Sunday, August 24, 2014

Vancouver Gardens on Arbutus Corridor Railroaded For Greed by CP Rail

Community gardens at West 6th Avenue and Pine Street - note worn out CP Rail sign - new "no trespassing" signs were put in place recently nearby - Bill Tieleman photo
CP Rail removes plots, pressuring the city to pay more for its private land

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday August 19, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

“Great railway corporations are the most dangerous enemies popular government ever had.”
— David Mills, Member of Parliament, 1872
Canadian Pacific Railway is a dirty rotten scoundrel, needlessly destroying people’s harmless gardens in the Arbutus corridor in a greedy drive to pressure Vancouver to buy its railway line land for $100 million.
Clear enough?
Because I’m only getting started. Last week, the company began tearing out the plots tended by local gardeners along its disused line, which will eventually include near Burrard and West 6th.
Let me say that I respect private property rights, and I believe the CP Rail corridor must be retained as a potential future transportation line, not for housing development.
What I don’t respect is the deliberate devastation of up to 350 permitted community gardens along an 11-kilometre ribbon of land through the city – for the sole purpose of forcing Vancouver to pay CP Rail $80 million more than the $20 million offered.
The vicious tactics are calculated to enrage citizens before a municipal election so that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson feels forced to surrender.
An urban oasis
But the fact is that thousands of Vancouver residents took land CP Rail shamefully neglected since its last train ran in 2001 and turned it into an urban oasis.
No one can walk the abandoned CP Rail lines near Burrard and West 6th Avenue without admiring everything from fig trees to pumpkins – making the city more beautiful.
Robertson, who I support, calls CP Rail “bullies.”
CP spokesperson Breanne Feigel said on the day the removals began: "We're not seeing negotiations have progressed in a positive manner... we need to utilize these assets and unfortunately that's the work we're doing today."
But it's obvious that CP Rail has no plans to run locomotives, or anything else, on the tracks. The company is slashing and burning in order to railroad Vancouver into raising its offer.
At a minimum, the corporation should have left gardeners to finish the season and start reclaiming their property in the late fall.
In comparison, the company was happy to sell Richmond 14.7 acres of CP Rail land along a 3.6 kilometre stretch of old railway track in 2010 for $5 million for public use.
But its Vancouver strategy is based on intimidation, not accommodation with city residents.
Real neighbourly!
Aside from needlessly bulldozing gardens to try and meet their goal, CP Rail is also making another mistake.
It's called public relations. Most companies around the world try to improve their image, donating to charities, sponsoring cancer fundraisers and ensuring residents and politicians see them as good corporate citizens.
Astonishingly, CP Rail claims on its website that: "We do our best to be a reasonable neighbour."
Really? How is bulldozing a neighbour's garden reasonable?
CP Rail continues: "Just as you take care of the things you own, such as your home and yard, CP does the same for our property. We take special care in maintaining our right-of-way -- the area on both sides of our tracks -- and work hard to quickly address any concerns regarding its appearance."
Is cutting the grass and pulling the weeds after 13 years CP Rail's idea of taking special care of its appearance?
Who'll stand up?
Led by cost-cutter American Hunter Harrison, CP Rail's three largest investors are big U.S. hedge funds or financial institutions. Not one of its board of directors comes from B.C.
So don't expect the company to care much about what happens in Vancouver or even Canada.
The fourth largest institutional investor, however, is the Royal Bank of Canada. It spends millions in advertising to keep and win customers here. 
It's time for RBC to publicly say that CP Rail should stop railroading Vancouver and clear-cutting people's gardens.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Justin Trudeau should avoid the "help" of Marc and Jodie Emery to get Liberal Party elected on marijuana legalization

Jodie and Marc Emery
Support from the fickle Prince and Princess of pot could burn the federal Liberal brand, send Trudeau dreams up in smoke

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday August 12, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

"With marijuana being such a big issue, I think I could be a really good spokesperson to defend Justin Trudeau from all the attacks."
- Jodie Emery, marijuana activist and potential federal Liberal candidate
The self-proclaimed "Prince and Princess of Pot" -- marijuana legalization activists Marc and Jodie Emery -- plan to help federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, but that may instead make his chances of becoming prime minister go up in smoke.
Marc Emery is scheduled to get out of a Louisiana jail and return to Canada today after a stiff five-year sentence for dealing marijuana seeds into America by mail.
Meanwhile, Jodie Emery anxiously awaits word from a Liberal Party of Canada, ahem, "green light" committee on whether she can run for Trudeau's team in the Vancouver East riding against veteran New Democrat MP Libby Davies, herself a champion of decriminalization for years.
The Emerys also announced they will exact "political revenge" on Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper by touring across Canada, urging voters to support Trudeau in the 2015 election because he promises to legalize marijuana.
But Trudeau should immediately distance him from the Emerys and their "joint" campaign. Why? Because they're one-trick ponies on the single issue of marijuana, and regularly change political stables to further their cause without any loyalty whatsoever to either the party or its leader.
They've backed the Marijuana Party, the NDP and the Greens, but now it's the Liberals.
Libs were burned before
Helpful? Last year Justin Trudeau said Marc Emery was "flat out lying" about claims he had smoked marijuana with Justin four or five times on several different occasions.
"I've never done it except with people I know and trust. And Marc Emery was someone I met but certainly not someone I ever thought of smoking with," Trudeau said in Aug. 2013. "I only met Marc Emery once in my life, so that's a lot of smoking with him that I apparently did."
Emery publicly apologized last year, but still claims he smoked up with Trudeau on one occasion. Trudeau continues to deny it.
In 2008, Emery reportedly claimed he struck a deal with the late New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton to bring Marijuana Party members and pro-pot supporters to the NDP and offer up candidates to help with an NDP promise to decriminalize the drug.
But the NDP wasn't inhaling, saying Emery's statements were "pure fantasy."
Then-Layton spokesman Brad Lavigne said: "The New Democratic Party has made no such deal with any other party or with any individual... This is nonsense, absolute nonsense."
Layton himself later denied the allegations. "There never was any kind of a deal. There was no commitment, no relationship," he said, while noting the party had favoured decriminalization for years and was asked about it in the 2004 and 2006 elections.
Emery's comments about Trudeau were nasty, since he denounced the MP for voting for Bill C-15, which would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences, including marijuana.
Emery said in a 2009 video because Trudeau "smoked with me four or five times" that "it really pisses me off when I see Justin Trudeau, who took big gaggers with me, is in Parliament actually voting for Bill C-15. What a fucking hypocrite."
All of which makes one question Jodie Emery's candidacy, given Trudeau thinks her husband lied about him in a way that hurt Liberals.
Inconsistent, except on cannabis
What's more, Jodie is anything but consistent politically, other than campaigning for cannabis.
She twice ran for the Green Party provincially. In 2013 in Vancouver-West End, she placed third behind winner New Democrat MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and BC Liberal Scott Harrison.
In 2009, she came in third in Vancouver-Fraserview, losing to BC Liberal Kash Heed in a contest where Elections BC later fined Heed's campaign $8,000 for overspending but did not order a byelection. Emery's 904 votes were greater than the margin New Democrat candidate Gabriel Yiu lost by to Heed.
She also ran twice for the B.C. Marijuana Party in 2005 and a 2008 byelection.
While Marc Emery was indeed shafted when the federal Conservative government extradited him to a tough prison sentence in the U.S. rather than charge him in Canada, Emery knew all along he was poking a stick at a tiger and aiming for marijuana martyrdom.
Canadians would be outraged if the U.S. refused to extradite an American illegally mailing drugs or guns into our country. Emery, however, sees himself as a faultless hero.
"This is an epic struggle between good and evil. You couldn't pick a more virtuous person to go up against evil," Emery said of himself before being extradited.
Despite supporting the NDP, Greens and now Liberals at various points, Emery identifies most closely as a right-wing libertarian, not a social democrat.
"My mentor is Ayn Rand," he told The Georgia Straight in 2007, talking about the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
The Emerys can make one claim that won't be disputed. Their efforts and those of thousands of others have begun a process of marijuana legalization in the United States, starting in Washington and Colorado States, and likely Canada in the future.

But their self-promotional and dubious approach isn't one any party should accept.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Like Captain Ahab Pursuing Moby-Dick, Christy Clark's Harpooning of BC Schools Continues With Crazy Plan to Pay Parents

Fantastic adaptation of Moby-Dick movie poster sent by a reader! 
In senselessly spending strike savings, it's clear Clark is channeling Captain Ahab.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday August 5, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee." –
- Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, 1851
For Premier Christy Clark, the BC Teachers' Federation has become Moby-Dick, the object of hatred to be pursued to the ends of the earth.
Clark has become Captain Ahab, driven mad in her desire to destroy the union version of the white whale.
That became apparent last week when the BC Liberal government announced what is a truly crazy plan -- to pay parents of students $40 a day if the union strike continues into September.
Crazy, because it makes no sense.
Clark's scheme would instantly dispose of the estimated $12 million in daily savings from the strike without putting a penny into improving public education.
What's worse, while the government claimed the money is for "child care" for students under 13 years old, there is no requirement that parents spend it on child care -- nor is there child care available to be had, and certainly not for $40 a day.
The move infuriated the union, which it was highly calculated to do.
BCTF president Jim Iker dismissed the government move as "a blatant and divisive attempt to prolong disruption in B.C. schools."
It shows the premier's unhealthy obsession with harpooning teachers instead of solving the serious underfunding problems in our schools.
Where is Starbuck?
In this whale tale, there is no BC Liberal Starbuck -- Captain Ahab's first mate who cautioned against chasing Moby-Dick.
If there was, perhaps Clark would realize the folly of her mission.
Remove the union from the equation, and consider whether the government would compensate oil companies if First Nations took legal action that delayed pipeline construction or drilling plans. Not a chance.
Would Clark pay $12 million a day to patients to receive treatment in the United States if B.C. doctors legally withdrew their services in a fee dispute? No way.
The BCTF is taking legal strike action, as is its right, but the BC Liberals are giving away allocated education dollars.
The reason this borders on insane is because the B.C. government is appealing a B.C. Supreme Court decision that ruled it must restore class size and composition limits negotiated by the union.
If the government loses again, it will be forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on more teachers and resources in our schools.
Where will it get that money if all strike savings are spent? You guessed it -- from taxpayers.
If the teachers are on picket lines for two weeks in September, forcing the government to raise wages and benefits more than it wants, the strike savings money that could have paid for it will have already disappeared.
An ill-fated voyage
Captain Ahab asked a passing ship as he began his demented pursuit: "Hast thou seen the white whale?"
Yes, indeed we have -- and a battle with it will not end well.
The solution is obvious: negotiate a fair agreement with teachers this month and put the dispute behind you.

But so long as Christy Clark channels Captain Ahab, this ill-fated voyage continues.

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Best wishes to Bill Good - retiring from The Bill Good Show today! Thanks for a great program over many years!

Bill Good and Bill Tieleman in studio last week.
Congratulations to Bill Good, who is today broadcasting his last show on CKNW AM 980 after a long and distinguished career on radio and also on television.

I have had the pleasure of being a guest on The Bill Good Show for over 20 years, including 5 years as a regular political commentator each week on the Monday Morning Quarterbacks panel on federal politics and more with Norman Spector.

Bill Good is exceedingly fair, willing to listen to both sides and - importantly to me - always open to hearing from unions - members and leaders.  

Best wishes to Bill, his wife Georgie and his family as he starts a new chapter of his life and doesn't have to get up early every weekday morning!

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Why Set Minimum Prices on Booze At All? BC's "Unhappy Hour" with higher - not lower - drink prices, raises question why there should be any minimum charge

Big beer, bigger prices!
Minimum prices on beer, wine and spirits don't fix the abuse problems they're meant to solve, and simply gouge the rest of us.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday July 28, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

"What is the point of requiring non-problem drinkers to forego their pleasure or pay more, for no good in return? And what is the good of taxing problem drinkers more, if it does not address the harm?"
As the BC Liberal government scrambles to make its ridiculous "unhappy hour" slightly less objectionable, the big question remains unanswered: why have a minimum price on alcohol at all?
The answer annoys both the government, which loves telling people what to do, as well as the academics and doctors it listens to. But the reality is that the minimum prices introduced in British Columbia last month for beer, wine and spirits don't fix the problems they're intended to solve.
They only mean that happy hour, when drinks are supposed to be cheaper, get more expensive.
John Yap, parliamentary secretary for liquor policy reform, said introducing minimum booze prices is "modernizing" liquor laws while addressing "public safety and health" concerns -- that is, to curb alcohol abuse.
Yet on Friday, Yap lowered the minimum price on pitchers of beer, but not pints, from the 25 cents an ounce announced last month to 20 cents an ounce.
Campaign for Real Ale Society spokesperson Paddy Treavor said in an interview Sunday that the change doesn't make sense: "They've lowered the price on the biggest serving size. I don't see how that promotes health and safety. And we still have the highest priced beer in Canada."
The minimum pricing also means that independent bars and restaurants with beer priced lower than the big chains were suddenly forced to jack prices, removing competitive advantages.
What seemed like a dumb BC Liberal move soon looked pretty devious. Some of their biggest financial supporters are those chains.
Good intentions can backfire
Regardless, there is evidence that imposing minimum booze prices and raising the cost doesn't always work to limit alcohol abuse.
Raul Caetano, professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health, said good intentions can backfire.
"There may be situations where the intent of the taxation is reversed, in that alcohol consumption increases rather than decreases because the alcohol of choice has become cheaper. Basically, they buy more and end up drinking more," Caetano said about a 2006 study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
"In general, the evidence suggests that as you increase taxes, and alcoholic beverages become more expensive, individuals tend to use alcohol less," Caetano said.
"However, the findings in this paper indicate that the reality is not so simple, because there are alcoholic beverages at different levels of price, and when you implement taxation, what happens is that the individuals who are able to purchase the alcoholic beverages that were more expensive just switch to less expensive ones."
Nonetheless, Dr. Lawrence Loh of the Fraser Health Authority disagrees, arguing that a 2013 study found alcohol-related injuries would drop by nine per cent for every 10 per cent price increase.
That 2013 report for the Institute of Alcohol Studies was co-authored by University of Victoria psychologist Tim Stockwell and was used in the failed attempt to support introduction of minimum prices in the United Kingdom, which was rejected last year.
"Data from Canadian provinces suggest that a 10 per cent increase in average minimum prices would result in the region of an eight per cent reduction in consumption, a nine per cent reduction in hospital admissions and a 32 per cent reduction in wholly alcohol-caused deaths -- with further benefits accruing two years later," wrote Stockwell and co-author Gerald Thomas, also of UVic.
Nevertheless, the U.K.'s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, which had promised a "minimum unit price" for alcohol in 2012, was ultimately unconvinced.
Easier to price than address abuse
While minimum pricing is controversial, it's still an easier if ineffective fix for governments than looking at some of the root causes of alcohol abuse.
Professor Caetano said another 2010 study identified several sociodemographic predictors for drinking to intoxication.
Heavy drinkers, or those who got drunk more than once a month, tended to be found more among males under 60 years of age who did not have a college degree. Those who were unemployed or unmarried also had higher risk factors.
Caetano said that while more Caucasians, Hispanics and African-Americans reported drinking between 1992 and 2002, meaning drinking in general has increased, only Caucasian women consumed more drinks per person than the previous average.
Clearly none of these factors can be easily remedied. Nor will higher booze prices change your age, education, employment or relationship status, gender or other risk factors -- just the price.
Minimum alcohol prices are regressive, like other taxes that disproportionately and negatively impact lower-income people more.
In other words, those drinking expensive Champagne are not as affected by $2 more a glass as the working poor, students and others.
The reality is that problem drinkers won't change their destructive behaviour simply because of higher prices. The rest of us will just pay more -- unhappily.

If you believe Happy Hour should mean lower, not higher, drink prices, join my new Fix BC Happy Hour page on Facebook.