Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Starting from scratch in Honduras

From New York Times
I wrote not long ago about the plan - or hope, anyway - for charter cities in Honduras. The idea is that all the current efforts to improve things haven't worked, so it's time to try something radical. Set aside a big chunk of land, start a new city from scratch, suspend democracy and let technocrats make the rules, with the help of a foreign government or two.
Effectively, create a brand new country within Honduras.
There are obvious perils, as I noted. But once you've lived her for a while, it's hard to dismiss the idea out of hand.
There's an interesting piece in the NYT today on the topic.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Liberals and the point of no return

Having been in the provincial press gallery during the collapse of public confidence in Glen Clark and the NDP, I can claim some familiarity with government tipping points.
There is a day, or maybe a week, when something shifts, and political recovery, already difficult, becomes impossible.
It's not a question of one issue. The casino-licence scandal would have been bad for the NDP administration, for sure, but might have been survivable if it had not messed up so badly on other issues, substituting spin and empty announcements for competent government.
It appears the Liberals might have reached the same desperate point.
The BC Rail scandal will not go away. The government's decision to pay $6 million in legal fees for Dave Basi and Bob Virk appears to be fatal.
Government policy - and the agreement with Basi and Virk - were crystal clear. If they were found not guilty, the government would cover their legal costs. If they weren't, the two would be on the hook. Basi had signed a lien on his home, at the government's demand, as part of a deal.
But, as the BC Rail trial was about to hear potentially damaging testimony, the government cut a deal. It agreed to cover $6 million in legal fees for Basi and Virk. If they pleaded guilty. The special prosecutor also promised no jail time, which would have been expected in a breach of trust case of this magnitude.
The government's position has been that the guilty pleas and the $6-million payment were unrelated.
But that's simply incredible. No matter what clever legal and bureaucratic moves moves were made, the deal was that the government covered the $6 million as part of a deal to get guilty pleas. It appears a  government inducement to get guilty pleas and end the trial.
Vaughn Palmer offers a good review of the government's claims - and their weaknesses - here. The government's arguments might impress legal scholars - or 18th-century Jesuits - but average citizens will find them unpersuasive.
Which, like the casino scandal, might not have been determinative.
But the Christy Clark government has not shown competence on other issues. With 11 sitting days left, the Liberals have not yet introduced the bill to repeal the HST, the mea culpa citizens are awaiting. It has floundered on other issues and shown no clear direction.
The polls have been bad for some time. But this week might mark the point at which recovery became impossible

There is a very good look at the evidence establishing that the $6 million was an inducement to obtain guilty pleas, ending the trial, at The Gazetter's site here.