Mr. Premier, there are a number of things that have caught my attention in the last little while. Some of them you may be able to respond to, some may be beyond the scope of your responsibility but perhaps not beyond the scope of your influence.
This whole issue of Richmond, BC based McDonald-Dettwiler and Associates selling the two most significant (and arguably most Canadian) aspects of their corporation to Alliant Techsystems of Minnesota - an American company whose products include such people-friendly items as land mines, cluster bombs and uranium bullets – seems to me something that any ethical politician might regard with some concern and disdain. The parts that they are choosing to sell are the Canadarm (you know the space station tool that is recognized as one of Canada’s most technologically advanced creations) and RadarSat, one of the world’s best satellite systems. ATK has promised that they won’t make nasty anymore if we just sell them these two little items. Uhuh –yeah, right. Even you, Mr. Premier, must have some personal feelings about this little free market deal. Do you think you might want to apply a little pressure on the Federal government via Industry Minister Jim Prentice to prohibit the sale of our government-supported and funded Canadian technology to this maker of cluster bombs and landmines? I’d personally appreciate seeing you take a lead in something as repugnant as this deal.
Mr. Premier, there’s a few other things that you may be able to help out with in a more direct fashion. This whole bit about getting rid of the BC Mental Health Advocate after your party came to power seems to be backfiring a tad. Nancy Hall was extremely effective in identifying gaps in the mental health system where government funding and attention was needed. As Rafe Mair wrote last year in The Tyee: “The Campbell government likes its vote-getting surpluses, you see, and doesn't want to find mentally ill people eating away at the profits. Even though finding and treating the mentally ill is the right and decent thing to do, and would pay substantial dividends down the road, this government isn't interested.” Mr. Premier, just a couple of days ago the Vancouver Police reported that “almost a third of the calls its officers handle involve the mentally ill.” Perhaps this is an area that you might seriously want to address in as ebullient a manner as you have addressed the Olympics!
It was also delightful to listen to your smiling announcement of the new transportation strategy for Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. Fourteen billion dollars! That’s one big load of money you’re looking at there! As I recall it was around the same time that Translink announced an increase in fares. Nice timing! Now, don’t get me wrong. The concept of using green technology, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and offering good alternatives to people are all good things. But the whole episode led me once more to the oddly imbalanced way that your government continues to envision that other big public transportation challenge – BC Ferries. It seems interesting to me that your government is so concerned about all the transit users (voters) in Vancouver getting a good deal on their transportation, yet the ferry users (far less voters) are getting gouged without a word from you about the ferry system in years. I’m wondering, did you by chance listen to Christy Clarke’s radio show on CKNW on January 28th? It seems she’s got it right by musing “I think we should really be moving towards free transit… if we want people to use transit we should make it free." Maybe give her a call and have a chat. After all, she used to be on your team.
Mr. Premier, I’ll give you a break and not go on a tirade about the child poverty thing or the $6.00 per hour training wage or the $8.00 an hour minimum wage. I’m sure you’re working on all these inequities. But I do feel compelled to mention a few things about Minister Rich Coleman’s recent odd and intriguing strategy of removing 28,273 hectares from three TFL’s (Tree Farm Licenses), one just west of Sooke, and giving that land to Western Forest Products, without any public scrutiny or input or any financial compensation. Twenty-eight thousand hectares! That’s a lot of land that could potentially be sold and or used for real estate development. Mr. Premier, the optics here are just not great. After all, the Pacific Free Press on January 18, 2008 noted that Mr. Coleman’s brother Stan works for Western Forest Products as their Manager of Strategic Planning. As well, in an article in the Victoria Times Colonist on November 2, 2007, Judith Lavoie noted that figures from BC Elections show that during the last decade, Western Forest Products donated $103,247 to the Liberals. Ms. Lavoie also wrote: “The Dogwood Initiative, a Victoria-based environmental group, has used Elections B.C.'s contributions figures to compile a chart showing five companies donated $1.7 million to the Liberals between 1996 and 2006, including $284,050 in the two years before land was taken out of TFLs. Ms. Lavoie further stated in another article on November 29, 2007: “Soaring land values and recent provincial decisions allowing forest companies to pull private lands out of tree-farm licences -- meaning more lenient logging rules and fewer restrictions on log exports -- are leaving communities with unexpected development pressures, clearcuts on their doorsteps and fears about the safety of community watersheds. You must agree Mr. Premier, that BC’s logging industry is at a crossroads. Decisions like this by your government simply appear to be out of touch with the thinking of many who are concerned about the environment, the viability of the industry and the integrity of decisions being made by your government. You might want to seriously reconsider some of these decisions. After all loggers and tree-huggers do tend to vote!
Until next time.
|The Flying Shingle, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada ~ editor@FlyingShingle.com||Web design: Innovative Illusions (Paul Rudyk) ~ webmaster@FlyingShingle.com|