Thursday, June 30, 2016

2nd Electoral Reform Committee meeting

was held in camera yesterday. 

The entire three hour meeting from 10am til 1pm - with presentations from five in-house analysts and tech experts and questions from MPs - was held in camera.

What happened to last week's decision to televise them? 

Meanwhile ...

Former Ontario Progressive Conservative Party president Richard Ciano and Nick Kouvalis of Campaign Research - pollsters and managers of the Rob Ford and John Tory campaigns, harriers of Liberals

have teamed up with Liberal Toronto Councillor Justin Di Ciano to found a "grass roots advocacy group" Keep Voting Simple . 
Their aim is to fight electoral reform and advocate for a national referendum. 
Funny how those two ideas keep cropping up together.

Canadians wishing to appear before the ERRE committee or submit a brief have until Oct 07 to do so. 
Questions to be submitted a la Cullen's motion for public participation in questioning witnesses can be left at #ERRE#Q. 
A notice with the deets will be put up on the committee site.

Minutes from yesterday's meeting

My notes on first ERRE meeting
Update : 


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lelu Island : LNG Divide and Conquer Politics

A community torn apart by LNG and pipeline politics. 
A mayor who sent a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency confirming opposition to the PacificNorthWest LNG plant on Lelu Island in accordance with a community vote. He then sent another letter eight days later retracting the first letter and replacing it with one of conditional support.
The mayor and his brother are VP and CEO of Eagle Spirit Energy FN pipeline company backed by Aquilini Group, donors of $1.2 million to the BC Liberal Party. 
Aquilini has pledged financing to Eagle Spirit on condition of securing First Nations consent to a pipeline route to nearby Grassy Point, future LNG site.
On June 3 2016 Christy Clark announced an FN vote supporting the LNG project.

Discourse Media : Divide and Conquer June 2016
Last year, members of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation, whose traditional territory includes Lelu Island, overwhelmingly rejected the proposed development on the island — and almost $1.2 billion in promised benefits.

A 2014 report by PNW LNG suggests initial contact with Lax Kw’alaams occurred in December 2012. But at least six months prior, Petronas had already earmarked Lelu Island for its plant and signed a feasibility agreement with the Prince Rupert Port Authority. 
Despite this mounting pressure, elected and hereditary leaders remained relatively united in their opposition to LNG development on Lelu Island — until a new mayor and council were elected in November 2015.
At first, the newly elected leaders maintained the community’s position. Mayor John Helin even submitted a letter to the CEAA reiterating the band’s rejection of the benefit deal on March 7, 2016.
But eight days later, in a move that hereditary leaders call a betrayal, Helin submitted a second letter to the CEAA that contradicted his earlier letter and offered conditional support for a project. The letter was dated March 15, when several elected councillors were away on an annual kelp-gathering trip on Digby Island.
Community members in Lax Kw’alaams were shocked. According to Smith, “the last time we had a band meeting was in a previous administration,” before Helin’s November election.
The Letter:

The Lax Kw’alaams letter of March 15, incorrectly dated 2015, was filed with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency four days after the March 11 deadline for comments on a draft report on the terminal that found the project would increase greenhouse gases significantly and harm porpoise, but not harm salmon.
The letter, signed by elected mayor John Helin, retracts an initial letter to CEAA dated March 7, in which Helin had said the Lax Kw’alaams “continue to oppose the project in its current form,” in particular locating a liquefied natural gas facility on Lelu Island adjacent to Flora Bank over concerns of harm it could cause to fish habitat
The new letter replaces a lengthy series of concerns, questions and recommendations in the first letter with two “legally-binding” provisions that Helin said will be needed to gain support of the Lax Kw’alaams for the project.
The Canadian Environment Assessment Agency also removed the March 7 letter from their documents website.
Mayor John Helin is vice president and his brother Calvin is president of Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings, founded in 2012 to establish a First Nations Energy Corridor across northern British Columbia. 

Macleans : A pipeline of their own May 2014
Luigi Aquilini, the billionaire patriarch of the Aquilini Investment Group ... was in attendance at the launch event in Vancouver, and said his company would arrange funding for the project if Eagle Spirit is able to secure buy-in from First Nations along the route.
The Aquilini Group has donated $1.2 million to the BC Liberals

Canada’s Most Powerful Business People 2016: #39 — Calvin Helin  Nov 2015
Calvin Helin’s Eagle Spirit Energy confirmed that it has something rival oil pipeline projects do not: consent from all the First Nations chiefs along the route of an energy corridor from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. 

Buzzfeed : In Spite Of What B.C.’s Premier Says, There’s No Evidence This First Nation Voted In Favour Of A Major Pipeline June 24 2016
At a June 3 press conference, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said a major hurdle had been cleared for the proposed $36 billion Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas pipeline and plant.
“The Lax Kw’alaams voted massively in favour of supporting LNG, with some conditions,” Clark said.
However, an investigation by Discourse Media, which sent two reporters to Lax Kw’alaams, suggests that no vote in favour of the project ever occurred.

The Tyee, June 24 2016
But it is the federal government that now holds the pen on whether or not to let Petronas, the state-owed Malaysian oil company that is the key investor in PNW LNG, build its project on Lelu Island. If the Discourse Media investigation isn't proof negative of the corrosive, divisive, opaque and utterly bankrupt nature of how resource development gets done in Canada's so-called Reconciliation age, I don't know what else is.
Yet on Monday, when six federal cabinet ministers announced a wholesale review of the rules for approving major resource projects, they stuck to the Trudeau government's line that pipeline proposals already in process when the Liberals were elected will not be sent back to the drawing board, but will be reviewed according to the rules set by the Harper regime. 
This is a confounding decision, because part of the reason Trudeau & Co got elected in the first place is because Harper's major project review process was -- and remains -- rotten to the core.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mark Blyth : Trumpism and Brexit

"The Hamptons is not a defensible position."

I'm trying to imagine a Canadian economist speaking this bluntly about austerity.

Mark Blyth, professor of Political Economy at Brown University, author of "Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea" on Trumpism and Brexit

The above is an excerpt. Full 23 minute interview here.

h/t Antonia Zerbisias.

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

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