B.C. Craft Beer and Right Wing Politics: A Bitter Mix

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Source: BC Government Flickr

This past Friday evening (February 3, 2017), Richard Zussman, provincial affairs reporter for the CBC, tweeted out that Premier Christy Clark was to attend a “no media” event in Port Moody with two of the Premier’s personal photographers in tow.  It was immediately apparent from the tweet that some type of event was occurring at Yellow Dog Brewery in Port Moody, part of the wildly successful Brewer’s Row in Port Moody.  Subsequent to that tweet, Yellow Dog Brewery acknowledged that they, along with representatives of Moody Ales, Twin Sails Brewery, Parkside Brewery, and the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild had had a discussion with the “BC Government” concerning the “beer industry and issues”.  Later that evening the photos started appearing on the BC Government Flickr page.  What they show is the local Port Moody incumbent BC Liberals MLA Linda Reimer and Premier Christy Clark participating in what amounts to a partisan political photo-op with Ken Beattie, Executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild and local brewers from Port Moody’s Brewer’s Row being present.  Here are the photos from the event.

Source: BC Government Flickr
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Source: BC Government Flickr
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Source: BC Government Flickr
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Source: BC Government Flickr
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Source: BC Government Flickr
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Source: BC Government Flickr
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Source: BC Government Flickr
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Source: BC Government Flickr

Now these types of purely political photo-ops are of course par for the course for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals and they unfortunately straddle that fine line between campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime and doing the work of government.  Doing the work of government IMHO would have included having ministers/ministerial staff responsible being present at the event (people who handle the actual files) and having media present at the event that could ask questions but neither of those appears to have taken place.  Maybe that’s just me though.  The pictures tell the story though as this clearly appears to have been a political photo-op in an attempt to raise the profile of the local BC Liberals MLA running in a tight race for re-election in the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam and Christy Clark amongst younger craft beer-loving voters.  I guess we should get used to these purely political photo-ops over the next few months especially locally.  Unfortunately, there is not enough time now to submit a FOI request to see whether or not any public money was spent on this event so I will have to assume that the BC Liberals party covered all expenses associated with this photo-op.

The photos taken will of course undoubtedly be used and reused ad nauseam in future government/BC Liberal party promotional materials (yes I do consider them one and the same and I defy you to prove any differentiation/distinction otherwise).  You gotta feel for the guys from the four local breweries though as sadly, what the pictures amount to unfortunately is a de facto endorsement of the BC Liberals, local incumbent BC Liberal MLA Linda Reimer, and Premier Christy Clark by local brewers and the BC Craft Brewers Guild via their representation/presence at this photo-op event.  Poor breweries guys as they likely didn’t even have a clue that they were going to be used by the Premier and the local BC Liberals MLA Linda Reimer for their own personal political purposes, their own political gain, and to further their political agenda.  Probably didn’t even see it coming.  The BC Liberals got exactly what they wanted though.  Something that they could use to try and sell a tragically unhip older candidate and a largely unpopular Premier to a younger 20-something craft beer loving audience.  Thankfully the brewers likely won’t have to worry about seeing the Premier and MLA Linda Reimer for a while now.  That is unless they want something else from them again.

I can only assume that the recent CATI polling that was conducted in Port Moody on behalf of the BC Liberal party and/or their supporters (I was called BTW) showed that Linda Reimer was polling very badly (particularly amongst millennials within the riding) and what better way to try to reach that demographic than to associate yourself with one of the passions of locals and particularly local millennials: Craft Beer.  I do have to wonder if those present at the event honestly did think that the meeting was only to support local businesses and their industry with no ulterior motives at all?  Maybe that is how the event was sold to them?  Who knows?  You gotta wonder though why did Christy Clark and Linda Reimer choose to visit this particular area at this particular time to discuss these particular issues?  To be sure, if this meeting/event had occurred a year ago, no one would have even blinked an eye.  Not even for a second.  However, it is in the context of the upcoming election that all actions of the Premier and her party must now be perceived and interpreted.

Unfortunately, by agreeing (being duped?) into taking part in an obviously politically motivated event so close to an election (that being only ~3 months away), the craft brewery folks present unfortunately (whether they knew what was going on or not and whether intentionally or not) were involved/engaged in a political event/activity (likely under false pretenses as I say).  Ultimately the brewery folks are likely the victims in all this as they will now be in the unenviable position of forever being associated with the party of Quick Wins, Health Firings, Triple Delete, fake balanced budgets, massive budget overruns, fake news, Kinder Morgan, education underfunding, alternative facts, failed LNG promises, baseless allegations of illegal wrongdoing, etc., (one would think/hope) likely not at their own volition.  I would be pretty upset too if I was them.  One wonders how the whole thing was sold to them originally when they were originally contacted by the representatives of the Premier/local MLA (presumably) and whether or not that it actually lived up to that billing.  One would hope that if they knew how they were going to be used that they would have passed on the whole event.  I wonder what they would do in hindsight?  I would imagine that they would probably not be wanting to have their products and brands associated with one particular political party with an election on the immediate horizon that’s for sure.  No doubt about that.

Red Truck Brewery and #BoyCottRedTruck

You may remember that this is not the first time that right wing politics/right wing politicians, and craft beer have become intertwined in B.C. and have been the source of a bit of controversy.  Keen political observers will remember that Red Truck Brewery was the target of the #BoycottRedTruck movement back in 2015 after Stephen Harper and entourage, et al. breezed into town and hosted an exclusive (no media) invitation-only event at the Red Truck Brewery in East Vancouver (sound familiar?).

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The appearance caused some to suggest that by the brewery hosting the event during the run up to the election that this was a de facto endorsement of Stephen Harper and Conservative Party by Red Truck Brewery and this caused a social media backlash.

Red Truck claimed at the time that they only were renting out the space to any and all takers and that the use of their facility was not an endorsement of right wing politics or any right wing politicians in any way.  Then interestingly, the BC Liberals also chose to use the same location and utilized Red Truck for the Richmond-Steveston BC Liberals’ June 26, 2016 fundraiser on behalf of John “Quick Wins” Yap, Minister of Selfies, and Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Reform Policy to the Minister of Small Business, Red Tape Reduction and Minister Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch.

I guess it was all a big misunderstanding as the Brewery suggested.  In the same way, I have to presume that their $2,000 donation to the BC Liberals in 2016 in the name of the brewery was also a big mistake and misunderstanding and not an endorsement of the BC Liberal party as were the many contributions of the owner of Red Truck to the BC Liberals.  Cough.

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The Other Infamous Port Moody Photo-op

The whole recent episode at Yellow Dog Brewery may also be seem somewhat familiar to local Tri-Cities political observers as it is also somewhat reminiscent of another time in the recent past when another political leader seeking re-election, breezed into town for an exclusive photo-op similarly far from the prying eyes of the pesky media to do a photo-op promoting a rather lacklustre candidate who only appeared in the background hoping that some charisma would rub off of them (sound and familiar again?)

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As such, it seems that the BC Liberals appear to be taking a page directly out of the last Conservative campaign book by staging exclusive politically motivated photo-ops on the taxpayers dime away far from the prying eyes of the media.

It should be noted that the breweries of Brewery Row themselves for the most part appear to have been largely mum on the whole event that took place at Yellow Dog.  No mention of the event to date has been made on the Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook accounts of the three breweries involved with only Yellow Dog mentioning the event at all.  One has to wonder why?  If this was such an important discussion and an important event, why no mention of it/pictures of it?  Given the above I would have to think that they are all pretty steamed about the whole thing and it is totally understandable why they would not want to dwell on such a series of unfortunate events.

So was it all worth it? Yellow Dog in response to a query on Facebook made the following statement:

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So to sum up: Nothing concrete came of it, they will continue to talk, and the BC Liberals leave with the photos from the photo-op as they originally wanted/intended.

To be fair, as noted previously, I can not emphasize enough how much I have to acknowledge that the local brewers of Brewer’s Row and Ken Beattie of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild may have been totally and completely unaware as to the extent that they were going to be used by Christy Clark, their local MLA Linda Reimer, and the BC Liberals for a photo-op for purely political purposes.  As such, I really do think that it would be incumbent on everyone involved to also invite local candidates and the leaders from other political parties to also sit down and discuss the “beer industry and issues” in the same manner as they did with Christy Clark so as to indeed demonstrate that they are/were completely non-partisan and that they didn’t intentionally wish to effectively endorse/be associated exclusively with the BC Liberals in the upcoming election.  If they choose not to, then I guess that you can pretty much put them in the same category as Red Truck Brewery.  That’s OK if you like to have right wing politics with your beer.  That’s your prerogative.  But for others, that may leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth.

Edit: I recently came across the standard consent and release from the Provincial Government regarding the use of images.  I do wonder if all of the local craft beer folk that were used for propaganda purposes indeed all signed the waiver.  If not, they would have every right to have the images removed if any one person in any of the images objected to the use of their image.

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Behind the File: Reconstructing #Paytoplay BC Liberals Style

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The recent release of the “real-time” donations to the BC Liberal Party for 2016 on their website in PDF form has created some unique opportunities as the recently released data can be used in an attempt to identify the donors present at specific BC Liberals fundraising events and to attempt to identify the fundraising haul garnered at these events well in advance of when you normally would be able to so (once the full fiscal year filings have been submitted to Elections BC).  As such, the analysis of this data can be attempted well in advance of the upcoming election and I must thank the BC Liberals braintrust for that opportunity.

Examining the names, amounts, and dates of donations and cross-referencing this data with the known big money fundraising events that took place in 2016, one can use the data provided in order to attempt to reconstruct who was at certain fundraising events and how much money was donated at each of these events.   A simple compiled search by date provides one with the amounts donated on that date and identifies the specific people and corporations that more than likely would have been present at any of the specific fundraising events that took place last year.  Of all the possible cash for access events from the past year sponsored by the BC Liberal party that I could have choosen to examine, I choose to focus on the BC Liberals Annual Interior Leaders Golf Invitational Tournament that took place at Predator Ridge Golf Course on September 22, 2016.

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For those that may not be familiar with the event, the Interior Leaders Golf Invitational event is billed as one of the biggest fundraisers for the year for the BC Liberals. The big money price structure for attending the event is presented below.

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As you can see, for a mere $4,000, your foursome would receive a round of golf, dinner, a $400 voucher for accommodation at Predator Ridge and, wait for it, the opportunity to have a BC Liberal MLA be your caddie.  Yes you read that right.  In BC you can literally “pay-to-play” and have a BC Liberal MLA even carry your bags (this is nothing new I must say as this event has been taking place since at least 2014).

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Actual unaltered image from original website (I kid you not).

I chose to focus on this specific date and this particular tournament for two reasons: First, it represents possibly the most egregious and outrageous of the “pay-to-play”/access buying fundraising events sponsored by the BC Liberals in 2016, especially given that the BC Liberals knowingly choose to go ahead once again with the event despite vocal protestations of those wanting to ban the influence of big money in B.C. politics, polling that suggest that 86% of British Columbians want to ban big money from BC politics, and the movement in other jurisdictions to ban these types of big money events.  Secondly, it kind of made sense to focus on that specific event as I had already written an extensive tongue-in-cheek blog post about the event previously.

A few caveats regarding the data presented below and its interpretation:

First, it is possible that the resulting data provided by the “date only” search possibly includes people and corporations who just randomly happened to have donated to the BC Liberal party on September 22, 2016 or had their donation processed on September 22, 2016 and as such, there may be many represented in the table below that were not actually physically at the golf tournament itself.  In some cases, this is entirely possible, while in other cases, I’m pretty sure that those individuals were at the golf tournament given their ties to some of the major sponsors (I’ll come back to this point later on).  Secondly, it should be noted that only daily donation totals are provided in the data set provided by the BC Liberal party.  As such, there are no breakdowns of the amounts donated.  Accordingly, a $10,000 donation on that date could represent a single hole sponsorship or two $5,000 hole sponsorships, donations as a result of successful bids on the accompanying silent auction (side note: are those auction items a taxable benefit that should be declared if the money used to purchase them is tax deductible as a political donation?), etc.  Hard to tell really so I will just try to guess at what the amounts could have been for.  Anyway enough of the caveats and on to the data itself.  Below is a table containing the top 16 (those over $1,000) of the 161 donations reported on September 22, 2016 listed in descending dollar amount order.  The entire list in descending order is presented at the bottom of this post.

A quick review of the data suggests a number of things:

First, despite the perception that corporations are lining up and falling over themselves to ante $50,000 up to be a top sponsor at these types of events, this does not appear to be the case as it does not appear that there were any takers for the title sponsor roll despite it being offered.  There were only five exactly $50,000 donations to the party (see below) and all of these took place well (many months) before the golf tournament date so it is unlikely that any of them represent top sponsor donations for the tournament.

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Second, it appears that there could only have been one possible Crystal Sponsorship (from Encana) and only one possible Platinum Sponsorship (from a Patricia Trottier, who appears to be the spouse of former Encana CEO Gwyn Morgan) at the event (assuming that they actually paid for the sponsorship rather than just making a straight up donation of course).  That Calgary-based Oil and Gas giant Encana (and related folk) likely represent the largest singular source of donor money at the event should surprise no one as Encana has been a major contributor to the BC Liberals for years and with no restrictions on out of Province or Out of Country donations, it is all entirely legal and on the up and up in BC Liberals #NotRealWorld.

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Source: Vancouver Observer

From there it is quite difficult to establish with any certainty who paid for what as while the $10,000 donations made by Canadian Forest Products Limited, Chevron Canada Limited, Interfor, London Drugs Limited, McElhanny Consulting Services Limited, Terminal Forest Products, and West Fraser Mills Limited while all noted on that day, could possibily represent putting hole sponsorships (@$10,000), multiple hole sponsorships (@$5,000 a crack), regular foursomes (@4,000), or sign sponsorships (@1,000) or some combination thereof potentially with some cash donations possibly being involved as well.  Or as noted previously entirely random donations on that date (I do have to accept that possibility).

It is interesting to note that the listed $4,000 fee for a foursome (including having an BC Liberals MLA as a caddie no less) does not appear in any of the donations listed on September 22, 2016.  One could assume that either they had no takers for this guilded pay- to-play opportunity (highly, highly unlikely) or that the fee was somehow raised to total $4,500 on the tournament date or that the donors were asked to also donate the room values that went along with the fees (more likely given the $4,500 donations from Imperial Metals Corporation (of Mount Polley fame), Neptune Bulk Terminals, Pretium Resources Limited, and Raymond James Limited) or that it was some how topped up to make it $4,500 rather than $4,000 as listed.  I suppose it is also possible that the foursome fees could have been subsumed within some of the larger donation amounts rather than being for specific holes, etc. or that the $4,000 fees were processed on other dates. Can’t really say for sure.

What immediately struck me when looking at the larger donations listed above on this particular date was what appears to be a significant representation (or over representation if you will) of major forestry industry players who appear to have been possibly present at this particular event.  Was there a concerted, conscious, and coordinated effort by major Forest Industry Players to schmooze and/or lobby the BC Liberals at this specific event on this specific day?  Who knows?  Maybe.  At the very least that is certainly a possibility. Or did they all just randomly donate to the BC Liberals that day? Dunno.

So in total, the BC Liberals took in on September 22, 2016 (whether all at the golf tournament or not) a total of $144,975.99 or a total of less than approximately 1.2% of the entire yearly fundraising total for 2016.  Interestingly, this amount doesn’t even really rate when you plot donations by date (see chart below and the table below that).  In fact, the donations on September 22, 2016 come in a modest 28th out of the total 88 donation days reported.

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Still, while ~$144,000 is not a bad haul for a single day, but as can be seen from the chart above and the table below, it certainly does not appear to represent one of their biggest fundraising dates or events of the year unlike what the BC Liberals appear to suggest.  They certainly could quite easily have gotten away bowing to public pressure and cancelling the event without affecting their bottom line in any shape or form but that just wouldn’t be the BC Liberals way would it?

A few other interesting things to note, one of the biggest single fundraising day of the year was February 28, 2016 where a cool $1,648,565.00 was raised.  This likely coincides with general year end tax year related donations, followed by December 31, 2016 which I would again suggest represents the final push for use it or lose it 2016 political tax credits.  (Edit: Bob Mackin in his thebreaker.news site has just written an excellent article suggesting that the spike in donation in late February is related to a private dinner held on February 26 at the Wall Centre which was attended by a number of well-heeled party donors including a number of major players in the real estate industry).

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All this of course just lends further credence that indeed we are living in the “Wild West of Politics” as the recent New York Times written by Dan Levan said, an article that Rich Coleman described as being “laughable”

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describing a topic that noted BC Liberals apologist Don Fast said that no one but “no jobs” lefties cares about.

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Sorry Mr. Coleman (Minister of Natural Gas Development, Minister Responsible for Housing, Deputy Premier, and Minister Responsible for General Chortling) and Mr. Fast.  Having your government called out for corruption and being open to influence peddling is not laughable, especially when the author is demonstrably correct.  As Mr. Levin suggests, this type of pay-to-play access would be illegal in most other jurisdictions within Canada and the United States.  But the BC Liberals disagree.  I guess it is true that those closest to corruption can’t see it.

Well there’s my kick at the can.  Other events could be given the same treatment so I encourage others to take up a different event and see what results you get.

Technical Note: For those interested, here is a link to download a Microsoft Excel sheet which appears to include all of the donations listed in the original PDF published by the BC Liberal Party.  It is in a much easier form to manipulate and search rather than the original PDF distributed by the BC Liberal party.  I do not and can not in any way vouch for the absolute accuracy of the file or the data presented here or above but will say that my by hand search for the donations on September 22, 2016 produced the exact same results as the Excel file linked.  I created the file after stumbling across a comma delineated data set on the net and then manipulating the data a bit as there were commas in the original donor field that made the first stabs at importing the data problematic.  Have at it.

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Donations to the BC Liberal Party Recorded on September 22, 2016

It should be noted that the total amount of donations that I get from the linked Excel file is $12,157,771.52 which is quite a bit less than the ~$12.3m reported in various media accounts and the total of $12,474,088.00 that you get when adding the values presented by the BC Liberals on their website.

2016-values

I don’t know what that exactly means other than there seems to be a discrepancy of ~$316,316.00 with the BC Liberals seemingly over reporting their 2016 contributions by this amount. And why this differs from the media accounts and where they got that ~$12.3 figure originally I don’t know.

Lastly I will leave you with this, a list of the largest single donations to the BC Liberals $10,000 and above in 2016 in descending order.  Have a scan through the list.  These are the big money people and corporations who call the shots in the Province B.C.  Not you or I.

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Have the BC Liberals Actually Been “Strong and Consistent” On Anything?

It has become abundantly clear that the BC Liberals have set on their strategy for the upcoming Provincial election.  Their strategy (which is in many ways is similar to their strategy in the last election) is to pre-emptively try to portray and define the BCNDP and their leader as inconsistent and “everything to everyone”, representing the “Party of No (development)” while at the same time trying to promote Christy Clark in contrast as being a strong leader with a strong/clear and consistent record and message (as above).  But is the latter actually true?  Have Christy Clark and her government been “strong/clear and consistent” or is in fact the opposite true?  Have she and her government been anything but strong/clear and consistent but have been just saying as much to try to convince the voting public (and in some ways their own supporters) that this is in fact the case?  Let’s have a look at a few selected issues over the last couple of weeks and see if that “strong/clear and consistent” claim holds up to scrutiny.

The Famous 5 Conditions For Heavy Oil Projects (well really the 4 consistent conditions and the one that seems to be in flux)

Back on July 23, 2012, to great fanfare the Provincial government announced their 5 conditions to support any heavy oil projects (note that the conditions only applied to heavy oil projects and not their beloved LNG projects another inconsistency really but I digress).  As announced by then Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mary Polak and Minister of Environment Terry Lake, the five conditions were:

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The BC Liberals and Christy Clark have repeatedly claimed that they have always been clear and consistent on the 5 conditions (as below).  But is that actually true?

A search for the 5 conditions provided in various news releases and articles since then suggests that, for the most part, the 5 conditions have indeed been fairly consistent.  Yes fairly.  Not completely consistent.  Just fairly.  Why would I say that?  Let me explain.  You may remember that the Premier on November 30th released a statement regarding the five conditions following the Kinder Morgan announcement by the Feds.  I’ve reproduced the statement below.  Notice anything different?  Why yes.  Condition #4 appears to be completely different.  “Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed” is no longer part of Condition 4 in the statement issued by the Premier instead the Premier describes Condition #4 as “Indigenous participation”.

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Interestingly, this is not the first time that the legal requirement aspect of Condition #4 has mysteriously been omitted by the Premier.  In a speech on October 10, 2012 to a special luncheon organized by the Chamber of Commerce in Prince George, Clark described the 5 conditions as follows:

“Five conditions have to be met, three of them are environment, one is about making sure First Nations are participating (emphasis mine), which is an obligation set by the Crown, and then the last is making sure British Columbia gets it s fair share so all of them are equally important and they all have to be met, not just one.”

Remarkable consistent with her November 30th release and over four years apart no?

Now anyone who knows anything about the recent Supreme Court rulings and the results of the case regarding the Northern Gateway project will tell you that ultimately the biggest Achilles heel of the Kinder Morgan project is Condition #4 and that this condition (well the original condition anyway) can likely never actually be met as the same flawed consultation process was used for the failed Northern Gateway Project and that was struck down by the Supreme Court as being inadequate.  Why the Province originally included that aspect of the condition when it was clearly a Federal matter and something guaranteed by the law of the land I don’t know but there it is.

So is it just that the Premier being succinct as some apologists have suggested?  Hardly.  A graphic produced by the BC Liberal Caucus on day prior to the release from the Premier (as seen below) was very succinct indeed and yet still managed to capture the entire essence of Condition #4 (both indigenous rights and opportunities).

As everyone knows, official statements such as that made by the Premier above are gone over with a fine toothed comb.  Was this is the first step in priming the public to garner support for ignoring a critical aspect of one of the original 5 conditions?  Or did the communications staff for the Premier drop the ball on this one yet again as they did in 2012?  Is the Premier’s office at odds with the party over the interpretation of condition 4?  Not exactly sure.  Whatever the reason, have the BC Liberals and Christy Clark been consistent on their Five Conditions?  Well the answer is clearly and obviously no.  Probably best to be clear and consistent if you are claiming to be clear and consistent.  Just saying.

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Before leaving this topic it should be noted that Bill Bennett in an interview in Calgary in July 2016 said that the only outstanding issue was spill response so I guess the legal aspect of Condition #4 has already been addressed according to the Bill Bennett and the BC Liberals right?  Oh and of course nothing shows you standing firm on your Five Conditions and having a principled consistent position more than adjusting Provincial Park Boundaries in advance for the Kinder Morgan project before any decision on the project has been made either Federally or Provincially and before all of the Five Conditions have been met (and then putting out a release afterwards saying that it was not until all approvals and conditions had been met although original legislation clearly did not say that).  See the Legislation for carving up Finn Creek Park that has already been enacted (Bill 25 having received Royal Ascent on May 19, 2016).  Saying one thing publicly and doing something different in the back rooms.  The BC Liberals way. Just another example.

Fentanyl/Opioid Overdose Crisis

You may remember recently that Christy Clark and the BC Liberals came under fire for not following the lead of Alberta and creating their own legislation (like Alberta did) in the absence of Federal Legislation concerning pill presses with local police also calling for the legislation saying that there is no legitimate reason to have a pill press.  You may also remember that back in July that Mike Farnsworth and the BCNDP had introduced a bill banning pill presses but that got caught up in the cancelling of the Fall sitting of the legislature.  So in the midst of the crisis the Solicitor General Mike Morris was trotted out to say the now oft-repeated line that pill press legislation was a Federal responsibility so no unilateral action would be forthcoming from the Province but that if no action was forthcoming from the Feds that B.C. would proceed with its own Provincial legislation in the Spring (huh, read that one again a couple of times, can’t have it both ways except in BC Liberals Land I guess).  Besides, even if there was a ban on pill presses, pill-form fentanyl would just come from outside of the Province said Morris arguing against any kind of local legislation prohibiting any matter of any kind (assault rifles, tactical nuclear weapons, etc.) as of course it would just come from elsewhere anyway (where exactly do they get these people?).  And so, what could have been at least a tangible step to try to help ease the Fentanyl/opioid crisis was ignored.  Skip ahead a couple of weeks and to great fanfare, the BC Liberals decided to open two supervised injection sites unilaterally via a ministerial order because of “Federal inaction“.

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Described as a “major policy shift”, MLA Terry Lake was quoted as saying that, “We can’t wait for federal changes in order to save people’s lives”.  Wait?  What was that again?  So no problem going your own way unilaterally when it suits you politically (when you can sell it as you taking “strong action”) but defer to the Feds responsibility in the case of the pill presses as otherwise it would mean acknowledging that the BCNDP was correct on the issue?  Huh?  Are those the actions of a clear and consistent government caring about the people or governing only through considering what is politically beneficial?  No matter how you slice it the phrases “major policy shift” and “strong and consistent leadership” are clearly incompatible.  Heck the Premier and her government can’t even tell hope much money they spent on the crisis giving three estimates in three days.

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Other jurisdictions have shown strong and consistent leadership by doing what was best for the people first as people were literally dying in the streets (see Alberta), not so much the BC Liberals.  The BC Liberals sat on their hands seemingly not wanting to upset their base or (god forbid) acknowledge that the BCNDP were ever possibly right on anything (on pill presses, etc.).

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Oh yes, and please do go ahead do congratulate yourselves.  Congratulations again for doing nothing when people were and are literally dying in the streets and then taking the credit for the actions of others.  Please do.

And then there was this.  In her year-end interview with News 1130 Clark called the opioid crisis the biggest story of 2016.  clark-fent

Yet when her Health Minister Terry Lake was asked about the “biggest story of 2016” he suggested that no one saw the overdose crisis coming. What?

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Boggles the mind sometimes.  How could his ministry not have spotted, oh I don’t know this trend…

Or read the papers like this article from last year or listened to your own ministry that was warning about the impending crisis three years ago (see below).  That is not clear and consistent leadership.  That is called sitting on your hands.

Premier’s Meeting as Political Performance Art

At the recent Dec. 9 Premier’s meeting on Climate Change Premier Clark told reporters and anyone who would listen that BC would sign the plan as BC had concerns that other Provinces with a cap and trade system would not be able to reach the price the plan calls for by 2022.   This was after of course in September of this the Premier writing in a statement on September 26 that “other’s may choose a broad-based cap and trade system and that’s fine.  We recognize that either system will achieve emission reductions”.  Well that doesn’t seem consistent does it?

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Then at the recent carbon tax meeting she said that it was not OK in its current form and then later that same day after getting assurances that the system would be reviewed in 4 years, an about-face from the Premier occurred with the Premier saying that everything was all good now and saying that she would be signing on to the agreement after all.

The usual BC Liberals cheerleaders were quick to praise her “clear and consistent leadership” even though her position quickly had changed many times (twice in one day in fact).better-grewal

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Those far right observers who originally were quick to congratulate Premier Clark for her “strong stand” for Western Canada along side climate change denier Conservative Brad Wall,

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were quick to see that flip flop in her position and call it for what it was, disingenuous political posturing.

stand

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Moreover it later came out that indeed that the key Provincial ask (a Provincial comparable review of carbon cutting in 2020) was already signed before Clark stepped up to the mike for her disingenuous public performance.  In fact when she went to the podium to announce that she wouldn’t be signing the agreement, there was already an agreement in place.  And her big win according to the BC Liberals cheerleaders (as seen above)?  A single sentence stating that “BC will assess the interim study in 2020 and determine a path forward to meet with climate change objectives”.

Lastly, as pointed out by Gary Mason (of all people),

The fact is, Ms. Clark’s act of bravado on the national stage was a convenient distraction from an ugly truth: Once considered Canada’s climate leader, B.C. is now an embarrassing environmental laggard.” With emissions projected to increase by 39% by 2030 and certainly missing its targets by 2020….“If the province intends to ignore its targets, both in the short-term and long, why be part of some grand plan to reduce emissions nationally?

Indeed.  Rather than actually showing strong and consistent Climate leadership, the BC Liberals just say that they are doing that and hope that no one notices.  The fake nature of their climate leadership announcement has now become both an iconic and ironic “tell” in so many ways.

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So would strong and consistent describe the bizarre political performance art performed by the Premier at the Premier’s conference on climate change?  Hardly.

On a side note, it is interesting to note that the BC Liberals were (and still are) exuberantly celebrating having an independent review of the carbon tax in 2020 while at the same time being so resistant to any suggestion that Site C be the subject of an independent review via the BC Utilities Commission etc.  Again hardly clear and consistent.  All actions by this government appear to be completely inconsistent and completely politically motivated.

Yamamoto’s Letter and Then No Letter Letter 

And there is this.  On December 13, MLA Naomi Yamamoto, the Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness, one of those usually at the kids table politically within the BC Liberal government in the made up Minister of State portfolio of Emergency Preparedness, wrote to Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc expressing her and her government’s concern over the closure of the Coast Guard Communications Centre in Comox, an initiative originally started by the previous Harper Government.  It was portrayed at the time as the BC Liberals standing up strongly to protect the interests of BC against those nasty Feds with the Comox Communications base (as expressed by Minister Yamamoto in her letter) being considered part of the “World Leading ocean spill response”, one of the vague subjective conditions required for the support of the Kinder Morgan pipeline (described above).  It didn’t hurt that it fit within the BC Liberals’ declared strategy of trying to expand their seat base on Vancouver Island but that’s another story.  Anyway, two days later it appears that Minister Yamamoto really wasn’t all that serious about writing the letter, that she must have had her fingers crossed at the time that she wrote it, suggesting that it was all a big mistake, and promptly apologized to Ottawa for writing the letter.  Huh?  That’s leadership?  Apparently, either Minister Yamamoto or one of the infinite number of monkeys typing an infinite number of ministerial communications and press releases for the government got it all wrong.  Minister Yamamoto, rather than standing up and taking responsibility for the letter which was presumably signed by her if it left her ministry, hung her staff out to dry and said that the letter was “inadvertently sent to the federal government from her office”.  Now there’s true leadership.  According to my definition, a strong and consistent government does not issue a letter demanding one thing one day only to apologize two days later and then hang your staff out to dry when things go bad, but maybe that’s just me.

Bill 27 Flip Flop: Human Rights Code Amendment Act Changes in Regards to the LGBT Community

Lastly, and then their was their flip flop and the controversy surrounding Bill 27, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act.  Here is a video that eloquently details the flip flop and includes BC Liberals MLA for Chilliwack-Hope (Laurie Throness) empassioned speech against the legislative change to explicitly protect the LGBT community.

Do remember too that despite Christy Clark turning up for the photo-op for the event on the legislative steps (see below)

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that she actually skipped the actual vote on the legislation in order to attend a fundraiser in Surrey instead.  Because you know, priorities.  It should also be noted that despite the smiling faces on the Legislative steps that the BC Liberals had blocked the introduction of similar legislation in the Legislature many other times.

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Have a look at this video.   In it Christy Clark decries how terrible leaving debt to our kids is.

And yet, her government is responsible for this.  A massive increase in debt that will be her government’s legacy for generations.

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Flip Flop on Taxing Real Estate Transactions 

Then there was the time that Christy Clark in a letter to Gregor Robertson in June of 2015 that there was no reason to institute a tax on luxury housing for a variety of reasons.

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And yet about a year later her government as we now know introduced a 15% tax on foreign home buyers.

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Flip Flop on $50,000 Party Stipend

(Source: Tim Jones, Vancouver Sun).

On January 20, 2017 Premier Christy Clark announced that she would be no longer be taking a controversial $50,000 stipend from the BC Liberals party.  This was of course after she initially denied the existence of the stipend calling it a “car allowance and various BC Liberal apologists such as Jillian Stead suggesting that there was nothing wrong with the practice because it had been that way for a long time (I kid you not) and the Minister of Inappropriate Outbursts and General Chortling, Rich Coleman saying that it was pretty common don’t you know (when it fact it isn’t).  So why the backtracking and flip flop regarding the stipend?  Some have speculated that it was due to the attention locally via Gary Mason and internationally via the Dan Levin New York Times article calling out the BC Liberals for the unsavoury  practice.  I think otherwise.  I think that the polling on this topic was bad and that the BC Liberals flip flopped on their position on it accordingly (not the first time that the BC Liberals govern by polling that’s for sure).  And where were the usual BC Liberals cheerleaders extolling the virtues of so-called strong leadership on this matter?  Nowhere to be seen of course as nothing says strong leadership more than slipping the announcement in during a North Shore Rescue announcement on a Friday evening and then calling it just “a distraction”.  No admission that it was wrong and had always been wrong?  Yeah, right.  Sorry but that’s anything but strong leadership.

So there you have it.  Eight relatively recent examples all showing clearly inconsistent statements and leadership, weather vane politicking, and flip flopping by Christy Clark and the BC Liberals.  By just saying that your leader and party is “clear and consistent” or “strong and consistent” just doesn’t make it so.  That may play to your base but the electorate out there (if you haven’t noticed) is angry and not stupid.  They know.  Believe me they know.  And they can see right through you.

Behind the BC Liberals’ Taxpayer Sponsored Down Payment Loans

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The recent introduction of the B.C. Home Owner Mortgage and Equity partnership, a measure by the BC Liberals to help first time home buyers by providing zero interest loans to help with a portion of their down payment, was immediately panned by economists, commentators, and the opposition NDP.  Conversely, it was immediately (and curiously, in one case at the lighting speed of only 22 minutes following the official news release of the measure) praised by mortgage lenders, realtors, those in the construction industry, and the usual BC Liberal cheerleaders.  This initiative, as many have correctly pointed out, appears to be very ill-conceived (at best).  I won’t belabour that point as it has been made well elsewhere (see here,   here, here, and here).  What I do think has been missing from the discussion of this initiative though is an evaluation of the various potential factors behind the move (beyond it being an obvious election goodie for the upcoming election) and ultimately the exact intention of the move.  In that vein, I would like to point a few potential reasons as to why the BC Liberals have chosen to do this particular move at this particular time.

First, let’s consider the larger economic context of this move for the moment.  If addressing housing affordability was truly the reason behind this move, it appears very much that market forces appeared to be taking care of that by itself all on its own.

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Real estate sales were definitely slowing (plunging as much as 37% in Vancouver in November year over year) and house prices have been consistently trending downwards since their overheated peak, and would have likely have kept dropping if left to market forces.  In addition, many have suggested that the 15% tax had the desired effect in cooling the overheated market.  Perhaps a little too much.

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And at a rather an inopportune time for the BC Liberals and the BC economy to be sure given the impending election.  And that is perhaps one of the main reasons for this particular move at this particular time.  Let me explain.

It has been no secret of the past few months for anyone actually paying attention that the real estate and construction industries have been the only thing really supporting/propping up the BC economy with construction and real estate activity in the Lower Mainland specifically largely propping up the economy and masking massive job losses elsewhere and in other sectors of the economy (for example, due largely to the overemphasis on the “Trillion Dollar Bonanza” LNG industry, the unemployment number in the Northeast is now over 10% and if it wasn’t for the unnecessary government sponsored make work project [namely Site C], it would be much, much higher than that) (see below).

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As such, it is pretty clear that the last thing that the BC Liberals need or would want right now heading into an election is a failing economy and a sharp rise in unemployment numbers.  It is also no secret that the BC Liberals have now become addicted to the property transfer tax windfall, creating a surplus that can be used to fund pet (read political) initiatives such as this.  Moreover, this initiative can also be seen as a counter measure to placate the real estate industry by simultaneously paying them back for their generous donations,

placating them after their vociferous complaining regarding the 15% foreign buyer tax, boosting the sagging real estate market still reeling from the introduction of the 15% foreign buyer tax, while at the same time propping up the economy artificially.  Combine all that with the suggestion that the polling numbers for millennials, many of which are unable to purchase a home (those more likely to support the BC Liberals), must be really, really very bad and you have what the BC Liberals might consider a winner.

The B.C. Home Owner Mortgage and Equity partnership has been facetiously spun by the BC Liberals into a “who wouldn’t want to help first time home buyers?” but this is clearly not the way to do it: by providing essentially subprime mortgages to people who currently can’t afford down payments so that they can overextend themselves (thereby running completely counter to the intent of the recent initiatives brought in by the Feds via the Bank of Canada aimed at halting rising debt loads).  It also basically amounts to a $700 million windfall for developers and makes everyone in B.C. indirectly a participant/investor in the Vancouver Real Estate market.  This initiative appears to be at least in part a rather disingenuous political move on the part of government to appear to be doing something (read anything) to support those priced out of the market after neglecting the runaway real estate market (which primarily is the result of a lack of supply, geographic restrictions, loose regulatory oversight, and the infusion of offshore speculation and investment) for the past 15 years.  The true intention of this move however is to prop up real estate prices (read protect the equity of homeowners) which in turn will presumably encourage more and more construction, which will in turn keep the tax dollars rolling in and the economy artificially propped up by while retaining construction and construction related jobs, etc., etc.

Is this initiative a form of market manipulation?  You bet it is.  And nothing says “Free Enterprise” more than interfering in the open market using taxpayer supported subprime loans.  I swear if I hear one more person pontificating that the BC Liberals are the “Free Enterprise Party”, I will scream because by definition they are anything but Free Enterprise.  In fact many things that they do would in fact be considered socialist by outside observers.socialism

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The BC Liberals are now portraying the BCNDP opposing the program and threatening to cancel the program if elected as just another “No”, like they give for all other types of developments (i.e., Site C, PNWLNG, etc.), the “No Development Party” if you will.  First of all, I would like to point out that it is parliamentary tradition on the part of the opposition party to provide alternate viewpoints to the government of the day.  That is their job and that is why they are called the opposition party.  Really, does anyone really think that if the BC Liberals were in opposition that they would be saying “Yes” and supporting every initiative that the BCDNP would make?  Please.  I think not.  Second of all, I do have to say that if the BC Liberals would stop putting out ill-conceived, climate-destroying, and indigenous rights trampling ideas and policies then perhaps people wouldn’t often be so quick to oppose them.  I do wonder if that ever occurred to them?

Edit: The same day that this post was published, an article on Canadian Business appeared also suggesting that the real purpose of the loan was to prop up housing prices rather than help a narrow group of First Time home buyers.  It’s not just me then seeing it this way.

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In addition, again on the same day Bill Tieleman published an article also criticizing the initiative suggesting that the BC Government has become basically a “pay day loan company” as the 0% interest rate is only at 0% for 5 years.  After that, it becomes 0.5% plus Prime meaning that you will be paying 2022 interest rates for money borrowed back in 2017 at likely a far higher rate.  Some deal eh? No wonder the BCNDP and economists want to scrap this.  It is quite clearly a bad deal.  This is a huge misstep for the government and they can’t even see it (or refuse to see it as the party is always right don’t you know).  I have seen many fiscal Conservatives criticize this initiative but curiously no one associated with the party itself has even tacitly suggested that this may not be the best plan.  Reminds me of the dying days of the Federal Conservative party under Harper when ill-advised initiatives came out fast and furious and no one had the testicular fortitude to question them.  It was the party right or wrong.  And that didn’t turn out well did it. Just saying.  I’ll leave the final words on the topic to Rich Coleman who suggests that academics don’t live in the real world (although last time I checked they had to get mortgages too).  Nothing like bashing the educated elite.  Now where have I heard that before…

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Dear Swing Voter from the 2013 Election Who Voted for the BC Liberals

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Dear Swing Voter from the 2013 Election who voted for the BC Liberals,

Hi there.  It’s me.  It’s actually yourself in the future.  I am you in late 2016.  Yes I look a bit older and I’ve put on a few extra pounds (and thanks for pointing that out BTW) but that’s not what we are going to be talking about here…I do remember it so well.  Just like it was yesterday.  I remember on May 14, 2013 you, my 2013 self, walking up to the voting booth in the 2013 Provincial General Election and carefully penciling in an “x” besides my local BC Liberal candidate (making very sure to not go past the line), being very happy about my choice, and then going home to watch the results on TV.   So why did I do it back in 2013 when all the polls said that I wouldn’t?   Well I thought that I would give the BC Liberals one more chance.  Christy seemed nice and I had heard her on the radio, and they seemed to be not that bad after all as everyone had told me that the alternative (the godless socialist hordes at the door) were so very, very much worse.   I believed that LNG was going to lead us all to a prosperous future and I had faith in the BC Liberals managing the economy and the budget as after all, their budgets were balanced and they were pledging to keep taxes low and I liked that.  Moreover I liked what was happening with the schools and Christy Clark’s pledge for an honest and open government.  And so like many of my 2013 neighbours I ended up being yet another 10 second BC Liberal/Socred voter.

Well its late 2016 now, and before another visitor comes back from the future to show that Scrooge guy his future for the umpteenth time, I felt the need to get the jump on this first and let you know now that unfortunately, my 2013 self, you made a big, big mistake voting for the BC Liberals back in 2013.  Why do I say that you ask?  Oh, where to begin..?

Well, remember the trillion dollar LNG Bonanza that that nice lady from TV said was going to happen?

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Well I’m here to tell you that by late 2016 that not a single LNG project has a shovel in ground, drilling is the lowest it has been in 23 years, and the unemployment rate in the Northeast, B.C.’s oil patch is the highest in the Province.  Even more stunning than that, the BC Liberals, who you my 2013 self thought were supposedly such good business people, in horrible market conditions keep double downing on LNG and throwing good money after bad!

Oh and remember the BC Liberals pledge for an “honest and open government”?  Well it turns out that they have been anything but.  There was a huge scandal within the Health Ministry resulting in one fellow actually taking his own life!  Then there was the Triple Delete scandal where Ministry Staff deliberately deleted e-mails so that they would not be available for scrutiny by Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.  Can you believe it?

And remember that you thought that taxes would stay low under the BC Liberals?

Well in actual fact marginal tax rates have remained generally low.  However incremental increases in various user fees, MSP premiums, insurance rates, hydro rates, etc. have just shifted the burden from overt taxation to hidden taxation in the form of increased user fees with the end result being the exactly same.  Far less money in your late 2016 pocket for your late 2016 family.

And remember how you thought that the BC Liberals were so good about balancing the budget and how important that was in our 2013 household too, that we should live within our means?

Well it turns out that they have only been creating fake balanced budgets by doing fire sales of assets like the land sales on Burke Mountain and by forcing BC Hydro and ICBC to siphon off “profits” from their books to balance the Provincial budgets, all the while overseeing a massive ballooning in debt (see below) which I, your late 2016 self is now on the hook for! (Thank you very much for that. Thanks for nothing!).  And to top it off almost every project is way, way over budget (oh and not “on time and on budget” as Fassbender will eventually say) and the long-term debt will be getting worse!

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And remember how the “Strong Economy” was so important to you?  Well it turns out that the late 2016 “Strong Economy” is actually in shambles and unsustainable despite what the late 2016 BC Liberals are saying.  Massive job losses in other areas are currently being masked by construction jobs in the Metro Vancouver and Victoria fuelled by an out of control speculative real estate market bubble which is pricing out of the market a whole generation of people and on top of that, that bubble is just about to burst (or so my 2021 self has told me).

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And remember all that apparent concern about the environment that the BC Liberals keep espousing?  Well it turns out that the “5 conditions” that the BC Liberals will eventually propose was all outright disingenuous pure political theatre and they never had any intention of standing in the way of any and all pipelines and then they had the audacity to make a huge fake commitment to reducing greenhouse gasses while still pushing LNG!  So much for climate leadership!  And we still have Grizzly Bears being trophy hunted in 2016 as the people running it are big donors to the BC Liberal Party.  And our most vulnerable are literally dying in the streets. Can you believe it?  And people in Shawnigan Lake are having to fight their own Provincial government over the safety of their drinking water!  Seriously.  I’m not making this up!  You just couldn’t.

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And remember all that talk of respect for First Nations?  Well Christy Clark actually stood up at a funeral (no less) and said that she was going to push Site C past the point of return despite objections from First Nations! And Site C?  It turns out we don’t even need the power, that it may never pay for itself, and that we can do it way cheaper by diversifying our economy and focusing on run-of-river, wind, solar, and geothermal projects.

I look around now in late 2016, my 2013 self, and I see that 1 in 5 children in B.C. now lives in poverty and the government who I believed was doing the right thing with teachers back in 2013 it turns out were dead wrong (violated the Charter no less) and continued to be wrong for 14 years causing untold damage to the kids (BTW enjoy your time with the kids now as time flies and they don’t stay little for very long).

Anyway, I could go on and on but the point is, my 2013 self, that this is not what you voted for.  I, my late 2016 self won’t make the same mistake twice.  In May 2017, I will not be another “10 second BC Liberal/Socred voter” like you were as I refuse to make the same mistake that you did again.  Fool me once as they say….Oh by the way, the Vancouver Canucks still haven’t won the Stanley Cup but you probably already guessed that.

Signed,

My late 2016 Self

P.S. Oh and buy Apple and Tesla shares now! I mean it!

 

Which BC Liberal MLA would you choose to be your caddie?

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For those who may be unaware, the BC Liberals are holding their annual BC Interior Leaders Golf Invitational at the Predator Ridge Golf Course in Vernon on September 22, 2016.  This event represents one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the BC Liberals and a quick review of the sponsorship opportunities and the fee structure for the event reveals the real reason why the BC Liberals are so reluctant to ban big money from BC politics: they quite clearly are the largest benefactors of it (and the subsequent perception of them being influenced by that big money).  Despite the vocal protestations of those wanting to ban the influence of big money in B.C. politics, polling that suggest that 86% of British Columbians want to ban big money from BC politics, and the movement in other jurisdictions to ban these types of big money events, the BC Liberals are nevertheless shamelessly moving ahead with this event.  Of the various packages available including the top package of $50,000, one particular package caught my eye (see below).

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For a mere $4,000, your foursome would receive a round of golf, dinner, a $400 voucher for accommodation at Predator Ridge and, wait for it, the opportunity to have a BC Liberal MLA be your caddie.  Yes you read that right.  In BC you can literally “pay to play” and have a BC Liberal MLA even carry your bags.

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That got me thinking.  Which BC Liberal MLA would be the best choice to be your caddie and why?  I’ve listed a few of my suggested selections below (in no particular order) with a certain number of caveats (both good and bad) to keep in mind for each of those selections.  Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments area below if I’ve left out your favourite BC Liberal MLA or if you have a different/better reason as to why any of the BC Liberal MLAs identified would be the best selection as your caddie and I will try to incorporate them.

Mike Bernier (Peace River South) – A largely problematic selection as he would more than likely take most of your golf clubs and balls away and then give them back to you one by one and then expect you to be thankful for it.  Select at own risk.

Peter Fastbender (Surrey-Fleetwood) – A good selection due to his “acumen for accuracy” concerning numbers (see his prior ridiculous statement that the Evergreen Line is on time and on budget).  He would definitely be an asset in “helping” you with your score and subsequently straight face defending your score afterwards.

John Yap (Richmond-Steveston) – Best bet for getting a Quick Win in the tournament and therefore getting your foursome to the buffet first.  Would also be helpful in reaching out to any ethnic foursomes that you might encounter while out on the course.

Michelle Stilwell (Parksville-Qualicum) – Would be good at getting others to acknowledge your golf handicap but would be seemingly largely unsympathetic to the plight of others on the course who might also have golf handicaps.

Christy Clark (Westside-Kelowna) – Would turn up for the tee time photos and then slip off and go caddie for another foursome if it meant more money for her and it was a bigger priority.  On the other hand, she does have expensive photographers tailing her around so you would be able to get some good (but expensive) photos of your foursome out of it (at least at the tee off anyway).

Rich Coleman (Fort Langley-Aldergrove) – Has a tendency to tell anyone on the course having legitimate difficulties to stop whining.  Comes across as largely unsympathetic and might be a bit difficult to be around.  Be wary.

Mike de Jong (Abbotsford West) – Excellent at cherry picking the scores on a few holes and then extrapolating that score across 18 holes (as demonstrated here).

Todd Stone (Kamloops-South Thompson) – Would be very adept at driving a golf cart (although clearly at speed).  Might want to install a commemorative plaque on the golf course using workers from another golf course halfway through your round (which would be kind of awkward and a waste of time and money as he clearly had nothing to do with the construction of the golf course in the first place).

Linda Reimer (Port Moody-Coquitlam) – Wouldn’t do or say anything offensive either way and would not be noticeable. Would have to check with the party brass before doing or saying anything.  Would be rather ineffective and definitely wouldn’t advocate for your team should there be any kind of a disagreement with party/course officials.  Be honest.  You didn’t actually know that she was an MLA right?  If I could actually find a link to something significant that this backbencher actually did in her entire term in office I would post it but I can’t.  You try.  And yes that is a challenge.

Suzanne Anton (Vancouver-Fraserview) – Would be able to change the rules of the golf game at any time so that whatever you did, it would be perfectly legal by the time you finished your round.

Bill Bennett (Kootenay East) – Has tendency to cuss and call other foursomes out on the course “turds”.  Might be a bit offensive but nevertheless somewhat entertaining on the course.

Ralph Sultan (West Vancouver-Capilano) – Might need some prodding to make sure he is awake during the proceedings.

Richard Lee (Burnaby North)Wouldn’t work in the best interests of your foursome and might be recalled to the clubhouse once you are out on the course.  Would be one of his last actions as an MLA so might be worth picking him to give him a glimpse of his life after politics.

Mary Polak (Langley) – Would ignore the obvious pollutants leaking profusely from your golf cart into the nearby lake despite being alerted numerous times to it. Avoid at all costs.

Moira Stilwell (Vancouver-Langara) – You could ask her but she would more than likely decline gracefully as she actually has some integrity.

Others worth considering if the BC Liberal MLA of your choice is unavailable:

Pat Pimm (Peace River North) – Former BC Liberals cabinet minister and current persona non grata with the BC Liberals.  A good selection (if he’s not in court that day that is).  Likely would be prudent to wait to hear from the special prosecutor before actually picking him.  As that could be next year at this rate, would be probably best to pick someone else.

Joan Isaacs (BC Liberals Candidate for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain) – Would likely ask Joey Keithley how to caddie first so she can fumble around and look for the instructions on how to caddie from the party brass.  Part of a losing foursome last year and likely to have the same fate again so best to avoid picking her.

Laura Miller (BC Liberal Party) – Could be useful in arranging for the scorecards to be mysteriously wiped clean at the end of the round (allegedly).

Randy Rinaldo (Former BC Liberals candidate for Burnaby-Lougheed) – Could be particularly useful if the slow foursome in front of you is comprised of gypsies or poor people.  Might be somewhat offensive to any females in your foursome though.  You could always select him anyway and then replace him midway on the course after initially vigorously defending him and trying to downplay his obvious offensive behaviour.  Wouldn’t be the first time.

Gordon Wilson (LNG-Buy B.C. Advocate) –  That is, if anyone can actually find him as he seems to be largely AWOL these days.  Seems a bit unstable (see recent rant) so might be worth a pass.

Judy Tyabji (Former BC Liberals MLA and Bestselling Author) – Would write the most flattering description of your golf round ever.  It would be mostly uncritical and largely full of embellishments and propaganda though and would soon be forgotten and so hardly worth the effort.

Any other suggestions?

Edit: Since the publishing of this piece, the powers that be have deleted many of the pages that are referenced above.  But like all things on the internet, screenshots and internet archives live forever.  If anyone wants screenshots, just let me know.

 

A Case Study in Unbridled Spin: the BC Liberals and the Fortis-Heco LNG Deal.

On May 19, 2016 with great fanfare, Fortis and the BC Liberals announced that Fortis had signed a 20 year agreement to supply Hawaii with LNG via Fortis’s expanded LNG facility on Tilbury Island in Delta.  The agreement was subsequently touted on social media by the BC Liberals at the time, including Premier Christy Clark, as being a done deal (see below).Done Deal

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and was accompanied by several very, very fancy info graphics (ignoring the climatic effects of fracking of course) (see below).

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As is now customary with any announcement from the BC Liberals these days, then the usual group of serial retweeters (see the great Justin McElroy article on the use of social media by BC Liberal MLAs (or BC Liberal MLA twitter retweetbots as I like to call them) began spreading the good word (again without any sort of qualification).

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Then various op-ed posts started appearing such the Vancouver Sun piece by Greg D’Avignon, noted cheerleader for the BC Liberals and President and Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia, trumpeting the Fortis supply deal as effectively a done deal (“finalizing an arrangement” is hardly a sincere measured qualification), suggesting that the Fortis-Heco deal as well as the recent Woodfibre-Guangzhou MOU Announcement (well MOU re-announcement for political reasons during the recent trade junket really if truth be told) were “good for jobs, economy, climate” as the title of the article indicated and that:

“The recent agreements reached to sell B.C. LNG will create more long-term jobs, businesses and services in the province and spur economic development that will sustain local communities.”

So what was it with all the unbridled, exuberant, highly-politicized Boosterism you may ask?

Well you have to remember that all this was taking place (as identified by Bob Mackin) within a context in which bureaucrats and BC Liberal MLAs were searching for something, anything positive to say about the failing LNG dream in B.C.  The dream that was touted so forcefully by the BC Liberals during the last election and in their 2013 throne speech was still alive (on life support really) and there very little to show for it.  In fact, to date no final investment decisions had been made at all meaning that the Fortis deal was at least for the immediate moment, essentially all they really had.

Should the BC Liberals have been a bit more subdued and measured in their announcements concerning the Fortis LNG deal?  Well as it turns out yes, as events recently played out have shown.

First of all, as with anything and with any major corporate deal, the devil is in the details, and while there was some tacit admissions in select news releases at the time that the deal was contingent on regulatory approval in Hawaii and in B.C., what the BC Liberals were not saying at the time (and what was not readily available at the time) was that the actual contract between Fortis and Heco had 13 conditions attached to it with the first and most important condition being that the proposed merger between Heco and Nextera had to happen before the deal could be closed (or at least the condition had to be mutually waved by both parties).

Condition 1

Moreover, even a half-hearted effort at doing some background research regarding the deal and the proposed use of LNG in Hawaii as a transitional fuel would have suggested that the deal itself was unlikely to happen given the numerous forces in Hawaii lined up against the proposed merger including almost all of the interveners in the PUC process including: Life of the Land, Puna Pono Alliance, The Alliance for Solar Choice, Friends of Lanai, County of Hawaii, Hawaii Solar Energy Association, County of Maui, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, SunEdison, Hawaii Gas, SunPower, Tawhiri Power, Ka Lei Maile Alii Hawaiian Civic Club, Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter, Blue Planet Foundation, Hawaii Office of Planning, and the Hawaii Consumer Advocate. (see the excellent Ililani Media Webpage for an excellent detailed review of the history of the Heco-Nextera merger saga.).

As well, perhaps they should have acknowledged the statements of the Governor of Hawaii, David Ige, who was  vehemently against the deal and the use of LNG as a transition fuel arguing that “time and energy spent on development of LNG are resources not being spent to get Hawaii closer to its long-term goal of complete reliance on renewable energy sources” by 2045.web1_22-a1-ige1-300x188

In addition, it was well-known at the time that Hawaiian Electric wouldn’t pursue LNG if the merger with Nextera didn’t happen.

So how did it all play out you ask?  Well not so well for Nextera, Fortis, the BC Liberals, and yet another BC LNG project as it turns out.

On July 15, 2016, it was announced that the Hawaiian PUC had voted against the proposed Heco-Nextera merger by a vote of 2-0 (with one newly appointed member of the three person tribunal abstaining).  See the full PUC decision here.

While the termination of the deal was big news in Hawaii and on Wall Street, in Canada and in B.C. specifically, the news and the implication of the merger rejection only inspired an extremely brief news release by Fortis on July 16, 2016 acknowledging that the deal had fallen through and that “all parties are reviewing the decision”.

Fortis announcement

To my knowledge, no BC Liberals at the time even acknowledged that the Fortis LNG deal was in peril, and there was very little if any local mainstream media coverage of the failed merger which very clearly and profoundly affected the very viability of Fortis LNG deal.  Only a few LNG trade web portals noted that the Fortis Hawaiian LNG deal had “run into difficulties”.  Local mediawise, only Bob Mackin and an interested local blogger with too much time on his hands (ahem) seem to be have been following the story closely and with any insight, understanding the implications of the merger rejection.  A couple of days later, on July 18, 2016, the merger between Heco and Nextera was officially terminated effectively killing the Fortis LNG supply deal.

Then yesterday, on July 19, 2016, the apparent final nail in the coffin for the Fortis LNG deal came in the form of an official announcement from Heco (below) stating that they had withdrawn “their applications for approval of a liquefied natural gas contract with Fortis Hawaii Energy Inc, plans to upgrade Kahe Power Plant to use natural gas, and a waiver from competitive bidding to upgrade the plant.”  The formal termination of the agreement (SEC filing) can be found here.  And so yet another BC Liberal LNG project bites the dust.

Release

And what about those long-term jobs, businesses and services in the province, and economic development that will sustain local communities that Mr. D’Avignon was eluding to?  Nope, not happening.  Are the people and State of Hawaii now considered part of the “Forces of No” I wonder?  Not sure.  Have to ask Simreth Grewal, the apparent expert on identifying the “Forces of No” on that one.

One wonders if any of the BC Liberal cheerleaders will even acknowledge that yet another failed BC LNG project has fallen by the wayside.  As is apparent, it is all now seeming like a broken record.  Perhaps it is finally time for the BC Liberals to just move on and admit that it was all a big mistake (not all of their own doing of course as market forces clearly influenced what has happened since the dream of BC LNG and its accompanying windfall was announced), and stop wasting the Province’s time and resources on something that just seemed like a good idea at the time (in 2013) but that is not currently viable now given current market and social conditions.

Prosperity

For a group that so highly touts their business acumen, the BC Liberals appear to have a great deal of trouble acknowledging when they are throwing good money after bad.  The elephant in the room has no clothes as they say (well they do now anyway).

Post Script:  So is this the end of the LNG dream in Hawaii?  Perhaps not. There were/are rumours that Berkshire Hathaway Energy might be interested in purchasing Heco if the Nextera merger was not approved and that Heco might pursue a LNG supply deal on their own.  However given the long-term goals of Hawaii and the expressed opposition to the use of LNG, neither of these events are likely to lead to a reviving of the Fortis supply deal.  It seems that indeed the Fortis deal is indeed dead.

Updated

So Wednesday July 20, 2016 came and went with only a select few MSM articles acknowledging the Fortis LNG supply contract cancellation being published (for example, a Vancouver Sun article and a Business in Vancouver article).  However, it should be noted that these articles mainly dealt with the announcement from a purely business perspective, largely ignoring the political aspects of the cancellation given the past exuberant cheerleading by the Province and the BC Liberals that had taken place previously.

So where were the majority of MSM yesterday?  Dutifully covering the announcement regarding the expansion of human rights legislation to protect transgender people.  Now forgive me for being a little cynical here but wasn’t the timing of the transgender announcement just a little too convenient as a channel changer?  Was it all just a coincidence?  You have to wonder if this wasn’t in the back pocket of the BC Liberals braintrust for a quite a while only to be pulled out when a major channel change was necessary (which losing one of the only last viable LNG projects would most certainly qualify).  BTW, did anyone notice the non-standard signage at the announcement in comparison to most other pressers?

Signage

Compare that to the more standard presser/announcement signage seen here.

proxy

Perhaps because the announcement was a bit rushed? Hmmmm.

You have to wonder if it is possible that the more Conservative elements of the BC Liberal caucus acquiesced to the demands of some of the more Liberal elements of the party and agreed to the announcement purely for the perceived channel changing effect that the announcement could have.  Too far fetched?  Given the past track record of the BC Liberals, their win at all costs mentality (see Triple Delete etc.) and their propensity to view everything through a political lens, I wouldn’t put it past them one bit.  Again, call me cynical but it would fit the general pattern.  If it walks like a duck…