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.

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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.

“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.

Why Christy Clark’s $10,000 lunches are a conflict of interest.

My first impression when I found out that Premier Christy Clark was hosting $10,000 fundraising lunches, was pretty ambivalent. Her party appeals to people who don’t want to be taxed: rich people, for whom a 1% increase in tax is a helluva lot of money; people who would rather pay private school tuition fee because it’s cheaper than a tax increase that would go toward a more equitable public system (poor kids be-damned); people who are in the C-suites of corporations.

Yeah, I don’t like it, but I thought, “So she knows some rich people, and they’re willing to fund her campaign. So what?”

But the longer I sit with the idea the more I realize that it’s not “so what”. Not at all.

I still remember the howls of outrage levelled at Premier Glen Clark back in the day when a friend of his, built the premier a nice sundeck for his residence to the tune of 9 grand or so: interestingly, lower than the cost of one lunch with Christy Clark. Oh the indignation! The mere optics of the transaction led to the resignation of the premier.

Ultimately, Glen Clark’s behaviour was investigated, and he was found to not have had any conflicting interests. It ended up being just a friend doing a friend a favour –without benefiting from the fact that the recipient was the premier. Still, though. It was a transgression for a premier to receive such a benefit.

But this business with Premier Christy Clark and the $10,000 lunches: this is blatant violation of conflict of interest guidelines.

First of all, her party pays her a stipend, a big one, which is unconventional enough (What if a question of governance came up that might put her at odds with the party?), but the fact that these lunches raise the funds from which the party draws to pay for that stipend… yeahhh, that’s a slick arrangement!

And what possible motive could a person have for a private lunch with the premier for that amount of money?

Do they just talk about the weather?

Unlikely.

At the very least, one has to believe that at these lunches, there is discussion of how those at the table would like to see the province run. Maybe they say things like, “Thank you, Premier, for keeping my corporate taxes low.”

And maybe the Premier answers with something like, “Well we wanna ensure that good folks like you, who bring so much wealth to the province, have a fiscal environment that allows you to succeed. And could you please pass the risotto?”. And then they clink their glasses of Quail’s Gate.

And that very conversation is the problem (not the part about risotto). People who can pay will be able to bend the premier’s ear, and present to her their world view (right or wrong), and the premier, who has just cashed in big-time, might possibly feel a bit indebted to these lunch guests. And after all, they’re the nice people –well dressed, charming, funny, educated.

Meanwhile, the people who are struggling to put food on their own table will never be able to let Christy Clark know how the views she subscribes to may not reflect the reality of life for a larger portion of the populace. So she goes on in blissful (or willful) ignorance, eating on white linen table cloths.

 

 

Passion-based learning? How about knowledge-based learning?

     In my Twitter feed, I just saw a tweet about an education seminar called “Passion-Based Learning”. So this is where we’re going in education? It seems likely. For years I attended seminar after seminar on student-centred learning. This seems like a natural evolution. It’s a bad idea.

     I get it.

     Because we care about our students, we want them pursue their passions in the hope that in doing so, they will feel more inspired to learn, and will happily pursue the skills and knowledge to take their passion to the next level. If a kid is interested in… say… go-carts, he’ll want to build one, and in doing so, he’ll be more keen to learn about physics: vectors, acceleration, friction associated with go-carts. At least, that’s the thinking.
     So in this model, we ask kids what they’re interested in. Then we tell them to decide on a project they’d like to do, that will satisfy their interest, and pull them into the world of knowledge. We’re looking for a hook to engage kids. And I guess this effort is fine except for a couple problems.

      The first is that kids’ passions are fickle, and there’s no evidence that their passion translates into better learning of tangential concepts. In other words, the kid who likes building go-carts just may not be terribly interested in friction coefficients, no matter how the concept is presented. Nor will his passion spill over at all into an important topic like English.

      The second is that focussing only on our passions creates the illusion that our passions are important. They’re not. At least, they’re not as important as the overall society. We should not suggest to students that school, which is their first experience with society at large, should bend to fit their passions.

     Students need to learn the importance of self-discipline and self-sacrifice. A kid needs to forgo his passion to do his homework. We need to make sure that students are aware that their job is to somehow become useful contributors in society, and that just because they’re interested in something doesn’t mean it’s a priority.

     Passion should not be the basis for learning; knowledge should. We hope that knowledge will speak to students’ passion. In fact, we know that the better we equip a child with knowledge, the more we open the door to many interests (passions if you will).
     Good teachers have always tried to hook students into learning a new concept by first accessing prior knowledge, and even (Yes!) prior passions. But to allow students to choose what they learn, and to have to try to somehow sneak knowledge in according to what the students’ passions impel them to choose to study is backward.

 

Dear Conservatives: Your election loss was never about style.

Here’s a little free advice for the Conservative Party of  Canada.

Stop blaming your election loss on Harper’s style. Canadians didn’t send so many of you packing over questions of style.

It was your policy. YOUR policy.

Harper tried to get bitumen pipelines built through BC, Quebec, and the U.S. and you sat there and watched him –HELPED him even. It wasn’t his style that offended people; it was the pipelines. And he knew it. That’s why he stacked the National Energy Board with people invested in the oil industry. And you let him –HELPED him even. That’s why a bunch of your people created a fake advocacy group called Ethical Oil. That’s why Harper tried to suppress scientists, the huge majority of whom are very concerned about the increase in greenhouse gases caused by (among other things) bitumen oil. And you let him –HELPED him even.

The “style” was the desperate tactics of a desperate ideologue. But don’t for a minute get the impression that Canadians are so vacuous as to think  it was all about style.

And there’s more. The F-35 program was WAY over budget. Ridiculously so. When Harper won his majority, the damn things couldn’t even fly yet, and we’d spent kazillions on them. Australia gave up on the project. Even Obama was talking about giving up on it. Then an auditor found that your government had lied about the costs. Another desperate strategy of a desperate ideologue. But Canadians saw right through that.

In BC your government shut down the busiest Coast Guard station in Canada. Then a boat had its hull punctured and gushed 2700 litres of bunker fuel into the inlet. Granted, the temerity it takes to say that one is “enormously pleased” with a response that took nine hours before a boom was set up says something about style. But it was the nine hours that had people fuming, not so much the style, while a boat that previously would have been able to respond to the situation in 6 minutes sat in dry dock instead of at the Coast Guard station.

It was the FACT that your government re-purposed the Museum of Civilization. It was the FACT that you changed the Elections Act. It was the FACT that you brought in mandatory minimum sentences against the advice of the justice system itself. It was the FACT that you tried to appoint an ineligible Judge to the Supreme Court (Okay, that was Harper. But then you all went on the attack against Justice McLachlin), the FACT that you created the Anti-Terrorism act, the FACT that you created anti-union legislation, the FACT that you killed our ability to keep track of our nation by killing the long-form census, the FACT that you took us into combat in Afghanistan and then in Iraq and Syria, the FACT that you took health care and pensions away from our veterans, the FACT that you tried to sneak us into the Trans Pacific Partnership, the FACT that you provided income splitting and other tax benefits to those who don’t need it while doing nothing for those who do.

It’s the FACT that you ran enormous deficits while shrinking public infrastructure. It’s the FACT that you changed the Elections Act in such a way that it would benefit you. It’s the FACT that you refused to acknowledge or comment at all on the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or to indicate any kind of concern for hundreds of murdered and missing women.

You need to get it. You need to own it. We might have been able to forgive your style. Hell I admire the Ex Prime Minister’s piano ability, and I’ve already forgiven Trudeau for wearing brown shoes with a grey suit the day he announced the new cabinet.

It was never Harper’s style. It was your policy. YOUR policy, as in… the policy that came from YOU.

Please don’t think that “badass” is a good qualification for a cabinet minister.

An opinion piece by Stephen Marsh (Esquire.com), discusses the cool factor of Canada under a Trudeau government. The article is humorous –a little tongue-in-cheek to be sure, and not objectionable, really. But aspects of it pushed a button with me.

The article ascribes to our new defense minister, Harjit Sajjan, a tough-guy credential, preferring this (perhaps playfully) to “running think tanks, or teaching at universities” –as if killing Taliban fighters is somehow a better qualification for a Cabinet Minister than being an intellectual. The article compares Sajjan to movie action hero, Jack Reacher.

Notwithstanding the overall message of the article, it brushes against a theme that doesn’t sit right with me. I’m tired of the diss of intellectualism. Just who the hell is Jack Reacher, and why the hell would we want someone like him in our government?

Killing Taliban (or killing anyone) is not something that should impress. Rather, it’s something that should depress. In the world today, there are far too many people killing each other. The dichotomy of “us” and “them” is far to entrenched. Whatever has necessitated our young people to range themselves as infantry against other young people in deadly conflict is a tragedy.

I don’t have a problem with the appointment of Sajjan. For all I know, he is eminently qualified to be Minister of Defense. Certainly his experience in the military can be an asset to the job.

But when I pin the poppy to my lapel, an association of the word “badassery” with the proud military history (of which my grandfathers and grandmothers were a part) feels like so much blasphemy. The word diminishes them in some way: men and women who preached and lived gentleness and who thought “intellectual” to be a great compliment –men and women who survived a terrible, terrible war, and who fervently wished that their children’s children never experience war again. Men and women who told me that the “bigger man” was the one who walks away from a fight.

“Cute” is the right word to contextualize this article. I get the joke, but I have a real fear that among Canadians there is a large element of macho-shithead-ery that would prefer badassery to a sober, nuanced, intellectual approach to a very serious portfolio.

Stephen Harper: He hid in the closet for all of us.

As the 42nd Canadian federal election nears, I think about a particular defining moment of Stephen Harper’s leadership. It came when a mentally ill gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, rampaged through the parliament buildings. I don’t wish to make light of this incident; it would have been terrifying for all involved, and certainly devastating for those close to the victims.

But it happened, and while it was happening, the course of action the Prime Minister chose was to hide himself in a small storage room. This action of the PM offers a glimpse at the man Stephen Harper is. What went through his mind as he hid away in this dark room while chaos reigned outside? Of course, true to form, he won’t say. This leaves us to speculate.

If there’s one thing we know about the Prime Minister, it’s that he is very concerned about “Islamicism” (a word that he himself coined). I used to think that Harper presented the idea of Muslim extremism (George W. Bush style) as a way to leverage fear in order to secure votes. The fear had to be manufactured because Canada, like most countries, has had almost no trouble with Islamic extremism, but that fact hasn’t dissuaded the Prime Minister. In virtually all of his speeches, he emphasizes a threat of jihadist terrorism.

I say I used to think he was leveraging this stuff, but I’ve changed my mind.

I think Harper actually believes that crazed jihadists are everywhere, lurking in the shadows,  just waiting for the opportunity to pounce on and “radicalize” some sweet, clean cut kids who are innocently trolling Youtube, and convert them into frothing, deranged suicide bombers. The attack on Parliament gave Harper all the evidence he needed to justify his belief that “Islamicism” is a real threat. He now had assurance (if he ever needed any) that Canada needs to insulate itself against “Islamicism”, even if if we have to surrender some of our basic freedoms to do so. It is for our own good. He definitely wants us to be afraid.

It would be convenient for Harper’s detractors to believe he hid in the closet out of cowardice, but I believe differently. I believe that, all of his jihad fears confirmed, Harper fantasized somehow that he, being the Prime Minister, had to preserve himself for the good of the country,  just like in the film “Airforce One” when the U.S. president, played by Harrison Ford, ducks into hiding aboard a presidential airplane overrun by hijackers (foreign extremists, of course!), so that he can use his superior cunning and stealth to thwart the plans of these evil bloodthirsty villains, and save his family and America too.

Think about it. Without warning, shots ring out in the parliament building. Harper must have been thinking, “This is it. We’re at war!” It was just as he had suspected; the terrorists had finally launched their attack. It was essential that he preserve himself so that he could emerge from his bunker and lead his people to victory! He was probably thinking about how during times of attack, it is the policy of U.S. presidents and vice presidents to go underground in separate locations.

He had been right all along, and the lazy unionists, the egghead intellectuals, and the hysterical feminists had missed the big picture! It would now be up to Harper alone to lead the good people of Canada; he alone would protect us all.  The people can’t be trusted to manage all this on their own. Harper must endure!

He hid in the closet for all of us.

Harper’s Monument to Ignorance

Soon, somewhere on the streets of Ottawa, our nation’s capital,  a monument to ignorance will be erected.

The Stephen Harper Government has put up a website advertising its new Memorial to Victims of Communism.

A memorial to victims of communism is a wrong-headed memorial from the start. It is really a monument to propaganda.

Whether one subscribes to communism or not, it is merely an idea about a way to live. And at its heart, it is not an egregious idea. The failure of communism is not due to any evil embedded in the idea itself, but rather it is due to human beings’ inability to sustain its laudable humanistic goals. Any intellectual knows this to be true.

If ideas could kill, we should be building memorials to mercantilism or to Christianity, which have most certainly been used as justifications for violence. In fact, wasn’t it supporters of Christianity who brought such horror on Canada’s indigenous people through the creation of colonialist policy and the creation of residential schools?

Yet as we all know, it would be absurd to create a memorial to victims of Christianity: absurd, and offensive to the good people who worship a Christian god.

Aside from the fact that Harper’s memorial will cost us many millions of dollars, it is sure to stand as a means to galvanize people in a spirit of ignorance – the very ignorance that supplies the rationale for atrocities against other people. It will become a rallying point for a crusade against a political ideology, leading us to wander mindlessly into conflict with good people who dare to imagine a world differently than we do.

And in the light of the the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recent revelations of the atrocities Canada has inflicted on her own First Peoples, are we not obligated create a memorial to victims of residential schools? Such a memorial will serve as a reminder for generations to come of the horror we ourselves are capable once we lose our moral compass and forget the humanity of others.

It will be a sober reminder of the need for us to regard our fellow human beings with love and respect in a spirit of decency and cooperation.This is the memorial that Canada needs, and one that has been recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.