Monday, April 14, 2014

BC Liberals Protect Agricultural Farmland? Horse Manure!

Osoyoos, BC - where significant farmland is preserved
You can bet the farm they'll sell out the Agricultural Land Reserve... again.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column
Tuesday April 8, 2014
By Bill Tieleman
"It functioned up until the election of this Liberal administration... politics has interfered and land is being removed and that is a serious, serious mistake." -- Former NDP premier Dave Barrett, Voice Of BC, June 29, 2005
Don't believe the BC Liberal government will "protect farmland" or "help farmers" -- its Bill 24 is all about continuing its attack the Agricultural Land Reserve, which began shortly after the party's 2001 election win.
Former NDP premier Dave Barrett wasn't fooled back in 2005, and no one should be fooled today by the nonsensical bafflegab spun by cabinet minister Bill Bennett, who introduced legislation to carve up farmland for use by industry and developers while undermining the Agricultural Land Commission's independence from political interference.
Bill 24 would split B.C. into two zones with very different rules on removing farmland protected by the ALR. The bill enables government to use "economic, cultural and social values" and "regional and community planning objectives" or "other prescribed conditions" decided by cabinet to plough ahead with farmland removal.
Bennett is unlikely to stop at one radical change to the ALR, which currently applies to Zone 2 of B.C. -- the Interior, the North and the Kootenays.
Just wait for the other shoe to drop in Zone 1, including the South Coast, Okanagan and Vancouver Island, where B.C.'s most productive land that creates 85 per cent of farm receipts is under enormous pressure from developers and industry.
Ministers of manure
Bennett is the minister responsible for a "core review" of government and is clearly driving his anti-ALR agenda, first made clear eight years ago.
There has always been a defined process for removing farmland from the ALR, which protects five per cent of B.C. Thousands of hectares have been exempted since it was introduced in 1974, mostly from areas with the most productive soil.
Before the ALR's creation, B.C. lost about 6,000 hectares of farmland each year. But it's not like the ALR stopped the loss of all farmland, particularly in southern B.C.
Between 1974 and 2013, Metro Vancouver lost 5,910 hectares of farmland and the Fraser Valley 5,083 hectares, according to ALC reports, while overall land protected has shrunk by 94,795 hectares since 1974.
But Bennett doesn't care, preferring to claim that the ALR is some bureaucratic nightmare that preserves useless land simply to penalize its impoverished owners. "There is some land within the Agricultural Land Reserve that actually is useless to agriculture," Bennett said.
"That land could be located in a region where there's six months of winter. In some cases the land is covered by forest. I've seen land within the reserve that's mountainous. It's steep. It's rocky. It's swampy. It has really poor-quality soil and no feasible access to water."
Oh the horror! Poverty-stricken farmers forced to plant crops on rocks and swampland because of evil rules written in Victoria to keep them in serfdom!
What horse manure from Bennett, who last year described the opposition as "turds" on Twitter!
If Bennett isn't bad enough, last year Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm was admonished by the Agricultural Land Commission for attempting to "politically influence" an attempt to removed protected farmland from the ALR to build a rodeo and recreational vehicle campsite.
And despite the commission rejecting the application, Arizona developer Terry McLeod built a race track, parking lot and seating for 3,000 people anyway, apparently completely confident the BC Liberal government would do nothing to stop him. Obviously, he was correct.
Bennett and Pimm's legislation could soon pass, so support the protection of B.C. farmland by letting your MLA know and signing a petition online here.


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Monday, April 07, 2014

More Porsche Sales, More Poor Children, More Workers Without Full Time Jobs in BC - Something Wrong With This Picture

Porsche dealership in Vancouver - life is good!
When luxury car sales and unemployment spike simultaneously, something's amiss.

Bill Tieleman's 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday April 1, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

"Social Acceptance: It is important to us that the Porsche brand is firmly anchored in society. And represents an attainable dream."
Great news: Porsche sales went up 20 per cent in British Columbia in 2013.
But unfortunately, so did the number of poor children and people without full-time jobs!
And while it's good Porsche is concerned about the "social acceptance" of the cars it sells, starting from $54,000 for a Macan S to over $1 million for a 918 Spyder, something is wrong with this picture.
Sadly, a Porsche is an "attainable dream" for B.C.'s rich, but the hope of a full-time job and raising children without poverty is unattainable for hundreds of thousands of British Columbians.
And don't look to B.C. Premier Christy Clark's heavily-advertised BC Jobs Plan to change that -- BC Liberal "strategy" bets everything on the risky chance that liquefied natural gas will cure all.
On Monday, Clark and her five-minister entourage visited Ottawa to repeat claims that LNG will create 100,000 B.C. jobs.
However a RBC Capital Markets report released last week once again casts doubts on B.C.'s boasts.
"A window of opportunity exists for Canadian LNG projects to capture market share, but that opening is limited given intensifying supply competition from the United States, Russia, and Mozambique," the report says.
"While the global LNG market is likely to remain supply-constrained into 2018, demand growth limitations could play a much bigger role thereafter -- particularly if Japan's nuclear utilization rates rebound as we expect."
Meanwhile, back in the real world, child poverty, income disparity and job losses in B.C. simply grow and grow.
The rich, the poor, the Porsche
Look at the cold, hard numbers.
Statistics Canada reports that B.C.'s full-time employment dropped from 1,814,100 in Oct. 2013 to 1,802,700 in Feb. 2014.
Every other western province saw full-time employment grow during that period.
B.C.'s labour force actually shrank, while the employment rate dropped. Now, 157,500 workers are jobless. (Because of a lower participation rate -- people giving up on finding work -- the unemployment rate dipped slightly from 6.6 per cent in October to 6.4 per cent in February.)
Then look at B.C.'s pathetic child poverty record, Canada's worst again.
Youth advocate group First Call's report released late last year shows B.C.'s child poverty rate at 18.6 per cent, the highest in Canada and 5.3 per cent above than the national average, according to the latest StatsCan figures available.
That means one in five kids in B.C., about 153,000, live below StatsCan's low-income cutoff.
First Call points out that B.C. also has the most unequal distribution of income among rich and poor families with children.
The richest 10 per cent has 12.6 times the income of the poorest 10 per cent, the worst ratio in Canada.
But hey, no worries: Porsche sold 569 luxury cars in B.C. last year, a 20 per cent increase over 2012. Jaguar jumped 80 per cent, Land Rover 24 per cent and Audi 12 per cent -- and even Mercedes Benz moved 5,492 new models to rise three per cent.
And as a current radio ad cheerfully tells us: "Just like that, you can afford a Mercedes Benz!"
Unless, that is, you unfortunately happen to be unemployed or poor in British Columbia.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The confusing positions of Mike Harcourt - former BC NDP member - and former BC premier

Mike Harcourt, Darlene Marzari and Joy MacPhail - March 22, 2007
Mike Harcourt is a good guy - I've always liked him and found him to be a decent person in politics.

Which is why I'm very confused about his statements to the Globe and Mail newspaper saying he has let his BC New Democratic Party membership lapse because of three past events:  

1. The BC NDP opposing the unfair BC Liberal carbon tax in the 2009 provincial election.

2. The forced removal of former BC NDP leader Carole James in 2010 after she lost the 2005 and 2009 elections and indicated she would continue as leader in 2013.

3. BC NDP leader Adrian Dix's decision in mid-campaign of the 2013 election to reverse his position to wait and see the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion application before deciding to support or oppose it and instead oppose it immediately.

I disagree with Mike Harcourt on the carbon tax - but that's four years ago and happened under Carole James.  The BC NDP did not oppose the carbon tax in the 2013 election under Adrian Dix.

That's a puzzling position for Harcourt to take.

I regret that Carole James did not make a decision to step down as leader after two election defeats and other issues but regardless of that, it happened three years ago.

Mike Harcourt endorsed MLA Mike Farnworth in the 2011 leadership campaign, so presumably the first two items were not reason to let his BC NDP membership expire and stay out of the leadership endorsement business.  [I endorsed Adrian Dix in 2011.]

That leaves the Kinder Morgan pipeline decision - and I agree with Mike Harcourt that it was a mistake - and I've written that here and in 24 Hours Vancouver and The Tyee several times since the election.

But Mike Harcourt doesn't agree with Mike Harcourt on Kinder Morgan!

At least, Harcourt now disagrees with Harcourt then.

Here's what Harcourt told CKNW's Bill Good on May 13, 2013 in a discussion of the election and the Kinder Morgan reversal:

Bill Good: "But Mr Dix had said for months that his principled position was to wait until an application had been made and then for there to be a proper review and suddenly he…."

Mike Harcourt: "That's not the issue. The issue is is this a good idea for an inner-city port in Vancouver, and the answer is no. There's a lot of really necessary port facilities, and we all understand how important the Vancouver Port Authority is."

"I was on the board for six years, so I know how key it is to the Canadian economy, and adding to the wheat and canola and the coal and all the other really important port facilities that are already in the Port of Vancouver and Burrard Inlet and putting a major oil export port there is, I think, a bad idea and you might as well let people know where you stand on that sooner rather than later." 

It's also sad to read a blog item I posted in March 2007 when Mike Harcourt brought down the house at a celebration of former NDP cabinet minister Darlene Marzari.

Here's what I wrote - and Mike said then:

But it was Harcourt's comments about some former premiers that brought roars from the crowd of mostly - but not all - longtime New Democrats.


"I'm one of the former NDP premiers who still holds a membership card," Harcourt quipped to howls of laughter. 

Take that Ujjal Dosanjh! Pow to you, Bob Rae!


I am disappointed that Mike Harcourt has now left the NDP.

But with reasons as confusing as these, I'm even more puzzled than disappointed.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

On Gay Rights, NFL Has No Kluwe - Fired After Supporting Gay Marriage, Ex-Minnesota Vikings Punter Chris Kluwe Kicks Back in Vancouver

Ex-Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe speaks at SFU downtown in Vancouver March 18 - Bill Tieleman photo
Bill Tieleman talks with principled punter Chris Kluwe, who says social activism cost him his job.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column
Tuesday March 25, 2014
By Bill Tieleman
"In the end, it's a choice between playing a children's game or standing up for human rights." 
- Chris Kluwe, Minnesota Vikings football player fired after supporting gay marriage
Would you give up a $1.45-million-a-year job playing professional football to publicly speak out in favour of gay marriage? Even though you are straight?
Former National Football League punter Chris Kluwe did.
And while Kluwe spoke at last week's Vancouver TED Talks conference, he pulled no punches when asked to respond to my criticism of TED's overzealous focus on corporate technology solving world problems.
That's no surprise from this outspoken guy, who in January wrote the stunningly provocative article titled: "I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot."
Published on Deadspin, the story charged that Kluwe's refusal to be silent about gay rights cost him his job. It caused a huge international controversy, received over four million views, and helped earn Kluwe nearly 200,000 Twitter followers.
In person, Kluwe is no strident martyr. He's just an ordinary guy in shorts and sandals doing the right thing, with the platform to make it heard.
Talking at TED - And SFU
I met Kluwe last Tuesday when he agreed to speak to students at teacher Suzanne Norman's Simon Fraser University publishing class in downtown Vancouver.
He fielded questions from students, a player from the university's Clan football team, and myself.
Chris Kluwe & Bill Tieleman - Suzanne Norman photo
The 32-year-old punter who lives in California with his wife and two daughters said he loves Vancouver and would consider playing for the BC Lions.
Kluwe didn't hesitate when I asked if my criticism that the $7,500-per-person TED Talks that brought him here is far too fixated on corporate technology solutions to world problems.
"You can't have the belief that technology will solve everything. It gives you the possibility of making things worse," Kluwe responded. "There is a problem seeing technology as a panacea."
Kluwe's TED Talk last Wednesday wasn't about social activism; it was about augmented reality and his belief that technology can make football safer, including using tools like Google Glass to avoid career-ending concussions by giving players warning signs of impending collisions with tacklers.
By his own admission, Kluwe's future is unclear. He said he plans to play a lot of video games -- a Warcraft expert, his Twitter handle is @ChrisWarcraft -- stay in shape and write books for now. But he is still open to a return to football.
Letter to a 'narcissistic fromunda'
Kluwe became socially actively in 2012, after Maryland politician Emmett C. Burns Jr. attacked Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for supporting a gay marriage initiative. Burns called on the owner of the team to "inhibit such expressions from your employee."
In response, Kluwe penned an eloquent open letter in Deadspin, which told Burns that his "vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level."
Then, Kluwe went nuclear on Burns:
"As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom.
"Not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-bogglingly stupid?
"It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person's right to speech.
"To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit."
Then, Kluwe administered the coup de grace:
"I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won't come into your house and steal your children. They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.
"They won't even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 per cent of our population -- rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children."
Burns was immolated as Kluwe's flame letter went viral, leading the Democrat to reconsider.
"Upon reflection, he has his First Amendment rights. And I have my First Amendment rights... Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds," Burns told media, but clearly Kluwe's free kick put Burns tumbling into the end zone.
'Great job on that letter, man!'
Kluwe knew he was onto something when a 290-pound tackler from an opposing team approached him at a game, causing some significant trepidation until the player said: "Great job on that letter, man!"
But the clueless NFL, in particular the Minnesota Vikings, didn't welcome the eight-year veteran's outspokenness.
Chris Kluwe - at SFU downtown - Bill Tieleman photo
Kluwe was cut by the Vikings in May 2013, a move the punter said was the culmination of repeated attempts to silence him, even though owner Zygi Wilf had personally told him he was free to speak out.
In Vancouver last week, Kluwe was philosophical about paying for his principles, but scathing about the NFL.
"A lot of it is the corporatization of football. They don't want to offend anyone," Kluwe said. "If they don't offend anyone, they'll buy more of our product.
"There are owners who will give a guy who committed a felony a second chance -- murder, drunk driving, spousal abuse," Kluwe said, referring to players like dog killer Michael Vick; Leonard Little, convicted of drunk driving manslaughter; and Ray Lewis, who had murder charges dropped after he agreed to testify against two friends.
All three and many others quickly returned to the NFL field. But speak out in favour of gays and lesbians being allowed to legally marry their partners? Forget it!
Interestingly, Kluwe said the big problem on gay marriage doesn't come from the players, but owners and coaches. "This is very much a generational issue, like racism," Kluwe said.
And he predicted the first openly gay player, college star Michael Sam, will do fine in the NFL once drafted in May.
"Michael Sam is a football player who happens to be gay. Sexuality has nothing more do with it than skin colour," Kluwe said. "I think he'll get a fair shake in NFL locker rooms."
Doing the right thing
Kluwe said he's not sure what's next, but he has started work on his football memoirs as well as a science fiction trilogy, and has already written BEAUTIFULLY UNIQUE SPARKLEPONIES, a 2013 book featuring his personal essays on various absurdities in football and beyond.
While he said that being cut by the Vikings was "bullshit," and that his wife was stressed out at the time, he is amazingly easygoing about it now.
"I honestly don't care. I don't need much to get by. I need a couch and an Internet connection," Kluwe said, though he admitted the NFL salary loss affects his kids' college fund.
When one SFU student asked Kluwe how speaking out impacted his endorsements, Kluwe laughed. "Hey man, punters don't get endorsements!" he replied.
But Kluwe turned deadly serious as well. "This isn't just something I had to go through -- millions of people face losing their jobs for being gay," Kluwe said.
"I'm 'that guy' who speaks out [about] a fairly basic concept: treat people the way you want to be treated. You learn that in kindergarten."
He concluded by noting that his two daughters learned an invaluable lesson from the controversy. "In the future when Dad says: 'Do the right thing,' they'll know I did," Kluwe said.
This political punter has one hell of an admirable kick.


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

VanCity Board of Director Elections March 31 to April 25 - I will be voting for Lily Grewal and Ellen Woodsworth

As a former Director of VanCity, I take a special interest in seeing good people elected to the Board of Canada's largest credit union - and the one I do business with.
Lily Grewal and son

There are several excellent candidates running for elections that start March 31 to April 25 but I want to highlight two that I will be voting for: Lily Grewal and Ellen Woodsworth.

Lily Grewal would be an impressive new voice on the Board, a Delta resident who brings a strong background of working with immigrant communities, unions, non-profits, social justice, cooperatives and much more.

Lily would also provide the VanCity Board with the needed perspective of those members who live south of the Fraser River.

Ellen Woodsworth
Ellen Woodsworth would bring a wealth of experience to VanCity - from sitting on Vancouver City Council for six years to working with seniors, fighting poverty and homelessness and standing up for a variety of progressive causes.

You can find out more about Lily and Ellen at their websites linked above and about the elections at VanCity's website.

In branch voting takes place from April 11 to 17 in select branches; other voting takes place by mail.

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