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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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).

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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

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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…

 

The Optics Are Just Bad: Kim Baird’s Night at the BC Liberals Fundraiser

Some rather unnerving social media posts emerged from last night’s big money BC Liberals fundraiser at the Convention Centre in Vancouver.  Unnerving that is for anyone who was holding out any hope that the Federal Liberals’ additional parallel review of the Kinder Morgan expansion project was going to be anything close to being a fair and impartial exercise and not instead just an elaborate “going through the motions” exercise in order to help facilitate an already done deal.  The images emerged from the social media timeline of one of the three individuals selected to be on the three person ministerial review panel selected by the Trudeau Liberals to review the Kinder Morgan proposal, namely from the Twitter feed of former Tsawwassen Chief Kim Baird.  First there was the selfie at the exclusive pre-party with controversial B.C. Liberals Environment Minister Mary Polak, the former book banning School Trustee who was recently on the hot seat over her dismissal of the opinion of 90 academics including many climate scientists regarding Site C “doesn’t meet with reality” and who has been roundly criticized as being a shill for the LNG and fossil fuel industry.

Then there was a tweet regarding the start of the Premier’s speech

and then a rather odd selfie taken with Premier Christy Clark.

Now of course people are entitled to their political opinions and Ms. Baird is free to support (however misguidedly) the BC Liberals or anybody else for that matter.  She is also free to be a big money doner to the party for that matter (see what appears to be her one time $4,500 contribution to the BC Liberals last year below) (Credit:Bob Mackin).

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That said however, to go to and be photographed at a political fundraiser for one of the major stakeholders in the review process (the BC Government in this case) while a member of a specially appointed panel entrusted with impartiality (one would hope and presume) I would suggest shows very poor judgement on her part.  The optics are very bad.  Imagine seeing Annette Trimbee, one of the other members of the Federal Review panel appointed by Trudeau going to and being photographed with BC NDP’s John Horgan at a BC NDP fundraiser, a person who has said that the Kinder Morgan Project is not in B.C.’s interest?  How about those optics?  Or perhaps one of the other members of the Federal Review panel, Tony Penikett, turning up at a BROKE Fundraiser and being photographed with Burnaby Mayor Derrick Corrigan, and/or some other opponent of the Kinder Morgan Project?  What would you say then?  No problem?  Presumably these individuals would show better judgement and not place themselves in those kind of situations.

For those who thought the BC Government’s Five Conditions concerning heavy oil (bitumen) pipelines were nothing more than a disingenuous, insincere, contrived shrewd political theatre (does anybody really believe that the BC Liberals won’t eventually support the Kinder Morgan project, I mean come on really?), the optics presented by these posts surely lends credence to the interpretation by some, particularly First Nations opponents to the project, that the fix is already in and that the review panel entrusted to be impartial will in fact not be impartial at all and will vote in favour of the proposal.  These posts also appear to lend credence to the not-so-muted whispers circulating around certain circles and on social media questioning Ms. Baird’s lack of impartiality concerning fossil fuel pipelines given her past working connections with Kinder Morgan, her prior favourable description of the Kinder Morgan project as being “enlightened”,

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Ian Anderson, President of Kinder Morgan Canada pictured with Kim Baird in 2011 (Source Kinder Morgan).

and her current ties to pipelines and the LNG industry specifically in terms of her association (as a lobbyist /consultant) for the controversial Woodfibre LNG project.  Again, the optics are very bad.  Should Ms. Baird be able to freely express her personal political opinions at all times?  In normal circumstances I would definitely say “Yes”.  However, when you are appointed to a Federal Review Panel, you are actively engaged in the review process, and have been entrusted to review a project (presumably) with complete impartiality, I would argue that it was/is a major lapse in judgement to attend the political fundraiser of one of the major stakeholder in the review process that you are overseeing.  Again, the optics are just bad.  Perhaps she should have shown a bit more  discretion in this case.  It seems to me that Ms. Baird should have given the event a pass, and stayed at home and watched the supplied stream online like the rest of us who can’t afford the seat at the $10,000 a plate Premier’s Table.  In other words, yes Ms. Baird you really probably should have refused that selfie with Premier Clark after all because the optics are/were kinda bad.

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What is Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals?

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Christy Clark at the Council of Forest Industries’ Annual Convention in Kelowna, stating that achieving a softwood lumber agreement was her #1 Priority.  Or is it?

On April 8, 2016 at the recent Council of Forest Industries’ Annual Convention in Kelowna, Premier Christy Clark suggested that achieving a softwood lumber agreement was her #1 Priority.  She subsequently repeated this claim several times on social media.  For those following the Premier and her recent speeches and public appearances this statement was (and is) somewhat perplexing and may have inspired more than a few people out there to pause for thought as just over a month ago (in March 2016) when speaking to reporters after her speech at the GLOBE Clean-Tech Conference Christy Clark said that securing federal cash to upgrade the hydro grid between BC and Alberta was the #1 priority of her government.

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Also perplexing is the fact that a month prior in February, 2016, Clark said that BC’s two priorities are LNG and new softwood lumber accord with the U.S. with the softwood lumber accord being the top priority.  And prior to that, in the BC Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Update published on October 26, 2015, Christy Clark is noted as having said that “the top priority remains the development of LNG in BC”.  This same claim (that LNG was priority #1) was stated by Christy Clark on December 10, 2014 in an interview with two Bloomberg writers in New York.  Also, previously one may remember that during the confrontation with the BCTF in 2014 that she tweeted out (on August 31, 2014) that class composition in BC Schools is Priority #1 because “students’ needs come first”.Clark Priorty 1 2014

In 2014 while addressing the Fort Nelson Chamber of Commerce she was quoted as saying that her top priority was the economy.  In 2013, during the election campaign Christy Clark was noted as having stated that fixing schools (doing seismic upgrades) was her top priority with her stating that “absolutely, nothing is more important than keeping our kids safe”.  In 2012 Premier Clark was also noted as having said that job growth was her number one priority.  Also in 2012, the then Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, Pat Bell was quoted in a BC Liberal Caucus News Release as stating that “Job creation is our government’s number one priority“.  And in a survey response to the B.C. Trucking Association, the BC Liberal Party stated that the “Number one priority for Today’s BC Liberals is growing the economy to get to a debt-free BC“.

This apparent #1 Priority confusion is not exactly new for Christy Clark too.  On July 30, 2012 at a Women-only gathering hosted by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, Christy Clark is quoted as saying her “My #1 Priority is Liquefied Natural Gas.”  Showing this confusion in the same speech at the same event (no less) she is noted as having said that families must be considered Priority #1 by Victoria.

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Christy Clark at July 31, 2012 Women-Only gathering hosted by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce

Wait a second.  What gives?  What exactly is going on here?  How could all these things be Priority #1?  Is that even possible?  One would think perhaps that a wet behind the ears BC Liberal staffer in short pants could be responsible for at least some of these inconsistencies but more often than not, the Priority #1 claims are coming directly from the mouth of Christy Clark herself.  And what about that the “Families First” mantra repeated ad nauseam by Christy Clark and the BC Liberals during the last Provincial election?  You may remember that after being elected in 2013 Christy Clark was quoted as saying “My top priority will be to put families first” even though the “Families First” mantra quite clearly hasn’t exactly been either followed or is an appropriate slogan for this government.  Where exactly does “Families First” fit it in amongst all these #1 Priorities?   If families are first, aren’t they Priority #1?Families First

It has become a truism in politics that actions speak louder than words and you would be forgiven for thinking that over the past few years that LNG, Site C, running a secretive government (as exemplified by the Triple Delete Scandal), protecting corporate donations to the Liberal Party (as evinced by their recent vote to protect their corporate donations and not ban corporate and union donations), the Massey Bridge fiasco (the publicly funded opening and commercialization of the Lower Fraser River at taxpayer expense in order to facilitate deep sea oil and LNG tankers), underfunding education so that the money could be on pet projects such as LNG and Site C could at various times be considered the #1 Priority for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals.  Where exactly are families in that last?  Not first and they certainly are not Priority #1 that’s for sure.

So what can you say about all this apparent Priority #1 confusion?

Well, it appears in most cases that what is stated as being Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals depends on the audience and the situation in which it is being stated.  In practice though it really depending on the perceived political bonus points that could be scored with the audience to which the Priority #1 message is being conveyed.  An evaluation of whether or not saying it could be considered a “quick win” if you will.  A “tell them what they want to hear and hope that nobody notices” kind of strategy.  Could the more recent confusion and shifting of Priority #1 status signify a change in direction policywise and a tacit admission and realization that with the failing fortunes of LNG and no hope in that regard on the immediate horizon that the BC Liberals need to prioritize and rejig their message and downplay the importance of LNG to have any hope of being re-elected?  Not really sure.  Possibly though.

Then what really is Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals?  Quite clearly, Priority #1 is to get re-elected at any and all costs.  It is a do anything and say anything free-for-all in that regards where the ends justify the means (as we have seen in the Triple Delete scandal).  Want to ignore WCB regulations to get a photo-op in?

Former Coquitlam-Burke Mountain BC Liberal Candidate Joan Isaacs and BC Liberal MLAs Linda Reimer (Port Moody-Coquitlam), Peter Fastbender (Minister Responsible for Translink), and Richard Lee (Burnaby North) ignoring WCB regulations to get yet another photo-op in.

Sure, no problem.  Want to set up an exclusive photo op/meeting with the Minister of Education, and local BC Liberal friendly school superintendent, and local school trustees and have a photo taken during working hours in your campaign office in front of a campaign sign?  Sure, no problem.

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From left to right: SD43 Superintendent Patricia Gartland, BC Liberal Candidate Joan Isaacs (Coquitlam-Burke Mountain), Minister of Education Mike Bernier, SD43 Chair Judy Shirra, SD43 Trustee Barb Hobson, taken during the recent by-election in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

Want to blur the lines between party advertisements and government advertising?  Sure no problem.  Want to delete anything to do with the business case for the Massey Bridge?  Sure, no problem.  Want to use government resources and campaign on the public’s dime?  Sure.  Want to use public money for political ads?  Absolutely.  At least if Christy Clark and the BC Liberals came out and admitted that getting re-elected is Priority #1 I would at least appreciate their honesty and would actually believe what they are saying.  You know, like when then BC Liberal Candidate Dan Ashton MLA for Penticton stated in 2012 after winning the BC Liberal nomination that “Our No. 1 priority is that we have to see the NDP doesn’t get elected…“.  The actions of the BC Liberals and their supporters over the next year leading up to the next Provincial election will quite clearly reveal what indeed is Priority #1 is for this Christy Clark and the BC Liberals.  Just wait for it.  And don’t be fooled by the last minute money that will be thrown at Education, raises in welfare rates, raises in minimum wage, etc. in an effort to garner votes and favour.  It is all part of what we all know is Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals:  Getting to Yes to re-electing the BC Liberals.  And what about families?  They are “first”, right after all the #1 Priorities.

Edit: I happened to come across a letter written by Rich Coleman to the Major of Fort St. John which continues the storied tradition of the BC Liberals in telling the audience what they want to hear.  In the letter, Mr. Coleman states that “LNG remains the highest priority of the Province” (see below).  Old habits die hard. And the Trumpian “BCFirst” mantra unveiled while instigating a new tax on foreign investors.  Please.  Just more of the same old, same old.

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