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

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Oh my goodness! Who will speak for the taxpayer?

The bills for the Surrey school board's attempt to ban books that featured same-sex parents from its schools keep coming in, and you know who's going to be left holding the bag: the taxpayer. Friday's decision by the Supreme Court of Canada didn't just say that the board contravened the B.C. School Act when it banned the books Asha's Mums, Belinda's Bouquet, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads from classroom use due to the religious concerns of some parents. The court also ruled that the board would have to pay the legal costs of plaintiff James Chamberlain, the Surrey teacher whose attempt to use the books in his elementary school classes started the controversy.

The Surrey school board has racked up close to a million dollars in expenses, including $760,000 in legal fees, defending its position in court. Now they have to deal with Chamberlain and his associates' bills, which he claims are around $400,000. So what we have here is a bunch of politicians blowing a bunch of money on a pet project (in their case keeping the idea that gays are to be tolerated out of schools) that ultimately failed. Who's going to blow the whistle on this million-dollar-plus fiasco?

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, perhaps? Why, they take delight in slagging off Liberal and NDP government projects, all of which, in the eyes of CTF apparatchiks, are wastes of taxpayer dollars. Normally, when a story of misspent funds hits the presses, the CTF has press releases (often recycled by the Vancouver Province as editorials) lambasting the SOBs who frittered away those taxpayer dollars ready within hours. Yet we have silence, so far. What could be the matter. Might those taxpayer advocates be more inclined to go easy on the right-wing Surrey school board who have, in fairness, doone a masterful job of putting less resources into things like classrooms, libraries, and all those other school-related things? Nah, of course not. That's just crazy talk. Forget I ever said anything. Like the Taxpayers Federation would ever have a double standard when it comes to governments that are ideologically close to them...

One other thing. The Surrey board expects the provincial government, with its messed-up finances, to pay the board's $760,000 legal bill. Should B.C. taxpayers all have to pay for Surrey's mistake? I say not. The voters of Surrey elected these trustees; they ought to be stuck with the bill for their foolish judgment.
You know that things are gonna be different around City Hall when...

... the first proclamation that the 72.7% new city government makes is in honour of punk rockers instead of the usual brigade of socialites or captains of industry. Yup, yesterday was declared D.O.A. Day in Vancouver. Officially, it had something to do with honouring the band's 25-year history and contribution to Vancouver musical lore, but D.O.A., and their founder and leader Joe Keithley, have also done their share of social and political activism. So there.

If you don't know who D.O.A. is, then you'd better learn.

If you don't like D.O.A., dial 1-800-EAT-SHIT.

(Of course I used to have that bumper sticker. I am a punk-rock listening lout from Vancouver, after all.)

Friday, December 20, 2002

Surrey school board loses

Canada's top court has ruled that the Surrey, B.C. school board was wrong to ban three books that depicted families with same-sex parents from school classrooms. In a 7-2 decision, the court found that the board had violated provincial legislation requiring that public schools be secular and non-sectarian.

The case dates back to 1997, when the board, then as now dominated by conservative politicians with ties to organization that lobby for "traditional family values", issued an order that primary-school teacher James Chamberlain not use the books Asha's Mums, One Dads, Two Dads, Red Dads, Blue Dads, and Belinda's Bouquet in his classes. The board's decision sparked off confrontation between gay-rights groups and civil libertarians on one side, and religious conservatives and some parent advocates on the other. Schhol trustees in Surrey claimed that they were responding to parental concerns that young children not be exposed to depictions of same-sex relationships; others saw the move as an attempt by the board, and its chair, Heather Stilwell, to advance an anti-gay agenda. Stilwell herself has frequently been a candidate for religious fringe parties such as the Family Coalition and Christian Heritage parties at the provincial and national level, and has made no secret of her desire to have schools return to teaching "traditional values," or to use the power of government as enforcer of said values.

Here's some of the Surrey Scool Board's antics through the 1990's. Any questions?

The left-leaning provincial government of the day was pressured to take over the Surrey school district over the controversy. It never did do so, but that didn't stop an effort by religious groups to recall then-Education Minister Paul Ramsey. The case has cost Surrey taxpayers some $500,000 since the decision was first disputed in BC Supreme Court in 1998.

The question of whether the books can be used has now been sent back to the school board with the warning that it must pay particular attention to the principles of secualrism and non-sectarianism in provincial education law.

The Surrey school board is expected to give its reaction sometime today. The teachers who fought the banning of the books, James Chamberlain and Murray Warren, were delighted at the outcome.


Supreme Court decision in the case of Chamberlain v. Surrey School District No. 36

CBC Online news report with links to interviews and video

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Bye bye, Jon?

Seems that Province columnist Jon Ferry, Vancouver's answer to the Weekly World News' Ed Anger, has gotten himself into a bit of a lather over the story of a transgendered Vancouver teacher who has gone all the way and has had his, now her, plumbing re-done. He'd rather the teacher lose her job over this. Ferry's wondering what the hell is happening in this fair town and doesn't seem to like it one bit.

Hell, he publicly ruminated about getting out of town in his Wednesday rant.

When I wake up and read what's going on in our great green Gomorrah, I often think I'm living in the wrong part of Canada -- and should join scores of other British Columbians crossing the Rockies for Alberta.

Good stuff there, Jon. I'll even help you pack your bags; it'll be the only way that I could likely stand being around the likes of you for any length of time. Might I suggest not moving to Redmonton -- it's a little bit too liberal-minded of a town for you. Calgary won't do either, you know. With 900,000 people -- and a sizable gay community, to boot -- there's just too much chance of there being a similar situation there, too. How about Drayton Valley or Wainwright? Maybe Edson will do. Better yet, there's Bentley, where Stockwell Day, who is surely the finest leader the Canadian Alliance ever had, got his start in running a fundamentalist Christian madrassah... er, I mean academy.

On the up side, Ferry did actually do some "research" for his column by getting in contact with Surrey school trustee Heather Stilwell, known to all sorts of Canadians as the leader of the effort to ban from Surrey school libraries books that featured same-sex parents, presumably out of the fear that some children might be led to believe that gays and lesbians are not horrible monsters that need to be run out of town. That's more effort than he usuallly puts into his work.

"Great green Gomorrah"? You're in the wrong part of the country, then, Jon...

...don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

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.

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