Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ralph Sultan's very odd letter of instruction to Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant voters

Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant, when Ralph Sultan lived there
That's the only way I can describe MLA Ralph Sultan's letter on The Tyee website.
The Tyee published a piece on the Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant provincial byelection, profiling the candidates. The Liberal hopeful, Gavin Dew, didn't respond to interview requests. So no quotes from him. (Disorganized campaign? A strategic decision? Just one of those things? Who knows.)
Sultan was disappointed that his former campaign manager - Dew has been active in the BC Liberals and Vancouver´s NPA - wasn't in the article. Sultan wanted to help his campaign. So he wrote a letter, which The Tyee graciously published.
It might seem strange, he acknowledged, that the MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano was telling people in Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant how to vote. Sultan's riding is the wealthiest in B.C. - half the households have incomes over $100,000. Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant has the lowest incomes in the province - less than half the level of Sultan's constituents.
"What on earth would the sitting member for West Vancouver-Capilano (me) presume to say to the citizens of Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant?" Sultan asked in his letter.
A very good question.
Sultan says his roots are in the riding. He grew up there.
But a quick look at his bio confirms he lived in the riding in the 1930s and 1940s.  A lot has changed since then.
Sultan's letter says voters in the riding shouldn't worry about income assistance and disability rates that leave many of their neighbours in poverty. The Liberals are redeveloping St. Paul's Hospital and had a conference on the tech industry and Chinatown is doing well. They have done well on jobs and economic growth. (One of those things people probably judge based on their own experiences.)
I can't imagine how Sultan's intervention from the heights of West Van or the Liberal offices in the legislature will help Dew. Sultan is hardly a household name. His qualifications are impressive and frequently cited - Harvard PhD and professor, former chief economist for the Royal Bank, successful mining career.
But it's harder to point to highlights from his record as an MLA over the last 15 years. He was appointed to cabinet in 2012, and dropped nine months later.
Maybe there have been big contributions behind closed doors. But based on the public record, Sultan is  unlikely to sway many voters in Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant with tales of yore and recounting of generic party platform material.

Dew's campaign bio sets out his educational background in a way that suggests he followed in Sultan's footsteps at Harvard.
"He went on to complete an MBA at Oxford and study crisis management at Harvard," the bio says.
Except he only spend six days at Harvard, in a continuing education course, as Andrew MacLeod reports here.
It's hard to say if a six-day course really justifies the claim. I did a 10-day course at a fancy business school in France, but would feel like a fraud if I claimed I went on to "study management there."


Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

His advice to the people of East Van - go to Harvard. Rather Etonian advice from the old boy I'd say.

Anonymous said...

Gavin Dew is a sacrificial lamb for the BC Liberals.

Dew will surely lose the bye and move on to some consolation appointment within the Christy Clark patronage machine - probably something to do with energy (see Connie Denesiuk for a recent example). And all Dew has to do is be publicly humiliated for a few months while dodging the media.

Nice work when your consulting business goes in the tank due to falling global energy prices.

Scotty on Denman said...

True, Mr Sultan doesn't often raise his voice outside his riding, but when he does, it can seem odd indeed. One of the most curious occasions was his public complaint about the shady operations of BC's shamefully secretive and intensely interesting (in a conflicted sort of way) Civil Forfeiture Office. Most people (like me) had never even heard of this place before Sultan brought it up, and were shocked (as I was) to find such a thing could exist in a country supposedly ruled by law. While Mr Sultan was quite properly speaking on behalf of a constituent who'd found herself a victim of this abusive office (there is no public record of forfeiture proceedings which have netted over $40 million, over 95% of which did not result from a trial or conviction, nor even any criminal charges), it was conspicuous that he'd attract very unwanted attention to the CFO, his own government's creation, and that Christy and Suzanne Anton (Attorney General) were reluctantly forced to attract even more attention to it in defence. Sultan surely got chewed out for that one.

But it hasn't ended there. In the CFO's defence (following Sultan's public criticism), Christy helpfully explained how useful the CFO was in funding her special, personal interest in pink anti-schoolyard-bullying T-shirts, unwittingly confessing to a potential conflict of interest (and, tacitly, to her clever-but-tasteless use of a serious kid issue for self-promotion), which in turn required a response from Anton that demonstrated the incompetence of both of the Premier and the AG who should have better advised her boss (she sycophantically parroted Christy's rationalization). More problematically for the BC Liberals, the episode attracted sleuthing reportage by the Globe And Mail, broadening public awareness of this dark office, and eventually piquing continued interest in a couple of legal actions against the CFO, one a freedom of information matter that decided in favour of the plaintiff (the court would not hear CFO's appeal of the Privacy Commissioner's decision that disallowed its hitherto perfunctory secretiveness), and a more recent lawsuit that names the CFO, the RCMP, and both federal and provincial Attorneys General relating to damages arising from alleged abuse of process---an improper forfeiture attempt exposed when a victim who could afford legal costs successfully defended herself against a completely spurious criminal charge designed to initiate the forfeiture process (her house was targeted for forfeture).

The CFO is a can of worms similar to the abusive $5000 "inspection-fee" bylaws municipalities had been extorting from the occupants of any house "suspected" of criminal involvement---a bag of tomato-fertilizer could be enough to suspect a grow-op, or a jug of rubbing alcohol a meth-lab. And, in the circumstance, most people had to pay up or be locked out of their own house---where would the kids stay, what would the neighbours say? Typically the abuse is suffered until a light is shone on it; then others speak up when they realize they aren't the only ones being victimized, and pretty soon the public outcry forces the abusive laws to be rescinded---even if not actually punishing the abusers. A similar fate might await the CFO, and we'd have Mr Sultan to thank for getting the ball rolling. Which makes it surprising he ever writes any further missives at all, considering all the trouble he's caused the BC Liberals.

Would it surprise me if the BC Liberals offered the plaintiff an out-of-court settlement to keep the CFO in the shadows where they like it? Nope. The closer one looks at the CFO, the worse it gets. In fact, I'd be surprised if the self-granted immunity from justice seen-to-be-done DIDN'T inspire abuse.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Quite right Scotty: civil forfeiture offices, a bland enough sounding creation of governments all over, have, like many a government creation before them, turned out be a ratty nest of rascals and thieves. They have no legitimate place in any society excepting the society of pirates.

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