One of the crime scenes

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Some Sordid
BC History

If anything, politicians are getting more skilled at crime as time goes by. Richard Nixon avoided possibly going to jail by resigning his Presidency and getting a pardon from his VP, newly President, Gerald Ford. But nowadays, quite likely thanks to serious study of how earlier politicians failed, or got caught, it would appear that once in office everyone is immune. Bush and Cheney were never, and it appears will never in their lifetime be held accountable for the war crimes and outright fleecing of the American public they indulged in for eight long years. Ferret Collins, Capo Gordo Campbell and the rest of the renamed Socreds, or BC LIEberals seem to be able to leak cabinet information, accept or give bribes at will with no consequences, unlike back poor old Robert (Honest Bob) Sommers who eventually (and it only took a fraction of the time of the pretend BC Rail trial - he was accused by Gordon Gibson in 1955 and went to jail, after being on the run in the US, in 1957) went to jail for accepting a rug and a $6,500 bribe over some timber licenses. He at least had the distinction of being the first Minister of the Crown to be convicted and sent to gaol. Incredibly, considering this is the day of "instant" communication, it only took less than three years for Mr. Sommers to be initially cleared by the equivalent of todays "oh so" Special Prosecutor and finally be charged.

A judge was appointed to look into Gibson's claims and reported that there had been "no impropriety." But allegations continued. In 1956, an RCMP report found "definite indication of wrongdoing" by Sommers. The government was slow to act. It wasn't until November 1957 that Sommers was charged.

Nowadays even lowly aides are covered for $6,000,000 in legal fees and "serve their time" in luxurious homes with all kinds of excuses to leave the house - some house arrest.

One fellow who predicted the BC liaR victory at the polls last week was Terry Lawrence who published a piece on May 8th that included the brief look at other highlights (or more appropriately low points) in BC history. Of course compared to the current renamed Socreds W.A.C. was a parson, and one must admit he did leave a legacy of public assets like BC Rail, BC Hydro, and BC Ferries, not to mention a hell of a lot of new pavement. Of course under Gordo and now Christy, it will be a miracle if any of that is left by the time the next Masochist's Holiday (or BC election) rolls around. Terry Lawrence asked readers to pass around his piece, so I am going to share the part below here at the House that is doomed to remain in Infamy. To read his complete prediction, with Rafe Mair's warning to the dippers included go to Ian Reids place where he dissects the results of the dirty work of KoolTopGuy or the political consultant marriage apparently made in Hell. Terry's piece is in the middle of the approximately 70 comments that were there when I last visited.

Since coming to power the number one priority of the “BC Liberals”, who are really the Conservatives running under a false flag, has been to constantly transfer taxes from their wealthy supporters onto the backs of the people least able to pay. While reducing top end income taxes and removing bank, corporate, and stock trading taxes they have added and/or raised hundreds of “flat taxes” that take no account of ability to pay. So for instance, a billionaire like Jimmy Patterson and a minimum wage worker from the Fraser Valley both pay a toll now when they drive across the previously free Port Mann Bridge, but while the cost is meaningless to Patterson, it is a crippling burden to a low wage worker who has to live up the valley to find affordable housing, and pay a toll twice a day to work in Vancouver. Ditto ferry fees, student tuition charges, drivers license renewals, and every other service the government used to provide at or below cost, subsidized by corporate and income taxes, and by the many profitable public enterprises we used to own such as BC Rail, BC Hydro Railway, BC Gas, and so forth that pumped money into general revenue before being sold at a small fraction of their value to some company that had generously contributed to the old Liberal/Conservative Coalition, later called the Social Credit Party, and since the Socreds imploded in 1991, the new right-wing coalition called the ‘BC Liberals’.

I’m only skimming the surface here, but the latest “We’re all going to be rich” natural gas fantasy being pimped by Christy Clark follows a long list of similar pre-election fantasy announcements by her right wing coalition predecessors.

1957 – WAC Bennett gave away the northern third of BC to a Swedish billionaire named Axel Wenner-Gren who promised to build a monorail train down the Rocky Mountain trench and pour money into northern BC. That never happened, of course, and BC taxpayers ended up paying through the nose to buy back what we had given away over the next 15 years or so.

1965. WACky Bennett again, this time giving away our ability to generate cheap hydro electric power in the upper Kootenay and Columbia river valleys when in exchange for a $465 million check he signed an agreement with the US to flood the agricultural valley bottoms of the Kootenays to create a series of storage reservoirs for the Grand Coulee Dam in the US. The $465, which was supposed to cover all the expenses of building all the storage dams and a tidy profit, didn’t even cover the cost of building the first dam, leaving BC taxpayers on the hook for the multi-billion dollar cost of building all the other dams to the benefit of the US, and adding insult to injury by flooding all the best agricultural land in the Kootenays.

In the late ’60's, having signed away the rights to generate power in the Kootenays, Bennett proceeded to fall back on the old Wenner-Gren scheme of building a power dam on the Peace River, at the opposite corner of the province from where all the power is consumed. This time it was funded by BC taxpayers and Hydro users, and cost us a fortune to build and maintain because of the remoteness of the dam site and the need to build and maintain transmission lines stretching from the North-east corner of the province to the South-west corner where Vancouver is.

Then came the three NDP years under Dave Barrett when for the first time in BC history the provincial debt was actually paid down each year from the surplus revenue largely derived from charging the US a surtax on BC Gas exports. In the interests of brevity I will only mention a few of the NDP achievements which are still with us: The Agricultural Land Reserve, construction of 4 new superferries, and the founding of ICBC, providing cost-effective public insurance while keeping all the money in BC.

In 1975 the Socreds got back in under Son of Bennett and proceeded to assemble several billion dollars worth of the public assets acquired in the NDP years, such as natural gas fields and timber holdings, into a scam called the BC Resources Invest Corporation, or BRIC. In the run-up to the following election all BC Residents were “given 5 free shares” in what we already owned! Do you still have your worthless shares? Because within a few years Bennett’s buddies, whom he appointed to the Board of Directors, had stripped out all the assets leaving a worthless bankrupt shell while transferring billions of dollars of public assets into their personal pockets.

Also under Bill Bennett’s Socreds there were billion dollar boondoggles like the Dease Lake extension of the BC Railway, a now abandoned rail line across a frozen swamp from nowhere to nowhere now sunk into the muskeg, and the North-east Coal, the ’80's version of Christy Clark’s “next big thing” fracking scam. More billions down the drain.

Then came the Vander Zalm scams. Our very profitable BC Hydro Natural Gas and Railway divisions were split off from Hydro and sold at a fraction of their real value to US companies, and several billion dollars of prime real estate in False Creek in downtown Vancouver was handed over for about one percent of it’s real value to a Chinese billionaire who thoughtfully also bought Vander Zalm’s money losing Fantasy Gardens theme park for $15 million dollars, although it was only valued at around $2 million! How nice of him to help out his buddy Bill Vander Zalm when he needed a bailout. I guess that’s what friends are for.

After another 10 year interruption in giveaways while the NDP was in power in the 1990's, the BC Liberals came to power under Gordon Campbell and proceeded to sell off all the public assets they could lay their slimy hands on, starting with BC Rail, which they had explicitly stated in the 2001 election campaign that they would NOT sell. They also sold the Coquahalla Highway to Jimmy Patterson, but had to back off that deal after a huge public outcry. More recently they gave away the right to power generation on dozens of rivers to “Independent Power Producers” and ordered BC Hydro to purchase ALL the power they produce, whether we need it or not, at hugely inflated prices in locked-in long term agreements that constitute an enormous gift to some big BC Liberal campaign contributors. Rafe has done a wonderful job of detailing how that sleazy scam will bankrupt BC Hydro while pushing up our electrical rates to make “privatization” of Hydro easier to sell.

Finally, the Clark gang just tried to “privatize” the BC Liquor Distribution Branch, stripping another billion dollar a year asset from general revenue and handing another huge gift to BC Liberal “friends”. This deal was such a blatant giveaway so close to an election that they had to back away from it at the last minute, but you can be assured that should the Clark gang, and in particular Rich Coleman, get re-elected, it will quickly be back on the front burner.

I have only been skimming the surface of the giveaways of our public resources by the various right-wing coalitions that have stripped the public assets out of BC and provided windfall profits to their corporate backers while forcing BC taxpayers to make up the lost revenue with endless increased User Fees, Service Charges, and public debt, on which we are paying an ever increasing portion of our provincial budget as interest.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a little correction.
It's Jimmy Pattison not Paterson

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 10:10:00 PM PDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home