One of the crime scenes

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Ugly


Too Harsh?

Well let's look at the last couple years of our "new" government under the benevolent dictatorship of Stephen Harper of the Cuddly Sweater Vest.

  • Canada has gone from being known as a peacekeeper, to being the American bully's sidekick in wars of aggression.

  • Canada is the only so-called democratic, developed nation willing to parrot the absurd notion that the Military Tribunals at Guantanamo Bay are some kind of "judicial" due process.

  • As a result of the above item, Canada is the only so-called democratic nation that still has a citizen in custody at Gitmo. A citizen who was 15 years old at the time of his alleged offense against America, thus by definition a victim of war rather than a potential war criminal.

  • One of Stephen's new government's first acts was to abrogate the Kelowna Accord, thus perpetuating the ongoing injustices suffered by the First Nations of Canada and negating the years of negotiation by the Provinces, First Nations and Federal Government that led to the almost historic step forward.

  • Stephen and gang's ongoing efforts to undermine the City of Vancouver's attempts at harm reduction and any movement toward a sane drug policy. With Stephen the vengeful God of the Old Testament trumps science everytime - science?, irrelevant to these guys.

  • Stephen's unwillingness to accept science or do anything to deal with climate change that would upset his real constituency, his adopted province of Alberta. He has been so obstructionist in this regard that his buddy George Bush the Lesser could concentrate on surging body counts and plan new wars and raids on the US Treasury.

  • Creating and distributing to staff and MPs a manual with instructions for how to obstruct Parliament when that would be the best course to protect PsuedoCon interests and further the the still undisclosed true PsuedoCon agenda.

  • Abusing the Parlimentary mailing privileges to blizzard the country with taxpayer supported attack ads months and months before finally calling a commpletely unecessary election under false pretenses.

And Now?

I could continue the above list until my laptop batteries died, but lets consider how Stephen intends to continue the ugliness. When Parliament finally reconvened a few days ago, all we heard was that this was going to be a new, civil and co-operative legislature as the economic crisis facing Canada and the rest of the world would require all parties to pull in the same direction. Well it appears that "new" style was as genuine as the new cuddly sweater vest wearing Stephen that was trotted out for the recent phoney election. It is rapidly becoming apparent that Stephen has no plan for the economy other than to take advantage (ala "Shock Doctrine") to gain political advantage and make headway in his holy grail of the complete destruction of the Liberal Party.

This afternoon Jim Flaherty is going to announce some iniatives to deal with the economic crisis. Oddly enough though, they seem designed to undermine democracy and go for the kill on the opposition parties, especially the Liberals. CBC, as of last night, is saying cost cutting at the government level will be the focus of today's announcements. Interestingly the public funding of political parties, based on votes cast, is to be eliminated.

Sources told CBC News and other media outlets Wednesday that the subsidy cut is one of the key elements of the fiscal update that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will present Thursday in Ottawa.

Parties currently receive $1.95 for every vote they receive in a federal election, provided they win at least two per cent of the nationwide popular vote. The annual subsidy is used to pay for staff and expenses.

On the surface, it would appear Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives have the most to lose if subsidies were cut because they garnered the most votes in the October election. The Conservatives earned $10 million in subsidies, compared to $7.7 million for the Liberals, $4.9 million for the NDP, $2.6 million for the Bloc Québécois and $1.8 million for the Greens.

But because the Conservatives have such a strong fundraising base
(corporate and theocratic -kc), their subsidy represents only 37 per cent of the party's total revenues.

One would think a forward thinking government that has real leadership could have made big savings by not subjecting the country to the recent, unecessary, issue free, election - but I guess Steve figured it was his last best chance for his coveted majority. Perhaps Steve and Jim could have reduced the size of the cabinet recently enlarged by 50%. But then each cabinet minister only receives a paltry wage top-up in excess of $70,000 plus increased staff and car allowance. Remember, many of these "ministers" are the same people who weren't considered qualified to actually speak during the recent multi-million dollar campaign. Now we need the wisdom of these individuals to deal with the economic implications of their individual balliwicks - right!


Mr. Flaherty makes it sound as if the public funding based on votes was welfare for political parties. I guess he thinks people have forgotten that the purpose of this relatively recent policy was to free politicians from the need to curry favor with the Corporate donors and then implement the policy that they request. Unfortunately, he may be correct and the semi-concious public will eat up yet another PsuedoCon Lie.

Mr. Flaherty also seems to think that taking away the right of workers to strike will solve the economic issues, I see it as another attack on democracy and a desparate attempt to shore up the same elites whose greed has caused the current economic meltdown. Coalition Government Anyone - it's the only thing that makes sense?

Back to Now

The main problem Stephen Harper's government is likely to address is the fact that the Liberal Party of Canada is still twitching. Once the party has selected a new leader, it will only be a matter of hours until the Tee Vee is filled with mocking attack ads and in a few days my mailbox will be stuffed with taxpayer postage paid fire-starter attacking the new leader and reminding me how great is St Stephen of the Sweater Vest. With these guys it all politics, all the time!

Ugliness Abroad

Stephen Harper isn't likely to let anything like a recession or the Great, Great Depression cool his hunger for carrying out the Corporate Will for Globalization and Socialization of Risk/Privatization of Profit. While meeting with APEC leaders in Lima, Peru, Stephen managed to enter Canada (subject to approval of Parliament, I HOPE) into a Free Trade Agreement with Columbia (will this bring down the price of cocaine?). His soon to be fugitive hero, George the Lesser, wanted the US to do that, but couldn't get it past his still ReThug controlled Congress. But I guess Steve and Uribe have worked out a penalty price for murdered labor leaders and the environmental standards of Hell are good enough for Steven.

Sometimes it is difficult to remember that Canada was once considered a "progressive" nation. But I guess we can look at it this way - with a new administration in the US, Canada can now step forward and take a leadership position in the world. Unfortunately, we seem to be leading from the back of the line and in the wrong direction.

To prepare for the new paradise as envisioned by St. Stephen I would recommend taking a vacation - Go to the Alberta Tar Sands and take a few good books like the works of Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair. If you breath the emission enhanced air, drink deeply of the sludge infested rivers and immerse yourself in the worlds described by Dickens and Sinclair, you should be pretty well prepared to thrive in and enjoy Stevie's Canada.

Click Here for More!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Civic Vote 2008
Examining the Entrails

Kaslo City Hall
(built 1898)

Unless you happen to live in the nation of Quebec, you are finally done for awhile with elections, at least until next spring - here in BC.

Big Change in the Big Smoke

The capos of the Campbell Mob can’t be feeling happy this morning after watching their minor league municipal franchise, the NPA, get almost swept in Vancouver on Saturday. This is the same double ‘AA’ team Gordo himself played for on his way to the ‘AAA’ championship team that actually shows up in Victoria to hold sham sessions of the Legislature when it’s not too politically inconvenient (or is impossible to avoid). Of course they still have almost six months to spend taxpayers’ money on campaign style advertising extolling the paradise that is British Columbia under the benign and secretive dictatorship of the BC liaR* Party. Gordon and gang can also take solace in the fact that their volunteer, unpaid (by them) public relations firm – CanWest/Global is still in business and hasn’t gone completely belly-up yet, and can be counted on to keep the airwaves and newspaper boxes full of enough pro-Campbell drivel to bury any opposing views!

It remains to be seen how successful that Gregor Robertson and his council can be in addressing the very real problems of the majority of Vancouverites, the ones that are neither real estate developers nor speculators. Senior levels of government that control the access to funds that the city will need to implement progressive policies are likely to be part of the problem rather than any help. One tends to deny the existence of problems (i.e. Rich Coleman – “We have practically solved homelessness by buying out SRO slumlords”). While the other tends to ideologically disagree with proposed solutions (i.e. Steve’s Taliban in Ottawa and their fervid opposition to Insite and science in general). Since the Gordo Cabal has no support in Vancouver proper to lose, and seems at no risk of losing its goose-stepping Army of God in the ‘burbs’ and Fraser Valley, no matter how many ministers (of the church AND government) come under criminal investigation, the new mayor and council could be in for a rough ride.

On the positive side though, Vancouver did have a respectable turnout – almost two thirds of eligible voters- in spite of many of the punditcracy predicting half of that due to voter fatigue after so many elections. Since Gregor won by almost 20,000 votes and the NPA was almost taken out of its misery, the insular governments of both Harper and Campbell will ignore this mandate for change, in the third largest city in Canada, at their own peril.

'I keep stuff secret for your own good'
'and I speak the truth' - Peter Ladner

For those who remember stuff
- just a few days ago Mr. Ladner said this:

Media reports this week have said the city's chief financial officer, Estelle Lo, resigned because of concerns about the Olympic Village financing.

Ladner denied those allegations, saying she will be back to work in two weeks.

"Estelle Lo is on the city payroll now. She's away on holidays as she has done every year for the last 15 years to visit her mother in Hong Kong," he said.

"She will be returning Nov. 16. She will be at work Nov. 17. Whatever happens after that, it's a personnel matter and not something I know about or can discuss."

The trouble with the statement above is, well, today is November 17, and it is now been officially verified that Ms. Lo has resigned and is not and will not be back at work today.

Is it any wonder that when a politician speaks, people tend to entertain skeptism at best or as likely, tend to just ignore the noise that comes out of their mouth entirely.

A Surrey Note

While Vision Vancouver was performing a mercy killing or exorcism of the NPA in Metro Vancouver, Diane Watts was being re-elected in a landslide in Surrey, the second largest and fastest growing city in British Columbia. Her massive victory and those of the other women in Surrey, that gives women the balance of power on Surrey Council are perhaps both a victory for women, and a welcome loss for the macho old style confrontational, gotcha, dirty politics as usual.

Apathy in Orange County North

Meanwhile in the Okanagan things were completely different. For the most part the few voters who bothered to show up resoundingly endorsed more of the same old, same old lack of direction, lack of planning and denial. Kelowna itself, the poster child for the civic equivalent of a failed state, nearly had more individuals running for council than people who showed up to actually vote. This city which has virtually every conceivable problem of our times – major homelessness, lack of affordable housing (recently won the most expensive home price sweepstakes – nationwide), world class drug and crime problems, sprawl that challenges the real Orange County, Arizona and New Jersey, and the combination of the oldest demographic in the nation and a hospital that is the regional ground zero for a health system in crisis.

With all these issues, crying out to be addressed though, barely over twenty percent of the eligible voters could be bothered to come out and give the current see no evil, plan no progress incumbents a vote for more of the same, or in the slang of the times……WHATEVER_duh! A stereotype valley girl or genuine denizen of Orange County probably wouldn’t even notice they were in another country, until they perhaps decided to go to Disneyland, and noticed how far they had to drive to get there.

A Study in Contrasts – The Kootenays

I’ll be discussing mainly a portion of the West/Central Kootenays. The Kootenays are actually quite a large and spread out jurisdiction/area, and there are many local differences from the East Kootenay (Cranbrook, Invermere etc.) to the western fringes which, depending on who you ask, could go as far as Grand Forks, but definitely to, at least, Rossland. There is an amazing diversity in this region economically, geographically, demographically and ethnically.

The far east (Sparwood, Elkford etc.) is so affected by the Republic of North Texas Alberta, that secession from BC and becoming part of Alberta is a regularly recurring issue in some communities and even having BC plates on your vehicle can make one appear as the tourist from out of province among all the Alberta plates during high summer near Lake Windermere. The southeast corner is also unique in that coal mining is the biggest industry/employer, while tourist based business is dominant in the rest of this region, trying to attract tourists who come to enjoy “pristine” nature, rather than tours of open pit coal mines and who tend to be inconvenienced by coal dust.

The three main cities of the central region embody the challenges of the 21st century in microcosm.

is dependent on a huge old style “dirty” industry with what was once the largest smelter in the British Empire and it still operates, though with many less employees and much lower emissions, while its sister smelters to the south in Idaho have been closed permanently by the EPA decades ago. Though Canadians of Italian descent are liberally sprinkled throughout the Kootenays, in Trail itself they are concentrated to a level un-matched outside of Kamloops, Toronto, or Italy itself and thus, to this day, continue to contribute to the ambience of the city, in a positive way.

Castlegar, along with the Kootenay River/Slocan Valley stretching to the north has the largest concentration of descendents of the Dukhabors, who with the assistance of Leo Tolstoy came to Canada late in the 19th century to escape religious persecution under the Tsars. Those who moved west from Saskatchewan to this area picked up where the prospectors and miners left off and added their energy to the building of farms and communities in our valleys. Though it is the most central city in the Central Kootenay, and home of the main airport connecting to Vancouver and Calgary, it was the location of the hospital chosen for closure by the BC liaRs when they decided to “improve” the delivery of health services in our region. Castlegar must deal with the cyclic nature of the forest industry thanks to its largest employer the Sawmill/Pulpmill Complex just downstream from the Hugh Keenleyside Dam. It is a Cranbrook like combo of a quaint original old downtown/residential district, complemented by a Cranbrook Strip style mini/Maxi Mall type sprawl stretching halfway to Trail. Fortunately Castlegar is somewhat diversified by both its convenient access to Trail, Nelson and elsewhere and a college and the airport.

Nelson, the setting for the pretend town in Colorado for the Steve Martin movie “Roxanne,” is a unique town in transition. Up until the early eighties it was a thriving center of industry, services - both government and private - with a strong blue collar/union representation and an educational center with its own accredited four year university and School of Graphic Arts with the cultural and economic benefits that accrue to a college town. Since then Nelson has lost its major sawmill, various regional government administrative headquarters, including a major Forest Service hub, various federal agencies and offices, a CPR car repair shop and dispatch/switching center, both post-secondary schools and have had their hospital downgraded. Much of this is symbolized by the shiny white, mostly empty tower, that was formerly government offices and is now locally known as the “White Elephant” next to the Court House (with it’s own reduced services). Left with little other than its beautiful natural setting and the heritage buildings both commercial and residential that fortunately weren’t destroyed due to a serendipitous combination of foresight and economic stagnation, that prevented wholesale re-development, the Queen City has been struggling to redefine itself, with many successes and a mostly respectful and constructive style of debate guiding its way into the future.

A Tale of Three Villages

Kaslo, Silverton and New Denver share many similar characteristics and some significant differences. New Denver and Silverton are true sister ‘cities’ like Minneapolis/St. Paul or Springfield/Eugene (only very much smaller), while Kaslo is at once off by itself, yet somehow more entwined with Nelson, due to quicker shorter access by road, and the location of each on the same large lake. While a Silvertonian is as likely to go to Castlegar or Nakusp to accomplish tasks possible only in a larger center, the Kaslo resident will go to Nelson by default. Of course we all have to go to Trail, if not ‘Code Purple’ Kelowna, for medical services much beyond a pep talk and an aspirin.

The three villages really differ in the style of their politics. Though things are mellowing now in Silverton, it’s been a short time since it seemed that it was governed by litigation. During that period, Silverton council meetings were often attended with overflow crowds and attended by RCMP to escort those declared “out of order” out of the hall. In spite of this great interest, most issues of substance couldn’t be discussed, as they always seemed to be, in StoneWally Oppal’s immortal words – “before the courts.” With councilors suing other councilors for liable/defamation and sexual scandals being bandied far and wide and so many lawsuits pending, some with the village itself as either plaintiff or defendant - one needed a program (or one’s own lawyer) to simply keep track of the action(s). While it provided much entertainment to those in neighbouring communities, for the citizens of the village it only produced worries about if taxes would need to be raised to pay lawyers and dysfunctional governance in extremis. Now that things have been more sane for a term or two a resounding (81.3%) turnout renewed the mandate of moderation and the candidates associated with the times of turbulence and litigation were emphatically rejected by seemingly all voters not related by blood or marriage, and maybe even some of those.

New Denver, on the other hand, has been called by some familiar with civic governance – “The Best Run Village in British Columbia” and on Saturday managed to avoid complacency and two thirds of the electorate re-elected the mayor and all councilors who stood for re-election. Gary Wright, once the young mayor of New Denver, has now been mayor so long that adults who grew up here have never known anyone else was even allowed to be mayor. New Denver and Silverton have been also increasing co-operation in providing many of the required services that can be difficult for a small community with a shrinking and increasingly absentee tax-base to provide, to the mutual benefit of both communities. There are many contentious issues that arise in New Denver and natural/un-natural crises to respond to, such as the cell phone controversy, recent wildfire emergencies and power outages, road closures, loss of services, and competing interests of stakeholders over resources like water and forests, mining, development and how to deal with displaced bears. The village and increasingly its neighbour Silverton usually manage to work on resolving these issues in a respectful manner. Almost all are in agreement that the village is right to attempt, however successful/unsuccessful, to exercise some local control over local issues of importance to their lives – no matter how much the government in Victoria or telus Corporation thinks those decisions are theirs to make in Victoria or faraway corporate boardrooms, without neither consideration nor consultation with those who actually live there.

Kaslo is somewhere in between the erstwhile Silverton of Litigation and the productive co-operation of New Denver. Indeed, various groups in Kaslo composed of opposing factions on occasion even avail themselves of the services of the Mayor of New Denver to come and chair meetings concerining contentious issues involving the village, the Community Forest or other divisive matters. I suspect that the Kaslo vote was/is close, as even now, Monday morning, the results are still not posted at “Civic Vote 2008.”

Upddate:1:00PM Monday, November 17, 2008

In Kaslo, professional forester Greg Lay defeated the incumbent and also another previous former mayor for the mayor’s chair. Also the fourth council seat is currently a dead heat between two candidates and no winner has been declared as of this time. Only three winners are declared for the four council seats as of now. Just a smidgen less than two thirds of eligible voters exercised their ballot in Kaslo. Though I had originally thought both of Mr. Lay's opponents had served more than one term, I now realize that no one has been elected mayor of Kaslo for a second term since Jack Morris retired after a lengthy string of succesive terms back around the end of the 1980's.

Other Nearby Communities


Mayor Karen Hamling, who fought valiantly against Victoria’s scheme to allow the holder of the Arrow Lakes Timber Allotment to convert lands formerly designated Tree Farm Licenses, designed to provide local jobs, into fodder for speculation in recreational real estate, was returned by a 3 – 1 vote. She lost the battle to prevent the sales entirely, but did win significant concessions from the new Forest Minister, after the previous minister (in-law or relation of a TimberWest exec, the company that benefited from the stealthily done deal I call the Jordan River Scam) insisted it was a done deal and he could do nothing. Most importantly, the new holder has to use proceeds from any sales to pay off local loggers before sending the bulk of the proceeds, should the sales be successful, on to the same old crooks on Wall Street responsible for the current economic woes, who were to get it all, at the expense of the unpaid loggers in the original deal.

Slocan: (village)

We call this Slocan City, because once it was a city, and to avoid confusion with the river, valley or lake. I’m not clear what the issues were there, but obviously the populace was engaged as they had a turnout of 75%. So far it has managed to remain one of the rare communities in the area with a working sawmill. Back in the seventies, almost every community had at least one, Kaslo alone had three (today Kaslo has zero).

Complete results for everywhere in British Columbia can be found at: Civic Vote 2008 The First Page deals with Lower Mainland races - click on link in upper right corner to search for other communities elsewhere in BC. Or here, then select the community you are interested in from the drop down list.

* I have a hard time using the name “Liberal” applied to the Gordo Gangsters, kinda like I do when people refer to Stephen Harper’s wing of the Republican Party as “Tories.” In both cases they are names that are used as disguises to help obscure the real agenda and bear no relation to the honourable traditions of Liberalism or real Tories. If I considered myself either a Liberal or a genuine Tory, I would consider suing for defamation and degradation of my brand. The BC liaR Party is much more appropriate for Gordo the Soup Nazi and his cabinet of crackers because it accurately implies that (1) they lie - and (2) BC liaR echoes one of their most famous lies, “I will not sell BC Rail (or liaR, spelled backwards).

Click Here for More!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Shoveling Money may have to Stop

Election Day!

Mainland Municipal House of Infamy

As yet another election will draw to a close tomorrow, the municipal, regional and seats on various boards around the province, those in the the last throes of power madly try to distribute money to their "friends" while they still have access to the taxpayers' money. Meanwhile the issues are barely acknowledged as the candidates focus on more distracting items like bus passes and why Peter Ladner's papers relating to an in camera meeting apparently went astray. As usual, even the pretend issues get conflated into statements bearing no relation to either reality or relevance.

Though any concious person can understand why real estate or other business negotiations between the city of Vancouver and developers, vendors or buyers CANNOT be conducted on network TeeVee, that doesn't automatically extend to a need to sign, seal and deliver a deal with Millenium before the public - composed of both taxpayers and voters - know the terms of the deal, as the man who thinks he was born to be Mayor (Peter Ladner) seems to imply. In this case where the developer is coming to the City (read taxpayer) with hands out for corporate welfare, much of the confidentiality normally appropriate for a private business is no longer deserved. Imagine an applicant for Social Assistance who felt that it wasn't any business of the Ministry if he/she owned a number of houses and fleet of SUVs.

I find it astounding that $200,000 cannot be found to continue a facility in New Westminister to support those with brain injuries that has served those victims well for two decades cannot be found in the "difficult times," yet hundreds and even billions, if necessary, magically appear at the first sign of pain for developers. God forbid those poor folks would have to grovel for only a seven figure income instead of the more appropriate (for them) eight, nine or ten.

Even though I personally applaud anyone who, even - especially - at personal risk, tries to force transparency on our elected officials, I think this is more likely to be a KKKarl Rove style dirty trick by the NPA and the Man Born for the Mayoralty! After all, thanks to three years of smiling sneering Sam, meanSpirited Mayencourt and the lack of attention to the real problems of the City, like affordable housing, homelessness and the abuse of Cambie Street merchants, the NPA wasn't really in a position to cruise back into power.

Then when the parties of the left (left of the National Developers Association party, as it is impossible to get on their right without joining the Aryan Nation) decided to co-operate in order to not split the non-Point Grey vote, the writing was all over the wall for those guys to go back into real estate development. That couldn't happen at a better time, either, which delights this observer.

After all the huffing a puffing and talk of "criminal" investigations and lie detector tests, it now seems that everyone has returned to planet earth, and most people realize no one will be going to jail. This is more of the same that Bu$hCo to the south has been doing in their last few months, only they are shoveling out trillions to their friends on Wall Street and the banks, while real people continue to lose their jobs and homes. Meanwhile bailed out AIG execs collect bonuses as usual and have $500,000 parties. In Terminal City is is a paltry $100,000,000 so far.

The possibly soon to be unemployed Jon Ferry (after all, he works for the sinking ship HMS Canned Waste) in the Province summed it up in Villagegate - all about open gov't

As for the police probe into the leaker, the one Mayor Sam Sullivan finally got around to requesting, where will that go once the election is over? Not very far. And what will happen to the leaker? Not very much. Perhaps, a stint of house arrest in one of the luxury condos.

Time was when there used to be several worthy issues in this Vancouver civic election, ranging from high taxes to homelessness and the open drug scene. Now there seems to be just one: Whom do you trust to make good deals for the city and keep you informed about them?

The fact is that Villagegate isn't the great waste of media space all the harrumphers would like you to think it is. It's shed light on one of the critical issues in Canadian politics today -- the right of citizens to open government.

Absurdity of the Week!

John Furlong got laughs from the Better Business Bureau this week when he suggested that businesses in Vancouver MANDATE vacations for their employees during the super, extra, special period of time that the Corporate Games for the Elite Atheletes and Elites come to town. I don't think he was trying to inject standup into his speech though.

I seem to recall that the economic activity the games would bring were a selling point when the games were being bid on and local support was paramount. Now I guess it is clear that the "economic activity" he was referring to was for the land developers and speculators in on the building of venues and infrastructure. It is difficult to see the benefit for local businesses and their employes, many of whom may not be able to afford to even see the games except on TeeVee, if they close up shop and get out of the way of the folks that matter.

Even though officially ticket sales are going well, with the current economic conditions and the difficulty of expecting major improvement soon, and very likely much worse conditions by early 2010, the Vancouver 2010 Games could yet make Montreal 1976 look like a raging success!

Once again, we all have an evening of election returns to look forward to enjoying. I've laid in the popcorn already - when is the election in Quebec?

Click Here for More!