By Keven Drews, The Canadian Press - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – A business group in British Columbia says the labour movement is preparing…
VANCOUVER – A business group in British Columbia says the labour movement is preparing its members for an NDP government that will change the law to make it far easier for workers to organize into unions.
The NDP’s current election platform states the party will form a special panel, under the Labour Relations Code, that will recommend changes to allow workers to “freely exercise” their rights join unions.
The platform says the panel will consult “interested parties” and recommend possible changes to the certification process, including what’s known as the “card check model.”
By The Canadian Press - Monday, April 22, 2013 at 10:14 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s political leaders made Earth Day the backdrop to their campaigning…
VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s political leaders made Earth Day the backdrop to their campaigning Monday, using environmentally-themed events that said as much about their approaches as the substance of their announcements.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix was in Environment Minister Terry Lake’s Kamloops riding to broadly imply a government led by him would likely put a stop to the proposed twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline through Burnaby, B.C., to the Burrard Inlet off Vancouver.
Dix said he would await the results of the necessary reviews held into the project that would triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline, but he added: “We do not expect Vancouver to become a major oil export port as appears to be suggested in what Kinder Morgan is proposing.”
In the past, Dix has taken a similar stance on the development of the Northern Gateway pipeline, saying an NDP government would opt out of a joint federal review already underway for more than a year and conduct its own environmental probe. Dix has also said in the past he is opposed to the project.
Liberal Leader Christy Clark took her campaign to two Vancouver-based environmental tech companies to talk about jobs the green economy can provide.
Solegear Bioplastics makes plastics from plants instead of oil. The company says in its promotional material that its products, which can be used in everything from packaging to office furniture and toys, are compostable and non-toxic.
The second company, Saltworks Technologies Inc., has developed desalination technologies that have been used by customers as diverse as NASA and the Alberta oil patch.
“Clean tech is creating the jobs of tomorrow,” Clark said after touring Saltworks, which employs 40 people and last year, was named to the Global Cleantech 100, a list produced by a global research and advisory firm.
“The NDP would stifle this kind of innovation. We know they don’t understand the economy, and we know that they would move backward on the environment, too. They have opposed policy after policy that we have brought in to protect B.C.’s environment and spur innovation.”
In a rare glimmer of agreement, both leaders expressed doubts about the Pacific Carbon Trust, the agency that was created with the goal of turning B.C. into one of the world’s leading carbon-neutral economies.
Critics, including the B.C. auditor general’s office, say the agency is almost 99 per cent taxpayer funded — $14 million — and forces schools, hospitals and other public entities to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on carbon credits, while private businesses sell their credits for cash.
Dix said Monday he would eliminate the carbon trust. He said public institutions have paid millions of dollars into the program, while private companies get money in turn for simply listing an inventory of uncut forests or unused gas projects.
“The government’s view on carbon-neutral government is to take money from cash-starved hospitals and give it to big polluters,” Dix said. “We think that money should be kept to support public institutions.”
He said an NDP government would have public institutions pay to offset their carbon emissions, but the money would be used to fund green projects.
The NDP also proposes to take $30 million in accrued earnings in the current Pacific Carbon Trust account and use the money for energy efficiency projects in the public sector.
Clark agreed the Pacific Carbon Trust hasn’t worked the way it was supposed to and said if she wins the election, her government would review the program.
“It hasn’t worked that well,” she said.
But she said the NDP has repeatedly opposed efforts by the Liberals to confront environmental problems.
Dix said Monday, though, that a government led by him would seek to meet the Liberals’ legislated greenhouse gas emissions targets. The Liberals under former premier Gordon Campbell pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2020.
In a news conference near the banks of the North Thompson River in Kamloops, Dix said an NDP government would invest $120 million over the next three years to fight climate change in urban and rural communities.
Much of that money would come from the NDP’s earlier announcement to shift revenues from the carbon tax, which currently go to tax cuts, to transit projects and green initiatives.
For their part, B.C. Conservatives issued a news release saying any talk of ending the Pacific Carbon Trust is thievery from their own long-held position.
“I’m pleased that Adrian Dix and the NDP continue to steal our policies,” leader John Cummins said in a news release.
But he slammed Dix’s commitment to expanding the carbon tax, saying the Conservatives would end that too.
The Ancient Forest Alliance, too, used Earth Day to take aim at the NDP’s environmental stance on forestry, which was outlined last week.
Ken Wu, the group’s executive director, said it’s hard to tell what Dix’s announcement last week on protecting old-growth means.
“The NDP’s environment platform is like a blurry moving sasquatch video in regards to potential old-growth forest protections and park creation — you can’t discern if it’s real and significant, or if it’s just Dix in a fake gorilla costume running to get attention,” said Wu.
“We need the NDP to commit to a science-based plan to fully protect BC’s endangered old-growth forests on Crown lands, to ensure sustainable second-growth forestry, and to commit to a B.C. park acquisition fund to purchase and protect endangered ecosystems on private lands.”
Earlier in the day, Clark appeared on a Vancouver talk show and sparred with the host about her government’s latest budget.
The Liberal party has staked its political fortunes on a balanced budget by the end of this fiscal year, but the NDP claimed the budget is actually at least $800 million in deficit. The NDP has said it would not balance B.C.’s books until the end of their four-year mandate if they were to be elected.
“Whether or not the budget is balanced isn’t based on what people believe or what municipal managers believe,” the premier said. “Go ask Moody’s. … they said it was balanced. These are the world’s experts. Dominion Bond Rating said the budget was balanced, again, the world experts in this.”
A few hours later, Clark dialed back her claim.
“What they say is we have a superior record of fiscal management and they say that our revenue targets are absolutely on,” Clark said. “In contrast, the NDP say our budget isn’t balanced because they say our revenue targets are all out, well, the NDP isn’t telling the truth about that.”
In a report issued April 12, Standard & Poor’s affirmed the province’s AAA rating but did not proclaim the budget balanced.
Company analyst Paul Judson said the incumbent Liberal government introduced a budget with a plan to bring the province’s operating budget “back into balance” in fiscal 2014.
Rating agencies are “agnostic,” he said.
But Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for the Central 1 Credit Union, said while the reports are not an endorsement of any political party or government, they could be considered a warning about economic direction.
“Perhaps its just a cautionary note, if you will,” Pastrick said.
In its March 26 report, Toronto-based Dominion Bond Rating Service confirmed the province’s high rating on long- and short-term debt, but also noted that the budget measures may not be implemented before the May 14 vote.
“Nevertheless, the fiscal progress made to date and a relatively low debt burden in relation to peers provide British Columbia with sufficient flexibility within its current ratings, be it to withstand further economic malaise or a potential relaxation in fiscal discipline,” said the report by Travis Shaw, vice-president of public finance.
Moody’s Investors Service affirmed an AAA rating in its April 4 report, citing the province’s “strong fiscal flexibility and track record of prudent fiscal management.”
Neither Moody’s nor DBRS declared B.C.’s latest budget to be balanced.
By Ken MacQueen - Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 9:21 PM - 0 Comments
B.C. cabinet insists it’s business as usual in wake of ‘ethnic vote’ memo. Not so fast, says our B.C. correspondent
It was all sunshine, rainbows and unity as British Columbia’s 18 cabinet members met in Vancouver Sunday in a show of support for embattled Premier Christy Clark. Deputy Premier Rich Coleman said there was “absolute unity” among the cabinet and the B.C. Liberal MLAs he’s spoken to. “There isn’t the angst that you guys think there is,” he told reporters gathered outside the Vancouver government offices.
It was Clark’s first sit-down with her inner circle since Wednesday, the day the opposition New Democrats released a leaked draft copy of a 17-page Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan, a highly detailed strategy to woo ethnic votes that was circulated to senior party insiders, many paid by the public purse. Among the plans, which included a full-court press to have Liberal politicians at key multicultural events, was a strategy to issue a series of government apologies to correct such “historical wrongs” as the Chinese head tax and the refusal to allow a shipload of Sikhs to disembark when their charted ship, the Komagata Maru, arrived in Vancouver in 1914.
Such apologies offered “quick wins” for the Liberals the document said. The memo was circulated Jan. 10, 2012 by Kim Haakstad, a Clark confidante and then the premier’s deputy chief of staff.
Instead of a win, the cynicism implicit in the planned apologies and the mixing of partisan politics and government policy has devastated Clark’s leadership and the Liberal’s already faint hopes of catching the opposition New Democrats under leader Adrian Dix, who have long held a consistent and substantial lead in the polls.
Clark, who was away from Victoria for a series of campaign events and speaking engagements when the news broke, drafted an apology that was left to Coleman to read in a hostile legislature. Clark called the strategy “absolutely inappropriate.”
Late Friday, Clark said in a vague and terse statement that Haakstad had resigned without severance “after much consideration of her roles and responsibilities.” That resignation, and an investigation by four senior public servants that Clark initiated to determine if public funds had been misappropriated, have done little to quell the outrage within her party.
The real test of Clark’s leadership may come Monday when she meets with the B.C. Liberal caucus in Victoria. She’s expected to have a rougher ride from MLAs who are feeling the heat from constituents and their riding associations, though the prospect of the Ides of March coming early to depose her leadership would be a huge risk just two months before the May 14 provincial election.
Two outgoing Liberal MLAs, Kash Heed and Dave Hayer, both Indo-Canadians, called the plan insulting and demanded those responsible be held accountable. An outraged James Plett resigned as vice-president of the Surrey-Tynehead riding association, one of many in the area with a substantial Indo-Canadian membership. Plett also quit the party, writing in an angry statement that he was “horribly embarrassed” for his association with the Liberals. “What makes it so repugnant is that the government misused taxpayer dollars to put together a document explaining how the government could misuse taxpayer dollars further and to offer apologies for absolutely horrible things—all for a bump in the polls.” Meanwhile, 89 party members, most of Indo- and South Asian descent, called for Clark to resign after the group held a breakfast meeting in Surrey Sunday. They said Clark made “the ethnic vote a joke” in B.C. Coleman, however, said the calls for her resignation were overblown “nonsense. As far as I’m concerned, we will got into the next election with Christy, and we will beat the NDP.”
To hear cabinet members tell it, the extraordinary cabinet meeting Sunday was merely business as usual. While it was an unscheduled meeting it was not an emergency meeting they all insisted. In fact, when you get down to it, it wasn’t even an unscheduled meeting, said Transportation Minister Mary Polak. “From time to time, cabinet does get together outside of its regular schedule. What does unscheduled mean?” she asked. “As soon as you schedule it, it’s scheduled.”
So, nothing to look at here, folks. Move along. It’s not that simple, however. The party has clearly sprung a leak as often happens to fretful insiders in times of unscheduled, scheduled non-emergencies. On Sunday, the Province newspaper obtained a four-page spread sheet Multicultural Outreach—Coordinated Effort Meeting that placed Haakstad, other members of the premier’s office and senior members of the caucus in a planning meeting for the ethnic vote strategy.
Clark’s future may well hang on the results of the investigation into the strategy and on the party’s ability to stem the damaging series of leaks. Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond said the resignation of Haakstad was a first step. The apology and the launching of an investigation into the multicultural strategy were a vital start to putting the issue behind them. “From our perspective there needed to be action, and it needed to be taken quickly,” she said.
Clark, who was sworn in as premier two years ago on March 14, 2011, has been running from behind from the start. She replaced Gordon Campbell, who beat a hasty retreat after sinking the party’s popularity by imposing a 12-per-cent Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on the province without any public notice or consultation. After the public rejected the tax in a referendum, Clark was forced to oversee a return to the previous provincial and federal goods and services tax. The combined PST and GST returns this April 1, reopening old wounds.
Just one caucus member had backed Clark’s leadership bid. But many of her former rivals and potential leadership candidates have left politics or signalled they aren’t running in the next election. Nor is there much appetite to take on the leadership now, when the polls indicate the party is doomed to opposition status unless there is a miraculous turn around in its fortunes.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 9:23 PM - 0 Comments
VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark says her Liberal government’s plans to embrace the trillion-dollar…
VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark says her Liberal government’s plans to embrace the trillion-dollar potential of exporting liquefied natural gas to Asia means making decisions today that won’t pay off for many years.
The government’s throne speech delivered Tuesday announced a new B.C. Prosperity Fund that could accumulate between $100 billion and $260 billion in revenues from LNG royalties and business taxes, enough to wipe out the province’s current debt of $56 billion and eliminate the need for a provincial sales tax.
Opposition New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix charged Clark is asking British Columbians to trust a government that is making plans 30 years ahead when it hasn’t shown much skill in forecasting six months into the future.
B.C. Conservative Party Leader John Cummins was even more blunt, saying the plan appears to be based almost entirely on winning a lottery-like windfall from liquefied natural gas or LNG.
Clark’s throne speech highlighted both her government’s political agenda for the coming year and its plans for the May 14 provincial election campaign. The speech focused on proposed LNG developments in northern British Columbia and what she called a generational opportunity.
Clark deflected concerns that her government was focusing too much of its economic energies towards LNG projects that at the moment are more blueprints than reality.
The first LNG facility is projected to be in operation in two years and most of the others are seven years away.
“We did not win the Olympics in 2010,” she said at a news conference following the release of the throne speech. “We won it seven years before that.”
Clark’s throne speech said LNG export possibilities represent a possible $1 trillion boost to B.C.’s gross domestic product over the next 30 years, and a portion of that would go into the new B.C. Prosperity Fund.
“Future revenues will be designated to this fund, ensuring British Columbia families can benefit from the prosperity created by natural gas in our province,” said Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, who read the throne speech.
Dix said the government’s track record on forecasting natural gas revenues in its regular financial updates has been off the mark, leading him to have doubts about projections that look ahead years.
“They were dramatically wrong over six months in terms of natural gas revenues,” he said. “A government that has over time … been completely wrong and completely out of step on its estimates, one has to take its estimates with a grain of salt.”
Clark would not elaborate on her government’s plans to build the Prosperity Fund through a new LNG tax to generate revenues. She said sensitive negotiations are underway with the LNG companies and the timing isn’t right to discuss the tax issue.
The throne speech emphasized that the prosperity fund can’t be used as type of slush fund.
“Your government is resolute that the Prosperity Fund cannot become a back stop or excuse for poor fiscal management of government,” said Guichon.
The main focus of the Prosperity Fund will be to cut the provincial debt, which costs the province $2.4 billion annually in debt-servicing costs, she said.
“Whether it’s eliminating the provincial sales tax, or making long-term investments in areas like education or vital infrastructure that strengthen communities — these are the kinds of opportunities the B.C. Prosperity Fund can provide,” Guichon said.
Recent estimates of the impact of LNG development in B.C.’s north includes the creation of 39,000 jobs over the nine-year construction period and 75,000 new full-time jobs if the five facilities reach full production.
The Liberal government promised in its September 2011 jobs plan the development of three LNG plants in northwest B.C. by 2020. That figure has since been upgraded to five plants, but the completion dates are not as firm, and the companies have yet to make their final investment decisions.
Since last year, major gas and oil companies, including Chevron and Shell have invested $6 billion in British Columbia LNG projects, including preparing export sites in the Kitimat area.
The LNG projects involve building pipelines from northeast B.C.’s natural gas fields to LNG terminals near Kitimat, where the product will be shipped to Asian markets. LNG is natural gas that is cooled to a liquid form where it can then be loaded onto tankers.
Last year, Clark said her government’s plan to export LNG to Asia is B.C.’s economic equivalent to Alberta’s oilsands.
While the throne speech centred on the LNG opportunities, the government said it has other plans in the works.
Guichon said the Liberals will soon start work creating an environment for a school of traditional Chinese medicine at a B.C. post secondary institution.
An announcement will be made in the coming weeks about a federal, provincial and business community plan that transforms Vancouver into a focal point for Asian and South Asian corporate offices and investment activity.
The government also expressed its support for the proposed $7.9 billion Site C hydroelectric project in northeastern B.C.
“British Columbia has sufficient power to meet today’s needs,” said Guichon. “However, planning for the future is not about meeting present needs, it’s about having the foresight to meet the demands of tomorrow.”
The government also stated that it has reduced the provincial child poverty rate despite reports that B.C.’s child poverty rate has been the highest or near the highest in the country for much of the years the Liberals have been in government.
By Tamsin McMahon - Monday, October 29, 2012 at 2:54 PM - 0 Comments
Why the premiers of B.C. and Alberta just can’t learn to get along
On the night roughly a year ago when Alison Redford became the first female leader in Alberta’s history, she fielded a call from someone whom many at the time predicted would become one of her greatest political allies. Along with well wishes from Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Redford spoke with Christy Clark, if not B.C.’s first female premier, certainly the woman who has done the most to shake up her province’s political scene.
The conversation was friendly. Clark offered her congratulations and the two joked about just how wrong the pundits had been about both women’s chances of winning the premiership of their respective provinces. “I said, ‘Alison, how did the pollsters get it so wrong?’ ” Clark recalled in an interview with Maclean’s earlier this year. “And she said, ‘Christy, of all the people in the country I can’t believe you’re the one asking me that.’ ”
For many, Redford’s election was considered a win for B.C. After all, the two premiers, part of a growing powerhouse of women in Canadian politics, have some remarkable parallels.
Both are the same age—46—and born in B.C. (Clark in Burnaby, Redford in Kitimat). Both are mothers to preteens—Clark’s son Hamish is 11, Redford’s daughter Sarah is 10. Both were long-time party loyalists who spent time in federal government, Clark working for Chrétien-era transportation minister Doug Young and Redford for Joe Clark. What’s more, both were once married to party stalwarts and maintain close ties with their ex-husbands. So close, in fact, that both recruited their former spouses to work on their campaigns.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 9:22 AM - 0 Comments
Yesterday Premier Christy Clark announced that she would be replacing her chief of staff…
Yesterday Premier Christy Clark announced that she would be replacing her chief of staff due to an “incident of concern.” The Vancouver Sun has learned that the “incident” involved a female staffer, and occurred in a bar in downtown Victoria. Clark says she fully investigated the matter, and only after hearing the entire story did she “make her decision quickly.”
Ken Boessenkool, a right-wing political operative from Calgary who Clark hired to help her win the next election, wrote in his resignation letter: “Earlier this month I was involved in an incident where I acted inappropriately. I was wrong, regretted my behaviour very much and immediately and unconditionally apologized… This (my resignation) will give me a chance to return to Calgary to be with my family—who I have also let down.”
Before he worked for Clark, Boessenkool was a senior adviser to Stephen Harper, as well as other right-wing politicians, including Preston Manning and Stockwell Day.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 2:32 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s chief of staff has resigned over what…
VANCOUVER – British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s chief of staff has resigned over what is being described as an “incident of concern,” but it’s not clear what happened to prompt his exit.
Clark’s office has issued a vague statement indicating Ken Boessenkool resigned with a letter of apology on Sunday. Boessenkool is a former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper who was appointed to the B.C. job in January.
“Earlier this month, I was involved in an incident where I acted inappropriately,” wrote Boessenkool.
“I was wrong, regretted my behaviour very much and immediately and unconditionally apologized. … This (my resignation) will give me a chance to return to Calgary to be with my family — who I have also let down — and from whom I have been separated on a weekly basis for most of the last eight months.”
A statement from Clark’s office suggested she wouldn’t be offering many more details, citing “privacy laws.” The statement said the incident has been reviewed.
Boessenkool, who once described himself as coming from “the womb right wing,” was appointed to the premier’s office in January at the same time Clark appointed a former Harper communications staffer as her press secretary.
Boessenkool’s resume includes time as an adviser to Harper, a Tory election strategist and a lobbyist for companies such as Enbridge Inc., Taser International and several pharmaceutical firms.
In 2001, Boessenkool signed the notorious “firewall” letter that urged Alberta to fight Jean Chretien’s Liberal government.
The letter, also signed by Harper, who was then president of the National Citizens’ Coalition, urged Alberta to build firewalls to limit what it argued were federal intrusions into the province.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 9:29 AM - 0 Comments
B.C Premier Christy Clark’s decision to cancel the fall session of parliament in the…
B.C Premier Christy Clark’s decision to cancel the fall session of parliament in the B.C. legislature has brought to light comments she made earlier this year about the culture of Victoria, which she characterized as “sick.”
“When the House rises at the end of [May], you’re never going to find me in Victoria,” she told a reporter with the National Post last spring. “I try never to go over there. Because it’s sick. It’s a sick culture. All they can think about is government and there are no real people in Victoria.”
Clark later clarified that she was not referring to the almost 350,000 people who make the provincial capital their home, but simply the mindset within the legislature. Her decision to cancel the fall session was she said, so MPs could spend more time with “real people.”
As many polls show, Clark’s Liberals are running far behind the opposition New Democrats, and some have speculated that Clark cancelled the session in order to make campaign-style funding announcements across the province. Others have suggested that, since she recently shuffled her cabinet, Clark is scrambling to give new ministers time to learn their portfolios.
By Ken MacQueen - Monday, July 2, 2012 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
On the risks of the northern gateway pipeline, renaming the party, and being premier mom
After five years as a media pundit and talk-show host on Vancouver radio station CKNW, Christy Clark was elected premier of British Columbia 15 months ago. Her re-entry hasn’t been easy, as the Liberals face a soaring NDP opposition on the left and an invigorated Conservative party to the right. Now she has to rebuild her party’s brand, which fell out of favour under predecessor Gordon Campbell, before a legislated election on May 14, 2013.
Q: One of the last times we spoke you were the radio host and I was the one being interviewed. Do you miss those simpler times?
A: Simpler is the right way to put it, because it’s harder answering the questions than asking them, but I think, too, it’s harder to be doing things than it is to be observing people doing things. But do I miss it? It was a great job, but I never regret this choice. Only 35 people in the history of Canada have had the privilege of doing this job. It’s really, really hard work, but you get to make a real difference for people, too. And don’t we all want to make a difference in our lives?
Q: Let’s talk about the western vision. With resources the way they are, you’re driving the national economy. Are you sensing a power shift?