Its name seems innocuous enough, G&E Studio. It’s just one of the companies identified among the 76,887 donations that the B.C. Liberal party received between 2005 and 2015.
G&E donated $5,000 to the Liberal party less than three weeks after a 2015 Reuters investigation identified the company as part of “a global radio web structured in a way that obscures its majority shareholder: state-run China Radio International.”
Last week Premier Christy Clark heard the four letters that every politician dreads, particularly when it’s hitting close to home: RCMP…One gets a sense from their reaction that the Liberal party’s initial damage control plan went out the window in favour of full-blown crisis management.
This past weekend the Globe and Mail reported that lobbyists in the province have been making political donations on behalf of their clients, effectively camouflaging the identity of the real donors and breaking B.C.’s Elections Act in the process.
On Sunday, Elections B.C. announced it was conducting an investigation into the Globe’s findings. Five days later, the entire matter was referred to the RCMP.
If last year’s provincial budget could be described as petty, after Finance minister Mike de Jong doled out an increase in assistance rates for those living with disabilities, only to claw must of it back by ending the subsidized bus pass program, this year’s budget could best be described as petulant. This is de Jong’s “I don’t want to, but I will because it’s an election year” budget.
It’s sad that we’ve reached the point where the question could be posed: “Has the time come for B.C. premiers to disclose their tax returns?” and Linda Kayfish is left to wonder, “When did our moral standards become so complicated?”
The grassroots spin to the B.C. Liberal party’s statement may have seemed the way to go in light of the New York Times article, but when donations under $100 account for less than 3.7 per cent of the party’s haul and 14 donors nearly 20 per cent, you’re not really left with a warm and fuzzy grassroots feeling.
After 15 months on the job, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has embarked on a cross-Canada tour, ostensibly to reconnect with Canadians or at least those that can’t afford $1,525 to bend his ear in private.
It seems Trudeau – and other federal cabinet ministers – have a fondness for political fundraising events held behind closed doors, far away from prying eyes.
In political slang better known as cash-for-access, not to be confused with its kissing cousin pay-to-play.
Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but 2017 is an election year in British Columbia.
On the presumption they’re not the same thing, government and election ads should be over by the Stanley Cup semi-finals.
2016 is almost a wrap and – safe to say – 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.
It’s official. After hitting send to more than 2,680 news releases this year, the B.C. government’s Communications and Public Engagement Office is now scraping the bottom of the barrel for an excuse – any excuse – to trumpet the government’s prowess.
Hate to be one of those folk that B.C. Housing minister Rich Coleman believes have nothing better to do than get up and whine every day, but the B.C. government’s affordable housing plan announced last week falls short.
Sorry, someone had to say it.
If winning cases before the Supreme Court of Canada could be likened to the National Hockey League, the B.C. government would be the Toronto Maple Leafs of litigants.
Four million documents linked to the 2012 health ministry firings have mysteriously materialized out of thin air for the latest investigation into the scandal, this one by B.C. ombudsperson Jay Chalke.
The stakes are high for Chalke. This is his career defining report. No pressure.
News that’s guaranteed to cheer the hearts of a small number of B.C. companies is word that they’ve been added to a list of pre-qualified suppliers to the B.C. government.
The lists are intended to offer all the appearances of open and transparent procurement. They can be anything but.
Mute them, channel surf, hide them all you want but there’s no escaping them.
The B.C. government is in the midst of saturating television shows and social media news feeds in the province with a multi-million dollar back-patting advertising campaign in advance of the 2017 election.
How did B.C. end up in the peculiar situation of having to rely on the private sector to oversee private sector construction companies working on public sector infrastructure projects, potentially signing off on billions of tax dollars in cost overruns along the way?
The government may like touting the fact that B.C. is on track to have the highest provincial job growth rate in the land this year, but it would do well to remember that the growth is in some of Canada’s lowest paying jobs and in some of the country’s priciest communities.
Vastly different story lines among Canada’s four public auto insurers.
Just like ICBC’s mishmash of eight different date-to-date comparisons in its news release last week in support of the corporation’s rate application.
Cherry-picked to suit, actual dollars cited when useful, percentages when not, but no ratios since they wouldn’t be helpful at all.
Unless a specific exemption exists, B.C. government rules dictate that the purchase of materials and service or construction contracts must be put to public tender when they exceed $25,000 and $100,000 in value respectively.
There’s no “he’s a swell guy” exemption, but you get a sense from some of the awards that the ‘swellness’ of the recipient may have been a factor.
It takes a certain skill set to try and fix a problem and possibly botch it up even more, but the B.C. government is certainly testing the idea as it flails about hoping to cool Vancouver’s red hot housing market.
Oddly, it was two different ministries that respectively billed $927 at Naked Lunch and $1,716 at Keep Your Shirt On.
B.C. may still see an LNG plant, but as for that $1 trillion in economic activity and $100 billion prosperity fund the only thing left is to call time of death. It turned out to be a fantasy, after all.
Another vacancy in a public boardroom and another B.C. Liberal party supporter ready and willing to fill it.
News that Frank Carson – a partner at Victoria law firm Cox, Taylor – was appointed chair of B.C. Transit’s board of directors last week was met with the expected cynicism.
With news last week that all but one of Metro Vancouver’s mayors have given a firm thumbs down to the B.C. government’s proposal for a 10-lane, three km bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel, it’s a good opportunity to take a step back and give this idea more than a quick once-over.
When terms like ‘independent external peer reviews’ are bandied about, the public might be less skeptical if the peers were independent of each other, too. It smacks of the the old boys network in action.
Often the most eloquent on any given issue are those most affected by it. Here’s some of their posts juxtaposed with the harsh realities they’re facing.
“Big corporations that give these massive amounts of money do so because they get results. They get tax relief. They get credits. It makes the government stand up and listen when they lobby and anybody who pretends otherwise is not telling the truth.”
Since April 2014 – as a direct result of the ‘Quick wins’ strategy – standards of conduct for political staff are now in place.
They read in part: “Political staff will exhibit the highest standards of conduct. Their conduct must instil confidence and trust and not bring the Province of British Columbia into disrepute.” Clearly, it’s still a work in progress.
Ever sense that the B.C. government is trying to pull the wool over your eyes sometimes? Political spin that can politely be described as light in the accuracy department.
The issues Alana James raised demand more than a cursory review and a now proven whistleblower deserves better.
In a former office of a long past independent investigative arm of the B.C. attorney general, a sign read: “Corruption breeds best in the dark.”
Maybe if it wasn’t in such a rush to reach the point of no return, BC Hydro could have performed a little more due diligence.
Something else it should consider is the OECD’s Principles for Integrity in Public Procurement, particularly number 10: Empower civil society organizations, media and the wider public to scrutinize public procurement.
Withholding the competing bids for the Site C contract – as BC Hydro has done – doesn’t speak to an open and transparent process.
Since 2014, three players in B.C.’s burgeoning LNG industry came through with $112,650 for the B.C. Liberals and two with $15,850 for the NDP.
Guess the B.C. Liberals got first dibs on building a prosperity fund from LNG.
No one could be blamed for wanting to scream “go to your rooms” at some local council meetings across B.C.
Seven of eight Nanaimo city councillors want their mayor, Bill McKay, to quit. Last month, Grand Forks council went to court to force a councillor out. They lost.
The B. C. Liberal party wears the coincidences proudly, though. At a November 2013 Rich Coleman fundraising event, the banner summed it up: “We won. It’s Christmas every day.”
The premier’s counter-spin on all of this basically boils down to: “well, he spent more than me and him too,” pointing her finger directly at former premiers Gordon Campbell and Glen Clark.
If Clark’s travel costs are indefensible, a former premier’s more indefensible costs doesn’t make hers defensible.
Petty. One word that springs to mind after last week’s B.C. budget. At best, it’s a lip service budget. Tweak here, tweak there, but devoid of any real purpose.
Tidy haul. Add it all up: more than $9.8 million in donations from interested parties to the Liberals and $417,185 to the NDP, not including their 2015 donations. Guess who gets saddled with the bill?
Last year, there were 2,502 in-house and consultant lobbyists registered in the province, up from 1,451 four years ago. Whoever said the B.C. Jobs Plan wasn’t working? While others do get some attention – political staff, deputy ministers and the like – that works out to 30 lobbyists for every MLA.
“The fundamental principle must be this: Government information belongs to the people, not to the government. This means, among other things, that all citizens must have timely, effective and affordable access to the documents which governments make and keep.”
Then-Opposition leader Gordon Campbell, 1998
Unlike similar inquires in other provinces, the government kept a tight rein on Cochrane’s investigation. Four radiologists – out of 287 licensed in B.C. – were the focus and even then it was limited to part of their diagnostic work.
Fourteen thousand scans were re-read in the investigation.
A similar investigation two-years earlier in Saskatchewan reviewed 70,000 studies of one radiologist going back three years.
It’s that time of year when many of us consider making a few resolutions for self-improvement. In the spirit of the season, it only seems fitting to suggest five resolutions for the province’s MLAs.
’Tis the season of lists and stocking stuffers of economic forecasts.
But instead of soothsaying over what could happen in 2016, a look back at B.C.’s economic performance over the past few years might be more illuminating.
In the U.S., it’s called “dark money,” a way to spend big bucks on politics and remain relatively anonymous.
It doesn’t have the same bad rap in B.C. yet but it’s problematic.
At $34.25 billion in annual trade with Asia-Pacific countries (imports and exports), B.C. has a ways to go to hit the government’s 2009 forecast of $76 billion in trade by 2020.
Thinking out loud here, but maybe fewer photo-ops and more elbow grease should be the order of the day on future trade missions.
It takes place every which way imaginable: fighting between neighbouring councillors, between councillors on the same council, between councillors and staff, between the public and councillors and between the public and staff.
You almost need a scorecard to keep up with who’s bullying whom. And it’s time for a time out. Think adults are too old for time outs? Think again.
This week, the government announced it had hired former privacy commissioner David Loukidelis to conduct a review of deletegate.
It will undoubtedly touch on all the technical aspects to the scandal, but it’s unlikely to address the most important: Liberal Research Director Jen Wizinsky’s admonishment to Tim Duncan, “you do whatever it takes to win.”
That speaks to a culture.
You would think Ben Franklin was working in public procurement when he coined the phrase “take time for all things: great haste makes great waste.” It’s one possible explanation for why the Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 improvement project more than doubled in price from its original estimate of $1.5 billion to $3.2 billion.
Other provinces have their Crown corps and spots on various boards to reward the party faithful, but the B.C. government has taken it to a whole new level. The government makes appointments to the boards of more than 300 public agencies and for a few key ones every single spot on the boards.
Penny Ballem, 65, will receive $556,000 as a parting gift for the hastily arranged exit. Falling on the heels of word that Arvind Gupta will be paid $446,750 after he resigned as University of B.C. president in August, it’s no wonder taxpayers are irate. In just over a month, they’re down $1 million, the same amount the B.C. government has pledged to help Syrian refugees.
Partnerships BC has 42 case studies of projects completed or under construction. Ninety-two unique companies are identified as members of the successful proponent teams in those studies. Forty-one of the 92, have donated a total of $1.32 million to the BC Liberal party, eight have donated $19,650 to the NDP.
Of eighteen projects announced by the B.C. government since 2003 – all with initial cost estimates of more than $150 million – nine hospital projects have already exceeded their original estimates by 12.6 per cent, seven transportation projects are running 59.2 per cent over budget, and the Vancouver Convention Centre and BC Place re-roofing together came in 68.1 per cent over first estimates.
When so many agencies that most see as local or regional are, in fact, controlled by the B.C. government it puts the very idea of local autonomy into doubt.
Last week the Union of B.C. Municipalities released its report on the operations of B.C.’s Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG). It paints a less than flattering picture of the office. No big surprise given that the UBCM was hardly a fan of the auditor general concept in the first place.
It seems in its headlong rush to the altar with any ready and willing LNG proponent, the B.C. government may have skipped over a few best practices, one of them being due diligence.
While the charges themselves are a drop in the bucket of a $44.4 billion budget, sometimes they offer a peak at a ministry’s attitudes or priorities. In 2014-15, there were 102,418 purchasing card transactions totalling $45.1 million, up from $41 million the year before.
It’s time for someone in Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes’s office to answer the phone before things go really south.
Otherwise former Alberta Municipal Affairs minister Doug Griffiths – who once wrote a book entitled “13 ways to kill your community” – will have a few more chapters to add in the next edition.
Simply put: the public doesn’t buy the idea that the government actually wants to get to the bottom of this scandal. It’s likely a bit to do with three of the government’s favourite words when it comes to investigating itself: out of scope.
In 1980, Vancouver had the fourth highest median household income out of Canada’s 27 census metropolitan areas (CMAs). By 2000, Vancouver had fallen to ninth place. And then the bottom fell out. By 2012, Vancouver was 24th out of 28 CMAs. Abbotsford-Mission was dead last with a household income of $66,550.
Tim Duncan claims that when he hesitated to delete a dozen or so emails back in 2014 – and his superior stepped in to do so – he was told “This is Fight Club. And the first rule of Fight Club is we don’t talk about Fight Club.”
It’s the scandal that the B.C. government just can’t shake off. Three years out and the public outrage over the 2012 health ministry firings shows no signs of abating and may be intensifying over recent disclosures that the government misled the public on the RCMP investigation that never was.
Just when you thought that promised prosperity fund was about to be snatched from the jaws of the LNG industry, a new twist or two emerges.
When most people think of a political party, they think of the B.C. Liberals, the NDP, the Greens or the Conservatives. They don’t think of “Unparty: The Consensus-Building Party” which is one of B.C.’s 24 political parties.
The bigger issue isn’t what candidates and parties can spend before the campaign, it’s what they can spend during it. B.C.’s campaign spending limits are so high they’re pretty well meaningless.
In 2008, the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital experienced a deadly outbreak of C. difficile infections. It was an outbreak waiting to happen. All the warning signs were there. Little attention was paid to them or little cash available to address them.
Local elections across B.C. were supposed to be buried and done with last November, but some of the fallout from a few races is still coming home to roost and there’s a few lessons to learn from it. The top ones? Local elections are a perilous time to be a chief administrative officer (CAO), the passing the buck saga continues unabated and whoever knew that basic math could be so difficult.
The 2014 Award for Incredibly Bad Taste in Donations goes to Imperial Metals, owners of the Mount Polley mine. The spill may have been toxic, but Imperial’s cash wasn’t. The mining company donated $7,150 to the Liberals.
The proposal by the four parties isn’t about engaging voters, it’s about tracking voters in an era of data mining. It will make it easier for parties to identify the likelihood of how you voted and whether you’re even worth their campaign efforts in the future. And that’s not good for the political system.
B.C. may very well have some of the lowest personal income tax rates in Canada, but that doesn’t mean the lowest tax bill. So doing that “lowest personal income tax” thing is a cute trick, but at the end of the day it’s a trick. And not a particularly empathetic one.
More than 100 organizations registered with Elections B.C. as third-party sponsors. There were the customary civic-minded groups and others with a bit of self-interest at stake. A few dropped some serious coin.
What’s really killing off the economic hopes of most British Columbians is the incessant nickel-and-diming by a government that lacks the political will to set personal income tax rates at a level where the tax burden is shared fairly among all British Columbians.
Search “open government” in the B.C. Newsroom, the government’s website for news releases, and there’s more than 450 results. More telling? Since July 1, 2013, there’s two.
Issues flagged by the US Office for Human Research Protections at the University of BC and the Interior Health Authority point to serious flaws with Canada’s medical research policies, not the least of which is that there’s little oversight of clinical trials in Canada by Canadian authorities and what little there is, is a closely guarded secret.
With each review, new terms of reference that always seem to be set with just one goal: provide enough information so that if the government is lucky the review will finally put the matter to rest, but never enough information to answer one simple question: why were they fired?
The Yes side may have great intellectual arguments, but the No side has one big emotional one. It’s spelled T-r-a-n-s-L-i-n-k. And at the end of the day it may be the only one that counts.
Something is amiss when the B.C. legislature is one of the provincial legislatures that meets the least and, yet, its three highest paid staff earn more than their counterparts in Ottawa.
In a few days, it’ll be 2015. Can anyone think of a better time for the B.C. Liberal party and the NDP to finally put the 1990s behind them?
You probably don’t get Christmas letters from an entire province, but this year we hope you’ll think of adding B.C. to your magical journey. We know we’re asking a lot of you, but B.C. could really use a Plan B this Christmas.
There’s a lot of room to set limits that are low enough so they have meaning, because this process isn’t just about getting gobs of cash out of elections, it’s about getting good people to step forward as candidates as well. Money must not be the barrier.
Sometimes standing out from the crowd is a good thing, but when you’re the odd man out on so many critical issues to the most fundamental laws of a democracy that’s not such a good thing.
So just to get this straight: candidates are free to phone voters or knock on their door to get them out to vote, but not tweet them or post to their Facebook page. The powers that be do know it’s 2014, don’t they?
Considering that local councils in B.C. spend more than $8 billion a year of our money, it’s a bit of a paradox that most voters – if it’s anything like last time – will find something else to do this Saturday. In 2011, some communities saw turnouts of less than 30 per cent. In Vancouver, 34.6 per cent of voters cast a ballot.
Corporations who have a vested interested in the pharmaceutical listing decisions of the B.C. government donate generously to the party in power, their employees accept voluntary partisan posts in that same party and lobby elected officials from that party, as well as lobbying universities that undertake related research both on their behalf and on behalf of government.
IntegrityBC is calling on the Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits to take a step back, consider the needs and interests of stakeholders, and then reschedule its public hearings and consultations.
Under B.C.’s Crown Counsel Act, special prosecutors can be appointed “when the paramount consideration is the need to maintain public confidence in the administration of criminal justice.” If ever there was a case where public confidence has been eroded, this would be one of them.
The crux of the problem with this trip: just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many industries and too many competing interests can spoil a trade mission.
Batten down the hatches, because this fall it’s not just the threat of extreme weather British Columbians need to worry about, MLAs are returning to Victoria for a rare fall sitting of the legislature as well. And if the spring sitting was any indication, don’t hold your breath hoping for much in the way of ministerial accountability.
2013 must have been a very good year, because Western Forest Products gave $108,000 to the BC Liberals. That’s more than they gave in the six years from 2005 to 2010. And $90,000 of it was donated in May, including $2,000 to Mary Polak’s constituency association mere days before she was sworn in as B.C.’s Environment minister.
Notably, missing from Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser’s entire 40-page opinion is one phrase: “ministerial responsibility.”
There’s one last thing that may contribute to voter malaise: some people like things just the way they are. Don’t expect them to get too worked up about getting more voters out to the polls, because it’s easier to win elections with low turnouts. Don’t let them win this November.
Despite all the LNG hoopla, the single biggest job creation project in B.C. for 2014 may very well be the clean-up at the Mount Polley Mine.
Arguing the case for a shorter approval process, then vice-president, corporate affairs at Imperial Metals Byng Giraud claimed: “Nobody trusts experts anymore from an NGO or from a third party, saying: “You know what? We don’t trust what you’ve done.”
After Mount Polley mark that down as famous last words.
If passenger safety was priority one for the minister in 1991, then why was TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis so stunned to see passengers walking along the tracks last Monday in 2014?
The public gets irate over the small amounts because they can relate to them. But the funny thing is that politicians who get the small things right, generally don’t screw up the bigger ones.
If cabinet ministers had theme songs, Finance minister Mike de Jong’s would likely be Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, because when there’s a misstep in government it’s a safe bet he’ll be troubled by it.
And that’s what makes Ford Nation so extraordinary – the incredible dichotomy that exists when it comes to criticism of most politicians and criticism of Rob Ford. Ford effectively gets what amounts to a jaw-dropping free pass from his base nine times out of ten.
When a search of Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia doesn’t turn up any donations from the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, but a search of Kia turns up a donation from Cigar Connoisseurs it might be time to call tech support.
Last year, 12,281 registered lobbyists roamed the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. – a city that sees itself as the most powerful in the world.
Comparatively, one would imagine that British Columbia might have a few hundred or so at most. Yet, astonishingly, there were 2,717 registered lobbyists working the political backrooms in B.C. – one for every five in D.C.
It’s that time of year again, when local governments across B.C. grit their teeth and post their annual statements of financial information for all and sundry. Depending upon your perspective, they’re either a veritable treasure trove of news stories or a minefield of PR disasters waiting to happen.
It’s where ratepayers will learn that a funding deficit of $1.37 billion emerged in B.C.’s Municipal Pension Plan at the end of 2012.
An estimated 200 B.C. Liberal supporters in Chilliwack chowed down for free last June after Capital Power and Belkorp Environmental Services each made $4,000 donations to the B.C. Liberal party to sponsor the John Les Appreciation Dinner.
Twenty-one individuals paid $5,000 each to attend a private B.C. Liberal party fundraising dinner with Premier Christy Clark, organized last October by former Liberal MLA John Les. Ten of those attendees had their tickets paid for by corporations or organizations
On one hand you can’t fault the B.C. government for trying, but on the other hand their enthusiasm for it – consulting British Columbians on public policy and pending legislation that is – seems a little wanting. Gung-ho it’s not.
Sunlight goes a long way to achieving buy-in and if ratepayers don’t feel part of the process from day one, chances are they’ll fight it every step of the way starting day two.
When conflict of interest legislation is drafted to go out of its way to ensure that it won’t actually find any conflicts of interest, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if it rarely does. And that pretty well sums up the legislative reach of B.C.’s declawed Members’ Conflict of Interest Act.
According to IntegrityBC’s review, 72.3 per cent of the applications to the ALC (from 2006 to 2012) in the Kootenays were approved (some with conditions) and 27.7 per cent were rejected outright.
So what do a Conservative party senator from Ontario, the Toronto Blue Jays, an Ontario public sector union and a part-owner of the Calgary Flames all have in common?
It’s not a stretch to imagine that there was more debate among MLAs on the fallout over Speaker Linda Reid’s $733 muffin and snack rack than there was over the Park Amendment Act.
If the B.C. government won’t do it in time for November’s local election, IntegrityBC is calling on Vancouver’s municipal parties to do it themselves and agree to put an end to the obscene spending and corporate largesse that voters witnessed during the 2011 campaign.
Given that four years of job openings from the one million estimate have now come gone, that demand for workers is going to slow in the remaining years, and that one-third of the openings are likely to be filled by new migrants one can only hope that the leftovers for British Columbians are well-paid, because a survey from the Economist released last week has Vancouver ranked as the 30th most expensive place to live on earth.
By releasing its White Paper stating that the term of office was not going to be extended and then doing exactly that six months later, the government effectively excluded the most important stakeholder of all – the public.
When a government starts believing that the impact of its fiscal policies on a single individual earning $80,000 is appropriate for inclusion in the budget, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ve lost touch with what most people go through at the end of the month just to make ends meet.
Chances are you didn’t meet any of them at this week’s $1,000 a plate B.C. Liberal party fundraising dinner in Victoria, but to turn a bank’s slogan on its head Mr. de Jong: “British Columbians are poorer than you think.” And they’re looking for a fair shake.
Reimagine B.C. is a chance for British Columbians to work online with other residents in developing new policy initiatives for the provincial and local governments to consider.
The four largest cities in Metro Vancouver – Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby and Vancouver – have a combined population of 1.55 million. Put their police forces together and there are 161 police officers for every 100,000 citizens. Toronto has a force that numbers 203 officers for every 100,000 residents and Montreal has 223 officers for every 100,000 residents.
When you compare prices at the supermarket you usually look at comparable products, for instance you don’t compare the price of a head of lettuce with a can of baked beans…But you don’t mix and match to suit your needs, which is precisely what the B.C. government has done in its Discussion Paper on Expense Limits in Local Elections.
On top of continuing to collect his salary as mayor of the Village of Pemberton in 2012 and his salary as MLA, West Vancouver Sea-to-Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy billed the legislature for $15,052 in expenses in a little more than three months.
IntegrityBC is calling on the provincial government to seek a constitutional reference from the B.C. Court of Appeal on its proposed amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act.
One amendment stands out: it would require that the Electoral Boundary Commission safeguard the number of ridings in three regions of the province: the North, Cariboo-Thompson and Columbia-Kootenay. And it’s this one that should alarm British Columbians. All told the three regions account for 17 of the province’s 85 seats and 14 per cent of its registered voters.
It’s that time of year when many of us make resolutions for the new year. Most of them are lofty goals towards self-improvement: quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more often are all among the popular ones. So in the spirit of the season, here are five ideas for B.C.’s politicians to consider as they set their resolutions for 2014.
TransLink – everyone’s favourite whipping boy in the Lower Mainland – is about to be put to the electoral test and it promises not to be pretty.
Bill Bennett, minister responsible for the B.C. government’s ‘core review,’ is trying his darndest lately to reassure British Columbians that the government “has no plans to dismantle” the Agricultural Land Commission and that much of the speculation was simply the result of government “brainstorming.”
B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm’s decision to seek guidance from B.C.’s conflict of interest commissioner over his lobbying of the Agricultural Land Commission is a thinly disguised attempt to buy time, according to IntegrityBC.
Premier Christy Clark has no choice but to ask for and accept B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm’s resignation following a news report that the Minister intervened in a file before the Agricultural Land Commission.
Who knew? Count ‘em all up and B.C. has 1,660 elected officials sitting on 250 local councils and school boards across the province. That works out to one for every 2,000 registered voters.
IntegrityBC has released its submission to the B.C. government on its White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform. The organization made 21 recommendations in its response.
This was an opportunity to fix a broken system, to increase accessibility to public office and to strengthen local democracy. Instead, British Columbians are served up a dose of legislative pablum.
IntegrityBC is calling on the B.C. government to undertake a thorough and comprehensive review of the province’s Crown corporations’ executive compensation policies following repeated reports of excessive pay and bonuses at a number of the corporations.
Whales have shorter gestation periods. For the third time since the Local Government Elections Task Force tabled its report, the B.C. government has been stricken with a case of cold feet.
Already the startling dichotomy between Metro Vancouver’s two approaches – recycling versus burn baby burn – is raising fears that the region could be put in the bizarre position of having to import waste just to feed the insatiable thirst of a second incinerator.
By trying to arm-twist charities to tailor their events to meet the political needs of the B.C. government’s ill-fated multicultural outreach strategy, the government may have easily put the charitable status of those same organizations at risk
But who’s actually keeping an eye on the tab? By spacing announcements over future spending plans local councils, TransLink, Metro Vancouver and the provincial government may be hoping no one is, since the overall sticker shock will be a shock.
While some town councils are finding innovative ways to engage their citizens online, in town halls, and through creative advertising; others are hiding behind closed doors, barring citizens from critical decisions that effect their community’s future.
The investigation by B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham into alleged information sharing between the B.C. government and B.C. Liberal Party falls short and will do little to satisfy public concerns over the ill-fated multicultural outreach strategy, according to IntegrityBC.
IntegrityBC is calling on the provincial government to disclose what pressure Big Pharma may be trying to bring to bear on provincial pharmaceutical policies and if that role also included issues surrounding the future of the Therapeutics Initiative.
IntegrityBC looked at donations from nine pharmaceutical companies and two trade associations in four provinces. Two patterns quickly emerged from the numbers: the companies and associations were not shy at opening up their wallets and their donations were heavily tilted in favour of the party in power.
Executive director Dermod Travis discusses the large payouts and salary hikes in recent local BC News.
A British Columbian earning the minimum wage of $10.25 an hour would have to work an extra 94 hours a week just to gross the increase in salary that Cadario will now take home, without taking into account the rest of her salary.
The real test facing Premier Christy Clark shouldn’t be over how she divvies up the goodies, but instead how she rises above that time-honoured practice to exhibit the political leadership required for the greater good of the province.
The B.C. Liberal party set out to win at all costs and did. They ran the better campaign, got their vote out and won. Fault them for their tactics, but not even the huffing and puffing of political observers over those tactics seems to resonate long with the voters who ultimately decide elections.
Despite two opportunities to speak out on the issue, the B.C. Liberal party is the only major party in the election to remain silent on any possible reforms to make government more accountable to citizens in the province
IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis discusses why every vote matters in the upcoming May 14th election.
IntegrityBC has released the responses it has received to its Election 2013 questionnaire that the organization sent to all 24 B.C. political parties in April.
IntegrityBC will air an ad on CKNW AM 980 Friday morning in advance of the leaders debate between B.C.’s four party leaders.
IntegrityBC will be hosting the Victoria and Vancouver screenings of Webster Award-winning investigative journalist Sean Holman’s “Whipped: the secret world of party discipline” on Friday, April 26th in Victoria and Sunday, April 28th in Vancouver.
In an effort to dispel some of the misinformation that the B.C. Liberal party is spreading over its opposition to banning corporate and union donations to B.C. political parties, IntegrityBC has released a true or false quiz on some of those claims.
If results from an IntegrityBC Facebook poll are any indication, the top issue that British Columbians want to hear discussed at the televised leaders debate is each party’s vision for linking the gap between the environment and the economy, followed by democratic reforms, and public finances.
B.C. Liberals in no position to give other parties lessons on political fundraising. The organization pointed to a recent question posed by Craig McInnes in his Vancouver Sun column. McInnes asked readers if they felt there was a connection between the fact that the largest donor to the B.C. Liberal campaign in 2009 was the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. and that the only significant tax change that survived the transition back to the PST was the 12 per cent sales tax on private vehicle sales.
The phoney campaign has finally given way to the real thing. The writ is dropped, the legislature is dissolved and politicians are out on the hustings. And as voters know well that means big, glitzy promises. But imagine promises that wouldn’t need sod-turnings or ribbon cuttings? Meaningful promises that every party can sign-on to, because they’re about good government, not party ideology.
Criticizing April 14th’s campaign commitment by the B.C. NDP to ban corporate and union donations, Polak claimed that this would lead to public financing of political parties, while ignoring both the fact that B.C. parties are already publicly financed through tax credits to donors and the fact that the per vote allowance is being phased out. B.C. Liberal MLA Mary Polak showed she and her party just don’t get it when it comes to electoral finance reform, according to IntegrityBC.
IntegrityBC has released its Election 2013 questionnaire that the organization is sending to all 24 political parties in the province in advance of the May 14th election.
B.C.’s political parties reported their 2012 fundraising hauls last week, and between them, the B.C. Liberals and NDP brought in more than $17 million. The Liberals alone raised $10.15 million, nearly $4 million dollars more than their Ontario cousins did in 2011. If they serve no other purpose, these annual filings provide a tiny glimpse on the various fundraising approaches of each party. Who you take money froms ays a lot about the kind of party you are and the type of government you might run.
IntegrityBC is issuing a challenge to every party leader in B.C.: attend at least one all-candidates’ meeting in your constituency in advance of the May 14th general election. The organization issued the challenge following Premier Christy Clark’s decision not to attend any all-candidates’ meetings in her riding of Vancouver-Point Grey during the campaign
IntegrityBC has posted a web analysis report on the B.C. government’s Jobs Plan website to its website that it obtained under an Access to Information request.
A majority of British Columbians support a ban on corporate and union donations to B.C. provincial political parties, according to a public opinion survey commissioned by IntegrityBC and conducted by the Mustel Group on their BC Omnibus.
IntegrityBC has written B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham asking that she include the B.C. Jobs Plan ad campaign in the scope of her recently announced investigation into the use of personal email accounts by public servants.
On April 12th, auditor general John Doyle referred to a ‘culture of entitlement’ when it came to spending at the legislature, but Dyble’s report on the B.C. Liberal party’s “Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan” points to something more worrisome: the attitude that laws, standards of conduct and public sector policies may not always apply at the legislature.
IntegrityBC is calling on Speaker Bill Barisoff to revisit a plan disclosed by auditor general John Doyle yesterday whereby Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster’s constituency office budget is repaying $67,000 in renovation costs to the MLA’s Vernon office.
After reviewing the expense claims of Partnerships BC CEO Sarah Clark, IntegrityBC recommends that the B.C. government follow Ontario’s lead and have the expense claims of senior government employees reviewed by an independent office to ensure they meet both the government’s guidelines and the public’s smell test.
IntegrityBC has called for the B.C. Liberal party to repay the B.C. government if the internal investigation into the BC Liberal multicultural strategy concludes there was a misuse of public funds.
Now that the pre-campaign period in BC is underway, IntegrityBC compares campaign spending across provinces and at the federal level.
IntegrityBC has released a letter that it has sent all 24 registered political parties in the province detailing a series of recommendations on electoral reform and government accountability for each party to consider putting forward in their respective platforms for the May 14th general election.
Despite its 29 pages, today’s Speech from the Throne failed to put forward a single initiative towards helping restore the faith of British Columbians in their government.
On one hand – and against all prevailing evidence – the government touts its job creation record as one of the best in Canada and on the other hand the B.C. Jobs Plan program is hosting workshops this coming week on Vancouver Island to assist businesses in hiring foreign workers under the Provincial Nominee Program.
IntegrityBC commends Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson and Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen for their six-point agenda for democratic reform, including changes to B.C.’s electoral finance law and the Election Act.
IntegrityBC is calling on the B.C. Liberal party to return $14,696 in donations it received from two companies connected with an alleged bank fraud scheme in China that involves Prince Rupert’s Skeena Cellulose pulp mill.
If the B.C. government is ever on the hunt for a new slogan perhaps “spending our children’s inheritance” would be fitting. Since 2001, British Columbians have been witness to the sale of key parts of B.C.’s infrastructure, transfers of its wealth to private interests and sweetheart deals for industries that can afford well-connected lobbyists.
Premier Christy Clark is right when she called the process of reappointing auditor-general John Doyle “flawed” and wrong in trying to fix only the auditor-general’s term-of-office without considering the terms of other Legislature Officers as well, according to IntegrityBC.
The B.C. government likes to boast that the province’s personal income tax rates are among the lowest in the land, if not the lowest. On one level they’re right. On another it’s a bit of a pig in a poke, because income taxes are just one part of any government’s revenue mix. Governments can and do cut income tax rates for a variety of political reasons, while simultaneously raising fees on a dizzying array of other services to offset those cuts.
IntegrityBC has reviewed 11 years of financial reports for the B.C. Patriot party and seven years of reports for the B.C. Advocational party. Over the past years, millions of dollars in loans and contributions have been made by one party to the other in a series of what can only be described as unusual financial transactions for two political parties that are suppose to be competing for public support.
If the term ‘fiscal cliff’ became part of the daily lexicon over the holidays, perhaps a new term should come into vogue in B.C. before the May election. Call it the ‘fiscal tsunami’ and it could hit B.C.’s shores sooner than most think. It’s the hangover that comes from creative accounting, financial wizardry and a little reliance on a Magician’s sleight of hand.
IntegrityBC is calling on the B.C. government to amend the applicable legislation to make public Question Periods mandatory at local council and school board meetings governed by a common set of rules.
IntegrityBC is calling for changes to how the appointments and re-appointments of Legislature Officers are handled, in the wake of the B.C. legislature special committee’s decision not to reappoint Auditor General John Doyle.
Secret or in camera meetings are becoming too routine at city halls, school boards and police boards across the province with little if any oversight regarding the justifications for such meetings and no penalties for violating the statues that permit them
IntegrityBC is calling for an independent panel to review and make recommendations on existing MLA benefits which need to be seen in the context of a salary that already places them in the top five percent of B.C. income earners. As such, reforms to the MLA pension plan, living allowances and meal per diems should be among the top New Year’s resolutions B.C. MLAs make this season.
In Alberta the Progressive Conservative party, the Wildrose Alliance Party, Alberta Liberals and the NDP spent $7.5 million on their party operations. n Quebec, the Liberals and Parti Quebecois spent a total of $8.8 million. Not to be outdone by the miserly ways of their provincial counterparts, and with an election still two years away, the B.C. Liberal party spent more than $9 million in 2011.
The response from the chair of the Greater Victoria Public Library to Saturday’s Victoria Times Colonist report over former library CEO Barry Holmes credit charges, shows an alarming disregard for local taxpayers, according to IntegrityBC
IntegrityBC has released Christy’s Christmas Castle, an animated video to drive home an important aspect of the organization’s campaign on electoral finance reform.
A slap on the wrist for legislature staff who developed the B.C. Liberal party’s Can’tAffordDix attack website last year is an insult to British Columbians.
IntegrityBC is calling on the B.C. government to recommit to its 2009 ban on non-essential government advertising in the four months prior to voting day. The organization made the call following growing public concerns over the government’s new TV ads featuring Premier Christy Clark.
If voters were under the impression that it’s only provincially where corporate and union bucks talk tough, think again. In fourteen cities, where the winning candidate ran without benefit of a party machine, total donations averaged out at $40,990. In three other municipalities where mayors were elected or acclaimed on a party slate, and the party filed a global report for all their candidates, total donations averaged out at $977,000.
IntegrityBC today launched “Take back BC,” a campaign focused on ensuring that the 2013 provincial election is the last election in B.C. bought and paid for by special interest money. The organization is calling on every political party to put electoral finance reform into their 2013 election platform and to make it one of the signature pieces of legislation passed if they’re elected to government.
When the B.C. Court of Appeal struck down the government’s not-so-subtle attempt to stifle citizens with its ill-advised “gag” law this month, it was only a partial victory.
The political climate in Lillooet is beginning to resemble a Quentin Tarantino movie and if it continues down the same path it’s not – from a cinematic perspective – going to end much differently than most of his films, according to IntegrityBC.
In May, the government sought the Court’s approval of restrictions on third party advertising in what the government euphemistically calls a “pre-campaign” period. IntegrityBC applauds the B.C. Court of Appeal’s decision in the B.C. government’s constitutional reference over its Election Act amendments regarding third party election advertising.
IntegrityBC is calling on the City of Victoria to withdraw its application for a Section 43 authorization in an effort to limit the number of access-to-information requests made by three individuals working for Victoria’s Focus Magazine.
Over 1,000 delegates from 189 municipalities and districts are gathering this week for the annual conference of the Union of B.C. Municipalities. And for many of them the recent appointment of Bill Bennett as Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development may very well seem like déjà vu.
IntegrityBC writes an open letter to Premier Christy Clark outlining reasons why she should reconsider her decision and recall the fall legislature.
IntegrityBC launched an online petition on Sunday September 16 calling on the B.C. government to reconsider its decision not to recall the legislature next month.
British Columbians paid thousands of dollars for the former head of Elections BC, to take his wife on a business trip to Africa and for him to later stay at an exclusive private club in Washington, D.C. and an Arizona resort.
The B.C. government shouldn’t have needed an audit to know that something was amiss at ICBC, especially when much of the waste was literally staring them in the face if they’d just taken a cursory peek at the insurance company’s annual reports and website
The B.C. government from trying yet again to put a sock in the mouths of community organizations, chambers of commerce, unions and other groups by attempting to impose tough spending restrictions on third parties which – if they get their way – would apply before an election is even officially underway.
It’s time to give B.C.’s Auditor General the necessary financial resources and tools to do the job, according to figures released by IntegrityBC today which compared the budget of B.C.’s Auditor General with that of his counterpart in Alberta.
Earning a paltry $172,200 a year, Lew’s salary pales in comparison to George Duncan, the Chief Administrative Officer of – wait for it – Richmond, B.C., who pocketed a cool $267,613 in 2010/11 for keeping the lights on in that Lower Mainland suburb.