Monday, December 31, 2012

Jesus would be mad at charity requests - because society should help those in need, not individuals

Why Jesus Would Be Angry This Christmas

Andrew Pudas - Ceramic artist - "Angry Jesus"

He'd be mad about all those charity requests as wealth inequality grows.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday December 18, 2012
"Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."
- Proverbs 31:9, the Bible 

Jesus would be angry this Christmas, furious to see charities feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, comforting those with disabilities and supporting the poor, all asking for donations.

But Christ wouldn't be mad at those worthy groups doing good works. He would be disgusted our society refuses to properly care for those in need, making them depend on the whims of individual generosity.

From groups running food banks to providing shelter to the homeless to assisting people with disabilities from losing their already pathetically low income to those advocating against poverty, all are desperately and perpetually short of operating funds.

And without our financial help, real people suffer.

Jesus would simply ask: why?

Why in a society as developed as Canada's, in a province as full of natural resources as British Columbia, in a city as conspicuously wealthy as Vancouver, do so many live below the poverty line?

The answer doesn't need to come from Jesus, or Buddha or Muhammad or Guru Nanak. It can easily come from us.

The poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged suffer because we like it that way.

No, not because we are all hard hearted sociopaths who couldn't care less about others.

The reason is because we'd rather not pay higher taxes to redistribute wealth more equitably.
Another Christmas, wider disparities
Both the federal Conservative and B.C. Liberal governments explicitly ran campaigns promising and delivering tax "relief" to voters -- but mostly to those who are already extremely well-off.

As a result, both Canada's and B.C.'s income inequality has grown dramatically for years.  
These governments have intentionally made it more difficult to collect employment insurance, disability benefits and social assistance.

The effects are very clear.

B.C. has the second worst child poverty rate in Canada after boasting the absolute worst for the previous eight years.  
Canada's 4,500 food banks have experienced the kind of phenomenal growth in "customers" that any actual private bank would celebrate wildly.

More than 882,000 Canadians depend on food banks, an increase of 31 per cent since 2008. In B.C. over 96,000 people use food banks, a 23 per cent jump since 2008.

But the only "reward" for food banks -- originally established as a temporary measure -- is increased dependency and lack of sufficient supplies for those they serve.
People with disabilities in B.C. have to survive on as little as $906 a month for a single adult -- $10,877 when the Low Income Cut Off indicator for poverty is $23,637.
The gift of social progress
No, if Jesus came back to visit us this Christmas he would be righteously angry -- and organizing for social change.

So as you celebrate the season, please give money to causes that urgently ask for your help.

But also demand that all governments do more to share the wealth our rich society creates.  

That would be a truly meaningful Christmas gift to those who need it most.


Why doesn't Canada have a state-owned energy company when China and most of world do? Answer: Conservative ideology over common sense

If China Can Have State-Owned Energy Firms, Why Can't We? 
Once upon a time PetroCanada belonged to all Canadians as a state-owned energy firm
Question looms after Harper's sell-out of Canadian interests with CNOOC, Petronas takeovers.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday December 11, 2012

"To be blunt, Canadians have not spent years reducing the ownership of sectors of the economy by our own governments, only to see them bought and controlled by foreign governments instead."
There are many good reasons that the Conservative government should have rejected the $15 billion takeover of Canada's Nexen oil and gas giant by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation instead of accepting it last Friday.
Refusing to sell out ownership of our natural resources to a foreign company, for example, or rejecting China's appalling human rights record and undemocratic rule by dictatorship or just because the benefits to Canada are not sufficient.
But for Harper to allow the deal to go ahead while bitterly complaining that it won't happen again because CNOOC is "state-owned" is not a good reason -- it is an indication of his libertarian free-market at all costs ideology.
And not surprisingly, it's a dogmatic view Harper shares with the right-wing Fraser Institute, which argues that private ownership is "more productive" than public ownership despite evidence to the contrary.
Harper's words also applied to a second deal his government allowed, the $6 billion takeover of Calgary-based natural gas company Progress Energy by Malaysia's state-owned Petronas.
And the prime minister's objections aren't based on the fact that CNOOC is controlled by a Communist -- in name only -- regime. No, just that it is owned by a government instead of shareholders.
"The government's concern and discomfort for some time has been that very quickly, a series of large-scale controlling transactions by foreign state-owned companies could rapidly transform this (oil sands) industry from one that is essentially a free market to one that is effectively under control of a foreign government," Harper said.
Once upon a time Canada also had a state-owned energy company -- PetroCanada -- that allowed the country to have a significant window on the oil and gas industry from top to bottom, from oil exploration to gas stations.
What's more, five of the top 10 most profitable companies in the world are big oil and gas firms.
So what's wrong with taxpayers having a little skin in that game and some profits to reduce taxation levels?
Perfectly normal
For any nation to have a state-owned energy firm isn't strange or restricted to unelected regimes. Norway,Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil are among dozens of nations with publicly-owned oil businesses, which collectively control more than 75 per cent of world crude oil production.
In fact, Canada and the United States are the only major oil-producing countries without publicly-owned energy firms.
And strong arguments can be made in favour of national oil companies. A recent article in Forbes business magazine -- hardly a socialist hotbed -- says there are many reasons why NOCs can be beneficial.
"Leading NOCs not only channel capital, technological and operational know-how into the country, they also serve as custodians of their nation's wealth," writes José de Sá of Bain & Company.
"Ideally, they help insulate the socioeconomic development strategy from pulls and pressures, and they guard its integrity as the country moves through economic cycles. Most important, they maintain a steady course in the quest for global competitiveness," he wrote this year.
Ideological blinders
But what is strange is that PetroCanada began to be privatized by a Conservative government and the Liberal government that followed finished it off.
Apparently there's a lot wrong with public ownership of natural resources -- if you are ideologically motivated to oppose it.
That may explain why the two parties that have alternated in governing Canada for more than the past century both wanted to get rid of PetroCanada.
And their lack of commitment to Canadian ownership of our own natural resources is why both Harper and the Liberal Party's heir-apparent leader Justin Trudeau both approved of the CNOOC and takeover.
So while the rest of the world reaps the rewards of public ownership of natural resources, Canada has not only gone in the opposite direction, it's also allowing foreign companies to take over what is rightfully ours. Brilliant.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas to all my readers - may it be happy, healthy and peaceful!

Van Dusen Gardens - Festival of Lights - Bill Tieleman photo

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Bill Tieleman in Mexico - adios & hasta luego!

Amigas y amigos:  I am on vacation in Merida, Mexico from December 9 to 20!

Bill Tieleman in Todo Santos, Mexico 2011
I will try to post comments as able between cerveza, margarita, pool, beach and Mayan cultural events!

And I will return before the Mayan Calendar indicates the end of the world on December 21, 2012.

Hasta luego!

Friday, December 07, 2012

BC Liberals meeting with BC Business Council December 14 to develop election platform!

BC Liberal Party working with the Business Council of BC to develop its election platform at behind closed doors meeting of top business leaders on December 14

The BC Liberal Party and some media have been in a near-frenzy over the "news" that the BC Federation of Labour is meeting with the New Democratic Party to discuss a labour platform for the 2013 provincial election.
Mike McDonald, BC Liberal Party Campaign Director on Global TV

The document obtained by The Province newspaper was in fact widely circulated at the BC Federation of Labour Convention last week, as President Jim Sinclair pointed out, but no matter - it makes for a great tabloid front page screamer, with BC Liberals like cabinet minister Mary Polak chiming in with shock and outrage.

So let's see if The Province reacts similarly to this news:  I have obtained a document that shows the BC Liberal Party is meeting behind closed doors with the Business Council of BC to develop its own election platform!

And unlike the BC Federation of Labour's Convention, this meeting is not open to the public or media.  Nor do there seem to be plans for the BC Liberals to meet with labour and get its input, even though the NDP is regularly meeting with business as well as unions.

So - big business tycoons will meet in private with the BC Liberal Party's Campaign Director Mike McDonald to hear a "campaign update" and then offer their "policy ideas" to help develop the Liberals' "election platform."

Sounds like a story to me.

Here is the full email I obtained that was sent out by longtime BC Liberal backer Victor Vrsnik - a communications consultant and lobbyist and ex-Canadian Taxpayer Federation staffer with strong ties to business, with personal information removed for privacy reasons, and key parts in bold type added.   

From: Victor Vrsnik
Date: 30 November, 2012  
Subject: Meeting invite with Mike McDonald, Campaign Director, BC Liberal Party
Dear Xxxxxx,

You are invited to a stakeholder meeting with Mike McDonald, Campaign Director of the BC Liberal Party, on Friday, December 14, 2012, from 10:00AM to 11:00AM at the boardroom of the Business Council of British Columbia (1050 West Pender St., Suite 810).

A renewed Cabinet, combined with seasoned returning MLAs, and an impressive slate of new candidates, the 2013 BC Liberal team is looking strong.

The grassroots of the party are energized from the successful convention in Whistler, and they are stepping up to get the party campaign ready. 

Sold out fundraising dinners have been held around the province, most recently Wednesday night's Resource Dinner in Vancouver that will net a record-breaking total.  Campaign preparations are well under way, but there is still much work to be done.

With the election fast approaching, Mike wanted to provide you, and other industry and business associations, with a Campaign Update and a high level overview of the Party’s plan over the coming months. 

He would like to structure the session so there is plenty of time for discussion and feedback, and also an opportunity for you to offer up policy ideas to feed into the election platform. 

Please RSVP by email xxxxx or by phone xxxxxxx.

Thank you.


Victor Vrsnik

Victor Vrsnik, APR
SPIRE Public Relations


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Electoral cooperation on Canada's "left" or with "progressives" not possible when Liberal and Green parties fail test!

Unite? Liberals, Greens Are Not 'Progressive'

Nathan Nun cartoon - with thanks for permission
Why I'm not buying into an electoral cooperation pact with New Democrats in next federal election.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday December 4, 2012

By Bill Tieleman 

"The reactionary is always willing to take a progressive attitude on any issue that is dead."
- U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt 1901-1909
"Unite the left! Have all progressive parties defeat Stephen Harper's evil Conservatives" is the rallying cry of a coalition of increasingly angry agitators.
But my reply is simple: Unite progressives my posterior!
The reality is that neither the federal Liberal nor Green parties are "left" or "progressive" -- and certainly not a merger match for the New Democratic Party.
And despite calls for lowest common denominator politics to defeat Harper, there's a fundamental problem even bigger than creating a cooperative voting coalition for just one election.
It's that the Anyone But Conservatives movement is based on removing voters' right to choose the party of their own liking.
This coercive and anti-democratic impulse is driven by the deluded desperation of Harper haters.
That's why it will never work.
But it hasn't stopped federal Liberal leadership contender Joyce Murray, the Vancouver-Quadra MP, from promoting the idea last week of joint nominations for just the 2015 election, followed by electoral system reform.
The concept behind it is also flawed, because believing that all social democratic NDP supporters would vote for a Liberal or Green candidate in their riding requires an ideological leap of logic.
Murray herself must be aware that many New Democrat voters wouldn't vote for her own candidacy, based on her past record as a Gordon Campbell cabinet minister responsible for cutting environmental protection in his first term as B.C. premier.
Splinters that splinter
And even if the three parties came to an agreement, it's likely some supporters would rebel and create other parties that matched their perspective. God forbid that the separatist Bloc Quebecois remnants have anything to do with it either.
In the case of the Liberals, we know that many of their voters would do exactly the opposite of the desired effect: they would vote for the Harper Conservatives rather than the NDP or Green candidate they were being asked to endorse.
Some Greens might do the same. After all, their previous national leader Jim Harris came from the Conservatives and current leader Elizabeth May once worked for the Conservative government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Alice Funke of Pundits' Guide has outlined the faulty logic that was highlighted when recent NDP leadership candidate and B.C. MP Nathan Cullen proposed joint nomination meetings where members would "co-operate with progressives across the political spectrum" to choose anti-Conservative candidates.
Despite Cullen's energetic campaign and the promotion of his idea by online activist group and others, he finished third and did not receive the mandate he wanted to pursue the concept.
In fact,'s new efforts to convince the Liberal Party to endorse cooperation as it heads to an April leadership vote has only garnered 17,000 supporters to date.
Adjusting to Justin
As for the Liberals' compatibility in even a temporary electoral coalition, just look at Liberal MP and dauphin Justin Trudeau's most recent pronouncements.
Trudeau supports the Chinese state-owned CNOOC oil company's proposed takeover of Calgary-based oil and gas producer Nexen because it's "good for Canada" -- without addressing the sell out of our resources or the issue of a Communist dictatorship increasingly owning big chunks of our economy.
Trudeau also now says that while he voted against the Conservatives' elimination of the long-gun registry, a Liberal government wouldn't even consider bringing back a valuable tool to prevent gun violence that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police wanted kept in place.
"The long-gun registry, as it was, was a failure and I'm not going to resuscitate that," Trudeau said. "There are better ways of keeping us safe than that registry which is, has been removed."
May's contradictions
Then there's Green Party leader Elizabeth May's constant contradictions on ecological and progressive issues.
How can any self-respecting Green look themselves in the environmental mirror after their calculating candidate in the Victoria by-election last month opposed a plant to treat the 130 million litres of raw sewage dumped into the Juan de Fuca Strait daily?
“Local scientists have cautioned us that the Strait of Juan de Fuca is a unique environment. Its special currents deal with the human waste naturally," Donald Galloway says on his website, adding that the plant is too expensive and doesn't deal with all contaminants.
The Greens were so sensitive to their flip-flop that when local celebrity sewage treatment activist James Skwarok -- who wears a brown costume to look like a giant piece of feces called Mr. Floatie -- showed up at a party event where David Suzuki appeared, Skwarok was flushed from the room.
"I was a bit bummed out," Skwarok told Canadian Press. "I was a bit shocked, actually, that they weren't in favour of Victoria's sewage treatment plan."
"I'm dismayed that so many candidates are against treatment," he said. "We spent the last five, six years carefully planning treatment for Victoria and we have the money now, so it's time to do it. It's 2012. It's not 1850."
(Skwarok, who retired his Mr. Floatie outfit after it appeared a treatment plant would finally be built, calls his new campaign a "second movement.")
Liberal candidate Paul Summerville also ran against the $783 million plant, saying: "There's no net environmental benefit to the plan that's being produced."
And Trudeau backed him up on that dubious deduction.
"I think we need to be worried about what the actual science says instead of what the ideology is," Trudeau told reporters.
Even Conservative candidate Dale Gann reversed himself, despite his own government offering to pay one-third of the costs, leaving only winning NDP candidate Murray Rankin to support a decades overdue decision to stop pumping untreated sewage via a long pipe out to sea -- something our American neighbours are furious about.
So much for the environmental commitment of Liberals and Greens.
Pro rep repelled
And what about the idea of a temporary cooperative coalition to vanquish the Tories and implement a new voting system with some form of proportional representation to ensure Harper's ilk can never again gain a majority?
Electoral system change from our current First Past the Post model has been rejected soundly in every province where a referendum has been held -- British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.
(Disclosure: I successfully opposed the Single Transferable Vote proposal in both the 2005 and 2009 provincial election referenda as president of NO BC STV.)
A proposal to reject FPTP was also trounced in a referendum in England in 2011.
So the goal of a "progressive" party cooperation pact to facilitate changing the electoral system is hardly likely to garner national support.
None of this is to say parties cannot cooperate on key issues.
For example, the NDP, Liberals and Greens have all opposed the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal, which is strongly backed by the Conservatives.
And if voters want to make their own decisions in each riding as to which anti-Conservative candidate has the best chance of defeating a sitting MP, go to it -- convince enough people and it will be successful.
We've seen several political organizations advocate, advertise and set up websites to advise voters on exactly that -- albeit the results have been very poor.
But do not let anyone call themselves either progressive or democratic if they are advocating a two-choice election in 2015 -- Conservative or their alternative ABC mix.
What's even worse than another Stephen Harper Conservative government is a country where high-minded elites deprive voters of a full range of political parties in the next election.


Monday, December 03, 2012

BASI-VIRK: Shocking omissions admitted in BC Supreme Court in Auditor General application, John van Dongen intervention

How did a senior government lawyer make serious errors in sworn evidence aoubt detalis of BC's most scandalous case - the Basi-Virk/BC Rail/BC Legislature Raid - that were only uncovered months later, and just days before final arguments in BC Supreme Court? 

Richard Butler: "I have no explanation for how or why..... other than failure of memory and failure to go back and review the files at the times I made those misstatements."

Independent MLA John van Dongen interviewed by Bill Tieleman outside BC Supreme Court
The Basi-Virk Case has been described in this blog before as an opportunity to enter the Twilight Zone existing between BC politics and the law.

Submitted for your consideration: a senior government lawyer dealing with the most sensitive, explosive and biggest scandal in decades admits he made shockingly inaccurate statements under oath and is forced to cough up a lengthy mea culpa just days before a BC Supreme Court hearing connected to how the BC Liberal government paid the $6 million legal fees of two ministerial assistants who made guilty pleas to corruption charges.

The indemnification of legal fees for David Basi and Bob Virk - the two ex-aides who made a surprise guilty plea after years of professing their innocence - is being investigated by BC's independent Auditor General John Doyle.  

The issue: why did Basi and Virk get their lawyers' bills paid off by the government when they admitted to breach of trust and fraud over leaking confidential documents to lobbyists for one of the bidders in the $1 billion BC Rail privatization in 2003 by ex-Premier Gordon Campbell?  

The guilty, so the rules allegedly go, have to pay their own legal costs.  But then again, we are back in the Twilight Zone, where nothing is as it first appears.

And when it comes to explaining such mysteries, the government has not been cooperating, hence the legal battle where Doyle is asking BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman to grant his office access to billing documents the government wants kept private.

Enter one John van Dongen, a former BC Liberal cabinet minister and Solicitor General no less, who became disillusioned with how the Basi-Virk case was handled by his own government and in March 2012 quit the party in part because of it.

The independent MLA, like the Auditor General, wasn't buying the smoke and mirrors game and paid for his own lawyer to seek intervenor status in Doyle's court application to force disclosure of details of the legal bills of not only Basi and Virk but other government employees who also faced charges and had their costs covered.

In fact, van Dongen previously claimed the government was "stonewalling" the Auditor General by fighting disclosure all the way.

And in BC Supreme Court Monday, van Dongen had his suspicions confirmed once again in spades that the Basi-Virk case still has lots of skeletons in its closet.

An affidavit filed by Richard Butler on November 16 was discussed in court because the veteran government lawyer working in the Ministry of Justice was forced to admit a series of substantial errors in his own previous affidavit regarding how Basi and Virk's legal bills were handled.

The embarrassing admission vindicated van Dongen's belief that the Auditor General should be granted full access to all files - something the government is fighting in court.

"It's a very significant development at this stage of the hearing - it confirms why we need an audit," van Dongen told me in an interview at the conclusion of the hearing Monday afternoon.

"The government could have spared themselves a lot of trouble by sharing these documents with the Auditor General in the first place," he said.  "The taxpayers have spent a lot of money here."

Indeed they have.  While van Dongen personally paid for his veteran lawyer Roger McConchie to intervene on his behalf, at least five other lawyers were all attending at taxpayer expense - on both sides of the court case.

But the showstopper wasn't the argument made by Doyle's lawyer Louis Zivot  that alternatives to the full disclosure remedy sought were "unpalatable to the Auditor General" or other dry legal arguments made on either side.

No, it was the affidavit filed by Butler.

"What's significant is that Butler admits misstatement in a very important document at the heart of the case," says van Dongen.  

Indeed.  Butler's 19-page document is filled with legal niceties and the most neutral language possible but ultimately confesses to a major screw up.

"I am surprised by these errors for a number of reasons," Butler's affidavit states, regarding his previous evidence regarding how Basi and Virk's legal bills were reviewed for payment.  

"I have no explanation for how or why, in making the statements referred to in paragraph 15, above, I said the certificates did not have statements of account attached when in fact, they were required to, and did, attach statements of account and other documentation - other than failure of memory and failure to go back and review the files a the times I made those misstatements," Butler writes.
None of which is to say Butler has done anything except correct the record on his own admitted mistakes, and rightly so.

But the appearance of such an admission in a case full of unanswered questions can only fuel further the commitment of NDP leader Adrian Dix to launch an inquiry into the entire episode, should he become premier next May.

If so, Dix and the public will owe some gratitude to van Dongen, the Abbotsford-South MLA, who has been a dog with a bone on the Basi-Virk file.