The Red Herring Referendum

“One thing that we have learned however is that the best thing to do to make your transit agency worse off is to de-fund them. That taking away money from them in order to demonstrate frustration only punishes the people who are reliant on the transportation system.”

-Jeffery TumlinNelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates

How making those with low incomes, students, new immigrants and the elderly wait longer for the 99 B-line will induce Christy Clark to give Translink executives a salary haircut is a mystery to me.

Stuart Parker makes a similar point here.

Let’s be clear: the BC government already doesn’t care about low-income people, transit riders and families forced to suburbanize due to the affordability crisis. If our lives get worse by our own hands, it’s just going to broaden the smile on our premier’s face. What so many “no” supporters are missing is that hostage situations only work if the people you’re threatening care about the hostages.

Indeed. People, including some progressives, seem to be under the mistaken impression the Premier wants a Yes victory.

UPDATE: Stephen Rees has another of his always useful posts:

In fact most of the problems that beset Translink at the moment all have their genesis with the provincial government. Christy Clark has done one brilliant job: she has deflected all the criticism of her failure to authorize adequate resources for running the transportation system in BC’s largest metropolis onto an organisation that she herself controls. It is an appointed Board – with a bafflingly complex system of appointment to disguise the very limited range of qualifications of its appointees. No-one represents the users of the system, and there are only two of 20 Mayors on the board, both very recent appointments.

Voting NO is not going to change anything.

Christy Clark in “Say Anything”

Do di doo…what’s this? A local news outlet reports the Premier saying the following:

“You know the province has made a major contribution to this and I think we’ve really done what we can. TransLink belongs to the mayors, and only the mayors, if there are problems that need to be addressed in TransLink, can fix those, fix those problems because it’s not a provincially run organization.

Unfortunately for the Premier, on this occasion a reporter decides that, yes, it is appropriate to say whether the words coming out of the mouths of our betters is, you know, true and provides this clarification, all the more devastating in it’s economy:

In fact, TransLink was established through provincial legislation.

Bravo, Mr. Leslie.

That it’s CKNW – the former platform for The Christy Clark Show – is the cherry on top. I do believe Clark’s schtick for a loose interpretation of facts, law, and ethics is wearing thin. Here, there and everywhere.

A compelling reason for a Transit Yes

Campaigning in the Lower Mainland’s transit referendum begins to unfold in earnest and the Yes and No sides have now unveiled their core arguments. For my own part I feel we shouldn’t even being having a referendum on such matters. It is in my mind a transparent attempt to pit one set of users in our transportation system against another, for the political benefit of the B.C. Liberals. Whether a clumsy attempt to regain a degree of populist cred after the HST referendum fiasco or perhaps to distract from other things. Who can say?

Nevertheless, we can’t wish the referendum away. Thus I support the Yes side.

One the arguments for Yes, and Yes now - rather than 3 years from now hoping for a BCNDP victory – that I think is being overlooked (and what might appeal to small-c conservatives in the Langleys and Maple Ridges better than the health benefits of transit) is this argument put forth by David Dodge:

This is the right time to invest in infrastructure for both governments and businesses, not only because of our structural problems but also in view of the prevailing low real interest rates.

Interest rates are at historic lows. It has never been cheaper to borrow money to build stuff, especially economically useful stuff like public transit. In the 5 to 10 year period (or more) it might take to address this issue again in the wake of a No victory, it might cost us a lot more to build our needed expansion of public transit. But wait, there’s more!

Moreover, infrastructure bonds would provide suitable long-term assets for pension plans and insurance companies to match their long-term liabilities.

Kevin Milligan has some thought’s on Dodge’s arguments here.

For transit before he was against it

Do di do doo…

The future of transit in Langley is light rail, one Langley Township councillor says. Now Langley Councillor X just has to convince his fellow local, regional, provincial and federal politicians that he’s right. “Transit works if you have a spine,” said Councillor X. “Langley’s transit spine is 200th Street.” Township Mayor Kurt Alberts has spoken to Councillor X about the plan, and he agrees that light rail could have a place in Langley’s future.

The future of transit in Langley is light rail, one Langley Township councillor says. Now Councillor X just has to convince his fellow local, regional, provincial and federal politicians that he’s right.

Councillor X is taking his ideas to the public today in an attempt to spark a debate and start the planning for a light rail line that he hopes could link Langley to Maple Ridge and Surrey. “The key for me is to get cars off 200th Street,” Councillor X said… …Councillor X hopes that pressure can be put on TransLink and the provincial government to fund more transit options on the south of the Fraser River.

Langley Advance [Langley, B.C] 17 Aug 2007: 7.



I have to cop to being completely naive and mystified how those anonymously-penned editorials get made, and what standard they’re supposed to meet in terms of accuracy & ethics. According to Allen Garr’s Dec. 4th column in the Vancouver Courier regarding what we now know was a Harvey Enchin penned editorial in the Vancouver Sun, the standard is quite low.

It’s not really that the fundamental premise of the editorial was factually incorrect (it was Superintendent Cardwell, not Patti Bacchus, who determined Chevron’s Fuel Your School program did not meet the VSB’s corporate donor policy). Though there is that.

It’s not really that, unbeknownst to the reader, the then anonymous writer is the spouse of the communications director for a political party then engaged in a bitter election campaign against one of the subjects of the editorial and this link was not disclosed in the editorial. Though there is that.

It’s not really that the Vancouver Sun is part of the Postmedia chain, which had or has a commercial arrangement with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers – of which Chevron is a member – to “leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively” to further the “critical conversation” on the industry. Though there is that.

It’s not really that the Chevron Fuel for School program, as we discovered in a subsequent post-election Pete McMartin article, works in the way Patti Bacchus said it does. Though there is that.

It’s not really that Enchin, unlike McMartin, apparently didn’t pick up the phone to call Chevron to confirm the details of Fuel Your School. Though there is that.

It’s not really that Enchin engaged his own children to photograph a poster to support his case against Bacchus. Though there is that.

It’s not really that this poster was not, according to Garr, in the place Enchin said it was. Though there is that.

It’s that in his effort to call Patti Bacchus a hypocrite he questioned the professionalism of Francois Clark, the teacher of his own children. In his own word, the mere existence of this poster, which Enchin admits he has not seen, has this effect:

No one should be deluded into thinking this has anything to do with education. There is no serious study of science, no discussion of economic benefits, no attempt to address the engineering challenges related to production and shipment of oil, no consideration of the people and communities that depend on resource industries for survival.

Claims that was not his intent is simply an attempt to have your cake and eat it too. Francois Clark’s name did not have to be used to make whatever point, inaccurate as it turned out to be, Enchin wanted.

I think all the above is actually quite appalling. But, as mentioned, I’m naive and don’t really understand how newspapers work.

A fair question about Postmedia and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

So, to recap, we have in Vancouver two major dailies owned by the same company which has (or had in 2013) a partnership with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to “leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively to further the critical conversation” on the “importance of energy to Canada’s business competitiveness”.

In Postmedia daily #1 we have an editorial strongly in favour of corporate grants to our education system by a petroleum company.

In Postmedia daily #2 we see an op-ed by an individual who has in the past received an honorarium from the CAPP and who is vocal in support of developing Canada’s petroleum industry, equating it with patriotism.

Undoubtedly Postmedia journalists retain full editorial independence and any hint that this could be a real or perceived conflict of interest arising from the aforementioned partnership with the CAPP is ridiculous and if you do have questions you’re probably a troll or a bully.

Move along.

UPDATE: Paul Chapman of The Province and Jeff Lee of The Sun thoughtfully weighed in on the subject of the CAPP partnership on Twitter and insist, and I believe them, they have never felt any pressure to change, modify or ignore a story, etc.

But this isn’t so much about the newsroom than the editorial room and business operations. It’s about who gets to appear in the op-ed pages and when. And the safeguards in place. For example, on Dec. 4, 2013 an advertorial ran without attribution on the Vancouver Sun entitled “Born to the Challenge: Janet Holder’s B.C. roots make her the perfect lead on Northern Gateway.” It was only when a rebuttal was submitted that we, the public, found out that it was advertising. Another advertorial ran without attribution in the Postmedia owned Regina Leader-Post in error.

Similarly, management at the Globe and Mail during contract negotiations proposed newsroom staff write advertorials. (This was successfully fended off by the union).

How is the public to perceive all this? That’s really the question. It is really so outrageous to wonder that a media company in financial difficulty, that has slashed newsroom budgets and staff, might balk at crossing a group that has a strategic partnership?

As the another outlet’s code of Standards and Practices note: “The trust of the public is our most valued asset. We avoid putting ourselves in real or potential conflict of interest. This is essential to our credibility.”*

*Something noted by Kirk LaPointe, in another career.

UPDATE 2: Tom Hawthorn reminds us of the time Dan Murphy’s cartoon was pulled at the Province after pressure from Enbridge.

“‘If it doesn’t come down, Enbridge says they’re pulling a million dollars worth of advertising from Postmedia, and if it doesn’t come down, I, Wayne Moriarty, I’m going to lose my job,’” Murphy said Moriarity told him.


As mentioned, isn’t that the real danger?

FINAL UPDATE: While the issue of the advertorial remains, it should be noted for the record that The Province gave space yesterday to Emma Gilchrist of DeSmogBog to write a rebuttal of Vivian Krause’s op-ed AND the Sun issued the following correction to it’s editorial:


Letter from a trench in France

“Our greatest excitement this week was the gas-attack. Bower Heney and I were up on top of the telephone dugout about 11 o’clock at night taking a look around the country watching the flares and the occasional burst of a shell when gradually one battery after another began opening up a way up on the left until every gun in that sector was going as hard as it could go. 18 pounders, 4.5 inch Howitzers 4.7s and 60 pounders and in the quiet night air they seemed even louder than ever. Away up on the line we could see a perfect shower of flares going up and occasionally a red flare would hover a little longer than the rest. This of course being our SOS.

A light breeze was blowing down from that direction and sure enough we scented the gas; a sort of thin mist it looked like and we weren’t long in putting on our gas helmets or gasperators as the men call them. At first we were rather nervous about it as the Bosche is always pulling off something new, but after about 20 minutes of it and we were still all right we settled down to it and in an hour and a half it had passed over and we could take off our helmets. The bombardment we made on the German front line was evidently too much for him for he never made any attempt to leave his trenches. There were quite a number of our infantry casualties as a result of not having sufficient time to get on their helmets and two of our horses that were up at the battery with the wagon are going to die, so we were really lucky in getting through it so easily.”

Excerpt of a letter from Lieutenant Patrick Gemmill [Grandfather] to Emily Gemmill [Great-Grandmother], August 11th, 1916.

Patrick Gemmill


Patrick Gemmill survived the Battle of the Somme, Vimy Ridge and the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

In 1939 he returned to France as a Colonel.

Great moments in timing

Despite having been embroiled in democracy protests for the last few weeks, the Fraser Institute has decided this is an awesome moment to trumpet Hong Kong’s freedom…the only type of freedom that matters to them:

Priorities, people. Priorities!

The war against public sector sick leave

Today President of the Treasury Board Tony Clement proposed slashing the federal public sectors paid sick leave from 15 days a year to 5.

This prompted this tweet from Andrew Coyne:

Which got my interest.

Now as far as I can see the case against the federal public sector having 15 paid days a year in sick leave is that the absentee rate – or days workers call in sick – in the private sector averages to 8 times a year. And thus, ipso facto, something must be wrong with the public sector. Because Adam Smith and other infallible invisible hands.

What it doesn’t tell you however, is whether public sector workers are taking paid sick days on days they aren’t sick or if private sector workers are coming to work sick.

In other words, the public & private sector absentee rate gives us no clue as to how many days a year a person is, in a medical sense, sick.

Which is a question for the medical community, not businessmen or politicians.

Calculating this is very difficult and depends much on demographics and, indeed, the nature of one’s job. Public health workers, who are exposed daily to disease, should be expected to be sick more days than a closed accountant’s office with 2 or 3 employees working in separate rooms.

But the Centre for Disease Control does have some useful, and suggestive, statistics which the kids on the street call Table 2. Mean physically unhealthy days in last 30 by demographic characteristics, chronic disease conditions, and risk factors. Adults >= 18 Years, BRFSS 2009. I encourage you to examine the table in full, as it’s usefully divided into gender, age, ethnicity, economic status and so on. But the gist is this survey found the average person, whether through illness or injury, felt unwell 3.6 days out of 30.

What does this tell us about sick leave? Well, the average [federal] public sector worker called in sick 1.25 days every 21 working days of a month. The average private sector worker, 0.66 days.

Let’s adjust 3.6 days so that it reflects, approximately, how many working days per month a person feels unwell. Which by my calculator is 2.52 days per 21 working days.

In other words, and by extrapolation, public sector workers went to work feeling physically unwell 1.27 days per 21 working days per month and private sector workers 1.86 days.

Which is suggestive that cutting sick leave has nothing to do with public health and more to do with other factors.

Such as, perhaps, spite.

A Mason’s rage

Gary Mason tweets:

Now, this is in relation to former BCTF President Susan Lambert tweeting a rumour that there might be sweeping changes to the School Act that would, in effect, privatize a lot of it. Now Lambert clearly labels this a rumour. You know, of the kind journalists occasionally themselves report on.

Now Mr. Mason is obviously angry at Lambert’s “irresponsibility”. Seething, I’d say. He knows this rumour isn’t true because the Minister of Education said so. So, good as gold there.

But given we are talking about a B.C. Liberal Party that promised not to tear up the teacher’s contracts back in 2002…

….and then did…

…who promised not to sell B.C. Rail…

…and then did….

…and who promised not to introduce a Harmonized Sales Tax

…and then did…

…I, personally, might be inclined to hedge my bets on this one and anything else for that matter.

At least check my anger at the door until the B.C. Liberal’s current term is over to see if it was, you know, actually warranted.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Bill Good also has some comments

Yes, holding power to account there, Bill. But tell us what you really think.

Enjoy your retirement.