CUPE still talking, readers push back

School_Bus wik


School buses continue to roll as talks continue with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing bus drivers, custodians, teacher aides, offices staff and crossing guards.

Last week’s column that filled in the blanks about the actual wages and conditions for CUPE employees elicited quite a bit of feedback. One part-time teacher aide in Kelowna scoffed at the description of overtime and callout provisions, saying her district has had an overtime ban in place for years.

I have no doubt that’s the case in most districts. That’s how it happens in the private sector too. The union wins rich contract terms, and the employer cuts staff and hours until they can afford to make payroll.

Most replies were of the government La-La-Land variety. This one from Oak Bay  asserts the notion that wages are low in Third World countries because they lack unions to demand higher wages. (I’m sure the camel herders of the Sahel will be relieved to know that.)

Another from Saanich rejects my comparison between CUPE conditions and those of self-employed people with the usual campus-radical attack on those big bad corporations. All big-box store employees have to do is unionize and presto, they’ll have a starting wage of $18 an hour too.

Others questioned the numbers, overtime rates and sick-day payout provisions. These days everyone not only is entitled to their own opinion, but they create their own facts too. All 60 CUPE contracts with school districts in B.C. are posted here for those who wish to reside in the real world.

The poor man’s prince of pot

larsen dix horgan 4

Here’s Dana Larsen, running for the NDP leadership against Adrian Dix and John Horgan in 2011. He finished a distant fourth after Dix, Mike Farnworth and Horgan, but today the poor man’s prince of pot got a boost toward another run for the NDP leadership.

Larsen’s application to hold an HST-style petition to decriminalize adult simple possession of marijuana was approved by Elections BC today. Larsen conducted a dry run last year to get taxpayer-funded legal advice from Elections BC on his proposed changes to the Police Act, banning use of B.C. police resources to pursue simple possession cases.

Larsen disputed one part of my news report, and it wasn’t the bit about selling seeds for pot, opium poppy, peyote and coca. He demanded a correction, saying there was no video of him driving while under the influence of LSD.

A couple of readers assisted with links to the videos in question. Here’s what CBC’s Terry Milewski reported after Jack Layton booted Larsen as NDP candidate for West Vancouver in the 2008 federal election.

I stand corrected. The video Larsen produced reports him as being under the influence of dimethyltryptamine, another psychedelic drug, while driving and smoking a joint. The LSD and smoking two dozen joints at once were in separate, non-driving sequences.


Did Stewart jump, or was he pushed?

ruth ben fb 4

Here are Ruth and Ben Stewart celebrating a happy moment in a photo posted on her facebook page. A not-so-happy post was added after news broke that her husband was stepping down as Westside-Kelowna MLA, days after winning a second term.

Ruth Stewart later deleted her rant about the “unfair” decision, and posted an apology:

“A few days have passed and time helps put everything into perspective. The last posting was all about me when it really should have been about Ben and the people of B.C. I was angry and hurt which I don’t need to apologize for but I am feeling very positive that everything will work out. No use hanging onto the negative….”

Ever the team player, Ben Stewart stuck to the same line as Premier Christy Clark that there were several MLAs who offered to give up their seats so Clark could run in a byelection after losing her Vancouver-Point Grey seat to the NDP. In his final scrum with press gallery reporters after being sworn in, Stewart repeated that point, but never indicated if he was one of those volunteers.

So, given his wife’s reaction and his own delicate footwork, the question remains: Did he actually volunteer to quit? For that matter, did anyone? One observer tells me that’s not usually how these things go. Generally the chief of staff or one of his minions starts phoning around, inviting people to volunteer. Some did, and Stewart was probably high on the call list.

Clearly the Clark team liked the symbolism of having her represent the constituency held by former premier Bill Bennett, whose son Brad was at Clark’s side throughout the campaign. Announcing the byelection, Clark declared the Kelowna region the “cradle of free enterprise in Canada,” which may have come as a surprise to her new BFF, Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

Full marks to Ben Stewart on this one, in any event. He resigned hours after being sworn in, making himself ineligible for the 15-month severance that goes to MLAs who resign before the election or are defeated. (Clark refunded her MLA severance after inquiries by Times-Colonist reporter Rob Shaw.)

On my facebook page and elsewhere, there were suggestions that Stewart will soon receive a plum government job. Don’t bet on it. A wealthy member of a pioneer Kelowna family, his Quail’s Gate winery is only one of his business interests.


Process is still for cheese, Adrian

Dix ralston 4

I was left with several questions after NDP leader Adrian Dix emerged from his post-election deliberations yesterday to announce yet another review – this one of his historic loss and the party’s future.

One of them was about the party’s evolving pipeline policy. Here’s how Dix analyzed the pivotal event of the campaign, where he inspired the B.C. Liberals’ wordless “weathervane” TV ad:

“Finally, my announcement about our position on the Kinder Morgan pipeline on Earth Day hurt our campaign. The way I made it raised a number of process issues that stuck with us. I hold to the policy I set out on that pipeline. But, plainly, I didn’t handle that issue very well.”

What does he mean by “process issues”? Is his stated intention to stage environmental reviews of pipelines with the sole purpose of blocking projects a “process issue”? He’s still against the expansion of a pipeline that’s been in service for 60 years, and also to tanker traffic that could conceivably end up going out of Washington state? All this without a scientific review, which he doesn’t seem to believe in “in principle,” to borrow a phrase?

One of former premier Glen Clark’s famous quotes was this: “Process is for cheese.”

Smart meter showdown in Hope

This homemade bomb, apparently made with jet fuel, was confiscated by RCMP from a home in Hope Feb. 28. Here’s the full report from the Hope detachment.

File #2013-6338

Home-made device makes electrical dispute explosive!

Hope, BC: On February 28, 2013, around 1:00 PM, the Hope RCMP and the Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment RCMP First Nations Police were called to assist BC Hydro in keeping the peace at a home in the 21900 block of Ross Road.
BC Hydro employees advised that the occupants of the residence were using an illegal meter that had been installed without authorization. After repeated threats of violence towards BC Hydro employees, the utility requested a police escort to the residence to inspect their equipment and install an authorized BC Hydro meter.

Upon arrival, the couple refused to allow BC Hydro access to inspect their equipment. BC Hydro had safety concerns about the couple’s current meter setup as they allegedly removed their original meter and replaced it with an unauthorized meter from an abandoned house nearby. The couple was advised that if they didn’t allow the inspection, BC Hydro would be forced to cut power to the residence.

During conversation with the couple, the man allegedly made indirect threats to officers and BC Hydro employees that if a new meter was installed people could lose their lives and police may have to kill him. The woman became agitated during the incident and was arrested after allegedly threatening to hit and punch the Hope officer. While the officer was escorting the woman to his police car, the woman allegedly assaulted the Hope officer by kicking him.

During the arrest of the female, the man went into his residence and came out with two mason jars containing a blue clear liquid. He was holding an ignitor that was rigged to the jars in one of his hands. The members believed this to be a home-made bomb. Police negotiated with the man who eventually unarmed himself and was subsequently arrested.

“This is an example that shows there is never a routine call for a police officer,” says Staff Sergeant Suki Manj. “Two seasoned officers were faced with a life and death situation and were almost forced to use lethal force to protect themselves and the public.”
“You never know what a person is willing to do over something that may seem trivial to others,” says Staff Sergeant Suki Manj. “In this case, we are glad we were able to resolve this situation without anyone been seriously injured.”

The RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) attended and determined the content of the mason jars was likely jet fuel which was triggered with a BBQ ignitor. The suspected bomb was destroyed at the scene by EDU.

Dean Grykuliak, 46 years old from Hope, has been charged with possessing a weapon for dangerous purpose and two counts of conveying a threat against the two officers. Ella Gutierrez, 48 years old from Hope, has been charged with assaulting a peace officer.

Another day, another unbelievable anonymous e-mail from the anonymous puzzle factory that calls itself “stopsmartmetersbc”.

Third-hand advice from an unnamed police chief? This mysterious crime-fighter allows he has members of Team Tinfoil on the force, and he supposedly offered legal advice that BC Hydro installers aren’t entitled to go on properties displaying signs refusing wireless upgrades.

Here’s the whole blithering mess, minus the lurid coloured type, including reference to an irrelevant court decision from Colorado.

From: stopsmartmetersbc
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 5:12 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: ( update Jan. 22

1) Very important information obtained by a member via a conversation with a chief of police, who has not yet agreed to allow me to give his name. I suggest we all ask our police chiefs how they would respond, and if they agree with this chief:

“I just had a meeting with the Chief of Police in _______ and outlined the current situation with regards to Hydro trespass issues. He was not only aware of the situation but was well informed since several of his police officers and staff were also opponents of the program and had sent in non-consent forms and posted no trespass signage at their homes. Below is what he clearly stated as the position of the Police.

“Hydro has every right to access a customer’s property to read the meter.

“Hydro has no authority to enter any property with the intention of changing a meter to a Smeter if the homeowner has clearly identified their position with signage (do not install and non consent) and under no circumstance would Hydro be entitled to access (for the purpose of installation) if ‘no trespass’ notice specifically outlined the homeowners right of refusal and notice of trespass identifying Hydro or its contractors.

“He advised that any trespass issues by Hydro would be a violation of a citizen’s rights and would be considered to be an unlawful act and that the Police should be contacted immediately. Bravo!

When I asked him about making a citizens arrest and hog tying the perpetrator he recommended not.”

2) Please submit comments, and write to Micheal Vonn at the BC Civil Liberties Association at They could help us in this battle for our rights.

BC Hydro moves to install remainder of smart meters – Customers must comply since opponents lost legal challenge by Bruce Constantineau – The Vancouver Sun – January 22, 2013:

3) Some people are reporting that Corix/Hydro is coming with or saying they will bring the police to force installation. Refusing to allow a meter is not a criminal offense and unless there is any threat of or attempt at aggression, the police should not get involved.

4) In Colorado, a judge has refused to allow extra fees to be charged to those opting out of the “dumb” grid program. Also, please notice the costs that are triple budget for the first 100 homes. In many places, as I expect will happen in BC (if it hasn’t already), costs are double and triple those initially projected. In Hydro’s business plan there was nothing, for example, for increased security of our data and, probably, inadequate costs for storage and maintenance of the huge amount of data that will be gathered. This, again, is typical.

So when the NDP says that nothing can be done because the money has been spent, please remind them that only the first installment has been spent. Much more is yet to come.

5) CTV report:

Many erroneous statements by Cindy “For Sure” about the grid and program that need to be corrected. These devices are not part of the distribution system and will in no way help. They are merely replacing meters that measure usage. The same old powerlines, poles and transformers are distributing power and will continue to fail.

The program CAN work with analogs at homes. Opt outs are allowed and accommodated in programs around the world. Hydro’s program is costing 2-3 times more per meter than anywhere else yet it cannot handle opt out???
Hydro reps are “talking” and “informing”. Not bullying, threatening, harassing??

There are more than 140,000 homes, not 85,000 as reported. Hydro itself gave this figure in reports last week.

6) Article submitted by someone living in Ireland about radiating devices, whether meters or TETRA masts, which Hydro is using. Many good points, one of which is that Dr. William Bailey, of Exponent, a known “product defense company” has been hired by Fortis. Isn’t it odd that such a company known to fight for some of the most unethical products, has been employed by Fortis if these wireless measuring devices are so wonderful?

I have obtained another e-mail from one of B.C.’s leading anti-smart meter organizations. Carefully anonymous, it reaches new heights of hysteria and irresponsible scare tactics, making an earlier rallying cry from Salt Spring Island seem calm by comparison.

Fabricating claims of BC Hydro “storm trooper tactics” and then suggesting people call 9-1-1 isn’t really very smart, but that’s what people on Vancouver Island and elsewhere are being advised.

As usual, there is plenty of inadvertent humour. The harrowing tale of e-mail bounce-backs and unanswered phone calls leads to a touching devotion to the good old technology of sending faxes to politicians. Yes sir, this jihad against “EMF smog,” as some refer to wireless signals, is on the bleeding edge of the 21st Century battlespace.

And of course they suggest recording cell-phone videos of any “bullying” to use as evidence of the evil wireless threat. (I almost don’t have the heart to remind them that their phones are a stronger source than their meters.)

At the end is a heart-felt shout-out to Province columnist Mike “Smythe” that shouldn’t be missed. Here’s the whole incredible screed:

From: stopsmartmetersbc
Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2013 11:53 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: ( Jan 18

Port Hardy has 4 Corix white pickup trucks and 2 small Corix trucks; So here we go. We have to survive 12 weeks until election. Please spread this info all over the province please.
1) This is what is happening – Corix comes first – then when owner turns Corix away, if they comply – the BC Hydro guys are showing up at the door next, even within 30 minutes. Two of them together.

When Corix Hydro guys show up, you have to get their names and badge/id numbers – there appears to be grounds for harassment lawsuits but people need details of the individuals to press harassment lawsuits. They do everything to draw the person into conversation – DON’T TALK TO THEM.

TURN THEM AWAY and state all communication must be in writing. They will keep insisting, but the door has to be closed on them. They will keep talking and keep referring to further contact. People have to say – communicate with me only in writing. DON’T THREATEN THEM, just be unmovable.


IF YOU FEEL THREATENED, CALL 911. Call your area contacts, neighbours. Help others to stand firm, too.
2) We should be calling the Premier, Rich Coleman, MLAs, etc. and encouraging others to do so – complaining about the tactics being used and the fear that is being generated by BC Hydro’s and Corix’s storm trooper tactics. Anger and outrage should be expressed, in a quiet way, so that we don’t sound hysterical, but people are being threatened, police called, etc.
a. Office of the Premier and Cabinet Office: –


Mailing Address:
The Honourable Christy Clark
Premier of British Columbia, Box 9041, Station PROV GOVT, Victoria, BC  Canada  V8W 9E1
b. MLA Finder – Legislative Assembly of BC:

c. BC Government Service, BC Enquiry:

General enquiries
Can’t find what you are looking for?  Have a question about a program or service?
Contact us Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 5pm Pacific Time.


d. BC Government Directory:

3)  People who have phoned have not had much success. Some have been told they must write to the Premier, MLA, and BC Hydro.  As well, there must be real evidence of harassment, intimidation, and bullying.  Video with camera or phone.

4)  Some additional information of how to successfully get through to government officials and, in particular, the Premier’s office:

After hearing lots lately about bounced-back or undelivered emails and refused registered or regular letters to BC Hydro in particular (and other politicians), along with all the phone-calls that go nowhere …

There are only 2 sure ways to know for sure that a document, correspondence or message has been received.

1. FAX
A fax machine gives you a sent/received receipt, and there is no denying it. That is your proof. Let’s get those Fax machines humming all day, every day on this issue. Faxes are treated on a whole different level, apparently, perhaps due to the trackable nature.


See 2) b. above (MLA Finder – Legislative Assembly of BC)  to search for politicians’ FAX numbers.  If you can’t find it, call their office and ask for it. They should not ask why you want it but if they do, tell them you are sending in a support letter. They love that.

Send documentation by courier. Your letter gets put into a general courier pack/envelope and there will be no indication on the outside what it is, so it won’t get refused and will get signed for. The courier company keeps records of receipt and online tracking systems will show receipt info too.

Remember that only a very tiny handful of the current political officials will still be around come May, so our efforts should be directed loudly at Michael Smythe, Provincial Legislative reporter.  Apparently, ALL politicians hang on to every word of Michael Smythe and read his editorials VORACIOUSLY, DAILY and have been doing so for years.

Here’s celebrity environmentalist Tzeporah Berman, in her latest role with Greenpeace International where she is enthusiastically campaigning against the evil “Tarsands” as she calls them. She’s got 3,350 Facebook friends, one less since she unfriended me yesterday.

I got into an argument with her and some of her friends after she posted this dramatic photo from U.S. environmental group and its exhortation to join another march on Washington D.C. against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Regular readers will know I have questioned the single-minded focus of U.S.-funded environmental groups, such as Berman’s various employers, on the Alberta oilsands. I am regularly accused of being a tool of the oil industry or the Harper government, but that’s not really my motivation. I am simply a journalist with a few years’ experience in the petroleum industry and a basic knowledge of chemistry and mathematics. That’s not much of a knowledge base, but it’s enough to see through the systematic misrepresentation of greenhouse gas and conventional pollution impacts from this chosen villain of the environmental movement and its celebrity supporters.

The New York Times quote above refers to a study by Canadian government scientists released on Monday. Here’s a Globe and Mail report on the same study.

The pollution impact of this vast industrial project sounds pretty dramatic. But note the final paragraph of the Globe story, which refers to the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in remote Alberta lakebeds:

PAH levels in all six tested lakes were found to have increased, though only in one are contaminants at urban-lake levels. In that lake, seven of 13 PAHs tested are at a level considered to have the potential for “possible” but not “probable” impact. The other five are “generally comparable to other remote lakes and much lower than” urban lakes, the study concludes.

What this means is that PAH contamination is a product of all fossil fuel use, from extraction to refining to the most significant activity, burning gasoline and diesel in vehicles. That’s why Burnaby Lake has more contamination than a lake near the Athabasca oilsands.

I pointed this out on Berman’s Facebook page, and a lively discussion ensued. A friend of hers began throwing out statistics that simply don’t add up, and Berman weighed in with similar claims. One of her favourite tricks is to drop out the pollution and CO2 impact of the fuel use, which accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the total “well to wheels” emissions. This makes oilsands extraction seem much worse than it actually is.

After I cited a Royal Society of Canada study to debunk her friend’s claim of vast, catastrophic greenhouse gas impact from oilsands development, and pointed out that vehicle emissions in Canada are more than five times the greenhouse gas emissions of the entire oilsands, Berman had had enough. She saw that I had accused her of intentionally misusing statistics to support the popular, donation-attracting, but wrong, idea that stopping Alberta oilsands production will save the planet.

If it was that simple, I’d be in favour of it too. But it’s not. As long as our society depends on oil and coal, other sources of these materials will simply fill the void and Canada’s economy will suffer without significant improvement of pollution or greenhouse gases. That’s a harsh reality, but it’s a reality nonetheless.

You can see the whole exchange here.

How frackin’ dumb do they think we are?

Here’s one of the lesser-known aboriginal blockades in northern B.C. targeting the Pacific Trails pipeline project to bring natural gas to Kitimat, for an LNG project partly owned by the Haisla Nation. While recognized governments of Canada, B.C. and First Nations have approved these projects, a splinter group has mounted a campaign with the help of professional protesters from Vancouver.

(Notice the term “decolonized” that is currently in vogue as Idle No More protests swell in cities, thanks in large measure to earnest but poorly informed non-native campus radicals.)

This week’s column on the U.S. influence in B.C. and Canada’s environmental movement has excited quite a bit of feedback. Regarding fossil fuels, it seems few people are aware of the international business agendas at work here. It’s fine I suppose if corporations want to compete for market share, but when they dress it up as environmentalism and conceal their own role using front groups such as Sierra Club, it doesn’t do much to instil confidence in these self-styled green warriors.

While the urban media cover the staged protests and relay the protesters’ talking points, here’s a look behind the curtain. This link describes how the United Arab Emirates government provided funding so the movie Promised Land could be made.

Here’s one from Vivian Krause documenting Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s “partnership income” from competing pipeline ventures in the U.S., flowed through to efforts by West Coast Environmental Law and Pembina Foundation to oppose the Enbridge project.

And here’s one where the executive director of the Sierra Club admits to accepting $26 million from Chesapeake Energy, one of the U.S.’s largest gas companies, to run a campaign against coal. Michael Brune gamely argues that this was before Sierra discovered the evils of fracking, and tries to make it sound like they refused the dirty gas money, but you’ll notice they didn’t give any of it back.

Some people protest out of well-researched belief. Some do it for the money, and many just follow the crowd.

More reinforcements for West Wing

The arrival of former CTV-CBC-CityTV anchorman Ben Chin to Premier Christy Clark’s office set off the usual round of “crumbling regime” stories here in the capital.

It’s been quite a ride since Clark took the helm from Gordon Campbell, whose long-time press secretary Mike Morton is back to hold the fort along with B.C. Liberal “issues management” stalwart Shane Mills. Chin arrives after mostly un-disastrous service as press wrangler to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. He even showed his Liberal loyalty by standing in an Ontario by-election before relocating to Vernon.

So ends the era of Harper’s “SEAL Team 6,” as the Sto:lo poet Ernie Crey dubbed the arrival of former Harper press secretary Sara MacIntyre and equally short-lived chief of staff Ken Boessenkool. They were supposed to hit the beach, get Clark re-elected and secure the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, or so the theory went.

Sad to report that after Global TV took out MacIntyre in a classic hit piece, the Vancouver Sun decided to drag her body through the street, Mogadishu-style. The Sun’s eminent Vaughn Palmer retailed her plaintive e-mails, supplied by the NDP, in which she asked for a job description and length-of-stay expectations in the wake of her sudden transfer to a ministry communications shop.

Chin is a decent and capable fellow, with a wealth of experience that will come in handy keeping the divas of TV news happy. He can have no illusions about being called in to pitch the ninth inning in Clark’s bid for re-election, the fate of ex-CTVer Chris Olsen or the rest of the evolving communications strategy that has defined the Clark administration.