Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

$10-billion "wake-up" for tobacco companies

JTI-Macdonald is being taken to court by the Federal government and the governments of Ontario and Quebec to recover the tax revenue lost by these governments due to JTI-Macdonald's corporate role in cigarette smuggling during the 1990's.

Story from the Globe and Mail: $10-billion "wake-up" for tobacco companies

One thing missing from the media coverage of this (so far) is Paul Martin's role. When Martin took office as Finance Minister, he was responsible for reducing Federal cigarette taxes (and leaning on Ontario and Quebec to do the same) as a "solution" to the smuggling problem, a problem that Martin's buddies in the tobacco industry created.

An appeal for improved passenger train service

The recent attempt by George W. Bush and his Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta to shut down Amtrak was a failure. One of the sillier ideas to come out of this administration was blocked in the House of Representatives by Republicans from the rural U.S.

Although Amtrak was established by a Republican administration (Nixon), Republicans from Reagan to the present have had Amtrak on their hit list. “$2-per-gallon gasoline? No problem, we'll shut down your passenger trains.”

The reason I've chosen to take up this particular topic is because I'm a regular user of Amtrak's Vancouver-Seattle service. From the comfort standpoint, I much prefer trains to buses, and Amtrak's fares are in the same ballpark as Greyhound's.

It's in the interest of the governments of both British Columbia and Washington State to encourage people to use public transportation instead of driving passenger cars, and moving people between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland is part of this picture.

Washington State has done a good job with this. They fund the Vancouver-Seattle train, another train from Seattle to Bellingham, and they just announced the addition of a third train to the Seattle-Portland route. (this doesn't include the Seattle-Los Angeles train, which Washington State doesn't contribute to.) Washington State has also been funding track improvements, which will reduce travel times in the Bellingham-Portland corridor. New stations have been built in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, and Everett, and the King Street Station in Seattle is getting a renovation.

The new stations in towns north of Seattle are an obvious indication that Washington State wants more trains running through them. What's the holdup? The B.C. government.

The Amtrak people want track improvements in Delta, but the B.C. Government, borrowing a page from the Bush administration, is more interested in shutting down passenger trains than subsidizing them. One could try telling them that passenger trains from Seattle would be helpful in bringing people here for the 2010 Olympics, but this line of reasoning didn't stop them from discontinuing passenger service on the B.C. Rail line from North Vancouver to Whistler. What might help is some more prodding from Vancouver and other Lower Mainland municipalities, and from the tourism industry.

Here's another problem that affects me personally. There are no stops for picking up and dropping off passengers between Vancouver and Bellingham. This means that every time I take the trip to Seattle, I have to take the Skytrain from New Westminster to Main Street, get on the train, then ride it back to New Westminster. (The Amtrak trains cross the Fraser River using the old railroad bridge next to the Patullo Bridge.) The Vancouver-Seattle trains that existed prior to 1981 made stops in New Westminster and White Rock. The passenger stations that were used are still there. The one in White Rock is a museum, and the one in New Westminster, which is within walking distance of the Braid Skytrain station, is used for office space by Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

Let's put these facilities back in use, and make travelling by train between the Lower Mainland and Seattle more convenient for more people. The existing Amtrak Cascades service has reduced carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide emissions by hundreds of tons per year. Everybody benefits from this.

Article from the Washington State Department of Transportation: Second Amtrak Cascades Train to Canada

Amtrak Cascades site: http://www.amtrakcascades.com/

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.

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.