Who Pays For Playgrounds?

April 14, 2019

On a number of occasions, I have written about hospital lotteries, wondering why the “urgently required” equipment or services are not paid for out of the health budget. I had the same sort of thoughts today when I read that Grandview Elementary School finally has the playground it has needed for a dozen years or more.


Don’t get me wrong — I am all in favour of this playground.  What I don’t get is why in one of the poorest districts in the city — and a district with less greenspace than just about anywhere — a group of residents had to spend a decade door-knocking in the community to raise “over $140,000” so that their kids could enjoy a playspace that I thought would be a natural part of any school environment.

We have a Provincial government which, while claiming to be NDP, is simply following the BC Liberals playbook, wasting out money on dams and LNG projects and private schools instead of spreading the tax dollars to where they are actually needed, like playgrounds for our kids.


Hospital Lotteries — Again

November 27, 2018

Various hospitals in the Province, institutions that do work I applaud wholeheartedly, are currently conducting their annual fundraising campaigns through CTV News and perhaps other media outlets. We are told that our donations in these prize-giving lotteries will buy equipment urgently required by the Hospital.

The question I have is this: if the equipment really is urgently required, why isn’t the Provincial government paying for it through the taxes it collects from everyone?  Why are hospitals reliant on volunteer donors for this material?

This equipment and these services are either needed or they are not. We either have a public health system paid by us all or we don’t.

Am I missing something?

Thoughts On The Budget

February 21, 2018

This was a feel good budget, I guess, and many people seem happy enough. However, I still have concerns about the housing issues.

Most of the policies put in place so far (homeowners grant increase, speculation tax, foreign buyers’ tax etc) are aimed to help those locals already wealthy enough to buy into the upper end of Vancouver housing. Meanwhile, many items to help lower income citizens (MSP elimination, the promised renters’ rebate, student loan changes) are delayed, most without dates attached.

The housing plan sounds good with $6 billion over 10 years, and I am very glad to see commitments for seniors, indigenous folks, women under threat, and students.  But so far as I can see only $453m has been specifically set aside for “affordable” housing for the general public. I’ll need to see the details before I start to cheer.

Acceptance of a formal definition of “affordable” would certainly help, with policies designed to ensure that level of affordability.  And once again much can be done at the municipal level and I urge immediate changes to speed things up.

2017 in BC: Two Steps Forward, Two and More Steps Backwards

December 23, 2017

The big job got done this year, at least: Christy Clark and her evil regime were finally evicted from power — and if nothing else, that is enough to declare 2017 a success.  Unfortunately, as the year progressed, it became clear that John Horgan’s NDP still had plenty of its own powerful regressive demons to deal with on top of the mess the Liberals left them.

There have been some small improvements under the new government — rental loopholes closed, for example, grizzly bear hunting ended. But no movement on disability bus passes, rent freezes and limits, or MSP, and we are supposed to wait until next year for any serious changes in housing, which most people in the Lower Mainland might consider the number one priority, and perhaps even longer for electoral change to some form of proportional representation.

And what has been done often seems flawed.

Legislation to amend election financing (“getting big money out of the system”) was a decent start, but didn’t touch spending limits, deal adequately with limits on third-party expenditures, or make donations — including and especially donations in non-election years — fully transparent in real-time.

And then there’s Site C. Corrupted politicians might well say that nothing was actually promised in the election campaign. Decent progressive politicians would admit that, yes, we implied as strongly as we could that the decision to cancel was going to be policy. Financial and utility experts from all over the map have made it clear that the reasons given by Horgan for moving ahead are horribly flawed; party members from all over the Province have made it clear their support for the Party has been seriously dented.

There are questions about the NDP’s understanding of the underlying finances, especially as regards the so-called “sunk costs.” There are many questions about how the NDP decided to prioritize a few traditional Union jobs against the vicious destruction of the Peace Valley. And there are serious questions raised about the NDP’s loudly proclaimed relationship with the First Nations after this insult — “I’m not the first colonialist to lie to you”, I paraphrase Horgan.  This decision goes against the Treaties, it goes against reconciliation, and it goes against UNDIP.

This albatross will hang around the NDP’s neck for a long long time unless they come to their senses and reverse their decision as soon as possible. Liberals are never going to back the NDP anyway, so the government needs to do what needs to be done to recover their own supporters.

The threat is that these now dissatisfied former supporters will turn to the Green Party at the next election. But the Greens have issues too. Site C should have been enough to drive them away from their agreement with the NDP but, apparently, massive damage to BC’s environment, native peoples, and finances doesn’t compare with the glorious benefits the Party sees itself gaining from prop rep down the road some time.  There are no innocent political parties.

In 2018, I’ll be watching how the Provincial NDP works its housing policy to ensure another Vision Vancouver victory at the municipal level. With all the Visionistas holding significant levels of power now in Victoria, you can bet this will be a two-handed campaign; and they’ll probably find some way to include their buddies at the Federal level too.  That doesn’t auger well for Vancouver, I fear, with supply-side thinking still dominant no matter how exhaustively debunked by progressive urban academics.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Site C: A Personal Reflection

December 13, 2017

Yesterday was the worst of days for British Columbia. A government we had achingly hoped would inspire British Columbians has instead bowed to its Big Labour masters (often as reactionary as the most plutocratic tycoon), played fast and loose with its implied campaign promises (and overall economic analysis), and kicked the First Nations in the teeth once again. Reflecting on just how significant this betrayal is took me back a long time, back to the days when I realised I could never be a unionist, or a social democrat.

A Londoner, I grew up in a strongly union family: my grandfather, a railwayman, was involved in the General Strike, and both his sons — my uncle Alf who eventually became mayor of Brentford, and my Dad — though professionals, were active supporters of the Labour Party. As a very small boy I remember folding brochures for campaigns, and labour matters were always on the agenda when we visited my uncle.  By my mid-teens, I was a member and volunteer at both the local Labour Party and a Transport Workers Union office. It was the mid-1960s and Harold Wilson’s white hot technological revolution was leading us all to the labourite paradise.

By then I had started to read deeply in left wing theory and history, and I developed quite the revolutionary zeal against the evils of capital and the systems of oppressive inequality that were fostered by it. I shared these thoughts and ideas at the labour hall and the Labour Party offices. And I was laughed off, brushed off, told not to worry about “abstract theory.” At first I assumed I was being ignored because I was a young kid. But I swiftly realized that the party and union leaders were plainly uninterested in the failures of the capitalist and “democratic” systems.

They didn’t want to change the systems at all, they just wanted their share of what the systems could give them and their members; seats, sinecures, and power for the party members, washing machines and a small car for the workers even if it meant sweetheart deals exploiting labour in other ways. Those leaders with intellectual pretensions argued for the value of “incremental benefits” and for the postponement of radical change until some indefinite future.

Even after this realization, I continued to make my arguments at the halls until, quite quickly, I was shuffled out the door as a malcontent.

Today, I feel just as disappointed as I did fifty-plus years ago. I am disappointed in the NDP and the unions, of course; but I am equally disappointed in myself for hoping that social democrats and big labour could ever accept real change and the challenges it offers.


Stopping Kinder Morgan

August 10, 2017

I am glad to see that our new NDP government has brought in Justice Thomas Berger to advise on how to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline. I have an idea of my own that I would like to play with.

BC should pass a pipeline building tax of enormous scale; say $10 million per mile, or whatever will be enough to stop Kinder in its tracks. Kinder, and probably the Feds, will no doubt launch a legal challenge to the tax, a challenge that will end up in the Supreme Court.

If BC wins, great. However, should the Supremes finally rule that the tax is somehow illegal, no problem: we then invoke the Notwithstanding Clause which, as I recall, is designed for exactly such a purpose.

That’s what I would urge the NDP and Greens to do.

An Historic Day For BC

July 18, 2017

Today in Victoria, the new NDP government, with Green Party support, will be sworn in and John Horgan will become Premier.  That’s a good thing in and of itself. But the truly historic event is that, finally, after years and years of scandal and misrepresentation, the BC Liberals (fundamentalist Socred Tories in ill-fitting disguise) will no longer be the government.

It is hard to believe, but there are young voters out there who were still in diapers the last time the BC Liberals were in opposition. That was damn close to being in the last century.

As the perfect illustration of why they needed to be booted out unceremoniously, Christy Clark and her vicious henchman waited until a group of First Nations were battling for their lives against forest fires this week to issue a mine license for a project on First Nations’ land that even the Harper Tories vetoed twice for serious environmental concerns.

Good luck to John Horgan, the NDP, and the Greens. Even if you turn out to be the second worst government we ever had (which I doubt) you still will be a dozen times better than Clark and her misbegotten crew of pirates.