Thursday, September 27, 2007

Brian Mulroney visit to Vancouver pries old Tories out of woodwork

Ex-PM Mulroney comes to town


Former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney can not only still draw a crowd, he can pry old Tories right out of the woodwork.

Former Social Credit Attorney-General Bud Smith, left, speaks to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, with Conservative government political aide Colin Metcalfe in centre and longtime Tory supporter and lawyer Lyall Knott at right.

At a Vancouver appearance Tuesday to launch his book Memoirs 1939-1993, Mulroney charmed a gathering that included a large part of his 1984 campaign team, as well as an impressive list of politicians, not all Conservatives.

After entering to a rousing ovation Mulroney quipped: "What the hell - why not another term?"

But Mulroney's most eloquent words were for former South African president Nelson Mandela, who has thanked the former PM for helping free him and his country from apartheid.

"South Africa was a vulgar and vile prison for 90 per cent of its population," Mulroney said.

The crowd included former provincial Social Credit cabinet ministers Grace McCarthy and Bud Smith and former Mulroney cabinet ministers Mary Collins and John Reynolds.

Current office-holders included Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and councillor Peter Ladner, B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers John Les and Stan Hagen, B.C. Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan, Conservative MP James Moore, cabinet minister Gary Lunn and Senator Gerry St. Germain and even New Democrat MLA Bruce Ralston.


Also spotted at the Fraser Institute-sponsored event - the Pace Group's Norman Stowe, a longtime Conservative activist who remembered being in the same hotel in 1993 watching the disastrous federal election results that left the party with just two MPs and then-Prime Minister Kim Campbell with no seat.

Patrick Kinsella, BC Liberal fixer, racehorse owner and confidente to Premier Gordon Campbell was there, as was Greg D'Avignon, National Brewers President for western Canada, a former special assistant to Kim Campbell and more recently BC Liberal campaign manager to Virginia Greene in Vancouver-Fairview in the 2005 election. and Byng Giraud, a Conservative national councillor and senior consultant with Earnscliffe Strategy Group.

Additional Conservative pedigrees attending included Ray Castelli, Kim Campbell's former chief of staff and now President of Naikun Wind Development, an independent private power producer, and Lyall Knott, the powerful Tory operative most recently in the news for his past work for Francesco Aquilini in the controversial and court-contested acquisition of the Vancouver Canucks.

Other notables noticed were Tung Chan, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. immigrant services organization and former Non-Partisan Association Vancouver councilor, Peter Armstrong, CEO of Rocky Mountain Rail Tours and a huge BC Liberal Party financial donor, and John Aisenstat, a former Belinda Stronach campaign organizer when she ran for the Tory leadership who also ran John Reynolds 2004 election campaign.

Also attending were my 24 hours columnist colleagues Erin Airton and Alex Tsakumis, both Conservative activists in many campaigns, who were seen clutching Mulroney’s massive book, which weighs in at a 1152 pages!

The photo at left - and the copy of Mulroney's book I am holding - can both be credited to Colin Metcalfe.

Canaccord Capital chair Peter Brown - a friend of Brian Mulroney's since both were university students in the 1960s, sponsored the event for the Fraser Institute and told Mulroney: "Brian, you were probably the best friend the west ever had in Ottawa."

Mulroney told the crowd that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing a "fantastic" job.

Mulroney added that he told Harper recently: "That every prime minister has to learn humility. I didn't but all the rest did."

Mulroney also said that "the GST was entirely Michael Wilson's idea" to many laughs, and then added: "But I guess it doesn't matter now because Jean Chretien abolished it, didn't he?" to more applause.

The former prime minister listed what he saw as the many accomplishments of his government - the Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, abolishing the National Energy Program of Pierre Trudeau, the Atlantic Accord and the Acid Rain Treaty, as well as reducing the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product.

"In the fullness of time history will judge me," Mulroney said. "It is not a verdict I fear."

But Mulroney did not explain how with all these accomplishments, the Conservative Party was humiliated and nearly destroyed just months after he left office in the election campaign of 1993 under his successor Kim Campbell.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Former NDP senior aide John Heaney joins Heenan Blaikie, working with Peter Gall on management side labour relations files

New Democrats and labour leaders may be shocked to learn that John Heaney, a longtime senior aide in several NDP provincial governments and former BC Federation of Labour staff person has joined the law firm of Heenan Blaikie and is working with longtime management side lawyer Peter Gall on labour relations files.

John Heaney has replied to an email I sent inquiring about his work with Peter Gall and that response is included below in its entirety, as per his conditions for providing it.

Heaney is currently assisting Gall in representing the employer at the BC Human Rights Tribunal hearing on the case of foreign workers employed in construction of the Canada Line or Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Line who are alleging discrimination in wages based on racial origin.

SELI Canada hired a group of workers, predominantly from Costa Rica, to construct the tunnel and related infrastructure.

The workers complained to the Construction and Specialized Workers' Union Local 1611 that they were being paid less than BC's minimum wage despite promises of significantly higher wages when they were recruited, according to testimony at the BC Labour Relations Board. After the workers' situation was made public and reported in the media, their pay went up dramatically. The employer denies any wrongdoing.

The workers were subsequently certified but have not achieved a collective agreement and the LRB has yet to render decisions on several applications.

In the meantime they have filed a Human Rights Tribunal complaint. Gall has been representing SELI Canada at both the LRB and HRT; Heaney has appeared with Gall only at the HRT hearing this week. [I have worked with the BC and Yukon Building Trades Council and Local 1611 on the situation with the RAV Line workers from the beginning, I should note.]

Peter Gall is perhaps the most prominent management lawyer in BC and has represented employers in some of the most high profile cases in the province, most recently defending the BC Liberal government in the Supreme Court of Canada case over Bill 29, the legislation that allowed health employers to terminate thousands of unionized health care workers and privatize their jobs.

Gall has been active on employer side labour law since the 1980s and has also been credited in the BC Legislature for having helped draft Bill 19 - the Industrial Relations Act, draconian labour law passed by the Social Credit government of Bill Vander Zalm that led to a lengthy boycott of the Industrial Relations Council by BC Federation of Labour affiliates and other unions.

Gall has also been employer counsel on a large number of high profile union rights cases.

Everyone needs a job and certainly as a former worker representative on the Labour Relations Board I would never argue that employers do not deserve legal counsel that meets their needs. And as a consultant I work regularly with companies, but not on labour relations issues.

But the approach Gall has taken over many years is diametrically opposed to the interests of workers and their unions. That's his right and his decision.

It's very disappointing to me, though, that John Heaney, who has worked so closely and so long with unions and a New Democratic Party and government supported strongly by unionized workers would chose to work with Peter Gall and Heenan Blaikie to further the interests of employers, not workers.

John Heaney Response

Thank you for the opportunity to respond and for your commitment to publish it verbatim and in its entirety if you do post an item. My response is as follows:

You can call me proud and excited to be working at Heenan Blaikie’s office here in Victoria. We are Canada’s only national law firm with an office on Vancouver Island.

You can also say I am working to build a litigation practice. So far, I have clients here, in Vancouver and in the Interior. Just as I did at UVic’s poverty law clinic and in my two years with Joe Arvay as his co-op student and articling student, I will continue to represent a wide variety of people who need legal advice and advocacy. My clients will include employees and - like you, insofar as I’ve seen from your website – employers.

Working with the people at Heenan Blaikie is one of the best parts of the job. They are superb and I am thankful for the chance to work alongside them.

In the office next to me is our managing partner for Victoria, Joan Young. I think she is held in pretty high esteem by her peers as a savvy, experienced and successful litigator with irreproachable ethics. I’ve known Joan for almost 15 years and worked with her when she was an A.G. lawyer seconded to the Attorney General’s office as a legal advisor. She was later seconded to the Premier’s Office as legal counsel to the Premier. I don’t know if you ran into her during your time there, but she ably served the same Premier as you.

A bit further down the hall is Murray Rankin. I first started working with Murray in about 1993 when he wrote a report for the Harcourt government on the Kemano Completion Project. And I’ve been learning from him ever since. He is peer-rated as the public law lawyer that B.C. lawyers would most refer their clients to. Whether it’s privacy, FOI, aboriginal, resource, administrative or commercial law, Murray’s a nationally-ranked advocate and thinker and a much sought-after negotiator.

I am also really enjoying the chance to work with Peter Gall. I take it this is what you have a bee in your bonnet about. I think my first recollection of talking to Peter is when Mike Harcourt asked me to sort of ride herd on the process of severing some deputy ministers and other public servants the NDP terminated in its first year (ironically, including my now father-in-law).

I’m pretty sure Peter helped us with some of that. And I know for certain he remained a legal counsel to the NDP administration when it came to dealing with employment and labour relations - under Mike, Glen Clark and afterwards. Speaking of which, one of my first files at Heenan was from Peter - on behalf of a small company in the group Glen is responsible for. They seem to have been pretty happy with the help I gave them. I always thought Glen was a good guy and had the best mind of the few hundred politicians I’ve worked for. Still do. I take it from his picture on your website you may feel similarly.

While labour and employment are just part of my law practice, the files I’ve done with Peter Gall so far have shown me why he has received the highest-available peer ranking for ability and ethics in that field of law. A handful of lawyers practicing in the country have it.

I suppose you will probably trot out the names of Peter’s clients who weren’t the former NDP administration. So be it. I know his clients are very satisfied with his work, he has the respect of the people on all sides, and no one has ever suggested he practices law with anything but the highest level of ethics and integrity. Peter is also as bright a person as I’ve met and he is to labour law what Joe Arvay is to the constitution and civil liberties. Ask Joe. I’m pretty sure he would agree with all of the above.

So, while I cannot offer a remedy for your shock, I can tell you that in my 25th year as a New Democrat I am very proud of the work I did with four NDP premiers - and with Ken Georgetti and Angie Schira in that brief time you and I were co-workers at the BC Fed. I am just as proud to be Heenan Blaikie’s newest lawyer in BC.


John Heaney

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

BC Liberals attempt outrageous gerrymandering by intervening with BC Electoral Boundaries Commission

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday September 25, 2007

Gerrymandering Gord must stop


Gerrymander now means to divide a voting district in such a way as to give unfair advantage to one political party.

- Phyllis Martin, Quips, Quotes and Savvy Sayings

Imagine a place where the political leader overrules an independent commission report on electoral boundaries.

Imagine that leader orders more ridings be created in areas where his governing party is strongest and opposition weakest to win more seats in the next election.

Imagine a place where the vote of a person in an opposition riding is worth just a fraction of the vote of a person in a government riding.

Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe perhaps?

No. Try British Columbia under Premier Gordon Campbell.

Voters should be screaming blue bloody murder about Campbell's outrageous gerrymandering - intervening in an independent process to determine B.C's electoral boundaries to demand extra ridings that are clearly to the advantage of his own political party.

And all the while, Campbell piously claims to be "protecting" rural ridings.

More like protecting his own posterior. In fact, Campbell will actually dilute the influence of rural ridings by adding more Members of the Legislative Assembly in urban areas where his B.C. Liberal Party is strongest.

The independent B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission did an admirable job redistributing ridings fairly and in keeping with the fundamental democratic principle of representation by population.

The commission's report angered some rural areas because it would have added just two seats in total to the Legislature while eliminating three seats in places like Prince George, where population is declining.

But Campbell has used that rural anger to attempt one of the most daring and scandalous gerrymanders B.C. has ever seen.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission Act is clear that in sparsely populated areas "very special circumstances" allow the commission to exceed the plus or minus 25 per cent deviation in population per riding.

So a few rural ridings can have a lot less voters than an urban riding - fair enough.
The commission determined that despite allowing two ridings significant deviations of 53 per cent and 54 per cent over the average, some ridings would have to be combined.

But instead of letting the independent commission to do its job, Campbell has ordered it to keep the existing seats in those areas and add five new seats in "growing regions" - regions where the Liberals are strongest.

Why should Education Minister Shirley Bond be elected in Prince George-Mount Robson with 34,968 people, while NDP opposition MLA Jagrup Brar is elected in Surrey-Panorama Ridge with 64,890 people? Both members have one vote in the legislature but Brar represents 30,000 more voters!

There's no perfect solution to fairly distributing ridings but one thing is clear - Campbell's overruling an independent commission to add seats in Liberal areas is the worst kind of gerrymandering - and must be stopped.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Will Gordon Campbell announce 1000 new "non-market" housing units in Vancouver at UBCM?

Reliable sources indicate that BC Premier Gordon Campbell may announce the province is funding creation of 1000 new "non-market" Vancouver housing units at this week's Union of BC Municipalities conference.

The move would shore up a vulnerability on housing issues after the embarrassing claim that the February 2007 budget was a "housing" budget - merely because Finance Minister Carole Taylor said tax cuts in the budget would allow people to spend income they saved on housing.

To Taylor and the BC Liberals that somehow amounted to a $2 billion housing plan, a completely bogus boast that was soon jettisoned.

But this announcement, if it comes true, could be a real attempt at some form of social housing for those in need in the downtown core.

It would also come after the surprise announcement in April of this year that the province was buying up 11 residential Single Room Occupancy hotels - 10 in Vancouver and one in Victoria - in a move that stunned poverty advocates.

With a substantial budget surplus, the BC Liberals can well afford to create housing units - a move that would also further frustrate their New Democrat opposition.

The BC Liberals effort to reposition themselves as a centrist, fiscally conservative but social conscious party and government appears to be continuing, a dramatic change from the hard-right, slash and burn approach Campbell took in his first term.

1000 new non-market housing units from the province would also be of immense relief to beleaguered Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, who needs some success to point to for his efforts.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Will Gordon "green" Gateway with Evergreen Line realignment? Can BC Liberals grow Astroturf?

A Bridge Too Far? Rumours swirl of Gordon Campbell Gateway repositioning with Evergreen Line realignment over Port Mann to counter greenhouse gas increases

Meanwhile BC Liberal Astroturf group continues to sprout nonsense

The controversial Gateway project that will increase greenhouse gases may be in line for some greenwashing by Premier Gordon Campbell.

Rumours first reported by Gordon Price indicate that the Evergreen Line - long-planned but never implemented - may be funded and realigned to include a branch spanning the Port Mann bridge.

The intent is to blunt strong criticism of Gateway and in particular that the twinning of the Port Mann bridge that will put thousands more cars on the road - and according to Metro Vancouver [formerly GVRD] report, add significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.

"Traffic-related greenhouse-gas emissions with the Gateway Program will be 2.1 per cent (approximately 176,000 tonnes) higher in 2021, as compared to a 'without Gateway' scenario," said the report.

That's a problem, as Campbell has recently stated BC's goal will be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020, an amount that many experts feel will be extremely hard to achieve.

Price, a six-time Non-Partisan Association councilor and longtime sustainability advocate, says that an announcement on the Evergreen Line could come as soon as the Union of BC Municipalities conference next week.

"Regarding the Evergreen Line, a mayor of an eastern municipality is convinced an announcement is coming soon. Perhaps at the UBCM. The mayor also thinks that the Evergreen Line will take the southwest route along Lougheed AND a branch will head off over the Port Mann to Guildford (maybe further)," Price writes on his blog.

Meanwhile, a BC Liberal Astroturf group continues to sprout nonsense.

Get Moving BC, a group closely connected to key BC Liberals in the South Fraser, released a poll claiming that 72% of Burnaby residents support the Gateway program. Surprise, surprise, Burnaby city council has consistently opposed Gateway!

So it is equally surprising to find that among those involved in Get Moving BC are: Jordan Bateman, vice-president of Forestry Minister Rich Coleman's riding association and a Langley Township councillor; Greg Moore, former BC Liberal candiate,Port Coquitlam city councillor and currently BC Liberal organizer; Brian Bonney, former operations director for the BC Liberals; and Patrick O'Connor, a BC Liberal supporter who is Get Moving spokesman.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told the Province newspaper that the poll was "laughable".

Don't know about the poll but the group is certainly worth a chuckle.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ipsos Poll Detailed Results Not Good News for BC NDP

The latest Ipsos poll on BC politics has been presented as a "no change" story, with the BC Liberals continuing at the same level as previously, 46% to the BC NDP's 36% - a significant but not insurmountable 10 point gap. The leaderless Green Party polls at 15%.

However, a look at the Ipsos detailed tables uncovers some bigger problems for the BC NDP.

In the breakdown for the Lower Mainland, the Liberal lead grows to 49% to 34% for the NDP, and the sample size of 411 surveyed makes it statistically decent. A 15 point gap is enormous and would spell deep trouble for Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby NDP MLAs if an election were held today.

The Greens hold 14% in the Lower Mainland.

In the Interior the Liberals lead 45% to 33% NDP, with the Greens at 16%. The smaller sample size of 152 is less reliable.

Only on Vancouver Island do the NDP best the Liberals, with a 46% NDP to 36% Liberal score, with the Greens at 17%. A small sample of 88 is even less statistically dependable, however.

In other demographic breakdowns, the Liberals lead in almost every category, including males 50% to 32%, females 42% to 40%, age 55+ by 51% to 37%, 35-54 year olds by 47% to 37% and 18-34 year olds by 37% to 35%.

In other education and income categories, the NDP only leads in the under $40,000 group, by 38% to 30% for the Liberals.

None of these factors are insurmountable but the challenge facing the BC NDP and leader Carole James is considerable to overcome the substantial lead the BC Liberals and Gordon Campbell hold within many different demographic subsets.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Carole James should have thanked MLA Michael Sather, not thrown him out of caucus over Tsawwassen Treaty opposition

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday September 18, 2007

Green trouble for NDP's James


Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.

- William Jennings Bryan, 1860-1925

Carole James owes MLA Michael Sather a huge debt of gratitude.

But instead of thanking him, the B.C. New Democratic Party leader has thrown Sather out of her caucus!

Sather's offence? The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA is simply supporting a long-cherished NDP policy to protect valuable and disappearing farmland from industrial and residential development.

Sather's real problem is that he refuses to accept the wrongheaded idea that farmland is only worth protecting unless aboriginal people want to pave it and sell it to park shipping containers destined to and from China.
That means he will vote against the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty - only because the B.C. Liberals exempted the TFN from the provisions of the Agricultural Land Reserve, the historic legislation brought in by Dave Barrett's first NDP government in 1973.

And because James said the NDP caucus supports the treaty, she expelled Sather this month.

But James should instead be thanking Sather for opposing the treaty that removes 207 hectares of farmland from ALR protection and gives it to the Tsawwassen for Deltaport expansion.

That's because Sather is the thin red line holding back NDP voters who are environmental and farmland supporters from giving up on the party and voting Green.

Sather, along with NDP MLAs Guy Gentner, Corky Evans and possibly others who will abstain rather than vote for a treaty that will permanently eliminate a huge tract of productive farmland, is defending one of the NDP's proudest accomplishments.

And by doing so Sather is assuring NDP voters that protecting farms is worth fighting for to some in the party.

With the NDP at 32 per cent support, miles behind the B.C. Liberals at 50 per cent, and with the Green Party at 16 per cent in the latest Mustel Group poll, Carole James is in big trouble.

Two Green Party leadership candidates, Ben West and Damian Kettlewell, say they oppose the treaty over the ALR exemption.

That leaves Sather to defend farmland for the NDP.

"The issue of preserving agricultural land is so essential, whether it's protecting our food supply or climate change, it's so important," Sather said in an interview.

James has also alienated voters who believe - rightly - that an elected MLA is their representative, not simply a political party's. But the NDP provincial council backed James' position against a free vote - something B.C. Liberals MLAs will have.

"I am disappointed - we should have a free vote," Sather says.

And disappointment with the B.C. NDP is becoming James' biggest problem of all.


The Western Canada Wilderness Committee has also supported Sather and his call for a free vote on the Tsawwassen Treaty.

“We consider MLA Michael Sather to be a thoughtful, courageous, and well-spoken proponent for protecting BCs farmland...There are British Columbians who are not in favour of a treaty settlement that would see farmland paved and we would hope that these views could be represented by elected representatives without censure," said Joe Foy, Wilderness Committee National Campaign Director.

"The suspension of Mr. Sather from the NDP caucus and the continuing pressure to prevent a free vote on this important issue is, in our opinion, an assault on the free debate of important issues that a robust democracy depends on,” Foy added.

In a letter to NDP leader Carole James, the WCWC asks her to reconsider the position taken against a free vote on the treaty.

"The Wilderness Committee is extremely appreciative of NDP MLAs Michael Sather (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) Corky Evans (Nelson-Creston) and Guy Gentner (Delta North) for speaking out against the proposed treaty and for speaking up for the protection of farmland, the environment and community health," Foy wrote.

"We are therefore very dismayed to learn that all NDP MLAs are expected by you to vote for the treaty - no exceptions - in order to show party solidarity on this issue."

"Media reports also indicate that NDP MLAs that still choose to vote against the proposed treaty will suffer some kind of sanctions and this has us especially concerned. I note that the governing Liberals are allowing a free vote amongst their MLAs."

"Please, won't you reconsider?"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Single Transferable Vote proposal for BC would be a disaster, electoral maps show

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday August 28, 2007

The stupidity of single transfer


The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid.

- Journalist Art Spander

Imagine an electoral voting system so complicated, so disliked and so obscure that only two countries in the world - both tiny islands - use it for their national elections.

Imagine British Columbia following in the footsteps of Malta and Ireland.

And imagine a system where all of B.C. would have just 20 giant electoral districts instead of the current 79, with up to six members of the Legislative Assembly per riding.

Then imagine that B.C. voters might seriously adopt it for our own elections.

Stupid? You bet, but B.C. will decide on whether to adopt the single transferable vote or STV system in a May 12, 2009 referendum run concurrent with the next provincial election.

B.C. voters didn't think enough of STV in the 2005 referendum to give the required 60 per cent approval to implement this bad idea, suggested by the Citizens Assembly. Unfortunately, it came close enough that Premier Gordon Campbell is holding a second referendum.

But fortunately, the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission has provided what was missing in the last referendum - an STV riding map so every voter can see exactly what STV would look like.

It's not a pretty picture. In fact, it should be enough evidence for anyone who cares about how we vote to flatly reject it.

For example, Ireland is a small place with a population of four million people. Yet Ireland under STV has 166 elected representatives spread over 70,000 square kilometres.

B.C. has 4.3 million people but is a large province of 948,000 square kilometres and under STV, B.C. would have 81 MLAs.

That means on average an Irish politician represents an area of 422 square kilometres while under STV on average a B.C. politician would represent an area of 11,703 square kilometres.


Now, of course, those are only averages and in Vancouver and other urban centres riding sizes under STV would be much smaller.

But that also means under STV northern and interior ridings would be positively enormous.

Take the proposed B.C. STV riding of Northeast. It would have two MLAs and a size of - wait for it - 274,752 square kilometres! That means just one riding with two MLAs is nearly four times bigger than all of Ireland with its 166 members!

And the new riding map shows several other gigantic ridings that are simply unmanageable for MLAs.

Of course, STV advocates dare not suggest doubling our legislature to 166 members but it's obvious that STV just doesn't work for large geographic areas.

There's much more wrong with STV and I will write about it in the months ahead of the referendum.

Meanwhile, I am on vacation - back on Tuesday, Sept. 18.