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Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr) and John Horgan (BCNDP/Flickr)

Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr) and John Horgan (BCNDP/Flickr)

Before I start today’s piece, a quick report on the two columns I did recently on the Canadian government, starting with the ravages of “responsible government”, moving to suggested cures.

I received substantial feedback from across the country but not one word from an MP, MLA or an ex, questioning what I said about the effect of “responsible government”.

What to do?

Two things – raise hell with the Ministry of Education and teachers and make sure that our youngsters are taught what really happens with “responsible government”, and, secondly, test the bona fides of Democracy Watch, and its Founder and Coordinator, Duff Conacher, which claims to advocate for democratic reform, government accountability and corporate responsibility issues.

I’ve been critical of John Horgan, leader of the official opposition, because I don’t think he understands his job and hasn’t been performing it. There are so many issues that care must be taken not to lose one’s way in the morass of meanderings the Clark government has taken us on.

One of the major issues, if not the major issue, is BC Hydro and a former NDP leader, Adrian Dix, is finally doing the kind of job that proper opposition requires. He has the facts and is persistent at getting the arguments out everywhere possible.

Media quit doing its job

That leads me to a problem Mr. Horgan has and it started with the Campbell election in 2001 – the print and electronic media collapsed. Certainly in my time and in the NDP years, they took the position that government pronouncements were probably bullshit. When the opposition cross-examined ministers on policy and legislation, it was reported and reported accurately – although we in government always thought it was overblown in favour of the opposition. It was the major source of opposition information.

The principal BC newspapers, the Vancouver Sun and Province are owned by Postmedia and they have a written deal with the oil industry which I call, and I think fairly, a mutual masturbation agreement. If anyone wants a copy, I will be pleased to provide it.

When you think about it, that’s a free pass for Christy and Co. to do whatever they please. There is no serious criticism of Clark’s ongoing multi-screwup of the LNG issue because Postmedia is an ally of the oil industry. Furthermore, The Province is a partner with Resource Works, promoting the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant.

Proposed pipelines don’t get any serious static from local newspapers and when it comes to increasing production and export of petroleum products, Postmedia is in favour. Once newspapers start supporting a government to that extent, it goes right through the entire government record.

Private power fiasco

Let’s quickly look again at an issue I’ve been raising now for quite a few years. It is commonly agreed by independent experts that Gordon Campbell’s Energy Policy of 2002, continued by Clark, has not only been an environmental disaster but also a huge economic burden on what once was one of the finest energy companies in the world, BC Hydro. Campbell gave large, often foreign corporations the exclusive right to generate new electricity and BC Hydro is forced to take that power whether they need it or nor, at the time it’s offered and at a highly inflated price.

Wouldn’t you have thought that Vaughn Palmer, the slayer of premiers, would have been right there demanding to know why private corporations got this favoured deal and were making a bundle at the expense of the taxpayer who owns BC Hydro? That question has never been asked by anybody from the Vancouver Sun or the Province to this day. Why not?!

Hydro’s exploding debt

Here’s what economist Erik Andersen has to say:

So here is the Government’s and BC Hydro’s brilliance. The customers of BC Hydro have not needed any additional electricity for more than a decade yet, all the while, customer rates increased by 30% and the debt to run the crown corporation has been increased by 1,170%, from $6 billion in 2005 to $70 billion in 2015.

No one in the media has demanded to know why?

Return on investment

Now, don’t for a moment think the companies haven’t been grateful, even before they got their leases. The record, always available to Postmedia, shows that from July 1, 2008 to September 30, 2010 – when B.C. Hydro was making its decisions – 14 proponents donated $268,461 to the Liberals. One donated $1,000 to the NDP. Ten of the 14 were successful.

Their before and after donations are interesting.

For the 10 successful proponents, their donations doubled from $112,801 (January 2005 to June 2008) to $229,471.

After the deals were done, they settled back again. Seven donated $112,345 to the Liberals (2010 to 2014).

It’s now 2016, less than a year from an election, and this has to be dug out by Mr. Dix rather than already be common knowledge through newspapers doing their job. That’s no little matter!

A different Vaughan Palmer

It was instructive to see Mr. Horgan going after the premier for her strange gift of $150,000 to the Haida Gwaii school board when native schools are the responsibility of the federal government, with the curious involvement of the Premier’s relatives. Instead of it being reported by Palmer as an exposure of strange government happenings, he criticized Mr. Horgan for the way he questioned the premier!

Whatever the reason, Mr. Palmer used to get deeply into issues like this and now barely touches the tangential issues. If you doubt what I said, just ask former Premier Glen Clark.

There are also no radio talk show hosts today with a mandate to hold the government’s feet to the fire. The one or two who dare try must be cautious and anything but persistent.

This is a very important issue because in days gone by, the talk shows and the interplay with the audience were integral to informing voters as to goings-on in the government. Ministers and the premier came on the shows or their absence was noted with derision both by the host and the audience. Ministers learned that that was part of their job, that when you occasionally got the crap kicked out of you, that went with the territory. That’s no more.

The conclusion is pretty obvious – in days gone by the public had from newspapers and radio a good idea of what the issues were and what both the government and the opposition had to say about them.

Now, in Mr. Horgan’s time, he and his party must do it without any help from the media whatsoever – at least none of any consequence – a substantial advantage to the premier going in to the 2017 election.

Horgan made big mistakes

But the NDP can’t lay all their woes at the media’s feet. There are far more matters that they have left untouched, going back to the very beginning, and that’s Mr. Horgan’s responsibility. Horgan’s job – which he’s never really understood – is to oppose, whether or not the press is doing their job.

He made the catastrophic mistake of supporting LNG in all its manifestations, meaning the NDP abandoned issues like fracking, conversion of gas into liquid, transportation of LNG, environmental damage, the nature of ownership, the market situation and more, all without a question much less criticism from the Official Opposition – sheer political madness!

That does not alter the fact that the voting public has been left short of that source of information which media have always provided.

They deliberately don’t do their job because the government is their pal, unlike Mr. Horgan.

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