The year is almost a wrap and - safe to say - 2016 was one for the books. In keeping with the spirit of the season, it's time again for a few New Year's resolutions for B.C.'s political parties and politicians to consider in their on-going quest for self-improvement.
After eight years of British Columbians paying and paying and paying, still no North American jurisdiction has followed B.C.'s lead and brought in a carbon tax. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now trying to force carbon pricing on the entire country, but several provinces are rightfully resisting.
Former Information and Privacy Commissioner Denham released an investigation report more than three years ago documenting a disturbing rise in "oral government," which she found to be centered in the Office of the Premier. To remedy this situation, Commissioner Denham called for a written duty to document (among other things) to be included in the FOI law.
Don't get me wrong: B.C. truly is a glorious place -- the type of place you can fly over in a seaplane and easily think the wilderness will never end. But it's also one of the world's last frontiers and the race is on to cut down our old-growth forests, to send more oil tankers into our ports, to build natural gas plants in our salmon estuaries and to flood our rivers for megadams.
B.C. has become the first foreign government to issue a Masala bond in India. Essentially, B.C. took on $97.5 million in debt and immediately reinvested that money not in B.C. infrastructure or something that would help B.C. taxpayers, but in the Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) Limited of India.
The hidden subsidies come on top of B.C. Premier Christy Clark's many concessions to the natural gas industry, including more than a billion dollars in royalty breaks, a freeze on the provincial carbon tax and taxpayer-subsidized promotion and marketing.
In the battle between big government and big unions over big tax dollars, the country's highest court has decided there's just no need for the little people -- the taxpayers -- to be heard. This might have made sense if the Court limited its judgments to protecting truly fundamental freedoms. However, its recent judgments expanding freedom of association to protect the economic and contractual rights of unions can have serious impacts on government's budgetary spending priorities.
Less than a year before the provincial elections, education has been identified as a key election issue -- and just like that, Christy Clark begins a slew of million-dollar announcements, many aimed at ridings she knows the Liberals will struggle to get elected in.
In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government of Oceania has an entire Ministry that uses all forms of media to create a false reality. In British Columbia today, the Government Communications and Public Engagement office has a budget of $37,900,000 to ensure that you have the correct view of what the B.C. Liberals do for you with your money.
The B.C. Liberals have been cutting funding and supports for public schools. This year alone the government asked school board to find $25 million in "administrative cuts," last year it was $29 million. So this one-time funding announcement is not what I consider to be an addition to funding, but rather a reduction in this year's cuts.
The headlines were emphatic: "Quick wins amounted to little for NDP"; "Quick wins report lands with a dull thud." But behind the headlines something unsettling: a window into a culture of seeming impunity, where players are told anything goes, do whatever it takes to win.
Don't forget, way back in January 2014 Trudeau said about Kinder Morgan, "I certainly hope that we're going to be able to get that pipeline approved." Unless we make things uncomfortable for him politically, the prime minister will force this pipeline through our communities against our will -- the public's will.
Left out of its December release -- announcing the awarding of the $1.75 billion contract -- was any mention of collusion and bid-rigging by Korean-based Samsung C&T; the ongoing investigation by a Spanish magistrate and anti-corruption prosecutors into "allegations of misappropriation of public funds, falsifying documents and money laundering" at Acciona; and liquidity issues at Petrowest.
Clark said the power from the Site C dam could potentially provide electricity to Alberta -- where the government has recently committed to closing all of its coal-powered energy plants. Clark's suggestion that Site C may power the oilsands shines a spotlight on the B.C. government's ever-changing rationale for building the project.
I have seen far too many supporters jump ship lately and the party that we know and love is fading into this mishmash of right and left policies, glazed over by a negative opposition tunnel vision that is getting us nowhere, fast. So please... listen to the people, build a strong platform and be the leaders this province so desperately needs.
The 2015 political donations were out this week and they contained some numbers that should cause a bit of unease. It's not just the 2015 amounts that are of interest, it's the running totals as well. Since 2005, the B.C. Liberal party has raised more than $107.8 million -- $70.2 million of that from businesses and corporations.