Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Patrick Brazeau has been put on a leave of absence after the Senate enacted a rarely used power to suspend one of its own, saying the move was needed to protect the reputation of the upper chamber and the "public trust and confidence in Parliament."

Hahahahahaha...The reputation? Hahahahaha...

Read the rest of the story here if you must, and then reflect on these two notions:

With the leave of absence, Brazeau retains his title and salary - $132,000 a year. Of course, like most Senators he was already committed to doing nothing, but now he really must do nothing.
I am only one of many hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have consistently said close down this august body of hot air. A chamber of sober, second thought? I can point to several (dare we call them?) members who wouldn't know sober if they fell in a pile of it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


In case you missed it this morning, HERE is Vaughn Palmer's nail-on-the-head column on Christy Clark and Sukh Dhaliwal.

The key paragraph is this:

He [Dhaliwal] did shirk his responsibility to disclose his legal difficulties to press, party and the electorate alike until he got caught out publicly, a point the Liberals themselves made in their Friday morning press release.

The one politically incorrect issue that never gets mentioned in reports of this on-going cheesy melodrama is that Mr. D's sole contribution to Canadian life is that he can deliver busloads of voters - many of whom have no idea what it is exactly that they are so enthusiastically supporting.

But not to despair, kids.

A page or two later, The Sun advises us that construction has begun in the Okanagan on an amazing new radio telescope.

"It's almost like time travel," said Kris Sigurdson, an astrophysicist from UBC and co-investigator on the project. "It's looking back into the past and how the universe was at that time."

Sigurdson said scientists know the universe is expanding, but they don't know why. They are also trying to learn more about the composition of "dark energy," which makes up about 70 per cent of the universe.

They could have saved themselves a lot of money by training their eye on the legislature and on Parliament - dark energy galore!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Final penny photo-op with Jim Flaherty cost $56,000


The federal government decided to get rid of the penny because it was costing 1.6 cents to make. 

But now we're learning that final penny cost $56,000 to make, some of it paid for by taxpayers.

That's because Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stamped it himself at the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg and also held a press conference and photo op for the occasion on May 4.

Postmedia News obtained the documents about the event through access to information. Flaherty and his director of communications spent just over $6,000 on their trip to Winnipeg, but the majority of the event was paid for by the Mint. 

Dropping the pennyThe government has decided to phase the penny out of existence starting this fall, CBC's Havard Gould reportThe Mint spent $50,000, although spokesperson Christine Aquino said taxpayers didn't spend a penny on this because the Mint is a federal for-profit Crown Corporation and generates its own profits by producing coins. They make money literally and they also generate a profit by producing coins for more than a dozen countries and making collector coins. 

"People are hoarding these pennies in their jars at home and now we're encouraging people to give the pennies to charities and that'll be good for the Canadian economy and our communities as well," Flaherty told CBC after the May 4 photo op. He said the penny has simply become a nuisance to people and businesses and doesn't expect consumers will lose out due to rounding.

The government says killing the penny will save taxpayers $11 million a year. The final penny that Flaherty stamped isn't in circulation, but sits at the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada in Ottawa.

Mr. Flaherty was elected to serve the Canadian public. He could have chosen either to walk across the street to the Ottawa-based mint for his 15 seconds of ill-got fate or to declare the whole exercise silly and not worth the penny saved.

Because he did neither, and chose instead to spend $58,000 of our money, he does not deserve another moment of our attention.

Because voters are relentlessly stupid, he will be elected again.

The Efficiences of Reform

Saskatchewan knows what Tommy Douglas would do
The Globe and Mail February 7th 2013

[Thanks to Dr. Brian Day for this item]

When Janice MacKinnon teaches her course in public policy at the University of Saskatchewan, she likes to tell the story about the elderly Ontario woman who fell in the lobby of a hospital and broke her hip. (The woman had been visiting her dying husband.) Hospital staff told her that, unfortunately, they couldn’t help her until she called an ambulance to take her to the emergency room.

The story captures what’s wrong with health care in Canada – bureaucratization, rigidity in attitudes and work rules, lack of common sense. Ms. MacKinnon, a former NDP finance minister in Saskatchewan, has loads of common sense. She also has a few ideas for improving health care. Here’s one: Let private clinics, not hospitals, perform routine surgeries.
This idea is so controversial in Liberal-ruled Ontario that it’s not even on the radar. Public-sector unions and academics denounce it as the first step on the slippery slope to dismantling Medicare. Yet, it’s working well in the cradle of Medicare itself – Saskatchewan. “They’ve kept it very low profile,” Ms. MacKinnon tells me. “They’ve been selling it as a solution to waiting lists.”

The Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative began in 2010 as a response to long wait times for surgeries. Today, the province contracts out a growing number of procedures to private clinics. The unions (and some doctors) warned that the clinics would cost more money because the profits would be “siphoned off.” They wanted the government to expand the public system, instead.

Here’s what happened under the new system: Wait times plunged. Safety and quality improved. Overall costs for the contracted-out procedures declined by 28 per cent. The cost for some procedures was cut in half.

How is this possible? “The clinics are very focused and they only do a small number of procedures,” Ms. MacKinnon says. “They’re small and easy to manage, and they’re not unionized.” By contrast, hospitals are large, complex, inflexible bureaucracies with several different unions. “You need a huge administrative capacity just to handle the union contracts and the grievance process.”

Patients prefer the private clinics, too. They’re more convenient, and offer better service. It’s also easier to park.

But wait. What would Tommy Douglas think?

“You know, he ran a very efficient government,” Ms. MacKinnon says. “He believed in sound public services delivered efficiently. And that’s what the unions are missing. Their alternative was that we would pay more for the staffing of the facility and the public would have fewer and slower services.”
Ms. MacKinnon, a cabinet minister in Saskatchewan during the 1990s, is in the Tommy Douglas mould. She was the first finance minister in that period to balance the budget.
“The real problem is that health-care costs are squeezing out education and social services, which have important influences on health,” she says. “Tommy would not have tolerated that.”

Nor would he have tolerated the generational inequity that has become a central feature of the system. As it’s now structured, the children and grandchildren of the baby boomers will pay a large share of the boomers’ health-care costs. According to one study cited by Ms. MacKinnon, Canadians born between 1958 and 1967 will consume over $4,000 more in health-care services than they’ll pay in health-care taxes. But people born between 1998 and 2007 will pay over $18,000more in health-care taxes than they’ll take out. And people born after 1988 will wind up paying peak taxes that are twice as high as what the boomers paid.

That’s not fair, Ms. MacKinnon says. “You can’t have a society built on the youngest members being stressed to the point where they lose hope.”

Her answer: Change the income tax system, so some of the health-care costs are borne by those who use it. She explains her reasoning in a new report, Health Care Reform from the Cradle of Medicare, published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Some will say her ideas are heresy, but I think they’re common sense. As she puts it, “We can best honour the spirit and legacy of Tommy Douglas by reform.”

Saturday, February 9, 2013

One of the greatest tunes - One of the greatest players

MEDDLING, of the Lowest order

One likes to think - naively, optimistically - that certain  principles abide.

Here's one.

Democracy is about engagement. The more citizens are involved in their local communities, the healthier we all are. Neighborhood watch, block parties,  community centres, volunteerism - these are among the many signs of a mindful local group who recognize both their privacy and their common ground.

But there are other principles at play.

Like, money.

And, as we always say in Journalism 101, "follow the money."

This bone-headed maneuver on the part of the Vancouver Park Board to seize control of community centres is all about a pittance in cash revenues. It is not only stupid; it is cheesy and small-minded.

Local citizens have volunteered their time and energies for many yeras now to assure that yoga, language lessons, bridge games, tennis, and a score of other activities are available and affordable in their immediate neighborhoods.

It is the lively commitment of these exemplary involved citizens that make community centres tick.

Now, the august gang of elected thieves calling themselves the Park Board have decided that their bureaucracy can do a better job.

Pathetic. Tragic. A direct hit to the heart of the democratic ideal.

When this story first surfaced, I asked myself once again (This question comes up about once every two years.), "Isn't the Park Board just a part of Vancouver City Government?"

It didn't take long for my old buddy, Allen Garr, to answer that question in the Courier.

And right smartly too.

The penny drops.

Is it time to phase out Vision's Penny?

By Allen Garr, Columnist February 7, 2013
There is at least one penny a growing number of people in Vancouver would be happy to see taken out of circulation. That would be Penny Ballem, Vancouver's city manager.

Vancouver Vision operatives insist it's nothing but NPA political blarney to believe that the whole mismanaged assault by the Vancouver park board on the city's community centre volunteer boards of directors is being driven by Ballem.

Her Vision Vancouver political masters may eventually pay the price for this appalling behaviour. But community centre board members from across the city note it was Ballem who kept turning up like the proverbial bad penny when she joined her direct report, park board general manager Malcolm Bromley, in a series of meetings a few months back. Community centre presidents and their boards were told the park board would, in a new Joint Operating Agreement, be taking control of all community centre revenues. And that was "non-negotiable."

More recently, on Tuesday evening while Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr was sitting in a public hearing at city hall regarding a contentious West End development, her cell phone rang. It was Ballem. Carr would get back to her at the next beak.

It turns out that on Monday, Carr, following city council procedure, filed a notice of motion to ask staff essentially this: given the park board's intention to take over the revenues of community centres which would most likely dampen future fundraising efforts by community center volunteer boards, what was the city's estimation of the funding shortfall this would create for the park board? And, given that the park board is a department of the city from whence it receives its budget, what contingency plan does the city have to make up for that funding shortfall?

A reasonable request based on a reasonable assumption, no?

But it's also reasonable to assume we will never find out. Because according to Carr what Ballem phoned to say was this: Carr's notice of motion would never see the light of day. Carr says she was told that her motion asking for information could jeopardize the "negotiations" now going on between the park board and the community centres.

When I emailed Ballem and asked about her extraordinary move to muzzle an elected representative, her communications machinery spit out an elaborate "no comment."

Incidentally, the public hearing Carr was sitting through Tuesday night under city hall rules ended at 11 p.m.. It would continue at a later date to hear the rest of the 50 or so speakers. (The rule says hearings must end at 10 p.m. but can, with a unanimous vote of council, be extended by one hour.)

Nothing so civilized was contemplated across town the night before. That's when 74 people lined up to speak in a packed room at the West End Community Centre. This was at an "emergency meeting" called for by what is an increasingly inept and disrespectful park board to hear from the public on the board's plan to have their way with community centre funds. For decades, these funds had been left in the hands of volunteer boards to be used for everything from renovations to the creation of new facilities. That was ending.

The approximately 30 pages of material for the meeting was not available until 11 that morning, which meant that most board members who work for a living didn't see it until an hour or so before the meeting started.

As you may already know, the meeting started at 6:30 p.m. and clattered on for nine hours, which made it 3:30 in the morning with members of the dwindling audience repeatedly asking for an adjournment only to be rebuffed.

It finally reached a sorry state of frustration because of the lateness of the hour and the vast majority of the speakers opposing what the park board was up to, frequently pointing out significant errors in the material being presented. I was long gone by the time the Vision majority blithely passed the motions to support what they had intended to do all along and cops had to be called in to restrain those who were left.

This passes for what Vision Vancouver calls citizen engagement.
© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

                                            *     *     *

This morning, The Sun advises us that City Councillor Adrian Carr has had to hire a lawyer to get simple financial information from her own - our own - government.

Ballem has been a tyrannical autocrat of the worst order from Day One. It is only slightly amusing that such a happy feel-good  biking, goat-feeding council should need Axe Lady in their corner. Good cop, bad cop redux.

Let's get a new City manager and let's leave the good folks to run their own pre-natal classes, shall we?

Thursday, February 7, 2013


The most hysterical thing about the latest Sukh Dhaliwal fiasco is that the name of the company for which he has been accused of not paying taxes is Genco.

Genco, of course, is the name of the olive oil business that Vito Corleone used as a front for all his other activities in The Godfather.

Apparently, Sukh is so busy running for office, he doesn't get to the movies very often.

The second most uproarious thing about Sukh's current troubles is that he publicly declares

“British Columbia is at a crucial point in history, and the B.C. Liberals are the best option for our province’s economy. Offering families low taxes, a clear plan for growth and the fiscal capacity for strong systems of support are values that I firmly believe in.”

Now, there's that push-button word that Premier Clark has no doubt instructed all her gang to use in every utterance. As in, "I'll have a Sleeman's - that's a  good family drink, isn't it?"

The reason this is funny is that - except for her famous Family Day holiday - the Preem's attendance to family concerns are less than minimal. There are fewer services and fewer workers to provide those services in almost every area of public policy today - addictions, the elderly, kids at risk, abused women...

However, we can thank our lucky stars that good old S. Dhaliwal is standing guard for us.

For example...

While a federal MP, he wrote a reference letter on official House of Commons stationary for convicted international drug smuggler Ranjit Singh Cheema. The letter was addressed to the California judge sentencing Cheema after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to import 200 kilograms of heroin. Cheema was gunned down in Vancouver last year shortly after getting out of prison.

Dhaliwal will be a wonderful addition to the fun house in Victoria.