Tuesday, June 21, 2016

First meeting of Electoral Reform Committee

The most interesting and innovative idea to come out of the first meeting of the all-party Special Committee on Electoral Reform, or ERRE, was Nathan Cullen's suggestion, seconded by Elizabeth May, to allow members of the public access to question the expert witnesses before the committee in real time via email or twitter hashtag.

Cullen (paraphrased @mark 18:00) :  As MPs we will have the privilege and advantage of engagement with experts from around the world, and with televised meetings Canadians can be learning right alongside us. It is always possible a Canadian will notice something we have missed or have a completely different insight or perspective on expert testimony that will open up avenues we had not considered before. Their questions can be sent to the impartial clerk of the committee and read out by the Chair in the equivalent of one MPs speaking slot. [That would be about six minutes for Q&A]

May : Seconded. The more Canadians are able to interact with this unprecedented committee and its witnesses, the more interested and informed they will be. Instead of thinking - gee I wish they'd asked *this* question, they can submit it. This will reach tens of thousands more Canadians.

DeCourcey : Open and accessible is good but we're already conducting consults in our ridings. What if the same person sends in questions over and over again? [Note : Clerk could deal with that!] Send motion to subcommittee for study. [DeCourcey warmed to the idea as debate progressed]

Kenney : 
"My primary concern about this motion is that it proposes a fundamental change in the role and nature of parliamentary committee thereby creating a precedent before we've studied the implications of such a precedent. This is a parliamentary committee ... woof woof woof ... We are not here to be conduits for twitter or other platforms of social media in which there is sometimes a robust and vulgar public debate ... woof woof woof... " 
Kenney suggested if Cullen were so keen on this idea, he could give up one of his own allotted speaking slots to questions from the public ; Cullen said he would be willing to do that.

May : This isn't radical, will engage young people and lend to the legitimacy of this process.

Cullen : "This process is not ours - This entire conversation belongs to Canadians."

A majority vote in favour sent Cullen's motion to the untelevised subcommittee for study ... from whence it may or may not return. We'll see. 

Meantime, send @ElizabethMay and @nathancullen kudos for their excellent work here.

Cullen's motion : 
"That the committee alot the equivalent of one MP's speaking spot per meeting to hear questions directly from Canadians at each meeting with witnesses, that the committee receive questions from Canadians via the committee's email address and twitter hashtag #yourvotecanada #yourvotecda, and that questions be reviewed and selected by the clerk of the committee and posed to the witnesses by the Chair."

Monday, June 20, 2016

Site C Dam : Leave the Peace in peace

"All over the world countries are tearing out old mega-dams because they are expensive and destructive. Yet in British Columbia the government is forging ahead with the Site C hydro dam even though there's no immediate need for the power and it means displacing farmers from their land, destroying First Nations territory and flooding agricultural land that could feed an estimated one million people."

"Since 2005, domestic demand for electricity in BC has been essentially flat. I think we're making a very big mistake, a very expensive one." 
~ Harry Swain,  Chair of Joint Review Panel on Site C Dam.

Petition : PM Trudeau: Don't sign construction permits for the Site-C dam  
'Site C is a disastrous plan to build a giant dam in the Peace River Valley of northeastern BC. It’s an $8.8 billion project that will flood 83 km of farmland, drown wildlife habitat, and trample indigenous rights — all to supply electricity for dirty tar sands extraction and fracking. 
The most expensive, unnecessary public project in BC history, the Site C dam could also trigger a massive rate increase on BC hydro bills — between 30 – 40% within three years.
Farmers, environmentalists, First Nations, and the public are united against the project, and want this massive amount of money to go towards sustainable local energy instead. First Nations are fighting a legal battle to defend their Treaty rights to hunt, fish, and trap on the lands Site C will destroy.
Despite the overwhelming opposition, BC Premier Christy Clark is bulldozing through her plans to build Site C – a project that few want and nobody needs.
The federal government is caught in the middle. 
PM Trudeau will have to pick a side within the coming weeks because Premier Clark needs federal permits to ramp up construction on the dam. She wants to build Site C past the point of no return, before the courts rule on the outstanding First Nations legal challenge.[5]
Under increasing pressure from Premier Clark, PM Trudeau could sign federal construction permits at any moment. If we all speak out, they’ll have the support they need to do the right thing: side with First Nations, environmentalists, and farmers and stop construction on Site C until the court has ruled on the legal challenge. 
[Your name here]

Last week in Real Change™

FRIDAY June 17
No need for inquiry into Afghan detainee torture, Liberals say
Federal Liberals who argued for a public inquiry, while in opposition, into the treatment of prisoners during the Afghan war, now say they will not conduct such an investigation.
Assisted Dying Bill C-14 Passes Senate With Liberals' Restrictive Approach
Canadians suffering intolerably from non-terminal medical conditions can no longer seek medical assistance to end their lives, thanks to a restrictive new federal law enacted Friday.


The curious case of MP Ouellette   **
Libs vote down motion to have Finance Committee study feasibility of guaranteed income   

Liberals reject Senate bid to expand eligibility for medically-assisted death


Ottawa owes veterans no ‘duty of care,’ federal lawyers argue in case
The federal Liberal government says it agrees with an argument advanced – and later abandoned – by the former Conservative government that Canada owes no special duty of care to those injured in the line of duty.


Canada now the second biggest arms exporter to Middle East
Canada has soared in global rankings to become the second biggest arms dealer to the Middle East on the strength of its massive sale of combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia

MONDAY June 13

The Liberal government has no plans to decriminalize marijuana before legalizing it, Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould said Monday.

** Terrific piece by Mia Rabson on what I often see in committee - Libs argue passionately in favour of some progressive motion in committee, then unanimously vote it down.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Last Stand for Lelu

The B.C. provincial government is trying to green light the construction of a massive LNG terminal on Lelu Island in the Skeena Estuary – Pacific Northwest LNG, backed by Malaysian energy giant Petronas  –  without the consent of the people who rejected a $1.15 billion dollar deal from Petronas to gain that consent.

The undersigned First Nation leaders and citizens of the Nine Allied Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams hereby declare that Lelu Island, and Flora and Agnew Banks are hereby protected for all time, as a refuge for wild salmon and marine resources, and are to be held in trust for all future generations.
Our ancestral knowledge, supported by modern science, confirms this area is critical to the future abundance of the wild salmon our communities rely on. It is our right and our responsibility as First Nations to protect and defend this place. It is our right to use this area without interference to harvest salmon and marine resources for our sustenance, and commercially in support of our livelihoods.
We hereby extend an invitation to all First Nations, the governments of Canada and British Columbia, and all communities that depend on the health of Lelu Island, Flora and Agnew Banks and the Skeena River estuary, to join us in defending this unique and precious place, and to protect it for all time.
Signed, on this day January 23, 2016, in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pay to Play in BC with Postmedia real estate

In June 2013, the ailing Vancouver Postmedia papers, The Sun and The Province, dumped 100 employees, plus two out of four floors of their downtown Vancouver offices. 
Colliers International, "the biggest player in the domestic commercial real estate industry", subleased the two now empty middle floors.

The previous year, Colliers and Postmedia had launched their joint venture "Property Post", described in their presser as providing :
"up-to-the minute news, commentary, information and videos that are accessible via the Financial Post website and the online business sections of The Vancouver Sun, the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.

Property Post also features content provided by Colliers, including twitter feeds, videos, and industry reports. Property listings will be a key component, allowing Colliers to use the site to market properties on behalf of its clients."
Ok, so it's a publisher-advertiser symbiotic partnership, similar to the one Postmedia proposed to CAPP a year later, providing Postmedia with revenue and Colliers with eyeballs :
"It is absolutely exciting," said Sudeep Balasubramanian, manager of digital sales at The Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers. "What we realize in terms of our digital strategy is that it is no longer just about selling advertising on a website.
Postmedia will support the site with editorial content that will be anchored by the Financial Post, and each of The Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, and Edmonton Journal newsrooms. It will also showcase commentary by Financial Post business columnist Gary Marr, Postmedia reporters, and freelance writers." 
While enthusiastic quotes from Colliers spox are liberally sprinkled throughout both papers, it's not always easy to tell whether it's an embed when they wander into a straight news story. This story from last week, for instance, quoting David Taylor of Colliers International on evictions and demolitions as 106 office towers go up in Burnaby : 
"Burnaby has faced “less public opposition during rezoning” because ...the land is “primarily occupied by older rundown apartments where tenants have, seemingly, less influence with the city than single-family homeowners."
Or this one about money from China being laundered through real estate : 
Chinese police run secret operations in B.C. to hunt allegedly corrupt officials and laundered money
"Kirk Kuester, executive managing director of Colliers International Vancouver, said the pool of money from Mainland China seeking investments in Metro Vancouver is so vast right now that he has to turn away potential clients.
“The money is staggering, quite honestly,” Kuester said. 
Kuester said, for example, that on Wednesday he had two or three potential clients with “half-a-billion” in private funds ready to put to work, but there are simply not big enough deals to satisfy them."
In addition to two middle floors of the former Pacific Press, Colliers International has ten offices in China.

Two years ago the BC Libs sold off 370 acres of Crown land on Burke Mountain at "$43 million less than its market value to allow Christy Clark to balance the budget", according to the NDP and a bureaucrat's leaked memo.
Colliers International won the marketing contract which saw the "fire sale" land bid go to WesBild. 
WesBild director Hassan Khosrowshahi has given $900,000 in donations to the B.C. Liberal Party since 2000, while Colliers International has only enriched the Libs by just over $100,000 in donations over 10 years. 

In BC there are no restrictions on private fundraisers or corporate donations or foreign donors or foreign ownership of farmland.  
Last year the BC Liberals raked in $10 million in donations. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pay to Play in BC with farmland

1. BC has no restrictions on foreign donors to political parties.
2. BC has no restrictions on foreign ownership of farmland.
3. Legislation protecting farmland is a provincial responsibility.

In 1974, BC passed Agricultural Land Reserve legislation to protect farmland but two years ago Christie Clark's government weakened its mandate :

National Farmers Union : 
Losing Our Grip 2015 Update : How Corporate Farmland Buy-up, Rising Farm Debt, and Agribusiness Financing of Inputs Threaten Family Farms

"On May 30 2014, the BC government weakened BC's farmland protection legislation by passing the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act. The new law creates two tiers with reduced protection for 90% of the Agricultural Land Reserve : the Interior (1,528,968 acres), Kootenay (392,557 acres), and the North (2,210,783 acres). These three regions of BC are the most affected by oil, gas, and coal industry development."

Foreign companies buying B.C. farmland to earn carbon credits ...
Last year it came to light that the UK chemical company Reckitt Benckiser bought 10,500 hectares of agricultural land in the ALR in Northern BC and planted it with over 7 million trees to offset the carbon emissions of its manufacturing operations. 

Western Investor May 31 2016 B.C BC's largest land agent really deals in water
From verdant farmland to oceanfront and lakefront escapes, world demand is turning to what the West Coast has in abundance
LandQuest Realty Corp. ... said the biggest international demand is for farmland ...  China-based buyers were the first foreign climate-driven investors to begin buying B.C. farmland, primarily for hay crops. 
“We market British Columbia to the world.”
Despite the growing international interest, Osborne confirms that Canadians still make up about 85 per cent of LandQuest buyers, and this demand ranges from farms and ranches to urban retreats and trophy recreational titles.

BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong said he was not in favour of a tax on foreign investment, fearing it sends the wrong message to the Asia Pacific investors B.C. has been courting for years.

Under public pressure for the inclusion of real estate companies in her recent trade junket to Malaysia and Korea, unregulated foreign investment in urban housing, undisclosed $20K per donor private-access-to-Clark Liberal fundraising events, and her yearly $50K salary top up from the BC Liberal Party, Christie Clark's government began officially tracking foreign ownership of BC farmland for the first time yesterday.

h/t RossK@The Gazetteer for Western Investor link

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Curious Case of Michael Sona

These few lines at Radio Canada and Adam Donaldson's Guelph Politico Blog are the only mentions I have found anywhere that Michael Sona, convicted of aiding and abetting unknown perp(s) in an unsolved crime of unknown proportions, lost his sentence appeal on May 18 and headed back to jail to serve out his nine month sentence.

Sona, with nothing to deal and no electronic or material evidence of his guilt produced at his trial, was such a likely fall guy.  

A couple of weeks before the 2011 election, CPC HQ had sent him out to halt voting at a special election poll at Guelph U that CPC HQ disputed the legality of and his name hit the media bigtime.

Elections Canada's investigation into the robo/live calls misdirecting voters across two thirds of the ridings in the 2011 federal election appeared dead in the water in 2012, but public interest was rekindled when reporters Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor exposed "Pierre Poutine" as the perp and the robocall company RackNine as the source of the calls into Guelph. 

Con Party robocaller Matt Meier of RackNine - you might remember him from the dubious Con Party 2013 Saskatchewan election boundaries robocalls debacle - traced the missing Poutine evidence on the RackNine hard drives and fired it off to EC investigator Al Mathews, along with a heads up to CPC HQ. Months earlier he'd sent another heads up to Andrew Prescott, Sona's Guelph campaign co-worker.

Then out of the blue on Feb 23 2012, Brian Lilley announced on Sun News that 
1) the Cons had identified Sona as a suspect, 
2) Con Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton was on the case, and 
3) Jenni Byrne had given Sun News a statement denying CPC HQ involvement. 

A shocked Sona called everyone he knew at CPC HQ to find out what was going on. According to Sona, CPC lawyer Arthur Hamilton called him back and told him not to worry about anonymous sources. 

Hamilton subsequently delivered a sixpack of Con staffers to Al Mathews and sat in on their interviews on the CPC's behalf as they told their stories of Sona asking how to pull off an anonymous robocall and later bragging of having pulled off the Pierre Poutine robocall scheme, the latter details of which were by then widely available in the media.

Elections Canada dropped their investigation into other suspects and ridings and the RCMP granted immunity from prosecution to the Crown's star witness Andrew Prescott. Prescott's "evolving" testimony at trial - Sona's post-election toast to "Pierre", burner phone packaging in Sona's waste bin, and Sona's euphoric election morning office announcement "it's working, it's working" - the Crown stressed several times, "should be approached with caution". 

The three minute difference between the end of a 4:12am Election Day Pierre Poutine log out at RackNine as Client 93 and a 4:15am Andrew Prescott log in from the same IP address in the Guelph campaign office as Client 45 was never adequately explained at trial. 
However Prescott testified that sometime before 7pm that same day, an hour before polls were to close anyway, Guelph campaign chief Ken Morgan handed him the Pierre Poutine RackNine account log in info and instructed him to put a stop to the "Counter Fake EC" robocall. 

Mr. Morgan later decamped to Kuwait without ever being interviewed by Elections Canada and Mr Prescott destroyed the Guelph campaign computers.

Sona did not testify at his trial, as is his right, after repeatedly maintaining his innocence of the charges against him and therefore his lack of knowledge as to who else might have been involved. His lawyer Norm Boxall was confident they'd won their case according to Sona, given the lack of any material or electronic evidence connecting Sona with either RackNine or Pierre Poutine or a CIMS list of non-supporters. Sona did not have access to CIMS.

On August 14 2014 however, Justice Gary Hearn found that, while apparently not acting alone, Sona authored the initiating email to Racknine and purchased one or more of the various credit cards and the burner phone in order to direct Guelph voters to the wrong polling station on May 2 2011. He believed the testimony from the Conservative staffers and campaign co-workers, or rather, as he stated in his summation, he could not believe the Conservative staffers and co-workers made it all up.

In sentencing Sona in November 2014, Hearn found that despite defence lawyer Norm Boxall's characterization of Sona's actions as possibly a "prank gone terribly wrong", nine months in prison was :
"necessary in order that the public and particularly those involved in political campaigns at any level will appreciate that the courts regard this type of activity as criminal and to be treated seriously."
So off Sona went to jail and was back out on bail pending appeal of his sentence which he has just subsequently lost.

Guelph resident Susan Watson wrote the following day in the Guelph Mercury :
"Sona certainly didn’t access non-supporter lists in Winnipeg South Centre, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Elmwood-Transcona, Nipissing-Temiskaming, Vancouver Island North and Yukon. In a court case involving these six ridings, Justice Richard Mosley found that “misleading calls about the locations of polling stations were made to electors in ridings across the country, including the subject ridings.”
If he knows who it is he is doing time for "aiding and abetting", Sona isn't saying. 

Stripped of their in house authority to prosecute election offences courtesy of Harper's 2006 Federal Accountability Act, and with the no longer independent Commissioner now housed under the Attorney General's roof courtesy of the Fair Elections Act, Elections Canada has quietly rolled over and gone back to sleep. 

The website for Peter Smoczynski's documentary film Election Day in Canada : The Rise of Voter Suppression has two new interesting pieces on Sona :

Sona on his realization he had been pegged as a suspect, and

Stephen Maher's reflections on Sona as a fall guy after his conviction, in the film's trailer

Also see Michael Harris : 'I'm Tired': Michael Sona on robocalls, his suicide attempt -- and the road back

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pay to Play in BC with Spectra

Six years ago the BC government decided not to bother doing its own environmental assessments any more because it was so much more efficient to hand that responsibility over to the industry-captured federal National Energy Board for rubber-stamping. That deal was called the Environmental Assessment Equivalency Agreement.

In January the BC Supreme Court ruled that the BC government did not have the authority to pass off its constitutional obligations onto the NEB and found this agreement "invalid" as it served as an end run around the province having to consult BC First Nations over major pipeline projects on their territories. Score one for Gitga'at First Nation.

Now this equivalency agreement can be cancelled by either the NEB or the BC Environmental Assessment Office at any time with 30 days notice but Christy Clark opted instead for another end run - passing an Order In Council last Thursday exempting five Peace region natural-gas projects from the provincial environmental assessments the Supreme Court says it must now carry out: 
The Spectra South Peace pipeline, Spectra's Dawson gas plant, Spectra's Fort Nelson North plant, Nova Gas Transmission's Groundbirch pipeline, and Nova Gas Transmission's Horn River mainline extension.
As noted by Charlie Smith in the Georgia Straight : Christy Clark cabinet issues order-in-council to get around court ruling on environmental assessments
"Premier Christy Clark's former deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad, is Spectra Energy's manager of technical workforce strategy."
Ms Haakstad was forced to resign her position as Christy's chief of staff in March 2013 over the "Quick Win" ethnic vote election scandal but was back in May stumping for Christy in her bid to win a seat in her home riding of Vancouver-Point Grey - which she lost, making her a Premier without a riding until a safer seat could be found for her. 
Haakstad made the jump to Spectra three months later in August 2013. 

Over at RossK's killer reporting and banjo emporium, some of his commenters wondered if Spectra contributed to the $50,000 top up salary Christy receives from the BC Libs each year.   
Dunno, guys, but Texas-based Spectra has been pretty good to the BC Libs

From the BC gov press release
"EAO has begun a process for the projects which are also impacted by the court decision but have not been approved or constructed. These projects include: 
Approved Projects – not yet constructed
North Montney Mainline Pipeline Project; andEnbridge Northern Gateway Project. 
Projects currently under review

Trans Mountain Expansion Project; andTowerbirch Expansion Project.
Following a process set out by EAO including consultation with Aboriginal groups, ministers will make environmental assessment decisions on these projects according to the act."
Extra homework : Why Do So Many BC Liberal Operatives End Up in Trouble?
Criminal charges, convictions, and more plague the party.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

National Energy Board Ok's Trans Mountain Pipeline

You're shocked, I'm sure.

National Energy Board presser in Calgary today, Robert Steedman :  
"The NEB recommends that the Government of Canada find the Trans Mountain expansion project to be in Canada's public interest. ... The project would not likely cause significant environmental effects."
The Texas-based Kinder Morgan twinned pipeline will run from Alberta to Burnaby and Burrard Inlet BC, increasing tanker traffic by 600%. 

Here is the Kinder Morgan pipeline in the community of Burnaby in 2007, sending geysers of crude 12 meters into the air for half an hour before spilling into Burrard Inlet:

In January the National Energy Board sided with Kinder Morgan in refusing the Province of BC's request for more details on how KM would handle an oil spill, citing "commercial, security, and privacy reasons".  

Former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen referred to the NEB as "industry-captured" and their Trans Mountain hearings as "a fraudulent process" and "a public farce" in his letter of resignation from the hearings. 

Not to worry, said the Federal Liberals on the campaign trail in BC in the October federal election : 
“We are going to redo the National Energy Board process. We’re going to broaden the scope. We’re going to make sure it’s objective, fair and based on science.”
So what did we get? A three-person mini-NEB announced just two days before NEB gave the Trans Mountain its blessing - to listen to us alongside the same old NEB :
“The panel is not going to come back with a formal recommendation about whether the process should go ahead. It’s going to come back and tell the minister that this is what we heard from communities..."
Dear mini-NEB, let me save you the trouble. Here's three just from today :

First Nations vow to kill Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion with lawsuits

Meanwhile, back at mini-NEB base camp :
NattyPost, April 11, 2016 : Trudeau convinced that pipeline strategy must be top priority
"Justin Trudeau has told his senior lieutenants to draw up plans to make the Energy East pipeline and the Trans Mountain expansion in British Columbia a reality.
The prime minister has been convinced by his finance minister, Bill Morneau, and other influential voices around the cabinet table that the pipelines have to be built to achieve the ambitious economic growth targets his government has set."

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