There’s a lot riding on our provincial general election today, and I think more so than ever it’s important that people realize that across Canada, and the rest of the world, we are known as the Wild West of Canadian Politics. There is a level of corruption, and governmental apathy, that has been tolerated for so long that is has turned into something undeniably pestilent. Despite growth on the surface there is a deep rot existing in British Columbia, and if we don’t address it, it will just continue to fester and decay our society from the inside out. We can have all the pretty pictures and promises that we want, but if we don’t actually enact change we will be forced to be left with nothing but pain and suffering, a suffering which could have been solved by a little bit of change and action.
But let’s get to the point. Why is our beautiful province called The Wild West? Maybe it’s because B. C. is one of the only provinces that doesn’t have limits on political donations, regarding who can donate or the amount they can donate. On a federal level our government bars unions, corporations and foreigners from donating to candidates for federal office, and donations by individual citizens are limited to $1,525 a year. But here in BC it’s all free reign, take money from whoever you want.
And boy do they. On top of our Premier’s glorious $195,000 salary, she’s also entitled to another $50,000 stipend, of which $40,000 is contributed by political donations. To top this off, many high ranking politicians and corporate members, looking to gain favors and influence, pay thousands of dollars to have private meet and greets with her. However there’s no conflict of interest here says our Conflict of Interest Minister, Paul Fraser. Of course conveniently, Fraser’s son works for the B. C. Liberal Cabinet as the Minister of Government Communications and Public Engagement, and both Fraser and his son have been active Liberal donors for years.
Now, of course just because there’s money shifting from people to parties doesn’t mean there corruption. People donate to parties all the time, and that doesn’t mean it necessarily equates to a pay for power system. However, that’s exactly what it seems to be… early May CTV investigations found blatant proof of corruption when they discovered that the Liberals receives almost $5 million in donations from people whom they would go on to appoint to boards of power. It’s literally a pay to rule system on a disgusting level. If you track down the numbers and it amounts to $4.78 million from 343 liberal donors, over 12 years, from people who now have power in our governmental system. When asked about their practices Suzanne Anton, the province's Minister of Justice and its Attorney General sent a political doublespeak message about how the province’s standards “Should give the public confidence in the electoral system”
And the levels of corruption don’t end there. Let’s just take a look at our Transportation system… The 11 top companies who gave the most donations to the Liberal party won out on the public infrastructure projects like the rebuilding of the Port Mann and South Fraser Perimeter Road. And it’s not just major projects like that that get affected. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for road improvements awarded in 2014/2015 478 contracts of $10,000 or more, worth a totalling amount of $322.1 million. 52 companies took home 168 of the contracts, totaling $233.8 million — nearly 3/4 of the haul. Those 52 companies predictably have donated $1.2 million to the B.C. Liberal Party since 2005. The 25 largest contracts, which were worth more than $189 million, went to 14 companies. All but one were party donors, and collectively, they’ve donated more than $220,000.
Our communications are also are largely dominated by only a few industries, all being Liberal party donors. One which all known and hate are Telus, the infamous Canadian telecommunications giant. They have been among one of the top Liberal donors in the past decade, giving $565,000 between 2005 and 2016. Their practices have paid well, as they are also a major contractor with the B.C. government with more than $730 million in business.
Among the top 50 donors to the B.C. Liberals, more than half have received supplier payments or transfers from the B.C. government. Top Liberal donors that do business with the government include KPMG, which received supplier payments in the past decade of $25.6 million, Rogers Group ($16.7 million), CN ($13.3 million), Fasken Martineau ($9.7 million), Tolko ($9.7 million), Western Forest ($8.8 million), Canfor ($7.3 million), the Beedie Group ($5.1 million) and West Fraser ($4.5 million).
And it’s not only just moderately controversial projects, that often benefit the economy, that are in question. Major public concerns, things in which our government has made promises on, often will go in radically different directions once donations are taken into account. In January Christy Clark’s government approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline project, after opposing the proposal at hearings last January. Political donation records show that Kinder Morgan, and other oil industry supporters of the project, had donated more than $718,000 Canadian dollars to the BC Liberal party.
Companies have also found ways around directly donating to companies through lobbyist, who act as political agents and donate for them. This can almost always be tracked back, but it creates that extra layer in between the company, the politician, and the money that especially helps in attempting to prove “Conflict of interest” cases. One such example is Hewlett Packard Advanced Solutions who has had $888.6 million in contracts with the province in the past decade while only donating directly to the Liberal party $4,000. However Hewlett Packard have lobbying efforts in Victoria, and several of its lobbyists have contributed more than $125,000 to the Liberals. Sneaky sneaky!
To make things worse the RCMP are investigating the BC Liberals and some lobbyist for breaking one of the few donation laws we do have, because there seems to be a scheme between lobbyist and the party, where the lobbyists illegally pour money into the Liberal party, only to be reimbursed, which more or less results in a tax scheme. The illegal donations could amount to $1.5 million says one watchdog. The premier has promised to an independent commission if she gets re-elected, but her promises mean nothing as her track record shows.
And unless you’re doing your research it can be difficult to to know exactly what people’s track records are. If it wasn’t for investigative journalism a lot of the information I’m talking about wouldn’t be open to the public. And with the continual shrinking presence of media, there is a danger that eventually there may not be people investigating these sort of things. We hear year after year about newspapers being closed our bought out, and about how journalists are finding themselves out of the job. This is not a good sign for critical independent media.
And in BC, we can see a prime example of the cozy financial relationship between the media and government. Corporations which control much of B.C.’s television, newspaper and radio media are also major donors to the BC Liberal Party. Shaw Communications, which controls Global TV, CKNW Radio and other Corus Entertainment media outlets, have given $110,425 to the BC Liberals from 2005 to 2015. The Postmedia Network, which publishes the Vancouver Sun, Province, 24 Hours Vancouver, and other newspapers across Canada, gave $10,000 to the BC Liberals in 2013. Its predecessor CanWest Media gave $50,000 to the BC Liberals in 2005. Glacier Media, publishers of the Victoria Times Colonist, as well as many community newspapers across the province and business publications, donated $100,000 to the BC Liberals in 2009. And the Black Press, which owns more than 80 community newspapers in B.C., gave $8,930 to BC Liberals from 2006 to 2016
And the relationship doesn’t just stop with money. There seems to be an exodus of reporters moving towards higher paying and more stable government jobs. Last year former Global TV news anchor Steve Darling and ex-reporter Jas Johal were announced as candidates for the BC Liberals in this May’s election. Stephen Smart, an ex-CBC, CTV and CKNW journalist whose jobs included a stint as CBC’s legislative bureau chief, was hired as Clark’s press secretary earlier this year. Ex-CKNW Bill Good Show producer Rebecca Scott, who is married to Stephen Smart, went to the premier’s office as deputy press secretary, then to another government communications position in the tourism ministry before taking a job with a government relations and lobbying company. Ben Chin, Clark’s communications director, is also an ex-CBC, CTV and City TV journalist. Former CKNW Radio legislative bureau chief Sean Leslie recently jumped over to a senior communications job at the Ministry of Social Development. Former BC CTV news anchor Pamela Martin went first to Clark’s office as director of engagement and then to the same role in the BC Liberal Party. ex-Canadian Press reporter Scott Sutherland, CKNW’s Graham Curri, Jeff Rudd, formerly with the Times-Colonist, Brennan Clarke of Black Press are all examples of ex-reporters gone to work for government PR divisions. And this trend is only going to continue unless some real funding gets put back into news!
So now we’ve established a case for political corruption, and for the media’s decline which will only make it harder to find out about said corruption, what have some of the repercussions of all of this been? Well, despite being one of the wealthiest provinces in Canada we also have the highest wealth inequality and income gaps. And this has resulted in some disastrous things.
Our children our suffering… We have the second highest child poverty rate (19.8%), and no poverty reduction plan. 50% of children in lone-parent families are living in poverty, with 50% of children who live in poverty being in Metro Vancouver. And despite what people believe the majority having (a) parent(s) that are working. However work, and the work that is available to individuals, is often not enough. Between 2007 and 2014 there was an 18% increase in family expenses, which far outpaced the average 10% increase in family income. More specifically child care costs increased by 35% and rent by 26% in this time, both of which are things single parent households would be hit with costs far worse, which push more and more children into poverty.
And while we’ve mentioned child care, let’s talk about that whole mess. Nearly 360,000 children in BC have mothers who are in the paid workforce, but there are only about 105,000 licensed childcare spaces in this province. That’s leaves around 255,000 children that are in the unregulated sector. And I dunno if you pay attention to the news, or have heard from friends and acquaintances unreported horror stories, but the unregulated daycare industry is not something you wanna just throw your kid into, especially without some serious discovery about who it is that you are entrusting your kid in. However, with the desperate situations that many people get into when they need to find childcare due to work or education opportunities, and the low amount of regulated daycare facilities being available, often there is no other option. In the end by providing affordable daycare we could prevent injuries, which are far to common in the unregulated sector, and even save lives!
Providing affordable daycare is also beneficial from an economic standpoint as well as a moral standpoint. Recent economic analysis found that a $10 a day child care program would boost B.C.’s gross domestic product by $5.8 billion by 2025, with much of that coming from more women joining the workforce and paying taxes. Lynell Anderson, an accountant, co-authored the report with economist Robert Fairholm, a partner at the Toronto-based Centre for Spatial Economics, and they based some of their studies on the $10/day daycare that went into effect in Quebec. They’ve suggested that by 2025, such a program would create 69,000 full time jobs, lifting the province’s employment rate by 2.8 per cent.
But let’s not get sidetracked… This is what we could do. And unfortunately, that’s not something the BC Liberals have even looked at. Actually they’ve been too busy fighting the teacher’s union to prevent our children from having access to decent education, that they haven’t had time to think about ways to truly benefit our kids. No joke. BC has had the second lowest student funding in Canada, with its percentage of funding as a share of the GDP dropping by 25% over the last 15 years. In 2002 the Liberals gutted our school systems by stripping teachers of bargaining rights in the contracts, and forcing them to accept higher class sizes, more special needs students, and restricting the number of specialists they could get. Teachers have spent the last fifteen years underfunded and understaffed. And it was only recently after winning a long drawn out supreme court case that they were granted broader funding for the whole school system, guaranteed bargaining rights, which they used to push for smaller class sizes, and more specialists. And instead of helping our kids in any way shape or form, Christy Clark tried to fight this, and in the process spent $2.8 million in court and advertising fees in the process (taxpayer money of course). In the meantime, over 118 schools are waiting for improvements, and many are in critical disrepair or excessively using portables.
Oh, and their disregard doesn’t just stop there. In 2005, instead of boosting school funding they decided they’d rather decide to create a digital tracking system for kids. Just what we needed right? More stuff for our government overlords to track us with. And it would end up costing $97 million only to end up failing due to glitches, shutdowns, a slow service, with a series of critical independent assessment reviews being the final nail in the coffin. And instead of abandoning the failed concept, in 2011 it was replaced with something that ended up being not much better, to the point where the maker’s had to issue an apology. Of course we didn’t see any money back though.
What’s that much more ironic is despite all these efforts to gather information, they couldn’t even manage to keep the information they had already gathered. In 2016 the education ministry managed to loose a hard drive with three decades of personal info on 3.4 million BC and Yukon students and teachers. Under investigation it was discovered the ministry failed to provide security to prevent unauthorized access, use or disclosure, and the privacy commission found that employees were inadequately trained and poorly led.
Sucks to be a kid in school these days. But you know what sucks even more. Being a kid in full time government care. Last year there were 120 children who died in full time ministry care, which equates to every three days. There were an additional 760 critical injuries reported, being one every two days. Bernard Richard, BC’s Acting Children’s Advocate says his office received reports of 3,048 critical injuries and 885 deaths of children with links to the ministry between 2008 and 2016. 2/3rds of injury cases and 40% of deaths were investigated by the advocate because of unusual circumstances, being inflicted on purpose, or being of the result of mistreatment. A review is underway which is going to advocate for changes in the current child welfare system, however as cases of death and injury climb, the number of youth in care decrease. In 2006 there were 9,097 and in 2016 there were only 7,197.
And it’s not just our younger dependents who are suffering under government “care”. People on disability rate got its first increase in 9 years of $77 per month. Which is ridiculous considering this amounts to about a 2.3% increase in income over a decade, while as mentioned above the cost of living has increased by 18%. And it’s not like people on disability were living in mansions a decade ago, actually living back then was already pretty tough on the minimal amounts provided. Not to mention, the B.C. government while so “graciously” boosting the disability amount, decided to also simultaneously claw back their transit pass program which forces people on disability who regularly use transit to pay $579 more for bus passes a year. Savings gone!
What about our elderly? They probably have it the worst. 90% of senior homes are reporting not meeting basic staffing needs, which equals to 254 out of 280 facilities failing to meet the Ministry of Health’s staffing guideline of 3.36 hours of care per senior every day. This leads to depression, agitation, and infection, with hospitalization rates increasing and mortality being more of a risk, as there are significant detrimental effects on the body that occur if we don’t have the proper level of support in our old age.
And it’s not only our dependents who are suffering under the current government's apathetic economic practices. Our entire economic society is currently falling apart. Since the recession there has been a general trend of there being more lower paying, part time jobs, and less growth in the full time job market (not saying there isn’t growth, just less than the part time work, and it hasn’t even remotely recovered to pre-recession levels). On top of that for every 2 people entering the workforce there is only one new person entering. Increasingly it is boomers who lost their jobs during the recession who are taking any available higher paying jobs which provide consistent hours and benefits. This is coming at the cost of young people getting access to the stable jobs they need to establish themselves in the younger years. Now there are always people saying “but what about all these places looking for jobs”. Well when you look at things, there seem to be several key factors of places that have high job availability.
Places where the pay is low, where they don’t offer benefits, and often don’t even offer full time or consistent hours (which cause some of the issues I’m going to talk about below)
Places that are dangerous or heavily physically gruelling (which many people are not capable of)
Places that require education (which is often expensive and unattainable)
Places that are geographically limiting (which is often not an option)
Tack on some other factors such as currently being in the slowest wage growth since 1997 with only a 0.7 increase, an average of 500,000 Canadians missing work each week due to mental health issues (a disproportionate amount of them being young adults), and wage theft, abusive workplaces, and unpredictable schedules being the most common complaints of B.C. worker’s according to the BC Labour Rights Advocacy Group, we are not looking at a very open or friendly work force.
This is creating a situation where young adults are increasingly stopping even looking for work (statistically speaking the young adult unemployment rate has gone down not because of increased young adult work participation, which as actually gone down, but due to many young adults not even actively looking for work any more due to lack of availability or mental/physical health issues), and the ones that do work are increasingly forced into jobs that take advantage of them, don’t adequately pay them, and who refuse to provide a consistent schedule which is something which would allow these young people to appropriately establish themselves in beginning lives. These frequent toxic situations lead to mental and physical health issues, with depression and anxiety being the #1 ailments reported for millennials. These mental and health issues unchecked lead to unemployment, which isn’t going to help the whole issue of our provinces need for more specialized talented workers. Not to mention, the lack of young adults working, or even being able to find work is also putting a massive strain on the economy as the amount of young Canadians going bankrupt continues to skyrocket. Broke, unemployable, mentally and physically ill young people, and a job market that refuses to adapt is not a boiling pot for success.
And then of course there’s the fact that it’s not like young Canadians have much to work for anyways. The ultimate goal was always to get your own place, so you could have independence. That sort of concept is becoming more and more far fetched. Housing and rental prices have only increased while the availability has dramatically decreased. Single detached home prices have skyrocketed by 40 percent between 2015-2016, and pricing was already pretty unaffordable at the beginning of 2015. While Clark denied any efforts to regulate housing. It wasn’t until less than a year before today’s election that they were basically forced into imposing a 15% foreign buyer’s tax when it was publicly exposed that foreign buyers were artificially inflating housing prices even further. In a market that’s already the most expensive place in the world this is ridiculous! And suspicious sounding. Hmmm, maybe it’s because of the 70 million in corporate donations that the BC Liberal Party receives, with 12 million (the largest percentage) coming from the Housing Market. Surprise surprise…
But maybe you’re not a new house owner, or a young Canadian, or in government care. Maybe you’re just an everyday ordinary working man or women who’s got their house, car, and job security. What you want is a strong economy right. Bring the debt down, get more higher paying jobs in the province. The idea of Christy Clark’s “debt-free B.C.” campaign that she’s been running for the last four years might seem not that bad to you. But, when you look into the real numbers, you find out it’s all a downright lie. During those 4 years she’s added $10.85 billion to the province total debt, and in the six year’s she’s been premier she’s added more debt than the NDP did during their 10 years of power in the 1990’s. In 2001 our provincial debt was at 33.8 billion when the BC Liberals first came into power. It was at $45.2 billion in 2011 when Clark came in power. In the fiscal year that just ended it was 66.7 billion. February's budget projects an increase in debt till until it hits 77.7 billion in 2020. If we go back a bit, between 1991 and 2001 under the NDP the provincial debt rose by 16.5 billion. If we look at the comparison, the we can see which party clearly favors spending. And as we can see from the Liberal track record as we described above, the spending equates to a lot of favoritism to donors, and a big screw you to children and government dependents.
Doesn’t help that when Clark took a stab at the NDP’s track of a modest growth record during their tenure of about 3% increase on average, our current economic growth under B.C. Liberal leadership in 2017 is only predicted to be at 2.3%. It’s like she likes throwing numbers around, but never takes the time to check them. This wouldn’t be the first time either. She also has falsely claimed that the NDP would end up spending an 3 billion on their proposed budget, when both the NDP and CBC reports said it was estimated to be at only 2 billion. Throwing on an extra million maybe, but an extra billion? This lady’s out to lunch!
And it’s not just the numbers of her enemies she can’t seem to get right. In 2012 the B.C. auditor accused the Liberals of using “non-standard accounting” to make their deficit seem 520 million smaller than it was. Around the same time they were caught by the National Post faking positive job performance, when their actual performance was 4th worst in Canada. The Liberals will do or say anything to make it seem like they know how to run the economy, but all they know how to do is keep it afloat. There’s a lot more to running a sustainable economy then short term profits. If you’re plan is to ride on a bubble, you’re playing with some serious danger. But as we all known, whether Christy gets in our out, she gets to leave with a heft pension for the rest of her life. Ever wonder why politicians don’t care past their next election?
And while we’re talking about the Liberal’s tendency for exaggerations and lies about their economic growth, let’s take a little bit of a more recent and pressing example. How about the Liberal’s supposed Liquefied Natural Gas Prosperity Fund which currently sits at $500 million. None of that money has come from Liquefied Natural Gas, all of it has come from taxpayer money. Where specifically? From hiking up our medical service premiums. Medical service premiums I should mention that don’t exist in any other province. Outrageous!?
Our LNG expansions was one of the key points on how the Liberals plan to grow our economy, so how is the Liquefied Natural Gas project going? Right now of the three approved plants (5 of which were proposed) which are to be done by 2020, none have been started, and one (by Shell) has actually been dropped. Not to mention, many of our environmentally concerned residents have strong oppositions to the development of the gas projects in general. The whole liquefied gases project is turning out to be a failure not only on an economic level, but also on a public perception level. Isn’t clean energy the direction that we as a country are supposed to be moving towards?
What’s even scarier though is that the our economy is on far shakier grounds than anyone wants to admit, and there is far more debt then what is currently described on our public budget. Ironically enough clean energy is at the center of our next controversy. Our province actually produces a lot of power. And we do it cleanly through hydro power. We have several massive dams, and in 2014 a joint federal and provincial environmental assessment panel could find no urgent need for additional energy demands, as our power consumption has been flat. However this hasn’t stopped B.C. Hydro from proposing a new dam project called Site C. It’s going to cost approximately $9 billion, and a former BC Hydro CEO has said that it will only lead to higher rates to pay of the costs of construction. And as I mentioned above, our power consumption hasn’t been in demand, so it won’t save us anything in the long run either. Tragically, the BC Utilities Commission have prevented its agencies from reviewing or holding public hearings on Site C, so the chances of any sort of public dialogue on the future for this project is minimal.
And of course, like any good government, the waste goes far deeper… And the fact that it gets tolerated, and defended, makes me sick to my stomach. Here’s some of their more public expenses from the Liberals that might just piss you off:
2.93 million on personal credit cards
Half a million for personal flights, including in companies chartered by Liberal donors
A million for personal photographers
A million donated to Christy Clark’s church
Clark created Auditor for Local Government, but managed to blow through 5.2 million in 2 years while getting almost nothing done, the 10 person office was run by Basia Ruta, who the Liberals paid a private headhunter 57,000 to find, but in the end Basia ended up being fired
A 13 million loss selling a recently renovated ferry to an ex-BC ferry executive
39 million loan to rich developers/Liberal donor for condo development project
40 million to clean up Mount Polley, which was a disaster caused by Imperial Metals who was a Liberal donor
15 million in partisan advertisements just this year alone, which is currently being investigated and a lawsuit pursued by two Vancouver lawyers Paul Doroshenko and David Fai, 514 million on a BC Place on a mishandled upgrade
42 million lost in shady land swapping deal involving public land in Coquitlam and a liberal party donor
Billions in cost overruns for projects typically involving Liberal donors
1.2 billion in underfunded mine’s cleanup liabilities
Hundreds of millions in tax breaks for corporations and the province’s wealthiest
So I’m gonna wrap up this tirade against the Liberals leave you with one thing: if you don’t like corruption, if you love children, and/or if you believe our society should take care of it’s most vulnerable... don’t tolerate the Liberals! Go out and vote, and please vote for change! I implore you. And if for some reason Krusty Clark gets back in, this is the time where we can’t just sit back and accept her rule. We will have change one way, or another.