Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

Parking meters in BC's provincial parks

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee has learned from a Freedom of Information request that the parking meters that were placed in many provincial parks in 2003 by the Liberals have actually cost the government more money than they have brought in. They have also caused a million fewer visitors to the parks. Here's the Wilderness Committee's press release: Parking Meters in Parks – A Comedy of Errors.

Prior to the introduction of the meters, Joyce Murray, former New Westminster MLA and Minister of Water, Land, and Air Protection at the time, told the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce that "a government's primary job is to provide value for all its citizens." (Murray is now a candidate for the federal Liberal nomination for New Westminster-Coquitlam.) Well, B.C.'s provincial parks and crown land represent value that already belongs to us. Being able to go for a picnic or set up a tent in a provincial park or a Ministry of Forests campsite may not be legally defined as a right of British Columbians, but it should be.

To reinforce this, I can tell you that the meters have become a major target of civil disobedience. On most of the occasions when I've gone to parks where the meters are present, someone who who was getting ready to leave kindly offered me their parking receipt. I quickly got into the habit of passing these receipts to someone else when I leave.

One other thing: The Western Canada Wilderness Committee is having its 25th anniversary celebration on Friday, November 4, at the Roundhouse Community Centre. This will be the Lower Mainland's social event of the year. You can read all about it by clicking here.

Western Canada Wilderness Committee
Protect BC's Parks The Wilderness Committee's campaign page about privatization and commercialization of provincial parks

"Mr. Floatie" disqualified as candidate for Mayor of Victoria

Mr. Floatie, a walking, talking piece of human feces, has been disqualified as a candidate for Mayor of Victoria.

The grounds for disqualification were obvious. Only human beings are allowed to be on election ballots.

However, Mr. Floatie has succeeded in his objective, which is to draw attention to the fact that Victoria still pumps untreated sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

James Skwarok, the local activist who took on the role of Mr. Floatie, didn't take exception to the ruling. "Of course I'm not a real person. I'm a big piece of poop."

Skwarok's campaign should be of interest to voters in the Federal riding of New Westminster–Coquitlam. One of the candidates for the Liberal nomination there is Joyce Murray, former Minister of Water, Land, and Air Protection.

In 1992, then-Premier Mike Harcourt and Washington Governor Booth Gardner signed the Environmental Cooperation Agreement, which committed the state and the province to work together on transboundary environmental problems, including Victoria's sewage. In 2003, Murray, in effect, broke this agreement by approving a Liquid Waste Management Plan put forward by the Capital Regional District. This plan postpones any secondary sewage treatment for at least ten years.

Murray lost her MLA job primarily because of her failure to keep Saint Mary's Hospital open. Murray also gave us parking fees in provincial parks, closures of campgrounds in provincial parks, and inaction on salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago. Mr. Floatie serves as an effective reminder that as Minister of Water, Land, and Air Protection, Murray failed to protect the water in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If the Federal Liberals nominate her in New Westminster–Coquitlam, it will be a blatant case of rewarding failure.

Update on Nov. 18: Mr. Floatie has teamed up with two Green Party candidates in Victoria's municipal election, Philippe Lucas and Sonya Chandler, to fight for sewage treatment in Victoria.


Strait Talk, July 2003, newsletter of the Georgia Strait Alliance (PDF); see “Sewage Sorrows”, p. 13

Light rail for Surrey and Langley

I made my second run for the Green Party in last spring's provincial election for two main reasons: gambling expansion (which both the Liberals and NDP support) and the Port Mann Bridge/freeway widening project (supported by both the Liberals and the NDP a year ago, but the NDP has backed away from it a bit).

I regard stopping the Port Mann project as a survival issue. I grew up in the eastern U.S., and witnessed the degradation of quality of life resulting from the construction of One Big Freeway from Boston to Petersburg, VA. I also spend a lot of time in the Seattle area, which is a monument to the futility of using paving as a method of dealing with traffic congestion.

I've been involved with the Livable Region Coalition since its inception, and I attended a public forum that they organized in Surrey in October. It was interesting and well-attended, but, unfortunately, unconvincing to those in the audience who depend on commuting across the Fraser River in order to earn a living.

The message I heard from these people is, “we have a serious traffic congestion problem, and we need a solution to it now.”

OK, I heard you. Now, let's get real. Even if construction on the Port Mann project started tomorrow, it would take at least five years to complete it, so it's not a “now” solution anyway. And here's a couple of other things to consider. During the course of that five-year construction period, there will be constant lane closures and detours. Conjure up an image of what the Cape Horn interchange will look like during this period. If it's a short-term solution that you want, the Port Mann/freeway expansion project will make things worse. Then, take a look at how much your last tank of gas cost you. What do you think a litre of gasoline will cost in 2011?

Another complaint I heard at the Surrey forum was about a massive traffic jam that had taken place a couple of days earlier, a result of an accident on the Port Mann Bridge during rush hours. I contend that if you want to solve this problem, the last thing you want to do is put more eggs into the Port Mann Bridge basket. It would be far better to provide some alternative ways of getting across the river.

There's already one alternative on the drawing board: the Golden Ears Bridge that will connect Fort Langley and Maple Ridge. The people of Surrey and Langley need at least one more, and the one I'll put up for discussion is a bridge that already connects New Westminster and Surrey; the bridge that the Skytrain runs on.

This bridge is capable of carrying far more trains than it does now. What we need is a fast, convenient way for people in Surrey and Langley to get to it.

MAX train in Portland
Portland's MAX train
I was in Portland recently, and rode the MAX train several times. The Portland suburbs that the Hillsboro line travels through are similar in a lot of respects to Surrey and Langley, but the similarity that matters is that a grade-level (as opposed to elevated or underground) system would work.

There are already railroad rights-of-way that connect the Scott Road Skytrain station to Port Kells, Clayton, Cloverdale, Langley City, and Abbotsford. A complete replacement of the trackage, in addition to stations and overhead wires, would be required to run MAX-style light rail on this route.

How much would this cost? Let's find out, but it's certain that the billion dollars which the government proposes to spend on the Port Mann/freeway expansion project would be substantially more than a down payment. Both the federal and provincial governments are getting windfalls from gasoline taxes, and it's entirely sensible to spend this money on projects that reduce our dependence on gasoline.

What I'm proposing here should be classified as “mainstream”. Much of the route was used by the Interurban trains that ran from New Westminster to Chilliwack from 1910 to 1950. The Vancouver Sun ran a two-page article last winter about existing trackage in the Fraser Valley, accompanied by speculation about how it could be put into service for commuter rail.

There's another benefit, beyond the reduction in air pollution and noise, in building a light rail solution now instead of later. Urban sprawl is a bad thing, and all you have to do is travel south on 200th Street in Langley to see that the shopping malls are popping up already. Transit stations invite density; they can become areas where people can live, and have schools, stores, and restaurants within walking distance. Now, how can developers and city planners make mini-communities like this happen, if nobody is going to know where the transit stations are for another 15 or 20 years? Surrey and Langley will be much better places to live in the future if sensible development decisions are made now.

What needs to happen now is for local governments, the GVRD, and the Ministry of Transportation and Highways to take a greater interest in this. In particular, MoTH should put some of their bureaucrats to work pricing out alternatives to the Port Mann project such as this one. To get this happening, ask Kevin Falcon and Gordon Campbell if they really want to be remembered for wasting a billion dollars on a highway project that will be obsolete before it's completed.

Michael Campbell, Tobacco Industry Sycophant

Yesterday, I received the 100th telephone solicitation to subscribe to the Vancouver Sun, and I turned them down for the 100th time.

I came to the realization 12 years ago that, whatever the Sun's target market is, I am not a part of it. I came to this realization because the Sun ran not just one, but two articles detailing predictions from astrologers on what was going to happen in the coming year. (One of the predictions was that Gordon Wilson would become the leader of the federal Liberal Party.)

By coincidence, my decision to not spend any of my hard-earned money on the Sun was validated yet again by a column by Michael Campbell that appeared that day (October 4, 2005). Campbell's writings are as silly as those of any astrologer, and his economic analyses have only slightly more depth than those of Chance Gardiner, a character portrayed by Peter Sellers in the film "Being There".

The column I refer to has the title "Smokers have known for years it could kill them."

Campbell's claim is factually incorrect, and easily disprovable. All you have to do is go to the "supressed facts" area of the smokersrightscanada.org web site, where it says that "not one single death has ever been etiologically assigned to tobacco."

Or, you could go the the discussion area of the mychoice.ca site, which is administered and paid for by the tobacco industry. Someone there who calls himself "fxr" wrote, "Where did you get the idea smoking has been proven to be harmfull (sic)? The only proof has been theoretic research. I have seen no indication of any physical proof of this harm." Or, there's this statement from "thepest": "FACT: TOBACCO AS (sic) NEVER BEEN FOUND TO BE CAUSING LUNG CANCERS OF ANY KIND."

Now, we should ask why it is that in 2005, there are still people who believe such things. Denial is obviously part of it. However, it's a fact that for many years after the release of the Surgeon General's report in 1964, the tobacco industry's PR people made persistent efforts to downplay the findings of the report, even while their own scientists were confirming the toxicity of cigarettes.

This is one of the many reasons why people whose lives have been damaged by cigarettes are entitled to have their day in court. Let's give the tobacco industry the opportunity to answer for this and many other things they have done over the years, and allow judges and juries to determine the appropriate level of guilt.

Campbell's piece also included this gem: "It's just that I find the self-righteous attitudes of the anti-smoking Gestapo so obnoxious that, despite being a lifelong non-smoker, I'd consider starting... just to get under their skin.  But what do I know?  I'm still trying to figure out why so many rabid anti-smoking activists also push to make smoking marijuana legal."

In his use of the term "Gestapo", Campbell uses the same cowardly tactic as his fellow sycophant Terence Corcoran; as long as you don't attach any names to the people you accuse, you can't get sued by them. (Corcoran learned this lesson the hard way; he slipped up and named Garfield Mahood of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association in one of his columns and found himself, and his employer, being sued for libel.)

Campbell now has the opportunity to prove that I'm wrong. Michael, if there's some anti-smoking assembly around that arrests people and interrogates and tortures them with no regard for warrants or habeas corpus, you have a responsibility as a journalist to give us their names and the location of their headquarters. Don't hold back on the details.

The Fraser Institute: Economic think tank or front for the Tobacco Industry? A paper published by the Non-Smokers' Rights Association

First-hand report from End the War in Iraq rally in Washington

No, I didn't go to Washington on September 24. However, Lynn Moyers, a friend of mine from university days, was there, and here is his first-hand account:

From the Front Lines: My report on the Anti-war protest in DC, 24 Sep 05

I'll Save YouLike many others who think the war on Iraq is wrong, I went to Washington DC this weekend to express my displeasure. Being among thousands of similar mind was a stimulating experience and one that helped renew my faith in our country.

The day was warm and overcast, typical for the central East Coast this time of year. I started the day from Centreville, a northern Virginia suburb. I was staying with my friend Bernie who accompanied me downtown as an observer. We rode the Metro light rail system into town. The system was on time, clean, and efficient. We exited at Federal Square station and headed out thru the Ronald Reagan office complex to the grounds of the Washington Monument.

We arrived about 10:15 and found a crowd of thousands already gathered. There were about 50 vendors and organizations scattered around the Monument grounds and on the Ellipse in front of the White House, mostly in tents. The atmosphere was calm but serious. Lots of people in costumes and protest signs everywhere. Bernie and I wandered around for an hour or so, looking at the people and visiting all the information and vendor booths. Have never seen so many ways of saying "We don't like the people in charge and want them to go away".

The pre-rally speeches started around 11:15. We walked over to the Ellipse grounds and listened to speaker after speaker fire up the rapidly swelling crowd. There were several members of Congress, labor leaders, and activist group representatives speaking. The speakers that got the most attention and did the best job of energizing the crowd were Cindy Sheehan, the lady who camped out at Bush's ranch, and Wesley Clark, retired Army general.

During the less-inspiring speeches I was talking w/some of the people around me. The most interesting were a couple of evacuees from NOLA that left the day before the Katrina hit. 2 things they said really caught my attention. The first was the story about their neighbors' house. The flood waters got up over the wood floors on the first floor of their house. When the flood waters receded, they found the waters had stripped the finish from the floors! Now that's some nasty water.

The other story was their belief that the Industrial Canal, the 17th Street Canal, and the 9th Street Canal were all purposely breached to prevent the flooding of rich people's homes. The water level peaked 2-3 feet below the top of the levees so the levees were not undermined by water flowing over the top as we were told by the press. They also believed the Industrial Canal was purposely breached during Rita to flood the same areas again. What a better way to keep people out than to keep flooding the areas they try to occupy.

The march was supposed to start at 12:30 but didn't get moving until around 1:15pm. Bernie and I managed to circle around the huge throng and work our way up near the front of the march. The crowd was jam-packed and it was a non-trivial exercise to work our way thru the crowd. We got separated about 1:00, so I headed off with the march while Bernie headed home to watch VA Tech football. I was in the first 10,000 or so to start moving at around 1:15. We started north up 14th street in a huge throng. I was behind several veterans groups that were marching together. After chanting and marching with them for about 15 minutes, I got past them and broke into relatively clear area.

Turning left (west) onto New York Avenue, I found the street almost totally blocked. NY Ave passes by the Treasury Dept and the North side of the White House. There were large groups of people gathered here, often dressed alike with signs and banners identifying them. Most were aiming their protest at the White House, railing against what it represents. It took me a good 15 minutes to gently work my way thru the crowd backed up at Treasury to reach the WH. Hung around for a few minutes talking w/people and soaking up the ambiance. Sprinkled rain for a few minutes. Was fun to watch all the weenies pull out their umbrellas and rain coats.

Lots of organized protest at the WH. Chanting and singing, there were a number of viewpoints represented. The amazing thing was they weren't shouting over each other; the groups were taking turns making their voices heard and on occasion the thousands in the area joined in common chants. The most frequent one was "This is what Democracy looks like."

Moving on past the WH, the march thinned out dramatically. The short spur of 17th St (north) only had a few dozen people, maybe a hundred or so. Seems like everyone stopped at the WH and just stayed there. Wished the 2 screaming young women with the bullhorns had stayed there. Was interesting and bit spooky to walk down a major street in DC with no traffic and almost no people. Same situation on H Street going East. Could only see a few hundred people in front of me. Walked mostly alone thru here.

Turning south onto 14th, I saw large groups of people walking along and the Washington Monument off in the distance. Walked rather slowly down this street thinking about what it was like to be part of history and the sacrifice people made to come here and make their voices heard. I had to talked to and seen people from all over the US, several foreign countries, all manner of political and religious persuasions, united by a common cause. Made me proud to be an American and realized how fortunate I am to be one.

Got to see the crowd still going North on 15th as I was going south. They were packed in tighter than when I went thru earlier and showed no signs of diminishing in number. That's when I realized how big the protest really was.

A little over halfway thru the route, I turned East onto Pennsylvania Avenue. There were a few spectators along the way, mostly guys in business suits with looks of curiosity on their faces. The were groups of 10 to 20 people occupying the street in front of me. Still that spooky feeling of walking down the middle of a 7-lane street virtually alone. Lots of time for reflection; feeling good about what were doing.

So far I had only seen a small handful of counter protesters and only in 2 spots. They were all religious wackos telling us we were violating God's laws by protesting, waving their Bibles and screaming at us. Didn't remember anything from my readings of the Bible that told me protesting was wrong.

That changed when we turned south onto 9th Street and walked past the Justice Building. There were about 150 Repubs behind a barrier fence and screened off by cops. Seems appropriate to keep Repubs behind bars. That's where a lot of their compatriots are winding up these days. These people were calling us Communists, Traitors, unpatriotic; the typical things that small minded people call others they disagree with. Interesting to compare the groups. Marchers were a mixed group, racially, age-wise, and in gender. The counter protesters were nearly all white, mostly fat middle-aged men. Only saw a few women and 2 token Arabs. Not a black person among them. Lots of screaming going on from both sides. I watched for a few minutes, then moved on. Neither side was listening to the other, so the whole thing seemed rather pointless. Protesters outnumbered the counter protesters by about 4 to 1 at this spot.

Turned west onto Constitution Ave. and saw a large crowd in front of me. These were some of the first people to finish the march. I finished a bit after 3pm and watched the groups just starting out for a while. I estimated 25K-30K people still to start when I had finished. I suspect it was 6pm or after until the marchers all finished the route.

I chose not to attend the concert afterward, as I was rather "peopled out" at this point. Went back to Federal Square and hopped a train back to Vienna. Got to Bernie's house in time to watch the last 3 quarters of the VA Tech/GA Tech game. (Hokies kicked butt!).

Everyone I saw was well behaved, earnest and forthright in their beliefs. Even with the large police presence I didn't see the cops harass anyone and didn't see anyone harass the cops. Didn't see any fights, no disagreements except with a few counter protesters and only smelled pot smoke once. There were a large number of women and children at the march which surprised me. Saw people from nearly every religious persuasion and big groups of teachers and union members. There were a lot more 20-35 year olds than I expected, as that generation is supposedly disinterested and not involved.

I thought the march was a huge success and am thankful to all who sacrificed their time, money, and talent to make it happen.

Your humble scribe,

Lynn

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition

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

Paul Jay essay on media coverage of Hurricane Katrina

Paul Jay is the founder of Independent World Television News, and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. I commented in support of this effort a couple of months ago; see An international PBS.

Jay has written an essay, Apres Moi le Deluge, which, among other things, compares the Bush administration to 18th century France. It's good.

United Negro College Fund You can help Hurricane Katrina victims by contributing to the United Negro College Fund.