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Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

How to reduce the BC budget deficit II

The Liberal government of BC has come up with a classic example of rewarding failure: David Hahn, president of BC Ferries, made over a million dollars last year. Read about it here: Shock as B.C. Ferries boss Hahn's $1-million salary revealed

It shouldn't be very difficult to find someone who could do a better job than Hahn is doing for only $200,000 or so.

An extra $2 billion in sales taxes so that the provincial government can continue to pay the salaries of Hahn, BC Rail CEO Kevin Mahoney, and the Public Affairs Bureau? Can you say "tax revolt"?

How to reduce the BC budget deficit

Two months after the last provincial election, we're hearing from Canwest Global that the half-billion dollar deficit we were told about before the election was fiction, and now we're going to get cuts in health care, education, and social services to "solve this problem".

The same Canwest Global never misses an opportunity to tell us that it's the Liberal Party of BC that we should trust to manage the provincial finances. Why? Because it's the Liberal Party of BC that we should trust to manage the provincial finances.

So, armed with the knowledge that we can expect Gordon Campbell, Kevin Falcon and Co. to do the right thing, I'm offering a couple of suggestions on how they can cut expenses.

1. Fire Kevin Mahoney: Mahoney was paid $494,182 last year to run the part of BC Rail that wasn't given away to CN. That leaves 40 km. of track, no rolling stock, and 24 employees.

Premier Campbell, if you're going to start talking about welfare extravagance, start at the top. Set an example by telling BC's biggest welfare recipient to get a real job. And don't pull this "severance package" stunt again; Mahoney's salary is already a severance package.

Read more about it: Public taken for a 40km, $1.2m gravy train ride, by Michael Smyth.

2. Shut down the Public Affairs Bureau: This is a bureaucracy with 223 employees, and costs us hard-working taxpayers $28 million a year.

Not a one of these 223 employees is responsible for paving streets, collecting garbage, educating students, or putting criminals in jail. Instead, they "manage" the information that we get from the provincial government.

To give you some perspective on what a boondoggle this is, there isn't a newspaper or television station in Canada that has 223 employees.

Not a single teacher or nurse should be laid off by the provincial government until every single one of these people has been fired. Show us what your priorities are, Gordon. And, when you do this, be as vindictive about it as you're capable of, so that the NDP won't be tempted to reinstate this abomination after winning some future election.

More on this from Miro Cernetig: With Fourth Estate under siege, governments seek to manage the news
Blog entry from BC Mary: About that Public Affairs Bureau ... this premier has the largest political communications staff in B.C. history

Sean Holman endorses STV

Public Eye Online logoSean Holman is a Victoria journalist, and his blog, Public Eye Online, is an essential resource for any British Columbia political junkie.

Holman has publicly endorsed Single Transferable Vote (STV). You can read his endorsement here: Public Eye endorses electoral reform.

One more thing: Bill Tieleman is simply wrong on this. As are Anita Hagen and Dave Schreck.

Corky Evans - Taking Back British Columbia

"Their vision is, essentially, that their job isn't to manage British Columbia; it's to plunder it" - retiring MLA Corky Evans

To view it in the YouTube context: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrwW2LFUwjc&feature=channel_page

Stockwell Day must go

Stockwell Day running for Prime Minister in 2000I received a press release today from Transport 2000, an organization I've belonged to for a long time. They have awarded the Lemon Prize to former Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day, and Suzanne Hurtubise, Deputy Minister responsible for the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Here's the story: Amtrak currently runs one train in each direction per day between Vancouver and Seattle. This service is funded mostly by the Washington State Department of Transportation. An announcement was made in March, 2007 (see Good news about Vancouver-Seattle passenger trains elsewhere on this blog) that WSDOT and the government of British Columbia would put up the money for track improvements required to support additional trains, and that a second train in each direction would start running sometime in 2008.

The required track improvements were made and paid for, and WSDOT was ready to go in August. That was five months ago, and still no second train. What went wrong? A meddling Federal cabinet minister.

The Canadian Border Services Agency decided that they would charge $1,500 to clear each northbound train though Customs. Their justification for this is that expanded service would require a "new facility". This is nonsense; Customs already has a clearance facility at the Pacific Central Station on Main Street.

This is just another example of how Stockwell Day and the Conservative Party of Canada shines the shoes of the petrochemical industry at every opportunity, even if it means cancelling out investments made by British Columbia and Washington State taxpayers. There's a major reconstruction project under way at the Peace Arch border crossing. For automobiles. Who is paying for it? We taxpayers. Will the users of this improved border crossing be assessed a fee? Only the NEXUS users.

While Day and his Deputy Minister were hard at work being an obstacle, Day was unable to come up with a budget figure for security for the 2010 Olympic Games; the best he could do was "more than $400 million but less than $1 billion". That really narrows it down, doesn't it?

Day's first appearance on the national scene was as the accidental Leader of the Canadian Alliance Party, which eventually merged into the present Conservative Party of Canada. The smart money was on Tom Long for this job, but it turned out that Long wasn't actually a Canadian citizen.

After the 2000 election loss, it came to light that during Day's tenure as Treasurer of Alberta, the Alberta government was sued for libel by Lorne Goddard, a Red Deer school trustee, because Day said that Goddard supported child pornography. The suit was settled out of court, at a cost of $792,000 to Alberta taxpayers. Day later reimbursed the Alberta government for $60,000 of this.

Day was moved from Minister of Public Safety to Minister of International Trade after the 2008 election. This takes him away from responsibility for Olympics security and border crossings, but it means that he is now the point man for for whatever disputes take place between Canada and the US over "made in US" trade policies, such as for steel. How effective is Day likely to be at reminding the Obama administration that NAFTA is supposed to work both ways? Heaven help us.

The lesson we can learn from this is that PM Stephen Harper's policy toward cabinet ministers is to reward failure. It says elsewhere on this blog that Harper must go; his attempt to eliminate public financing of political parties proved that there's no telling what Harper might do when our backs are turned. It also seems that the only way to get Stockwell Day out of Cabinet is to get a different Prime Minister.

Update on Feb. 6: A report published by the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University makes the case that a second Seatlle-Vancouver train would bring in $750,000 in GST revenue alone, far more that the $550,000 that Day's "drive or fly to Vancouver" tax would bring in. You can click here to read the actual report (PDF).

Book Review: The Life and Destruction of Saint Mary's Hospital

Book JacketThe author of this book, Jaimie McEvoy, is a New Westminster historian. He was heavily involved in the unsuccessful campaign to save Saint Mary's Hospital, and was elected to the New Westminster City Council in November, 2008.

This book is well written. If you're one of the thousands of people who were involved in the effort to save Saint Mary's, or one of the hundreds of thousands of people who were treated at Saint Mary's, or had a relative or close friend who was treated there, you'll get something out of this book, particularly chapter ten, "The Last Betrayal", which covers the hospital closure and the massive community effort to stop it.

What if you don't fall in one of these categories? The first chapter provides a pretty good overview of what health care was like in the early days of British Columbia, in particular the effect of the Cariboo gold rush.

Not particularly interested in B.C. history, or the Great Fire of New Westminster in 1898? The story of Saint Mary's Hospital actually started in Vancouver, WA; the Sisters of Providence who built and ran Saint Mary's originally moved west from Montreal in 1857 to build a hospital in Fort Vancouver. They put up schools, orphanages, and hospitals all over the Pacific Northwest and Montana. There is a statue of the leader of the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph, in the U.S. Capitol, and she is the only Canadian and only the fifth woman honoured in this fashion.

The strongest overall impression I got from reading this book was how Saint Mary's kept up with technology, and the importance that they place on nutrition and cleanliness.

As mentioned earlier, the closure of Saint Mary's by the provincial government is an important part of this story. The steps in this process and the people who made them are spelled out carefully. McEvoy draws attention to the removal of local control from B.C.'s health care system, and characterizes this as a step backward.

The profits from the sale of The Life and Destruction of Saint Mary's Hospital go to the Saint Mary's Health Foundation, the successor to the Saint Mary's Hospital Foundation. Availability is limited at this time. The publisher is Harbour Publishing, and it's possible to mail order it from their site. It's listed on amazon.ca, but they don't have it in stock. Black Bond Books at the Royal City Centre in New Westminster has it, or you can get it at Shiloh Sixth Avenue United Church, 1111 Sixth Ave. in New Westminster (phone (604) 522-3443 first).

Senator Al Franken

I've been an admirer of Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) from the early days of Saturday Night Live, through Stuart Saves His Family, two of his books that I've read (Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and his program on Air America Radio. I was rooting for him all the way in his Senate race, and I'm happy that he's finally in.

This clip is just a small example of why Al will be a credit to the US Senate and the people of Minnesota: