Thursday, July 30, 2009

I am trying to break you heart

I know we're heading to a long summer weekend, but everyone should read this report from Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
It's a review of the travails of a baby boy who was taken from his parents as a result of legitimate, but easily addressed concerns. All they really needed was help finding an apartment .
While living in his third foster home, and still not six months old, he suffered massive injuries, consistent, doctors said, with being shaken. He is back with his parents as a three-year-old with cerebral palsy, blind in one eye and unable to walk.
I have a friend who is troubled by the attention on these reports. She fears it slights or discourages the workers doing great things every day, in impossible circumstances.
I think paying real attention is the greatest honour we can do those people.

Is the recognition and reconciliation act really dead?

The unravelling of the proposed legislation setting out a new relationship with First Nations remains a fascinating mystery. In the spring, the government was on the brink of introducing the act, with the support of most provincial-level First Nations leaders.
Now, aboriginal support has collapsed and the letter below suggest they want to make sure the act is really quite sincerely dead, as they sing in the Wizard of Oz.

UBCIC Open Letter: Implementing the New Relationship and the Legislative Initiative
July 30, 2009

Dear Premier Campbell and Ministers,

We are writing to clarify the UBCIC’s position regarding pursuing Recognition and Reconciliation Legislation based on the Discussion Paper on Implementing the New Relationship (the “discussion paper”).

The UBCIC has fought long and hard for the recognition by the Crown of Aboriginal title in British Columbia, and for respect for our laws and governments. The New Relationship is regarded as a good step in the right direction, and our communities watched and waited with much hope, for the implementation of the Vision. To our bitter disappointment, the Province failed to implement the spirit and intent of the New Relationship. By way of examples, notwithstanding the decisions of the Court, including the Huu-ay-aht case, where the Court found that the revenue and benefit sharing formula for the FRAs/FROs constituted bad faith negotiations, the Province refused to even discuss revenue and benefit sharing for forestry agreements on any other basis. Nor has the Province been prepared to discuss the sharing of a percentage of gaming revenue as an example of a commitment to revenue sharing to accommodate the economic component of title. There has been no implementation of the jurisdictional component of title, either. The present Environmental Assessment Review Process is the most blatant example of unilateral Crown decision making which is used to veto our Aboriginal title and rights interests as big projects are permitted to proceed, over our objections and often to the detriment of the land itself. The Province continues to rely on discredited terra nullius theories in litigation defences – such as in the Jules and Wilson litigation, where the Province pleads that the Browns Creek Watersheds are vacant Crown land.

When the conduct of the Province did not produce concrete and far-reaching change on the ground, the UBCIC supported legislative change as a tool to bring about systemic change in Provincial Crown conduct from denial to title recognition. This led to the discussion paper.

The discussion paper has been brought to our members for discussion, and we have had considerable feedback at Regional Forums, community meetings, and at meetings held by the UBCIC. The response from our members is clear: there are concerns about concepts in the discussion paper, and UBCIC members do not support legislative drafting based on it. This point was made most emphatically at the last Chiefs Council meeting. A resolution, designed to improve the process for First Nations’ review and debate of any proposed legislation was defeated, based on a debate which was in opposition to the discussion paper initiative. The Chiefs stated that the process which led to the discussion paper and which was proposed for legislative drafting was not sufficiently inclusive.

The UBCIC has now made clear to our members, and we wish to make it clear to you and to your Government, that the UBCIC has withdrawn from the legislative initiative based on the discussion paper. We will continue to attend the Regional Forums and other community meetings as observers, to witness and listen to the concerns of the community membership and leaders. UBCIC also continues to support the spirit and intent of the Leadership Accord, and all other initiatives attached to this collective effort, including the Forestry Council, Fisheries Council, Economic Development Council, Energy and Mining Council, Children and Family Wellness Council and Health Council.

We will now consider all options for the implementation of the New Relationship at the upcoming All Chiefs forum in August, and the UBCIC General Assembly scheduled for mid-September. Make no mistake; the UBCIC shall continue to utilize all means to achieve a just resolution of the Land Question in B.C.

Over the summer, we ask you to consider solutions so that we might have success in our future conversations. The problem which has been expressed many times in discussions about the discussion paper is a widespread distrust of the Province. This has been said a number of ways – but what is disturbing, even enraging, to those who raise this concern, is the Province’s inability or unwillingness to substantively change from status quo behaviour, especially since 2005. First Nation leaders point out correctly that while there are systemic shifts that might best be achieved through legislation, legislation is not needed for the Province to change its conduct, by providing different honourable recognition-based negotiation and litigation mandates consistent with the New Relationship Vision and decisions of the Courts. Outdated Provincial denial policies can give way today, to the policy expressed in the New Relationship. Engaging in discussions with the FNLC is not a substitute or reason for the Province to delay. New opportunities for reconciliation must emerge. First Nations are waiting for the Province to engage with them respecting Aboriginal title, including our laws and jurisdictions, sharing lands and resources and revenue and benefits derived from our lands and resources, and addressing past and ongoing interferences. The Province should have taken such actions a century ago, and there is no honourable basis for not doing so today.


Grand Chief Stewart Phillip


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is running B.C. Ferries really a $940,000 a year job?

The provincial government announced a review of the operations of B.C. Ferries and TransLink yesterday.
If you're wondering about the timing, Jordan Bateman at notes that the ferry corporation filed its report on executive compensation this week, revealing CEO David Hahn received $940,000 in base bay and bonuses, plus another $96,000 in pension contributions. The pay was approved by the board, which is appointed by the government. Read Hansen's comments and the details here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Liberal campaign and a sick democracy

Is this really democracy?
The whole election process now looks like a sham. The Liberals rejected a harmonized sales tax during the campaign, less then three months ago.
Not part of their plans, period. The association that represents restaurant owners asked all parties about the harmonized tax prior to the election.
The Liberals said the tax would cover too many items that were currently tax-exempt and prevent future sales tax changes. It was not of their plans.
And then, with no consultation, it was announced last week. Anyone who voted for the Liberals on the basis of that commitment has been played for a sap.
There is actually much to recommend the tax change.
But in a real democracy, a party would make those arguments and let the voters decide.
Not in B.C.
The Liberals pledged during the campaign that the deficit this fiscal year would not be more than the $495 million forecast in the February budget.
Gordon Campbell and Colin Hansen both committed, less than three months ago, to that number. You could believe the budget, they said.
The claims were ridiculous. Every economist and analyst - and anyone who looked at the budget - knew the deficit would be much, much larger.
After the election, Campbell revealed the deficit would be much larger. The explanation - that income and corporate tax transfers from the federal government were lower than expected - was ludicrous.
Almost all the main assumptions underlying the budget - housing starts, natural gas prices, economic growth, welfare rolls - were overly optimistic. Within hours of the budget, independent analysts were saying the deficit would be much larger.
The NDP was complicit in this scam. Carole James unveiled a platform and spending plan based on the Liberals’ budget assumptions. The New Democrats said they had to accept the forecast. It was also politically safer to build a budget based on optimistic numbers than to face reality. (Though straight talk might have had advantages. If one in 30 non-voters had been inspired by an honest NDP plan, the party could have been in government now. Or, of course, the plan could have cost the party existing support.)
Back to the Liberal campaign’s distance from reality. They left the door open for cuts to programs and services, but didn’t say which ones would be chopped.
Campbell did pledge that health care and education would be protected.
Less than three months later, health care is being cut significantly. Here on Vancouver Island, the health authority plans to do five per cent fewer surgeries to save money. That means 3,160 people who would have been helped by surgery in the 12 months will now wait.
The story is similar in other health authorities where cuts are being made to the number of patients treated and the level of care.
A politician could try to make the case that it makes fiscal sense to deny timely treatment. When government revenues are down, people should expect a lower standard of health care.
But the Liberals did not make that case. Campbell promised to protect health care, and then didn’t.
You have to wonder about all those MLAs, who ran on platforms that have now been abandoned. They told people in their communities what would happen if their party formed government.
It was not true. They misled the voters.
It adds up to a grim scenario. About 51 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in May and about 24 per cent of eligible voters supported the Liberals.
They were supporting a $495-million deficit, no health cuts, no new sales tax.
None of those are part of the Liberals’ real plans.
The election wasn’t really about policies or platforms. It was about electing a dictator or, at least, a leader who would do much as he chose for the next four years.
That’s a form of democracy. But not the one Canadians have been promised.
Footnote: Hansen says the Liberals didn’t scam voters on the HST. The new tax was “not on our radar” during the election campaign, he said. (Although Ontario had introduced the same tax earlier in the spring.) It defies reason to claim that the government suddenly looked around and noticed the need to make a huge shift in tax burden from business to consumers.