Its purpose was never to do real research; it was always a propaganda arm of the movement. But it was supposed to create a plausible illusion of intellectual rigor, good enough to take in gullible journalists.
As they seem to do ever year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a report last week on “ballooning” municipal spending. Yawn. B.C. municipalities pushed back a little harder this time, pointing out the downloading of costs onto them from senior levels of government (amongst other things). None of this is new.
But I get the sense, as judged by the talk on the Twitter, that the CFIB’s repetitious and easily disputable anti-government message is wearing out it’s welcome in many places.
Thus bring on the pushback on the pushback, starring the two founders of the former City Caucus – whose philosophy has always been why exaggerate a little…when you can exaggerate a lot!
For example, Mr. Mike Klassen (now employed by the CFIB) on the matter of senior government downloading:
Which I’ll give marks for brazenness, given that the CFIB’s Executive Vice President Laura Jones participated in the Ministry of Finance commissioned Expert Panel on Business Taxation whose final report released last September contained the following passage:
Recently municipal costs have been growing faster than the combined rate of inflation and population increase. In many cases, these costs are driven by decisions that are outside the direct control of a municipality and require some form of collaborative action with other governments.
And she signed her name to it and everything. Mr Klassen occasionally makes the mistake of forgetting we have Google. And memories.
And there was Mr. Klassen’s op-ed in the Vancouver Sun in which he attempted to dismiss criticism of the CFIB’s report as “name-calling”.
In their efforts to debunk the Big City Spenders report issued by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, local politicians and their representatives resorted to name-calling instead of engaging in a conversation.
Now name-calling in debate is actually a thing: The ad hominem fallacy. However this is usually meant to describe the attempted dismissal of an argument by attacking the character of the arguer. For example: The report is garbage because the CFIB are a bunch of idiots [end rebuttal].
This is not considered an acceptable response in debate.
To whit, Mr. Klassen notes:
Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver called the report “bogus” with “no basis in reality” and labelled the idea that cities are overspending as “hysterical.” Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie labelled CFIB’s findings as “lazy sensationalism,” while Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan blasted CFIB’s researchers as “simpletons.”
Now it should be noted it’s perfectly acceptable to describe a report as “bogus”, “hysterical” and “lazy sensationalism”….because a report can be bogus, hysterical and lazy. As long as you explain why. And of course Mr. Klassen, in true City Caucusian style focused on the adjectives while eliding over the explanations for the adjectives.
Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie, a vice-president of the FCM, said he appreciates the CFIB’s message that governments need to be careful about how they spend their money. But he called the study “lazy sensationalism” that doesn’t reflect the realities local governments face, from constant downloading of federal and provincial services to costly replacement of infrastructure and increases in utility fees.
Louie said in Vancouver’s case, the city has already adopted many changes that have saved taxpayers millions of dollars and is constantly sharpening its budget pencils to whittle away more. Council began a core review of services in 2009 that identified duplicated services, combined departments and cut off marginal programs. One very small example, he said, was consolidating a separate park garbage pickup service with the general neighbourhood pickup.
“What we’ve done, for example, is the Vancouver service review where we went through every department looking for efficiencies. We turned over every stone and we intend to do it again,” he said. “We’ve got to move away from the misleading numbers they are putting out there and look at the actual hard numbers instead of this lazy sensationalism that is coming out of the CFIB.”
Louie said some of the largest increases in wages are a result of adding police and firefighters to meet basic protective service demands. Water and sewer upgrades and utility rates set by Metro Vancouver have also driven costs the city can’t control.
Klassen focused in on two words of the above and ignored the rest. Which is unfortunately typical of the gentleman.
Not to outdone, the other City Caucus founder Daniel Fontaine pens this today in 24hrs Vancouver. I noted the following:
Ten years ago, my monthly property tax installments were pegged at $324. Last week I was advised by city hall I now have to pay $515 each month. That works out to an eye-popping increase of 59% during the last decade. By comparison, the annual rate of inflation in the last several years has hovered around 2%.
Did the amount of services my family received from the city increase by 59% during the same period? The simple answer is no.
Now if New Westminster taxpayers were being charged a flat rate per household, this would indeed be outrageous. But even the most somnolent observer might note that’s not how property tax works. You are charged a percentage of the value your property is assessed at. And if your property value goes up then so does your tax bill. That Mr. Fontaine goes without mentioning tax rates or property values and attempts to pass off the 59% increase to his property tax bill as solely the result of increased municipal spending is ridiculous to the point of comical. And also unfortunately typical of the gentleman.
(New Westminster housing prices have risen dramatically. According to the City of NW “detached homes increased by 113%, attached homes by 92%, and apartments by 122%” for 2001-2007. Yes they declined in the recession, but only 7.5% of their high-water mark in 2008).
Mr. Krugman above was describing the Heritage Foundation. But he could just as easily be describing the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Or the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Or the Fraser Institute.
Given the quality of output from said groups lately, you’d have to be extremely gullible to be fooled by any of this anymore.
Mike Klassen has a bone to pick with the Canadian Journalism Foundation. See, they gave an award to The Great and Auld Enemy, The Vancouver Observer. For “excellence in journalism” in the small/local media category. The CJF, Mike says, is “coming under fire” for this outrage, though fire from anyone other than Mike Klassen is a mystery.
In support, Mike quotes [supposedly] 4 “veteran” Vancouver journalists, none of whom wanted to go on record. Anonymity is granted. It’s an important principle of journalism that you grant anonymity when a source requests it….in this case, and by remarkable coincidence, 4 times in a row. Apropos of nothing, here is the New York Times policy on anonymous sources:
In routine interviewing – that is, most of the interviewing we do – anonymity must not be automatic or an assumed condition. In that kind of reporting, anonymity should not be offered to a source. Exceptions will occur in the reporting of highly sensitive stories, when it is we who have sought out a source who may face legal jeopardy or loss of livelihood for speaking with us.
Jeepers, the Vancouver Observer must have mob enforcers working for them.
Whatever. Also in support, Mr. Klassen cites BCBusiness Magazine. Mike states:
Linda Solomon was featured beside City Caucus in a 2011 feature article in BCBusiness Magazine titled “The Politics of Vancouver Blogs“. Vancouver Observer was cited as a site with “clear political allegiances” to Vancouver City Hall and Mayor Gregor Robertson.
Although what BCBusiness magazine actually said was…
Much in the way that Solomon’s apartment merges workplace and home, however, the world of online journalism highlights the narrowing separation between politics and the media in a city where Mayor Gregor Robertson posts on Twitter regularly and a province in which a radio host, Christy Clark, left her job to become premier. Websites and blogs from writers with clear political allegiances, which once only commented on news from traditional outlets, are now breaking news and supplying stories for reporters. Consequently, they are inspiring accusations of biases and low standards from city hall, even as its staffers scan these sites for updates.
I guess City Hall doesn’t like the Vancouver Observer. Unless the phrase “clear political allegiances” was referring to [cough] another website.
Whatever. For me the interesting part is BCBusiness Magazine had no problem finding and citing veteran Vancouver journalists who, oddly enough, seem at ease going on the record about named Vancouver blogs. For example, here is a senior local journalist discussing one of The Vancouver Observer’s competitors:
In a Sept. 13, 2010, Globe and Mail column, Gary Mason described [City Caucus] as an “educational and useful blog,” but one that “is embedded with blatant bias, personal attacks, juvenile vituperation and hypocrisy.”
OWN GOAL 2: In the comments of this City Caucus blog post, Vancouver’s Poet Laureate writes in defence of allowing journalists to go off the record:
FYI, here’s one reason why journalists, people linked to the city hall, or in business with the city in general, prefer to speak from behind anonymity.
Remember how the Vision appointed Top Hack dealt with … The Press?
Here, for your enjoyment some extracts…
They then go on to describe the displeasure of named, on the record journalists over a “gag order” at City Hall for staff.
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!
Mike Klassen would like you to know he is having too much fun doing what he’s doing now and is certainly not standing by, on the launch pad, waiting for the go order…[wink]
Having clearly ingested the autopsy report of his failed bid for City Council in last Fall’s election, Mike has cannily decided
the best response is to ignore all that to have fun and go from being wingnut-curious to fully exploring/embracing the outer fringes of Canada’s right-wing. Because the hotbed of Senator Duffy mania is, as we all know, Vancouver.
So what does fun Klassen-style entail? Why
hard-hitting exposes such as, oh, this one on how The Tyee, in response to pressure from former Rothmans/Benson & Hedges cigarette lobbyist Ezra Levant, has removed…hidden…blown-up it’s Donation button in a desperate bid to escape the tightening gauntlet of the citizen-journalist posse and associated Conservative Party of Canada and corporate-created grassroots groups exposing them. Because that’s how U.S. philanthropic organizations launder their ill-gotten gains into Canada – through online webforms. Do not despair these might be rash accusations made in haste for immediate short-term political expediency for, like another pundit whose work Klassen’s very much reminds me of, this is a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.
How do we know The Tyee made changes in response to former Charles G. Koch Foundation intern Ezra Levant? Faster than you can say post hoc ergo propter hoc than short answer is because.
But the genius of this post is the multimedia part of it where, through the magic of animation, Mike clearly shows how The Tyee’s Donation button disappeared over time. Damning stuff. Unfortunately, faster than you can say citizen-journalist, this same animated image also shows the emergence of The Tyee’s donation link in a different spot. Over time. Yes multiple convicted libelist Ezra Levant made The Tyee move it’s Donation link from one part of it’s website…to another. Huah!
And Mike is proud to do his small part in exposing this nefariousness. Because it’s fun.
Tyee editor David Beers shows up in the comments and tries – with far too much patience – to explain how this isn’t true and, you know, doesn’t actually make sense.
They attack the funding and alleged political activity of environmental charity groups because they know they’ll lose the straight-up intellectual debate.
It’s just that simple.
Memo to Daniel: Provinces and the Federal government can adopt “net-zero” stances in contract negotiations. Municipalities can’t. Why? The Feds and Provinces have the ability to create back to work legislation – a required chess piece for this bargaining stratagem. Not so municipalities. One would think you’d have known this.
My good friends at City Caucus are on the case of City of Vancouver grants to the cycling movment and environmental groups. I’ve found some more:
- $3500 to the Evergreen Environmental Foundation for “Earth Day” Celebrations
- $2,000 to the Pedal Energy Development Alternatives Power Association for what appears to be a party.
- $4,000 to the Vancouver Wooden Boat Society, because wooden boats are made from a renewable resource.
Okay, that last one is a bit of a stretch.
Update: As they are obviously very interested in rooting out and exposing this sort of thing, I left the above as a comment on City Caucus. Alas, it looks like the dog might have eaten it. But don’t take that as evidence City Caucus is an NPA website only interested in the perceived foibles of the NPA’s opponents. No, no! It’s stated clearly that City Caucus is dedicated to “the ideas, the politics, and the people behind making Canadian cities.”
So I’m sure it’s [cough] forthcoming.
Elections B.C. should be looking into the Liberal membership in British Columbia
Tired of it all, I decided to email Elections BC about Vivian Krause’s charges. My inquiry:
I am inquiring about serious charges levelled in an op-ed that appeared in the Feb 17, 2011 edition of the National Post “Vivian Krause: U.S. environmentalists are meddling in B.C.’s election”
According to this op-ed, philanthropic foundations from the United States are funding political activity in British Columbia. Vivian Krause has written a series of op-eds with a similar theme. I was wondering:
- Do Krause’s charges have merit?
- Have you received an official complaint?
- Is Elections BC conducting an investigation?
I received a very prompt response. Here it is in full…and without comment:
Thank you for your email. The Election Act does not restrict the activities of foreign groups, or who can be a member of a political party. Additionally, the Act does not prohibit organizations from encouraging individuals to join a political party.
Political party memberships are not within the jurisdiction of Elections BC, so this office does not have authority to investigate the matter you have raised.
I trust you will find this information helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write.
A/Executive Services Manager
Mike is talking about the Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline here. The claim simply isn’t true. 30 seconds of Googling revealed:
In downtown Chicago, IL, protestors with Rainforest Action Network demonstrated outside of a conference of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which TransCanada –- owner of the Keystone XL pipeline — is a member.
The Packard Foundation – prominently featured in the latest of Krause’s missives Mike actively promotes – donated $750,000 to the Rainforest Action Network. The protest in question was against the Keystone Pipeline, which is planned to run from the Alberta Tar Sands directly to refineries on the Gulf Coast (a fact which also completely undermines the conspiracy theory that U.S. philanthropic donations to the Canadian environmental movement are designed to benefit the United States).
Exhibit B: Dirty Oil Sands – “is brought to you by an international network of citizen and indigenous groups that oppose the expansion of the Canadian tar sands and advocate for its cleanup”. Hmm..I see the Dogwood Initiative listed there. How can they be opposed to the Keystone Pipeline too if they are in the thrall of the United States?
Occam’s Razor suggests that environmental groups and their philanthropic backers are opposing these pipelines…on environmental grounds.
As a commenter on City Caucus pointed out, I only have 38 Twitter followers (and this blog only averages 20-30 visitors/day) so why should anyone waste their time with me. That’s their prerogative. But if it only took me 2 minutes to debunk this, it will only take someone else 2 minutes. And that someone might have 3800 followers.
 Betraying the common right-wing view that it doesn’t matter how right your facts are it’s how much money or influence you have that counts.