Category Archives: CanWest

Politics, Re-Spun on Coop Radio, 3.1.10: an Olympics Hangover Analysis with Budget Previews

Imtiaz Popat on “The Rational” and I, along with former Green Party Vancouver Parks Commissioner Roslyn Cassells talk about the Olympics, democracy, protest, animal welfare, and a provincial and federal budget coming up this week.

The audio is weak in places, but the discussion is strong!

The video podcast of the conversation lives at Vista Video.

You can watch it in Miro, the best new open source multimedia viewing software:


You can watch it in iTunes: itpc://


The podcast file is at


Agents Provocateurs Launch Olympic Torch Relay?

Agents provocateurs were outed at the FTAA protest in Montebello in August 2007. I expect they’re at it again in BC on the first day of the Olympic torch relay, this time with marbles.

The huge contingent of police officers watched as the group blocked traffic in several major intersections and even threw marbles at the feet of horses used by the Vancouver police mounted squad.

Victoria police spokesman Sgt. Grant Hamilton said “restraint was the order of the day” Friday night, explaining that officers did what they could to keep the peace. There were no torch-related arrests in Victoria Friday, Hamilton said.

via Protesters crossed ‘moral line,’ angry torchbearer says.

Let’s start with initial media reports of protesters throwing marbles on the ground in front of or at the feet of police horses.

Then we hear of reports from the protesters and observers that no protesters threw marbles.

Then as of 4pm yesterday, CanWest stories of protesters accusing police of throwing the marbles, on at least the Ottawa Citizen and Victoria Times-Colonist websites, are “not available.” Maybe they’ll return again.

At this stage, it’s unclear who threw marbles, or if they were thrown at all. Civil liberties observers saw no marbles at all.

At this stage, we have ambiguity.

Those who like to believe the police and the $1b VANOC security force are good people who would never lie or entrap or discredit protest can shake their heads at the mean protesters who want to kill horses.

But anyone who paid attention to the FTAA meetings in Montebello, Quebec in August 2007 knows that protesters caught on film 3 police officers dressed as protesters, with faces covered and rocks in hand prepared to incite violence.

If you weren’t one of the almost half a million people to watch the footage, you can see it here.

Within days the Quebec government admitted the masked men were police officers.

And from VANOC’s perspective, that was probably a critical error in their game plan. Don’t admit anything, then the ambiguity allows people who lean your way anyway to believe the dastardly deed was actually committed by the protesters.

So we start with marbles and as the quote above indicates, stoking public sympathy by talking about police retaining order and restraint, keeping the peace and making no arrests.

You can be sure that if the marbles came from the Olympic security forces, the next action from agents provocateurs will take advantage of this goodwill they’re building in the public to step up their interventions.

Ambient Media Has Now Killed Off Broadcast Media

Time of death: 11:14pm, Saturday, August 15, 2009. And I’m qualified to call it because of how media works today. See below if you don’t get it yet.

This clip above is the most important 4 minutes and 23 seconds of the rest of your 21st century. Watch it.

If you’re like me, much of the data in this piece will be new to you and somewhat astonishing. I had to pause it a few times because I don’t read as fast as young people today, I suppose.

If it’s not all new, it’s because you likely already get how communication will exist for the rest of the 21st century.

Simply: linear consumption of communications, broadcasting, is gone.

We are in a 3D world of ambient information and simultaneity.

Get up to speed or be left in the 20th century.

One-way broadcasting via TV, radio and newspapers to passive recipient consumers is dying fast.

Newspaper circulation is declining rapidly. Soon we’ll see cable TV subscriptions declining fast as information is just everywhere.

I have virtually no need for subscriber TV anymore. The half dozen shows I watch are available for downloading in less than 20 minutes from torrent sites within hours of their broadcast on the east coast. And half the shows aren’t available in Canada without delays of months. I don’t like to wait.

News is online. Hockey? I’m still working on that one. When I figure it out, out goes my cable TV subscription for good.

The internet is a crucible now, it always has been. It is forming new means of communication. Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube have survived the burning. New forms will continue to emerge as the new printing presses. When they become ubiquitous, newspapers, TV and radio will finish their tailspin.

I spent many of the last 12 months working up a design to convert some of my editorials into op-eds for community newspapers. I have written recently how community papers are newly critical in sustaining democracy. I still believe this, but I’ve altered my sense of time about this.

Community papers are still generally owned in blocks by media oligarchs. We’re seeing daily newspapers and regional TV stations dying. We’ll see media oligarchs suffer at the core some more.

Community papers won’t have a chance to become critical for democracy until the current ownership mode burns out, leaving new forms of democratic communications to emerge as a phoenix rising out of putrid ashes.

But along side concrete [as opposed to electronic] media in the future, the wired world of ambient media will define a new relationship of information. Community papers of the future will not be so linear and broadcast as they are now. They will be more vibrant and interactive…as much as that can happen through periodical publishing on paper.

So, hold on to your crash bar for the wild ride ahead. And you can join me on the deathwatch of the CanWest media chain as today their stock price is at $0.14. Click on the 5y chart to see how they’ve fallen. All they are is biased, right wing TV, radio and newspapers and some lame web portals, all pretending to be objective because their model is pre-post-modern. They are a dinosaur stumbling over a cliff. I will not miss them and I will toast their demise as I welcomed the departure from this earth of Milton Friedman and Pinochet.

And what I’ve learned tonight is that I can’t convert a media activity in the 3D ambient media world into a 2D linear, broadcast media world by sending my editorials into community papers.

I can’t yet imagine how the future of media will look. I’ve never understood “the medium is the message” as fully as I do now, but I also know that in 5-10 years I’ll understand it far more profoundly as the internet crucible continues burning.

I must go spray some kerosene on the fire now. Join me?

Canadians Need a Real Education in Politics

Ipsos/CanWest just released a poll that shows that Canadians need far more education about how politics is supposed to work in a parliamentary system.

Here’s what they found [see below for some of the ambiguous juicy quotes]:

  1. a large minority think Igg would do a better job of running the country
  2. a slim majority think parliament isn’t working
  3. a slim majority think Harper is doing a good job of managing the issues

The conclusion from Ipsos? Most support Harper and are wary of Igg, so they don’t want an election.

That’s the best they could hobble together from the ambiguous data available.

Here’s the real answer that also supports the inconclusive data: Canadians don’t understand the relevance of the following–majority governments, minority governments, what parliament is supposed to do, what de facto coalitions do, what real coalitions could do, why majority governments are tyrannical, and how “issues that are most important to Canadians” have anything to do with the operation of government…especially minority governments.

The two parties that have governed Canada, with the polling firms and corporate media are incapable and uninterested in properly informing Canadians about the parliamentary system and all the other features of how politics actually occurs in Canada.

Why? They have a vested interested in manipulating perception for electoral purposes.

Democracy, informed civic participation and intelligent planning for the short and long term future are not the object of the Liberal Party, the ReformConservative Party, the polling firms and the corporate media.

When people start to learn about why we are being so poorly represented by the governing establishment, we have an actual hope of making democracy work while we watch the perfect storm of peak oil, climate breakdown and the implosion of neoliberal capitalism and globalization.

Education is the key.

Without it, we are at the mercy of people continuing to jerk us around.

The polling Ipsos paradox:

While many (53%) Canadians ‘agree’ (21% strongly/32% somewhat) that ‘our parliament isn’t working’, a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of Canwest News Service and Global Television reveals that a majority (53%) ‘agrees’ (20% strongly/34% somewhat) that ‘Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are doing a good job of managing the issues that are most important to Canadians and should continue to govern’.

via Majority (53%) Say Harper Conservatives Doing ‘Good Job’ and Should Continue Governing as Only 39% Believe Ignatieff Liberals Would Do ‘Better Job’.

Why the BC NDP Lost the Election

The BC NDP hasn’t joined the 21st century. Because of that, we missed a chance to pivot British Columbia into a healthy social, economic and political future.

The BC NDP entered an existential crisis 6 days ago. This election loss, a voter turnout shamefully below 50%, the loss of meaningful electoral reform: all these things were preventable with some vision and observing how the world is broken today and what new ideas are required to fix it.

The NDP missed all that and we’ll all suffer for it. And while there are a myriad of reasons to explain the loss, here are some key issues.

Why the NDP was a viable party for government

I read the policy book. There was solid work in there. And I know most citizens would never read it, but many of its highlights made it into the campaign, though without the earned media the Liberals knew they’d enjoy.

I’ve watched Carole James grow as an effective speaker, debater and government critic in question period for over 5 years, particularly in the leaders debate. The knives haven’t come out yet and they may not.

We laid out sound arguments as to why Gordon Campbell is destroying the social, economic and political fabric of the province, its most vulnerable, its reasonably vulnerable and–let’s face it–the poorest 95% of the province.

The public had the opportunity to toss the government out in favour of a hopeful replacement.

Where the NDP failed

The economy

The NDP, though, while marginally mentioning the lousy economy in the last 2 quarters did not want to pin anything on the Liberals because talking about the economy meant letting the Liberals punch the notion that the NDP can’t manage the economy. The NDP didn’t go into how Gordon Campbell’s neoliberalism has caused the global recession we are in. The NDP didn’t spend the last 8 years trotting out the data of both a marginal and significant budget surplus in its last 2 budgets before Campbell took over.

The party may not actually have solid economic advice, though at times I see signs of it. There is no shortage of capable economists and political economists in the party and the country who are progressive. Does the party hear them? Do their suggestions carry weight? If so, why won’t/can’t the party promote this vision of an economy that serves people and not global capital? Is the party really economically progressive or just blandly centrist? Members who aren’t bland centrists are tired of a party that isn’t at the forefront of re-framing a local, provincial and global economy.

Policy opportunism

The Liberals’ carbon tax was awful. It was designed to be matched with income tax cuts, which is sound green economics, but only at the start. Thus, it will become a regressive tax. That made the carbon tax part of Campbell’s cynical, greenwashing PR stunting designed to let him shake hands with Al Gore and the Terminator. It inadequately deals with rural British Columbians without access to the transportation alternatives I have in Vancouver. And it is woefully inadequate to stop the threat of climate change.

The NDP opposed it because it polled well to oppose it. While some of the above arguments had some play, their profile was never high enough.

Policy opportunism is all about committing to something that will wedge you above the government. It isn’t about doing what is right. Right would be to look at the massive interventions in our society we need to do to remove carbon from our energy paradigm. Or else. Even Al Gore is calling for the USA to be off carbon in just over 9 years, not just a little down on carbon.

The right approach for the NDP would be to take the lead in starting a dialogue in creating a 21st century green economy. That didn’t happen. I fear that would be too radical. When the Arctic ice melts a few summers from now, all notions of “too radical” will be moot.

It also didn’t happen because the party chose to support doing anything to the Port Mann Bridge for no reason except to keep or gain seats in Surrey with people who want to commute by car into Vancouver. There appeared to be no other reasons.

It also didn’t happen because the party chose to support the Gateway project for some reason. Trying to make global capital like the NDP? Maybe. Pandering to construction unions? Perhaps, but there are greener infrastructure projects than that. And global capital will never support the NDP, no matter how much they leap towards some “middle.” As it is, global capital is struggling with its own problems: the perfect storm of a neoliberal recession, and imminent peak oil and massive climate crises since we aren’t doing everything we can in the last 5-10 years we have left to stop our rapacious economic model from irrevocably maiming our ecosystem.

The NDP’s relationship with media

The NDP paid only token attention to non-traditional media, let alone engaging with citizens. Leaking its platform to CanWest/Global–as if they would ever not endorse Campbell after being his PR department for 8 years, and sinking reams of cash into TV ad buys sadly reflect 20th century large-campaign style sub-contracted politicking. Sub-contracted politicking is all about using mass media to get the message out.

It’s dead. Get on with it. Politics must be about actual people.

Vision Vancouver signed up thousands of new members 12 months ago when the party didn’t even have an identity, solid policy or governing experience because they engaged with people at Skytrain stations and all over with the offer of something new in city politics and a posture of being responsive to people, actual human beings. This was them embracing the Obama bump.

Obama as president has a database of 3 million people he can mobilize on 12 hours notice–all from his human-centred mobilization efforts.

The BC NDP bought 30 second TV ads and expected the party vibe to trickle down to the masses. It didn’t put cash, people and resources into helping members meet citizens who are almost all suffering from Campbell, listen to what they need, then let them know we care about them. The party ignored the citizens of BC on their doorsteps perhaps as much as right wing parties do. Why should they turnout to vote for us?

Throwing STV under the bus

The NDP committed to following the wishes of the electorate in the STV referendum. Many elements of the party, however, were actively and passively trying to destroy electoral reform. Most majority governments in this decade and into the future have not enjoyed and will not enjoy the legitimacy of 50% of the popular vote. If the Green Party supported STV in 2005, they’d likely have seats in the legislature right now.

Voter turnout dropped below 50% last week. Four days of advanced polling did not signify a resurgence in voting, suggesting that change is rolling, but rather people merely organizing their voting time more efficiently. For voter turnout to roll into the shame zone and for STV not to pass is paradoxical. I would think dissatisfaction would lead to a movement to change the electoral system.

Instead Gordon Campbell’s carnage has destroyed hope in anything better, in the NDP as a viable alternative, and in the possibility of civil politics in Victoria. So apathy reigns and it always favours the incumbent.

We now know that electoral reform is a massive, revolutionary act. Its near-success in 2005 can now be explained by people not yet having had a chance to become scared of change.

The NDP’s lack of support for STV was a choice to risk certain suffering under 4+ more years of Gordon Campbell for the hope of earning a majority government now or in 2013 to rule as all majority governments do: without real opposition. Supporting the STV, even though it isn’t the best proportional representation system, means moving away from our horrible first-past-the-post system. It means recognizing that neither of two parties in BC do not–cannot–represent even 50% of the population.

The era of legitimate majority governments is over, federally and provincially. Holding out for more is not only illegitimate, it is also so 20th century.

But there were certainly other factors outside the NDP that helped them lose.

The lie of attack ads

The NPA, the Non-Partisan Association party of conservative voters in Vancouver, is all about not being formally linked to other “partisan” political parties, unlike leftist civic parties. From this lie of lacking bias they hope to gain votes from people looking for that mythical beast: the neutral politician. Similarly, the Republicans in the USA and the Liberals in BC have succeeded in convincing people of the lie of attack ads.

It goes like this: if a party criticizes someone else’s policies or facts of governing, it’s an attack ad. This is garbage, but it has stuck, to the point where people, including Liberal supporters on Facebook, have been calling on the NDP to stop criticizing the Liberals’ policies and results, and offer constructive suggestions for improvement. More garbage. It is irrational to not assess a track record in deciding who to vote for.

Not that there weren’t attack ads in this campaign. The drunk driving premier and other politicians/operatives with criminal charges and driving problems were fair game. And it seems the attack ad rhetoric has play since a solid minority [at least] of British Columbians are fine with twice re-electing a premier convicted of drunk driving.

Maybe that’s a very 21st century thing. Maybe NDP Premier Mike Harcourt [who is now a functional shill for the Liberals] shouldn’t have stepped down over Bingogate in the 1990s.


I was hoping CanWest/Global would go bankrupt 4 months ago. Their stock closed last Friday at 36 cents, down from $15 four years ago. They are going to stop publishing the perennially profit-phobic National Post on Mondays “for a short time” which will likely convert to forever, and now Victoria’s Times-Colonist will lose its existence on Mondays. I still have this gut feeling that the redundant daily CanWest paper in Vancouver [whichever one that is] will close soon, now that the election is over and the Canucks are golfing. People have finally started using the Internet more than newspapers in the USA. Canadian figures are likely similar. Combine that with the global neoliberal recession and we see carnage in print media.

Sadly for us, and the democracy that a free press is supposed to encourage, CanWest/Global still exists. It is impossible to imagine how Gordon Campbell could have been re-elected in 2005 if real journalism were allowed in BC. So CanWest/Global certainly get some credit for keeping the NDP from winning the election last week.

The future of the BC NDP

I joined the NDP 2 years ago. I have been an ardent supporter since Ian Waddell was my MP in Coquitlam 20 years ago. I finally joined because waiting for the party to perfect itself finally seemed futile. So I joined to see if I could help.

I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but there is a long way to go. And I’m not ready to give up on the party after 2 decades until I know it is beyond hope. I will be, however, much closer to abandoning the party as hopeless if the elements that are keeping it stuck in the 20th century are still around in a while.

I spent hours last Tuesday night at the Burnaby Hilton’s NDP party talking to people expressing profound grief and serious irritation at all manner of things. Mostly, people were angry with decisions the party made before and during this campaign. Armchair quarterbacks are legion, but this kind of angst was existential, despite it coming hours after a key election loss.

People want to roll up their sleeves to make sure our party reflects what we need it to. If it cannot enter the 21st century, it will perish with the Socreds, the federal Progressive Conservatives, and the federal Reform/Conservative Party, whose arc is in decline and at the mercy of the federal Liberals’ fundraising health and internal polling.

I’m tired of the rhetoric that we are going to hold the government to account as a strong opposition. The carnage coming from Gordon Campbell over the next 4 years will ignore democratic debate as it has for the last 8 years.

If we cannot remake the party very soon, while it is early in opposition, so that we can show a new face that actually involves citizens and their real and pressing needs, we will have nothing to offer in the next election.

I’ve watched my new MP Don Davies hold a handful of public meetings since being elected just over 6 months ago. It’s effective, open, a tonic for politically cynical citizens and not brain surgery to organize. It’s one model for what it means to talk to people about what they care about and are afraid of, and to hear where they want to feel hope.

And since the NDP has to convince people it can manage the economy, we need to do that by telling people how we’ll make it work for them, not by buying ads on CanWest/Global media and hoping people will give us the benefit of the doubt. We have sound economic policy. It can be improved and our ability to let people know it exists must be a high priority. We simply can’t be afraid of the Liberal rhetoric that we’re bad on the economy, or we’ve already lost the next election too.

In the end, the BC NDP will now take stock of itself, look honestly at the electoral context of 21st century BC and decide it can operate in our actual time. If it can’t do all of that people will leave en masse, especially young people. I guarantee it.

Vindicating Politics, Re-Spun

It was nice to read Allen Garr’s piece last Wednesday in the Courier. It sure helps that he’s one of the handful of good journalists in the province, and this piece shows why.

Essentially, he’s reporting on how national media skipped their fact-checking and trusted a highly biased civic blog that reported completely incorrect information about a new Vancouver manager’s pension. There are a few issues here.

  1. My editorials are highly biased, a bias I state and celebrate. is run by part of Sam Sullivan’s junta, so it’s radically anti-populist and far right wing. I don’t have a problem with biased commentary, though I work hard against their bias constantly.
  2. Bloggers are not held to the same standards as “real” journalists: things like getting fired for making things up, plagiarizing, not checking facts. Blogs can claim, in the end, to be just rants. And while it’s not wrong to report on blog content, anyone who is a professional journalist shouldn’t assume anything on a blog is valid beyond the opinion it is wrapped in. I pay very careful attention to the validity of new facts I introduce in my editorials. Generally I just comment on and analyze other facts, reporting and press releases. “Real” media and public media will need to negotiate some ground rules for interaction and validity in society. The free commuter daily headline papers showthat people don’t want to pay for news anymore, so the business model may be dead regardless of whatever magic media owners try to wield. Public media is here to stay. Democracy can, not will but can, be served by this.
  3. Garr called local television “sloppy and lazy”. He’s absolutely right. Six-second sound bites and everything Neil Postman ever wrote about why the whole medium is anti-intellectual back up his claim.
  4. There needs to be a long, nuanced dance in media circles about the relationship between new and old media. Old media has lost competence and relevance as a check against political power. Its role as a free press in a democracy is shattered from the hyper-corporatization of media models. The CanWest/Global Frankenstein is a spectacular example.
  5. New media, even social networking sites,, my site,,, The Tyee, and many others demonstrate the illegitimacy of the Metro chain of Twitter-sized journalism and what’s become of the dailies lately. Extra sad and pathetic is that while dailies are bleeding out or closing because of owner’s poor financial health, CanWest has recently begun a chain-wide navel-gazing, self-justification exercise about why newspapers still matter. They’re not wrong, but they’re not the ones to lead the charge to save the model; they are the poster-child of the death of the current model of newspapers. More likely, they’re just encouraging investors and the 19 subscribers left not to bail out on their 26 cent share price, down from $12 two years ago. Nevertheless, the navel-gazing is framed like this “In the first of a series we look at the siege mentality that is gripping the newspaper industry as once-mighty publications stop their presses for good.” I predict CanWest/Global will close the Province newspaper in Vancouver after the provincial election. I just have a feeling. Since it’s their redundant daily in Vancouver, it can be euthanized. But the scary thing is if it turns out the not-so-tabloid Vancouver Sun is the expendable brand.
  6. Read more Allen Garr. And Frances Bula, and Charlie Smith, Gary Mason, and Andrew MacLeod and basically everyone at The Tyee. It will make you think that journalism still actually means something. While they operate as intelligent, respectable public journalists, they also address themes and do solid analysis. They aren’t afraid to take a side and show a bias, but they back it up with sound rationale. Most of the lame journalists in the country can’t even do that, or their editors spike their intelligence. Either way, most fail to accomplish meaningful injections of thoughtfulness.

So, do your job as readers and citizens and engage. And when [usually] corporate media cuts corners and sleezes or lazes out, reject them, call them on it and turn to progressive new media. It will refresh your optimism!

NDP 6, Liberals 1, Plus 2 Doses of Fear

The week ended very, very badly for the Liberals, particularly Gordon Campbell, John Les, John van Dongen, Marc Dalton, Laura McDiarmid, Jesse McClinton. These 6 Liberals could provide very good news for the NDP, far more than Ray Lam’s resignation provided for the Liberals.

They now have a scandal cloud over 6 of their candidates, and they’re continuing their policy of unaccountability by not showing up at all-candidates meetings. Add to that a new expectation of a high voter turnout means a week of the NDP trying to manage competing environmental NGO messaging will end with the Liberals in acute damage control all weekend for a fresh face on Monday, but don’t hold your breath on anything fresh from this tired, condescending party.

Let’s review.

The NDP’s Ray Lam resigned his candidacy on Monday because of Facebook pictures with risque content. The hypocritical, no-contest, drunk driving premier disapproves. Eyeballs all over BC roll backwards and fall out of people’s heads. Still, that’s one public perception spin pseudo-“victory” for the Liberals.

Today, we have a total of 6 Liberal candidates with public perception spin crises.

  1. Gordon’s Campbell no-contest plea to drunk driving in Maui in 2003. He never stepped down and has set a standard that appears to be that as long as a Liberal isn’t convicted of doing more than that, they can stay.
  2. John Les, the most recent solicitor general under criminal investigation for wonky dealings while mayor of Chilliwack. He won’t resign his candidacy while he’s not in jail…and then, who knows.
  3. John van Dongen, the current solicitor general gets his driver’s license revoked for excessive speeding tickets and asks the no-contest, drunk driver premier to remove ICBC and Superintendent of Motor Vehicles from his portfolio. He hasn’t resigned his candidacy yet.
  4. Marc Dalton running for the Liberals in Mission turns out to be a homophobe. He hasn’t resigned his candidacy yet.
  5. Laura McDiarmid has 33 driving citations over the last 10 years as a limousine driver, but she won’t resign her candidacy. She excused them by saying her job requires meeting schedules, so little things like laws and safety don’t seem to matter much.
  6. Jesse McClinton won’t resign his candidacy though he pleaded out in a drunk driving incident at what he considers to have been a youthful indiscretion. When he was 26, right. 17 I can understand, but not 26. He’s also the one with the ostensibly non-partisan Facebook event page promoting higher voter turnout on May 12th; “non-partisan” despite the fact that he’s running for the neoLiberals and he’s been having a hard time even pretending to be neutral lately.

So we’re now looking to the Liberals to figure out if their vetting process sucks, or if a certain amount of illegal activity, convictions, homophobia, pleas to lesser charges and criminal investigations are tolerable to the party. Film at 11.

But don’t wait until 11, try this one on from the premier: “I don’t know about everyone’s driver’s record. I can tell you if we said to people, ‘If you have any driving infractions, you are not eligible to run for office,’ we’ll have a pretty small legislature. It is important for people to be accountable for their actions, myself included, I might add .… As far as I know, the tickets have been paid off.”

And we all know what Campbell thinks constitutes accountability.

And it may not be appropriate to ask for resignations from all 6 of these Liberals, or Ray Lam, or two other NDP candidates, Doug Brown and Harry Lali, who have 13 traffic infractions between them. The issue is who deserves to be an honourable member of the legislature. How many speeding tickets is too many? Is drunk driving a deal breaker?

What will play out next week will be some reckoning for the finger-waggers. The Liberals helped Ray Lam resign. Will they accept that standard for themselves? If not, that will hurt their chances in the election. But the scary thing is that it may not hurt their chances. How many criminal convictions will BC Liberal party voters tolerate? I’m afraid the number may be high since they already re-elected their premier.

So this scandal firestorm will take up a certain amount of space next week, but we need to remember two other issues haunting the Liberals: they still won’t show up to all-candidates meetings and an increase in voter turnout will likely hurt them.

The Liberals have a history of not showing up to all-candidates meetings organized by groups hostile to them, so they say. And since there are thousands of those groups, they’ve had a pretty low profile. It’s a clever strategy. Don’t go somewhere if people will attack you when the hit from not showing up is less damaging. 

So what happens when a government funded group holds an all-candidates meeting? The BC Campus Climate Network tried to hold a meeting but couldn’t get confirmation from Liberal or Green candidates, so they had to cancel their meeting. Whoops. Now it looks like the Liberals aren’t at all interested in public participation in democracy during an actual election campaign.

And if this shocks you, try this one on.

BC’s chief electoral officer is predicting an increase in voter turnout on May 12. This is absolutely disastrous for the Liberals since mobilized voters are more likely to vote for change. Apathetic voters expect or are content with the status quo and don’t vote, especially since the Canucks will still likely be in the playoffs.

It has already been clear in recent weeks the increased buzz around this election. Volunteers showing up from all over the place, young and stereotypically apathetic folks are engaged, the STV referendum is polling very high and with public funding is engaging many more with a legitimate alternative to not voting, and there’s the Obama bump. 

You remember Obama. He’s the fellow, a community organizer [like Mel Lehan, taking on Gordon Campbell in Point Grey] who mobilized millions with a vision of hope and reversal of carnage from a neoliberal, unaccountable, right wing government. Does that sound familiar?

His success at mobilizing forced Stephen Harper to call an election before the US presidential election out of fear that a president-elect Obama would negate his chances at a majority government. That happened anyway.

The Obama bump arrived as a rising tide spilling over the 49th parallel, buoying the federal NDP to drastically higher levels of engagement as Canada’s populist party raised more money from more people than the federal Liberals.

Are you seeing the parallels?

So, to sum up. We have a provincial neoLiberal party that wagged its finger at Ray Lam 4 days ago. Now they have 6 candidates under their own morality clouds, their penchant for skipping democracy-enhancing events like all-candidates meetings, and a fear of the expectation of higher voter turnout by the province’s chief electoral officer.

Six scandals to attempt to defuse, fear of all-candidates meetings and a rising voter turnout are the makings of a perfect storm for the Liberals. Next week will be awful for them. Make your popcorn and hunker down for some karmic carnage visiting them. But skip the CanWest/Global media [Global TV, The Vancouver Sun, The Province, The National Post and the Victoria Times-Colonist] since they’re the communication wing of the neoLiberal party. Instead watch CTV, the CBC and read The Tyee, Public Eye Online, Politics Re-Spun, The Globe and Mail, and The Lead Up at the BC CCPA.

Oh wait, the BC Rail corruption trial will start up again about a week before the election. That’s the one that was delayed past the 2005 election! As it is, it will be nowhere near completion before this next election. But you can be sure that every hour that ticks through that trial, there will be evidence or hints at the extend of corruption in the Liberal party around the $1 billion, 999-year lease/privatization of BC Rail.

So while the NDP has endured the brunt of the schism in BC’s environmental movement for the last 2 weeks, it is now the neoLiberals’ turn to turn up their spin and damage control machines. They’ll need a lot of luck, none of which they deserve.

Why Vancouver’s NPA Lost Badly Today

Because I like to make electoral predictions, I guessed that the NPA would elect 5 people to various councils in Vancouver. It turns out I was generous. They got 4 in, unless more official results in the coming days alter that.

This doesn’t really prove that the NPA is dead. Corporate donations will keep the NPA or some future clone alive forever, regardless of the fact that the 4 NPAs elected will likely never cast a meaningful vote in the next 3 years. This is good because I’m quite tired of Ken Denike. But that’s another story. Ask me over a beer at the Public Lounge some time. Even if Kennedy Stewart were right and they were totally wiped off all councils, they’d still be back, strong as ever with their corporate cash.

Here are some of the stories that made for today’s COPE/Vision/Green win, in their order of significance:


North American politics are populist right now. Obama, the rise in the federal NDP, the federal Liberals’ inability to raise more funds from more people than the federal NDP, and the mobilization of people rejecting apathy to join Vision Vancouver–all these show that citizens matter. The NPA is like the federal Conservatives and Liberals: complacent, corporate-friendly parties that have never felt the need to <irony>pander</irony> to human beings for money and volunteer support, while relying on corporate cash to use the media to encourage enough voters to drink their Kool-aid.

The progressive win in Vancouver is a testament to grassroots mobilization. And as much as the Republicans demeaned Obama as being a community organizer, that’s exactly what got him ahead of Hillary Clinton and into the White House, and what got the NPA machine out of Vancouver city hall.

This is also why the BC Liberals’ recent Whistler convention was demonizing the NDP all day, all the time: they’re afraid of being tied in the polls, they’re fiscal neoliberal Milton Friedman worshippers during the biggest global economic crisis in capitalism in a century, they watched Obama get elected and Harper not win a majority [despite calling the election for before the US election, knowing he’ll never get a majority after Obama wins], and they know that even with the soft fascist censorship of Bill 42, they are screwed because they are as unable to mobilize human beings to vote them into a third term in May as the NPA was in recent weeks. [Exhale. Sorry for the long sentence!]

The right always loses to mobilized progressives who get out the vote by shedding the apathy we’re lured into by the cynical right wing. And the provincial NDP just successfully ran its third dress rehearsal for the May 2009 election [working on the federal election, the 2 Vancouver by-elections and the munis]. Obama has a database of 3 million contributors. He will not be throwing that away now that he’s elected. He’ll mobilize it. The NPA and the BC and federal Liberals and Conservatives will never have that. But progressives do.

Red States, Blue States

The map of mayoral votes: can you say red states, blue states?


OK, even with no guarantee of data quality and with some oversimplifications, if you know anything about the rich and poor in Vancouver, this map makes perfect sense. Where do the rich and/or conservative live? Yaletown, Point Grey, south of 16th and west of Main, the bedroom community/pseudo-suburb of southeast Vancouver. No surprise, all red for the NPA. Coal Harbour would go NPA if it weren’t largely filled with empty condos owned by thousands foreigners needing a Vancouver home.

Where do the not so rich or conservative, and/or working class and/or immigrants who didn’t buy their citizenship and/or young and/or single live? Everywhere else, where people outnumber the NPA voters and voted Gregor green.

The $100 Million Olympic Village Elephant

Peter Ladner and so many others commenting on the $100 million problem with loaning the Olympic Village development with our cash still don’t get it. It’s not about how certain things happen in-camera. It’s not about whether councilors were fully informed before voting. It’s not about the privacy of businesses. “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Here’s how. Stephen Harper’s sweater vest didn’t save him from demonstrating how out of touch he is with most Canadians when he said the global economic meltdown is a good time to invest in some bargains in the stock market. Heck, even the CanWest toxic waste machine is laying off 560 workers in part because of the global meltdown and their share price dropping 90% this year. They’re sure a bargain, but the better bargain will be in watching them implode so that we can dilute the corporate concentration of media in Vancouver and Canada with more competition and less autocratic control of news…and, frankly, better jobs for the journalists forced to work for the Aspers.

But the $100 million problem is about how the International Olympic Committee and VANOC are not transparent organizations. They are secret, above democracy, and the IOC is even above countries. They’re designed to be unaccountable to us even though they are spending billions of dollars of our tax money while people die in the streets and on surgery waiting lists. Shameful.

Ladner is so out of touch: “It’s completely irresponsible and ridiculous to think that we could do all this in public and still protect the taxpayer….Why would the Olympics be different? The scope is bigger but the framework of the deal is the same. The city does this stuff all the time — it has done this for years.” But when you mix this repulsion with the secrecy of the Olympics oligarchy, you get one pissed off electorate. Whoops.

And he doesn’t even get the irony about how little the taxpayer is being protected in any of this Olympics deal anyway. The solution would have been to explain how in-camera works, then come out and say that when it’s out of in-camera, they’ll explain to people all the details. No, wait. They can’t do that because of all the Olympics secrecy. That’s the bigger whoops. Like it or not, the city is symbiotically embroiled in the grand, global secrecy regime of the Olympics. Watch your wallets, folks.


Ellen Woodsworth was elected in a very small part from plumping. Plumping works. Some COPE supporters who were frustrated by the nature of the deal with Vision and Green–and others–voted for only COPE members and not for others on the slate from Vision. Ellen Woodsworth got elected to the last city council spot by 1023 votes over Kashmir Dhaliwal [the only Vision candidate for any council to not get elected] as of 10:24pm Saturday night. I doubt all those votes were from people voting for her and avoiding voting for Vision candidates to keep one or more of them from getting more votes than her. But with not too different arithmetic, the plumpers would have made the difference.

Privatized Police

Korina Houghton didn’t get elected to city council for the NPA even though she had a full-page ad in 24hrs on Friday. Part of her plan was to “combat crime through continued support of the ambassador program” meaning the Downtown Ambassadors, the partially city-funded, private pretend cops designed to criminalize the <irony>unsightly</irony> people from business areas. If 11,300 more voters actually wanted a private police force created by business owners and not transparently accountable to the public despite their public funding, she would have beaten Ellen Woodsworth for the 10th spot on council. Thankfully those 11,300 people don’t exist. And while we’re at it, let’s de-fang the Ambassadors and get them back to helping tourists get from the art gallery back to the cruise ship terminal. And I’ll leave out all that business about Kanman Wong’s campaign literature saying one thing in Chinese and another in English. He’s had his political career maimed enough already…remember David Emerson?

Wasting Votes for the Liberals

To the editor,

Regarding “Liberals have a worthy leader in Stéphane Dion” by Fiona Hughes in the October 1, 2008 Courier newspaper:

I appreciate Ms. Hughes’ fine exploration of the toxicity of Stephen Harper as prime minister of a minority government and how awful it would be for the rapidly privatizing Canadian culture if he were to become the leader of a majority government.

The reality, thankfully, is that centre and right-wing Canadians are almost evenly split between the Liberals and Reform/Conservatives and the polling numbers have barely budged since the 2006 election. The USA is similar with a near even split between red and blue state voters.

Because of this voter split and since the Bloc is doing so well in Quebec, we have little chance of seeing a majority government again in the near future, or ever. This is good, since majority governments are inherently tyrannical.

But what Ms. Hughes fails to point out is that Dion’s Liberals lacked integrity and provided Harper a de facto majority government every time they abstained on a vote, allowing the toxic Harper to behave like a slightly moderated autocrat.

And since the Liberal caucus has their knives out for Dion once he doesn’t deliver a Liberal majority, the party’s cohesion has been eroding since the election was called. So a vote for the Liberals is a vote for a fractured party with a conflicted sense of self-identity on the verge of yet another leadership race.

It is no coincidence that the NDP has been rising steadily in the polls and has behaved as the de facto official opposition in the last parliament. When it comes to a party that speaks for Canadians, the NDP has stood up to the Reform/Conservative Party and the Liberals, who have been afraid to crash Harper’s parliament because they were never ready to have an election. They still aren’t, which is why Harper had to crash his own parliament.

And the Liberals still don’t deserve our votes. As much as the Democrats in the USA are Republicans-lite, so too are the Liberals: slightly more socially progressive yet just as fiscally hyper-conservative as the Reform/Conservative party.

And as for voting for Wendy Yuan in Vancouver-Kingsway, there is no hope that the Reform/Conservative Party’s attempt at a candidate will win the riding. He is the president of Reform/Conservative’s Delta-Richmond East constituency, and like Ms. Yuan, doesn’t live in Vancouver-Kingsway, but owns a home in Richmond (though last fall Mrs. Yuan rented an apartment in Collingwood). David Emerson also didn’t live in the riding.

So strategic voting in Vancouver-Kingsway is unnecessary. Vote for the principled NDP and let the Liberal Party continue its implosion because they will not be a cohesive force in the next parliament any more than they were in the last one.

Stephen Elliott-Buckley

The Province Newspaper: Mattress Ads as News

So CanWest’s imperial media used to own 1/3 of the free Metro daily paper in Vancouver. They have clearly learned something from Metro‘s tendency to skip any actual news on the front page and just run an ad because today, The Province decided to mostly skip any news [real, soft or nearly] and run a mattress ad. Maybe they were hoping for bloodshed, terrorism or carnage at the fireworks or the Pemberton rock festival, and receiving none, just bailed and went for dropping the pretense of them actually being a real newspaper and just run an ad, like the flier that they really are.

And after yesterday’s cover reporting “Rock ‘N’ Roll ‘N’ Chaos” without the actual chaos, they have gone one step further to demonstrate their lack of journalistic integrity with a mattress ad.