Tag Archives: BC Politics

I’m Infamous Today (And it Feels Good)

Inequality InfographicWhen I started this blog in January, I promised myself that I would make a serious effort to try and get my opinions published in a major Canadian newspaper at least once this year. It would be an important benchmark for my writing skills if I could actually achieve this goal. It’s not easy to get published in a major newspaper. They receive a lot of content, and have very tough editorial standards. So far, my opinions have appeared in The Globe & Mail four times this year, thanks to being selected as a participant on the 2013 BC Election panel. It certainly boosted my self-confidence when I saw my words appear in print. Like many writers, I sometimes wondered if anyone was really interested in what I had to say.

On Saturday, September 14th, Vancouver Sun columnist Stephen Hume wrote a major one page feature entitled ‘Income Inequality Threatens Society‘. He interviewed Professor Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, and former US secretary of Labour during the Clinton adminstration. Dr. Reich will be speaking at a Public Square event sponsored by Simon Fraser University on October 3 at the Orpheum Theatre here in Vancouver. As I read the column, I identified very much with what Dr. Reich was saying. I decided to write a letter to the editor and express my thoughts about Stephen Hume’s column. It’s always a bit of a crap shoot when you write a letter to the editor; you have absolutely no way of knowing if they’ll decide to publish it. I crafted my words carefully, hoping that perhaps I’d get their attention. On Sunday evening, September 15th, I crossed my fingers and sent the letter by e-mail.

This morning I picked up the Friday edition of the Vancouver Sun on the way to my favourite coffee shop. When I sat down and opened the editorial pages, I was in for a very pleasant surprise:

Widening economic disparity sows social discontent

Re: Income inequality threatens our society, Column, Sept. 14

Stephen Hume’s column on income inequality rings true when it comes to my own life’s circumstances.

I’m the stereotypical white 53-yearold male with a master’s degree in education.

In my working life I never even came close to earning the $91,000 a year that is average for my demographic according to a Statistics Canada report. I can only dream of how awesome it would be to have a salary like that.

My median income for the last five years is way below Statscan’s reported overall white male Canadian average of $49,351.

I went bankrupt in 2009 because I couldn’t find regular employment in the province. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. I applied for more than 230 positions. When you think about it, that’s an insane number of jobs to apply for.

For all my education and experience, I ended up selling retail consumer electronics in a shopping mall at an appallingly low wage that barely kept me going.

Four years later, I’m unemployed again and struggling to survive in this province where I was born.

I feel very resentful toward those who appear to have it all while I have gone without.

Anthony Gurr

Vancouver

Seeing my letter in the editorial section of today’s newspaper was another important validation of my writing skills. People really are interested in what I have to say.

The Grumpy Ferret (Extra! Extra! Read all about it!)

BC Provincial MLA’s Are Not Worth What They’re Paid

“I trust politicians to do what’s right. For themselves.
”
Jarod Kintz, The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up When They’re Over.

“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

“One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
Plato

trudeauAs a young man, I used to hold politicians in high esteem. I thought that these people were altruistic, intelligent, noble, and had the interest of their constituents at heart. I was kind of a political animal – I belonged to the federal Progressive Conservative party in the 1980’s during the time of Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, and Ed Broadbent. Canadian politics seemed exciting and really interesting. I dreamed of being a member of parliament. I actually debated on the floor of the BC Legislature, the Senate Chamber in Ottawa, and I even managed to sneak into the House of Commons and sit in Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s seat (I have the photo to prove it!). I met prominent Canadian politicians like Allan McKinnon, Don Munro, Eugene Forsey, Flora Macdonald, Joe Clark, and I once bumped into the legendary Stanley Knowles. Heck, I even arranged for former BC Premier Bill Bennett to go jogging with my high school running club! As I’ve written before, going to the 1983 Conservative convention in Ottawa exposed me to how national Canadian politics really runs – it’s about perks, power, and prestige. As the years passed, I grew increasingly disillusioned with all the patronage, the partisan rancour, and the visible lack of intelligence demonstrated by MP’s in the House of Commons.

On my 34th birthday in 1994, I realized that I was actually smarter and had more practical life experience than quite a few of those sad sacks who sat in the House of Commons. But by this stage of my life, I was a professional videogame designer working in the United States – a profession that I thought much was more challenging and exciting than politics. I was far more interested in working with cutting-edge technology and creating virtual worlds.

I’m proud to call British Columbia my home. I was born and raised here. I think it’s one of the most unique places in the world that needs to be carefully nurtured and preserved for future generations.  Unfortunately, I think that the people we elect as members of the provincial legislature are a mediocre lot who are not up to the task of effectively governing this province with an eye to future generations. This past weekend, columnist Pete McMartin of The Vancouver Sun wrote an authoritative column about what our MLA’s are paid to be the people’s representatives. The column is called “The Cost – and Worth – of our Politicians“. Our MLA’s are the third-highest paid in Canada. They receive an annual salary of $101,859.00, plus expense allowances and pensions. They don’t make as much as Alberta MLA’s who earn $134,000, or Ontario MLA’s who receive $116,000.

Christy-Clark-ParachuteWhen I read what BC MLA’s are paid, I truly felt like vomiting. There is no rhyme or reason as to why BC MLA’s deserve this level of compensation. Having worked in the private sector for almost 25 years, I can’t fathom how they’re allowed to get away with being paid so much. The poor quality of debate, their lack of knowledge, and partisan belligerence does not justify all the perks and privileges. They certainly don’t sit in the legislature long enough to justify this salary. They don’t communicate  or publish individual columns or articles frequently enough. They are not as visible to the public as they should be. The litany of poor judgement and scandals shows they’re not worth what we pay them. We currently have no public accounting of their expenses – which comes from us, the citizenry of BC.

Put it this way, Washington State is our next door neighbour to the south. Their population is 6.5 million to BC’s 4.5 million. Their state legislators receive – $42,106, plus a $90 per diem. In the state of New Mexico, their legislators get NO SALARY for sitting in the legislature. They receive a per diem of $154.

And don’t get me started about their political hacks and spin doctors in Victoria who are paid huge amounts of money as simpering party sycophants.

I know a former BC Liberal cabinet minister who served in the legislature for 17 years. He’ll receive a six-figure retirement pension under the BC political pension system. Meanwhile, I’m resigned to the fact that I will continue working for every penny I can earn until the I drop dead. No comfortable retirement for me. I’m on my own, like so many other people.

Because the BC Liberal government is so big about free enterprise and promoting a pro-business agenda, I think every MLA on the government and opposition sides of the BC Legislature should have to undergo an annual performance review under the auspices of the Speaker’s Office. MLA’s should only receive pay increases based on merit, just like in the private sector. Provincial governments should be evaluated by the citizens of this province using the Net Promoter System of customer evaluation used by Fortune 100 companies like Apple and Best Buy in North America, so they can get a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tracking of how people rate the performance levels of provincial MLA’s and government services. This information should be made public as well. If they’re such big boosters of business development, they should use the same rating systems to evaluate their effectiveness at serving the citizens of this province.

Take that fad wad of cash in your mouth, BC politicians, and use the same methods of evaluation as the private sector to justify your pay for performance. After all, you’re such believers in free enterprise.

The Grumpy Ferret (who rated top Net Promoter Scores for customer service)

Christy Clark – BC Voters Get What They Deserve

I’m not a professional journalist or political pundit. I don’t belong to any provincial political party. I consider myself a fairly moderate guy who tries to be open minded about things, although I do have some pretty strong opinions when it comes to education, economic inequality, the environment, social welfare, science and technology. I’m an honest man who doesn’t manipulate other people or get involved in political gamesmanship. What you see is what you get.

In otherwords, I would make a lousy politician.

Vancouver Courier, March 27, 2013

Vancouver Courier, March 27, 2013

I didn’t vote for the BC Liberals in the May 14th provincial election. None of their political policies made one beneficial iota of difference in my personal life in the last 12 years, with the one-off exception of the $100 carbon tax offset cheque every British Columbian received. The 25% personal income tax deduction launched in 2001 made a negligible difference on my tax returns. I watched them commit acts of corporate cronyism, condone environmental destruction for badly planned resource development, gross patronage, conceal public information, and cause unnecessary pain and suffering on ordinary people in the name of public policy. They’re a group of small-minded economic conservatives who are incapable of developing a comprehensive long term vision of what British Columbia should be in 15 years, 25 years, or even 30 years. Everyone and everything that resides in this province is simply a number to be manipulated on a balance sheet. They are a Canadian offshoot of the American Republican party in thought, word, and deed.

So I must not like conservative-minded people very much. You would be right. What passes for conservative thought in North America is authoritarian, callous, narrow minded self-interest. Anyone who threatens that self-interest is to be attacked, bludgeoned, and cut down. Conservatives react out of fear.

Copyright Ken Campbell 2013

Copyright Ken Campbell 2013

British Columbians are fearful for the future. That’s why Christy Clark won the election. She appealed to fear. And fear is what many British Columbians face. Fear of losing a job. Fear of a future for their children. Fear of an opposition party that hasn’t governed for many years taking over in a time of uncertainty. Fear of the unknown.

I don’t like Christy Clark. She’s a conservative populist in the Bill Vanderzalm style. There is no substance to her, only a manicured facade finely honed in a talk radio studio. I suspect Christy Clark doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to deal with difficult, long term issues. I cite the fact that she attended three prestigious universities in Canada, France, and the United Kingdom,  and failed to complete her degree requirements in all three of them. She attended Simon Fraser University, the Sorbonne in Paris, and the University of Edinburgh. Many deserving students would literally kill to attend any of these institutions and earn an accredited degree. But not Christy.

British Columbians voted for fear. And that’s exactly what they’re going to get from the BC Liberal government of Christy Clark.

The Grumpy Ferret (Hey Christy! I graduated from SFU with a REAL Master’s degree!)

Why Should I Care?

Smartphone addict

Smartphone Addicts http://www.englishblog.com

I think about things too much. It’s a curse. I’ve always been in interested about current events around the world, because I believe it’s important to be aware of what’s happening. As I’ve said before in other posts, we all live together on this one planet, so I think you need to have some knowledge of what’s going on. But the difficult thing is trying to discern what really matters from what’s banal, trivial, and unimportant. You see it happening every day with people and their smartphones. It’s my anecdotal observation that a great many people are doing very unimportant things with these incredibly complex devices. Do you really need to watch television while standing on the sidewalk? Do you really need to surf the web while trying to navigate your way through a busy train station? Do you really need to sit down beside me on the bus and have a god awful conversation with someone on your smartphone about the fact that you’re on the bus (and I’m resisting the urge to grab your phone from you and hurl it out the window because I’m forced to hear about your terribly bland life?) The smartphone gives people freedom of choice, but are they really making good choices? I don’t think they are – but that’s a topic for another post.

Without further ado, here’s a list of recent events that made me start asking this question:  Why should I care?

Starts channelling his frothing, rabid,

inner news talk radio personality

Why should I care if Toronto mayor Rob Ford was caught on video smoking crack cocaine?

I mean, really. He’s some morbidly obese, bull necked, Canadian redneck pinup boy who lives 3000 miles away from Vancouver. He’s Toronto’s problem, not mine.  Should we care if an elected politician of a major Canadian city may have drug and personal issues that affect his ability to serve its citizens? Hey, the mayor’s brother Doug Ford says the Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun newspaper reporters are all mindless jackals just looking to sell papers. They’re disgusting lowlifes who don’t have anything else to do. It’s all a spurious hatchet job with absolutely no basis in fact. I’m sure Doug Ford never really sold hashish in the 1980’s. Somebody is obviously lying. And the mayor’s former chief of staff was probably screwing up badly anyways – that’s why he was fired.

Why should I care?

Why should I care if Senator Mike Duffy’s $90,000 residential expense tab was paid off by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s now ex-chief of staff Nigel Wright?

I mean, who cares about politicians in Ottawa these days? Really. They get paid huge amounts of money to sit on their asses and congratulate themselves about how important they are to Canada. They don’t think about us, anyways. Why do we even bother electing MP’s to supposedly represent us? Isn’t that what most of us really think about federal politicians when we’re not trying to make a living so we can pay our bills, mortgages, and the kids’ education? What’s the big deal about some morbidly obese ex-TV news reporter with a greatly inflated sense of self who thought he deserved an extra $90,000 to cover his two homes? Does it really matter if ex-Chief of Staff Nigel Wright pitied the guy and generously cut him a cheque? After all, isn’t that what politicians do? Look after each other?  I’m sure Stephen Harper knew nothing about it at all – he’s just so darned busy micro-managing everything else in his government that I know he just couldn’t have known that his personally chosen right hand man was giving away money without his knowledge. It makes perfect sense – doesn’t it?

Why should I care?

Why should I care if 48% of BC voters didn’t cast a ballot in the May, 2013 provincial election?

Adrian Raeside Times Colonist

Adrian Raeside Times Colonist

I mean, come on! Why would anyone vote for those clowns? They don’t deserve our respect, do they? Just look at what they’ve done for BC in the last 12 years? Hey, did they do anything? They’re just businessmen who reward their friends with tax money because they can get away with it. And we all know the NDP are just a bunch of airy-fairy socialists who’ll spend us out of house and home. The Green Party are just tree hugging hipsters who haven’t a hope in hell of forming a government because global climate change is going to kill us all eventually. And the Conservatives are all closet American republicans in disguise who want to protect the wealthy and cut services from those people who are too lazy to go out there and become entrepreneurs. Besides, voting’s a pain. It takes too much time to vote. Voting Day is just a traffic jam. And advance voting days always happen when you’re doing other stuff. And you can’t be bothered to do an absentee ballot because it takes too much time. Besides, what difference does a vote make? Someone else will cover for me who thinks like I do. Not that any of these BC politicians will really represent my views, because they’re just in it for themselves.

Why should I care?

Why should I care if some mindless extremists hacked a guy to death in London, England?

UPI News Photo

UPI News Photo

Look. London is on the other side of the world from Vancouver. It’s not like someone is going to cut some guy’s head off at a Skytrain station. It couldn’t happen here, right? We don’t have Islamic extremists on the west coast. Those guys were just angry young men who got carried away. These things don’t happen all the time. Sure, they’re unnerving, and it’s too bad someone died, but that happens in Europe and Asia, where they’re closer to the Middle East. Besides, CSIS and the RCMP are on the case. They catch these fanatics before they act out. And that Boston bombing was all just Russian Chechen extremists. Al Qaeda’s dead as a terrorist organization, anyways. Canada hasn’t had bombings since the FLQ in the early 1970’s. And those were french separatist extremists.

Why should I care?

Yes, indeed. Why should we care – about what’s happening around us?

The Grumpy Ferret (Whose tongue was FIRMLY planted in cheek while writing this post!)

I’m Infamous Today (Well, I Sort of Feel Infamous)

Today was Election Day in British Columbia, the finale of the four week provincial three ring election circus. As I’m writing this post, the British Columbia Liberal Party (aka Stephen Harper Fan Club – BC Bluenose Chapter), pulled off a stunning upset and will form the next government for a fourth consecutive mandate, with Christy Clark possibly leading them, that is, if she wins her seat of Vancouver Point Grey, which is up in the air at this moment.

I live in the riding of Vancouver – Quilchena, a place of very well educated, wealthy, starchy conservatives who historically have always elected similar well educated, wealthy, starchy conservatives to the provincial legislature. I’m very well educated, not at all wealthy, and I can’t stand conservative people. So I fit in like a triangular peg in an round hole. The starchy people elected their starchy candidate. I voted for the New Democratic candidate in my riding because I am more concerned about the environment than economic development (GASP! HERETIC!). He’s naturally organic, which is anathema to the wealthy, starchy people. Of course they wouldn’t elect him.

As a member of the Globe & Mail BC undecided voter panel, we were asked if we had made up our minds about who we would vote for today. They selected 15 answers that were printed on Election Day in their entirety. My post was published! I feel like it’s a dream come true, because one of my goals as a writer was to be published one day in a major national newspaper like the Globe and Mail.

Here’s my post that appeared today:

Who am I going to vote for? It all comes down to who do I think will best represent the riding of Vancouver-Quilchena. As I’ve said before, this riding has been solidly B.C. Liberal for a long time. It has always been a ‘safe’ seat for them. For me, the choice of who to vote for is pretty straightforward.

Do I want to vote for Andrew Wilkinson – former B.C. Liberal president, deputy minister, ‘establishment candidate’? No.

Do I want to vote for the Conservative candidate? No. Do I want to vote for the Green Party candidate? Wait – has ANYONE seen the Green party candidate? No.

That leaves me with the NDP candidate Nicholas Scapillatti. I’m going to vote for him. To put this in perspective, the last time I voted for the NDP was in 1991 in North Vancouver-Lonsdale. Why am I voting for Nicholas? He’s actively involved in salmonid enhancement programs. He’s involved in sustainability development. He’s a small businessman, as opposed to a corporate type. He co-authored an environmental dissertation with Dr. David Suzuki. He shares my concern for long-term environmental issues, which I personally feel outweigh economic development.

I’ll also say this. I haven’t forgotten how many children have died in foster care under the Ministry of Children and Families during the 12 years of B.C. Liberal government policy. Nobody wants to talk about dead children and the cutbacks to social policies that contributed to the Ministry letting this happen.

And everyone has forgotten the stellar work done by Children’s Commissioner Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and how the B.C. Liberals tried to silence her report on their failures. But she screamed bloody murder and publicly shamed Gordon Campbell and minister Mary Polak.

And you want the same B.C. Liberals back running the show after 12 years?

It seems they do. And I’m extremely unhappy about the result.

Winston Churchill once made this sly observation about elections:

“If you want to know why democracy is a bad idea,

just talk to the average voter for five minutes”

On the bright side, at least the Green Party landed a seat in the BC Legislature. I’ll take any small silver lining from this dismal electoral cloud.

The Grumpy Ferret

Canadian Politics – More Excruciating Than Waterboarding!!

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a member of Parliament. I really did. I wanted to go to Parliament Hill, sit in the House of Commons, and make a real difference on behalf of my fellow Canadians. I wanted to improve employment for students, fight for better environmental conditions,  improve health and welfare, establish more funding for research and development, and help give voice to a new vision of Canada for the 21st century. I was bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to commit to a course of action.

Then I met the real world of federal Canadian politics.

It happened at a restaurant in the Bytown market of Ottawa one cold winter Sunday afternoon in March, 1983. I was at the Progressive Conservative Convention where Joe Clark decided a 66% party approval vote was not enough of a leadership mandate. I was having lunch with some delegates from my riding and some other guys from Prince Edward Island.  I’ll never, ever forget how I engaged one of the PEI guys about politics and the ideal of working for a better Canada. He and his friends brushed that aside. “We’re here for the perks, boy. That’s all that matters”, was exactly what he said. Needless to say, that comment threw a bucket of cold water to my youthful west coast idealism. Not only that, I vividly remember witnessing the maneuvering, gladhanding professional politicians and the smug, snotty parliamentary aides. Delegates like me were nobodies in the great convention circus. The whole thing made me sad. When I returned back to my riding of what was then Esquimalt – Saanich, I dropped out of federal politics several months later.

I realized then and there that Canada’s political apparatus doesn’t give a shit about ordinary people. It’s all about perks and patronage, junkets and sinecures. Now that I’m older and more experienced in life, I see that many Canadian politicians, whether they’re municipal, provincial, or federal, are not the brightest and the best. Many of them are bland, boring, ignorant, petty, and uninspiring.  I think we could have a fascinating discussion about whether Canadians have let themselves fall into a political rut voting for these sorts of people because that’s what we’re comfortable with. Are we really that small minded? Do we really want to be governed by a bunch of ‘grey middle managers’?

Honestly, watching politicians speak in the British Columbia legislature or the House of Commons is so depressing. The majority of them appear to be incapable of providing clear, concise answers to straightforward questions. They equivocate, vacillate, point fingers, and make excuses. We wouldn’t tolerate this sort of behaviour in the workplace, so why does a system funded with our money get to act like this? Their lack of debating and public speaking skills are appalling. Let’s put this situation in a historical perspective. Look at this piece of oratory taken from the speeches of the 19th century American abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, as portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln:

I’m not saying that puppets could outperform Canadian politicians in a political debate. Wait a moment – that’s exactly what I’m saying.

What I would give to see Spitting Image brought back today. Their brilliantly sharp satire is exactly what’s needed to counter the increased buffoonery and madness in the world. We desperately need a laugh.

Some honourable members: Here! Here!

The Grumpy Ferret