The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Monday, December 16, 2002

Warren Kinsella blogs!

If you just can't get enough of the most notorious (and possibly hated) political strategist in Canada, then this one's for you. Warren Kinsella, the punk rocker turned Liberal party operative, has added a web log to his personal site. Of course, Kinsella being who he is, he's not just using his blog to communicate his point of view, but he's also showing off some of the hate mail that he gets, and encourages his fans to spread havoc by flooding his critics' e-mail and other such nastiness. There's also a few well-placed swipes at Liberal leadership heir-apparent Paul Martin (duh).

Kinsella probably gets more attention that any other backroom operator in Canadian politics. Some of this is due to his media appearances, and the fact that he's written a few books, most recently Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics, but he also gets under the skin of his rivals. In the last election, the Canadian Alliance actually devoted a portion of their campaign website to attacking him, even though Kinsella himself was not running in the election. This was all fine by Kinsella; the more time the opposition spent attacking him, the less they could spend on Jean Chrétien and the rest of the Liberal Party.

(Kinsella did run for the Liberals in the 1997 election in the riding of North Vancouver. He lost to the elfin Reform-Alliance MP Ted White. Kinsella notes in his defence that North Vancouver hasn't voted Liberal since Mark Raines won in North Vancouver-Burnaby in 1974.)

He's an entertaining sonofabitch, that's for sure. Now, if only James Carville would start blogging...
More on the Olympic referendum

(but not a neverendum)

Last Thursday morning, Vancouver city council finalized the question for the city's referendum (sorry, plebiscite) on the city's participation in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games bid. There will be one question:

Do you support or do you oppose the City of Vancouver's participation in
hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games?

_____ YES, I support the City of Vancouver's participation.
_____ NO, I oppose the City of Vancouver's participation.

Pollster Evi Mustel of the McIntyre and Mustel public-opinion research firm, praised the question as "really balanced." That's in sharp contrast to a referendum held earlier this year by the provincial government on First Nations treaty negotiations. The eight positions that the government put forward to voters were leading and biased. Legendary pollster Angus Reid, whose polling firm became the "Reid" in Ipsos-Reid, called the provincial treaty referendum's questions "one-sided and amateurish."

The criticism of the city's referendum continues to pour in. The fact that the city's more conservative commentators are opposed to the city's plebiscite is a given; they generally support the bid without reservation. Vancouver's council is also dominated by left-leaning councillors, and the shots that they've taken from the right would have been fored over something else even if there vere no vote on the Olympics.

Reid's criticism is more nuanced. For him, it's inappropriate that a city that makes up one-eighth of the province's population, and indeed only a quarter of the Lower Mainland's, is effectively deciding the Games' fate in Vancouver. He's right on that count. While the vote is not legally binding on the bid committee -- something that Mayor Larry Campbell admitted back in September when he made the promise to hold a referendum on the Games -- a No vote would sink the bid in the eyes of the international Olympic Committee delegates. A strong Yes vote, on the other hand, would strengthen the bid.

Reid's pont that referenda and elections are always about more than the question or choices on the ballot is well taken. He used the exampe of recent Congressional elections in the U.S. Even in last month's Vancouver civic elections, the election was not so much about who was most fit to sit on council, but it had turned into a stuggle over whether a bold, activist government or the caretaker approach was more appropriate. There was also the issue of the provincial government. The incumbent council was closely linked to the provincial Liberal government, a government whose actions in its first 18 months of office had not been well received. Reid is concerned that an Olympic referendum might turn into a proxy vote on provcincial elections, as many municipal votes in B.C. are. If the provincial government gets involved in the Yes side, will there be a backlash to boost the No forces?

It's worth looking at. To give Reid credit, his criticisms of the referendum aren't partisan, but those of a man who has spent much of his life taking the public's pulse. He denounced the Native treaty referendum. As for those who are against the Vancouver Olympic referendum, but who have loyally supported the provincial government, even in its referendum attempts, I have this for you:

Here's the dilemma: One of your campaign promises was to hold a poll, be it a plebiscite or referendum, on how the government is to proceed on a particular issue if you are elected. Critics denounce your referendum plans as unworkable, too late, and that the plans for a referendum puts the progress that you've made so far at risk. As a matter of fact, the issue is one that many other governments, at different levels, have a stake in. Prior agreements between governments, legal precedent, and various laws on the books indicate that the results of the referendum will have little or no weight. No matter. The idea of a referendum is popular with your base, and especially with a particular cross-section of the base. No way in hell do you alienate them. Come election time, you win in a landslide, taking all but two seats.

For a lot less money, you can get data that is statistically valid and therefore useful in decision-making by hiring a professional public opinion research firm to conduct a phone survey. However, the phone survey is not seen by the public to be visible, and if you take the cheap and effective route, your opponents and some of your supporters will accuse you of flip-flopping on the issue and not taking the real, legitimate way to measure public opinion, which is to have every eligible voter vote. So you swallow the bill and go with a poll of every eligible voter, even though it's not conducted in the way that you would conduct an election, or a referendum that coincides with a general election.

Does any of this sound familiar? Everything that I've written in the above two paragraphs applies to the Vancouver Olympic plebiscite as well as the BC treaty referendum.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Addendum at the Front.

Seems that a Scrum reader was a bit concerned about my characterization of Vancouver Sun editor-in-chief Neil Reynolds as a "cranky libertarian." Well, he's certainly a libertarian. He's also a unique character. Some have called him "iconoclastic." Not long after he was appointed Sun editor-in-chief, he gave a presentation to some UBC journalism students about what e thought that a newspaper was, and should be. It was pretty interesting. How many people would think of a daily paper as a chaos-loving journal of moral conduct? Or, for that matter, that former Southam News overlord Conrad Black, known for his propensity for cutting editorial staff, saved journalism in Canada?

Anyway, here was my brief response to the concerned reader:

I'm certainly not the first person to ever call Neil Reynolds cranky. A few other media critics have said the same, so has Frank Magazine (actually, they called him a loony.) He's not all bad, though. I've met the guy; it's true that the initial impression that he gives is that of a man in a stupor, but beneath that facade lies quite the intellect. While you certainly did have to be of the libertarian-right persuasion to be an editor in the Conrad Black era at Southam News (and truth be told, the Izzy Asper era), you couldn't be unintelligent and expect to hold your job for too long.

(of course, in the Izzy Asper era, you might do well to follow Head Office's lead on editorial policy.)

Reynolds actually the leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada in 1982-1983, in between stints editing the Kingston Whig-Standard. Reynolds did run in a 1982 by-election in the eastern Ontario riding of Leeds-Grenville, where he polled third, with a respectable 14% of the vote -- not bad for a "fringe party." Both he and Marc Emery of Hemp BC and Marijuana Party fame were quite active in the party's Ontario wing: Reynolds, in places like Kingston, while Emery organized for the party in London. The old brothers-in-arms (or whatever it is that fellow libertarians call themselves) did lock horns in the 2002 municipal elections. Emery complained to anyone who would listen that Reynolds was not giving his old pal the coverage that Emery thought that he deserved. Reynolds made no secret, though, that his paper and its coverage would focus mainly on what were thought to be the three main contenders for the mayor's chair.

In the end, Reynolds was more or less vindicated. In the final results, Emery finished in fifth place, behind newcomer and relative unknown Raymond Chang. Emery only got 2014 votes, despite his fairly high name recognition and sizable-for-an-independent campaign budget. Does coverage make a candate a contender, or do contenders command the coverage? Well, I'll tell you this much: unless you've got an unusual editorial slant, or you've been assigned to report on the fringers, you tend to spend most of your time on those that you think have a decent shot at winning. That's politics.
Izzy, Mills kiss and make up

Not quite.

CanWest Global, publisher of most of Canada's leading daily papers including the Ottawa Citizen, has reached an undisclosed settlement with former Citizen publisher Russell Mills. Mills, who had been the paper's publisher since 1986, was sacked this past June after he had the temerity to run an editorial calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Jean Chretien without first having the editorial approved by CanWest headquarters. Chretien is a close friend of CanWest controlling shareholder Izzy Asper. Asper has been getting a bit of a reputation as a manipulator of his media holdings; forcing his papers to run the same editorials on national issues and not tolerating any dissent on the editorial page.

Mills himself was no protector of editorial independence himself. Back in 1996, Mills was summoned to meet with Conrad Black, who had just purchased the Citizen. Black, a staunch conservative, was displeased with what he perceived to be a soft left slant in the paper, and wished to get rid of the lefty riff-raff, including Mills. Mills pled his case with Black, and kept his job after promising to gas then-editor Jim Travers and editorial page editor Peter Calamai, and to replace the two with cranky libertarian Neil Reynolds (now editor of the Vancouver Sun) and strident conservative John Robson. However, Mills's firing turned him into the cause celebre of press freedom in Canada.

Mills got the last laugh: he accepted a visiting professorship at Harvard, an institution that I suspect has a little more prestige than the Ottawa Citizen.

(Izzy sez: Oh yeah? Well, it's not like he got a full, tenured professorship. Those visiting seats are a dime a dozen. So there.)

DISCLAIMER: May not be actual words of anyone nicknamed Izzy. Not valid when combined with any other offers. Void where prohibited, which is pretty much anywhere but the Cayman Islands. Possibly void there, too. Use at your own risk. Just like Microsoft products. Oops. Better take that back. Microsoft is good. Why would you need to use anything that's not Microsoft. If you disagree, there's something wrong with you. Is that okay now, Bill?

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

'Mr. Campbell, what are you smoking?'

... so says NDP leader Joy MacPhail in response to a letter that Gordon Campbell wrote to the New York Times that claimed that British Columbia had more old-growth forest than it did 100 years ago.

Campbell's letter came in response to a Times article that noted that the depletion of coastal rainforest habitat has threatened native species including the spotted owl.

MacPhail said that even a sixth-grade student would know that there can be no more old growth forset now than there was 100 years ago in B.C.

Premier Campbell has been under attack for his government's approach to environmental protection. The Campbell government's plans call for more industry self-regulation and voluntary compliance with standards for habitat protection and resouce extraction in environmentally sensitive areas.
Olympic Vote a Go

In their first regular meeting since being sworn into office, Vancouver city council has voted to hold a plebiscite on the city's bid for the 2010 Olympic winter games. Voters will express whether or not they support the Games on Febrary 22, 2003.

Council chose the option of holding a city-wide poll with voters registering on the day of polling, instead of a formal referendum. The plebiscite is estimated to cost $538,000, which is far more than what Mayor Larry Campbell had estimated during the 2002 civic election campaign.

Before the civic election on November 16th, mayoral candidate and former city councillor Jennifer Clarke had warned that holding a vote on the Olympics would cost as much as $700,000, and aclaimed that Vancouverites already supported the bid. Clarke had argued that if city council wanted to poll Vancouverites on their support for the Olympics, it could be done through a polling company for less that one-tenth the cost of a referendum. City staff had presented this as an option to council; however, it was rejected by the nine-member Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE)majority on council.

Claiming that an election promise was a promise, Mayor Larry Campbell and the rest of the COPE memmbers on council voted in favour of the plebiscite over the objections of Non-Partisan Association (NPA) councillors Peter Ladner and Sam Sullivan. Sullivan and Ladner argued that the plebiscite was an unnecessary expenditure of money and would only threaten the Olympic bid. The two members of the NPA minority also argued that the vote should have been held about four or five years ago, when the bid process was getting underway.

The counter-argument is that the full information on the 2010 bid is only now coming to light. The official bid book has not yet been released; it is scheduled for January 3, 2002. When he first promised to hold a referendum on the Olympics, Larry Campbell said that it would only be held after the full bid book was released. The late February date is about two weeks before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegates visit Vancouver in preparation for the vote to award the Games which is scheduled for July 2003. There had been some concern expressed that holding the referendum during the delegates' visit could leave a negative impression on delegates; mow, when the delegates visit, the results will be known and the campaign, and any potential nastiness, will be over.

The concern that a referendum, regardless of its outcome, would threaten the Vancouver Games bid has been expressed in other quarters. Federal heritage minister Sheila Copps warned last month that a referendum would undermine the International Olympic Committee's confidence in Vancouver's commitment to the Games, and could convice delegates to vote for one of the competitor cities vying to hold the games.

A referendum earlier this year in Berne, Switzerland effectively killed the city's bid for the 2010 Games when nearly 80% of the canton's residents voted against public funds being used to promote the Games bid. Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, are the other two cities that have been shortlisted to host the Games.

Earlier Tuesday, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell reaffirmed his support for the Games bit at a Vancouver Board of Trade leadership workshop. He was joined by Utah Governor Mike Leavitt who said that if his state was given the chance to host the Games again, he'd support it "in a heartbeat."

Gordon Campbell, no relation to the Vancouver mayor, has long been a booster of the 2010 Games bid. For the Premier, the people of B.C. spoke their support for the bid in last year's provincial elections when they swept his Liberals to power in a landslide. Campbell is also quick to point out that the Games bid is not his party's baby; indeed, it was former premier Glen Clark who was one of the Games' biggest boosters in the bid's early days.

However, Vancouver voters also voted in a majority on city council for the Coalition of Progressive Electors, a party whose candidates had expressed their commitment to have a vote on the bid all throughout the campaign.

Mayor Campbell has maintained that he personally supprots holding the Olympics in Vancouver, but that a referendum is necessary. Other members of his party on the council are not as wholeheartedly supportive. Newly elected councillor Jim Green had been one of the main players in the Impact of the Olympics on the Community Coalition (IOCC), a group that some cynics suspect is really opposed to the Games being held in Vancouver. Certainly, the IOCC has enumerated a litany of concerns about the Games' impact on Vancouver, especially on the city's poor.

There are others, though, who do outright oppose the Olympics, led by local activist Phil LeGood. Expect to see the yes, no, and je-ne-sais-quoi sides to duke it out heavily, and for the Games' well-financed backers to mount a spirited campaign in the next two-and-a-half months before the vote is held. If there's anything that the Games' boosters and Larry Campbell can agree on, it's that a strong "Yes" vote would send the message to the Olympic delegates that Vancouver, and its residents, are serious about the commitment to host the 2010 Winter Games.


City of Vancouver report on gauging Vancouverites' opinion on the Games bid

Vancouver 2010 Olympic bid committee

Impact of the Olympics on the Community Coalition - this site is run by a small business operator in Whistler who woders what impact the Games will have in the years leading up to the actual Games.

Salzburg Games website

2010 Pyeongchang

Sunday, December 08, 2002

"It's not our fault we're morally superior to U.S.!"

... so says Richard Gwyn in today's Toronto Star. I guess that he agrees with the old saw that while Americans are arrogant, Canadians are smug -- only there's nothing wrong with that. According to Gwyn, Canadians have every right to be so. That ought to get Canada's conservative critics, who generally want top remake Canada into a place indistinguishable from the united States, foaming at the mouth, or dismissing this piece as the insans ramblings of an old "sociaist/Marxist/collectivist/totalitarian/whatever." Over to you, John Ibbitson.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

In today's Vancouver Sun, provincial-affairs columnist Vaughn Palmer draws parallels between the Campbell governm;ent's enthusiasm for the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Olympic bid and the previous NDP government's commitment to buliding three fast ferries for service to Vancouver Island. The ferries, of course, were a technical and financial flop: the vessels never performed well and were unreliable, and the project's cost ballooned from $210-milllion for 3 vessles to $448-million in the end. The ferries were withdrawn from service and put up for sale; a buyer has never been found.

Needless to say, Palmer's pushing some hot buttons when he compares the Olympics to the fast-cats. However, he points out that the projections about the Games' costs to taxpayers and their economic benefits are educated guesses at best.
The facts about Ralph's World

Conventional wisdom has it that Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is the king daddy the Canadian New Right. Klein is porttrayed as the guy who slashed taxes and spending, slimmed down government and generally fulfilled the deepest wishes of groups like the National Citizens' Coailition, the Fraser Institute, or the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

In the latest National Post Business magazine, Andrew Nikiforuk deconstructs the myths about Klein and his programs. Nikiforuk is that rarest of species: a journalist in Alberta with a backbone, one who is willing to question Albertan conventional wisdom.

My personal favourite myth is that Klein's a tightwad with tax dollars. Klein cut spending when he assumed office in 1992, but since then, Alberta's program spending has gone back to being the highest in the nation (PDF). The province's total spending is the third-highest in Canada, behind Prince Edward Island, and just behind that of Quebec, a province which is known for its overarching government that includes such things as the Department of Ensuring that Margarine is Not Coloured Yellow. Scrap that myth, eh.

So how can Alberta spend like that and yet have very low personal taxes, and no sales tax? Simple: Alberta is in a fiscal fantasyland that other provinces can only dream of. Oil and gas royalties pump up the federal coffers, sometimes amounting to as high as $7-billion in a year! Corporate expansion has increased corporate tax income by nearly a billion dollars annually since 1992, which allows the government to lighten its load. This allows Alberta to have low taxes and well-funded public services. There's also the small matter of user fees, which generate plenty of revenues. Alberta, along with B.C., is the only province to have monthly health premiums, which are the same every month, whether one earns $30,000 a year or $300,000. It's a head tax, surely the most unfair and regressive form of taxation out there.

For other provinces to try to emulate Alberta's tax rates, they have to slash and burn like Alberta never really had to. Ontario cut spending to the bone in order to cut taxes to Alberta's level; now, the Ernie Eves government is backing away in response to public pressure. (Walkerton didn't do wonders for the small-government boosters in Ontario, either.) User fees and hidden costs are also the rule. Sure, the tax rates are lower, but the government will extract itsd money one way or another.

British Columbia is trying to have an Alberta-style tax regime without having Alberta's resource revenue. Now, the provincial government is running into that nasty old reality: B.C. isn't Alberta, and what worked there may not work here. The provincial Liberals claimed that the previous government were free-spenders, an impression reinforced by the fast-ferry boondoggle and the Skeena Cellulose bailout -- a bailout of a pulp mill that was only margianlly viable. The truth is that the last NDP government budget called for the fourth-lowest per-capita spending of any Canadian province, and that's according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a group that could hardly be called a friend of the previous government. Indeed, the CTF's former B.C. mouthpiece, Mark Milke, wrote a book savaging the NDP regimes in B.C., although the criticism was more over ideology than anything: Milke is a proud neo-conservative, and hasn't seen a government that he finds sufficiently stingy.

Ralph's world, eh? Maybe it's more of a fantasy world than anything else...

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Happy birthday, Strom...

The senior, senior, very senior indeed Senator from South Carolina hits 100 on Thursday. The Economist takes a look at his sexual prowess, his role in bringing the South to the Republicans, and his controversial career, and his current fragile and foggy state as he enters the last month of his time in the Senate.

“When he dies, they'll have to beat his pecker down with a baseball bat to close the coffin lid”
Bruce Little of the Globe and Mail untangles some of the lies being spread in the debate over health care. The provices say that the feds only pay 14% of the cost of providing health care; the feds say otherwise, and just what the hell was the original share of health care spending when Medicare became a national program in Canada, anyway? Read it and weep/laugh/roll your eyes in the back of your head.
School Board spanks Education Minister

The first order of business for the newly-sworn-in Vancouver School Boards was not to deal with cuts to the inner-city schools program, or anticipated funding shortfalls, but to give Education Minister Christy Clark a vote of no confidence. Hardly unexpected, really. The new board, dominated by the left-leaning Coalition of Progressive Electors, plus a Green Party member who was endorsed by the House of Labour, was bound to deal aggressively with B.C.'s right-leaning provincial government; it was only a matter of time.

Earlier this year, the COPE members on the schhol board had attempted to pass a similar motion, but the then-majority Non-Partisan Association, whose members are closely tield to the provincial Liberals, defeated the motion.

It will be interesting to see if the new city counmcil adopts a similarly aggressive tack against the provincial government, or whether they will try fopr a more cooperative approach.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Unparliamentary language alert!

From the National Post...

Jim Pankiw, a controversial independent MP, has been banned from addressing the House of Commons until he apologizes for calling Members of Parliament who support bilingualism "modern-day Klansmen."

Just in case you were wondering why even the Canadian Alliance didn't want this guy back in caucus. Pankiw, who has made several inflammatory comments about the federal government's bilingualism policy during his time in Parliament, was one of 13 Alliance MPs who left the party temporarily during the Stockwell Day leadership follies last year. All of the dissident Alliance members were allowed back into the fold following new party leader Stephen Harper's election last year, with the exception of Inky Mark, who decided to join the Progressive Conservatives, and Pankiw. Alliance leader Harper said back in July that it would not be in the best interest of his party to allow Pankiw back into caucus. There's more proof as to why...
Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, who led the party to its best-ever election results, explains why he has endorsed Jack Layton's bid for the leadership of the federal NDP.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Richmond Squirms

Claude "the Fraud" Richmond, B.C's esteemed Speaker of the Legislature, is continuing to insist that Terminal City weekly journalists tow the party line when it comes to covering the provincial Legislature. Richmond has refused to accredit the two to cover the Legislature for fear that to do so might enable them to write articles that bring the Legislature into disrepute.

From today's Vancouver Sun story linked above:

Richmond said Tuesday he will allow a reporter from an alternative Vancouver newspaper into the press gallery only if he agrees not to denigrate parliament.

And it goes on...

"All I'm getting at is that even reporters should have some respect for this institution, and decency," Richmond said, acknowledging he may not have the legal power to ban specific reporters based on their writings. "I might seek legal advice."

Here's some advice, Claude, or is that Mr. Speaker: Let 'em in. The Legislature has been in operation since British Columbia was established as a British colony in 1858, and has survived the of the likes of Amor De Cosmos, Bill Vander Zalm, and Glen Clark running/ruining the place. It can surely survive the probing journalism of Brian "Godzilla" Salmi. Keeping him out just makes you, and your boss Gordon Campbell, look like petty, insecure little bastards.

Of course, many observers aqre unimpressed with Richmond's antics...

Donna Logan, of the University of B.C. School of Journalism, said it is inappropriate for the Speaker to insist the writings of journalists are respectful of parliament.

"It's ridiculous. The speaker has gone overboard," she said.

"For the speaker to set himself as judge and jury of which journalists can come in [to the legislature] is contrary to the democratic principles we believe in."

While the freedom of the press is a basic principle in a free society, there are limits established by the courts, she said.

John Waterfield, manager of the National Press Gallery in Ottawa, was shocked that any parliament would attempt to direct what a journalist writes.

"What happened to freedom of the press?," Waterfield asked. "I can't believe any Speaker would say that.

"That's never happened in the 25 years I have been here."
Free the Press Gallery Prisoners!

(Okay, they're out of jail, but they're still barred from the "ledge")

B.C.'s Speaker of the Legislature, Claude Richmond, has decided that it is he, and he alone, who shall decide who may report on the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly.

Rickmond ordered Terminal City weekly publisher Darren Atwater and columnist Brian Salmi arrested and detained on Monday following the pair's second unsuccessful attempt in two weeks to get accrediation for the Legislative Press Gallery. Richmond has questioned the pair's, especiall Salmi's, attire, and he has requested that Salmi write reports that are "respectful of parliament."

Well, what if Parliament (in this case the Assembly) and its members aren't conducting themselves in a respectful manner? SHould journalists not be able to write hinestly about how trhings work in government?

And please don't give me any of that crap about journalists being fair and objective. Yes, you might want that in your reporters (well, some papers, anyway; others might prefer even their humble reporters to act as press secretaries for one party or another), but opinion-mongers like Mike Smyth or Vaughn Palmer aren't denied access to the Legislature becuase they write what are presumably theirt own opinions... What this gets down to is that Salmi takes no prisoners, is a thorn in the side of every politician, and treats them all with contempt. Claude Richmond, a notorious control freak (just like his boss, premier Gordon Campbell) wants to make sure that the Legislative press gallery stays demure and docile.

Well, fuck him.

If the Legislature is so fragile that it needs to be protected from the likes of Brian Salmi, what the hell does that say about it? I don't think that that's the case. If it's not the case, then why is the Legislature, and its Speaker, so damn worried about a Vancouver gadfly coming down and covering its proceedings? Simple: The legislature, and those who really control it (it's really Premier Campbell) are petty about who they will alow the privilege of press accreditation. If they don't like you, or your media organization, for whatever reason, they'll tell you to cover the Legislature by flipping on Channel 68 and watching the proceedings on television.

Pissed off about it? I am. What if yours truly wants to report from Victoria, either as a freelancer, or with one of the publications that I write for occasionally? Or what if it's you who wants to cover the provincial government in action? Should the only ones allowed to cover the Legislature be those dressed in shirts and ties, and drawing a regular paycheque from a large-cireculation publication, or a broadcaster with a large audience? Or should the legislature be open to anyopne who produces reports to be distributed to a wider audience, whether that's a few thousand or a few hundred thousand?

I side with the latter. If you want to give Speaker Claude Richmond a piece of your mind, write to him!

Telephone: (250) 387-3952
Fax: (250) 387-2813
Toll free number: 1-866-387-3952
Office of the Speaker
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
Free the Press Gallery Prisoners!

(Okay, they're out of jail, but they're still barred from the "ledge")

B.C.'s Speaker of the Legislature, Claude Richmond, has decided that it is he, and he alone, who shall decide who may report on the proceedings of the Legislative Assemble.

Rickmond ordered Terminal City weekly publisher Darren Atwater and columnist Brian Salmi arrested and detained on Monday following the pair's second unsuccessful attempt in two weeks to get accrediation for the Legislative Press Gallery. Richmond has questioned the pair's, especiall Salmi's, attire, and he has requested that Salmi write reports that are "respectful of parliament."

Well, what if Parliament (in this case the Assembly) and its members aren't conducting themselves in a respectful manner? SHould journalists not be able to write hinestly about how trhings work in government?

And please don't give me any of that crap about journalists being fair and objective. Yes, you might want that in your reporters (well, some papers, anyway; others might prefer even their humble reporters to act as press secretaries for one party or another), but opinion-mongers like Mike Smyth or Vaughn Palmer aren't denied access to the Legislature becuase they write what are presumably theirt own opinions... What this gets down to is that Salmi takes no prisoners, and is a thorn in the side of every politician, and treats them all with contempt. Claude Richmond, a notorious control freak (just like his boss, premier Gordon Campbell) wants to make sure that the Legislative press gallery stays demure and docile, and that no-one takes it too seriously to task.

Well, fuck him.

If the Legislature is so fragile that it needs to be protected from the likes of Brian Salmi, what the hell does that say about it? I don't think that that's the case. If it's not the case, then why is the Legislature, and its Speaker, so damn worried about a Vancouver gadfly coming down and covering its proceedings> Simple: The legislature,a nd those who really control it (Claude Richmond, but more importantly Premier Campbell) are petty about who they will alow the privilege of press accreditation. If they don't like you, or your media organization, for whatever reason, they'll tell you to cover the Legislature by flipping on Channel 68 and watching the proceedings on television.

Pissed off about it? I am. What if yours truly wants to report from Victoria, either as a freelancer, or with one of the publications that I write for occasionally? Or what if it's you who wants to cover the provincial government in action? Should the only ones allowed to cover the Legislature be those dressed in shirts and ties, and drawing a regular paycheque from a large-cireculation publication, or a broadcaster with a large audience? Or should the legislature be open to anyopne who produces reports to be distributed to a wider audience, whether that's a few thousand or a few hundred thousand?

I side with the latter. If you want to give Speaker Claude Richmond a piece of your mind, write to him!

Telephone: (250) 387-3952
Fax: (250) 387-2813
Toll free number: 1-866-387-3952
Office of the Speaker
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4.
Business challenges other businesses to help Woodward's squat

Coquitlam car dealership Brian Jessel BMW has offered three thousand dollars towards renovating a vacant 100-room hotel...

The effort is a chalenge to other businesses to fund the renovation of the Stanley hotel in order to find accomodation for the 100 or so homeless squatters camped outside the Woodward's building, which has been sitting vancant since 1993. Social-housing activists have seen the building as a home for hundreds of new low-income housing units in Vancouyver's poorest neighbourhood.

Link: Friends of the Woodward's Squat
Is our children learning?

(It was an actual quote of George W. Bush, later used by Paul Begala as the title of a book vritical of Bush.)

Well, on one scale, the answer's more likely "yes in places like Canada, Finland, or Japan than if they're in the U.S., Germany, or Greece. Hmmm.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Klein adviser calls Bush 'idiot'

And, as a bonus, Francine Ducros leaves job as Prime Minister's director of communications.

...whiich just goes to show you that loose lips, and pejorative comments about the American president are not just a disease of Liberal hacks, or the now-departed Francie Ducros.

Jean Chrétien's interim director of communications is former CTV Ottawa reporter Jim Munson, who joined the Prime Minister's Office as a consultant earlier this year. Expect relations between Munson and the Parliamentry press corps to be a lot smoother than they were ander the abrasive and combative Ducros.

Monday, November 25, 2002

The Marsden File

Okay, it's pretty damned obvious that a lot of Scrum readers are coming here for dope and dirt on the case of Rachel Marsden, the Vancouver-area woman who is up on a charge of criminal harassment against her ex-boyfriend. We shall oblige.

Rachel Marsden, 28, first gained prominence in 1997 when she accused Simon Fraser University head swimming coach Liam Donnelly of sexual harassment. An SFU harassment panel, whose members remain nameless and whose proceedings were held in secret, found Donnelly guilty. The panel recommended that the coach be fired and that Marsden be given $12,000 in compensation. Donnelly, who had cut Marsden from the university's swim team the previous year, was fired on May 23, 1997.

Donnelly did not attend the harassment panel hearing on what he would later admit was bad legal advice. He countered the allegations against him in public with electronic and recorded evidence that it was Marsden who was harassing him, not the other way around. Marsden had sent him provocative pictures of herself to Donnelly, and had left several messages on his voicemail threatening him with a harassment complaint.

From the mediator's recommendations on the Marsden-Donnelly case, and how it was handled.

4. The University acknowledges that there were flaws in the procedures that led to Mr. Donnelly's dismissal.

5. The findings of the harassment panel were based on Ms. Marsden's credibility. Inconsistencies between her statements before the panel and her response to Mr. Donnelly's harassment complaint cast doubt on her credibility.

6. These recommendations do not constitute criticism of the panel members, whose report was based on the evidence and material placed before them.

7. There is no intent to disturb the remedies which the University has committed to Ms. Marsden.

8. Mr. Donnelly is reinstated in his position as Head Varsity Swim Coach effective immediately.

The controversy over the case led to the resignation of then-SFU president John Stubbs, who had defended the university's harassment policy and procedures, which were seen by others as being biased towards the accuser, and lacking in transparency. The university's harassment policy was formally changed some three years later.

Eventually, Marsden's credibility was called into question, and Donnelly was given his job back with back pay and $35,000 compensation for his expenses. Marsden was also on the receiving end of criticism of former SFU harassment counsellor Patricia O'Hagan, who had initially been supportive of Marsden through the harassment complaint process. O'Hagan later publicly complained that Marsden would then not stop phoning her, and that Marsden, on several occasions, asked O'Hagan to go out for nights on the town with her. O'Hagan revealed that Marsden had telephoned her over 400 times in one year.

Marsden went on to graduate from SFU and entered the B.C. Institute of Technology's broadcasting program. In 1999, while Marsden was still at BCIT, one of her former professors, SFU criminologist Neil Boyd, complained that Marsden had been stalking him and complained to the police about it. No charges were laid, and Marsden agreed to quit bothering Boyd after Burnaby RCMP warned her that her conduct could get her into legal trouble.

Since that time, Marsden has set about reinventing herself as a journalist and commentator. She worked as an assistant to Connie Chung in 2000, and also had a stint at BCTV/Global Television in Vancouver. In the last two years, she has written extensively for various (mostly American) right-wing web sites like, WorldNetDaily, and Political USA, expressing views that the Province newspaper described as being "somewhat to the right of George W. Bush." Marsden has said that her role models included Ann Coulter, Barbara Amiel, and the late Barbara Olson.

Ironic, then that she attempted to exploit a harassment complaints process at SFU that was engineered by feminist thinkers, most with a very "left-wing" political philopsophy. In fact, the process that Marsden used -- or is it abused -- was defended most vigourously by the likes of Judy Rebick and Marjorie Griffin Cohen, who saw the old SFU process as being fairer to women and minorities.

Marsden was working in Washington, D.C., earlier this year as a production assistant for conservative radio talk show host Blanquita Cullum. She had not been back in Vancouver for long before she was arrested on the evening of November 20, after Vancouver police received complaints from her former boyfriend that she had been harassing him

The ex-boyfriend's name is subject to a publication ban, so we cannot release many details about him. He is a 52-year-old former Vancouver radio personality who today works as a communications consultant in Vancouver. The man had been in a "very informal," on-again, off-again sexual relationship with Marsden for over a year before the relationship ended earlier this year. The ex-boyfriend recieved a series of e-mail messages and phone calls that Vancouver police describe as being "of a harassing and threatening nature" between October 2nd and November 12th of this year. Does any of this sound familiar; perhaps reminiscent of the Marsden stories of 1997 and 1999?

Marsden appeared in court on November 21st, where she was granted bail on $10,000 cash and several conditions. She is not allowed to contact her former boyfriend or eight of his associates. Marsden is also not allowed to speak to the media, nor may she comment on her current case on her personal web site. She is only allowed to send electronic messages in her own name. However, Marsden is allowed to leave the Vancouver area on business between now and her next court date on december 3rd.

Media coverage

Vancouver Sun: Woman in SFU sex scandal jailed
The Province: Rachel Marsden accused of harassing former lover
Southam News: Sex scandal centrepiece accused of harassment by ex-radio personality
CNEWS: Woman in university scandal faces charges
Coquitlam Now: Marsden faces harassment charge

Other Articles

The Fraser Institute, as one might suspect, was not impressed with the process that SFU used to hear harassment complaints, and provided this report on the subject.

Transcript of a July 20,1997 debate from CBC Television's Sunday Report over the Marsden/Donnelly affair and how it was handled.

Judy Rebick, former head of the National Action Comittee on the Status of Women, laments the media's coverage of the 1997 dispute.
Head Girl down but not out?

Let's make this much clear: when referring to "Head Girl," I refer not to repeat stalker/harasser Rachel Marsden (see above or below), but to defeated Vancouver mayoral candidate Jennifer Clarke, who earned the uncomplimentary nickname from City Hall staffers who had to deal with Clarke through her nine-year stint on Vancouver city council.

In a story in this week's Vancouver Courier, Clarke admits that she knew that her run for the mayor's race was doomed some time before the election. She had prepared her concession speech a few days in advance, after public and private polls showed that COPE candidate Larry Campbell had amassed an strong lead over Clarke, whose NPA political party had controlled City Hall since 1986.

Clarke is saying that, while she will decide her future in the next month, she has not ruled out a return to politics in the future. She says that she'll be available to advise the two reamining NPA city councillors, newcomer Peter Ladner and three-term incumbent Sam Sullivan, if they need any guidance.

Where did the "Head Girl" nickname come from? Clarke was a private school girl, and she has a reputation for being demanding and bossy.
How to win a civic election (part 357 1/2)

Allen Garr on how the Coalition of Progressive Electors broke from tradition in running its 2002 election campaign, and how the move paid off big-time. The new strategy and approach got COPE a near-sweep in last week's civic elections.
A profile of Vancouver city councillor-elect Jim Green

The longtime Downtown Eastside activist has finally won elected office after failed bids for the Vancouver mayor's chair in 1990 and for the provincial legislature in 1996. Incidentally, Green's chief rival in both races was current B.C. premier Gordon Campbell.

Vancouver Sun reporter Doug Ward looks at Green's long and varied career, from his childhood in the Deep South to his days as a labourer, then as an advocate for Vancouver's inner-city residents.

Green will formally take office on December 2, when the new city government is sworn in. However, he's not twiddling his thumbs in the week until he takes office; Green has been working to find more suitable shelter for the Woodward's squatters, and working with his new councilmates to firm up the new council's agenda for their first few weeks in office.

Saturday, November 23, 2002


Contributed by James Sherman via USENET

(We take you now to the Oval Office.)

George: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?
Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.
George: Great. Lay it on me.
Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.
George: That's what I want to know.
Condi: That's what I'm telIing you.
George: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?
Condi: Yes.
George: I mean the fellow's name.
Condi: Hu.
George: The guy in China.
Condi: Hu.
George: The new leader of China.
Condi: Hu.
George: The @&#!!
Condi: Hu is leading China.
George: Now whaddya' asking me for?
Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.
George: Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?
Condi: That's the man's name.
George: That's who's name?
Condi: Yes.
George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the
Middle East.
Condi: That's correct.
George: Then who is in China?
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Yassir is in China?
Condi: No, sir.
George: Then who is?
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Yassir?
Condi: No, sir.
George: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of
China. Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.
Condi: Kofi?
George: No, thanks.
Condi: You want Kofi?
George: No.
Condi: You don't want Kofi.
George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk.
And then get me the U.N.
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.
Condi: Kofi?
George: Milk! Will you please make the call?
Condi: And call who?
George: Who is the guy at the U.N?
Condt: Hu is the guy in China.
George: Will you stay out of China?!
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: And stay out of the Middle Eastl Just get me the guy at the
Condi: Kofi.
George: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone.

(Condi picks up the phone.)

Condi: Rice, here.
George: Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too. Maybe we
should send some to the guy in China. And the Middle East. Can you get
Chinese food in the Middle East?

- Hu Jintao, China's new leader
- Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Advisor

Friday, November 22, 2002

Obligatory Nitpicking

This morning's Province screamed:

"Woman, 24, charged with harassing ex-boyfriend, 52"

on the front page. The story was, of course, that of Rachel Marsden being arrested and subsequently charged with criminal harassment -- the part about the 52-year-old ex was correct; but they screwed up on Marsden's age. She is actually 28 years old. I wonder if whoever let that error get onto the front page got a talking-to today. In any case, they can't use the excuse of being rushed; the story actually broke on Wednesday night, and her court appearance was at mid-day yesterday, well before the paper's deadline.

More on the Marsden story from the National Post, and a longer report from the Vancouver Sun.
A curious set of questions...

Georgia Straight political columnist Bill Tieleman reports on a poll done by the B.C. Liberal Party to measure the public's view of party leader and Premier Gordon Campbell. Tieleman lucked upon the story; the polling company (Western Opinion Resarch, the party's pollster of record) randomly dialed his home and asked a series of questions about Campbell, including this doozy:

Which of the following statements do you most agree with?

1. Gordon Campbell is doing a good job in trying times and deserves to be reelected.

2. Gordon Campbell is doing a good job but it's time for someone else to have a chance to lead.

3. Gordon Campbell is doing a poor job but he is still the best choice we have.

4. Gordon Campbell is doing a poor job and should be replaced.

Now, in truth, there's little wrong with a poliical party asking those kinds of questions, especially as they're 18 months into a 4-year mandate, and the effects of the government's policies are being felt acros the province. But wouldn't you love to get a peek at the results?

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Marsden steps in it again!

Media whore extraordinaire Rachel Marsden is allegedly back in the stalking and harassment game. Her latest alleged target is a 52-year-old man (name censored due to publication ban), a communications consultant and former Vancouver radio personality with whom she had had what Vancouver police describe as an "informal" relationship. According to police, the relationship between Marsden and Morgan had ended earlier this year.

Vancouver Police spokesperson Constable Sarah Bloor said that Marsden had been sending Morgan "e-mails and phone messages of a harassing nature" from early October to early November.

Rachel Marsden spent last night in jail after being arrested by Vancouver police. She was granted bail when she appeared in court earlier this morning. Her bail conditions include an order that she have no contact with the alleged victim and that she must not speak to the media. For somene who has tried to keep in the spotlight for the past several years, that last condition must be rather a tough one for her. According to the police department, the ban on contact with the media is justified in order to keep her from torturing her alleged victim over and over again.

Marsden first gained public attention in 1997 when she alleged that Simon Fraser University swim coach Liam Donnelly had been sexually harassing her. Donnelly was brought before the university's secret harassment tribunal and summarily fired.

Donnelly, however, fought back against the charges in public. He responded with evidence that it had been Marsden who was stalking him and sending him revealing photos of herself by e-mail. Eventually, Donnelly was reinstated to his position as SFU swim coach, and financially compensated for his trouble. The incident led to the resignation of the university's then-president, John Stubbs, over the university's harassment procedures, which were seen as being neither transparent nor fair towards the accused.

SFU criminology professor Neil Boyd also alleged that Marsden was stalking him in 1999. Marsden was a student at the B.C. Institute of Technology's broadcasting school at the time.

Since that time, Marsden has worked in the media in various capacities, including political commentator. The self-described "future Barbara Amiel" earned herself a reputation as a fiercely conservative pundit and her work appeared on several right-wing web sites.
Marsden is next expected to appear in provincial court in the first week in December, where she will face charges on one count of criminal harassment. Crown Counsel has requested a psychiatric evaluation of Marsden's mental state before any trial.

More coverage of this in a CBC British Columbia story.

... And in a loosely related story...

Liam Donnelly's brother, Fin Donnelly, did win election to Coquitlam city council in last week's civic elections. Donnelly, an environmental advocate known for his marathon swims of the Fraser River, won 7,307 votes, good enough for a fifth-place finish.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Owen slams drug czar's visit

Outgoing Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen is critical of today's visit by John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to a Vacouver Board of Trade luncheon. Owen, who spearheaded the change of Vancouver's drug policy from a law-enforcement to a public-health model, is concerned that Walters's visit to Vancouver may be more than just a fact-finding mission.

Walters is known as a supporter of the American drug policies initiated by the Reagan administration in the 1980's. He is known for being a strong supporter of overseas interdiction activities, and for the use of massive law-enforcement resources on the domestic front. Any emphasis on treatment of drug addiction is an afterthought for Walters.

Owen's concern is that Walters may use his visit to Vancouver as an opportunity to attack the drug reform plan in Vancouver, and the man who will soon be the one shepherding the plan to completion, Mayor-elect Larry Campbell.

Elsewhere, Owen criticized Canadian Alliance MPs James Moore and Randy White's claims that Vancouver was about to open "shooting galleries" as being "outrageous and misleading."
Are we ready for Larrymania?

Globe and Mail western-affairs writer Paul Sullivan comments on the buzz surrounding Vancouver's Mayor-elect Larry Campbell. He chalks it up to what he calls the "Jesse Ventura Syndrome," that of a minor celebrity unburdened by political baggage, and a reaction by Vancouverites to the excesses of the provincial government's cutbacks.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Comments from the Peanut Gallery

It's been only 3 days since the Vancouver election, but the critics of the city's new mayor, Larry Campbell, and the new city council, are already out in force. This time it's not just conservative newspaper columnists like Jon Ferry of The Province or the Vancouver Sun's Pete McMartin, who have been bad-mouthing Campbell since he announced his mayoral candidacy earlier this year, and continued to try to paint him as unsuitable for the mayor's job throughout the campaign.

No, now some federal Members of Parliament are screaming bloody murder over Campbell's plans to implement harm-reduction measures as part of the city's overall drug strategy. And, just like the aformentioned two cranky columinsts, neither of these MP's are from Vancouver. Instead, they are two of the Canadian Alliance's biggest self-promoters, Randy White and James Moore.

Neither Moore nor White's constituencies are near the city of Vancouver: Moore represents the northeastern suburbs, while White's constituency is even further away; it's in the central Fraser Valley. That, of course, has not kept either man from seeing fit to tell Vancouver, and the voters who voted in Larry Campbell, to tell them what's best for them.

Both men are hard-liners on the issue of drugs: they seem to agree that the approach championed by Ronald Reagan in the United States 20 years ago is the model to pursue. Never mind that the so-called war on drugs has been an expensive failure that has, in the United States resulted in little more than a blooming prison population. Of course, to Randy White, a booming prison industry is a sign of progress.

The reaction from White and Moore was predictable. They're both ultra-conservative, and neither man met a microphone that he didn't like. Their objection to Vancouver's drug strategy isn't based on evidence that it would aggravate a bad situation, or that there are alternatives that would mean fewer deaths, or less crime, health costs, or what-have-you. It's all ideological. They are of the school of thought that has informed the last 20-30 years of failed drug policy in North America.

They claim that Vancouver will be stting up "shooting galleries." Wrong. There are plenty of shooting galleries of Vancouver already -- they're nothing new. The conditions of those shooting galleries are awful, unsanitary, and unsafe. Randy White claims that Vancouver will be giving away free heroin under the drug strategy already adopted by Vancouver city council. Nowhere in the document (PDF file) is there any mention of free heroin. However, White has never let the truth get in the way of his talking points. Neither has Moore, who once said that the $24 airport security charge was "going to line the pockets of federal Liberals," as if airline security was some sort of political fundraiser.

Moor says that his constituents are telling him that Vancouver's plans to aggressively implement a safe-injection site in downtown Vancouver and to increase detox and drug treatment facilities are a bad idea. That's interesting. A politician who claims that people are telling him that he's right, and those other guys are wrong. When the hell has any politician ever admitted that his/her constituents disagree with his or her views? Give me a break.

Furthermore, Moore's constituents (or White's) aren't the ones who have to deal directly with Vancouver's problems. The people of Vancouver do, and they've made the choice of who will tackle them. The people of Vancouver are also will have to live with the results, and you can bet that voters considered that before they made that choice.

And if, in three years, Vancouverites aren't satisfied that Larry Campbell and his council have tackled the Downtown Eastside, the drug problem, transit problems or the red tape at city hall, they'll toss them out, just as they tossed the NPA council on Saturday.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Welcome to the New Vancouver

That might be a little dramatic, but the fact reamins that the face of Vancouver's civic government changed dramatically today. The ruling Non-Partisan Association, which had held a majority on Vancouver's city council since 1986, was tossed in Saturday's civic election.

The city's centre-left civic party, the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) scored as close to a sweep of all civic offices as it could. Every one of the party's candidates for the mayoralty, city council, school board, and parks board won, and the party's candidates topped the polls in every race.

As expected, Larry Campbell won the mayor's chair with a handsome majority, Campbell defeated incumbent councillor and mayoral nominee Jennifer Clarke by a margin of 80,772 to 41,936 with all polls reporting. Campbell's share of the popular vote was 57.8%, compared to Clarke's 30%. Campbell won in 119 of the city's 144 polling divisions; Clarke won 24, with one poll reporting a tie.

Elsewhere, COPE city council candidates Fred Bass, Jim Green, David Cadman, Tim Louis, Tim Stevenson, Anne Roberts, Raymond Louie, and Ellen Woodsworth won seats. NPA rookie candidate Peter Ladner and incumbent Sam Sullivan were the other two candidates elected; they finished ninth and tenth. respectively. Bass and Louis were COPE's two incumbent councillors.

Full election results can be found on the City of Vancouver's web site.

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