Thursday, November 11, 2004

Bipolar NDP candidates, that Liberal mailer and contracting out

VICTORIA - Random notes from the front.

Good news, bad news for NDP leader Carole James. The good news is the nomination of Gregor Robertson in Vancouver-Fairview, the kind of candidate the NDP needs to establish credibility. Robertson is a entrepreneur, with a successful whole earth juice business and 55 employees. He's running against Finance Minister Gary Collins, and is a distinct long shot. Collins took 55 per cent of the vote in 2001, but that's lower than the Liberal share in Surrey-Panorama Ridge. Look what happened there. (Bonus points for James because the New Democrats in the riding chose Robertson over Judy Darcy, the former national CUPE president. Voters are concerned the NDP is dominated by big public sector unions, and a Darcy candidacy would have added to the problem.)
The bad news is that Harry Lali will run for the party in Yale-Lillooet. Lali was a cabinet minister in the Glen Clark government, and made the most headlines when he claimed Clark was the victim of a media-RCMP-Liberal conspiracy (if there was such a thing, why wasn't I invited?). Lali didn't run in 2001, complaining that the party had been hijacked by the right when Ujjal Dosanjh won the leadership. James has to show that the party has changed; Lali would argue it never needed to in the first place. (For hardcore political types, the extremely useful offers the only definitive list of NDP nomination competitors, a list long on union activists - not that there is anything wrong with that)

Say, didn't those Liberals promise to quit using taxpayers' money for political propaganda?
Hard to buy when you as you're recycling that four-page sales pitch that the Campbell party has just mailed to every household in the province on your dime. The ostensible purpose - to gather information about how you want to spend the surplus - is bogus. A legislative committee has just toured the province asking the same question. The Liberals didn't ask you what you thought last year, or the year before. And they spent a big chunk of this year's surplus on a tax reduction, before you even had a chance to offer your views. What did the mail out cost? It's a secret, says Gary Collins, even though it's your money.
The flyer is an obvious pitch for votes, touting the Liberal record and indirectly slagging the former NDP government. Leave aside the hypocrisy, won't this really do more harm than good with voters?

The Liberals' latest contracting out deal is a $133-million 10-year contract with a recently created Telus subsidiary to take over payroll services. Nothing wrong with the principle, the only question being whether the terms are fair for the taxpayers. (The government says the deal will save about $3 million a year compared with doing the work in-house.) The USA Patriot Act privacy risks seem less than in the MSP deal with U.S.-based Maximus. Telus' links to the U.S. are weaker, and the personal information is less sensitive.
You should hope the Liberals know what they are doing. They plan to chop more jobs and sign contracting out deals worth more than $800 million to private companies in the next six weeks, bringing the total value of work transferred to the private sector to more than $1.2 billion.

The BC Teachers' Federation is right. The government is moving far too slowly in investigating concerns about the treatment of women and children in a controversial religious community near Creston. Bountiful is the home to a polygamous splinter group from the Mormon Church.
It's complex issue, involving issues of religious freedom. The RCMP is investigating - slowly - allegations of sexual abuse and human trafficking, some linked to the practice having very young girls marry old men.
But the province could also take a role by ensuring that the publicly funded independent school on the commune is teaching the approved curriculum and operating within ministry guidelines, and that all children are being given a chance at an education. Critics point to a dismal graduation rate and charge that the school teaches racism. The school gets $460,000 in provincial funding; the province has a right to know how it is being spent.

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