Friday, March 28, 2008

Les is no more - Solicitor General John Les resigns - under investigation by Special Prosecutor in connection with land deal when Chilliwack Mayor

BC Liberal Solicitor General John Les has resigned this evening, telling media that: "I know I have done nothing wrong."

Les is under investigation by a Special Prosecutor in connections with allegations about land deals which took place in Chilliwack when Les was mayor there from 1987 to 1999, CBC News is reporting.

Special Prosecutor Robin McFee was apparently appointed last June but the appointment was only confirmed today after CBC News made inquiries. Other former municipal officials are also under investigation. The criminal justice branch issued a news release late Friday.

Les held a hastily-arranged news conference this evening to announce his resignation as Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
Questions remain about who knew Les was under investigation as of June 2007 and why he continued in the key cabinet position in charge of policing, law enforcement and correctional facilities in British Columbia.

Current Chilliwack mayor Clint Hames confirmed the existence of an RCMP investigation into possible criminal charges on February 6, according to the Chilliwack Times.

The matter allegedly involved a city employee and went back 10 years.

"Since the investigation is ongoing, the RCMP have requested that the city refrain from commenting on any details surrounding the matter," the release read.

The Times's Paul J. Henderson reported that: "City records indicate that 10 years ago the matter under investigation was looked into by a third-party hired by the city. As a result of that investigation the matter was deemed an 'internal staff issue and the employee was subsequently separated from their employment with the city.'

A legal opinion obtained by the city advised city council and city staff from commenting further while the matter is in police jurisdiction."

Premier Gordon Campbell is scheduled to hold a news conference tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. regarding the matter.

Les has represented the riding of Chilliwack-Sumas since 2001 and in June 2005 was appointed Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

Les has also been a federal Liberal Party candidate, losing in the 1997 election in Fraser Valley to Chuck Strahl, then of the Reform Party and now a Conservative cabinet minister.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Erik Bornmann - key Crown witness in Basi-Virk case - has April 21 hearing in efforts to become Ontario lawyer

The ongoing efforts of Erik Bornmann, the Crown’s key witness in the breach of trust case against former B.C. government ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk, to become an Ontario lawyer will take another step on April 21 in Toronto.

On that date the Law Society of Upper Canada will hold a Hearing Management Tribunal to determine the next steps in Bornmann's much-delayed application to the bar.

Bornmann was to be the subject of a “good character” hearing last year to determine his admissibility as a lawyer because of complaints regarding his role in the Basi-Virk case. Bornmann is alleged by police to have provided benefits to Basi and Virk in exchange for confidential government information on the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail.

At the time Bornmann was retained as a lobbyist for OMNITrax, the American company that was one of the bidders for BC Rail. Neither Bornmann nor OMNITrax is facing charges.

Bornmann’s lawyer had last year requested an adjournment so that it would take place after the trial but lengthy delays have ensured trial will not start until well after April 21. The next major pre-trial hearings, scheduled for three weeks court time, begins May 5 and will deal with so-called BC Rail "vets" - the vetting of documents related to the deal that may be introduced as evidence.

An official with the Law Society of Upper Canada told me today that the April 21 hearing will not be the "good character" hearing, which will be open to the public and media, but will deal with the next steps in that process.

The Society's regulations read in part: "Part VI: Good Character Requirement

10. Good Character

(1) In order to be admitted into the Licensing Process, an applicant shall be of good character.

(2) A student shall be of good character.

(3) In order to determine whether the applicant or student is of good character, the Society may require the applicant or student to provide information and/or supporting documentation regarding good character."

Bornmann has previously requested a closed hearing or publication ban on the deliberations.

Bornmann has also attempted to gain admission to the New York State bar as a lawyer and has passed the New York bar exam, as reported previously here.

Tieleman on Television Times Two Thursday! Voice Of BC Basi-Virk special and OMNI TV Political Panel

I will be on television times two today - contributing to a special Voice Of BC show about the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid case on Shaw Cable television at 8 p.m. and on a federal political panel on OMNI Television's The Standard at 9 p.m.

On Voice Of BC Global Television's Keith Baldrey joins the Vancouver Sun's court reporter Neal Hall and host Vaughn Palmer, political columnist at the Vancouver Sun to discuss the case. I have recorded a number of comments and observations about the lengthy case of ex-BC Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk. The show runs on Cable channel 4 in the Lower Mainland and repeats at 10 a.m. Saturday and 2 and 8 p.m. Sunday.

On OMNI Television - Cable channel 10 in the Lower Mainland - I will join my 24 hours colleague Alex Tsakumis and former federal Liberal candidate Bill Cunningham to discuss federal politics.

Tune in!

BC Lobbyists Act violator and ex-Deputy Minister Ken Dobell to help judge "Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100"

Ken Dobell, the former deputy minister to BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell who pled guilty to violating the BC Lobbyists Registration Act and repaid $7,000 in lobbying fees, will be a judge instead of being in front of a judge later this year.

Dobell will be one of the judges for "Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100" an event sponsored by the Women's Executive Network (WXN). Winners will be announced Tuesday, November 25 at Toronto's Metro Convention Centre.

Special prosecutor Terence Robertson investigated Dobell's failure to register as a lobbyist for the City of Vancouver and in his report said he considered whether Dobell had also violated Criminal Code Section 121 regarding "influence peddling" and concluded the evidence supported a "substantial likelihood of conviction."

Robertson said prosecution of Dobell on those charges would not be in the "public interest."

An announcement by the Women's Executive Network this week states that the 2008 Top 100 Advisory Board consists of: JoAnne Caza, Sylvia Chrominska, Paul-EmileCloutier, Ken Dobell, Bonnie Dupont, Dr. Jim Fleck, Blake C. Goldring, Tim Hockey, Robin Howlings, Wanda Kaluzny, Sue Lee, Lois Nahirney, Ian Pearce, The Hon. David Peterson, Sarah Raiss, Carol Stephenson, Kirsten Tisdale, LouisVachon and Janet Yale.

Winners in 2007 included: Cheryl Doiron, Deputy Minister, NovaScotia Department of Health; Hélène V. Gagnon, VP Public Affairs &Communications, Bombardier Aerospace; Dr. Louise Cloutier, Chair, Board ofDirectors, Canadian Medical Association; Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion; Kim McKenzie, EVP IT & Solutions, Scotiabank; Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Information &Privacy Commissioner of Ontario; Christine Magee, President & Co-Founder,Sleep Country Canada; Author and TV Host Dr. Marla Shapiro; Paddy Meade,Deputy Minister, Alberta Health & Wellness; Monique F. Leroux, President &CEO, Desjardins Group; Patricia Lovett-Reid, Senior Vice President, TDWaterhouse Canada Inc.; Cassie Campbell; Hannah Taylor, Founder, The Ladybug Foundation; Sandra Wilson, Founder, Robeez.

There are three categories of awards: Corporate Executives, Entrepreneurs and Public Sector Leaders.

NOTE: A version of this story was published in 24 hours Friday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BC hospitals shut down in Code Orange, Code Purple alerts as BC Liberal break healthcare promises

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday March 25, 2008

Sound the alarm on the B.C. gov't


It's time to put patient care first. To do that, we must renew public health care, through better management, adequate funding, proper staffing and sound strategic planning.

- Premier Gordon Campbell, 2001 election platform

What a long, sad gap there is between the B.C. Liberals' lofty health-care goals of 2001 and the grim reality of March 12, 2008.

That's when Surrey Memorial Hospital declared a Code Orange alert, cancelling all non-emergency surgeries because of massive emergency room overcrowding, calling in off-duty doctors and keeping health-care workers on overtime.

Code Orange is extremely rare, reserved for emergencies with mass casualties, like earthquakes or floods. A Code Orange was declared last year when a small aircraft crashed into a Richmond highrise.

But not this time. It was because Surrey's congested hospital had 41 patients admitted in the ER and not one bed free. And it also happened in January.

Then there's Code Purple - an overcapacity alert just below Code Orange requiring other nearby hospitals to provide resources.

On March 10, Kelowna General Hospital issued a Code Purple because it already had 176 patients in the emergency ward instead of an average 140.

And there's New Westmin-ster's Royal Columbian Hospital, where, on February 12, the fire inspector ordered the emergency room cleared due to overcrowding.

That was the day of B.C.'s throne speech, which promised the government "will act to improve health care" and mentioned the word "health" 84 different times.

So you just might think all these alerts would alarm B.C. Liberal Health Minister George Abbott. Wrong.

"Anyone who thinks that the problem is going to go away is dreaming," Abbott actually told reporters, saying patients would have to get used to it.

"A lot of this demand is driven by a society that gets older, year over year, and is going to continue to do so," Abbott said. "This is going to be challenging for about the next 40 years, until the post-World War II baby boomers make their way through [the health-care system]."

Challenging for 40 years? Is Abbott kidding? Why should patients put up with substandard health care for four decades?

The B.C. Liberals have had seven years to deal with health-care problems. In their 2001 election platform, they even said: "Emergency rooms are overflowing in B.C."

Overflowing? Now overflowing emergency rooms prompt alerts reserved for floods!

And what has the government done? Closed St. Mary's Hospital in New Westminster with no replacement. Failed to meet a 2001 promise of 5,000 new long-term care beds by 2006. Closed acute care beds, causing increased waiting lists for surgery.

We need a Code Orange alright - for an incompetent, uncaring B.C. Liberal government that needs to hear the alarm.

Friday, March 21, 2008

BC & federal NDP have to move to the left, get populist to avoid electoral disaster, by-elections and polls show

From The Tyee

NDP Needs Some Class!

Drifting party's lesson from byelections, BC polls: Fight for the less well-off.

Bill Tieleman

Published: March 21, 2008

"I'd rather waffle to the left than waffle to the right."

- Ed Broadbent, 1969, when accused of waffling on a question

There was good news for the federal New Democratic Party in Monday's four byelections -- if it gets the message.

And the same message could save the British Columbia New Democrats from the ignominious disaster election that will otherwise occur in May 2009, based on more bad results in an Ipsos poll released Tuesday that showed the BC Liberals at 46 per cent, the NDP with just 34 per cent and the Greens at 16 per cent.

But the big question is whether either federal leader Jack Layton or provincial leader Carole James will listen to that message.

The popular perception about the byelections is that the only real winner was the Green Party, appropriately enough for a St. Patrick Day's vote.

The Greens increased their support considerably, more than doubling their vote in Vancouver Quadra, finishing in second place ahead of the NDP and Conservatives in Willowdale, and a very close third to the NDP in Toronto Centre.

That's all true. But it's not necessarily bad news for the NDP.

Crazy spin? Demented analysis of electoral politics? Not at all.

Because what both the federal byelections and the provincial poll clearly show is that the New Democratic Party can perform dramatically better -- if it does two simple things -- move sharply to the political left and embrace populist positions.

Back to basics

First, the basics that seem to have been either strangely forgotten or embarrassingly ignored by the NDP: the biggest single indicator of voting intention still remains class, or for the politically squeamish, income level.

If you were to go into a large public meeting anywhere in the country outside Quebec and assigned the task of finding out who the NDP voters in the room were but could only ask one question of each person -- other than how they voted in the last election -- it would be an easy assignment.

Just get everyone in the room to form a line in order of their income, with the richest person at the front and the poorest at the back.

Depending on what level of popular support the NDP had in that area, you could figure out within a relatively few percentage points the dividing line between likely NDP voters and non-NDP voters.

If you were in B.C. with the NDP at its current 34 per cent, the one-third of people in the room with the lowest incomes would be highly disproportionately NDP voters. (Quebec is different because the separatist federal Bloc Quebecois and provincial Parti Quebecois are also somewhat social democratic.)

It's that simple -- but try telling that to either the provincial or federal party.

Not that there aren't any rich NDP voters or poor BC Liberal voters, but it's the best single indicator of political support.

And the recent Ipsos poll shows that.

The B.C. Liberals capture a full 54 per cent of all voters who have an income over $80,000 while the BC NDP gets 44 per cent of all voters with incomes less than $80,000

Vancouver Quadra results

Now look at the federal Green Party's support in the Vancouver Quadra byelection and you find rather than the popular perception that it "steals" votes from the NDP, it in fact plunders the Liberal party.

In 2004, Liberal MP Stephen Owen took 52.3 per cent of the Quadra vote, followed by 49.1 per cent in 2006. The Conservatives garnered 26.2 per cent in 2004 and 28.9 per cent in 2006, while the NDP took 15 per cent in 2004 and 16.1 per cent in 2006.

The Greens took 5.6 per cent in 2004 and 5.15 per cent in 2006.

Then came the byelection -- watch what happens with the Green vote.

The Liberals drop to 36.1 per cent and barely win the election by 151 votes, the Conservatives climb to 35.5 per cent, the NDP decline slightly to 14.4 per cent but the Greens almost triple their support to 13.5 per cent.

Where did that Green vote come from? Overwhelmingly just one party -- the Liberal Party, which lost 13 per cent of its previous support. The NDP also lost votes but only 0.6 per cent.

What's the lesson here for the NDP? The Green Party appeals to better-off, higher income voters -- voters who in affluent Quadra had previously been supporting the Liberals.

BC provincial politics

You can see the same clear phenomena in provincial general elections in 2001 and 2005.

In the 2001 BC Liberal landslide, Gordon Campbell eviscerated the disastrous government of then-NDP Premier Ujjal Dosanjh, taking 77 of 79 seats and leaving the NDP with a paltry two MLAs.

But the Green Party, even though it increased its vote, failed to win a single seat again.

What's more, the Greens didn't displace the NDP to finish second in any riding previously held by the NDP, coming in second place only in those ridings already held by Liberals in the 1996 election.

In other words, the Greens do best in the most affluent ridings, where the NDP is already out of the running, not in seats where the NDP is competitive.

That trend got worse in the 2005 election, with the Greens only second place finish coming in West Vancouver-Garibaldi, one of the safest Liberal seats in the province. Even then-leader Adriane Carr came in third in Powell River-Sunshine Coast.

The take-away point: class is a determinant of voting intention for the NDP, Liberals and also with the Greens, who do better with higher-income individuals.

Indeed, a recent study by Simon Fraser University Prof. Cara Camcastle found that one-third of federal Green party members had joined the party after belonging to other parties. While 39 per cent came from the NDP, a surprising 33 per cent came from the Conservatives, 20 per cent from the Liberals and even 8 per cent from the old Reform Party.

"I was amazed. They're attracting members from the left and the right. I think the Greens are commonly misunderstood as being from the left," Camcastle told 24 Hours newspaper last week.

Exactly. And that's why if the NDP wants to improve its standing, it needs to focus on a class-based approach that the Greens simply won't follow.

Middle of road gets hit both ways

Now let's look even further back at past B.C. provincial election results for more analysis.

In 1995, shortly before NDP Premier Mike Harcourt resigned, the B.C. Federation of Labour conducted some internal political polling, worried about an electoral debacle.

The BC NDP's popularity had dropped to a stunningly low 23 per cent, primarily due to the devastating results of the Nanaimo Commonwealth Holding Society scandal.

I was B.C. Fed communications director then and when the results to one question came back, it stunned me.

Asked if Harcourt and the NDP had gone too far to the political middle and away from the NDP's roots, a whopping 58 per cent agreed, most strongly so.

That number was more than double the percentage of voters still willing to actually vote NDP, indicating that even non-NDP voters wanted the NDP to move back to the left.

In February 1996, Glen Clark became the new NDP leader and premier and he moved left with a vengeance. As his communications director at the time, I can say it was a very deliberate electoral strategy.

Clark and the NDP trashed Liberal Party Leader Gordon Campbell as a corporate mouthpiece while freezing tuition fees, BC Hydro and Insurance Corporation of B.C. rates, raising the minimum wage over vociferous business objections and generally emphasizing what later became the election campaign slogan: "On Your Side."

It was as strong a campaign based on class as B.C. had seen in many years and despite the BC Liberals much larger war chest, the debilitating impact of the 1996 "Hydro-gate" scandal over B.C. Hydro's dubious power project in Pakistan, and the fact that not a single newspaper in the province editorially endorsed the NDP, Clark won a narrow majority government with 39 per cent of the vote.

The BC NDP had won back its base, with polling later showing that about 65 per cent of union households -- that is, homes with at least one union member -- had voted NDP.

The bitter BC Liberals railed that the rural, right-wing Reform Party led by Jack Weisgerber had split the vote, causing their narrow loss. Reform took 9 per cent but at the same time,

Gordon Wilson's Progressive Democratic Alliance took 6 per cent and the Greens 2 per cent, votes which arguably might have gone substantially to the NDP.

So what is clear is that while the NDP can't create right-wing parties to siphon off so-called free enterprise votes, it can solidify its centre-left vote by appealing to issues of concern to working people and moderate income voters.

That's why some of the BC NDP strategies are a mystery. NDP leader Carole James has gone out of her way, for example, to speak to chambers of commerce and business organizations, telling them the NDP wants to work with business and is not a threat.

For example, here's what
James told the Surrey Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 22, 2007:

"As leader of the NDP I have worked hard to reach out and build bridges to BC's business community -- small, medium and large -- and to make the case that the traditional political divides in this province should no longer shape our relationship," James said. "As I have said many times, in today's economy New Democrats and business leaders share far more in common than ever before."

Unfortunately, that's the wrong message. NDP voters want to see the party defend them against their bosses and the powerful business community, not work with them.

And overwhelmingly that business community will never vote NDP. That's not to say no business people ever vote for the party or that the NDP should fly a red star flag from its provincial office.

But money talks and it understands class very well indeed.

In the 2005 election year, the BC NDP received donations totaling just $238,000 from businesses compared to $5.2 million from individuals and $2 million from unions.

Meanwhile the BC Liberals collected a stunning $10 million from businesses, $2.6 million from individuals and just $6,795 from unions.

The take-away point: If they want to win the next election, the NDP's campaign theme song should definitely not be "Why can't we be friends?" by War.

Class analysis not enough to win

Now, show me a Canadian party solely based on class for its policies and analysis and I'll show you the Communist Party, hardly an electoral success here or anywhere else free elections are held.

What a social democratic party that understands it appeals disproportionately to lower-income voters must also do to be successful is apply a heavy dose of populism to everything it does.

The B.C. and federal NDP have, to be fair, occasionally taken a populist and class approach to politics. Carole James has made a $10 minimum wage a key plank in her platform, while Jack Layton has strongly opposed corporate tax cuts by the Conservatives and Liberals.

But it's not enough.

James and her NDP caucus have regularly taken positions that are decidedly un-populist and for the most part unpopular.

The NDP voted last year in favour of an expensive MLA pension plan despite enormous public opposition, having previously passed another MLA pay increase that both the NDP and Liberals quickly rescinded in 2005 after a huge uproar.

And while they turned down the substantial pay increase that was also part of the BC Liberal legislation, turning their increases over to local charity, sawing that baby in half did them no good. NOTE: It has been pointed out to me after writing this that the NDP voted against the legislation but then its MLAs accepted the pension. Three NDP MLAs skipped the vote altogether. I believe my point remains the same.

The BC NDP have also come out against twinning the Port Mann Bridge despite the fact that it regularly becomes an airborne parking lot for those who use it, including constituents of their Surrey MLAs.

And the BC NDP supported the Liberals' treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation despite the fact that it will remove 500 acres of prime farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve and pave it for Deltaport container shipping expansion.

The only NDP MLA to stand in the legislature and vote against a bill that violated a 35-year-old NDP policy to preserve farmland, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadow's Michael Sather -- was temporarily thrown out of the NDP caucus for causing trouble.

Then there's the new so-called carbon tax introduced by the suddenly green Gordon Campbell. It's green alright, if you are a corporation getting a major tax cut paid for by working stiffs at the pumps.

Between large corporations, small business and banks and financial institutions, the total tax cut tab is a whopping $890 million when fully implemented, half the $1.8 billion the gas tax will raise.

Tailor-made for a populist NDP campaign against the B.C. Liberals, with community hall meetings across the province full of angry voters?

Absolutely. Is it happening? Well, no.

The NDP rightly railed against the corporate tax cuts but was probably afraid to alienate the collection of ever-gullible environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the Suzuki Foundation, who immediately chimed in with their support for the Liberals.

So the biggest political gift the NDP has received in years remained unopened.

After all, why would the NDP want to upset David Suzuki and his pious Prius-driving pals? They might vote Green in the next election, or Liberal. If they haven't already, that is.

Sadly, it was left for the right-wing Canadian Taxpayers Federation, usually a fellow traveller with the BC Liberals and federal Tories, to state the obvious.

"It will create hardship for families, as soccer moms are unlikely to start walking," said B.C. director Maureen Bader. Exactly.

Layton, for his part, has fought harder to transfer to Canadian municipalities a 5 cent per litre gasoline tax collected by the federal government than he has to actually call for lower gas taxes.

Does anybody in NDP headquarters ever consider that their own political base -- the lower-income working people who consistently vote for the party, who volunteer in elections and who donate their hard-earned dollars -- might actually be the ones most seriously hurt by high gasoline taxes?

Apparently not. Class once again dismissed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tieleman: "Ken Dobell is not a crook - he is an arrogant fool." Former top Deputy Minister to Gordon Campbell guilty on lobbying violation

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday March 18, 2008

Does punishment fit the crime in B.C.?


"Who said he's under a cloud?"

- Attorney General Wally Oppal after Ken Dobell charged

Only in British Columbia would a guilty man continue to advise a guilty government, with neither showing an ounce of shame.

Ken Dobell was Premier Gordon Campbell's senior deputy minister for years. Last week, Dobell pleaded guilty to breaking the Lobbyists Registration Act and repaid the $7,000 he received for lobbying while in violation.

That Act was introduced, debated and passed while Dobell himself held the most powerful government staff position.

Even worse, special prosecutor Terence Robertson said he considered whether Dobell had also violated Criminal Code Section 121 regarding "influence peddling" and concluded the evidence supported a "substantial likelihood of conviction."

Fortunately for Dobell, Robertson said prosecution would not be in the "public interest."

I agree. Ken Dobell is not a crook. He is an arrogant fool.

Dobell thinks himself above the rules. So does Campbell, who was outraged at suggestions he cut ties with Dobell, and Oppal, who could not see any "cloud" over the disgraced ex-deputy.

They just don't get it. And their arrogance has consequences.

Dobell is the first person to be prosecuted since the Lobbyists Registry Act was passed in 2001.

And Dobell, despite running the government that passed the Act, avoided serious penalty because he regarded himself not as a lobbyist but a "content consultant," and didn't register on time.

Any future prosecution of unregistered lobbyists - a big presumption given the utter lack of enforcement to date - will no doubt trigger the "Dobell Defence" wherein a lobbyist will also confess ignorance of the law.

Dobell's charges created a sudden spike of worried lobbyists registering, as 24 hours' Sean Holman detailed.

Dobell even said in an essay written to avoid prosecution for also failing to register as a federal lobbyist, that: "Over the course of my work in government and since leaving it, I now recognize that I have encountered a number of individuals doing work that would likely fall under the ambit of the legislation who may not be registered."

Oh really?

Meanwhile, let's not forget that Dobell has a history of thumbing his nose at government regulations intended to protect and inform the public.

Dobell told a 2003 freedom of information conference that he rarely takes meeting notes and deletes most e-mails to avoid their disclosure through FOIs, as required by law.

Meanwhile, Dobell will continue lobbying the provincial government on behalf of Cubic Transportation Systems, continue working for both the province and the City of Vancouver and probably continue to draw a substantial city and provincial pension in addition to his $250-an-hour fees.

And in B.C., that's how we punish the guilty.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bill Tieleman on Bill Good Show on CKNW/Corus Radio Network Monday will be broadcast on CPAC TV nationally

I hope you can tune in to CPAC television across the country Monday morning on March 17 - St. Patrick's Day! - to see the Bill Good Show from CKNW and the Corus Radio Network from 9 to 11 a.m. BC time.

I will be on from 10 to 11 a.m. with Bill and my regular sparring partner Norman Spector, talking about the four federal by-elections, including Vancouver Quadra, the Afghanistan military extension vote, the failure of the federal Liberals to force a full national election and much more.

You can tune in on CPAC in the Lower Mainland on Shaw Cable channel 110. On radio CKNW AM 980 or online at

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Georgia Straight attacks Bill Tieleman in editorial over Vancouver Quadra column in 24 hours

I was disappointed to read the Georgia Straight's editorial in their March 13 edition this Thursday and find that they had attacked me in response to my March 11 column in 24 hours about the Vancouver Quadra by-election and some comments on Green Party candidate Dan Grice.

Here is the relevant section of the Georgia Straight editorial:

"Newspaper columnist and NDP apologist Bill Tieleman has brought attention to Grice for speaking out in favour of a perfectly sensible idea: marijuana legalization.

Tieleman has also tried to discredit Grice because his leader, Elizabeth May, wanted to delay a nomination meeting in Vancouver Quadra to try to find a candidate with a higher profile.

Memo to Tieleman: Delta North NDP MLA Guy Gentner once pursued a nomination against the wishes of the party elites, eventually winning the seat."

I have sent the following Letter to the Editor to the Georgia Straight and hope that they run it next Thursday.

I should add that my point on Grice's comments on marijuana legalization was not pro or con - it was that Grice was afraid to publicly talk about it for fear of Greens being labeled the "marijuana party." On Guy Gentner, there was a dispute over the nominating process; the party leader never sent a letter urging members to "vote no or vote none of the above" in response to a Gentner candidacy.

March 15, 2008

Dear Editor:

I was very disappointed to see the Georgia Straight attacking me in its editorial of March 13, 2008. [“Vancouver Quadra's usual suspects face voters' decision”]

I was proud to be a columnist for four years at the Georgia Straight from 2001 to 2005 and felt privileged to write for a newspaper that is an important part of the Vancouver media. The Straight seemed equally pleased and nominated my work several times for national and international journalistic awards.

So I don’t know why you found it necessary to describe me as an “NDP apologist” or to not mention that I now write for 24 hours weekday newspaper.

I have always been completely open about being a social democrat and New Democratic Party supporter, including the entire time I wrote for the Straight.

But I have also regularly been critical of the NDP and its leaders whenever I disagreed with their positions over the years, most recently for accepting new MLA pensions, and supporting the Tsawwassen Treaty that removes farms from the Agricultural Land Reserve. And I believe my writing is opinionated but fair and speaks for itself.

That hardly makes me an “NDP apologist”, a pejorative term that is neither accurate nor fair. I’m sorry the Straight felt the need to belittle a supporter and former columnist simply because we don’t agree.

Sincerely yours,

Bill Tieleman
Columnist, 24 hours newspaper

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Queen of the North senior officer says Transportation Safety Board missed obvious answer what it ran aground - radar not monitored

Officer asks why radar not watched



A senior officer on B.C. Ferries' Queen of the North when it ran aground says the Transportation Safety Board missed the obvious answer why it sank - the officer on watch did not monitor the ship's radar as it headed straight for Gil Island.

Second Officer Kevin Hilton told 24 hours in an exclusive interview that had 4th Officer Karl Lilgert checked the three radar screens on the bridge as required, the Queen of the North would have never sunk in March 2006.

Hilton was the senior officer at the time but was off the bridge on a scheduled meal break, leaving Lilgert navigating the ship with Karen Bricker, a quartermaster who lacked a Bridge Watchmen's Certificate.

Hilton discounts many of the TSB report explanations, saying that one simple fact is clear - Lilgert did not monitor the radar as required.

"There are three different radars to check, and he was sitting in front of them, so what the hell was he looking at?" Hilton asked. "What was he monitoring for 14 minutes? That's what they don't answer here.

"Even if he missed the original course change, the radar would have told him within one to two minutes he was going in the wrong direction," Hilton said.

TSB senior marine investigator Captain Pierre Murray appeared to agree with Hilton's concern.
"The vessel's progress was just not monitored," he said in an interview. "The officer of the watch is to follow the watch-keeping practices."

Lilgert apologized yesterday but did not explain what happened.

Hilton said the radar was operating perfectly before he left for his break and when he rushed back to the bridge after impact.

"The radar shows in night-vision mode red for land and black for water. When I went in after it hit I could clearly see where the ship was up against the land," Hilton said. "So how come he [Lilgert] didn't see it till then?"

"You don't go not knowing where you are for more than a minute and they had more than 10 minutes without checking. It should have been checked half a dozen times," Hilton said.

"If you can't find out where you are within two minutes, you are in an emergency situation," he said.

The TSB report released yesterday said that the Queen of the North sailed off course for 14 minutes before striking Gil Island.

Hilton, a 25-year veteran who B.C. Ferries terminated along with Lilgert and Bricker, has filed a union grievance to get his job back.

Hilton said the TSB report says the bridge should have had a third certified crew member, but that B.C. Ferries' standard policy was to have two members on the bridge when breaks were taken.

Hilton also said Bricker's role and lack of certificate - which he was unaware of - played no part in the grounding.

"She couldn't have determined the course change or read the radar - that's the officer's job, strictly the officer's," he said.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Defence demands Premier Gordon Campbell testify in Basi-Virk case over allegations of political interference in disclosure of evidence

Defence lawyers for three ex-government aides facing corruption charges are demanding BC Premier Gordon Campbell testify about their allegations of political interference in the disclosure of evidence by the provincial government.

The defence also alleged in court that a secret Crown witness is a "former federal Liberal insider" who provided "very, very, very serious" allegations against two other Crown witnesses.

Kevin McCullough, lawyer for former ministerial aide Bob Virk, also claimed that the RCMP did not pursue those allegations.

"There was zero, zero follow up by the RCMP to those very serious allegations, which is totally consistent with the targeted way the RCMP pursued this investigation," McCullough said.

And the defence says the Special Prosecutor in the BC Legislature raid case has recently told them there are 857 documents on a documents-not-disclosed list, prompting new complaints about the disclosure of evidence.

Michael Bolton, lawyer for ex-ministerial aide David Basi, told BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett that a court protocol on disclosure of evidence was changed arbitrarily by Campbell.

"There appears to us to be an element of political interference with regard to the protocol," Bolton said. "There will have to be evidence."

"It appears that though the premier said the deputy attorney-general was dealing with those matters, it appears the cabinet secretary was doing so," Bolton said.

And McCullough alleged that the protocol change was made without any involvement by government lawyer George Copley, who represents the province in court.

Copley responded to the defence demand that the premier testify by asking for more information.

"Before I seek instructions we have to know what the questions are and the relevance," Copley told Bennett.

Special prosecutor Janet Winteringham responded to defence complaints by noting that many of the disclosure requests have been met and others are in progress.

Outside the court NDP MLA Leonard Krog called for Campbell to testify and for the government to drop its efforts to restrict disclosure of some documents related to the case on the basis of solicitor-client privilege.

"The significance of the premier attending is enormous," Krog said. "The premier can make himself available and there's no excuse not to."

"The changing of the protocol and the lack of involvement by Mr. Copley is pretty shocking," he said.

Krog said Copley had agreed to his written request to release affidavits submitted to the court by the government regarding the assertion of cabinet and solicitor-client privilege. Those documents will be made public at the court registry, possibly later today.

Vancouver Quadra by-election - lots of candidates to vote against

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday March 11, 2008

The invisible byelection


Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody.

- Franklin Pierce Adams, U.S. columnist

If you're wondering why voters aren't Obama-like excited about Canadian federal politics, a short visit to the Vancouver Quadra byelection would quickly explain it.

Joyce Murray is the front running Liberal candidate, a disastrous former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister responsible for slashing environmental protection and wildlife staff in Premier Gordon Campbell's first term.

Campbell even eliminated the word "environment" from Murray's portfolio, making her: "minister of water, land and air protection."

Then there's the Green Party's Dan Grice, whose own leader unsuccessfully tried to block his candidacy! Elizabeth May took the unprecedented step of writing every Quadra Green Party member begging them to not nominate Grice.

May's March 2007 letter, obtained by 24 hours' Ian King, said: "A vote for None of the Above or a vote to re-open the nomination process would be appreciated. Either decision would give ... the opportunity to secure a high-profile candidate." Ouch.

And don't forget the invisible woman! Conservative candidate Deborah Meredith is dodging almost every riding debate and media interview, hardly a winning strategy for a party that finished 12,000 votes behind the Liberals in 2006.

Meredith's own "Campaign News" website shows no items since a Feb. 11 newsletter. Yikes!

Isn't the byelection on? The previous posting is dated Oct. 31, 2007. Was being a Tory candidate simply her Hall-oween costume?

That leaves NDP candidate Rebecca Coad, a young University of B.C. political science student with impressive energy but little hope of bringing the NDP from its third place finish in 2006 to first.

Grice's own blog shows perhaps why May took the unusual step of trying to block his nomination.

Grice notes that he grew up "rooting for" the federal Reform Party but says he gave up on them: "due to the rise of social conservatism in their platform."

Grice also wrote on a Green Party blog discussing legalizing marijuana that: "As a candidate, I want to be vocal about this but I am afraid this will stereotype us as the 'marijuana party?'" In an e-mail to me, Grice said he never "hides his opinions."

But it's Murray who has the really dubious political background.

As WALP minister, it was Murray who ended moratoriums that blocked new salmon fish farms and the hunting of grizzly bears, saw pesticide and waste management regulations watered down and 1,800 ministry jobs cut.

Perhaps as a result, Murray lost in her provincial re-election bid in New Westminster in 2005 and then lost a federal Liberal try in 2006 in New Westminster-Coquitlam.

This may be one byelection where voting against candidates makes the most sense.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Tennis superstar Andre Agassi blasts Whistler highway as "shocker" after driving it

Agassi aghast


Former tennis superstar Andre Agassi showed his grand slam style while visiting Vancouver last week, calling the Sea-to-Sky highway to Whistler and the 2010 Olympics "a shocker" after driving it.

Agassi spoke to a crowd of nearly 5,000 at GM Place for "The Power Within" event along with style diva Martha Stewart, music producer Quincy Jones and other speakers.

But don't count on him driving to the winter Olympics despite B.C.'s $600-million highway improvement project.

"I like everything up here but one thing," Agassi said Wednesday about Vancouver. "We drove to Whistler yesterday and - what's up with your highways? That's a shocker! And it was that way a year ago."

Earlier at the event Toronto comedian and emcee James Cunningham also joked about the Whistler highway, calling it "so relaxing" to drive with "a sheer drop off to the sea on one side and guys packing dynamite into rock on the other."

Federal Conservatives will block loophole allowing kids to import tobacco products, as revealed by 24 hours

Feds revise tobacco rules


The federal Conservative government says it will plug a legal loophole revealed Friday by 24 hours that lets children import tobacco products into Canada from foreign countries.

A Canada Border Services Agency internal document obtained by 24 hours last week said border guards had no legal right to stop children from bringing tobacco into Canada, causing a national wave of anger.

But Melisa Leclerc, spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, told 24 hours news services the government will end the practice.

"It is not the government of Canada's policy to allow children to import tobacco products into Canada," she said. "Minister Day has directed Canada Border Service Agency officials to work with Health Canada and provincial and territorial counterparts to determine if and when legislation could be amended to address the issue."

Friday, March 07, 2008

Vancouver Art Gallery - $50 million; forestry workers $0 and a "roundtable" - that's Premier Campbell's response to 10,000 lost forestry jobs

The BC forest industry has lost a stunning 10,000 jobs in the last year, as mills and plants closed throughout the province.

Hardest hit - BC's Interior, North.and Vancouver Island.

So how does Premier Gordon Campbell respond to this crisis?

The answer came in two parts.

First, the BC budget and throne speech gave the battered forest industry exactly $0 in funding and a "roundtable" to deal with its problems.

Yesterday came the second part - Campbell delivered $50 million in funding for a new Vancouver Art Gallery building yesterday, part of a total of $209 million in arts and culture projects.

I am a proud member of the Vancouver Art Gallery, one of the finest collections in the country of great art. It deserves public, corporate and government support.

But unemployed forestry workers and their familes have to come first.

What kind of priorities does the BC Liberal government have? Obviously the wrong one.

10,000 workers have no job to go to, no income except Employment Insurance and a dubious future in their chose industry.

This is the time for bold solutions, for innovative programs - for help for forest industry dependent communities that have been the backbone of BC's economy for more than a century.

Because without our forest industry there would be no art galleries in this province.

Art is important. The choice is not between the Vancouver Art Gallery and forest workers. We have an economy strong enough to support both.

But this government is only supporting one, and it sure as hell isn't the forestry worker.

What a disgusting situation.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Children can now import cigars, cigarettes, tobacco products, internal Canada Border Services Agency memo shows - 24 hours newspaper exclusive

Kids can import tobacco


24 HOURS columnist

The federal government has quietly told Canada Border Services Agency officers to allow children to import tobacco products into Canada from foreign countries, an internal document obtained by 24 hours shows.

Anti-smoking advocates and the border officers' union are shocked.

"According to a legal opinion recently obtained by Headquarters, federal and provincial laws on tobacco have no provisions to prevent the importation of tobacco products," reads a CBSA memorandum circulated in late 2007.

"Border Services Officers should therefore no longer seize or hold tobacco products imported by minors for the sole reason that they are minors," the memo concludes.

The directive means children of any age can import tobacco products into Canada, including taking advantage of duty-free exemptions of 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 200 tobacco sticks and 200 grams of manufactured tobacco if they have been outside the country for longer than 48 hours.

The undated memo, signed by Raymond Bedard, the Canada Border Services Agency's Director, Partnerships Division, Admissibility Branch, states that as of May 3, 2007 age requirements on tobacco importation have been deleted.

It adds that the "I Declare" pamphlet given to tourists and Canadian residents returning to Canada "no longer mentions a minimum age for the importation of tobacco products."

The union representing Border Services officers is appalled.

"Ethically and morally, it's wrong," said George Scott, a national vice-president of the Customs Excise Union. "All our officers want to do the right thing. Children shouldn't be smoking."

And Scott McDonald, Executive Director of the B.C. Lung Association called the change "bizarre" and called for immediate federal action.

"It would be irresponsible of the government not to close that loophole," McDonald told 24 hours Thursday. "It would not be very responsible to allow minors to import tobacco products."

McDonald said tobacco products cannot be legally sold to anyone under the age of 19 in British Columbia, while some other provinces have an age restriction of 18.

An Ottawa spokesperson for CBSA was contacted and sent a copy of the memo but did not respond to an interview request by deadline.

Scott said his main concern is that parents travelling with children will use them to increase their tobacco imports.

"Parents who smoke can use their children," he said.


The CBSA memo says that alcohol age restrictions remain in force. It also says that "the E311 declaration card" that travellers returning to Canada receive will be "update shortly."

Scott said he believes that the memo "took effect a long time ago but a lot of managers don't even know about it."

"It's not like they [CBSA] made a big deal about it," he said.

McDonald of the Lung Association, which is also a member of the anti-smoking Clean Air Coalition of BC, said he expects the public to be outraged at the idea of minor importing tobacco.

"The public would not support that," he said. "Surely if its a loophole in the legislation that can be dealt with. Revise whatever wording is necessary."

Despite contacting first the BC office of the CBSA and later its Ottawa office and talking to representatives about the details of the memo, no response was received March 6.

Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day, the minister responsible for the CBSA, is Conservative Member of Parliament for Okanagan – Coquihalla

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Former Unity Party leader Chris Delaney blasts carbon tax, BC Liberals policies on BC Hydro, forestry, Basi-Virk case and more

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday March 4, 2008

Carbon tax prompts rural backlash


Like mothers, taxes are often misunderstood, but seldom forgotten.

- Lord Bramwell, 19th century English jurist

Former Unity Party leader Chris Delaney says the provincial government's new "carbon tax" on gasoline may spark the development of a new rural, populist right-wing political party to challenge the B.C. Liberals.

Delaney, who led the conservative Unity Party in the 2001 provincial election, says Premier Gordon Campbell may spark a revolt in B.C.'s Interior as people realize the carbon tax applies not just to gasoline but to home heating and other fuels.

And the populist right-winger is scathing about other B.C. Liberal policies, including privatization of B.C. Hydro, its conduct in the B.C. legislature raid case, the Tsawwassen Treaty and massive cost overruns on the new convention centre.

Delaney said he was shocked by the carbon tax and multitude of new environmental and other bureaucracies announced in the B.C. budget last month.

"Unbelievable! My reaction was - that's enough to make the NDP blush!" he said in a lengthy interview.

Delaney says conservative third parties usually develop with centre-right governments in power. He points to Alberta's Wildrose Alliance that is challenging the Conservative government and said it could happen in B.C.

"To get something going in politics, there has to be a lot of discontent and there wasn't a lot until Campbell did that budget," Delaney said. "I would have said that's a ways off, maybe after the Olympics when the bill comes in, but now this carbon tax has really upset a lot of people."

"You can see right through that it's a smoke-and-mirrors ploy that really isn't going to achieve anything on the environmental side, it's just a tax grab. You start to get people really angry," he said.

"It's not revenue neutral," Delaney added. "And it's not like guys driving a pickup truck on the ranch have any alternative."

And Delaney kept blasting both barrels at the B.C. Liberals.

"The convention centre is going to make the fast ferries look like a cakewalk," he said of the $388 million cost overrun to date.

Delaney calls the treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation "a big mistake" whose true cost may be more than $1 billion because of the dramatic change in the value of agricultural land being converted to other use.

Delaney says the government has not properly handled corruption charges against former ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk.

"They should have handed the prosecution over to another jurisdiction like Alberta," he said. "The government is in a conflict of interest. How can the government prosecute guys who worked for them?"

Is Delaney interested in running again?


"I always remain open to the idea because I love our province," Delaney said. "There would have to be a groundswell of support for an alternative. If so, I'd consider it."

He said that to be successful a new populist right-centre party would need not only a leader but two or three other credible candidates.

"I do think that at some point there will be a demand for something," Delaney said of an alternative to the BC Liberals. "I think psychologically that's what's happened with this budget."

"If it does arise, it will come out of the Interior, not the Lower Mainland," he added.

Delaney also predicts that like BC Hydro, the BC Liberals will privatize the forest industry, in terms of crown ownership of lands being transferred to private corporations.

"They privatized BC Hydro piece by piece, now they're going to do it with forests," he said.

Delaney said on issues like BC Hydro privatization and the $1 billion sale of BC Rail - which he opposed - the politics cross all political boundaries.

"It isn't left versus right - it's public interests versus special interests," Delaney says.

Delaney, who is active in the film animation and video gaming industry, is adamant that the BC Liberals carbon tax is unfair.

"It's not revenue neutral clearly, as you've laid out in your column," Delaney said, referring to last
week's 24 hours' column. "It's taxing working people to pay for corporate tax breaks."

"It doesn't make a lot of sense politically and maybe it's driven bureaucratically and ideologically," he said, noting there is no SkyTrain and few transit buses in the Interior.

Delaney says Premier Gordon Campbell's many changes in policy positions - from anti to pro treaties with First Nations and from climate change skeptic to environmental crusader are understandable.

"It took six years but I think we're now seeing the real Gordon Campbell," Delaney said. "I think he as a true political orientation and it's called 'liberalism' and it's between good and evil. He's more of a corporate monopolist."

Delaney also had words of warning for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party in BC.

"Stephen Harper is in jeopardy of losing BC to the federal NDP in the next election," he said. "Harper should be winning a majority in the next election but I'm not convinced they done enough to get a majority yet."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

North Shore News notices this blog and Basi-Virk coverage very favourably

Columnist Bill Bell at the North Shore News has said some very flattering things about this blog and my coverage of the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid case in today's edition.

Here is an excerpt from his column:

"There are some blogs that do go beyond the news headlines and analysis that you find in newspapers and magazines. One of those is run by Bill Tieleman, who writes a weekly column for a Vancouver newspaper. His blog site coverage of the Basi-Virk trial is the most in depth treatment of one of British Columbia's biggest political scandals......"

"Although the major media in this circumstance has been giving the case significant coverage, Tieleman's reports on his blog have been outstanding. The entire cut and thrust of legal wrangling and arguments has been covered and is accompanied by considered analysis.
Tieleman also monitors his board carefully, weeds out postings but allowing a free flow of discussion."

See the whole column, which includes an interesting discussion of anonymous postings and other challenges facing blogs, by clicking here.

Tieleman speaks in Kamloops at Thompson Rivers University on provincial, federal politics

I was very pleased to be asked to speak at Thompson Rivers University on Thursday about provincial and federal politics. This account of one of my two talks was printed on Friday in The Daily News of Kamloops.

TRU students get insight from political commentator

The Daily News
Friday, February 29, 2008

By Cam Fortems

It's a wooden puzzle.

B.C.'s forest industry -- the province's biggest business and, along with the mining industry, the largest political donor to the Liberal party -- is in a crisis.

Thousands of workers, including in Kamloops, are losing jobs as mills shut down or go into bankruptcy.

Yet Premier Gordon Campbell's latest budget virtually ignores forestry, said political commentator Bill Tieleman.

"You'd think the budget would be concerned," he said. "You'd be wrong: it's about the environment."

Tieleman spoke Thursday to political science students at Thompson Rivers University as well as in an evening public lecture.

The former adviser in the office of then-premier Glen Clark is now a columnist, communications consultant, blogger and self-described "resident left-wing complainer."

Tieleman spoke to students without referring to notes, on a range of topics that included the single-transferable vote (he's against it); Finance Minister Carole Taylor's carbon tax (he's against it); privatization of energy (he's against it); MLA raises and new pensions (they don't deserve it); and the NDP ("I'm very unhappy with them").

But despite that negativity -- the right of any columnist, whether right or left -- the affable Tieleman entertained with his scattershot approach.

Tieleman said the New Democrat party of leader Carole James is getting too far from the real concerns of everyday voters by agreeing in principle with a carbon tax, even if James opposes the Liberal version.

"I'd campaign against the carbon tax," said Tieleman, who argued corporations and businesses are getting the majority of the breaks while taxpayers get a one-time $100 cheque. That cheque will make up the extra carbon tax paid on gas and home heating fuel for as little as six months to a year for many residents.

"They have to find their way back to more populist issues," he said of the NDP.

The B.C. budget ignores forest communities while pumping up Campbell's latest fad in a long line that preceded the environment, said Tieleman. That "book of the month club" approach to policy included focus on First Nations, "the heartlands" of rural B.C. and literacy.

"I don't see how the premier and the government can ignore depopulation of workers in this province and do nothing about it," said Tieleman, calling forest industry employment "good, family supporting jobs."

Tieleman helped found an anti-single-transferable vote (STV) lobby group before the last provincial referendum on the issue. That vote in 2005 nearly achieved the 60 per cent approval threshold.

A second referendum will be held along with the provincial election next year.

One of the biggest complaints about the last referendum was the lack of public education.

Tieleman said this time each side, the pro and con, to the proposed new way of electing provincial politicians will receive $500,000 to campaign.

He predicts the second referendum won't come close to the 60 per cent threshold, particularly because there is no longer a lopsided Victoria legislature. "People aren't nearly as agitated. The more they know about it (STV) the less they like it."