What Government Corruption Is and Is NOT (examples provided)

One often hears talk how corrupt the government is. Much of the time, what people mean by “corrupt” is “creating-policy-I-don’t-like”.

This is not corruption.

“Policy-I-don’t-like” is bound to happen in a democracy in which the elected party may have different priorities than you do. That’s why you are allowed to get involved politically by writing to your representatives, by rallying people, and by voting. It’s also the reason to consider other electoral forms than first-past-the-post (but I digress).

While it’s quite possible that a provincial government following its ideology can lead its people down a pretty deep rabbit hole, such incompetence can not be considered “corrupt.”

Consider, for example, the past BC government, whose policy amounted to serious mismanagement of BC Hydro and the Insurance Corporation of BC., burdening citizens with enormous public debt that will take years to repay.

The mismanagement of these crown corporations was NOT corruption; it was political decision-making that people may or may not agree with. (For the record, you can put me in the “not” camp.)

What corruption actually is, is deceiving the public, or violating procedural laws that are written to prevent conflicts of interest.

So while it was not corrupt to manage the crown corporations the way the Liberals did, it was corrupt of them to hide said debt from the public –a subtle difference, but an important one.

To provide clarity, what follows are examples of actual government corruption. Note that they all involve some kind of deception or violation of law –not bad policymaking alone:

I suppose it’s a technical distinction. Governments have a moral responsibility to carefully look after the needs of its citizens. In doing so, there will be losers and winners. For example, while the BC Liberals were in power, child poverty increased (so… losers), while corporations got huge tax breaks –not exactly moral governance, though I would hesitate to call it corrupt.

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LNG and Unicorns

Tuesday’s announcement by Petronas that it will no longer pursue liquified natural gas interests in BC represents a failure.

The failure was foreseen by many analysts as far back as 2013. It is not a failure of the newly elected NDP government. Rather, it is a failure the NDP warned the Liberals about long ago.
Liberal leader, Christy Clark had built her whole 2013 election campaign on a promise of LNG prosperity. She came up with a feasibility report that promised the moon: a trillion dollars and a prosperity fund!

And anyone, ANYONE, who dared question this very expensive vision, was howled at: mocked and derided. In fact, the Liberal strategy for the following 2017 election was to frame the NDP as “the party of No”.

As predicted, the Liberals’ LNG vision and strategy failed. It was a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Opposition parties kept pointing out that the emperor is naked (LNG hopes were delusional), but the emperor blithely went on.

And now, realizing that she is exposed publicly, the emperor is lashing out: projecting her fury on her detractors with unprecedented vitriol, although in typical fashion Christy Clark has disappeared, leaving the lashing out to her royal guard, Rich Coleman, Jon Yap, and others.
There are people, many people, who were very concerned about the harmful process of LNG fracking. Those concerns are legitimate, and a simple internet search can lead you to understand why (Google “fracking”).

But the issue of the day is NOT those concerns; it is how the BC Liberals, cynically denied all scientific and economic prognostication and sold BC voters on an LNG-funded utopia. Turns out they might as well have been promising unicorns.

The Christy Clark Liberals: a malicious conspiracy

In 2012, eight British Columbia Ministry of Health researchers who were enthusiastically going about their jobs, were suddenly fired with no explanation, and threatened with criminal charges relating to the misappropriation of confidential patient data.

It’s no exaggeration that their lives were suddenly turned upside down. Their income was taken away, they were escorted off the premises of their jobs, and they were discredited as scientists.

One poor young man died.  The research he was conducting was to be part of his doctoral dissertation. It was his whole world. God only knows how many thousands of hours he had poured into his work, only to be completely mortified. He took his own life. The computer where he most likely wrote his suicide note was confiscated and erased before anyone could see it.

After they went through months of stress and anxiety being kept in the dark about their dismissal, the researchers learned an even worse reality. They had been victims of a conspiracy. The charges against them were lies made up by government –their own employer. The charges had been trumped up for what reason? Well… it’s not public knowledge, but the affair stinks.

It is well known that some of the science produced by the discredited researchers threatened to affect the bottom line of a very large pharmaceutical company, and that said pharmaceutical company makes large political contributions to the Liberal party.

What we now need in BC is leadership. Lives have been turned upside down deliberately by a conspiracy of malicious, cynical people, who live in the Machiavellian delusion that power is more important than truth.

The very idea that Christy Clark was not somehow involved in this is preposterous. She must not be allowed to be premier again.

 

BC Liberals: a History of Bullying

It’s easy to put on a pink shirt and say you’re not a bully, but actions speak louder than words. The BC Liberals have been bullies right since their first mandate, and since Christy Clark’s ascension to leader, they’re worse than ever, pink shirts notwithstanding.

(Before I get started, I encourage you to add your own stories of bullying by BC Liberals in the comment section. There are so many incidents that it’s hard to keep track of them).

Bullies like to kick you when you’re down. When they first got elected in a landslide victory over the NDP, the Liberals followed to the letter the parliamentary rule that said parties without 3 seats or more need not be given opposition status.

The could have given that status to the two sitting NDP MLAs, but a bully doesn’t like to be second guessed, so instead of doing the democratic thing, and providing the people with a critical voice, they made sure that the NDP would not receive any agendas ahead of parliament. They’d be sitting blindfolded.

Bullies are cliquey. Almost right away after the Liberals got elected, Christy Clark was involved in scandal. She made sure that her special friends got priority on BC Rail contracts. This was illegal, of course, and things had to be done to cover it up. Christy Clark got off Scott free, while her associates, Basi and Virk were thrown under the bus.

When you’re down, bullies point and laugh. The outgoing government was ruthlessly attacked for mismanagement of a contract to build fast ferries for the BC coast. Compared to the Liberal’s  mismanagement (for example, the renovation of BC Place and subsequent bungling of an endorsement contract with Telus), it was a drop in the bucket, but the ferries issue was something that they were able to point fingers and howl at. It became one of the major election issues that resulted in the decimation of the NDP government.

After the election,  being the bullies that they are, the Liberals had to rub the NDP’s nose in it. They sold the completed ferries at a fraction of their worth, and purchased new ferries abroad, ensuring that there could be no reminder of NDP industry. Incidentally, the fast ferries missteps were really the learning curve for what surely would have been a vibrant ship building industry in BC, but the Liberals have never been about farsightedness, just about preserving power.

Bullies don’t care about anyone else’s needs. They just do what they want, even if it’s illegal. Not long into their first mandate, they illegally tore up public sector contracts in both the education and health care sectors. They kicked down a lot of good people, decreasing wages, cutting services.

In both cases they were sued and they lost, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in restitution and legal costs, and worse, demeaning a lot of good people (mostly women) in the process.

Bullies blame victims. In health care, especially when it comes to vulnerable people, the BC Liberals have been heartless. Children with special needs in schools have lost services. The mentally ill have lost services. The poor and the homeless (often mentally ill themselves) have lost services. But the bullies don’t care. They don’t have much sympathy for the losers in the learning support room, or the druggies on the street.

If you cross a bully, you’d better watch out. The bullies will ruin your reputation. I’ve never seen a worse example of mean-girl cruelty than the time the BC Liberals had contracted scientists to study the effects of certain pharmaceuticals. The researchers found evidence that stood to harm the bottom line of a pharmaceutical company that just happened to be a huge Liberal donor.

The Liberals had the researchers fired, but not being satisfied with having them gone, they wanted to hurt them. They engaged in a smear campaign, accusing the researchers of falsifying their results. The researchers sued, and received huge settlements, of course. All  except for one of them, a PhD candidate, who, having had his reputation destroyed, killed himself.

And of course, like the bullies they are, they stood there shrugging. They pretended to involve the police, and refused to discuss the issue lest doing so prejudice the police investigation. It turned out they were lying (Bullies lie.) and that there had never been any police investigation. Roderick MacIsaac’s suicide note mysteriously disappeared. And they refused to open a public inquiry, instead preferring to have an ombudsperson look into things, against the wishes of the victims.

Bullies buy friends if they can’t win them through intimidation and fear mongering. I have never seen such a plethora of pre-election promises from an incumbent government. It’s as if they’ve secretly agreed with their opposition the whole time.

The only way to beat bullies is to stand up to them. This spring we have an opportunity for a fair fight. We need to take their power away on election night.

The Goldner Report on VSB – biased and myopic.

The investigation by Roslyn Goldner on allegations of a toxic work environment is not at all conclusive, and is itself controversial. The report is flawed on several bases.

First of all, it was prepared by a lawyer, when the issues really should have been investigated by a workplace psychologist: someone who has better credentials for understanding workplace dynamics.

Second, the report is written from a biased point of view. Most of the incidents that it cites as evidence of a toxic work environment relate to activism by Vision trustees on behalf of citizens. In emphasizing these incidents as negative impacts, the report takes a position on the role of a school board, preferring a “stewardship model” to an advocacy model of board responsibility.

Although the report doesn’t detail what is meant by stewardship, one can only assume the definition to include fiduciary responsibility to Ministry of Education policy –in other words, a sycophantic obedience to superiors rather than a bold representation of the desires of the electorate. To that end, Goldner failed to investigate the financial pressures imposed by the Ministry of Education that were the toxin that saturated the whole process.

Furthermore, the report accepts the findings of an audit by Earnst and Young ipso facto rather than considering audit itself as a likely stressor in the work environment. As the Earnst and Young audit was the second audit in as many years inflicted by the Ministry of Education, it is itself a form of bullying that was not addressed at all in Goldner.

The report finds that unlike past school boards, the current board was particularly problematic, but then it fails to describe how the board had changed in composition.

Board trustee Patti Bacchus’ behaviour is repeatedly mentioned in the report as an example of the “bullying” inflicted on the District employees, but Bacchus has been a constant on past boards. The report fails to delve into this issue.

Bullying breeds bullying. If one wants to truly understand the source of bullying, one must investigate far more thoroughly. The report’s failure to provide a context for the alleged bullying must be at least in part attributable to Goldner’s lack of expertise in psychology.

Another problem with the report is its constant negative reference to political agendas of board members. It’s understandable that respondents to the investigation pointed out how board governance was mired in political agendas, but the report fails to disambiguate these agendas.

Agendas are based on belief systems and therefore, they are necessarily political. Agendas are at the heart of policymaking. The trustees were elected based on their stated beliefs, and were required, therefore, to try and influence policy according to those beliefs.

The Vision candidates, who are presented negatively in this report, had an agenda that was at odds with the policy of the current Ministry of Education. Therefore, their mandate was necessarily activist. It was easy for the NPA trustees to present themselves with more equanimity in such a climate. They enjoyed the privilege of being in agreement with the Ministry.

The report connotes democratic activism and disagreement as a negative force. Certainly the political situation was heated. Certainly the School Board employees were placed in a difficult if not impossible position. But this investigation, while being able to point to the symptoms of a toxic work environment, fails to get to the underlying cause.

To get to the cause, Goldner needed to go deeper. She needed to identify the realpolitik that was infecting the education system. She needed to consider the pressure brought to trustees by parents angry at the imminent closures of their children’s schools. She needed acknowledge the anger of teachers, and the frustration of the electorate engendered by the unconstitutional behaviour of government, both of which were stressors on senior staff as well as trustees.

Instead, her report is myopic. It points fingers at well-meaning people who were jealously trying to protect the school system from further decimation by a government bent on privatizing education.

The Cost to Taxpayers of BC Liberals’ Bungling of the Education File

Of all promises made in the pre-election budget put forward by the BC Liberals today, the one that we should be most skeptical about is projected education spending (which, incidentally, has been underestimated).

The main reason for the increase in funding on the education file is that Christy Clark’s government has been forced by the BC Supreme Court and Supreme Court of Canada to change its funding formula.

The court was clear in its decree: this is restitution –punishment of a government that flouted the law so callously that it needed to be taught a lesson. And the lesson has taken the form of a $250+ million per year hit to taxpayers.

All this is so unnecessary! As explained in the Court rulings, the government was never under any obligation to acquiesce to teacher union demands. It was only required to engage in the bargaining process in good faith –that is, with the intention of arriving at a collective agreement. The government is entitled to play hard ball with the union, and even to legislate if no agreement can be reached.

But  Christy Clark, in her blind political ambition, decided to make an enemy of BC’s teachers, believing that if she could bring the union to its knees, she would come off as a hero for free enterprise.

Her toying with the BCTF was never about reaching agreements, and the BC Supreme Court saw right through her shenanigans. The documents uncovered in court proved that the Liberals were goading the union in order to score political points, while parents scrambled to find daycare for their kids who were not in school where they belonged. Clark figured she could pin all the troubles on teachers, and parents would believe her.

The Liberals’ ongoing bungling of the education file has been disgraceful. No private corporation could survive if it botched negotiations as badly as the BC Liberals did. (But then again, no private corporation has an endless stream of taxpayers’ money to pay its legal bills, and private corporations lose money during strikes.)

This issue could have been put to rest for a lot less money in 2010, had the Liberals only honoured the ruling of the BC Supreme Court at that time, stopped their mean-spirited (illegal, as it turns out) attacks on the Union, and tried to come to agreements. But they just laughed up their sleeves, and kept on in their glib manner.

And now who’s laughing? Certainly not the taxpayers of BC who are paying an increase of over $740 million over three years. And despite their vindication in court, neither are teachers. The government has added a toxin to the work environment that simply was not there before the BC Liberals came to power in 2000 –one that is unlikely to go away as long as Christy Clark is premier.

It’s worth noting here that shortly before the Liberals took power, the outgoing NDP government had ended local bargaining of teacher salaries, thereby setting up a system that reduced BC Teachers’ leverage in negotiations with government. No more could agreements be whipsawed from district to district. Christy Clark and the Liberals squandered that advantage over and over, and now we all pay.

Duplicity exposed and confirmed. It’s time for Christy Clark to go.

Christy Clark, the premier of British Columbia, is trying to gaslight the public by spinning the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision as an opportunity to “invest in kids”.

On Thursday, November 10, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada heard an appeal from teachers to overturn the BC Appeal Court decision that sided with the Liberals: a decision that questioned whether the BC Liberal Government had violated Charter rights for teachers… for a second time.

At the Supreme Court of Canada hearing, the judges didn’t even bother to deliberate over evidence. After hearing opening arguments from the Liberals’ lawyer, the federal Court recessed for less than half an hour before ruling from the bench in favour of the teachers.

The speed with which the ruling came down is the legal equivalent of laughing the BC Liberals out of town. But it’s no joke to British Columbians.

The original court finding couldn’t be more clear: The BC Liberals violated the rights of some 40,000+ citizens. The ruling reads like a beat down of Christy Clark’s government, and exposes almost unbelievable duplicity: a government that used children as pawns in a political game; a government that made up false allegations against its own employees; a government whose policy was to “run silent and run deep”.

Christy Clark’s signature is on the unconstitutional legislation. She was the Education Minister who proudly proclaimed it in the Legislature back in 2002.

She might have been forgiven for her ignorance, but having once been told by the Court in 2011 that she had violated the Charter rights of over 40,000 people, she re-wrote the same legislation pretty much verbatim in 2012. And her reason for doing so was far from forgivable (See “The Supreme Court of Canada Decision Against Christy Clark’s Government and the Dark Story It Confirms“).

She has slithered around this issue for 15 years now, leaving public education in unprecedented crisis: accruing millions of dollars in legal debts, and causing outrage and indignation of British Columbians as they are now on the hook for over $300 million a year in court-ordered restoration of old contract language.

Christy Clark has never been interested in “investing in kids”. She has decimated public education: closed schools and stripped support for the most vulnerable kids, all the while shrugging and smirking, and making outrageously false statements.

Well finally the jig is up. Her treachery has been exposed, and confirmed by Canada’s highest court. It’s time for Christy Clark to go.

The Supreme Court of Canada Decision Against Christy Clark’s Government, and the Dark Story It Confirms

The Supreme Court of Canada’s repudiation of the BC Liberal Government on November 10, 2016 is a huge validation for teachers, but its meaning goes far beyond education policy. The Court’s verdict confirms a very dark story of government duplicity.

The story begins in 2002 with Christy Clark’s proud announcement in the BC Legislature of a new law – a law that allowed the government to renege on a contract. This contract contained provisions that the allowable number of students in a classroom had limits, and those limits were lowered if the class included children with special needs. These limits allowed teachers to better reach students who needed help, and they ensured that teachers were not so preoccupied managing classroom behaviour that they couldn’t actually teach.

The contract stripping directly violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This in itself should have been enough to warrant Christy Clark’s resignation. But the BC Liberals went further still, much further.

The teachers took the BC Liberals to court, and in 2010 the BC Supreme Court ordered restitution and gave the government a year to negotiate terms with the teachers. The BC Liberals never did. In fact, how they responded to the BC Supreme Court’s order was so duplicitous as to be reprehensible.

What they did do is foment teachers’ anger by ignoring the court order for two years. It turns out that this was not just negligence, but part of an egregious plan.

The BC Liberals knew about the growing outrage among teachers as they waited for the court-ordered restitution, and they wanted to capitalize on it. They also knew that the teachers union had finite resources, and that further lawsuits would cripple the union financially. So the more they could game the system, the stronger the government’s position became vis a vis negotiations with the BC Teachers Federation.

When the BC Liberals finally did respond to the court order, they timed their response so that it would happen during contract negotiations when tensions were high. Far from following the spirit of the court’s ruling, they simply wrote a new legislation that committed the exact same violation. In fact, the new legislation (Bill 22) contained verbatim passages ripped from the original disqualified legislation.

By now it was 2012. At that time, UBC Law Professor, Joel Bakan, wrote a column in the Vancouver Sun decrying the action of the BC Liberals, writing:

“Governments are obliged to govern according to law. That is what distinguishes democracies from tyrannies. As a fundamental democratic principle, the rule of law is seriously jeopardized when governments play fast and loose with constitutional and international laws, as this government is now doing with Bill 22.”

Naturally the teachers took the BC Liberals to court again. And during the court’s investigation, a stunning revelation was made. Cabinet documents, as well as insider testimony revealed that all along the government had been engaged in political deceit. The Court found that the BC Liberals, by their own admission, had been using legislation to goad teachers into a strike so that they could sweep in with a back-to-work order to reopen schools –a move they believed would win public favour ahead of an upcoming election.

In short, the BC Liberals wanted the union to strike. They wanted schools to be closed and parents to be outraged. They knew they could use this outrage. They were using school children and teachers as political pawns. This can all be read in the BC Supreme Court’s final ruling.

In its ruling, the court expressed its own outrage at the government’s behaviour

[620] It was fundamentally unfair for the government to extend the unconstitutional legislation by way of Bill 22, after the union had already prosecuted and won a Court decision declaring that the legislation was unconstitutional. The government here was strongly influenced to continue the unconstitutional legislation because of its desire to gain the upper-hand in negotiations with the union and not in pursuit of any valid policy objective.

[621] The evidence is that the government knew, following the Bill 28 Decision, that the legislative prohibition on bargaining over Working Conditions was unconstitutional, and so must have known that continuing the prohibition was also unconstitutional.

The Court ordered an immediate return of class size and composition levels to what they were in 2002, even though it would add an enormous cost burden to the government, stating:

… the awarding of Charter damages on the basis of deterring government conduct is meant to deter the government from engaging in conduct that is not in compliance with the Constitution. Furthermore, this deterrence is not aimed at influencing the errant behaviour of a specific government actor but is meant to serve a much broader purpose: to influence government behaviour in general, in order to ensure government compliance with the Charter in the future.

The BC Liberals responded by appealing the decision at the BC Court of Appeal – further delaying action, further antagonizing teachers, and further prolonging the strike in which teachers fought the best they could, now with depleted resources, against the injustice committed against them.

The teachers did everything they could to get to an equitable settlement, including asking for binding arbitration. The government refused. Eventually, from a weak bargaining position against a government that held all the cards, the teachers accepted a mediated settlement.

The government won its appeal at Provincial Court, but sensing (likely based on the strong written dissent of one of the judges on the case) that the case was ultimately un-winnable at the Supreme Court level, they put public money aside to address the court’s inevitable mandate.

It took 20 minutes for the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn the BC Liberals’ appeal. Now that the final decision has been rendered in favour of the teachers, it will be interesting to see what other slick plans the BC Liberals have up their sleeve. It would be hard to imagine them acting with any kind of nobility at this point.

“Technically”, the BC Liberals are not lying.

Take a good look at the image below. Notice the pretty colours and the majestic provincial flag.

Notice the government logo. Whoops! Not government logo… BC Liberal Caucus logo. (This is an important distinction.)

Notice the words used. “We welcome today’s announcement that…” Notice that the words are NOT “We are proud to make the announcement that…”

The difference, of course, is that by saying the former, the government technically is not lying outright. They can’t help what people infer, right? They didn’t actually mean for us to see this as a proud policy announcement, right?

Yeah… right.

CpWkNDlUEAAHxnL.jpg-large

And of course, the Liberals have to be careful to state that it is in their role as government caucus, and not government itself that they perform this little stunt. This keeps the opposition from being able to bring it up in the Question Period, because what the Liberal Party chooses to endorse outside of government is its own business.

Slick.

Because, as we all probably recall, the closing and subsequent re-opening of the coast guard station had NOTHING TO DO WITH the provincial Liberals. It is the federal government that controls this.

It was just a few months ago that the Harper government caused outrage in the Lower Mainland when it shut down the very busy rescue station. Now the BC Liberals are trying to cash in on the warm fuzzy sentiment that will result from setting the issue to right.

And no doubt, some people will look at this little stunt and say, “So what? No big deal. Technically, they’re not lying.”

But it is a big deal. Clearly this is a Pavlovian attempt to pair warm fuzzy feelings with the BC Liberal banner.

The sign is a deception, and as such, it’s unethical government practice (oops, I mean government caucus practice). The government (caucus) is taking credit for something it didn’t do. (Well… not technically. Right?)

Instead of relying on solid policy to make them electable, the Liberals, who are down in the polls, are doing what they always do. They’re relying on stunts to win votes. They don’t govern. They only ever campaign.

Happy Canada Day! It’s no small thing.

It’s no small thing that without fear, I walked 2 km or so by myself to Lafarge Lake to check out the Canada Day festivities there today as the afternoon wound down. I never gave a thought to safety. No need. And as darkness began to settle on the day, I walked home –again without fear. This privilege, this safety: it’s no small thing.

At the park were thousands of people, most of whom look different from me. And they chattered away gaily in all kinds of different languages, including English.

There we all were, an odd mix of cultures, having a few family laughs on Canada Day: politely making space for each other, selling and buying food, bouncing babies, swinging toddlers, handing cash out to teenagers. It was a glorious bustle –a magnificent mix of Canadians: all equally participating, all equally alive, all equally able to be themselves without fear of some snide comment or dark resentment. It’s no small thing.

The day Prime Minister Harper coined the terrible term, “old stock Canadians” seems like so long ago, though it was just last fall. Today, such a notion would have been a sacrilege. Who among us could have claimed to be any more deserving than anyone else? The very thought of it is absurd.

I’m home now. My wife is still at work, on her evening shift.

The house is quiet.

Thousands of miles across the country, in Nova Scotia, I have a new grandson whom I’m going to visit in a few days.

The world has its problems. This vast nation is imperfect; there can be no doubt about that.

But today I am glad for Canada.