Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Hacks Drill Us.....

53 degrees 0' 0" North - 132 degrees 0' 0" W

From Sean Holman at Public Eye

"The provincial government has awarded Shaw Communications Inc. a $77,000 contract to produce and air two televised town hall meetings on the impact of offshore oil and gas development.....

"Former CHEK TV legislative reporter Robin Adair, a government relations consultant with WCG International Consultants Ltd. and Victoria Chamber of Commerce vice-president, was subcontracted by Shaw to find and schedule panelists for the show...."

So, if Mr. Adair is already a government public relations consultant and he is being subcontracted by Shaw to stack the panel for the government while being paid with govt' money awarded to Shaw, is this an example of P3 cubed?

One would like to think not, at least if you were to take the statements of Steve Simons at face value.

"...according to Offshore Oil and Gas Team communications director Steve Simons, those meetings won't be broadcast until after the federal election because the government doesn't "want to stir the pot." Mr. Simons also says the province is taking a hands-off approach to the project."

One of the problems with Mr Simons' propaganda, however, is the following: the Offshore Oil and Gas Team that Mr Simons shills for is itself nothing more than a Neo-Lib PR scam that with a $6 million per annum budget completely funded by us.

And it gets worse. Specifically, the Offshore Oil and Gas Shills have been described, by that notoriously anti capitalist rag the Globe and Mail, as.....

"A B.C. government "swat team" is devising detailed policies for oil and gas drilling near the Queen Charlotte Islands, hoping to entice energy giants to exploit offshore riches.

Hacks indeed.....setting us, and our environment, up to be drilled by the Multinational Resource Extractors all over again, and with our own money no less.

For My Dad

48 degrees 25' 59" North - 123 degrees 22' 0" West
(across town from where I grew up)

My old man was a Union man.

And the folks in the Union fought like bastards...and they fought constantly, usually for the tiniest of things in each successive contract...things like an extra quarter percent on a COLA clause, or one little add-on like an extra free filling per year on the dental plan.

And when I was a kid, especially during that time when I was a barely no-longer-a-teenager-aged kid, I thought the folks from the Union were just a little bit off their nut....all that energy going into what, exactly?

After all, it was the 80's, and Dave Barrett and the Socialist Hordes were long gone, and the Wild Kelowna boys were rolling along, and Unions were bad, and Expo was coming, and Trudeau was going, and John Turner was hiccupping, and Mulroney was lurking, somewhere off in the distance....

....And if you were a half-bright, apolitical science-geek kind of kid like me, breezing your way through college and thinking about graduate school, you laughed when you saw the boy wonder from Burnaby, Michael J. Fox, shirk his Family Ties and ape the young Republicans while making fun of his willfully neutered Leftie of a Dad on the TV screen...

....And if you were that kid, you thought that you were living in a golden age that was tied, not to the social democratic reforms of the past, but to the coming of Free Trade and the promises of the Reaganites from the South...

...And from that perspective you sure as heck didn't get the irony of Bruce Springsteen singing about the plight of the working class in 'Born in the USA'.

But now that I have spent a good chunk of time in USA where I started a family of my own before coming home, I do get it.

I understand that my Dad spent his entire adult life hauling logs up and down the West Coast, working his guts out to help keep the robber baron families rich because he had to make a living to support his own family....

....And I get the fact that, because of the Unions, my family's standard of living gradually improved, bit by bit, over the years so that by the time I had grown up to be that callow young man described above my parents had saved enough to help me go to University....

....And I get the fact that I was the first one in my family who got to go to University.... ever..... and it wasn't because I was so damned smart....

....And I get the fact that, while my parents' limited financial help and support was important, it would never have been enough to get me into the same good schools if I had arrived on the scene a single generation earlier or, perhaps, later....

....And I get the fact that those Wild Kelowna Boys, and all the other neo-cons that have come since, have being doing their damndest to destroy the dream of a University education for all, and instead have instituted an elitist education for some and one-trick-pony Technical training for everybody else.....

....And I get the fact that, if it wasn't for folks like my Dad and the other lefties of his time, my current world, one in which I make a living with my eyes and my mind wide open, would not be what it is today.....

....And most of all, I now get the fact that my Dad was, and is, my hero.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More......

48 degrees 25' 59" North - 123 degrees 22' 0" West


OK, it's bad enough that the neolibs are doing their best to give away our mountains, water, parks, highways, universities, ferries, railbeds and our electricity, but now it looks like they're doing their best to give away our children as well.

But do not despair...... because you too can open up a child labour sweatshop with the help of the British Columbia Government and their snappy new form that allows you to fill out a....

General Employment Permit Application for Young People Under the Age of 12

"The form and a copy of the child's birth certificate should be returned to an Employment Standards Branch office near you or (for farm labourers) to the Agricultural Compliance Team: 101-10475 138 Street, Surrey, BC, V3T 4K4."

Hmmmmm.....maybe CareNet can use this to hire some disadvantaged kids so that they can at least look like they're doing something with all the millions they were given to shred dozens of local safety-nets previously funded through the Ministry of Children and Family Development...

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Say it ain't so Eddie, say it ain't so.....

43 degrees 38' 59" North; 79 degrees 22' 59" West


In yesterday's Globe and Mail, BoyWonder and Editor-in-Chief Edward Greenspon did a marvellous job digging himself deeper into a hole of his own making.

First he tried to explain why pollsters, rather than his reporters or editors, are the ones who show him the way when it comes to which parties get ink in his paper. In this case, he was trying to explain why he had suddenly come around to paying lip-service to the previously shut-out Greens.....

"....our Ipsos-Reid polls are detecting a bit of a coming of age for the Greens, probably not enough to win seats but likely enough to play a spoiler role in British Columbia and qualify for public funding in future."

Of course, this had nothing to do with Green Party positions, programs or candidates. Instead, it was worth reporting, albeit briefly on page A6, because it was a 'horse-race' issue wherein the Greens, by virtue of pulling 8-10% of the Pacific vote, could quite possibly keep the NDP from pulling the rug out from under both the Harperites and the Martinites in B.C. But our Eddie, ever the quick and nimble defender of all positions at all times had a ready, if lame, 'proactive' explanation cleverly designed to deflect any and all future criticism that he was being non-substantive....

".... I asked for a show of hands (in the weekly editors' story meeting). It was nine for, one against and three abstentions. And so early next week, you will be able to find the Green platform on our website along with the major parties...."

We here at the Gazette figure that this really means that, while it may get you a few kilobytes on the the BellGlobeMedia server, the double whammy of Editors on your side and the Ipsos Reid imprimatur does not entitle you to a real story with real analysis that imparts real information that could be used to real effect by a starved electorate on voting day.

Kind of makes you wonder..... if John A. MacDonald were to turn up tomorrow, would he immediately be shunted off to Nowhere Nova Scotia because his crazy talk about 'Confederation' wasn't supported by conventional wisdom, scientific polling, or the carefully protected and self-selecting herd that is today's pack journalism.

____________
UPDATE: June 14th, 2004
43 degrees 38' 59" North; 79 degrees 22' 59" West, and just a little to the Left

From the 'At times like this it's better to be a follower than a leader' Dept....

CBC's 'The National' unveils it's big election backstory for tonight (and only two days after Eddie G.'s lead, wot)...

"Monday, June 14, 2004, 10:00 p.m.
What is the Green Party all about?"

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Gospel According to HR MacMillan

49 degrees 17' 59" North.....124 degrees 37' 0" West


When I was a kid my Dad used to pile us all in the Studebaker and we'd head off camping for 20 or 30 days every summer.

Those were great days indeed, and we spent almost all of them in British Columbia's Provincial Parks,which cost us a paltry $2.00 per day.

Truth be told, that was really all we could afford.

Now wait just a minute you might be saying to yourself, particularly if you are of a certain politcal stripe.....he said 'Studebaker', right? So this doesn't make sense, because all of this car-camping must have occurred way back in the past, before the Socialist Hordes took over and gave everything away, cheap, to all comers.

There is only one problem with that kind of waterheaded thinking.

It was not the Hordes that built British Columbia's Provincial Parks, or our Public Ferry system, or even our BC Hydro for that matter.

Instead, it was none other than that notorious free-enterpriser himself W.A.C. Bennett, who once said,"the finest sound in the land is the ringing of cash registers".

Now, I will leave it to others who have considerably more politico-historical mojo than I to explain how the original Socred Manifesto was bent out of shape by the Wacky One after he brought it over the Rockies and started hammering the crap out of it in his Hardware store in Kelowna in the early '50s.

Because, at least for this screed, the whys and the wherefores are not important.

What is important is that Mr. Bennett did these things. And they were good.

_________________
Last week my wife went online and booked us a campsite for the August long weekend at a Provincial Campground on the Sunshine Coast. The cost was $20 dollars per day for the site, $6 for the reservation fee and $10 for an extra car (I have to work Friday and thus will come up with another family on the Saturday).

That makes $36.00 per night or $118.00 for the weekend which is more than twice what it cost my Dad and his wife and his three kids (me and my two brothers) for an entire four week holiday in 1971.

Ya, I know inflation, cost of living, relative earning multiples....blah, blah, blah.

But, then again, think of it this way: my Dad worked on a towboat all his adult life and we were always a working class family, which is why we were travelling in a 1963 Studebaker in 1971. But the cost of going camping was never an issue. In fact, at two bucks a night we could have camped from the day school got out in June until it started again in September and the cost of a campsite still wouldn't have been an issue.

But let's take a working class family now. Let's say they want to take a big trip around the province camping for 4 weeks this summer. The price of the campsites alone would run them somewhere in the vicinity of 700 bucks. You think that might not give them pause, perhaps even enough to consider Disneyland instead?

And don't even get me started on the lack of services, the deterioration of the infrastructure, and the dearth of nature programs now compared to that which greeted you when you entered a Provincial Park a generation ago.

_______________
So what the hell has happened?

Well, for one thing, of all the province's 'assets' the Parks may be the ones that have gone the furthest down the Dual tracks to Destruction known as P3 (private/public/partnerships) and Cost Recovery.

Clearly, the people who, as Frank Capra once put it, do most of the 'living and working and dying' in this province have lost control. And this is a theme I will return to from a 'big picture' point of view in the coming months.....but for now I want to talk about a small story in a small place almost smack dab in the middle of Vancouver Island.

It's called Cathedral Grove, which is a postage stamp of less than 200 hectares located along Cameron Lake about halfway between Parksville and Port Alberni on Highway 4, which is the main road to Tofino.

The park has one of the last easily accessible stands of old growth Douglas Fir anywhere and it was bequeathed to the Province by non-other than that old forest raper himself, HR Macmillan, who, I'm guessing, was probably great friends with Wacky Bennett.
_____________
One of the places we liked to camp when I was a kid was Englishmen's River Falls, a provincial campsite located at the foot of Mt. Arrowsmith at the end of Cameron Lake a few miles east of Cathedral Grove.

It goes without saying that the Grove is a magical place. And when I was 12 years old it could entice my brothers and me into doing crazy Tommy Thompson-like stuff that included bushwacking down from the Mount Arrowsmith trail or fording the Cameron River looking for Roosevelt Elk on our way to the Big Trees.

Oh sure, you could then, and still can, take the easy way into 'Canopy of Giants' by parking your car along the side of the road along a windy portion of highway 4 that runs through the heart of the park.

And this, of course, causes some congestion along the stretch of two lane highway that winds its way towards Port Alberni, Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park on the West Coast of the Island.

Which is why, if you were to take the current Provincial Government's argument at face value, the proposed construction of a new parking lot in the name of safety is a good thing.

And if you are convinced that building such a parking lot is the right thing it becomes very easy to dismiss the 'eco-freaks' that have barricaded themselves in the trees to defy the bulldozers as crackpots.

Except that some folks, including one of the few mainstream journos in this Province with any spine, Stephen Hume, have been bold enough to take take a peek behind the Government's Curtain of Spurious Spin and have started asking questions like.....

1) Why is the paved parking lot so darned big (ie. protestors have claimed that it will hold 150 cars and 20 buses)?...... Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection's response: It's not big at all because..... 'it is only designed for 140 cars and 15 buses.'

2) Why is the lot being built in a stand of mature second growth forest right next to the Grove, the destruction of which will facilitate blowdowns from the wind that whistles through the adjacent clear-cut?...... The Ministry of Protection's response.....'studies by Dr. Steven Mitchell of UBC and Madrone Consulting have concluded that there will be not be increased blowdown'.....This all sounds very plausible except for one small thing..... here is what Dr. Mitchell actually said in the conclusion of his original report:

"...In a small park such as MacMillan Park (Cathedral Grove), situated on a major travel corridor near expanding populations, with high visitor use, influence of human activities is inevitable. These effects can be mitigated to some degree through application of our growing knowledge of ecosystem function, and through long term cooperative planning....." Clearly, the work of a careful academic, but it is hardly the ringing endorsement that our Spinners from the Ministry of Protection make it out to be.

3) Why has there been no public review or input into the process?.....Ministry of Protection response:
"consultation and study have been going on for 12 years......"
This is a classic propaganda ploy - spew out an answer that seems logical but is actually completely illogical (ie. internal consultation = public review). This double-speak is actually reinforced by an internally commissioned consultant's report from Blood and Associates that cites two, and only two, previous studies, both of which were carried out by.......you guessed it....Blood and Associates.

While there are many other examples of double-speak pertaining to this issue, those three points alone are enough to make you wonder if we are actually building a massive parking lot that will hasten the Grove's demise and if so, why?

Well, given the fact that the football field full of pavement will also be stuffed to the gills with Parking Meters, could it be that revenue generation/cost recovery is one of the driving forces behind this initiative? The former chief Gauliter of the Ministry of Protection, Joyce Murray, had a double-speak answer for this as well (all of this stuff can be found as pdf files at the gov.bc.ca site linked to above)

"..... parking at Cathedral Grove will indeed be metered. Last year, 27 Provincial Parks on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland introduced day-use parking fees...."

Personally, I feel that 2+2=5 responses like this are actually more of an indictment than a justification.

And here's why....my Dad and his Dad before him eeked out working class existences in the forest industry doing the shit jobs that made people like HR MacMillan and his kind rich. And now the conning-neos currently in control are doing their damndest to try and convince us that we should be glad that we are being forced to pay for the privilege of visiting the bone that was thrown our way as payment for being royally screwed throughout both of their lifetimes?

To put it another way, does anybody really think that the SuperRich would put up with paying a parking fee to tie their float planes up at the dock when they fly into a secluded SuperNatural British Columbia spot like, oh say, Great Central Lake, which is located in the still pristine wilderness just a few kilometers away, and a world removed, from the public highway that runs through Cathedral Grove?

Of course not.