Friday, August 01, 2014

Best wishes to Bill Good - retiring from The Bill Good Show today! Thanks for a great program over many years!

Bill Good and Bill Tieleman in studio last week.
Congratulations to Bill Good, who is today broadcasting his last show on CKNW AM 980 after a long and distinguished career on radio and also on television.

I have had the pleasure of being a guest on The Bill Good Show for over 20 years, including 5 years as a regular political commentator each week on the Monday Morning Quarterbacks panel on federal politics and more with Norman Spector.

Bill Good is exceedingly fair, willing to listen to both sides and - importantly to me - always open to hearing from unions - members and leaders.  

Best wishes to Bill, his wife Georgie and his family as he starts a new chapter of his life and doesn't have to get up early every weekday morning!

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Why Set Minimum Prices on Booze At All? BC's "Unhappy Hour" with higher - not lower - drink prices, raises question why there should be any minimum charge

Big beer, bigger prices!
Minimum prices on beer, wine and spirits don't fix the abuse problems they're meant to solve, and simply gouge the rest of us.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday July 28, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

"What is the point of requiring non-problem drinkers to forego their pleasure or pay more, for no good in return? And what is the good of taxing problem drinkers more, if it does not address the harm?"
As the BC Liberal government scrambles to make its ridiculous "unhappy hour" slightly less objectionable, the big question remains unanswered: why have a minimum price on alcohol at all?
The answer annoys both the government, which loves telling people what to do, as well as the academics and doctors it listens to. But the reality is that the minimum prices introduced in British Columbia last month for beer, wine and spirits don't fix the problems they're intended to solve.
They only mean that happy hour, when drinks are supposed to be cheaper, get more expensive.
John Yap, parliamentary secretary for liquor policy reform, said introducing minimum booze prices is "modernizing" liquor laws while addressing "public safety and health" concerns -- that is, to curb alcohol abuse.
Yet on Friday, Yap lowered the minimum price on pitchers of beer, but not pints, from the 25 cents an ounce announced last month to 20 cents an ounce.
Campaign for Real Ale Society spokesperson Paddy Treavor said in an interview Sunday that the change doesn't make sense: "They've lowered the price on the biggest serving size. I don't see how that promotes health and safety. And we still have the highest priced beer in Canada."
The minimum pricing also means that independent bars and restaurants with beer priced lower than the big chains were suddenly forced to jack prices, removing competitive advantages.
What seemed like a dumb BC Liberal move soon looked pretty devious. Some of their biggest financial supporters are those chains.
Good intentions can backfire
Regardless, there is evidence that imposing minimum booze prices and raising the cost doesn't always work to limit alcohol abuse.
Raul Caetano, professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health, said good intentions can backfire.
"There may be situations where the intent of the taxation is reversed, in that alcohol consumption increases rather than decreases because the alcohol of choice has become cheaper. Basically, they buy more and end up drinking more," Caetano said about a 2006 study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
"In general, the evidence suggests that as you increase taxes, and alcoholic beverages become more expensive, individuals tend to use alcohol less," Caetano said.
"However, the findings in this paper indicate that the reality is not so simple, because there are alcoholic beverages at different levels of price, and when you implement taxation, what happens is that the individuals who are able to purchase the alcoholic beverages that were more expensive just switch to less expensive ones."
Nonetheless, Dr. Lawrence Loh of the Fraser Health Authority disagrees, arguing that a 2013 study found alcohol-related injuries would drop by nine per cent for every 10 per cent price increase.
That 2013 report for the Institute of Alcohol Studies was co-authored by University of Victoria psychologist Tim Stockwell and was used in the failed attempt to support introduction of minimum prices in the United Kingdom, which was rejected last year.
"Data from Canadian provinces suggest that a 10 per cent increase in average minimum prices would result in the region of an eight per cent reduction in consumption, a nine per cent reduction in hospital admissions and a 32 per cent reduction in wholly alcohol-caused deaths -- with further benefits accruing two years later," wrote Stockwell and co-author Gerald Thomas, also of UVic.
Nevertheless, the U.K.'s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, which had promised a "minimum unit price" for alcohol in 2012, was ultimately unconvinced.
Easier to price than address abuse
While minimum pricing is controversial, it's still an easier if ineffective fix for governments than looking at some of the root causes of alcohol abuse.
Professor Caetano said another 2010 study identified several sociodemographic predictors for drinking to intoxication.
Heavy drinkers, or those who got drunk more than once a month, tended to be found more among males under 60 years of age who did not have a college degree. Those who were unemployed or unmarried also had higher risk factors.
Caetano said that while more Caucasians, Hispanics and African-Americans reported drinking between 1992 and 2002, meaning drinking in general has increased, only Caucasian women consumed more drinks per person than the previous average.
Clearly none of these factors can be easily remedied. Nor will higher booze prices change your age, education, employment or relationship status, gender or other risk factors -- just the price.
Minimum alcohol prices are regressive, like other taxes that disproportionately and negatively impact lower-income people more.
In other words, those drinking expensive Champagne are not as affected by $2 more a glass as the working poor, students and others.
The reality is that problem drinkers won't change their destructive behaviour simply because of higher prices. The rest of us will just pay more -- unhappily.

If you believe Happy Hour should mean lower, not higher, drink prices, join my new Fix BC Happy Hour page on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BC Liberals Give Secret Payouts to Senior Staff Under the Table, But No One Pays for Breaking the Rules

A "troubled and disappointed" BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong
Don't expect much more than a 'tut tut' for these taxpayer abuses.
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column
Tuesday July 22, 2014
By Bill Tieleman
"Honesty pays, but it don't seem to pay enough to suit some people."
- Kin Hubbard, American humorist, 1868-1930
When the rules on how much senior government-funded staff can make are broken once, it's regrettable; when it happens time after time, it's a clear pattern of intentional deception.
That's occurred repeatedly as already highly-paid B.C. bureaucrats are found to be getting extra payments that are banned by government policies, but those doing the hiring deliberately violated them.
And it's not just payments for new hires -- you can flagrantly break conflict of interest rules on the way out of your cushy government job worth $465,000 a year and still get a $114,000 severance package.
Senior heads should roll for these outrageous abuses of taxpayer dollars, but BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong just says "tut-tut" and does little more than ask for some money to be returned or request a partial roll back of the pay for those caught out.
Stinky supplements
The latest in a long string of stinky salary supplements was last week, when we learned the chief executive officer of the BC Cancer Agency was hired in 2012 for $500,000 a year when the maximum allowed was $400,000.
The minister wants that salary rolled back $50,000, so it would then only be $50,000 over the limit. That's how de Jong gets tough.
Then it was the Royal B.C. Museum's turn, where its CEO also wrongly got a "secondary contract" worth over $50,000, including three business class flights to London, England a year.
But wait, there's more. Michael Graydon, the ex-head of the BC Lotteries Corporation, got a severance package even though he quit to take a job with Paragon Gaming, a private company doing major business with BCLC.
BCLC asked Graydon to pay back $55,000, but if he doesn't, well, nothing will likely happen.
'Troubling,' indeed
Before that, New Democrat MLA David Eby triggered a government investigation into the secret $50,000 payment to Kwantlen Polytechnic University president Alan Davis to take his current job.
Who was vice-chair of Kwantlen's board of directors that put through the undisclosed "pre-employment contracts"? Amrik Virk, now minister of advanced education and responsible for making sure such things don't happen!
Virk first denied anything was wrong and accused Eby of "fishing," but a government report confirmed it all -- yet he still has the cabinet job. And then-Kwantlen board chair Gord Schoberg, who was also involved in the contract, was not terminated.
"Troubling" and "disappointing" is what de Jong calls these cases.
But what's "troubling" and "disappointing" is that Premier Christy Clark has not fired either Virk for misconduct or de Jong for incompetence.
In fact, Clark said of Virk: "I have spoken to him and have absolute confidence in him and his ability to serve as minister of advanced education."
After all, who better to enforce the rules than someone caught breaking them?
Paying for incompetence
Ironically, the B.C. government wouldn't be in its current mess with Michael Graydon if it had taken my advice back in 2010 and fired him with cause and without severance after the BC Lottery Corporation was fined $670,000 for more than 1,000 violations of the federal Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act.
The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada fined the BC Lottery Corporation because it misfiled 1,020 reports for casino transactions over $10,000.
Graydon reportedly said that the reports were filed late because of technical glitches and human error. But the mismanagement still stands.

But hey, why worry about any of this? Taxpayers will pick up the BC Liberal tab for incompetence once again.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why BC Liberals Are Using Teachers' Dispute to Push to Privatize Public Education

The political equation driving Premier Christy Clark, solved.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 HoursVancouver / The Tyee column
Tuesday July 15, 2014
By Bill Tieleman
Privatization does not mean you take a public institution and give it to some nice person. It means you take a public institution and give it to an unaccountable tyranny." -- Noam Chomsky, American philosopher
The BC Liberal government can t fail when it comes to further privatizing public education.
That conclusion is clear as B.C. teachers face their summer of discontent on picket lines without strike pay, mediation, negotiations or any movement on class size and composition.
But for the government, it's the summer of privatization love. Look at the evidence:
Premier Christy Clark is thrilled that long-time foe the B.C. Teachers' Federation is staggering on the ropes in a 10-round boxing slugfest it can't win.
The government has already saved $100 to $200 million from the teachers' strike.
That money can be spent on anything from promoting liquefied natural gas internationally to self-promoting advertising.
Anything, that is but education -- unless you mean private schools.
They will actually be in line for even more government financial support -- because come September, thousands of parents frustrated by frequent job action by BCTF members will likely register their children in expensive but non-unionized alternatives.
And those "independent" schools already receive substantial government funding of nearly $300 million a year and teach 12 per cent of B.C. students.
And the BCTF calculates funding has jumped 45.6 per cent for private schools since 2005 while public school funding rose only 16.9 per cent.
Group One private schools -- which include most religion-based institutions -- get 50 per cent of their operating funds from government, while Group Two is composed of private schools charging higher tuition and tougher admission requirement -- they get 35 per cent funding.
What's the big selling point for those private schools besides no labour disputes?
Ironically, it's smaller class sizes and simpler class composition -- the two big issues BCTF members are on picket lines to improve, beyond their wages.
Public schools have to take all students, deal with multiple challenges from special needs kids to English as a second language students to dwindling resources all while managing large classes.
Private schools avoid those problems by picking and choosing who can attend, then charging tuition.
And with yearly fees at exclusive schools like St. George's -- where Clark's son is a student -- running at $18,995 for Grades 1 to 7 and $21,355 for Grades 8 to 12, they can easily outspend public schools per student.
'Choice' for those with money
St. George's Latin motto is simple: sine timore aut favore -- without fear or favour -- but the same can't be said of the BC Liberal government.
Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton is parliamentary secretary for independent schools -- a new position first created by Christy Clark in 2012 -- and his views on private school are rather blunt.
"I think this position of parliamentary secretary is a reflection of the emphasis the government places on family choice -- choice of education," Dalton said when first appointed.
How many other BC Liberal MLAs are sending or have sent their children to private schools while governing the public education system? The Tyee tried to find out with very limited success.
While some B.C. Liberal MLAs did forthrightly respond to a survey along with some NDP MLAs, a whopping 71 out of 85 MLAs did not -- including 43 who mention their children in online biographies.
This premier wins if public education loses
But ultimately the BC Liberal record on privatizing public education is about the policies adopted, not personal MLA choices, which may be more complicated.
That record is clear.
Make public education less attractive, hurt your union opponent, promote and fund private schools like your son's and save money the whole time -- that's a perfect score for the premier.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Dumb or Devious? BC Liberals' Happy Hour Raises Prices and Suspicions of Downing the Competition


Donnelly Group bus shelter and print ads went up quickly!
New rules mean less real price competition for big chains by small independents. Hmmmm.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column 

Tuesday July 8, 2014

By Bill Tieleman
"He was a wise man who invented beer."
- Plato, ancient Greek philosopher
Is the B.C. Liberal government really incredibly dumb, bringing in "happy hour" rules that actually increase -- not lower -- the price of beer, wine and cocktails by imposing new minimum prices?
Or have the BC Liberals actually rewarded some of their biggest financial supporters by reducing competition based on price, to the benefit of some of the province's largest bar and restaurant chains and at the expense of independent pubs?
A consumer group thinks the evidence points to a Machiavellian move hurting both consumers and smaller liquor outlets alike, by increasing prices for a pint of beer by $2 or more and a pitcher of beer up $5.
The entire liquor industry should be in an uproar over the June 20 introduction of minimum pricing making B.C. beer prices per ounce the highest in Canada at 25 cents, more than double the roughly 11 cent price previously, which was simply the cost of the beer itself.
That means a 20-ounce pint of beer now costs a minimum $5 plus tax.
But instead the brewing revolt is being led by a consumer group -- the Campaign for Real Ale Society -- and some small pubs and bars, while the big chains are either surprisingly silent or remarkably happy, with one taking out full page newspaper and bus shelter ads proclaiming "Prohibition is over."
CAMRA spokesperson Paddy Treavor says drinkers should be suspicious.
"I believe that the B.C. government either willingly -- or were duped by special interest groups -- into making prices higher," Treavor said from Powell River Sunday. "The big chains put their thumb on independent and smaller outlets."
"They don't want to have to compete with places that were offering $3.50 drinks -- now they can put the blame on the government for higher prices," he added.
Safely expensive
John Yap, the Richmond-Steveston MLA and parliamentary secretary for liquor reform to Attorney General Suzanne Anton who guided the changes, defends the higher priced happy hour on "safety" grounds despite no evidence previously lower prices were a problem.
"This is one of the most important public safety and health aspects of the recommendations that we brought in with the modernizing of our liquor laws," Yap told Global TV on July 4.
"We have not had rules on minimum pricing and now we introduced them based on our balanced approach on modernizing our liquor laws," Yap said.
I have my doubts about "balance" and "modernizing" being the reasons for higher priced happy hour, so I have filed a Freedom of Information request seeking all correspondence between Yap, Anton, their ministry and liquor interests to see if any communications took place prior to "unhappy hour" being introduced. 
Meantime, you can protest by joining my new Facebook page Fix BC Happy Hour, where over 1,100 people have already signed on for affordable drinks.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

How Did BC Screw up Happy Hour? Higher Prices, Not Lower? Join Campaign To Fix 'Happy Hour'

Pitchers of beer going up as much as $5, pints up $2 under "Happy Hour"!
The province didn't 'modernize' liquor laws; they 'Liberalized' them.

NOTE: Join my Facebook protest page Fix BC Happy Hour

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday June 24, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

"Two-fifty for a hi-ball / And a buck and a half for a beer / Happy hour, happy hour / Happy hour is here."
- The Tragically Hip, "Little Bones"
How on Earth could anyone screw up something as simple as happy hour?
Welcome to British Columbia, where the BC Liberal government isn't on the planet when it comes to being clear on the concept of "happy hour," where bars, pubs and restaurants can offer thirsty patrons a short break from overpriced beer, wine and cocktails.
B.C. Attorney-General Suzanne Anton announced the "modernizing" of liquor laws Friday, and when it comes to happy hour, in many cases prices will actually be higher, not lower, than before -- up to $5 more for a 60-ounce pitcher of beer and $2 more for a pint!
If the BC Liberals can't even figure out how to introduce happy hour without making us pay more, not less, for a simple drink, it's scary to think how they will negotiate a critical taxation regime for liquefied natural gas that's worth billions of dollars.
Getting LNG right is a little tougher than happy hour!
Cry into your pricier beer
The province set minimum drink charges for happy hour above current prices, causing drinkers to immediately cry into their more expensive beers.
"I'm fundamentally disappointed in the government for this," Adam Chatburn, the president of Vancouver's Campaign for Real Ale Society chapter, told media.
"We were really hoping they would take a much more adult and sensible approach to minimum pricing for happy hour," said Chatburn. "Unfortunately, they've decided to jack the price right up."
Yes, that's right: the "BC Liberalized" happy hour means more expense booze. You can't make this stuff up.
As Steve Bauer of Vancouver's Pumpjack Pub explained it: "The 60 ounce jugs are going up to a minimum of $15, tax out, which takes you to over $17 dollars for a jug. A lot of people on this street aside from ourselves and restaurants, you'll [have seen] them for $11, $12. So that's all gone!"
Bauer said the pub's 14-year tradition of selling a 17-ounce pint of beer on Sunday afternoons for $2.90 will have to change, with the price jumping to $4.90 due to the new rules.
That means the minimum price for an ounce of liquor is $2 and $3 for a 12-ounce beer or five-ounce wine.
Give us a break
Sadly, liquor is one area where the BC Liberals have made some positive changes, drawing rare praise from this column for allowing wine corkage in restaurants.
Saturday's announcement that B.C.-produced wine, beer, cider and spirits can now be sold in farmers' markets, for example, is very welcome and overdue, as is letting children into pubs with parents till 10 p.m. for "family friendly dining."
No one wants dirt-cheap drinks or more drunk drivers on our roads, but most of the civilized world, including Seattle, seems able to do happy hour appropriately.
So can we just get a little break on an after-work drink? Or is that too much to ask?
Join my new Facebook page Fix BC Happy Hour -- so we can truly get happy!


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