Tagged: British Columbia

Peer reviewed studies and the transit referendum

This is a copy of a comment I’ve left at Northern Insights, which is pending approval, in response to this post:

Speaking of without evidence, I note you’ve been pressed a number of times on Twitter to provide links to the studies above. I believe I may be able to help you here, with at least with 2 of those:

The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US cities
By Gilles Duranton and Matthew A. Turner September 08, 2009

Evaluating Public Transit Investment in Congested Cities∗
Justin Beaudoin, Y. Hossein Farzin and C.-Y. Cynthia Lin November 27, 2014

I’d like to highlight some passages from them:


The fact that increases in public transit do not reduce traffic does not imply that such improvements are not in the public interest. While we are not able to perform a welfare calculation to evaluate extensions to bus based public transit, we suspect on the basis of earlier research (Kain, 1999, Duranton and Turner, 2008) that improvements to bus-based public transit are often welfare improving.

Together, these findings strengthen the case for congestion pricing as a policy response to traffic congestion.


Overall, our analysis indicates that the congestion-reduction effects of public transit supply warrant a higher level of public transit investment than would be provided on the basis of the isolated valuation of public transit ridership; this effect would be larger still if the additional negative externalities of auto travel were incorporated into this framework.

“Expanding transit and subsidizing fares has limited impacts on automobile congestion, given relatively modest own-price elasticities for transit… Nonetheless, urban transit fares are heavily subsidized…Improving service quality (e.g. increasing transit speed, reducing wait times at stops, and improving transit access) may be more effective in deterring automobile use.

While there is modest evidence that public transit’s reputation as a ‘green’ policy instrument is justified, the results also reaffirm the theoretical and empirical argument that traffic congestion can only be adequately addressed by devising economically and politically accepted approaches to efficiently pricing auto travel across the U.S.

I think one can be forgiven into thinking that perhaps the reason you haven’t provided links to these reports is they don’t really say, particularly the UC-Davis study, what you say they do.

But more importantly, I think you might be hesitant because both endorse road pricing.

Which is, in fact, in the Mayor’s Plan.

The Mayors’ Council is committed to implementing a more consistent region-wide approach to pricing road usage as the most fair and effective way to reduce congestion.

To tackle congestion and to make sure that the significant new road capacity we have added in this region doesn’t soon get swallowed up in traffic jams, there is only one tool that has a proven track record. It’s the tool that we use to allocate scarce resources everywhere else in the economy: pricing.

Maybe the missing World Bank study (the one’s I’ve found actually endorse public transit investment in specific cities – link available upon request) provides a strong case against transit investment. But in terms of these two studies, both actually significantly undermine your case.


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 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.


[Rotten to the] Core?

The BC government has announced a Core Review of itself. Select highlights, and translations:

Confirming government’s core responsibilities and eliminating programs that could provide better service at less cost through alternative service delivery models

Translation: That’s privatization! Step right up, select friends of the B.C. Liberal Party entrepreneurs ! Government assets ARE ON SALE NOW AT DISCOUNT PRICES!

Ensure public-sector management wage levels are appropriate while recognizing the need for leaders who can positively impact the effectiveness and productivity of public-sector agencies.

Translation: We will squeeze the rank and file to the bone, but continue to pay CEOs lavishly. Because, takers and makers, bitch. Neener, neener.

UPDATE: On the latter point, please see Norm and Ross. Please.

The real deficit

Norm Farrell left this in the comments of the previous post. I think it’s worth elevating:

I grew up in Powell River when thousands of union workers earned good livings (and good retirements) in the pulp, paper and lumber mills. There were good wages, strong apprenticeship programs, employment for young people in post-secondary schooling, aid to programs in sports, music, arts and other elements that create vibrant communities.

Once upon a time British Columbians in towns like Powell River had a clear path for economic security. Yes, there was boom, there was bust, but in general they could plan their lives with relative confidence in the outcome.

This path – and this confidence –  is disappearing, if it isn’t gone already.

Of course the nature of an economy changes over time. Nothing is forever. But a new path that British Columbians can bank on has not been forged.

One of the political parties in this province – who will say anything on the campaign trail – but who represent the “business class” that tells us in no uncertain terms we can…

  • No longer afford job security we once knew
  • No longer afford decent wages we once knew
  • No longer afford pensions we once knew
  • No longer afford social programs we once knew

and who…

  • Imports workers from other countries in greater and greater numbers

Yet we are also told simultaneously by the same folk we live in The Greatest Place on Earth or some other trite catchphrase. And then there’s what common-sense and our own eyes tell us: British Columbia is one of the wealthiest places on the planet.

There is a disconnect.

The other political party only tepidly defends the above. In many ways they too have bought into the underlying scary assumptions put forth by the lords of the realm that we can no longer afford the things that made us great.

Then there’s this factoid, from The Sixth Estate:

One of the most important things that people should realize, and generally don’t, about the present state of Parliamentary democracy in Canada is that we have a structural, steadily growing democratic deficit which continues to increase regardless of voter turnout levels, regardless of how responsive political parties are or are not to public opinion, and regardless of how much or how little freedom of speech is granted to backbench MPs by party leaders. The problem, quite simply, is that we do not have enough MPs…

… In 1867, if you were an actual voter, you were one of about 1500 people to whom your MP was accountable. Today, you’re one of almost 50,000. Given this fact, is it any surprise that we feel as though our views are not represented in Parliament?

There is democratic disconnect. There is democratic deficit.

Why don’t people vote?

Quite frankly, why bother.

P.S. They’ll say – If you don’t like it, get involved in the process and change the system! Ah, but you see we can no longer afford the 8-hour work day either so that means I have to dedicate more of my diminishing free time to an endeavour of dubious outcome. Or my employer will fire me for my political activity. Or I can’t afford the financial investment to back the candidate of my choice. Or I’m splitting the vote.

Or any of the growing numbers of impediments to participation in a gamed system.

Good advice for B.C. from Dobbin & the ghost of Tommy Douglas

I don’t always agree with Murray Dobbin, but this…

In Saskatchewan where I come from, Tommy Douglas and the CCF (the precursor of the NDP) won power in 1944 in a province totally dominated by a Liberal, pro-business party machine for decades. It won a landslide victory in a media atmosphere of absolute hysteria (headline: CCF will seize farms), fear-mongering and blatant lies. The CCF held power for 20 uninterrupted years. How? It started out as a movement and retained that character for many years afterward. It was deeply rooted in community. People felt ownership of it and its policies and out that came government programs that met the expressed needs of the people. And that, in turn, brought enormous trust in government.

…strikes me as excellent advice. Voter turnout across the country is plummeting. This may be, as some suggest, because Canadians are “lazy” or “complacent”. But I have always suspected that it’s something more serious. People are losing faith in the system. They are voting by not voting. Particularly amongst young people.

However, if there’s anything the last few years have shown – from Occupy/Idle No More/Casseroles/Maple Spring is that there are a lot of young people who do care and who will get politically involved.

Ordinary people don’t need a political party right now. Perhaps they need a movement, one they own.

B.C. WTF – a belated postmortem

Well then…surprise?

What the hell happened? How could a B.C. NDP that looked certain to win a majority not only lose, but lose seats? To Christy Clark?

Voter turnout was low. The kids didn’t show up. Again. The squishy middle sat this one out. No one was excited and/or scared enough to come out…for them. Whether that was because the B.C. Liberals negative campaigning disgusted swing voters into not showing up or because, as The Sixth Estate puts it, people just don’t care anymore

…I can’t say at this point.

I can say this: The simple fact is the B.C. NDP ran a terrible campaign.

Adrian Dix embraced Jack Layton’s theories on positive campaigning, but he lacks one key component Layton had at his disposal in spades.


(And how would Jack have fared under the full fire from the Big Blue Attack Machine? Even The Moustache might have withered)

Dix  is a smart guy. Very smart. But you probably wouldn’t go out of your way to have a beer with him.

The NDP played it safe. Played not to lose. And in doing so allowed the B.C. Liberals to win the” frame the narrative” contest, particularly on social media. As the great Billmon once said

While liberals sift and weigh the evidence, debate alternative points of view, and reach for that ever elusive “fairness,” the conservative machine sifts and weighs alternative propaganda points, debates the best way to manipulate public opinion, and reaches for power — first, last and always….

The B.C. Liberals lied repeatedly.

They baited NDP reps into ridiculous arguments over semantics & minutiae on the Twitter on their terms.

I tuned it out after a while and hell I’m a political junkie.

But most importantly they successfully made it a referendum on the challengers & not the incumbents. This was an acquaintance from high school’s Facebook status last night:

Cast my first Green party vote ever!! or as i like to look at as an anti Christy cabbage patch doll vote /anti Dix snake vote…worst options ever!!…pointless, but done.

The important part isn’t the bit about the Green Party. It’s why isn’t Christy the snake in this sentence. The ammunition for her snakiness is plentiful. Instead she’s the cabbage patch doll. Which is to say, ultimately harmless.

Which is not the case at all.

If there’s good news for the B.C. NDP, it’s that Christy Clark is still Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals are still the B.C. Liberals. They have not been magically transformed into competent stewards. They only got this far because our province is blessedly rich. Damage will be done, yes, but this crew will screw up again.

In the meantime, the B.C. NDP needs to fully embrace the 21st century. On energy. On transportation. On social policy.

Or others will.

High Tea for Christy Clark

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:

Switching leaders in an election campaign is extremely risky and only the truly desperate ponder it. So it’s a valid point. But it’s not without precedent.  See Sullivan, Sam and Rudd, Kevin

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?

Fair Earth

Showing, I suppose, how flexible Vivian Krause’s method of confirmation bias can be, it has been adapted to fish farming, tar sands oil and now rare earth elements by Sam Reynolds citing Krause’s work, in TechVibes.

The gist:

  1. The Intel Corporation seeks conflict-free tantalum for its products.
  2. The Moore Foundation, founded by one of Intel’s co-founders, has given grants to support reform in mining practices including grants to Canada.

Quicker than you can say ipso facto:

Though it is not conclusively proven, it may be the case that the Moore Foundation’s campaign to “reform” mining in British Columbia—by attempting to sour the political climate to further mining exploration and dragging out environmental assessment processes—is to protect the burgeoning American rare earth elements mining industry.

Yes, er, not “conclusively” proven. Quite the qualifier.

What’s missing…

  1. How these grants prevent expansion of tantalum mining in Canada. Given that their stated purpose is to reform mining practices, not stop it.
  2. How these grants are even related to tantalum mining rather than to mining generally.
  3. If there’s a link between the two beyond the original found (and this is never established), why the Moore Foundation would make it difficult for Intel to achieve its stated corporate strategy.
  4. Why attempt to obliquely thwart Canadian tantalum mining when it would be easier, more effective and lucrative for an American mining company to simply buy Canadian tantalum mines?

Fair questions not asked:

  • Where is tantalum mining centred in Canada? [Hint] [Hint]
  • Are there tantalum mines proposed for British Columbia? [Hint]
  • Is the proposed Blue River mine even in area covered by the grant? Here’s the boreal forest region as described by the Canadian Boreal Initiative.


  • And here’s Blue River:
  • Does Pew fund mining reform in the United States? [Hint]

Other things I might have asked:

  • What’s the difference between a mine and a smelter?
  • Why the existence of the Canadian Boreal Initiative would prevent the construction of tantalum smelters in Canada, given they don’t actually need to be built beside a tantalum mine but could be constructed anywhere. Such as Pompano Beach, Florida or Goslar, Germany. Or outside the boreal forest zone.
  • Pondering the possibility that smelters in Pompano Beach, Florida or Goslar, Germany are smelting Canadian tantalum.
  • Pondering the possibility that Canadian mining companies can own mines in the United States.

Finally, given the above:

  • Why Canadians, and British Columbians in particular, should be concerned about any of this.

We are merely inputs and widgets

To support Norm Farrell’s point here

I believe the Liberal economic plan is working exactly as designed. Their big business sponsors want this province to become a low wage economy, excepting, of course, senior bureaucrats and business leaders. That is the objective and the plan is working.

I offer Exhibit A. Now Jon Ferry is a paleoconservative from the Permian Era, and is often a bit incoherent (What’s he really arguing here? Universities replaced with trade schools?). But I do think it is completely representative of the thinking of those that rule us – that the population of British Columbia sole purpose is to service the economy and not vice versa, and that we are cost to be controlled. Especially Jock Finlayson’s contribution.

Which dovetails to Norm’s point.

And this would be Exhibit B:

Résumés of workers who applied for jobs at a B.C. coal project show there were qualified Canadian applicants for positions that went to foreign employees, says a recently filed court document.


Academics and labour groups have voiced concerns about the increase of workers coming to Canada through the program over the past decade, citing the potential for downward pressure on wages as well as employee welfare concerns.

Of course that’s just fear mongering and would never really happen

In 2008, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled a group of Latin American workers were discriminated against when they were paid half of what workers who had been brought in from Europe were given.