28 February 2011

Well, that was fun! But a fond farewell

Over the past three months, I've written extensively about the BC Liberal leadership race and made public my struggles to make the right choices.

First, I wondered if I should join the BC Liberal Party. No other way existed to vote so directly for British Columbia's 35th premier. Therefore, I decided, Yes, go for it - and signed up for membership on February 2nd.

It felt very strange. Not once during my 40 years of eligibility to vote had I been a member of a Liberal party; in fact, I'd only been a member of any party once before.

Then was the agonizing to and fro decision-making process. I scrutinized policies, public statements, the 'debates', campaign styles, and so on, all the while trying to decide among flavours of vanilla.

Which candidate would be the best both to keep the BC Liberal Party caucus together and to present a serious, viable option for British Columbians in the 2013 general election?

In the end my vote was: 1-George Abbott, 2-Mike de Jong and 3-Kevin Falcon.

Immediately before voting, I thought of switching 1 and 2, for reasons of strategy. Wish I had. But heck, mine was just one vote among approximately 50,000. The switch would have made no difference, except to me. It would have meant greater vote efficiency. Oh, well.

Finally, I did some more agonizing this morning. Then sent off this email:

Dear BC Liberals and the BC Liberal Party:

Since I signed up for membership on February 2nd and throughout the weeks of the BC Liberal leadership race, I have found new friends and thoroughly enjoyed my experience with your Party. I can fault nothing in the way BC Liberals have welcomed me, treated my concerns, or fault the actions of the candidates and, for the most part, those of candidate supporters. It has been an absolutely fantastic few weeks.

I have been a member of a political party only once before. That too, was an experience of mere weeks. It was not nearly so positive. A disagreement concerning actions of the leader prompted my membership cancellation back then.

For this nonconformist thinker, it will only be a matter of time before something similar happens with the BC Liberal Party - more likely concerning policy than (non)actions of Premier-Designate Christy Clark. I am too stubbornly independent not to speak out.

I have always been most effective as a researcher, author, blogger and now Twitter aficionado, when a staunch nonpartisan. I'm just one of those people to whom partisanship does wonky things to her cognitive faculties.

This feels wrenching, but... Please cancel my membership in the BC Liberal Party.

The Party responded quickly. I have returned to my nonpartisan status.

Am feeling sad right now. It was a great ride; and I met online some fine people. Hopefully, we'll stay connected. I'll do my part.

As for that great ride...

I was thrilled most by the a) online b) preferential ballot c) weighted voting system.

FAN... TAS... TIC.

Recommend this post

26 February 2011

BC Liberal Party Leadership Race - Done


As a spanking new member of the BC Liberal Party, I have just voted for the party's next leader and this province's 35th Premier. It came down to a matter of choosing among flavours of vanilla, but ultimately the choices were clear given the candidates' proposed policies. Here's how I voted:

1-George Abbott
2-Mike de Jong
3-Kevin Falcon
4-Christy Clark

Lots of people were bowled over by Clark, but I just didn't buy it. She talks a good sound bite, but how surprising is that? For one thing, she has had four years on her own radio show to hone her already good communication skills. Beyond that, Clark had little to offer in the way of substance. For example, her proposal to inject $15 million into the community grants program - which is vital to BC's nonprofit sector - falls far short of the cuts made to the program in 2008. At least Falcon and Abbott agreed to reverse those cuts, an increase of $39 million.

As I explained in my last preferences post, I chose de Jong for 2nd spot for several reasons, including that of strategy. I also think he would make a good Premier. Too bad that he is likely to be the first off the ballot. Strategy would have been simplified for many Liberal voters had one or both Ed Mayne and Moira Stilwell stayed in the race. Then second-place position would have made the race really interesting.

If you are keen to know the outcome of the leadership race as it is announced, you can watch the announcement(s) livestreamed on CBC Vancouver. The outcome of the 1st ballot is to be announced at 6:10 p.m., 2nd ballot at 6:20 p.m. and 3rd (or the 1st or 2nd ballot outcome, if it's the final ballot) at 6:30 p.m.

ETA: Am delighted with this online voting! And the preferential ballot. And, in the case of a BC party leadership race, the weighted vote, one that gives each riding in the province an equal number of votes. In a region such as ours, one-member-one-vote makes no sense for any political party - or other entity - which claims to be representative of the entire province. You simply CANNOT represent an entire province if virtually your entire voting base is in one city or metropolitan area. Good on the BC Liberal Party for having elected - by 1,319 to 23, or 98.3 percent - to bring in the weighted vote. The BC NDP, meanwhile, voted against such a motion and thus chose to keep OMOV.

Recommend this post

17 February 2011

BC Liberal Leadership: (Final) Order of preference

The three top issues guiding my decision remain as they have been throughout:

Democratic reform.
  • Support for greater independence and return of powers to local governments.
       We work, play, live and die in communities. Local elected officials are the closest to the people and best positioned to identify their communities' unique strengths and needs, and to provide the best solutions. Therefore, the greatest political power should rest with local, not the provincial or federal, governments.
  • Outreach and meaningful engagement with the public.
  • Resumption of powers to MLAs.
  • Open government policies.
  • Electoral reform.

Taxation policy. Smartly applied carrot-and-stick consumption taxes designed to guide consumer behaviour and a gradual reduction of earnings taxes. I favour the HST, a carbon tax with teeth and the proposed-then-rescinded 15 percent reduction in income tax for the middle-class.

Environmental Stewardship. Greening the economy. This is crucial to supporting our environment and must work in sync with sound taxation policy. Greening the economy must include an effective carbon tax and cap 'n trade.

Given the above, here's how I would rank my choices on the BC Liberal Party's preferential ballot were the selection for leader held today.

  1. George Abbott. I've watched Abbott over the course of this leadership race and been impressed by his consultative approach, his quick start in proposing clear, concise policy and his resolve to stick by proposals which fellow politicians may not like - e.g., an investigation into why the government is footing the bill for the Basi-Virk $6M settlement and the insertion in the HST referendum of a question on the carbon tax.

    Abbott is determined to consult the people regarding the carbon tax. At first, this concerned me because it put into conflict two of my voting decision criteria: democratic reform and environmental stewardship. However, not only is reform my greater concern but I also trust the people to evaluate their options carefully. Whatever my fellow British Columbians decide, I'll accept.

    For awhile, I'd worried that Abbott might take consultation and consensus-building too far, at the expense of making decisions. He has proven that concern to be unfounded.

    Abbott has the support of 19 MLAs, one of whom was a fellow candidate in this race - Dr. Moira Stilwell. He also has the support of former leadership candidate Ed Mayne. For these and other reasons, I think Abbott to be the best candidate for today's BC Liberal Party.

  2. Mike de Jong. Like Abbott, de Jong appears genuine in terms of a desire to reach out not just to fellow Liberal members but to the general public. He is listening to the ideas presented to him at his Open Mike sessions. Among the ideas I like: lowering the voting age to 16, a call for an online vote of the HST referendum, support for the carbon tax. De Jong has also publicly acknowledged (CFAX, Jan 20) the important work of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform and his discussion regarding lowering the voting age and increasing citizen participation again reinforces his desire for greater public input and engagement. He's not backing off on the voting age proposal, which had been one of my concerns. (ETA: See this interesting analysis of the options by SFU's Doug McArthur, who supports Mike de Jong.)

    I've also placed de Jong in second place for another reason. Christy Clark will likely receive high first-place numbers; if she also receives high second-place numbers, then she will likely be the winner and next Premier. I want Abbott to win; ergo, I place Clark lower than second.

  3. Kevin Falcon. Falcon suggested lowering the HST first to 11 percent then to ten percent. Where does he plan to make up the shortfall? Falcon also has signalled a backtracking on the carbon tax.

    In general, some of Falcon's responses or statements expose a defensiveness which is unattractive in a political leader. He tends also to listen through a particular lens to questions posed to him; not just in terms of which questions he chooses to answer but in his responses. In many cases, he is not responding to the question at all, but giving a response in reference to an issue only remotely related to it.

    For example, on January 18th, the Vancouver Sun held an online chat session with Falcon. He gave a terrible, defensive nanny-state answer to my municipalities question. This was a case other non-answers to questions put to him by other participants. [ETA Jan 19: Falcon has considerably improved over this performance and now makes concerted efforts to answer direct questions with direct answers. I admire both traits - learning from past experience and being direct with people.]

    Like Abbott, Falcon has considerable support from the current Liberal caucus - at last count, 18 19 MLAs. If this were the only consideration, then it could be argued I should be placing him higher. However, ten 11 of those MLAs are cabinet ministers. This raises the question as to how much change, if any, we would see under a Falcon government. The people of British Columbia sent strong signals they want change. To choose Falcon over other choices is tantamount to ignoring those signals and thumbing noses at the people sending them. In Abbott's case, the MLA support represents a broader range of representation regionally, geographically and by voter representation.

  4. Christy Clark. I'd initially been concerned about the cloud over Clark regarding the BC Rail issue; not regarding her guilt or innocence (unlike some, I'd not been impressed by Basi's self-aggrandizing memos), but her refusal to consider a public inquiry regarding the matter. The release of evidence yesterday cleared all elected officials, including Clark, from any wrongdoing. That cloud is now gone.

    There are aspects to Clark that I like - her clear desire to listen to the people, her acknowledgement of the tremendous importance the nonprofit sector plays in the health and welfare of people in their communities and her recognition of urgent issues regarding municipalities. Other aspects I find troublesome: her inconsistencies, flip flops (HST) and a disingenuous response regarding what she'd initially proposed about the HST.

    A further consideration must be Clark's lack of support from current members of the Liberal caucus. This can be seen either as a positive or a negative; positive, in that it separates Clark from the current administration. But it doesn't separate her from a Campbell government, given her previous roles as a Campbell cabinet minister and Deputy Premier. Therefore, Clark can claim only degrees of separation. The negative to Clark's lack of caucus support signals that these members may know something that I don't, a consideration which I must take seriously.

I am ambivalent about the 3rd- and 4th-place positions and may switch them when it comes time to vote. [And I've already switched them.] However, unless something BIG happens over the next ten days, positions 1 and 2 are locked.

ETA Feb 22: Due to the likelihood Mike de Jong will drop off the ballot after the first round, and given other considerations, when election day arrives I may switch positions 2 and 3. Kevin Falcon supporters, you know what to do. Convince me!

Mike de Jong supporters, give me reasons, beyond those I've outlined, why I should keep your guy in second position.

Recommend this post

07 February 2011

Why Not a Metered Internet?

The headline of the Globe and Mail article asks the question, Why Not a Metered Internet?

The argument that follows defends the big telecoms in terms of market forces: for example, the cost of infrastructure building.

Here's a different answer to the question: with a metered Internet we would have another case of them that haves and them that don't.

We already have a growing economic inequality gap. With Internet metering, we would have an associated inequality gap in terms of fundamental communications access.

An inequality gap already exists with respect to telephony. The lowest income households haven't room in their budgets to acquire that all-important telephone number. They've not a telephone or cell phone or other mobile device to which such a number could be attached. For those households that have a desktop computer with Skype installed, they cannot make full use of the VOIP provider's services or those offered by similar providers. Such services would provide them with an online number (just like a phone number), thus allowing them to receive incoming telephone calls to their computer.

Why can customers in Canada - unlike those in most of the developed world - not obtain online numbers?

Again, a CRTC decision lies at the heart of the matter.

Access to incoming phone calls. Access to the full services the Internet can provide. In both cases, it's about communication with one's friends, family and community; access to one's regional district, provincial or territorial government and services; access to the federal government and services; access to information regarding elections, parties and candidates; access to news and information.... It's about access to democracy.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

Recommend this post

03 February 2011

CRTC, UBB and a Response from my MP

Am glad the CRTC has been ordered to review (read: 'reverse') its decision on usage-based Internet billing. But I won't be happy until the CRTC has gone the way of the dinosaurs, just like the dinosaurs its morphed mandate has been so busy protecting.

That aside, I wanted to share this great letter I received from my MP, NDP Jean Crowder, written in response to my terse email regarding the CRTC's UBB decision:

Thank you for writing to me about the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) decision to allow usage based Internet billing. Put simply, this issue has been brewing for a long time. Canadians are paying more and more for less and less service.

The New Democrats have been pushing for the last number of years for a coherent digital innovation policy. The government has preferred to let the "market" make the decisions about access, speed and pricing for internet use. The problem is that we don't have an open, competitive market. We have a small oligarchy of vertically-integrated companies that control virtually every aspect of consumer-media use. The opportunities for price gouging and anti-competitive practices are obvious.

We welcome the Industry Minister's sudden change of heart on usage-based internet billing. As my colleague, Charlie Angus pointed out in the House of Commons, "Canada used to be a world leader in terms of internet access and speed. Under this government, we've fallen behind. If the CRTC's decision on usage-based billing is not overturned, Canada is in danger of becoming a digital backwater."

While the Minister of Industry has said he will review the usage-based billing decision, more action is needed to protect consumers who are already being hit with capped internet service. The large internet service providers and broadcast entities restrict competition by limiting access to their networks - not only to internet users but to their competitors as well.

I appreciate you taking the time let your views be known. It helps me in my work as a Member of Parliament. The New Democratic Party will continue to push for better access and digital rights for Canadians.

Jean Crowder, MP Nanaimo-Cowichan
101-126 Ingram St., Duncan, BC, V9L 1P1

Recommend this post

BC Liberal Leadership - Community Gaming Grants

Non profits throughout British Columbia rely on the province's Community Gaming Grants program for their funding. For many, it's their sole source of desperately needed dollars.

The important work that these non profits do toward addressing social needs in their communities cannot be overstated. They deliver far more for the tax dollars they receive than do the majority of government agencies.*

Three BC Liberal leadership candidates have proposed changes to the Community Grants program. Christy Clark would boost the current money allotted ($120 million) by 12.5 percent, or $15 million. Kevin Falcon has just announced increasing the program to $159 million, a 32.5 percent jump.

The third proposal, made by leadership hopeful Ed Mayne, would see the "politically-motivated" Community Grants program junked entirely. In its place, he proposes that two percent of the HST go directly to municipalities.

By a long way, I prefer Mayne's proposal. It gives communities the autonomy and freedom to address their own needs, build on their own strengths and devise their own solutions. It also eliminates the perpetual problem of non-profits having to fit their funding needs, and hence their community needs, to the demands and economic needs of a far-off funder. By 'far-off', I mean in all of these senses: geographical distance, ideological distance and hierarchical distance.

*One such non-profit is the internally-recognized Providence Farm, right here in the Cowichan Valley. Go take a look; it's truly a community wonder.

Recommend this post

In case you missed it...

You may have missed the news hidden in an ETA at the bottom of my post on the BC Liberal Party's weighted vote proposal. I suppose it deserves a post of its own:

... drum roll please ...

I. Am. Now ...

a Liberal.

A BC Liberal, of the BC Liberal Party.


Unlike with a BC NDP membership, which automatically and without choice to opt out, makes one a member of the federal NDP, membership in the BC Liberal Party does not make one a member of the federal party that shares part of its name. Thank goodness.

It just seemed too good a deal to pass up, the one chance in generations to directly select a Premier. With Gordon Campbell's resignation, a new leader of the BC Liberal Party will be selected on February 26th. The next legislated general election isn't scheduled until May 2013.

Any British Columbian over 14 years of age may vote for the next leader of the BCLP, provided they have signed up for membership by 5:00 p.m. February 4th. I urge them to do so.

It is estimated that the total membership will reach 70,000. Therefore, I have a one in 70,000 chance of affecting the vote for Premier. That beats the one in 3.5 million chance in a general election.

Recommend this post

02 February 2011

BC Liberal Party Weighted Vote Proposal

The BC Liberal Party on February 12th will decide whether to adopt the weighted vote or to retain the current one-member-one-vote policy. It will take a two-thirds majority for the motion on the weighted vote to pass.

Weighting votes, goes the reasoning, would be more inclusive of less populated regions and smaller constituency associations.

As the situation currently stands, in terms of vote concentration the BC Liberal Party truly only represents a handful of ridings, all in the lower Mainland. And now, during the current leadership race (and the last one that elected Gordon Campbell), thousands of new members are being signed up in single ridings, three in Surrey alone. Certain campaigns are rumoured to be virtually ignoring other ridings.

Additional rumour suggests a movement afoot to nix the weighted vote, thus favouring those leadership campaigns that have been most active in bulk membership drives. That all six candidates have declared support for the change has not stopped the seeming dirty tricks, including delegate stacking.

But back to the weighted vote... Under this proposal, each of the 85 BC Liberal constituency associations (CA) would receive a value of 100 points. Therefore, the vote of a member whose CA has 100 members would be valued at 1 point, a CA with 500 members would award each vote a value of 1/5 point and a CA with only 20 members would value each vote at 5 points.

In this way, the voting interests of each region of the province is equally represented in the Party.

In principle, one-member-one-vote appears to be the most democratic. However, it appears less so when you consider the following situation in which one riding has five members, the other 500:

Each of the one out of five members in the smaller CA must work harder to represent the BC Liberal Party in their riding. Such is not the case with one out of 500 members. In other words, members in low-member CAs must pull more weight.

Should the votes of members in such CAs count for less, or not at all? Because that is what results under the current OMOV system; three or four ridings ultimately determine the outcome.

The bottom-line choice for Party members: for the BCLP to be, in terms of actual vote representation, the 'Surrey Liberal Party' or that it live up to its name and represent the voting interests of members throughout the province.

ETA: Have just signed up for membership (eek!) because there's no way I want to miss the opportunity of being 1 out of 70,000 90,000 who will choose the next Premier of this province. How long I'll remain a member is another issue. I like being a non-partisan, so we'll see.

ETA2: The BCLP web form, like 99 out of 100 web forms, includes a mandatory phone field. To get the form to go through I had to use an obviously fake number. Damned annoying.

ETA Feb 12: The weighted vote was chosen by an overwhelming majority! By 1,319 to 23 or 98.3 per cent. Well done, delegates!

Recommend this post