June 14, 2013
In My Opinion
White Rock Mayor Baldwin and City Council Members Must Repay Citizens and Return All Conference Costs to the Public Purse.
boondoggle - noun
Work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.
Mayor Baldwin and members of White Rock Council including Campbell, Hutchinson, Lawrence and Robinson must pay back all costs including hotel and “entertainment” expenses to the people of White Rock for their participation in the Boondoggle on Burrard that was sponsored by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Yes, it is true. With costs of over $10,000 and with a maximum of 6.5 hours on the agenda over a four day conference you don’t have to look as far as Ottawa to see the likes of Duffy, Brazeau, Wallen and Harb in action. We have exactly the same kind of wasteful spending by the orange juice and limo political elite happening right here in our own backyards. It is hilarious to see how deeply rooted the political culture of entitlement and elitism has become at all levels of government.
Each and every day thousands of people from White Rock and South Surrey rise early, travel to Vancouver to work and return late. What is so special about this mayor and council that they booked themselves into fancy hotel rooms at the Sheraton Wall Centre? For so many who are raising families in White Rock an early start and a late day are just what they have to do to get by. Apparently this is not the case with local politicians. And you can bet that hotel rooms at over $200 a night are just the start of the real expenses. In order to determine what really was spent by Mayor and Council I have initiated a Freedom of Information Request so that the public can see the truth about what really happened. In addition I am seeking to determine who else from the City of White Rock attended this conference. The people of White Rock who are funding this fiscal foolishness deserve a full accounting and to know the truth.
In talking with other participants what is clear is that this event was nothing but an opportunity for politicians to be wined and dined by lobbyists. How can these people be so tone deaf to the wishes of the citizens and how we trust them to respect the Public Purse? How is it that they think that they can pull a stunt like this off and get away with it? How stupid do they think we are? I am told by those that attended that the hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent on “hospitality” suites by companies wishing to secure a “special” access to the politicians was something else.
We have all heard about the 7 a.m. starts and the late evenings with all of the hard work in between. Bullshit. I invite you to take a look at the conference agenda at http://www.fcm.ca/home/events/past-conferences/2013-annual-conference-and-trade-show.htm. and judge for yourself. What the Federation of Canadian Municipalities had consciously chosen to exclude from the agenda and conceal from the public is the social events, who was sponsoring the social events including meals and pitching the politicians when they dined on the elegant eggs benedict for breakfasts, the lavish lunches and the decadent dinners. Isn’t it interesting how concealment has become such a vital tool of the political trade these days? It really is quiet comical once you recognize what is really happening.
As you review the agenda for the conference you will immediately notice some interesting things. The first thing that will jump out at you are that it started 10:45 on Friday morning. The second thing you will notice is that after the first session that runs to 12:15 they take a three hour and fifteen minute break (that must be some lunch!). The third thing you will notice is that there were no events on the agenda for Saturday and Sunday. I am told that there were optional “bus tours” available but that as empty as the buses were the hospitality suites and the pools were full of conventioneers and their spouses and spices all day long on both Saturday and Sunday. Then after the weekend, the conference is back to business on Monday at 10 a.m. before finishing at 2 pm with a lunch in between. A maximum total of 6.5 hours of Business Meetings in a 4 Day Agenda? Wow, with that kind of a hectic meeting schedule you can sure see why these people would have to stay overnight in pricey downtown hotels paid for by the White Rock Taxpayers rather than return home.
In the few hours that they actually met what did they talk about? How about a panel featuring the likes of the VP of Teck Mining on Local Governments and the Extractive Sector - Partners in Development. For those of us living in White Rock, Delta and Surrey who are concerned about the increasing number of coal trains passing through our community and the Public Health issues this creates I wonder what the folks from Teck, the $10 Billion a year mega mining giant which produces 30 billion tons of coal a year from their six coal mines including the largest open pit coal mine in Canada had to say in this closed and secret session? Coal accounts for half of Tecks total revenue so you have to wonder what they had to say to our politicians. We the public are left on the outside wondering what our Mayor and Councillors were told by the Teck Lobbyist either at this secret session behind closed doors or as part of an intimate private conversation during the four day no holds barred Lobbyfest that was fueled by food, drink and who knows what else?
To my way of thinking this gorging on luxuries while the rest of us foot the bill is wrong. The gravy train needs to stop now and White Rock needs to get back on track. With Public Service wages running as high as 43% greater than private industry income how can we ever expect to control the runaway, reckless spending at city hall as long as our politicians continue to be a big part of the dysfunction? They need to be modeling the right behavior not the wrong behavior. They need to be the solution not the problem.
Talk about Corporate Cronyism. The citizens of White Rock have to fight so hard to be heard my this Mayor and Council on the critical issue of Coal and Public Health yet one of the largest producers of coal in the world is given a free pass to wine them, dine them and pitch them. Too funny! Corporate Cronyism is just so prevalent in local politics that they don’t even try to hide it anymore. How about a session sponsored by IBM on Asset Management Systems including Don Berry, Associate Partner, Supply Chain Operations and Enterprise Asset Management Practice, IBM Canada. Or even better how about a session on The New FCM/Railway Association of Canada Proximity Guidelines sponsored by - you guessed it...CN..and including a presentation by Sean Finn, Executive Vice-President of Corporate Services and Chief Legal Officer at CN. Was it worth it? I would suggest to you that for the special interest groups of the Mining Industry, IBM and the CNR as well as all of the other lobbyists and suppliers it was well worth it. But what about you and me? What about the guys and gals who are footing the bill? What about hotel bills and who knows what other bills may be revealed through the FOI Request if and when the City of White Rock, which has become one of BC’s most secretive cities deeply rooted in a culture of concealment, decides to reveal in response to the Freedom of Information Request. Will they respond in an open and honest manner or will they stonewall on revealing the truth? I will keep you posted.
Was the Federation of Municipalities Boondoggle worth it to us? How is it going to enhance the quality of life in White Rock? How is it going to strengthen our local government? The whole thing is such a farce that it makes me sick. And if this disgusting and manipulative behavior isn’t enough they have the audacity to tell us how wonderful and important an event it was. You have to love them. You have to love them and laugh at it as they actually think that this kind of behavior is acceptable and that they deserve to be wined and dined by big money corporate lobbyists and not be concerned with the moral ethics.
The bottom line? In my opinion from everything I see and hear this conference it was nothing but a very expensive farce. The Mayor and Council of White Rock must pay back all of the money that they spent on this boondoggle. Just like Duffy, Brazeau, Wallen and Harb have to make good for their feeding frenzy at the public trough so too does this mayor and council.
The other question that I am left with is what is the value of The Federation of Canadian Municipalities if they are the ones that are behind this kind of carefully orchestrated charade that results in the bogus behavior of our politicians? With an Annual Membership Fee to the City of White Rock of over $2900 and with the individual Conference Registration Fee of $735 per participant and the hotels costing $200 per night the total bills for just attendance and accommodation not even counting other expenses and just for the five council members we know of and not counting any other participants from the City of White Rock the bill is already $10,000 and there is still more to be revealed. So where is the value for an investment of over $10,000 for five politicians at a four day conference with a maximum of 6.5 hours of sessions that were nothing but poorly disguised pitches from lobbyists for big money special interest groups?
The jig is up! The Boondoggle on Burrard is a slap in the face of every honest taxpayer in White Rock.
The way I see it I am very disappointed with the behavior of the White Rock politicians who participated in this sham.
In My Opinion - Ross
Ross Buchanan is an independent journalist. Ross is not a member of any political party nor does he have any financial conflicts of interest regarding this article. Neither Ross nor The White Rock Sun are dependent on government grants or government advertising as sources of revenue.
June -7, 2013
Hey Big Spender(s)!
I don’t know about you but I find it very interesting to see that the good people at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business are reporting that, “Spending by Canada’s three largest cities – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver – has grown by 3 to 8 times the rate of population growth over the past 12 years….” In addition the report shows municipal spending in Canada “has increased by 55 per cent while population has only grown by 12 per cent.”
That leads to the next logical question. So, how does White Rock stack up against this slippery slope of runaway, out of control, reckless spending at the municipal level? Well, not to be outdone you will be pleased to know that when it comes to excess municipal spending that White Rock outperforms the best of them including Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.
Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that the financial reports for 2012 (which did finish 5 months ago) are not yet available to the citizens of White Rock. However when I look at the seven years from 2004 to 2011 what I see is very alarming. In this seven year period of time the City of White Rock increased it spending by $10.6 Million which represents a 55% increase in expenditures. What it took other communities to do in 12 years (increase spending by 55%), White Rock was able to do in only 7 years. In the same time as the population grew only 3.8% the taxpayers’ money that the city was spending increased by 55%.
Spending at the City of White Rock outpaced population growth by a factor of 14.4 times!!!
And what does this kind of this Fiscal Foolishness get us? It puts us in the bizarre situation of our mayor and council tiptoeing around the issue of the Coal Trains that will dramatically alter the future of White Rock and create a Public Health Crisis on the Beach and the Hillside because they are terrified of BNSF Railroad holding them hostage for even higher lease rates on the parking lots that currently cost the White Rock Taxpayers $400,000 a year. That is $400,000 we send to Billionaire Warren Buffett so that we can enjoy our beach. The City of White Rock is hooked on the $1.6 Million of gross profit that they generate from the parking fees at the beach and this leaves them not only at the mercy of BNSF Railway but even worse it leaves them in a serious ethical Conflict Of Interest. As a result of the foolish overspending at city hall, at a rate that far exceeds the fiscal carrying capacity of the community the city must give in to BNSF Railway rather than doing what is right for the citizens of White Rock and courageously opposing the expansion of the Fraser Surrey Coal Docks and the increase in the coal trains polluting our community. City Hall is being held hostage!
The overspending at city hall by the bureaucrats and politicians leaves us, the community, the people, highly vulnerable to the negative externalities of significantly eroding the success of businesses along the beach, negatively altering the real estate values in our community, eroding the property tax base and of destroying the health of those who live on the hillside as a result of the exposure to the toxic, deadly coal dust.
Does the Council not see this for the slippery slope that it is? Do they not see where this is headed? Do they not recognize how this fiscal foolishness, their addiction to spending has gotten us to a point where maintaining a cozy relationship with BNSF Railway appears to be more important than protecting the quality of the air in the White Rock Airshed? To my way of thinking city hall is allowing BNSF Railway to hold White Rock hostage.
Personally I am amazed that people are not talking about “taking back” our beach from the railway. Heck, BNSF Railway should be paying us money to run through our waterfront rather than us paying them money.
As I review the 2011 City of White Rock Financial Statements I can sure see why our pleasant seaside community of just over 19,000 people needs 14 employees taking home salaries in excess of $100,000.00 each. It isn’t easy to spend other people’s money at this accelerated rate. This is very hard work. You have to be very good to do it and to be able to do it at a level that not only exceeds the national averages by as much as 50% but also at a pace that leaves the gravy trains of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto choking in your dust (coal dust?). But when you spend at such a foolish level, and you create the kind of dependency on cash that they have you can sure see how it puts the city in a vulnerable position financially and hot it gets in the way of the Mayor and Council making the right decisions for the citizens.
And if all of that isn’t enough, against the backdrop of this kind of reckless, irresponsible, uncontrolled spending I can only wonder what this council was thinking when they decided to spend $80,000 (split 50/50 with the feds represented by MP Hiebert) of your money, the equivalent of $400 per meter to pave the precious little oasis of grass at the west end of the beach in order to extend the promenade to nowhere by 200 meters. Spend, spend, spend! What I do know is that when you have local government politicians and bureaucrats that are used to wild spending at the rates that have become the norm in White Rock it is very hard for them to imagine curtailing their habits. Spending becomes an addiction to them. They can’t stop. All they know is spend, spend, spend and in doing so they continue to erode the future of White Rock. Spending is how White Rock city hall gets their adrenalin kick. If your life has been about spending other people’s money, you just don’t know any different and it is a very difficult behavioral shift to become more cautious and careful with the taxpayer’s money.
In My Opinion….Ross
Ross Buchanan is an independent journalist. Ross is not a member of any political party nor does he have any financial conflicts of interest regarding this article other than the money that supports the fiscal foolishness at White Rock City Hall comes from him and the other taxpayers in the community. Ross’s commitment is to purge the culture of concealment by revealing the truth so that people have the benefit of full disclosure of the facts on which to make their own personal judgments.
May 31, 2013
Our Dirty Little Secret!
It is with great disappointment that I see that The Surrey Board of Trade has declared their support for the highly contentious new coal export terminal that is proposed at the Fraser Surrey docks and which will impact the quality of life for the citizens in the communities of White Rock, Crescent Beach, Surrey, Delta, Fraserview and New Westminster. As a Business Person and an Entrepreneur it saddens me to learn that just like the case where the Surrey Board of Trade opposed the wishes of the community and lobbied for the Gateway Casino in South Surrey, they are now once again deaf to the wishes of the citizens and are choosing Greed over Public Health.
Why do I call it greed? For the simple reason that this toxic, dirty coal from Montana and Wyoming has been denied access to the American ports along the west coast of the USA and out of desperation (and willing to pay a huge premium to ship their product to Asian markets) the coal companies are now turning to Macquarie the $363 Billion Dollar Australian Company that owns Surrey Fraser Docks to facilitate what their own people won’t allow them to do. Make no mistake about it. This is all about Profits over People!
The Surrey Board of Trade has come out in support of a controversial new coal export terminal proposed on the city's riverfront, saying concerns raised about environmental impacts are not serious enough to trump economic development. This is disgusting, misleading and blatantly false. This entire farce has been orchestrated by the Harper appointed board of the very secretive Port Metro Vancouver. The Harper appointed board is chaired by bankster Craig Neeser and is populated with Conservative Party bag men or their spouses and Harper Hangers On. PMV has dropped the ball on any community engagement and in a manner that is reflective of the PM himself seem awkward but totally committed to ruthlessly driving this project, that will contribute to Vancouver becoming the largest Coal Export Terminal in Canada, down the throats of the people whether they like it or not. They know full well that this coal is a toxic, soft coal that is embedded with carcinogens and heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, uranium, thorium, silica and cadmium yet in the face of the scientific facts they blindly charge forward in a most deplorable way choosing trade, not even Canadian trade, but rather American trade over the lives and health of the citizens of BC. How many people must die prematurely from the deadly coal dust and how many lives must be ruined before people like the Board of Port Metro Vancouver and The Surrey Board of Trade discover an interest in caring and compassion for their fellow man and understand that we all have a shared responsibility to ensure the Public Health and protect each other from toxins.
The Surrey Board of Trade is led by its President, Jim Mihaly who is also the Publisher of The Surrey Leader, a Black Press publication and a sister paper to the Peace Arch News. Bill Wehnert a member of the Board of Directors is also the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Fraser Surrey Docks. I can understand why he supports the project. It is his job. But I really wonder why some of the other members of the Board of Directors for The Surrey Board of Trade are supportive of exposing the citizens of so many areas, but especially White Rock, South Surrey, Crescent Beach and Fraserview to this deadly toxic coal dust. Why would the likes of Jane Hawkins the Director of Administrate Services at SFU, Shelley Besse the President of Envision Financial, Jack Boyce the Director of Commercial Business for Coast Capital, Marilyn Grazioni the Director of Government Affairs at Kwantlen, John Kearns the GM at the Sheraton Guildford, Chuck Keeling the Director of Stakeholders Relations at Great Canadian Casinos and Shirley Samujh the Manager of Government Relations at Translink….all members of The Board of Directors of The Surrey Board of Trade support this position. We expect so much more from the organizations in our community to claim to support the community and yet at the same time are prepared to allow this deadly American coal, that has been denied access to American ports to be spewed all over our homes, our schools, our communities and most importantly our children. What are they thinking?
Also interesting to note how many of these organizations are government or quasi-government organizations like Translink, SFU or Kwantlen and are dependent on public money; your money, yet they use the taxpayers money to pay membership fees to belong to The Board of Trade and then use that membership to support this project that creates a Public Health disaster for the citizens in the community. Why would these members of The Surrey Board of Trade take the position that the Board has so strongly and clearly stated? And that is just the Board of Directors. You have to wonder about the other organizations that are members of and support The Surrey Board of Trade such as RBC, Bank of Montreal, Atkinson and Terry, Canadian Tire, TD Canada Trust, Scotia Bank, Grant Thorton LLP, KPMG, The Canadian Mental Health Association, The Arts Council of Surrey, Morgan Creek Golf Course, Northview Golf Course, Fortis BC, Overwaiteas, The Zajac Foundation, The Surrey Memorial Hospital, The Peace Arch Hospital Foundation, Tim Hortons, Worksafe BC, Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation, Trinity Western University, The City of Surrey, Hallmark Ford, Surrey School Division, Barnes Wheaton Chevrolet, BCIT, Port Metro Vancouver, the RCMP, The Shops at Morgan Crossing, the Guildford Mall, MLA Stephanie Cadieux, The Super Save Group, Homelife Benchmark Realty and the list goes on and on. How can these members support, stand by and allow this Public Health travesty to unfold? To my way of thinking by choosing to allow their Board of Trade to promote the expansion of Surrey Fraser Docks and expose all of these people to deadly toxic coal dust they become complicit. Don’t they care? What are the CEOs of these organizations thinking when they choose profits for the mega billion Australian Company, Macquarie Group that owns Surrey Fraser Docks over the health of the community and the citizens?
South of the border the story is much different with the recent rejection of three sites by our free-enterprise, business-minded neighbours (Clatskanie and Coos Bay in Oregon, Gray's Harbour in Washington - with more to come). Why have our neighbours to the south rejected these coal-exporting facilities? In each case the local business community aligned itself with the entire community in realizing that what is bad for its citizens is bad for business. Even though the coal is from their country they refused to let the coal companies destroy their communities and at the same time contribute to the race to melt the planet by fueling the coal powered plants that are being opened at the rate of one per week in China.
Double bonus points to the good folks at the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce who have stood with the community and the citizens to oppose the expansion of the Coal Port expansion. Congratulations to Executive Director Cliff Annable, Chamber President Terry Ross and the entire Board and Membership for having the gonads to stand up for the people and the community that they serve. With all kinds of government pressure to jam this coal port expansion through I know it must be difficult especially in light of the bullying comments from the Surrey Board of Trade however they can know that the community is 100% behind them and we will continue to support them as customers and clients. If you are shopping at a member of the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce I encourage you to take a minute and thank them for doing the right thing.
What makes the proposed expansion of the Coal Port especially concerning is that we already have the weakest environmental laws in the developed world. As a society we have little to defend us from this pending Public Health Crisis so the last thing we need is the businesses in our community turning on us. Our very own Conference Board of Canada ranks Canada as 15th out of 17 wealthy industrialized nations on environmental performance. Simon Fraser University ranked Canada as 24th out of 25 advanced nations on environmental performance. Yale and Columbia Universities ranked the deteriorating environmental performance of Canada in the last ten years as 52nd. You sure don’t hear these facts from the government spinsters or the msm do you? It gets worse. In BC our environmental laws are a farce. We talk about “clean, responsible and sustainable” development without actually doing anything towards achieving it. In BC Metro Vancouver has “regional responsibility” for air quality in the region. Two years ago I spoke to the MV Environmental Committee and they did not know that. Can you believe it? Not only did they not know it, they insisted that it could not be that they had sought and secured regional responsibility for Air Quality from the province. When the administrator present advised that yes, in fact they did have that responsibility they then decided that they didn’t know what that meant. Are we at all surprised to see nothing but cosmetic efforts from our politicians? What I learned is that MV has secured responsibility for one reason, and that is to make it appear as if they are doing something. Every year that goes by with the politicians protecting their financial backers who are opposed to meaningful air quality regulations simply means millions of more dollars being made for those who benefit from creating this Public Health Crisis. The bottom line? We have no meaningful legislation to protect the Air Quality and the People in Metro Vancouver. Anything that they have done is a farce and nothing but cosmetic. I hear cries of protest from MV politicians and bureaucrats but if you are counting on them to save us from this Public Health Crisis you are in for a big disappointment.
Here is one thing I know for certain. When you read the published mission statement of the Surrey Fraser Docks there is no mention, not one iota of space, for the citizens or the community. Surrey Fraser Docks are committed to taking care of generating profits for themselves and to make the Port Authority “proud”. What is obvious is that there is a total absence of any caring or compassion for the citizens and the community. I guess that comes to no surprise to anyone who understands what is really happening here. Take a look for yourself and see if you don’t think that the Mission Statement for SFD really does say it all.
Mission Statement for Surrey Fraser Docks
We provide efficient, reliable cargo handling services to ocean carriers in a way that is profitable to the company and makes the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, our unions and management employees proud.
In my opinion The Surrey Board of Trade, both the Board of Directors and Membership need to reverse their support of the expansion of the coal port and to apologize to the community
Ross Buchanan is an independent journalist. Ross is not a member of any political party nor does he have any financial conflicts of interest regarding this article. Ross’s commitment is to purge the culture of concealment by revealing the truth so that people have the benefit of full disclosure of the facts on which to make their own personal judgments.
May 24, 2013
In My Opinion
Shocked, Saddened and Scarred
After declaring himself “very upset” Harper flees to South America to avoid questions about the alleged theft of public funds by Conservative Party Senators Duffy, Wallen and Brazeau.
Meanwhile back at the ranch I am left thinking about the magnitude of crime and corruption that now seems to be the norm for the federal government. To my way of thinking this alleged theft from the public purse is a crime and needs to be treated as such. With the Conservative Party Parliamentary colleagues Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau plus the Prime Minister’s personal Chief of Staff Nigel Wright having resigned I was wondering what kind of indicator this might be for the future of Canada. If we can’t even be honest about the Unelected, Unaccountable and Unethical Senate then what does the future hold for us as a country? How can we even call ourselves a Democracy when we have an unelected senate governing us that is nothing but a cesspool of political appointees?
Seven years ago Harper declared his commitment to reforming the senate. Since then he has appointed 59 Conservative Senators. Hmmm. If you are confused by this you are not alone. I am told that the reason senate reform is simply a pipe dream is that the government needs a place to send the political hacks and defeated politicians and reward them with bizarre riches. How bizarre are the riches? You will love this.
First of all you need to know that in the 105 member House fully 59 of the Senators have been politically appointments by the Prime Minister. Yes, that is right. Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau have been personal selections made by Harper. So much for “good judgment”.
Why would anyone want to be a senator? The money! When compared to the House of Lords on which the Canadian Senate was originally based the House of Lords averages 102 session days per year versus 88 session days in Canada. For that the average compensation including salaries, allowances and benefits for a member of the Upper House in England is $30,469. In Canada the average salaries, allowances and benefits for a member of the senate is $396,849. Yes, that is correct. A senator in Canada is given more than 13 times the money that a member of the House of Lords receives. Starting to understand why those caught stealing from the public purse are hesitant to leave? In England a member of The House of Lords is paid the equivalent of $467 CD per session day that they attend. In Canada the minimum base salary guarantee for a member of the senate is $130,000 and then they go from there.
In my opinion every senator who is found guilty of pilfering and plundering from the public purse should be fired from the senate and they should lose their pensions. This would be in addition to whatever criminal sentence they may receive. Until we get serious about the theft of money by members of the senate we will guarantee one thing….an ongoing and endless repetition of yet another expense scandal in the senate year after year after year.
From my way of thinking the most significant damage resulting from this behavior by our parliamentarians is not the money they steal but rather the degree to which our society is scarred by their behavior and how they dilute the ethical norm in Canada. It is my belief that the kind of unethical behavior that these parliamentarians are modeling is significantly diluting the moral fiber of what makes this country so special.
South Surrey-White Rock MP Hiebert was asked to comment on the scandalous behavior of his colleagues. He has not responded to our request.
In My Opinion
May 17, 2013
In My Opinion
I Wonder........ “Coal Kills Citizens & Community”
When I think about the proposal to dramatically increase the number of coal trains running through White Rock I wonder why the billionaire coal magnets get the cash and we get the carcinogens and the costs?
I wonder what the future of White Rock will look like if we continue down this crazy track of allowing coal profiteers to jam up to 18 dirty, uncovered coal trains a day, each as long as 1.5 miles to destroy all that we have in White Rock in order to get to the coal terminals? White Rock is a very special place. It deserves much better than to become just another filthy, dirty coal train town on the way to the coal loading facilities which are about to make Vancouver the largest coal export port in North America. And all of the dirtiest and deadliest coal from Montana and Wyoming is coming right through our town.
Interesting to note that in the USA three more proposed coal export terminals have been shut down in the Pacific Northwest by the citizens. The latest is the Kinder Morgan Coal Terminal in Oregon. Brett VandenHewuval the executive director for Colombia Riverkeepers says, “This is another huge victory for the people of Oregon and another blow to the coal companies. The evidence is in that dirty coal export plans are not viable in the Pacific Northwest. Now families across the Northwest can breathe easier knowing that the largest coal export terminal proposed in the State of Oregon is off the table. Another one bites the dust.” Unfortunately for us in White Rock every abandoned coal terminal plan for Oregon or Washington, every victory by the citizens in the states and every ruling by the EPA against coal terminals in the US just makes the exporting of the dirty coal from Wyoming and Montana through White Rock to China that much more profitable for those who control the Canadian Coal Terminal Monopoly.
I wonder why our current politicians are willing to stand by idly and do nothing other than cosmetically appearing to be concerned? Yes, I hear the politicians saying that they are “…here to support the community” but that just isn’t good enough. This single issue has the potential to dramatically alter and reshape the future of White Rock. Our current politicians, in their silence and inaction to this outrage, are facilitating the demise of our community.
What do we need to know? We need to know that this is cheap and dirty thermal coal from mines in Wyoming and Montana. We need to know that to this point all of the US ports have blocked the shipment of this coal for environmental reasons. We need to know that each coal train heading north through White Rock and Surrey has an approximate value of $1.3 Million to the owners. We need to know that all of this coal is simply feeding the unlimited appetite for coal in China where they are opening one new coal-fired power plant a week and contributing to the melting of the planet and the death of mankind. We need to know that by shipping this coal north from the Powder River Basin on the American plains to Canada to get around the blockades at the American ports the citizens of White Rock and South Surrey are taking on all of the liabilities and receiving little in return. In fact the government is even intending to fast track the construction of a multi-billion dollar bridge and the removal of the tunnel, financed through public funds, so that this private enterprise can navigate its large ocean going coal carriers up the Fraser River to the Fraser Surrey Docks. Interesting that Surrey Fraser Docks are owned by the BC Liberals Pet Profiteers, The Macquarie Group, the $350 Billion Australian company of Sea-to-Sky and Gateway Project fame. Great business plan if you can get away with it. Keep all of the profits and externalize all of the costs including infrastructure and health costs to the citizens. When you are talking about over a Million dollars per coal train who cares how many people have to die prematurely who or how many lives are ruined? We need to know that each coal car loses up to a ton of coal dust enroute and that the deadly impact of coal dust on human health is well-documented. In fact Dr. Erica Frank from the UBC School of Public Health is very concerned about increased coal train traffic through populated areas like White Rock and Crescent Beach. Dr. Frank is the Canada Research Chair in Preventative Medicine and Population Health at UBC. Dr. Frank reports that "...we know what coal dust does in terms of heart disease, in terms of lung disease and in terms of cancer.”
This coal dust is a carrier of many carcinogens including silica which the World Health Organization has declared a Group One (the deadliest!) carcinogen. Silica is a human lung carcinogen and breathing of the dust can be both disabling and fatal. The silica dust causes the formation of scar tissue and reduces the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. And if that isn’t enough of a Public Health concern what about the fact that these 125 to 150 car coal trains require four to five diesel locomotives which results in four or five times the exposure to the deadly diesel exhaust which is also a Group One Carcinogen along with the likes of Arsenic, Asbestos and Plutonium 239.
We are facing a Public Health Crisis in White Rock and we need to derail these coal trains now before White Rock is reshaped and in fact destroyed to satisfy the greed of rich billionaire industrialists. Just to give you an idea of the kind of massive profits that the coal exporters are generating, Westshore Terminals alone generated $66 Million of earnings on $240 Million of revenue in 2012. A handful of people have been given the monopoly on exporting coal from Canada and are enjoying windfall profits.
In White Rock we have the offshore breezes blowing the coal dust up against the hillside. The hillside then traps the dust and creates a cancer corridor between the beach and the top of the hill with a very high percentage of the filthy, dirty and deadly dust falling on the hillside, the homes, the businesses and the people.
Have you ever seen what a coal train town looks like? It is not pretty. It is rundown, constantly coated in the deadly dust and it rapidly deteriorates as people start to flee the toxic carcinogens. The other day a friend told me about an experience that he recently had at one of the restaurants on Marine Drive. What the owner of the restaurant showed him was the filthy coal dust that the owner wiped off the tables. Imagine what that coal dust looks like in our lungs or our food."
I am wondering how our MLA who represents a party that has taken over $2 Million from the Coal Industry and has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jim Pattison the owner of Westshore Terminals, the largest coal shipping terminal on the west coast can even pretend to do the right thing for the community. How can we even expect an MLA who represents a party that has taken millions of dollars from the coal industry including one single cheque for $200,000.00 (Great Pacific Capital Corp/ Principal Officer - Jimmy Pattison) from a billionaire coal magnet to fight for the citizens and the community? How can we trust any politician whose party takes that kind of money to be able to do the right thing behind closed doors for us? As I see it we can no longer count on the politicians who are owned and operated by big coal money to do the right thing for the citizens. The people of White Rock need to stand up to this atrocity and declare White Rock a Coal Free Zone.
To my way of thinking we need to derail these coal trains before they kill our community. We need to stand up to the special interests of the big money, Billionaire Coal Magnets, and tell them that they cannot destroy a community and negatively impact the health of the citizens in order to feed their greed. White Rock is not for sale!
In my opinion what we need now more than any time in history are politicians who will do what is right for the citizens and the community not what is right for those that they take huge sums of money from. Two thingswe don't need are dirty money and dirty coal.
Just one more thing. Why is it that the coal shipped from BC, including the dirty thermal coal from Wyoming and Montana is exempt from the Carbon Tax? If everyone else has to pay the Carbon Tax why is coal, especially thermal coal exempt? If coal really is one of the greatest threats to civilization and if the Carbon Tax is the good public policy that we are told it is, I wonder why does this special billion dollar exemption to the owners of the coal exporting terminals even exist?
MLA Hogg was invited to comment. We have received no response to our inquiry.
In My Opinionn...Ross Buchanan
Ross Buchanan is an independent journalist who focuses on grassroots issues in the community. Ross is not a member of any political party nor does he have any financial conflicts of interest regarding this article. Ross's commitment is to purge the culture of concealment by revealing the truth so that people have the benefit of full disclosure of the facts on which to make their own personal judgments.
May 10, 2013
"Just Follow The Money - Deep Throat"
I think it has something to do with my naivety as a Canadian and I suspect I can learn a lot about the connection between money and politics from our neighbors to the south. One thing I have to realize is that money in provincial politics plays a pivotal role in shaping public policy in BC.
I am reminded of the epic dialogue between Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter and Deep Throat in the 1976 movie All Of The President’s Men. Here is how it goes.
Bob Woodward: The story is dry. All we've got are pieces. We can't seem to figure out what the puzzle is supposed to look like. John Mitchell resigns as the head of CREEP, and says that he wants to spend more time with his family. I mean, it sounds like bullshit, we don't exactly believe that...
Deep Throat: No, heh, but it's touching. Forget the myths the media's created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.
Bob Woodward: Hunt's come in from the cold. Supposedly he's got a lawyer with $25,000 in a brown paper bag.
Deep Throat: Follow the money.
Bob Woodward: What do you mean? Where?
Deep Throat: Oh, I can't tell you that.
Bob Woodward: But you could tell me that.
Deep Throat: No, I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know, and I'll confirm. I'll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that's all. Just... follow the money.
With the BC provincial election around the corner “follow the money” is exactly what I did.
What I found was very disturbing. In reviewing the Financial Disclosure Statement among other things I found that our current MLA and his spouse are invested in natural gas, thermal coal fired energy and casinos. Why does that concern me? Because three of the issues that are on the front burner right now are in each of these sectors.
Hogg has put his money in natural gas. How can I expect an MLA who has his money in high risk, natural gas plays to be able to make an objective independent decision about the billions of dollars the natural gas industry is asking for to build infrastructure and provide tax exemptions in order to develop this public resource. To my way of thinking this is an ethical conflict of interest. How can he be doing the right thing for us in the community and the province when he is personally invested in Natural Gas?
Hogg also has his money in thermal coal fired energy. How can I expect our MLA to stand up for us here in White Rock and stop this senseless expansion of Vancouver as the largest coal port in North America at the same time that he is invested in thermal coal fired energy? This is the same dirty coal from Wyoming and Montana that is about to change the shape of White Rock for the worse as it travels through White Rock to the port where it will be shipped to China. In fact up until 2007 the Centralia Big Hanaford power plant in south west Washington even used the adjacent open pit coal mine but shut it down in favor of using the even poorer grade but very cheap coal from the Power River Basin which has created some very serious Environmental and Public Health problems for the people of Washington state. Annually the Thermal Coal Plant that Hogg has his money in emits 350 pounds of mercury pollution, making it Washington’s sixth most dangerous source of mercury pollution. Mercury pollution is a neuro-toxin which cases brain dame and is especially harmful to children and pregnant or nursing mothers.
Our neighbors to the south in Washington State are very concerned with what is happening at this coal plant. The TransAlta thermal coal operation where Hogg has invested, needs to move into the 21st century by reducing toxic mercury pollution by 90 percent with already-available and in-use technologies,” said Mark Riskedahl, executive director of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center. “TransAlta also needs to lead the way on rapidly reducing Washington’s contribution to global warming by adopting strict limits for its climate-warming emissions.”
“In Washington state, TransAlta the number one source of global warming, mercury and haze pollution, has had a free ride for too long,” said Doug Howell, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Coal-Free Northwest campaign. “This old, filthy coal-fired plant must be seen for what it is and now is the time to hold the coal plant accountable to fulfill its obligations to address known pollutants to protect our health, environment, and economy.”
In my opinion, I can’t see this as anything other than a serious ethical conflict of interest and probably explains why our MLA does not seriously and aggressively oppose the increase in coal trains along the White Rock Beach and the expansion of the coal port but rather choses to idly stand by in silence and claim to “support the community”. Not good enough!
As I see it, the third ethical conflict of interest is his investment in Casinos. Now in all fairness Clairvest is a spousal rrsp and is a group of four funds. Unfortunately the disclosure document does not specify which of the three Clairvest Funds, all affiliated with Wellington Financial, the Hoggs have invested in. The Clairvest Funds from Wellington Financial hold significant positions in the following casinos… The Grey Eagle Casino outside of Calgary, The Casino Marino Del Sol in Chile, Casino New Brunswick, Midwest Gaming in Des Plaines Illinois, New Centaur Gaming in Indiana and Meadowlands Racetrack and Casino in New Jersey. I always found it curious that when nearly 500 citizens showed up at the Pink Palace on King George to oppose the Casino in South Surrey that our MLA for Surrey-White Rock was not there. I wonder why the other politicians in the community including the Mayors of White Rock and Surrey as well as MP Hiebert weren’t there either.
Ethics and conflict of interests are interesting topics aren’t they? A commonly used definition of conflict of interest is “A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.” When Hogg’s colleague, BC Liberal MLA and Cabinet Minister Ralph Sultan courageously admits, “I personally acknowledge some of the extraordinarily dumb things we’ve [BC Liberals] done that I’m not proud of”,I can’t help but wonder what some of those things might be and if perhaps they include conflicts of interest? I guess we don’t know what we don’t know, do we?
In response to a request for comment MLA Hogg states, “The Commissioner is required by legislation to review this statement and make determinations with respect to any conflicts. These statements are then made public. The Commissioner has determined that I am in compliance.” Well they may be good enough for the Commissioner however I wonder if they are good enough for the citizens of White Rock and the Court of Public Opinion? From my perspective, I can’t imagine how a sitting MLA can hold shares in toxic thermal coal generating plants, money-laundering casinos and natural gas, all issues that he is dealing with as an MLA, and not be in a position of potential breach of conflict of interest? If what Hogg claims is true, that the Commissioner has determined that Hogg is in compliance then we need a new Conflict of Interest Act. In fact in reviewing the act I realize how empty it is. You can drive a coal train through the loopholes. It is a joke to even say we have a Conflict of Interest Act. The legislation needs to be amended to protect the public from their MLAs engaging in potential acts of ethical Conflicts of Interest rather than what we have now which is an act that sets meaningless standards and enables the wrong behavior.
I know that voting in any election is a very personal experience. It is up to everyone to show up and vote their conscious. For me when I judge the actions of our politicians I have become much more focused on where people put their money than what they say. Often the two are very different…and each and every time, by following the money, people will reveal their true colors.
If there is one thing that I know for certain it is that money can lead to some bad decisions and greedily chasing even more money can lead to the worse kind of decisions of all. To my way of thinking, I believe that it is important that the decision being made in the legislature are about what is best for the citizens of BC and not what is best for wealth of individual MLAs. I love BC and I believe in BC! As I see it we cannot continue to allow the individual wealth creation of a few elite individuals in positions of power who say one thing and do another to dilute and distract BC from becoming all that it should be and could be.
IN MY OPINION
Ross Buchanan is an independent journalist who focuses on grassroots issues in the community. Ross is not a member of any political party nor does he have any financial conflicts of interest regarding this article. The facts are the facts. Ross’s commitment is to purge the culture of concealment by revealing the truth so that people have the benefit of full disclosure of the facts on which to make their own personal judgments.
Please note that for the purpose of this Citizens Review the information was obtained in Dec. 2012 and the Financial Disclosure Statement was dated August 23, 2012. This is the most recent information that is available. MLA Financial Disclosure Statements are public documents.
Unfit For Office?
QMI Agency photo
How ironic that today I am still asking myself the question that the Simon Fraser University newspaper, The Peak, asked in their headline of May 11, 1989. The front-page headline asked “Unfit For Office?”. Christy Clark had just won the election to become the President of Simon Fraser University’s student society. Fourteen years ago the Student Union voided the results and the Christygate Scandal led to the now Premier of BC leaving university.
So here we are 14 years later and I wonder if much has really changed. In the words of Mark Twain, “Actions speak louder than words” and I am very concerned about the actions that we have seen from Christy Clark. It was recently reported in the Vancouver Sun that with her child and a reporter in her car Clark knowingly and purposely drove through a Red Light in violation of the British Columbia Highway Traffic Act.
Perhaps it is because I live in South Surrey where we have just seen the devastating death of five members of a family as a result of another driver blowing through a Red Light. I am shocked and deeply disappointed by the behavior of Christy Clark. I am left to wonder about her ability to make good judgments.
ICBC, led by the Premier’s cabinet colleague Mary Polak, tells us that up to 60% of all crashes happen at intersections and that blowing red lights is one of the primary reasons. Clark’s cabinet colleague Shirley Bond, the Solicitor General for the province states that as a result of Red Light Runners that "In B.C. there are almost 230 crashes at intersections every day. Many of these leave families having to deal with injuries or the loss of a loved one. "
The recent revelation that the Premier is a habitual Red Light Runner leaves me shaking my head. The evidence of her habituality to this risky behavior that endangers others is found in the very revealing words of her child who said, “You always do that.”
Red Light Running is on the increase across North America and those that do it once, tend to have a high likelihood of becoming repeat and habitual offenders. Typically the offender does it until something awful happens. Something awful like the crash that recently killed five people from one family at the intersection of 176th street and 32nd avenue in Surrey. In the US, Red Light Running is the #1 Leading Cause of urban crashes according to the Institute for Highway Safety. Every year in the USA over 200,000 injuries and over 800 deaths occur from Red Light Running. More people are injured in crashes caused by Red Light Running than any other crash type. This behavior is so disrespectful of others and causes all kinds of horrors for the victims and their families.
Running Red Lights is breaking the law. So if the supposed “leader” does it what is the message? And it isn’t just about Red Lights. One of the keys to Leadership is to model the way. In the words of Gandhi, Leaders, true Leaders need to “be the change we expect of others.” By breaking the law what is the message that the “leader” is sending to others about the rule of law in BC? Is it any surprise that there is such a disregard for the law in BC? No matter what the “Red Light” is; selling drugs, breaking into homes, shooting people…well it must be okay because the Premier breaks the law and then jokes about it.
In my opinion, for Christy Clark to run a red light with a reporter in her car, in the middle of an election, wasn't the brightest move in the world and leaves me wondering about her Leadership Talent and her Judgement to do the right thing. I wonder what other red lights she has ignored in her life? Is this demonstrated disrespect for the lives of others and the laws of the land something that we want in our premier?
To me this is not just about running the red light. It is much more. If we judge her by her behavior I wonder to what degree this is symptomatic of other questionable, dysfunctional and self-limiting behavior.
In the Vancouver Sun article the reporter Johnathan Fowlie quotes the child as asking Clark, “Mom, why haven’t you done any political debates?” A few days earlier Clark had refused to attend the debate in her very own riding. Her answer? “Um, because there haven’t been any yet.” This clearly is not true. This is a false statement to her child. There had been a debate in her riding which she did not attend. The organizers were there. The other candidates were there. The citizens from the riding were there. Clark was a “no show”. The question in my mind is why would she lie to her son? And if she will lie to her son about something like this I wonder what else she is not telling the truth about?
Clark consistently puts her family and her child front and centre and often references her experience as a working single mom. Her child is put on display in what I believe is an effort by Clark to differentiate her from the childless Dix. Her child has been at the leadership convention, at election campaign rallies and seldom does she speak without playing the single mom card and tells a story about her child. Quite frankly, I wonder how healthy this can be for the child? I wonder how he feels about it?
So back to the red light. Here is how the Vancouver Sun reported the conversation between Clark and her child.
“Let’s see you go through this red light,” Hamish challenged as they pulled up that morning, at 5:15 a.m., to an abandoned Vancouver intersection.
“I might. Don’t test me,” Clark replies.
“Yeah. Go ahead.”
“There’s no one.”
“Would you go through? You shouldn’t because that would be breaking the law,” she says.
And with that the car has already sailed underneath the stale red stoplight and through the empty intersection.
“You always do that,” says Hamish.
To me the most telling part of this story may not be about lying to her child, it may not be about intentionally driving through the red light, it may not be her attempt to laugh it off when she was asked about it, it may not be the fact that it leaves me wondering about her Leadership Talent or her ability to make objective judgments on behalf of the people of this province. No, to me the most telling part of this story are the words of her child.
“You always do that,”
Fourteen years after being found “unfit for office” having cheated to win and being forced to step down as the President of the Simon Fraser Student Union I am wondering if anything has really changed. I am left with the same question. Is she fit for office? The good thing about Democracy is that on May 14th we all have the opportunity to make that judgment.
In My Opinion - Ross Buchanan
Ross Buchanan is an independent journalist who focuses on grassroots issues in the community. Ross is not a member of any political party nor does he have any financial conflicts of interest regarding this article
Editor's Note - Laila Yuile in her column today identifies a court case involving Premier Clark and her driving that was quietly settle out of court this week.