As I write this, the British Columbia Liberal Party is holding a “special
emergency meeting.” Officially, it’s to “plan for the week ahead” While planning for the week ahead, like taking out the recycling, is very important many also expect this is a referendum on Premier Clark’s leadership.
Quite a few members of press corps have weighed in on this on the Twitter. Keith Baldrey’s tweet here is as good as any that captures the general sentiment:
And there’s a fly in the ointment. Les Leyne, yesterday:
To recap, it’s widely assumed that a disaffected former government staffer left his job with a trove of email records, and is now doling them out to the Opposition.
We don’t know what could be contained in those emails [note specific mention of gender]. Clark’s survival as leader hinges on just how much fear is felt over them. If “Ethnic-Gate” was the worst of the bunch, then she will be fine.
Why do I think it’s not?
Yesterday three stories dominated my Twitter feed.
The first was the news that the Government of Malaysia had employed a conservative writer of my acquaintance, Joshua “Tacitus” Trevino, to write stories (or subcontract out to others) favourable to the Malay government and/or critical of opposition [and pro-democracy] figures. And that he did, failing to disclose to the publications he wrote for that he was operating as a marketer rather than as a journalist. Failing to register too, with the US government that he was serving as a foreign agent (ie. someone in the employ of a foreign government) – a serious offence that could lead to jail time (they allowed him to retroactively register to his great good fortune). He even lied when confronted by another journalist.
His tweets after the story broke indicate a lack of remorse. Or an awareness he had betrayed his [extreme] conservative values by advancing the interests of a repressive [and Islamic!] government. The only thing wrong, to Mr. Trevino, was that he got caught.
The second was the continuing fallout of Tom “Conservative Godfather” Flanagan.
He demonstrates the fundamental flaw in libertarian thinking with his involuntary reductio ad absurdum. Let the marketplace decide, goes the mantra, but there are markets that simply should not be created, and child porn is obviously one of them.
“Obviously?” Not, it seems, to an ideologue like Flanagan. As Michael Harris asks, where does he think child porn comes from? It’s just pictures, right? The radical immorality at the heart of libertarianism is brutally revealed.”
The last is closer to home – the “ethnic-gate” scandal, which continues to unfold. Now the ethically challenged nature of the B.C. Liberal government is well-documented but what is interesting is the reaction by the Vancouver Sun’s editor Fazil Mihlar which is, more or less, there is no wrong-doing here.
I will outsource to Ian Reid that appropriate response to Mr. Mihlar’s lack of understanding of the law, the rules that govern the B.C. civil service and ethics in general.
But it really struck me that these three stories are related and are rooted in a certain strain of conservatism. You can add in the foibles of the federal Conservatives too – Bruce Carson, Dean Del Maestro, Tony Clement, the F-35 affair.
They all display a similar set of ethics. A set of ethics that stands apart from the traditional maintream understanding of what ethics means.
And I am beginning to believe there is a sort of grand unified theory out there that explains it all. I can’t really express it coherently yet, but I don’t really think it’s “mere corruption”. The philosophy of Ayn Rand plays an important part and it’s view that it’s the market and not the state or society that determines morality and ethics. Whether any of the figures mentioned above are direct devotees of Rand or not, her ideas have infected modern conservatism and modern conservative political parties. Certainly, in this country, through the Fraser Institute and certainly through the “Calgary School.”
UPDATE: Paul Krugman
For years, the Heritage Foundation sharply criticized the autocratic rule of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, denouncing his anti-Semitism, his jailing of political opponents and his “anti-free market currency controls.”
Then, late in the summer of 2001, the conservative nonprofit Washington think tank began to change its assessment …
Heritage’s new, pro-Malaysian outlook emerged at the same time a Hong Kong consulting firm co-founded by Edwin J. Feulner, Heritage’s president, began representing Malaysian business interests. The for-profit firm, called Belle Haven Consultants, retains Feulner’s wife, Linda Feulner, as a “senior adviser.” And Belle Haven’s chief operating officer, Ken Sheffer, is the former head of Heritage’s Asia office and is still on Heritage’s payroll as a $75,000-a-year consultant.
It seems that some years ago Malaysia’s ruling party took a good look at leading pundits and policy intellectuals in the conservative movement, reached a judgment about their personal and intellectual integrity or lack thereof, and acted in accordance with that judgment.
The market at work in the fields of morality.
RossK has decided to take a hiatus. As he says:
I just found myself losing my sense of humour with the poli-blogging a little…And when that happens I’ve learned it’s time to take a bit of a break
This is too bad. Ross’s blog, The Gazetteer – along with Norm Farrell’s and Ian Reid’s – are my favourite stops for B.C. politics and he has provided many good insights. But what about his lament that the “Codswallopanarianists might actually winning.” Ross points to City Caucus’s Mike Klassen aping Ezra Levant’s “money-laundering” libel as the straw that broke his camel’s back (with a mention of the much more serious issue of the Tory Government using the RCMP and the Canadian Revenue Agency to intimidate and silence legitimate criticism).
Two very much related things come to mind. The first is the parable of the scorpion and the frog1. If you believe the facts are on your side, that the evidence is overwhelming that our democracy is being eroded in a significant fashion, that our economy has been rejigged to favour the most privileged…well there’s a reason for that. And that is it’s in the very essence of those responsible to make those choices. Thus they are simply being true to themselves and won’t one day wake up and say “oops…boy was that ever crazy!” and reverse course…
They simply can’t help themselves.
The Conservative Party of Canada, no longer held in check by minority government, is showing us its nature. Shutting down independent voices, silencing dissent, that’s its nature. It cannot be anything else. Stephen Harper built this party and filled it with people like him. The British Columbia Liberal Party is an extension of a faction of our “business-overclass” and we see, even now at this late date with its polling numbers in tatters, it repeating the patterns of the past. It cannot be anything else.
And the facts, in a can’t fool all of the people all of the time kind of way, are revealing this. And this forces them to take ever more extreme positions in order to avoid addressing or provide a diversion for what the facts reveal.
For me, the “Tyee hid it’s Donation Button” post was high-comedy, but I can see how it might depress. Repeat a lie often enough, etc. But note how this story has evolved. First it was, well, perhaps some charities are violating some regulations. Now we’ve moved from there to money laundering accusations -> which no matter how you try to parse is a suggestion of criminal activity.
It’s an extreme charge, an easily refuted charge, and to me it signals weakness not strength.
Whether it’s Mike Klassen/City Caucus or the Vancouver Province, they are going back to the well with retreaded canards that have already decisively failed to sway the civic electorate. Or it’s Ezra Levant, pushing (and in his case often exceeding) the boundaries of truth to enter the realm of defamation and libel.
The second thing is we have a precedent for all this, in our neighbours to the south. Roy Edroso notes:
Once upon a time these guys were a fringe, of the sort that any political movement would need to lose if it were going to be taken seriously; now, they’re an important part of the Republican base.
This isn’t good news for the Republican Party. It’s very bad news. People are waking up. Rush Limbaugh’s ratings are tumbling. The Heartland Institute shoots itself. This is the Canadian right-wing’s future.
Ezra Levant is not an upgrade.
It’s not sustainable over the long haul – eventually they’ll collapse in on themselves, as they have before. The right-wing spent a decade in the wilderness at both the Federal level and at the provincial level here in B.C.. I believe it will happen again.
I don’t know RossK personally, but I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll be back blogging sooner rather than later. The facts are on his side.
1 Yes, the frog died too. Don’t push fables too far!
“I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights”
-Dr. Seuss, Yertle the Turtle.
Deemed too political for British Columbia’s classrooms. Wouldn’t want the little one’s questioning the natural order of things.
Well, that’s shocking. Even if you are sympathetic to the teachers, there’s no excuse for the BCTF advocating violent intimidation on picket lines and….
…maybe we should read Mr. Sharpe’s cited article first. But even before that, let’s get to know our cast of characters.
Carl Ratsoy: A teacher at Reynold’s Secondary in
Esquimalt Saanich (corrected).
Matt Grinder: A teacher at Reynold’s Secondary in
Esquimalt Saanich (corrected).
Back to it…
Physics teacher Carl Ratsoy asked for protection from the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association and his colleagues at Saanich’s Reynolds secondary after a fiery email, penned by math teacher Matt Grinder, circulated among teachers there last week warning them not to cross any potential picket line.
Oh my. Still, that’s the actions of an individual teacher. Is it fair to characterize them as the position of the BCTF? Um. No. Does the BCTF have a responsibility to disavow? Maybe we should take a closer look at the Mr. Grinder’s fiery, violently threatening email.
Grinder says any teacher who crosses the picket line would have to be a “real sociopath.”
Oh. Well, that’s not very nice. Personally I don’t think crossing a picket line makes you a sociopath. It makes you a jerk, but not a sociopath. It’s an opinion, nothing more. Surely there’s more to it, though?
“[Crossing the picket line] is wishing horrific fines on your fellow teachers,” Grinder wrote in the email. “I would keep my children away from you, cause you’re evil. And I’ll shout at you.”
Heh. Depending on the context and what precisely is said, shouting at someone can be inappropriate and deemed harassment. But not always…or even often. And one would think seeing someone cross a picket line is a socially – and legally – acceptable time to shout at someone. It is, in fact.
But I think it must be a new record for X-Treme spin[tm] to construe Mr. Grinder keeping his children away from Mr. Ratsoy as a violent threat against…Mr. Ratsoy.
Let’s keep in mind this hasn’t actually happened yet. Teachers have not picketed. They may or may not. Mr. Ratsoy has not attempted to cross a picket line. He may or may not. Mr. Grinder has not kept his children away, to my knowledge, from Mr. Ratsoy or shouted at him. He may or may not.
Oh, there’s a pertinent detail I’ve left out:
Carl Ratsoy: A teacher at Reynold’s Secondary in Saanich and B.C. Liberal Party candidate in Esquimalt-Royal Roads in 2009.
Oh…that might have been nice for the Sun to have mentioned [UPDATE – The story has been changed since this morning to reflect this].
Now you may be saying that nowhere in the newspaper article is there talk of “violent threats” and you’d be correct. Mr. Ratsoy himself states he thinks the email falls short of actual harassment. However Mr. Sharpe, the original Tweeter, was adamant.
Now I don’t usually concern myself with someone’s background. It’s the argument that’s important to me and bringing up someone’s credentials all too often veers into dismissing said argument via attacking the messenger. But Mr. Sharpe was quite concerned about my background – which he stated was a BCTF lackey [I have no association with the BCTF. I have friends who are teachers and a friend who is a principal. I’m also a parent].
But, all things being equal…let’s make the final update to our cast of characters:
Geoff Sharpe: On Twitter he’s a Digital strategist. On LinkedIn, however, he’s President of the BC Young Liberals of the BC Liberal Party
Perhaps we should call this the Feinting Couch.
This was the March 19th seat projection from Forum Research.
At a news conference with B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins, van Dongen said he has hired a lawyer at his own expense to investigate the BC Rail legal fees arrangement, and also Premier Christy Clark’s involvement with the sale in 2002-03. He said Clark made “inconsistent” statements when she ran for the B.C. Liberal leadership about what she knew of the sale and the involvement of lobbyists.
What do you think Forum’s next seat projection will show? I’m thinking BC Cons +9 / BC Libs -9
This, my friends, is the fat lady warming up for the finale of the BC Liberal tragi-comic opera. Mark me, van Dongen won’t be the last.
In fact, there’s a real danger for the BC Conservatives…that too many BC Liberals try to climb aboard and they’ll be saddled with their baggage.
A few days ago in the Surrey Now, Keith Baldrey penned an op-ed “Teachers oblivious to big picture”. In it he poses the question that if our “cash-strapped” government – his words – should suddenly find $500 million to spend aren’t there higher priorities than teacher wages and benefits?
Fair enough. But he leaves out something. Something important. Something rather big (with a trunk and tusks).
That would be the billions the B.C. Liberal government has committed to tax cuts whose only real-world effect has been to deprive, and voluntarily at that, revenue that could pay for all the programs Keith cites as important. As well as pay teachers, whom I have calculated have lost ground over the last 13 years to the cost of living index (at least in Vancouver).
And oh, increase the economic divide in this province between the haves and have-nots.
The vast majority of the corporate media doesn’t even bother questioning the affordability of tax cuts anymore. In that the Fraser Instituters have successfully framed the narrative. But that’s not to say things don’t make it out. Today Stephen Maher has a piece – in Postmedia no less – on how the Harper Govtm is “Starving the Beast”:
It’s known as “starving the beast.” Rather than doing the politically painful work of cutting spending, you cut taxes and increase public debt to the point where it is necessary to cut spending to keep the repo men at bay.
Unlike Reagan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has never publicly discussed his “starve the beast” plan, but it’s pretty clear that that’s what he’s doing.
His former chief of staff, Tom Flanagan, described it as the prime minister’s long-term plan: “First depriving the government of surpluses through cutting taxes . . . and then it makes it easier to make some expenditure reductions.”
It’s pretty clear this is what factions [of whom Kevin Falcon is a perfect example] within the B.C. Liberals wanted to do too – and did in their first term. It would be nice if journalists like Baldrey started pointing out this rather large elephant in the room.
Just to add to the last post, this chart from the recently released B.C. Stats report is the one that is the most telling, in my opinion:
You can see that for most of the last 35 years B.C. has scored better than the rest of the country. You can see that, for the most part, B.C. has tracked with the rest of the country. Finally, you can also see a very noticeable spike just after 2001, which the Canadian average did not match, and which B.C. has never recovered from. The B.C. Liberal Party came to power in the spring of 2001.
It’s true that B.C. surpassed Canada in the waning days of the NDP government, as it had briefly at times previously (the one exception being the noticeable bump during Bill Bennett’s term).
If we are to believe Kevin Falcon, a lot of high-paying jobs were created in 2001-02 which, unfortunately, only a lucky few were able to score. Of course, if the chart is to be believed these jobs seem to have started declining in 2003 but, hey, that’s probably just the market readjusting or something.
None of this has anything to do with the massive tax cuts enacted in the B.C. Liberals first term and the data certainly doesn’t indicate previously wealthy people getting much wealthier. Not by working harder, or innovating, but because they paid the taxman less.
And the rest of us? Well…not so much.
Good old Kevin Falcon. And you thought it was Bill Vander Zalm who lived in Fantasy Gardens.
The Enbridge proposal is far from that. So I recognize that it is a benefit to Canada, there’s no question about it. Being able to get triple the price for Canadian oil would be a big benefit for Canada overall. But the project is one where we have to examine both the costs and benefits. And I don’t think we have a good bead on what the benefits or the costs could potentially be. That’s why it’s in the environmental approval process. This is the first of its kind, so I think we have to get a good look at it, and once we have the facts before us, we can have a debate about whether it should go ahead.
“Well, I think they’ve got a point,” Mr. Falcon told reporters. “I think we have to be very worried about the fact that foreign money is going into lobbying efforts against British Columbia and Canada’s economic interests.”