History lesson

In-Sights

I’ll soon be publishing my impressions of what is ahead when John Horgan forms Government, supported by 41 NDP MLAs and 3 MLAs from the BC Green Party. I’ve been reading blog commentaries and social media as well as paying attention to the corporate media’s reporting and nonreporting of news.

First, although I’ve been critical in the past of some CKNW efforts, the radio station’s work has been mostly commendable as it reported provincial politics. Jon McComb and his morning crew reminded us of how good newstalk radio can be. Diversity, balance and focused inquiry are hallmarks of McComb’s show.

A favourite blog site for many is RossK’sThe Gazetteer. RossK is a busy medical research scientist who also enriches his life performing music. Perhaps above all, he is a humanist.

Scotty on Denman, an informed and articulate regular on social media sites, left a comment at The Gazetteer…

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Liberals planting financial time bomb for the future

More details on how Libs are hiding debt

In-Sights

I have tracked electricity sales for decades and written much about the subject at In-Sights. My charts report BC Hydro’s sales to these customers:

  • Residential
  • Light industrial and commercial
  • Large industrial.

Those represent every consumer category and I believe power sold by BC Hydro to customers within the province is the only relevant element of demand.

BC Hydro’s primary purpose is meeting needs of British Columbia consumers. Selling surplus power outside the province makes sense if it is profitable. But, it is a costly mistake to create surpluses with high marginal cost power that must be dumped outside provincial borders at a fraction of what BC Hydro paid to acquire it.

An example is shown by the three month statement to December 31, 2016, the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2017. Independent power producers were paid $319 million at a rate of 9.6¢/KWh. Meanwhile, BC Hydro was selling power to large industrial users…

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Why Citizen Juries should decide Canada’s Voting Method and Election Rules

Combine this with my submission and with JOe (QUeens) in panel

Equality by lot


A brief by Simon Threlkeld to Canadian House of Commons Electoral Reform Committee, July 26, 2016, briefly explains why election rules, including those setting out the voting method, should be decided by jury, not by politicians or a referendum, and how such a jury approach to democratically deciding election rules could work.

4. Were there no good democratic alternative to politicians deciding the election rules, then perhaps we would be stuck with that very flawed approach. However, there is an excellent and highly democratic way to decide the rules, namely by using citizen juries, or as they can also be called, minipublics or citizens’ assemblies.

(In his brief to the Committee Dennis Pilon has some interesting things to say about referendums and how electoral reform in Canada has long been blocked by the self-interest of politicians. All of the briefs the Committee has posted so far at their website are…

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Ready for Change

It could be the Republican-style voter suppression tactics, or the muzzling of scientists.  Or the cutting in half of health transfers, with the obvious intent of weakening Medicare by forcing the provinces to raise taxes or privatize health services—after the election. Or the obvious lack of respect for campaign finance legislation, independent officers of parliament, or the Supreme Court of Canada.  Or the ingenious way the prime minister had of appearing to support  Michael Chong’s Reform bill—while strategizing to kill it in the Senate.  Or Bill C-51 (the Anti-Terrorism Act), which drastically expands the definition of ‘security’,  gives the government far too much discretion in its acts of surveillance,  and criminalizes speech that has no direct  connection to violent acts.  Or it could be  the  ways in which the government’s failure to engage with  others on climate change and the ham-fisted approach to building pipelines backfired.  Or so-called omnibus budget implementation bills, so egregiously stuffed with arbitrary measures that they have sparked two  different social protest movements—Idle No More and Evidence for Democracy.

Whatever your reasons for concern, it now appears that prime minister Harper wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted to change Canada beyond recognition.

But has he succeeded?  It may be that he has—but not in the way that he had intended.  Popular support has been building for major change—to the point that political scientist Denis  PIlon has called this the most propitious moment for  major electoral reform (proportional representation) since 1919. An NDP government in Alberta has brought a breath of fresh air to environmental and energy policy by stating bluntly that it recognizes the truth about climate change and the particularly polluting nature of the oil sands. Imagine that, a truth-based policy!  If there is also a change of government at the federal level (Liberal or NDP or minority government), Canada could present a very different face to the world in December, one that is determined to be part of the solution and not just meekly tied to whatever Washington is prevented from doing by its domestic oil lobby.

If there is a change in October, the future path of development for our health care system could also be very different from the one intended by the prime minister.  Conservatives like to argue that it improves accountability to have less money sloshing around in unconditional transfers and forcing provinces to raise their own taxes. But they ignore that you can also achieve a better match between fiscal capacity and spending responsibilities by uploading certain responsibilities to the federal level that fit the federal government’s jurisdiction and competence –such as a greater national role for income support, student grants, and pharmacare.  By resisting Harper’s agenda and finding creative new ways to reform our democratic institutions, our health care systems, and our economic priorities, we may indeed create a new Canada.

Mark Crawford teaches politics at Athabasca University.

Omnibus Bills and Social Protest in Canada

It is remarkable that not one but two great national social protest movements have been sparked by Conservative omnibus “budget implementation” bills that were brought in shortly after the Conservatives gained a majority in Parliament after the last election. That says a lot about the character of this government and Mr. Harper’s leadership style in particular. But it also says a lot of the health of our democracy, and of civil society NGOs in particular.

During the years of Conservative minority government 2006-2011, Political scientists like myself worried publicly about what a government like Harper’s, which had already begun muzzling scientists and indulging in unprecedented back-to-back prorogations of Parliament in order to evade accountability, would be like if it gained a parliamentary majority. It didn’t take long to find out: just as premature prorogation was the weapon of choice in minority government, omnibus budget legislation became a key tool to fast-track Conservative priorities while minimizing accountability.

In the summer of 2012, a young Phd student named Katie Gibbs organized a protest in response to the infamous Budget Bill C-38 that killed funding for numerous federal science positions and research labs coast to coast. It also radically curtailed environmental assessments. You can learn more about the protest at http://www.desmog.ca/print/8240, (and more about the three-part CBC radio documentary  Science Under Siege at http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/science-under-siege-part-1-1.3091552 ).

Just  a few months later, in October 2012, four women in Saskatchewan — Jessica Gordon, Sheelah McLean, Sylvia McAdams and Nina Wilsonfeld— – became concerned about Bill C-45, the Conservative government’s second Omnibus Budget Bill, which had just been introduced in Ottawa.  It included amendments to the Indian Act that would “streamline” the voting and approval procedures associated with land designations; and amend the Navigable Waters Act in a way that affected First Nations interests (See my  January 2013 editorial in the Prince George free Press here: http://www.pgfreepress.com/idle-no-more-spotlights-shortcomings/  ) .
My conclusion to that op-ed article rings just as true two and a half years later:
“It is great that Harper government issued an historic apology to First Nations for the residential schools in 2008. But that does not excuse the cavalier fashion in which native interests have been treated whenever they conflict with the government’s economic priorities. Like the F-35 fiasco, the determination to close the Onsite clinic and build more prisons regardless of either expert or public opinion; the breath-taking “any treaty is a good treaty” rush to sign trade deals, the Prorogation crisis, the unilateral cap on health spending, and the omnibus budgets themselves, the C-45 amendments are an example of Stephen Harper’s general downgrading of democracy and proceduralism in policy-making. I for one find the prime minister’s whole approach to be a step in the wrong direction. The First Nations do not protest too much; the rest of us protest too little.”