms. Clark:

In your (expected) campaign to become leader of the BC Liberal Party and therefore, Premier of this province, will you promise - with consequences if you don't keep your promise - to renew democratic reform, particularly electoral reform as proposed by the BC Citizens' Assembly?

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27 November 2010

Electoral Reformers, There is Hope

Electoral reform is currently second place in a Globe and Mail poll asking "what the next discussion Canada needs to have."

Go. Vote.

Yes, the environment, currently number one in the poll, is a vitally important issue. However, unless our 'representatives' in Parliament actually represent& we, their constitituents, over their own - which means their party's - interests, then the environment or anything else we may care about won't get addressed.

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25 November 2010

Interest Rate Policy Increasing Poverty Among Seniors

According to a new report, the number of seniors living in poverty soared almost 25 percent between the years 2007 and 2008.

Women have been the most affected. Up to 80 percent, suggests the report.

Daphne and I are, or soon will be, counted among those women.

At 60 years of age we don't yet officially qualify as seniors. However, with the Bank of Canada having kept interest rates ridiculously low over the past several years, we will be among the poverty statistics for seniors in future reports. Many of our friends already are or soon will be.

We are the women who worked for decades in low-paying 'female' jobs while child-rearing. We are the women who, out of our low incomes, scrimped and saved knowing that nothing was sure for tomorrow.

Now we are punished for saving because of an interest rate policy that values consumption, debt and a head-in-the-sand mentality over thrift, responsibility and the urge to maintain self-reliance.

The following is an excerpt from one woman's story. It could be duplicated many times over, by many other women:

I am tired. I have been working since I was 14. When I retire at 65, I’m going to have this little tiny government handout. It won’t matter how resourceful I’ve been. There’s no financial reward for that...

I am one of the working poor. The reward for that is more poorness. It's, "Sorry lady, you did a really good job. You raised those kids. You were only on Welfare for eleven months. Good for you, good for you - here are your pennies" (p47).

When will the Bank of Canada stop its insane interest rate policy? The result has been consumer interest rates so low that they don't even keep up with inflation. No surprise, then, that the people most dependent on hard-earned savings, largely senior women, are falling behind.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

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24 November 2010

IggyLibs and HarperCons: Ottawa's sabre rattlers

Bob Rae says, "You can't promote peace unless you put force behind the law and behind the collective will of the international community."

First, times have been when the "international community" has been wrong.

Second, right or wrong depends on whose interests shape the agenda.

Military superpowers head the so-called international community. Such powers, rather than promoting peace through example, prefer instead to use violence to promote more quell violence. They have found this useful for boosting their own economies.

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Sometimes They Get It Right

The nature, ideology or beliefs of the people who govern matter less than the actions of those people; and, logically, if such people get it wrong the majority of the time, they sometimes get it right.

John Flaherty's refusal to extend the stimulus deadline exhibits a case of getting it right. Yes, the government dragged its feet getting the stimulus out the door. Anyone but the credulous would suspect that to have been deliberate.

That aside, if the large number of polls are to be believed (sometimes they get it right too), most Canadians other than those working in the construction industry, would have preferred no stimulus - and no bailouts, the worst form of 'stimulus' -, rather than incur a federal deficit.

These Canadians, the majority, would have preferred that the corporations and industries that over-extended themselves in the (correct) belief that governments would cover their asses, should have been allowed to perish if such was their natural course.

The majority of Canadians would have preferred that people who consumed and spent like there was no tomorrow, all the while aware of circumstances strongly suggesting they should make changes, not be rewarded for their gluttony and intentional denial through emergency government programs.

The majority of Canadians think that no person, bank, corporation or industry will correct his/her/its behaviour toward survival if Big Daddy is always there for his/her/its rescue.

Enough is enough. End the stimulus.

Also end the bailouts.

Oops, too late on the bailouts.

Witness yesterday's vote in the House of Commons on the flawed F-35 contract. The gullible will suppose that the motion passed in aid of supporting Quebec's economy. Others will nod knowingly that the true reason for all those Yes votes yesterday was to save the necks of certain Conservative and Bloc politicians.

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23 November 2010

Local Cowichan Tribes Launches Landmark Adoption Authority

Cowichan Tribes has been dedicated, especially in the past few years, in pushing innovative solutions to address local problems. There's no question that the entire community, native and not, has appreciated and benefited from it.

Here the Cowichan Tribes are again, leading a landmark move to wrest control of their children from the hands of British Columbia authorities.

Cowichan Tribes' Lalum'utul' Smun'eem Child and Family Services department now oversees all adoption services for Cowichan children in care, rather than the provincial government.

"This is an integral part of the shift to return our jurisdictional rights of children and family matters back to Aboriginal communities," Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum said in a media release.

It's big news for native communities locally, even bigger news for communities throughout this province and across Canada. Cowichan Tribes' move demonstrates that it CAN be done.

Way. To. Go. Cowichan Tribes!!!

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Local NDP Members Disgruntled By Carole James & Company

Since the 2009 election (crowning?) of this riding's NDP candidate and ultimately-elected MLA, Bill Routley, there has been a fracturing of the local NDP constituency association.

From this nonpartisan's point of view, I can see why. Our former NDP MLA, one DOUG Routley, was forever helpful. BILL Routley not so much. When a constituent (me) requested his assistance regarding a government service, there was no response. Doug, who moved one riding north, would have fallen over himself trying to help.

How many other constituents of Bill Routley have been left without a response from their MLA?

Then there were signals of undemocratic process during the nomination of Bill Routley to NDP candidacy and, later, underhandedness and a not-so-wholly-honest campaign during the 2009 provincial election. Rumours floated of the campaign using Bill's connections with high muckety mucks in BC's labour movement. Throughout, it appeared that campaigners were trying hard to trade on Doug's good reputation and to confuse locals into thinking it was the familiar Doug for whom they were voting, not Bill.

Another distinction between the two Routleys is that Bill supports Carole James. Doug, whose constituency association was calling for a leadership convention in 2011, hasn't outright opposed her leadership, but he also has refused to express his support or to wear one of those famous yellow scarves at last weekend's NDP gathering.

With past shenanigans and current goings-on, one might understand, therefore, why there could be some hard feelings among the (still?) NDP party faithful in the riding of Cowichan Valley.

Recently, Sharon Jackson, a local city Councillor and dedicated political and social campaigner, was attending a local event celebrating former NDP Premier Dave Barrett's 80th birthday.

Jackson wrote the following in an email sent to me and to others:

Carole James and her entourage were there... Pity; because of that, all the really interesting people left early.

I think Carole and Moe and their power hungry in-crowd are destroying the party and dooming us to another Liberal Government.

It will be interesting to see if Gordon Wilson makes a comeback.

It's a sad state of affairs for the locals. Many of the NDP faithful have been disenfranchised by recent events and the rest of us - well, the ones without appropriate connections - are left without an MLA who will work for them.

Related - BC NDP: Both Sides Out of Mouth Syndrome

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21 November 2010

Friendship and Playing Nice

We all could learn from these two, not least Stephen Harper & Company:

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BC NDP Numbers Show Rift between Powerbrokers, Grassroots

During the weekend "showdown" over Carole James' leadership of the BC NDP, a clear difference in the divisions between party officials and the NDP caucus became evident.

Yes, James was approved as leader by 84 percent. This vote included members of the provincial party executive, other party officials, certain members of the federal NDP and a stacked number of delegates representing organized labour.*

NDP MLAs are not permitted to participate in such votes.

MLAs are the elected representatives of the people in their ridings. The NDP currently has 34 MLAs.

No report mentions whether all of the NDP's MLAs showed up at the weekend event. However, we know that 13 of them, almost 40 percent of the NDP caucus, outright opposed or refused to show support for James' leadership.

If MLAs care about keeping their jobs, they'll have their fingers on the pulse of their communities.

Perhaps those 13 MLAs know something that their party officials, big labour management and others who circle the party backroom don't.

* I hated, hated, hated when I was a union member having my membership used to support a specific party. Wouldn't have mattered what party. Such practice is wrong and anti-democratic.

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18 November 2010

Interest Rate Policy Punishes Most Vulnerable

The Bank of Canada's interest rate policy punishes saving and rewards debt. As does the federal government when it bails out "too big to fail" corporations and industries and rescues banks from the results of their rash decisions.

Such policies punish those people who scrimp and save, who put off buying today so they'll be able to live tomorrow. Many of these people are now in, or about to enter retirement; only to find their savings earning one or two percent or, if they're particularly fortunate, 2.5 percent.

Such people dare not put their savings into the markets, not when their lives are reliant on those savings. We have all seen what happens to the markets.

How did Canada get things so ass backwards?

How did Canada get to rewarding people who buy like there is no tomorrow? Who get mortgages they can't afford? Who purchase more automotive and recreational vehicles, gadgets and gewgaws, vacations and cruises than they could ever use?

Too many seniors today are struggling to make ends meet because their hard-earned savings are earning less than the increases to their living expenses, such increases exceeding the cost of living. (For most seniors, some form of disability is present.)

This situation, the erosion of seniors' and others' savings, is thanks to the interest rate policy of the Bank of Canada.

It's downright criminal. It also costs governments.

For anyone on some form of financial assistance - for example, disability benefits, seniors' Guaranteed Income Supplement - any personal income, including that of interest from savings, must first be taken into account. The lower those earnings or income, the more government pays.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

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An important article on copyright appears in the Straight today. Written from the perspective of a student at Simon Fraser University, it highlights how copyright law can infringe the rights of creators - researchers, scientists - to share their information with the public. In other words, it can prevent knowledge from getting to all but an elite few.

Excessive copyright law can create monopolies of knowledge and monopolies of culture can isolate us from understanding and from the ability to act as citizens....

As a student ... I can go online and read scientific journal articles about climate change. When I graduate I will lose my library card. I can pay for a new one, but it will not include online journal access. I will have to trek up to the top of Burnaby Mountain to read the public research - and even then, I will not be able to share the articles I find.

I've experienced this problem.

Several times in the recent past, I've had to post to academic listservs asking if anyone has an e-copy of this article or that. Without exception, either the original authors or other academics have responded with a downloadable file for me.

Going to the publishers' websites results in the opposite experience because they hold the copyright.

It's not the creators who are blocking access. They want to share their work.

Read Geof Glass' entire article. It's excellent.

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Manitoba to Require Kids to Stay in School Until Voting Age

The Manitoba government will raise the age for truancy to 18, the age at which a person is eligible to vote in that province (and everywhere else in Canada?).
Students only will be allowed to leave earlier if they earn their high-school diploma or join a workforce training program.
How about instead lowering the voting age to 16? Unless voting age isn't the issue but something else is behind this legislation, despite government hype.

I don't know why the voting age shouldn't be 16 for federal elections. The change should have been implemented long ago.

Oh, wait. There is a reason. Young people generally tend toward more socially progressive parties.

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Gracious Thanks Extended

Recently, friend Ocean's monetary income was enriched, as she had applied and has received, Canada Pension Plan benefits and the Supplement for Elderly Renters. Her quality of living soared.

For those of us living in financial poverty, it is a real relief when our fortunes improve. It also gives us the opportunity to say thank you to all who support us along the way. Ocean has done this in the form of a letter to the editor of one of our local papers. Here it is, in full.

Generosity makes this best place to live
Chrystal Ocean, The Citizen
Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I am a woman who lives daily with debilitating chronic pain, the result of the wear and tear of everyday life on a childhood injury.

Having turned 60 this summer, now I qualify for two important government programs. Now my annual income has gone from $7,200 (all my tiny savings could manage) to $10,000.

Now I receive a small monthly payment from the Canada Pension Plan, a contribution to my income I earned from a lifetime of work.

Now I am getting monthly help with my rent in the form of the Supplementary Aid for Elderly Renters, a provincial program. I am immensely grateful for S.A.F.E.R. It goes beyond description the degree to which this help has lessened my daily stress.

But it's the local resources and the people of this Valley I most want to thank.

Keeping one's head up when economically challenged can be difficult in a society that treats the dollar as god; and it can be difficult at times accepting kindness because it reminds you of how far you've fallen.

It's also a constant challenge accepting your own limits.

Without the kindness of people of this Valley, the quality of my life and the lives of so many others would be far worse. Many of us would be dead.

Beginning late last year, I began visiting the food bank every few weeks to get bread. Never anything else. Just bread. Prior to such visits, I'd stopped eating bread altogether. The price of the ingredients to make my own bread and the prices of loaves sold in stores were prohibitive. Bread didn't seem as essential as fruit or vegetables.

In the early days, my visits to the food bank were hit and run. I'd skulk in through the back door, avoiding eye contact, grab some bread and skulk back out. I was embarrassed to have to use this resource.

Now I don't skulk. Now I might stop to have a coffee, perhaps something to eat if a colourful salad catches my eye, and even a chat.

To the many people of this Valley who contribute bread and other foodstuffs to the food bank: thank you.

To the people who maintain the food bank, including Dave the cook (other cooks' names I don't know), and the driving force behind it, Betty Anne Devitt: thank you.

To the local grocers, to stores selling general merchandise including food, to independent bakeries and to home bakers, and to the many others who contribute to the food bank: thank you.

To Karyne Bailey, the woman behind Cowichan Valley Recycle ReUseIt, a wonderful online resource through which people of this Valley -- 1,151 members and climbing -- can obtain and give away stuff for free: thank you.

At the heart of CVRReUseit is recycling. Countless times I've received items I'd been going without, including basic kitchen equipment and bedding; and I've been able to give away items to people who needed or wanted them.

To Jenny, who brings me free eggs every couple of weeks: thank you.

To Daisy Anderson, who takes me along on grocery trips and changes my hard-to-reach light bulbs: thank you.

To Daphne Moldowin, who knows what it's like to live this way and helps me refocus when I'm down: thank you.

To the people who together make the Cowichan Valley one of the best places on earth to live -- for all of us: thank you.

Chrystal Ocean,

While I was reading it, I was thinking about the many other people out there who use the services provided that give a helping hand. Ocean's letter brings alive a real person to the nameless others who also use these services. Her letter shows an intelligence not often associated with the 'needy'. Ocean's letter indicates to me that she is graciously grateful.

Well done.

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17 November 2010

Call for Mass Protests

We need mass protests again, country-wide, as was done when King Harper prorogued Parliament.

When the people's representatives in Parliament, elected by the majority of Canadians, can have their collective votes in the House of Commons denied by an appointed Senate, something has gone seriously wrong with our democracy. Yet that is what happened when today the Senate killed the climate bill that the majority of the House of Commons had passed.

Therefore, mass protests it is.

Given that Canada is now a police state - you've only to witness the G20 testimony including video -, do be careful. But don't let State intimidation, via our 'security' forces, stop you.

For the rest of Canadians who seemingly don't give a damn, what is it going to take for you to wake the hell up?! YOUR RIGHTS are being trampled.

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15 November 2010

Media Annoyance

To the editors of the CBC, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, etc., etc., etc....

That so-and-so plans to announce something isn't news.

When so-and-so DOES whatever he/she/it plans, then it's news, provided that so-and-so and the deed in question are themselves news.

Got it?

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Un(der)reported by BC Media: BC Liberal leadership cap

The BC Liberal executive decided on Saturday the dates for their next biennial convention (May 13-14) and the ratification of their new voting system (Feb 12). The latter will be applied to the yet-to-be-announced leadership race.

Not announced in the BC Liberal news release and so ignored by BC's lazy media monopolies, which prefer to regurgitate what is handed to them, is this nugget:

Two changes that don't require ratification have already been made. Public Eye has learned the spending cap for leadership candidates has been increased to $450,000 from $75,000. And the executive is requiring those candidates pay a $25,000 entrance fee.

Only the well-connected to the well-heeled, therefore, stand a chance of becoming leader. This is despite

a preferential ballot system which would give every riding the same weight in voting.

The change would abandon a system Mr. Campbell put in place, when he won the leadership 17 years ago by packing the convention with Vancouver supporters, and create a more even playing field for candidates from rural ridings.

The fix is in, folks. The change to the voting system supposedly intended to give BC Liberal leadership contenders in rural ridings an equal shot is effectively made null by the leadership spending cap of $450,000.

Most rural ridings I know haven't the population to fund big campaigns.

Seems to me the BC 'Liberal' Party is at it again, this time with its own people. It's give on the one hand, take with the other.

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13 November 2010

Ten Percent of Riding Associations and Growing

... is not "a few folks," Ms. James.

That's what Carole James intimated in a recent radio interview:

"There are always people who are going to be complainers, ... a few folks calling for change."

When her interviewer asks about a momentum of riding associations calling for an "outright leadership convention" in the Spring, James discounts it, says she's "not concerned at all."

James should be concerned.

Ten percent of NDP riding associations have passed resolutions calling for NDP MLA Bob Simpson to be returned to caucus.

  • Powell River-Sunshine Coast
  • West Kootenay-Boundary
  • Nanaimo-North Cowichan
  • Penticton
  • Fraser-Nicola
  • Cariboo North
  • Kamloops-North Thompson
  • Kamloops-South Thompson

Other riding associations, including some of the same ones, are calling for a leadership convention in early 2011 (not just a 'review' which allows the fix to be in), if not for James' outright resignation

Each day, more riding associations announce similar resolutions. There IS momentum calling for a leadership convention.

Yet James is ready to discount these resolutions, these ridings, regardless of how many.


Because she expects "support from the provincial council."

That rather sums up the problem, doesn't it?

James may be a fine person (I don't know, having never met her), but she is not a leader. She failed to defeat GORDON CAMPBELL over two elections, for science sake!

Yet the inner circle props up this inept puppet, no matter what "a few folks," a growing number of members outside the inner circle, may demand.

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12 November 2010

Delusional Carole James

Typical of a politician.

Carole James keeps repeating the same talking points in this radio interview, regardless of the question raised by the interviewer.

She's both delusional and disrespectful of the mounting criticism and call for her resignation, much of it coming from within her own party.

And James shouldn't be ignoring the mounting criticism from outside the party either. It's ALL the voters of this province, after all, whose support she would be seeking in the next election.

If you haven't signed this petition for a leadership convention and vote, what are you waiting for?

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When Physicians Think They're Gods

What a horrible story! What a terrible ordeal this poor woman has gone through!

Ms DeWaegeneire said in evidence the doctor told her of his intention when she was helpless, about to pass-out from anaesthesia on the operating table.

"His face came close to mine and for my ears only he said 'I'm going to take your clitoris too' with which I slid under the anaesthetic," Ms DeWaegeneire said.

Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen SC asked: "Did you have the opportunity to respond?"

"I was gone," Ms DeWaegeneire replied.

Defence attorney's response:

the comments allegedly made before surgery were not correct and ... evidence ... show[s] none of the other four people in the small theatre heard those words.

Of course not. Did you not get that Dr. Neanderthal whispered his intent for the patient's ears only?

There is NO defence for this.

The best verdict for this man is to cut off his balls.

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BC NDP Leadership Convention & Vote - Petition

A local Cowichan Valley man, Richard Hughes, has just begun a petition demanding there be a BC NDP leadership convention and one-member-one-vote in the Spring 2011.

Good on him!

No matter how much you may like Carole James, you cannot deny that she has missed two opportunities to defeat Gordon Campbell, in 2005 and then again in 2009. Despite he and his government having LIED to the people of this province about BC Rail. Despite all cuts to programs and services. Despite so many errors, despite so much artifice.

Now the man James loved to target is, or soon will be, gone.

If James couldn't defeat GORDON CAMPBELL, how can she defeat a reinvigorated, rebranded BC Liberal Party under a new leader? 

Not only should James step down as leader of the BC NDP, but as suggested by a signatory to Hughes' petition, James' backroom supporters should be questioned or ousted too. 

Let the NDP start anew.

Along with the BC Liberals - and the Greens - PLEASE, give the voters of this province decent viable options when next we visit the polls.

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09 November 2010

How very strange

... for the BC government now to permit public servants to use Facebook, Twitter and other social media, but still not permit them to use email to communicate with members of the public seeking their help.

I have written extensively about the problems for people of low income who must choose between having phone service - landline and cell - and having access to the Internet. For such households, the choice is almost always Internet, given it delivers more bang for the buck. With an Internet-connected computer, headphones and a service like Skype, one can still make outgoing calls to other computers and to phones.

Alas, in Canada - but not in the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Mexico ... and just about every other advanced country in the world - you still cannot obtain an online number. If you had an online number, then people with a phone could call you at your computer. But without benefit of a phone OR an online number, people wanting to call you by phone - and in the case of the BC government, having to call you by phone, since that's the only way public servants are permitted to communicate with you - you cannot be reached.

The only option for someone without a phone but with an Internet-enabled computer is email. And the BC government won't permit public servants to use email to communicate with clients, consumers, or whatever the hell we want to call those seeking service or information from the government.

The BC government has even cut off the ability of public servants to use email in special cases, or so I was told when I was trying to communicate with the people at SAFER. Had the public servant processing my application required clarification, he/she would have had to use snail mail, thus delaying my application's approval by at least two weeks. The ability to send emails, other than in-house, was disabled.

It's so damn frustrating. A simple fix by the CRTC, that it lift its silly 911 restriction, so that VOIP providers could issue online numbers with Canadian area codes, would make the problem go away in an instant. And this fix, in aid of greater access for low income households, wouldn't cost the government a damn thing.

I've SkypeOUT. I'd have SkypeIN if it was permitted in Canada. But with SkypeOUT I have listed in my contacts all the emergency numbers one might need. So what if 911 isn't accessible?!

Lift the damn restriction, CRTC! It's obvious the only reason you have it there is to protect Canada's big telecommunications companies.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

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Heads-Up Feminists!

Please read Sabina's latest post. She has a cyberstalker.

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06 November 2010

Draft Watts Campaigns Starts Up for BC Liberal Leadership

Popular Surrey mayor Diane Watts may have trouble turning down a run for the BC Liberal leadership. Not only does she rank first in all polls so far that have asked British Columbians who they favour, but now a Draft Watts campaign has begun.

Should Watts run and then win the Liberal leadership and therefore the premiership, she'll be a hard contestant to beat in 2013. A Carole James-led NDP as her major competition would generate less respect than laughter.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with laughter. Politicians - not to mention the rest of us - take themselves too seriously. It would be good for everyone if we could all relax a bit, even with respect to the serious business of politics.

However, the type of laughter James' NDP would trigger in 2013 against a reinvigorated, rebranded Watts-led Liberal party would have more the tone of derision than chortle. Which is why I and, it appears, many other BC bloggers, have been imploring for years that James follow Campbell's lead. James & Co. seem unable to differentiate good policy or good strategy from bad; a lack they share, incidentally, with the federal Liberals under Michael Ignatieff.

James should resign and through her resignation, encourage the NDP to do major additional housecleaning and some rebranding of its own.

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No Barking in Dog Park

What an absurd tale!

Cobble Hill Director and CVRD [Cowichan Valley Regional District] Chair Gerry Giles summonsed dog owners to a meeting in Cobble Hill recently.

The get together was held to scold those who allowed their dogs to bark while visiting the Cobble Hill Village Dog Park.

Ms Giles was supported by her Alternate Director John Krug and CVRD Parks Manager Brian Farquar, and South Cowichan Parks Chair guy, Ian somebody.

This is a very serious matter. The assembled were instructed to sign in; name, address and so on and so forth.

The Cobble Hill Director and Board Chair meant business. After all she had personally installed anti-barking signs and that should have been sufficent, but the dogs apparently were not buying into it for a minute.

Read the whole thing. It gets worse.

What the hell do people expect when they create a dog park? I am sick of the pettiness, in-fighting and inefficiency of the CVRD. It's long past time we got rid of the damn thing and the municipalities of the Cowichan Valley formed into one.

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05 November 2010

On Obesity and Poverty

A new study done in the US predicts that obesity rates there will peak at 42 percent, not the 34 percent previously predicted.

My immediate reaction: a shrug of the shoulders.

If you live in the poverty well, you know more than most of the 'experts' about the chief cause of certain illnesses. You know more than the health professionals, political advisers or policy makers. To whit, you know that obesity rates will peak at 42 percent in the US because more USians are poor.

With poverty comes poor nutrition and a helluva lot of bad carbs.

Consider the dilemma for parents whose household incomes have their families living in the bargain basement. It's 1) feed your children nutritionally, but exceedingly sparingly, and then ignore your children's cries due to the pains in their bellies from starvation; or 2) feed your children pasta, bread, rice, cookies, donuts, snack food, etc. to fill their bellies and stave off their hunger; the result of which, of course, is malnourishment. And don't forget to feed yourself, although not the good stuff.

Should be obvious, eh? So why don't governments do something about it? Especially governments in countries with a universal healthcare system?

It costs not just lives but MONEY to keep people in poverty, folks!

Far better for the federal government in cooperation with the provinces to implement a guaranteed income for all (GAIA). Far better for municipalities to ensure a robust local food infrastructure and to have inclusive property laws to allow truly affordable housing. Far better these than to pay the enormous financial cost of serving a large swath of the population whose poor health due to poverty drains the healthcare system of crucial resources.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

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Carole James Should Follow Campbell's Last Act

Remember back, oh, about a month ago, when leader of the BC NDP Carole James ousted 'rebel' MLA Bob Simpson?

Simpson had dared mild criticism of her speech to the Union of BC Municipalities. Now Simpson is an Independent MLA.

Still a loyal member of the NDP, his new status has not stopped Simpson from saying that, just as Gordon Campbell's resignation could/should lead to a change in direction or a rebranding of the BC Liberal Party, so should rebranding be on the minds of his party's membership.

I don't hold out much hope for it, though, not when I read things like this:

"James has said Simpson can return to the NDP caucus if he apologizes for the critical remarks he made about her leadership."

Here are the 'critical remarks' in question:

The Leader of the Opposition likewise had little concrete to offer the delegates other than a commitment to be more consultative than the current government and a promise to explore the possibility of revenue sharing with local governments. This is a timely concept which has the potential to address the resource needs of local governments, but the lack of specifics was a disappointment to delegates.

As Simpson observed today:

The party's message under James up to now has simply been, "we won't be Gordon Campbell... There is a lot of 'we wont's.... [New Democrats] have to sit back and think about what they need to do to tell British Columbians what they would be like in government and actually win a mandate to govern this province in 2013."

See the comments to that article. A whole lot of people agree with Simpson.

The NDP, in other words, must formulate policy - good policy - and let the rest of us know what it is.

British Columbians will not elect a fence post with hair. It is no more beneficial to this province to have a Gord Campbell government than one headed by someone who has demonstrated, over the seven years of her 'leadership' that she can't lead, can't take criticism, can't give substantive speeches, is clueless about smart political strategy and what British Columbians care about, and does nothing but whine.

The people of this province need and desperately want decent, viable political options. Minimally, we need a Liberal party that functions democratically and sits at its traditional centre. We need a New Democrat party that functions democratically and represents the perspectives of the left (not just the left perspectives of unionized labour). We need a small 'c' conservative party that functions democratically and represents the perspectives of the right. And we need one or more parties that function democratically, don't fit neatly into the left-right paradigm - e.g., the BC Green Party - and represent major interests.

With a minimum of four decent options and an emphasis on government, not just parties, that must function democratically, British Columbians need proportional representation.

Meanwhile, what we need most urgently is the resignation of Carole James and elbow grease applied to the internal machinery of the NDP. The party clearly needs a major spring cleaning.

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03 November 2010

Will Campbell Resignation Mean Restoration of Democratic Process?

British Columbians' loathing for Gordon Campbell was not due primarily to the various policies he implemented, such as the carbon tax, the HST, the latest-announced 15 percent income tax cut, the cuts to public services and programs, the sale of BC Rail, etc., etc., etc. The chief cause of people's loathing was Campbell's circumvention of democratic process.

It was his lying to the electorate. It was his doing after elections what he intimated during elections he would not do. The sale of BC Rail and the introduction of the HST come most immediately to mind.

While I've written in favour of BC's HST, its carbon tax and further reductions to income tax (with concomitant increases in consumption taxes), I can't support a government that stomps all over the rights of its citizens to have their votes properly represented.

Of course, such rights also require electoral reform. But even with our present system, surely British Columbians can reasonably expect not to be lied to.

Otherwise, what's the point in voting? What's the point in supporting a party or a candidate if you can't be sure they'll keep their word? Or minimally, that they will exercise due democratic process either to change the minds of voters' representatives or the minds of the voters themselves?

I can live with policy I disagree with. I won't live with a government, premier, party or party leader who tramples over the democratic rights of myself and my fellow citizens.

Gordon Campbell did the right thing by resigning. He should have done it long ago. So should Colin Hansen. And so should the NDP's Carole James.

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28 October 2010

BC Tax Policy

When BC Premier Gordon Campbell spoke last night in a 20-minute TV special, he announced a 15 percent reduction in income taxes for anyone earning less than $72,000.

I applaud this move. Campbell should have announced it at the same time he announced the HST. It would have made clearer to British Columbians the connection between the income tax reduction and the consumption tax increase.

As I've stated previously, I prefer income not be taxed at all and that all levels of government use consumption taxes as their primary source of revenue. Ideally, the consumption taxes would include not just general sales and carbon taxes, but also more targeted taxes intended to curb and reward behaviour, and higher rates on luxury goods and services that only the wealthy can afford.

Meanwhile, Carole James has this to say:

I believe in a competitive tax environment but this is a ridiculous way to set tax policy... Fiscal irresponsibility and a government trying to buy back public support is the only thing I saw with this tax cut... It's unclear where the money will come from.

Might it not be from the HST that you and your party have been campaigning so fiercely against?

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25 October 2010

Can You See My Grin?

Today, I went to my post box and discovered a card from a special friend. My smile lightened my step as I went forward to my little shack in the woods. Once I got home and opened the envelope to find a treat from one who could least afford it, I was elated. It is amazing to feel so uplifted! Such a small thing, others would say, but I know how much it means to receive this unexpected present. The least I can do is say THANK YOU!

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15 October 2010

BC NDP: Both sides of mouth syndrome

Party leader, Carole James, says one thing in public. Party president, Moe Sihota, says another thing in private.

New Democratic Party president Moe Sihota is encouraging members to help organize recalls against Liberal MLAs, according to an NDP executive's personal notes from a meeting of top party officials.

The move comes after NDP leader Carole James said her party will not get involved in the campaign organized by the anti-HST movement.

Am fine with recall campaigns to unseat BC Liberals. Am not fine with dishonesty in politics and the predilection for not saying what you mean. After all, it's the dishonesty and lack of dealing frankly with British Columbians that has most British Columbians so incensed against the Gordon Campbell government, regardless of where we stand with respect to the HST.

On a personal note... My joke of a NDP MLA was a disaster during the 2009 election and was far outclassed by the Green candidate Simon Lindley (a refreshing change for a Green - or any - candidate, Lindley received the most applause at the ACMs and excellent media reviews).

Still, Bill Routley - who banked during the election on the confusion about his relationship to DOUG Routley, the former local BC NDP MLA for this riding - is my 'representative'. Therefore, BILL Routley is the one to which I turn if I've a problem with the BC Government. So I wrote to him, twice, about the SAFER issue. Never got a reply.

I'll take an independent like Bob Simpson over such a useless party apparatchik any time.

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09 October 2010

Response to BC Iconoclast "The Three Independents"

Bernard von Schulmann raises an important point in his post regarding the two-now-grown-to-three independents in BC's legislature. While he writes specifically of these three politicians - Vicky Huntington (ran as Independent in 2009), Blair Lekstrom (former Liberal MLA) and Bob Simpson (former NDP MLA) -, his key critique could apply to any politician, at any level of government.

The first two independents have done very little to get media attention or made much effort to use social media. Our media is no longer a couple of major papers, radio and TV stations, there is an ever expanding media out there looking for content, but I do not see them making use of it. I can not find a website for Blair Lekstrom and the one for Vicki Huntingdon is boringly irrelevant.

Independents do indeed have a tough time getting noticed by traditional news media, largely because those same media are so enamoured by party politics, a form of politics an increasing number of British Columbians appear to loathe.

Independents are missing the boat if they're not using social media (Twitter, Facebook, their own websites, etc.) to go directly to the people. After all, if you can do nothing to prevent traditional media from ignoring you, then you must reach the people by other means. By using social media, you can not only reach the people directly, you can avoid distortions of your message caused by sensationalist editorial filters.

It continues to amaze me how few politicians take advantage of social media. Is it laziness? Tech-phobia? Fear they'll be exposed as the party clones they are, unable to think for themselves? Fear they'll be found out to have run for office only for the power, salary, cushy pensions and other perks?

If politicians care about representing the people, then they should make every effort to connect with the people, engage with them, listen to their concerns. If that means learning to use Twitter, Facebook, etc. properly (not for vanity advertising please!), then so be it. In fact, politicians including social media as part of their communications strategies should be part of any open government.

As for independents, they should take particular note. Use of social media tools to connect directly with the people could well place them ahead of their noosed party-affiliated compatriots.

ETA: Bob Simpson, who only two days ago was ousted from the NDP caucus by not-a-leader Carole James, has a website and a Twitter account, so in that respect he's headed in the right direction. However, as of now his Twitter account has 63 Followers, 0 Following. Mr. Simpson must get with the program. No engagement is possible with a monologue.

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08 October 2010

Carole James Ousts Wrong MLA

It would have been so much better had Carole James ousted herself from the BC NDP caucus rather than Bob Simpson. The man's crime? In two sentences, he dared mild criticism of James' (and Gordo's) speech to the Union of BC Municipalities.

Someone has since created a Facebook page supporting Simpson. Online commenting there and on news sites is strongly in his favour.

As with so many of James' misbegotten moves as leader, this latest has only put more people off, including well-respected - and some now former? - supporters of her party.

The sooner Carole James goes, the better for the NDP and the people of this province. Anyone who supposes James could effectively lead as Premier of BC when she has so abysmally failed as Leader of the BC NDP is living in a fantasy world.

As for Simpson, the people of BC need a whole lot more like him. We need MLAs who will defend and offer principled policy on behalf of their constituents. We don't need MLAs who will kowtow to their party at the expense of such proper representation.

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16 September 2010

Abortion Too Easy?

I am enraged, again, with this story about the pro-life righteous, religious, right-wing-nutters in the USA.

Is there no end to other people deciding how a woman comes to a decision about seeking an abortion? I'm beginning to realize that all the die hard pro-lifers seem to believe that a woman thinks 'Ho-hum, I'm pregnant. I better find an abortion clinic and get rid of the damn thing.'

Where are the 'fathers' in the picture? Why aren't they hauled in and made accountable for THEIR actions? Is there any pregnancy without a male partner, artificially inseminated or not?

Having lived through the era when it was a criminal offence for a woman to seek an abortion, I am livid to see this ugly hatred for women who choose to control their own bodies and destinies returning.

I recommend you read the whole article and follow the links provided.

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HST Referendum in BC - Hooray!

I support the HST and have given my reasons in several posts.

More, I support true democratic process and have spent a good deal of this space writing about that. No matter the topic of the day, the problem almost always returns to the majority of voices having been left unheard.

Democratic reform topped the list of WISE's three major goals. The WISE women, all of whom lived in households of very low income, knew that unless politicians were forced to heed the voices of the people who elect them, nothing would change for us or for the majority of the masses. The only real benefits would accrue to the already well-connected or well-to-do.

So I'm tickled pink that British Columbia will be holding a referendum on the HST next September, that the result will be based on a simple majority vote and that its outcome will determine the fate of the HST in this province.

As long as policies and decisions are determined on the basis of meaningful consultation with an informed electorate, and any referenda are based on a simple majority vote, I'm prepared to accept their consequences. If I don't like the consequences, I will work to change people's minds.

Meaningful, truthful dealing by governments with the people. The people using suasion amongst themselves and with their political representatives. That's how a democracy is supposed to function.

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29 August 2010

On Rule-Making

The present volley between Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff on who makes the rules (SH: "I think I make the rules!"; MI: "We make the rules, the people of Canada make the rules!") misses the point.

As Harper has shown, 'the rules' can be ignored.

That hardly makes them rules, now does it?

The Harper Conservatives have treated the rules like conventions.

Conventions can and usually do change over time. Conventions can and always change at the whim of despots.

Funny thing about despots: few people recognize them until it's too late.

In 2004, HarperCo won over the Martinites on a platform of accountability: greater access to information, greater transparency, etc., etc., etc.

How well has that gone?

It's long past time that a party of the opposition ran on a platform of full democratic reform, including but not limited to:

  • redoing the rules so they cannot be treated as mere conventions, and
  • parliamentary and electoral reform

The interests or survival of political parties must no longer take precedence over the rights of voters to proper representation in the House of Commons and in its proceedings.

As for the Liberal Party, Ignatieff's former suggestion to "trust" him to do what is right should he become prime minister, doesn't cut it. As has been so often the case, he misses the point - one must assume deliberately, given his intelligence and way with words. The issue goes beyond any one man or his ego, any one prime minister or any one political party.

ETA: Ignatieff and the Liberal express bus recently passed through Duncan, enroute to Victoria from Nanaimo. Wish he'd stopped here, rather than ignoring us; would have welcomed meeting and speaking with him. Few people on the mainland appear to realize that the Cowichan Valley serves as bedroom community for many who work in Victoria or that it has seen huge growth and development over the past several years.

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26 August 2010

Whipping Votes

Several people on the progressive side of Canadian politics are demanding that the opposition parties whip the vote in support of the long gun registry. With respect to this issue, the NDP is being targeted particularly because, in a previous vote, certain MPs failed to vote per the party line.

The long gun registry is only the latest issue for which whipping the vote has come up, but it certainly won't be the last.

Under the whip, all MPs of a given party are required by the party's leadership to vote a certain way. This is regardless of the views of the MPs or the views of the majority of the people they are supposed to represent, their constituents. If MPs don't fall under the whip, they are threatened with consequences which can be as drastic as ouster from the party caucus.

I take issue with the entire notion of whipping the vote. It represents one of the myriad ways in which party politics is failing the people of Canada.

In a representative democracy, members of parliament are supposed to represent their constituents, not their damn parties!

No wonder voters are fed up. What's the point of electing someone to Parliament if it means s/he now represents her/his party, not you?

No matter the topic under vote - gun registry, abortion, Charter rights violations -, in a properly functioning democracy, whipping the vote is just plain WRONG. And I applaud any politician, regardless of party affiliation, who refuses to kneel before party bullies and instead votes according to the will of the majority of his/her constituency.

(By "constituency," I do not mean only the 30 percent or so who voted that person into office, but all of the people in that geographical region.)

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