Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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.

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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.

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.

 

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.