Thursday, June 30, 2011


Recently, I posted a monologue that began, "All governments are corrupt."

Soon I received the following note from my friend and colleague of many years, Mike Harcourt:

Jeez David what the hell did you put in your 10 th Ave cappuccino to write such a bitter and twisted diatribe!
Mike H

So I replied:

Hi Mike,
I am sorry that you found this monologue bitter and twisted or that you may have taken personal offense.
There are good people doing good work with the best motivations in every walk of life, including elected officials and public servants.
But the systems themselves, I believe, are by nature, corrupting.
The evidence is before us every day.
This is simply a call to remain ever vigilant.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that 50% of all government employment and activities are useless, senseless sops. The cost of government is and has been for a long time completely out of any reasonable control.
If you'd like to characterize these observations as “bitter and twisted,” you are free to do that.
But I am a happy guy. I enjoy life.
And I enjoy the freedom to laugh at the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Then Mike closed the discussion with:

David,Vancouver's budget goes to Police,Fire and Engineering services-75 %. Most of the rest is for our fabulous parks and recreation system,culture. The rest is to manage planning and development,and collect taxes and fees to pay for these basic services to citizens.
If you examine the provincial budget 75 % goes to health,education and social services. Most of the rest-20% goes to transportation and the administration of justice.
The national government's $200 billion budget almost 1/2 flows back to individuals as OAP,CCP and other direct income transfers;or equalization payments to poorer provinces;or health,education or social service cost sharing. A huge chunk of the remaining budget is for defence,prisons and other basic functions.
Now agreed there is some waste,dubious programs,incompetence,and some lying self serving politicians and civil servants(a very small number in my experience).
Compared to the sub prime mortgage,real estate scammers,bankers,bond rating agencies who trashed the world economy in 2008,who should you be venting your wrath at?
Just trying to bring a little perspective to these issues old pal. Not to take it too personally. To be continued.
Mike H

I have posted this lively debate with Mike's permission.

Soon, we will meet at a White Spot for our quarterly breakfast and the arguments and laughs and camaraderie will continue.

Mike Harcourt is a former Mayor of Vancouver and Premier of the Province of British Columbia and not a bad Sunday tennis player. Neither of us got to Wimbledon.


Charlie Smith said...


I'm more with Mike Harcourt's side in this debate. Several years ago, Jane Jacobs wrote a brilliant book called Systems of Survival.

In it, she described those with 'trader' values and those with 'guardian' values.

The guardians are generally in the public sector. The problem, according to the Jacobs book, is when guardians suddenly decide they want to be traders.
Often, they're not very good at it, which is how we end up with financial boondoggles like the $883-million convention centre.

Conversely, the traders are not very good guardians. We saw that when the old Vancouver Stock Exchange was regulating the shenanigans on Howe Street.

We need traders and guardians in our society.

Our media have promoted this widespread loathing of governments. I attribute this to the high number of people with libertarian values who are attracted to working in the media.

Sometimes, groups of people acting collectively with smart leadership can accomplish some amazing things. For proof, just look at how the Allies were able to defeat the Nazis in the Second World War.

The Apollo space missions were another example of this.

These were, for the most part, public-sector accomplishments.

Charlie Smith

Anonymous said...

It is easy to lose faith, bloody hard to keep up the fight.

That said honest criticality like this is invaluable.

Anonymous said...

OT, but I'd like to know if anyone really cares about those good-for-nothing Royals. Any stories written about them are a waste of ink and trees.

Anonymous said...

Dem good fer nuttins are doin mo to put Kanader on der map, dan spendink Billions on dem Olympdiks.

Evil Eye said...

Governments are corrupt as they have been corrupted by unlimited money and power. The bureaucrats that work within government are equally corrupt as their sole occupation is to create more jobs for their ilk.

In Canada, bureaucrats are so incompetent that they can't get a job in the real world. They hide their incompetence behind a wall of paper and red tape.

TransLink is a perfect example of a government organization where incompetence and corruption is common. In the real world those who work for TransLink could not even get a job cleaning toilets.

The Canada line, the only subway in the world that has, by design, less capacity than a Light Rail or streetcar line, yet costing at least four times to build.

The downtown east side, need I say anymore.

The RCMP, again drowning in corruption and incompetence.

BC Rail, A Pandora's box for corruption.

Gordon Campbell, chased from the Premier's seat because he fibbed about the HST.

The 10% HST, it actually 12%, with only a promise from a politician that it will be reduced to 10%.

Government advertising.

The Millennium Line, where the NDP sold out to corporate interests.

The so called Carbon tax, which is just a gas tax that the Liberals called a carbon tax. A real carbon tax sees monies collected to go to non carbon producing programs like public transit, while in BC our carbon tax goes into general revenue.

The list goes on and on.

As for Mikey's little rant, yawn, who listens to him anymore he is just another political legend in his own mind.

The list goes on and on.

David Berner said...

Dear Evil Eye,

As always, I appreciate your whole-hearted contributions.

But I feel that the personal attack on Mike Harcourt is off-side and unwarranted.

I said in the piece that Mike is an old and valued friend. And I believe that he is a valuable friend to the city and the province.

As many people I know have said repeatedly, "He is one of the good guys."

Granted, EE, there are not many in the public arena, but Mike is one.



Evil Eye said...

I wonder when a premier of BC has not left office under a cloud?

I know Harcourt took a "hit for the team" when he stepped down over the "Bingogate affair", which he had no part of (and that was over 15 years ago), but I wonder when we had an elected premier leave office in good standing?

It is very hard not to paint all politicians with the same brush.

I have had my fill of sleazy government practices, bureaucratic gotcha's, and political favours and I do not see any politician stand up to his/hers moral obligation to bring good government to BC. We see higher and higher taxes, anti-union/business jingoism, and wonderful perks for friends of the government. See: Pamela Martin.

It is government and those who take part in government, politics and governmental administration, that has eroded our democracy to such a point that nearly 50% of the population doesn't vote, because it doesn't matter who gets in, just same old, same old. The only real change are new pigs at the trough.

I wish the likes of Mr. Harcourt, step up to the plate and and speak out that things are wrong and we need to change now. The silence form almost all former politicians on this score is almost deafening.

Look at the Zalm, another ex-premier that left office under a very dark cloud and his stand on the HST. I may not have liked him as premier, I may not have liked his politics, but he has become a hero of the "common people". All his former unpleasantness been washed away like Lazarus rising again from the dead.

We need more of his ilk to take on the establishment elites, who think they are entitled to power and money.

In the end, nothing changes, expert for more taxes, to fund more political friends and pet projects.

We have to change how things operate, if not, I see a very dark passage ahead, with many unpleasant happenings; and only if............