Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

The Grim Reaper attends the Terry Fox Run

ImageI accompanied the Grim Reaper at the Terry Fox Run in Port Coquitlam on September 18.

The Grim Reaper has a long history of showing up wherever the consumption of tobacco products is being promoted. A few years ago, he was a regular at the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire and the Du Maurier Jazz Festival. He also showed up when former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who became a consultant for Philip Morris after she left office, came to Vancouver for a speaking appearance.

The consumption of tobacco certainly wasn't being promoted at the Terry Fox Run. Locating a lit cigarette there would have been a challenge. The Reaper's visit was prompted by the presence of Gordon Campbell, who has a deplorable record on tobacco issues, and Paul Martin, who is a former employee of the tobacco industry.

One of Martin's first acts when he became Finance Minister in 1993 was to reduce taxes on cigarettes. It wasn't enough just to reduce federal taxes on cigarettes, either; he pressured Ontario and Quebec to reduce their taxes on cigarettes, too. The excuse for doing this was that reducing taxes would reduce smuggling. However, the cause of the smuggling was the tobacco industry. RJR employees have served time in jail for their involvement in it, and JTI-Macdonald was recently taken to court by the federal government in an effort to recover $10 billion in lost revenue due to smuggling.

As always, the response to the Grim Reaper from passers-by was overwhelmingly positive. There were, however, a few people who complained that the Terry Fox Run is not a political event. Sorry, but the presence of Martin and Campbell makes it a political event. And since the Terry Fox Run is about finding a cure for cancer, it's entirely appropriate to raise the issue of Paul Martin's involvement in the leading cause of cancer, which is cigarettes.

ImageThere were also some people who questioned the effort by the Grim Reaper and Airspace Action on Smoking and health to draw attention to the cause of cancer instead of the cure. Well, I have no doubt that the money raised by the Terry Fox Foundation is well spent. I know that the Foundation provides substantial funding for the BC Cancer Agency.

Airspace, along with similar organizations like Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, has a different emphasis. Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death. The blame for this has to be placed firmly upon manufacturers of cigarettes and those who collaborate with them. This is the message that the Grim Reaper and his acolytes brought to Port Coquitlam on September 18. It's a message that makes some people uncomfortable. Perhaps that's because it's a message of common sense; the most effective way to reduce the incidence of cancer is to reduce the amount of carcinogens that go into peoples' bodies, and that includes cigarette smoke.

Airspace Action on Smoking and Health
Grim Reaper Society
The Terry Fox Society

George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina

U.S. President George W. Bush has been quoted in the press as saying that his administration is moving quickly to save lives, evacuate people and provide sustenance to victims of Katrina. His administration has outlined a massive disaster relief plan, vowing to "work tirelessly" in the aftermath of the hurricane.

According to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, "The president has been unambiguous in his mandate that we leave no stone unturned, and leave no efforts unexhausted in proceeding to do whatever we can to rescue people and alleviate suffering."

If, indeed, no stone is to be left unturned, will he bring home the 141st Field Artillery unit of the Louisiana National Guard, which is currently stationed in Iraq?

Update on Sept. 1: OK, I don't hold out much hope that Bush will divert some of the billions of dollars being handed to his buddies at Halliburton to feeding and clothing hurricane victims in his own country. What I'll do, instead, is join the ranks of bloggers who have recommended charities capable of helping. (See the list at

ImageThe one I'm advertising is the United Negro College Fund. This is a charity that has been around for a long time, and three of its members, Dillard and Xavier Universities in New Orleans and Tougaloo College in Mississippi, have been severely damaged. The UNCF has set up a special fund to help these schools. To contribute, click here.

Barisoff turns "lodges for high rollers" into "modest hostels"

A letter to the editor I wrote, which was published in the Royal City Record on March 19, attracted a response (published March 30) from Bill Barisoff, Joyce Murray's successor as Minister of Water, Land, and Air Protection. You can read Barisoff's letter by clicking here (PDF); my original letter appears below.

Barisoff wrote that I "couldn't be more wrong". Well, Bill, I have to go with the information I have available, supplemented by common sense. This is the first time that I (or anyone else) have heard the words "modest hostels" used in connection with the Liberal initiative to put lodges in provincial parks.

Read more: Barisoff turns "lodges for high rollers" into "modest hostels"

More about fish farming

I've lost track of the number of letters to the editor I've written about provincial issues that have been published over the last five years. Here's the latest one, which was published in the Royal City Record on May 11:

Editor, The Record;

In "More about fish farming" (May 7), incumbent New Westminster MLA Joyce Murray accuses the Record of misleading the reader. Actually, Murray's article provides ample reinforcement for those who have no confidence in Murray's former Water, Land, and Air Protection portfolio.

She refers to "confusing and inconclusive research on this issue". There's nothing at all confusing or inconclusive about the study published in the March 30 edition of Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This was a peer-reviewed study, and it concluded that sea lice production from the farm they studied was four orders of magnitude higher than natural, and that infection of wild juvenile salmon was 73 times higher than ambient levels near the farm and exceeded ambient levels for 30 kilometers of the wild migration route.

As for Murray's claim that her government "put in place one of the most comprehensive aquaculture regulatory regimes in the world", the real story is that Norway and Scotland do not allow open-net cage salmon farms to be located near wild salmon migration routes. And next door Alaska has an even stricter regulatory regime; they don't allow salmon farms at all. Instead, they have taken steps to protect and enhance their wild salmon fishery, and that's what we should be doing here.

Robert Broughton
Green Party Candidate
New Westminster

They didn't tear Saint Mary's Hospital down fast enough

I was out on the 200 block of Royal Avenue on Wednesday afternoon, with a group of volunteers. We were waving signs that said, "the Liberals closed Saint Mary's Hospital".

If the reaction we got from the passers-by is any indication, the Liberal strategy, which is, everyone would have forgotten about the Saint Mary's closure by now, has failed.

It's also worth mentioning that during the April 25 all candidates meeting at the Burr Theatre, I said, "I'm surprised that the Saint Mary's closure hasn't come up more often tonight." The response I heard from the Liberals sitting in the front rows was, "we're sick of hearing about it".

Well, it's very inconvenient for these people that the demolition of Saint Mary's Hospital is under way right in the middle of the election campaign, and that the location is next to a very busy street.

Just to reinforce this inconvenient reminder further, there was a front-page story in the May 4 News Leader with the headline, "Saint Mary's plan on hold." The first sentence of the article reads, "The former Saint Mary's Hospital is coming down to make way for - nothing, at least in the near future."

The substance of the story is that Embassy Developments has taken their plans for the site back to the drawing board, and they won't have a proposal available for another year.

Well, if Embassy Developments is uncertain about what they should do with this property, here's a friendly suggestion; put a health care facility on it.