BC NDP MLA Jenny Kwan Should Resign Immediately

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With BC NDP MLA Jenny Kwan under fire for spending boatloads of taxpayer money – over $35,000, it seems fitting that the month of March happens to be Fraud Prevention month in British Columbia. Unfortunately for British Columbian taxpayers, fraud wasn’t prevented this month.

MLA Jenny Kwan expenses over 35K

A damning audit revealed this month showed that executives and board members from the Portland Hotel Society, a non-profit organization that runs InSite, a safe injection site, used funds to go on lavish vacations. This will go down as one of the worst examples of waste we have seen in this province’s history.

Amongst those who made expense claims was BC NDP MLA Jenny Kwan whose ex-husband is Dan Small, former PHS executive. Kwan told reporters last week that she is repaying those expenses. But the damage has been done.

My recommendation (and it’s a fair one) to MLA Jenny Kwan: Resign immediately.

MLA Jenny Kwan’s Spending Spree

Kwan mentioned her Disneyland trip and then later revealed the full totals. She said she was assured by Small that he had paid the “family portion” of the trip. It wasn’t – and ended up coming out of taxpayer pockets. Kwan claimed she didn’t know but I have a hard time believing that.

It’s offensive that someone as experienced in the BC political landscape as MLA Jenny Kwan would steep to new lows. But at the same time, level of experience didn’t stop Linda Reid. (More on her in my next post)

The Portland Hotel Society was contracted by the Provincial Government to help those in need in Downtown Vancouver’s East Side. The funds being used are taxpayer dollars that would’ve gone to helping those less fortunate. Instead, they helped elite government officials have a good time in foreign countries.

Here’s what MLA Jenny Kwan spent taxpayer dollars on:

  • $8,323 for a United Kingdom trip
  • $3,175 for a Bristol tirp
  • $5,950 for flight tickets
  • $4,100 for transportation
  • Over $10,000 for a trip to Vienna
  • $2,600 for a trip to Disneyland

Sounds like a great trip!

The Portland Hotel Society Audit Report

The Portland Hotel Society report was another damning piece of evidence of political cronyism. It listed a number of “questionable expenses”. The PHS is an organization that is supposed to support and aid some of Vancouver’s most impoverished citizens. But the depth of waste in all of these ridiculous expenses has British Columbians shaking their heads.

Among the “questionable expenses” identified by the report are:

  • $678.23 for a limousine trip for 11 individuals from Fairmont Pacific Rim to Grouse Mountain and then to a PHS director’s house.
  • $8,657.96 in limousine charges by an executive director in 2013.
  • $8,323.22 on travel to the U.K. to look into heroin prescription programs and for other business purposes, including a hotel room costing £478 ($887) per night and a £35 ($65) charge for flowers.
  • $5,850.20 on travel to Austria to teach harm reduction practices including one night in a luxury king-size room at $549 per night.
  • $3,175.12 on travel to Bristol for business purposes, including one £288 ($535)-per-night room and one £420 ($780)-per-night room, and charges relating to alcohol and spa services and £25 ($46) on flowers.
  • $1,636.51 at a restaurant for a staff appreciation event.
  • $2,694.95 for the Disney Resort Grand Anaheim for two adults and two children, including a room upgraded to accommodate a director in poor health.
  • $5,950 on Transat Holidays. No receipt or documentation was provided for this transaction.
  • $8,900 spent on a minibus and driver in the United Kingdom.
  • $917.83 for a staff baby shower.
  • $1,807.68 for a staff Christmas dinner.
  • $7,024.72 for a celebration of life for a deceased employee.
  • $1,600 in monthly expenses charged to PHS by the executive directors for use of office space within the residence they share. In addition, improvement expenses such as cabinets were also charged to PHS.
  • $5,832 reimbursed for the purchase of a Danube cruise made on what appears to be a personal credit card of a PHS director.

You can access the full report here.

Political Implications Of MLA Jenny Kwan’s Taxpayer-Funded Spending Spree

Various insiders, advisors and communicators close to the BC NDP are coming out on her side. Some, like David Schreck have called for MLA Jenny Kwan’s resignation.

How will the BC NDP be able to talk poverty, ethics and accountability ever again when they’ve got Jenny Kwan running around the world expensing trips? Not only is this ethical malpractice, it’s political malpractice. As I’ll detail in my next piece, this isn’t limited to just those on the BC New Democrat side of the aisle. It also applies to the BC Liberals.

All of this throws an unfair blanket draped across the social and non-profit housing sector and moreso on government projects. Surely not every organization is like this – or are they? Do they all require audits to make sure that funds are being used fairly? BC Conservative Party leadership candidate Rick Peterson has called for a “roving forensic auditor” in order to prevent this from happening again. This would basically be a ‘swat team’ of auditors going through public accounts to ensure that this lavish spending doesn’t occur – and if it does, it’s not charged to the taxpayer’s bill.

Jenny Kwan’s offensive spending habits have caused her to take a leave of absence to deal with the “trauma”. Her constituents in Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant will be without an MLA, without representation. If I had it my way, that would be permanent. She should have been the whistleblower on this nonsensical wasteful spending that has been known to come out of Victoria of late.

MLA Jenny Kwan ought to resign.

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What Frank Underwood Teaches Us About The Crazy Role Of The Party Whip

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Frank Underwood from House of Cards

Source: Flickr

With the second season of “House of Cards” set to return to Netflix on Friday, star Kevin Spacey and his character, Frank Underwood – the Majority Whip in the United States House of Representatives (on the show) – teaches us critical lessons about the realities of our democracy. The political thriller exposes, showcases and even mocks the way Washington-style politics works – and even better, it shows us the frightening role of the party whip.

Now, we can’t take a fictional TV show as gospel. Yet, according to Kevin Spacey, those inside politics tell him that “House of Cards” is as close as to how Washington works as we’ve ever seen before. And with “House of Cards” returning on Friday, it means there are lessons that we can learn.

Frank Underwood’s 3 Keys To Congressional Voting (Spoiler Alert)

In the show, Underwood, fresh off helping Garrett Walker secure the presidency, was promised the role of Secretary of State. That promise is broken and not only does Frank Underwood exact his revenge on the man tapped instead to become Secretary of State, he works around to try and secure a bigger prize – the Vice-Presidency.

On his road to doing this was the creation and vote on the Watershed Bill. It would create thousands of jobs for a number of congressional districts including that of Underwood’s pawn and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Peter Russo. In trying to lock up votes for the bill, Underwood meets with two members of the House who are more ‘liberal’ than most in the Democratic Caucus.

He tells them to:

  1. Vote your conscience.
  2. Vote your district.
  3. Don’t surprise [Frank Underwood]

Underwood then emphasizes the importance of the last one – don’t surprise him. This is the role of the Whip in governments all over the world. Party Whips make sure that members vote the way of the Party and not the first two – which you would think are more important.

The Power Of The Party Whip In British Columbia

Here in British Columbia, we’ve been exposed to it and the results have been well documented – journalist Sean Holman produced a documentary called “Whipped: The Secret World Of Party Discipline” exposing the role of the Party Whip in the B.C. Legislature. Just 0.8% of votes in the B.C. Legislature between 2001 and 2012 went against the party line.

In British Columbian politics, the governing party holds all the power. Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) aren’t allowed to vote their conscience or vote their riding. They vote in line with what their Party Whip tells them because the Party needs every single vote to get their bill passed. If they don’t follow the party line, they won’t get any political favours from the party and are vulnerable to threats from within, as “Whipped” points out. Furthermore, the last time a government bill was defeated in the B.C. Legislature was 1953over 60 years ago.

In “House of Cards”, the two ‘liberal’ dissenting members are told by Frank Underwood’s wife to vote against the bill – in other words, surprising Underwood. This is due to outside pressures to kill the bill and in the end, the bill does not pass. The work of Underwood’s wife undid the work of Underwood and the two members were able to either vote their conscience and/or vote their district.

This wouldn’t happen in the B.C. Legislature. And of course, with just one single House of government in Victoria, there are no real checks and balances on the governing party. They have 4 whole years to run the province – accountability be damned.

If MLAs were able to dissent and break with their party on bills and matters that their ridings might not want, democracy would actually work the way it should. Members would be able to vote their conscience and/or vote their district. Real representation would actually occur.

But Does A Frank Underwood-Type Figure Help Get Legislation Passed?

At the same time, there is the argument that the mere existence of a Frank Underwood or a Frank Underwood-like figure in politics allows decisions to actually happen. The argument is that having people wrangle votes out of other like-minded legislators is how bills pass and how things get done.

The reason this hasn’t broken as a mainstream issue is because people simply don’t know about it. ‘House of Cards’ and Frank Underwood are just samples of evidence of how the Party Whip is adversely affecting democracy and how things get done in legislatures – not just in B.C., but across the country. It’s time to re-think this.

Your Turn

What are your thoughts on the existence of the Party Whip? Are you a fan of “House of Cards”? Are you a fan of Frank Underwood? What have you learned from the show? Leave a comment below.

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Poverty In Richmond, BC – The Problems And How We Can Combat It

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Poverty in Richmond is a problem and it’s been well documented. As the city approaches a municipal election, many ponder whether poverty in Richmond will be an election issue. Many Richmondites were concerned that it should’ve been in the last election back in 2011.

 

How Bad Has It Gotten?

How high is the rate of poverty in Richmond

According to the Richmond School Board, Richmond has the second highest poverty rate (amongst cities) in Canada at 22%. Families are affected and especially children.

 

How Severe Is Poverty In Richmond For Children?

According to a report by Richmond Children First, 1 in 4 Richmond children live in poverty. 2005 census data indicated that roughly the same amount (26%) of children live in poverty.

In terms of demographics, Richmond is culturally diverse. Well over 60% of Richmondites are of a visible minority and 44% are Chinese. This means more foreigners and likely, more people don’t have as strong a command of the English language as those who have had generations living in Canada. The Richmond School Board wants to improve literacy rates as a means for tackling poverty in Richmond. They have a District Literacy Plan available on their website.

I agree that improved literacy rates are great for society as they help improve learning skills and better test scores which can translate to better individual outcomes in higher education and in the job market. However, this has to be supplemented by sufficient increases in funding for skills training. In my view, we can tackle poverty in Richmond by addressing our failing education system and equipping students with skills in need for the future.

 

What Are The Causes?

In my view, there are a number of factors that result in more poverty in Richmond and they more or less have to do with access to education and skills training:

  1. Many immigrants and immigrant families don’t have skills fit for or education recognized in British Columbia. I personally met a middle-aged man who had a wealth of education and some job experience in the Software development industry in India. He immigrated here but employers would not take him on unless he had education from a recognized BC institution. So he worked what he called a “survival job” at a gas station for income to live on. I advised him to check out BCIT as they have a wealth of programs with flexible class times for people with varying schedules. The problem is that many don’t know where to look for this information when they come fresh into a country.
  2. Students aren’t exposed to the options for post-secondary education and skills development. I find many students these days leave high school with an increasingly vague idea of what they actually want to do career-wise. This is completely normal. Students aren’t overly exposed to what the world has to offer – many want to continue with education, others want to work and build an income base while others take the opportunity to travel. All of those options are no better than the other. But many students blindly go to an educational institution without a relative idea of what they want to do. They go through a degree – some switch majors, some complete degrees and switch career paths altogether. The result is a massive pile of student debt which takes years to pay off. These are years of income accumulation that aren’t spent on investing in their own financial future (i.e. mortgage, property, business, etc).
  3. Students simply can’t afford or can’t get into the big universities like the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. I don’t see this as a colossal problem because there are plenty of lower cost alternatives. But students are still hurting. Many are mounting up high debt from having to How do we address poverty in Richmond?move out of Richmond plus tuition and books. The economy is still fragile and has not been creating more jobs than it loses. This means that quality of part-time work available to students while they attend school is not as good. So this first part is a macro problem. Furthermore, there is this idea that going to one of the big universities means your future will be prosperous – it’ll open up more opportunities for you to learn and following your degree, work. I disagree with this notion. Firstly, the alternatives – which entail going to colleges, doing specialty programs, learning trades and doing university transfer degrees – can get students just as far as a 4 year degree at a big university. Secondly, a big university education may not help you develop the skills you need for your career like a smaller program or college might. That really depends on the institution.

 

How Can We Combat Poverty In Richmond?

So how do we address poverty in Richmond? What are the solutions to these problems? Well there are a number of things that can be done at all levels of government. Here’s what I think can and should be done to reduce short and long-term poverty in Richmond:

  • Increase public and private funding for bursaries, grants and scholarships for post-secondary education so that families don’t have to work extra hard to get their child started.
  • Create job opportunities WITHIN secondary schools. Give students the ability to earn income while they study by outsourcing easy jobs like working in the admin office, library, etc. This is where students can gain useful basic skills so they don’t have to waste time learning these elsewhere.
  • Introduce and emphasize post-secondary options much earlier to students. While students are introduced to their options in Grade 10, not much is made of this. The culture of procrastination leaves post-secondary planning until Grade 12. Emphasizing it early would be monumental. Have workshops, field trips to work sites, case study guest speakers and anything else to give students a strong idea of what they can do and how they can impact the world.
  • Give secondary students a taste of the options that are out there for them after graduation. Require every student to be in a work experience program (if the school has such). Currently, these are just electives. I think these should be diversified, intensified and mandated. This would help address one of the causes of poverty
  • If Richmond can lure one of the big universities to open up a campus in the city, that would be a big draw. I think selling this idea to a university would be relatively simple. With an increasingly immigrant student base, out-of-province fees will be paid out. There are plenty of areas to put a small campus (rather than another big condo). The City of Richmond will already be welcoming a Trinity Western University campus to the city centre area. Once the case study on this is good, the next step should be to sell the prospects of this to UBC or SFU. Getting universities to come to Richmond would be effective for a couple reasons: 1) Students would save money from having to move away and 2) It would keep young people in Richmond, something that hasn’t been happening and is a growing epidemic. I’ll detail that in a future blog post.

Education, at all levels, is important. It’s important because we need it to further our understanding of how the world works. It’s also important because it helps people find work…find something they love…find something they care about. In my view, it’s central to addressing the poverty in Richmond issue that I’ve brought up here.

 

Your Turn

How do you think we should address poverty in Richmond? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below and if you liked this post, subscribe to my blog by filling out your email in the field near the top of this page.

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Richmond Jet Fuel Pipeline (Sadly) Approved By BC Government

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Last week, the Richmond jet fuel pipeline plan was given the green light by the province. An environmental assessment certificate was given to the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC) for the project.

The project would have a 13 kilometre pipeline built to connect the south arm of the Fraser River to the airport. In addition, a marine terminal and storage facility would be built on the south arm near Riverport. The move will allow jet fuel tankers to transport fuel across the Fraser River.

Tankers like these will be coming to the Fraser River soon.

Tankers like these will be coming to the Fraser River soon.

Why The Richmond Jet Fuel Pipeline Plan Is Bad

It’s risky for the environment. Jet fuel is an extremely thin substance. It’s also incredibly damaging. Any expert will tell you that it will wipe out any living organism that it touches. So you can see why Richmondites were concerned about this proposal from the beginning. I’ll give you a few case study examples of how something similar to the Richmond jet fuel pipeline plan would be dangerous.

Now, there’s no question that fuel has to be transported to YVR. However, of the 14 options the VAFFC outlined, the one they chose (the one that was approved) was far from the safest option. The route that was chosen for the pipeline would threaten the idea of preserving any kind of an ecosystem. For my money, A Richmond jet fuel pipeline should’ve been in place and is. BUT the Richmond jet fuel pipeline plan that included a storage facility and tanker traffic is dangerous.

Even Environment Canada warned the VAFFC about the Richmond jet fuel pipeline proposal 2 years ago:

“The department does not share the same confidence as the proponent that the spill response plan would effectively and reliably protect the high ecological values and sensitivities of the estuary.”

And then again in 2012.

“Environment Canada agrees that using Panamax class tankers would result in fewer ships (though this could change with predicted increase demand over time); however, the consequences of a catastrophic spill would be much greater.”

Lemon Creek, BC experienced a jet fuel spill of their own earlier this year. 35,000 litres of jet fuel spilled into Lemon Creek. 2,500 people were told to evacuate their homes and 580 people checked into the emergency. A few days later, dead fish surfaced from the jet fuel spill.

A massive 2011 jet fuel fire in Miami has also given deep concern to Richmond residents. Those who support the Richmond jet fuel pipeline plan – essentially just VAFFC and the BC Provincial Government – have brushed off such concerns.

Plus, you know it’s bad when the fire department says it won’t be able to respond to a disaster of the magnitude that would result if a spill were to occur. That’s precisely what the Richmond Fire Department said.

A number of local officials are strongly opposed to the plan, including Mayor Malcolm Brodie, MLA Vicki Huntington and a number of Richmond City Councillors. After all, they should be. It’s part of their duty to protect Richmond as best they can. I’m no environmentalist but when a substance this damaging can affect our city, there shouldn’t be much opposition to a plan that cares little for the environment.

Have your say below? What’s your take on the proposal?

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BC Hydro To Increase Rates, BC Liberals Lie To Taxpayers

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BC Hydro announced earlier this week a new 10 year plan with the Provincial Government. Energy Minister Bill Bennett announced the plan and from the details, we know that Premier Christy Clark is acting on her War on the Middle Class of British Columbia.

BC Hydro Increase Christy Clark

Energy Minister Bill Bennett (left) and Premier Christy Clark (right) join together to increase BC Hydro rates to catastrophic levels. Photo by Jimmy Jeong, The Canadian Press.

What’s In The BC Hydro Deal?

Here are the details of the agreement between BC Hydro and the BC Liberal Government:

  • A near 40% increase over the next decade (a 28% rate increase over 5 years (compounded yearly), 15 % over the next 2 years)
  • Creation of a “regulatory account” to defer $1 Billion in rate hikes to just after the 2017 Provincial Election
  • An independent review of rates after 3rd year of the plan (can’t go past government-imposed caps)

Broken Promises And Lying Liars

The BC Liberals have misled the public on a number of occasions. The BC Hydro fiasco has not been any different. Back in May, Rich Coleman vowed that increases starting in 2014 would amount to around 1.7%. He also said that future increases must be cut by 50%. Both of those promises were broken with the new BC Hydro plan. The BC Liberals said during the May election campaign that everything was fine with BC Hydro, making every promise in the books to just get re-elected. They did. And now ordinary British Columbians will bare the burden of BC Liberal mismanagement.

What Does The BC Hydro Plan Mean For Taxpayers?

The hikes will begin on April 1, 2014 where a 9% increase will take place followed by a 6% hike the next year. The plan will increase the average hydro bill by around $300 per year over the course of 10 years. That’s a substantial increase that lower income families simply cannot afford. It’ll put tremendous pressure on middle income families as well.

Christy Clark has, time and time again said that she wants to help struggling families. Yet, she’s increased every user fee in the book.

Why Have The BC Liberals Antagonized Taxpayers So Much?

While the BC Liberals champion the fact that they haven’t raised taxes, their record on user fees is abysmal. BC Conservative Party leadership candidate Rick Peterson said it best when he referred to user fees as “predatory”. Sure, all products and services cost something. But user fees act as taxes. They come out of your pocket and go to the government coffers. But this all begs the question: Why have the BC Liberals increased user fees so much?

  1. Balance a budget they know they can’t balance. The BC Liberal Government has shown that they are willing to go out of their way to balance the budget, at the expense of all taxpayers. Balancing the budget is fine. But do it the right way – growing the tax base organically. Of course, as we all know, jobs numbers in BC are falling behind the rest of the country.
  2. Support their friends – corporate executives at BC Hydro. The BC Liberals appoint all the executives at the helm of BC Hydro. So of course they want their buddies to do well – and how do they pay for these fat cat bonuses and base salaries? By increasing rates.

This fiasco would be well discussed in Victoria….if the MLA’s of the governing party ever decided to do their jobs and sit in the BC Legislature. The BC Liberals have raised every user fee in the books in order to balance a budget that we all know is not balanced. They continue to antagonize seniors, school children, working families, lower income families, middle income families and anyone else beneath their elitist list of incompetent, corrupt bureaucrats.

Here’s my question to you: Will anyone stand up for the average working British Columbian? Give me your thoughts on these ridiculous rate increases with a comment below. Don’t forget to scroll up to the top and subscribe!

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BC Jobs Plan: 5,300 Jobs Lost in October, Countless Lost Overall

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Last week, a non-surprising breakthrough in Christy Clark’s BC Jobs Plan was made: net jobs in British Columbia went down…again!

Per official Statistics Canada numbers, BC lost 11,000 full-time jobs in October. This was met with an increase in the number of part-time jobs by roughly 5,600. The statistics also show that the unemployment numbers are getting better, by a mere 0.2%, and is now at 6.5% overall. However, the big caveat to that last statistic is that the labour force in BC contracted.

This is another month of full-time jobs lost in BC thanks to the BC Jobs Plan. Let’s go back in time a bit with facts and figures.

Remember These Failed BC Jobs Plan Numbers:

Our province did make good gains in February and March and very minor gains in April and June. But that barely addresses that fact that we have lost far more jobs as a province than we have gained. Even just looking at Quarters 1 and 3 of 2013, BC lost 8,200 and 3,600 net jobs, respectively.BC Jobs Plan

The Beginning Of Failure For The BC Jobs Plan

Let’s go back in history a bit more. Since 2008, jobs numbers are on a steep incline, not in just BC but for the entire country and most of the world. But even when our country was doing well and BC was doing decent – gains primarily in just part-time jobs, BC Business Magazine put out an article back in January of 2012 essentially saying that BC’s jobs numbers were really not great. David Akin gave the BC Jobs Plan a “C-” grade. Don’t forget Laila Yuile’s extraordinary piece on why the BC Liberals have absolutely failed on every level and must go. Even one Langley resident tore the BC Liberals a new one in the Langley Advance.

It’s clear: Christy Clark’s BC Jobs Plan has been an abject failure. We’ve already addressed this in terms of sheer numbers. The numbers are horrendous. Now, let’s talk context.

It’s Gotten Worse?

Jobs numbers under BC Jobs Plan weren’t great when they were supposed to be good back in 2011 and 2012. The Canadian and American economies were rising during their respective recoveries. Jobs numbers in both countries were up and economic growth in terms of GDP trended upward continuously. However, BC remained at the back of the pack among Canadian provinces. It’s been 5 years since the world economic meltdown and BC is STILL losing jobs on a month-to-month basis. The BC Liberals and their BC Jobs Plan can’t even get things right when the rest of the world is doing well and in some places, thriving.

What’s even worse is that the BC Liberal Government won’t even sit in the BC Legislature for a Fall sitting. They know the flak they will receive from the Opposition. Christy Clark is simply running her war on the middle class, creating an environment friendly to Crown Corporation executives and the elites.

The BC Liberals ran an entire election campaign on being strong on jobs. Now, we can see that they have no idea on how to create jobs and opportunities for British Columbians of all ages. The BC Jobs Plan sure hasn’t and I don’t think it will ever succeed.

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BC Liberal Government Wasted $66 Million In Taxpayer Dollars

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News broke and poop hit the fans in Victoria this week. It was reported by the (independent) Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond that the BC Liberal government wasted more than $66 million over the last 12 years.

On what you ask? Meetings and fruitless initiatives to help improve the Aboriginal child welfare system. It’s a novel, worthy cause that the government ought to put money into.

Then Why The Hard Critique Of The BC Liberal Government?

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond BC Liberal Government waste

B.C.’s representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond reports that the BC Liberal Government has wasted $66 million of your money. (Photograph by: LYLE STAFFORD, Victoria Times Colonist)

The term “waste” has been used pretty fruitfully in all news stories on this report. Why? Because not one Aboriginal child has received an increase in services or any useful credit of any kind out of this $66 million. So indeed the BC Liberal Government wasted $66 million on a whole lot of nothing.

According the Turpel-Lafond:

“More than $66 million has been spent without any functional public policy framework, no meaningful financial or performance accountability, and without any actual children receiving additional services because of these expenditures.”

Remember that Turpel-Lafond serves the government in a non-partisan role. She has no opposition or pro-government ties. She was appointed to her position back in 2006 for a 5 year term which was extended. So the credibility on this report is pretty high.

So What DID The BC Liberal Government Spend That Money On?

Turpel-Lafond’s report found that between 2002 and 2009, the BC Liberal Government spent over $34 million on creating Regional Aboriginal Authorities to take over the creation and implementation of these programs and policies. However, that never happened and $34 million of your money went down the drain.
According to Turpel-Lafond, the money went to:

“paying people to meet, hiring consultants to facilitate those meetings, and producing materials of questionable practical value following such meetings that almost never addressed the actual difficulties children and youth were experiencing in their lives.”

Is More Money Being Wasted In This Area?

The report also addressed certain concerns from Turpel-Lafond about an annual spend of $90 million by the government on “Delegated Aboriginal Authorities” which actually deliver services to native children. However, the problem here according to the report is that it’s unclear how this money is being spent and if’ it’s being spent efficiently. It’s clear that transparency or efficient spending aren’t strong suits of the BC Liberals. It’s not exactly a general government strong suit either.

Here’s why this news should anger you:

  • A significant portion of the money you pay every year in taxes is being wasted. There are always reports being done by non-partisan watchdogs chronicling the waste that comes out of Victoria.
  • Your vote ALWAYS matters. Both the BC Liberals and BC NDP are no strangers reckless spending. This means that voting in alternatives to Victoria are extra important. Vote in good people who won’t stand for foolish spending of your tax dollars. We can’t go back in time to re-do elections. The BC Liberal Government is here until 2017 but keep something like this in mind for then when other parties approach you. But don’t be afraid to look for alternatives instead of the same trained seals we see elected to Victoria over and over again.
  • The trust of the people in government is breaking. There is a genuine distrust amongst the average working person in elected lawmakers. That’s how it is everywhere. But that is no reason to stay on the sidelines. Voice your opposition to things that matter to you and I hope government waste is one of them.

 

The news of this report by the Representative on the wasted money that the BC Liberal Government has spent shouldn’t surprise you. Christy Clark and her minions have done this time and time again. It’s up to the rest of us to keep an eye out for this constant waste of your money. Then, exercise your right to vote in the next election.

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Ben Stewart’s Gift From Christy Clark: 150K A Year And A Trip To China

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On Monday, former Westside-Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart was appointed by Christy Clark to the latest government posting (and likely, waste of taxpayer dollars), the Investment and Trade Commissioner to Asia.

Ben Stewart Christy Clark, BC Liberals

Another BC Liberal inside deal and Ben Stewart is in Christy Clark’s back seat once again. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Stanford)

Here’s why this is obviously troubling to British Columbians:

  • Ben Stewart gave up his seat in the legislature in June so Christy Clark would be able to run in a by-election there.
  • The public was virtually assured that this was in good faith and that Stewart would not be receiving anything in return.
  • Christy Clark won the by-election handily.
  • Ben Stewart is now the recipient of a nice, perk-filled job in Asia.

What Does Ben Stewart Get?

A sweet $150,000 per year salary with all the other perks of a high-profile government position. Not only that – he gets a nice trip to Asia and presumably with permanent luxury accommodation all covered by the taxpayer.

Is Ben Stewart Even Qualified For This Role?

Ben Stewart’s foray into politics was marked by his original trade as a winery owner. That’s right – a winery owner. Does being the owner of a winery qualify him to represent the province overseas on investment and trade? I don’t think so. He has no qualifications for the position. A Vancouver Sun editorial from yesterday asked why the BC Liberal government didn’t open up the position to the public to lure qualified candidates to the position?

I’d expect a qualified candidate for this position is someone who:

  1. Has an actual background in investment and trade
  2. Is multi-lingual with a good level of proficiency in Mandarin, Cantonese or Japanese

Ben Stewart has none of those. He isn’t qualified for a position based in that area of the Asian continent that pays $150,000 per year.

BC Politics As Usual For A Former MLA

These sketchy, inside deals seem to be normal in British Columbian politics. Stewart steps down in what seemed like some sort of extremely generous decision out of the goodness of his heart. It makes way for Christy Clark to run in the Westside-Kelowna by-election. Stewart gets later rewarded in an equally generous fashion. But this isn’t the first time this has happened! Rob Shaw posted and tweeted a running list of BC Liberal job appointments since the May 14 election. Ben Stewart becomes the 15th BC Liberal appointment to a high-profile position. You heard it right. That’s 15 in under 6 months. Talk about rewarding your friends to positions they aren’t qualified for. If any business did this, they’d go under…fast.

The underlying question behind this all is whether taxpayers can trust this government anymore? Christy Clark is willing to put her friends first and qualified candidates not even second – they’re not even being considered! If the BC Liberals were really committed to deep trade and investment roots in Asia, they wouldn’t have made this appointment and they definitely wouldn’t have made Teresa Wat, the rookie MLA from Richmond-Centre, as Minister of International Trade. Remember her? A few months ago, I compared Teresa Wat to Sarah Palin. Yikes!

It’s that level of unqualified candidates that the BC Liberals seem to be going for – whether it’s Teresa Wat or Ben Stewart – it’s bad news for you and I. They want to put their political friends first and British Columbians a distant second. It’s all part of Christy Clark’s War on the Middle Class of BC. And for all that, I fear for the next 3 1/2 years. You should too.

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George Massey Tunnel Disaster: Richmond Gets Hurt By BC Liberals Again

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The George Massey Tunnel will be the latest victim of BC Liberal policy.

First, it was taxpayers who were victims when the BC Liberals decided to put their insiders first by increasing government salaries right after the May election. Then, the BC Liberals victimized seniors by installing a wheelchair tax. The hurt shifted back to all taxpayers when the BC Liberals announced increases in BC Hydro rates. It just gets worse and worse. And now, the Fraser River and everyone who crosses it will get hit hard…not to mention every other taxpayer. Premier Christy Clark has done a number on the taxpayers and now, it’s time for the Tunnel to go.

Goodbye, George Massey Tunnel

George Massey Tunnel replacement

The George Massey Tunnel will be replaced by a bridge by 2017.(Photo: B&T – www.b-t.com)

The George Massey Tunnel will be replaced with a 10-lane bridge that connects Richmond to Delta. Everyday users of the Tunnel, like me, welcome a new solution. BUT, why replace and not just add?

Let’s look at some facts:

  • The George Massey Tunnel had seismic upgrades done before. Obviously, those upgrades won’t stop the Tunnel from collapse in the event of an earthquake. But, money was invested in it and there are plenty of years left in it’s tank
  • The BC Liberals have long been waiting for an opportunity to gut the Tunnel so that they could clear the Fraser River for tankers to dangerously transport valuable resources
  • The geographic layout of the plan will hurt local farms in the area. Richmond thrives on being able to grow, export and sell produce of all varieties.

What Every Citizen Of Richmond, BC Should Be Concerned About

If you live in Richmond, BC or even south of the Fraser in Delta or Ladner, here’s what should concern you about this:

  1. Tankers. A bridge opens up the possibility of tankers on the Fraser River – which could be catastrophic to an already fragile ecosystem
  2. Tolls. Christy Clark hasn’t ruled out a bridge toll on the George Massey Tunnel replacement. Would we really be surprised if she made it a toll bridge? No. Would it be destructive? Yes.
  3. High Costs. The new Port Mann Bridge cost around $3.5 Billion to construct. I would expect the George Massey Tunnel replacement to be over $2 Billion. There’s no question that this will be passed onto the taxpayer in the form of tolls or something else the BC Liberals love – new taxes and fees.

My Solution To The George Massey Tunnel Issue

Others have suggested this so what I am about to propose isn’t very radical. I would keep the George Massey Tunnel and build an additional bridge as the BC Government proposes to do. The additional costs of keeping the Tunnel will be slim to none. I would be as cost-effective as can possibly be with the new bridge and would rule out any tolls to be installed. The bridge can be an extension of Boundary Road in Burnaby across Richmond and into Delta. Or it could simply be a bridge on top of or near the Tunnel.

Removing the Tunnel is simply the wrong move. It has plenty of years of life left and we’ve pumped too much money into it already to just take it down. Taxpayers will resoundingly reject a toll bridge. As a proud Richmondite, I know the people here will not accept more money out of our pockets to help cushion BC Liberal coffers. Mention the words “toll bridge” and taxpayers will go ballistic. It’s something that George Massey himself would’ve been ashamed of.

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MLA John Yap Should Step Aside During Quick Wins Investigation

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Columnist Bill Tieleman’s piece on MLA John Yap that was published in Vancouver’s 24 Hours as well as on The Tyee website could not have been any more spot-on. Yap’s breach of conduct and betrayal of the voters of Richmond is moral grounds enough for him to not be serving in a secretary position. But what about the fact that the RCMP is now investigating the scandal he was involved in?

The John Yap Run-Down

Here’s what you need to know about Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap:

  • He crossed the line between government and partisan politics on taxpayer resources with the BC Liberal Ethnic Outreach Plan
  • The Plan he was involved in was blatantly racist. If you need a specific plan to target ethnic minorities, then it proves that your plans and policies don’t work for everyone.
  • Deputy minister John Dyble concluded in a report that he had crossed the line and “breached the Standard of Conduct”
  • He resigned from his ministerial post, but not as MLA
  • He admitted that his ex-staffers had used private emails to avoid FOI requests – a clear government violation

RCMP Investigating The BC Liberal Scandal

The RCMP is now investigating the ethnic voting scandal. NDP leader Adrian Dix forwarded new information in a letter to the RCMP which got the investigation going. This information has yet to reach the public but clearly, if it was enough to trigger an investigation, it means severe wrongdoing was done.

MLA John Yap, BC Liberals, Ethnic Voting Scandal

John Yap resigned as multicultural minister, but was re-elected as an MLA in May. Photograph by: LYLE STAFFORD, Times Colonist

What Is John Yap Doing Now?

Yap is currently serving as the Parliamentary Secretary on Liquor Reform and has fostered plenty of debate online on how the province will reform liquor laws. However, is it ethical or just for him to be serving in a public position while his unethical conduct as a Minister is being investigated? My answer is no. There’s nothing ethical about that. He has already betrayed the trust of the people. There is no doubt in my mind that had more information come out about the scandal before the May election, John Yap would not be an MLA right now.

There is no question that John Yap should step aside while the investigation takes place. This is a serious matter and breach of conduct. While I would normally say that he should step down completely from his post and as an MLA, that should’ve happened a long time ago. Nevertheless, as more information rolls in about this BC Liberal scandal, I’m quite sure that such an action could be waiting to happen.

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