Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Erik Bornmann re-activates attempt to become Ontario lawyer with "good character" hearing November 5 in Toronto
By BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS
Erik Bornmann, the Crown's key witness in the breach of trust case against former B.C. government ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk, will be the subject of a "good character" hearing Nov. 5 to determine if he will be admitted to the Ontario bar as a lawyer.
The Law Society of Upper Canada confirmed yesterday the hearing is going ahead after previously being adjourned.
The hearing into Bornmann's "good character" resulted from a complaint to the society. Police allege that Basi and Virk were bribed by Bornmann, then a lobbyist, to obtain confidential government documents related to the $1-billion B.C. Rail privatization.
Bornmann's lawyer requested an adjournment so that it would take place after the trial, but lengthy delays mean the trial will not start till 2008.
The hearing will be open to the public.
Bornmann's lawyer, Bryan Finlay, did not respond to requests for comment.
INFORMATION NOT PUBLISHED IN 24 HOURS:
Society acting communications director Helen Stone told 24 hours the hearing will be open to the public and media. Bornmann had previously requested a closed hearing or publication ban on the deliberations.
"I can confirm with you that I have it on the list - on November 5 he is listed," Stone said.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
BC Premier Gordon Campbell has lots of problems as political roof caves in - lobbying, convention centre, party boosterism, Basi-Virk
By BILL TIELEMAN
A week is a long time in politics.
Premier Gordon Campbell is reportedly deeply opposed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's legislation to force voters to remove burkhas or veils before casting a ballot so they can be identified.
That's because after the past week, Campbell may not want to show his face in the next provincial election.
Until recently the B.C. Liberal leader has been on cruise control, enjoying a buoyant economy and a 10-point lead over the B.C. NDP. Then the political roof caved in:
- Campbell's top advisor, Ken Dobell, is under investigation by a special prosecutor over allegations he violated the Lobbyist Registration Act by lobbying the provincial government without registering.
- Campbell's former labour minister, Graham Bruce, is also alleged to have violated those rules by lobbying for the Cowichan Tribes. And Bruce was allegedly conducting paid lobbying before a two-year "cooling off" period expired when ex-ministers are to avoid influencing government, which may violate the Conflict of Interest Act.
- Despite earlier Campbell claims, the new Vancouver Convention Centre expansion would be built on budget, that price has nearly doubled to $883 million - $388 million extra - and last week, Auditor-General Errol Price said costs may go even higher. This is one time when the Price is right. And Dobell chaired the Convention Centre project board until April.
- Linda Reid, Minister of State for Child Care, got caught in an incredibly foolish decision to distribute thousands of child booster seats for low-income parents - but only through B.C. Liberal MLA constituency offices - "boosting" only her party.
- A pre-trial hearing in the breach of trust case against former government ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk was told Friday by a defence lawyer that 25,000 new pages of evidence may "impact certain cabinet ministers" in Campbell's government. More disclosure applications will be heard in December, with the trial to start in March 2008.
Unfortunately for Campbell, most of these problems lead back to the premier's office.
Dobell was his senior deputy minister for years and continues to be a highly paid private advisor to Campbell, though he has now taken a leave.
The allegations against Bruce include claims he met twice with Campbell about funding for the Cowichan Tribes to hold the North American Indigenous Games in 2008. The Cowichan and Bruce deny any wrongdoing.
And at the Convention Centre launch on Nov. 8, 2004, Campbell made this confident boast: "There are contingencies built into the project, and it's going to be run professionally. This will be built on time and on budget ... Count on it."
The only thing Campbell can now count on is deep trouble.
Monday, October 29, 2007
By BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett angrily warned both prosecution and defence Friday that proceedings in the case of three former provincial government aides charged with breach of trust will go ahead "if I have to sit here in an empty courtroom myself."
Bennett's statement came after defence lawyers said they had just received 25,000 new pages of evidence in the trial of David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi, potentially delaying the case.
And Virk's lawyer, Kevin McCullough, alleged that new evidence related to the $1-billion privatization of B.C. Rail by the B.C. Liberal government in 2003 could affect current provincial ministers.
"There are certain documents that may have an impact on certain cabinet ministers and we may have to pursue those documents," McCullough said.
Bennett refused to hear arguments from either Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino or McCullough about who is responsible for the delay in disclosing evidence, saying she will have to rule on a defence motion of abuse of process that could throw the entire case out of court.
But McCullough persisted.
"There are no problems at the feet of the defence. One hundred per cent of the problem is at the feet of the special prosecutor," he said, drawing objections from Berardino.
Pre-trial hearings continue in November.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Basi-Virk case - 25,000 new pages of evidence; Justice Bennett blows up; defence blames Special Prosecutor for delays
A massive 25,000 page disclosure of new evidence in the breach of trust trial of two former provincial government ministerial aides could impact current BC cabinet ministers, BC Supreme Court was told Friday morning.
And tempers flared as defence lawyers, the Special Prosecutor and even Justice Elizabeth Bennett all expressed frustration at lengthy delays that have stalled the pending trial, which began with a police raid on the BC Legislature on December 28, 2003.
Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Bob Virk, the former ministerial assistant to then-Transportation Minister Judith Reid, told Bennett that current members of Premier Gordon Campbell's government may be affected when the new evidence is examined.
"There are certain documents that may have an impact on certain cabinet ministers and we may have to pursue those documents," McCullough said.
Earlier defence lawyer Michael Bolton, representing David Basi, former aide to then-Finance Minister Gary Collins, told the court that 13,000 pages of new evidence all connected to the BC Rail deal had been received by the defence this week. Another more than 11,000 pages related to a drug investigation that was linked to the case was also disclosed.
The massive disclosure of new material - ordered by Bennett in June in response to a defence request - has made it impossible for the defence to prepare planned court applications, an exasperated McCullough said.
"To give it all to us on the 22nd and 24th gives absolutely no time to review the file," McCullough said.
Bennett was also exasperated with the delays in the complicated case that began as an RCMP drug trafficking investigation but later branched off into a breach of trust action after wiretaps led police to look into the $1 billion privatization sale of BC Rail to CN Rail.
When counsel for the defence suggested it might need more time to prepare its applications in light of the new evidence, Bennett warned that she would not consider moving the planned December 3 date scheduled in court.
"As long as everyone understands we're not moving the December 3 date - if I have to sit here in an empty courtroom myself, the matters are going to be heard" she exclaimed.
"I don't think any of us expected this volume of documents to show up. I didn't," she added.
But McCullough intervened, placing the blame entirely on Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino and his team.
"There are no problems at the feet of the defence. 100% of the problem is at the feet of the Special Prosecutor," he charged, which prompted Berardino to fire back.
"If people are going to make a speech - I want to reply to that. You asked for every scrap of paper," Berardino started, referring to Bennett's own instructions previously in court.
But an angry Bennett refused to hear more.
"At some point your friends are going to bring in an abuse of process motion and I don't need to hear arguments from anyone today," Bennett said curtly. "I appreciate no one knew how many documents there were and I know everyone is working hard."
McCullough refused to drop the issue, however.
"We're quite prepared to set out for you that not one day of delay, not a single day, is due to the defence," he argued.
"I don't need to hear it," Bennett replied but McCullough persisted.
"The Special Prosecutor says they have complied with your order - I would like to review that," he said. "We have found hard copy call logs summaries that we cannot find electronically. The Special Prosecutor cannot find them either and they can't explain it."
"It would be negligent of me to not raise the problems," he concluded.
Outside the court Bolton repeated earlier statements that the defence will file an abuse of process motion which could potentially see the case dismissed without a trial, based on arguments against police conduct and problems with disclosure of evidence by the prosecution.
Bennett again warned both sides that delays are not acceptable.
"We need to accomplish something with this case so we can proceed in mid-March," Bennett said, referring to an anticipated trial date.
The pre-trial hearing marked the first appearance of legal counsel for BC Rail, with Robert Deane of Borden Ladner Gervais representing the crown corporation.
Justice Bennett set two further pre-trial hearing conferences for the case, one on Friday November 16 at 9 a.m. to determine which matters can go ahead and what applications will be filed for the December 3 date and a second conference on Friday November 23 at 8 a.m.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Suspended NDP MLA Michael Sather outlines why he will vote against the Tsawwassen Treaty over farmland exclusion
Second Reading of Bills
We in the white man's world really have no comprehension of who aboriginal peoples are. We cannot really respect those we do not understand — these people of the land looking out to the sea. The relationships that aboriginal peoples have are foreign to us. We don't know these relationships.
The broader culture and the culture of first nations remain worlds apart. I heard this dichotomy expressed in a different way on the lawn of the Legislature last week. One of the first nations leaders said to his brothers and sisters: "How do you know who you are? How do you know that your rights will never be extinguished? Because you have a name."
This is a highly sophisticated concept that is very difficult for us to understand. It's not a part of our culture. What I hear first nations saying is that there is an indivisibility between humans and the earth.
TASER death at Vancouver Airport shows need for moratorium on use, independent study as called for by Amnesty International
Tuesday October 23, 2007
That's enough: Let's phase out the Taser
By BILL TIELEMAN
Taser technology saves lives every day.
A joyous mother waits in the Vancouver airport to meet her son after being separated by distance for years. She has worked two jobs for seven years to save enough money for him to emigrate from Poland
But her joy turns to worry when she cannot find her only child, and hours later she is told her son is dead after being hit with 50,000 volts of electricity from a Taser fired by a police officer at the airport.
It's impossible to imagine the depth of grief suffered by Zofia Cisowski, the mother of Robert Dziekanski, a 40-year-old Polish man who died Oct. 14 just hours after arriving in Canada on his first-ever flight.
Robert thought that he was about to begin a better life in Canada with his mother - instead, he was soon taken to the morgue.
Robert spoke no English and became highly agitated at the airport, breaking furniture and throwing objects but not physically harming anyone.
RCMP officers tried to calm Robert down but could not communicate with him. So they fired two Taser barbed hooks into his body and jolted him with 50,000 volts. He was subdued but died minutes later.
"Very soon I was going to realize my son's hug. I was smiling nicely because I would meet my son soon. My boy, my boy, how does this happen?" Zofia said, sobbing with tears. "I was there waiting for him. He didn't see me. I didn't see him. I'm so sad."
While it's hard to comprehend Zofia's anguish, it's easy to predict the same tragedy happening over and over - because 17 other people in Canada have died after being Tasered since 2003.
Amnesty International USA is calling for a comprehensive, independent medical study after the Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that Conducted-Energy Devices (CEDs), like Tasers, were the cause of death in 17 cases.
Amnesty has recorded 270 deaths after CEDs were used, the vast majority Tasers. And in those cases only 22 of the individuals who died were armed - none with firearms.
Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward is also calling for an independent investigation.
Ward represented the family of Robert Bagnell, a Vancouver man who died after being Tasered by Vancouver police in 2004.
Ward says there should be a moratorium on Tasers until they have been subject to rigorous safety testing.
"We have 18 cases in Canada of people who died after being Tasered - that's too many," Ward told 24 hours. "One of the concerns is that they are often used against unarmed people who are in medical or emotional distress."
Too many deaths, too much grief - it's time to stop using Tasers.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I posed a pre-taped question to de Jong about the treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation excluding prime farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
De Jong didn't like the question. Here is that exchange:
Vaughn Palmer: In her speech to the Legislature this week, Kim Baird [Tsawwassen First Nation Chief] said there was opposition in the non-native community to her treaty as well, particularly on the agricultural land and she referred to 'environmentalists, politicians and columnists' being in opposition to this transfer.
Here's one of the columnists - I know he was proud to be singled out in the Chief's speech - here's Bill Tieleman:
Bill Tieleman: The provincial treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation will get rid of 200 hectares of prime farmland and allow it to be used for Deltaport container expansion - pave it over. How can you justify this at a time of climate change and food security concerns - actually getting rid of farmland in British Columbia?
Vaughn Palmer: He doesn't give up on this issue.
Mike de Jong: Well I'm glad for the question from Bill but I find implicit in the statement the notion - it is very presumptuous.
The thing is - the Tsawwassen First Nation - we heard Kim Baird say this - the Tsawwassen First Nation will decide how to put those lands to use.
There's no deal, there's no pre-ordained result and ....
Vaughn Palmer: They're probably going to use them for port development, they're not going to grow potatoes on that land!
Mike de Jong: And the whole point of the exercise, Vaughn, when I was asked about this - because the government had a choice, the government had a choice, and we opted, as revealed in the legislation, we have specifically excluded - we didn't wait for the ALR, the ALC [Agricultural Land Commission] we thought that would be unfair, that's not the Agricultural Land Commission's jurisdiction or responsibility, it was a political decision on the part of the government that said every single community in this province has a portion within their jurisdication that they can use for commercial activity to develop an economy and the Tsawwassen should be no different.
And if Mr. Tieleman can find me a community somewhere in British Columbia where no lands are available to develop an economy and provide some economic foundations for families to move forward, then I stand corrected but I haven't found that community because I don't think it exists.
Vaughn Palmer: Was there no other land available?
Mike de Jong: Well, you know where the Tsawwassen are located and, you know, the stories we heard about them already. You see, there is....
Vaughn Palmer: They're between the ferry terminal and Roberts Bank superport and at the time the two communities Beach Grove and Ladner as communities around them, a hydroelectric line, a freeway and a railway....
Mike de Jong: We apparently had no qualms about putting causeways through, we apparently had no qualms in allowing good portions of good farmland over the years, over the decades, to be developed for the purpose of non-aboriginal society, we made some decisions.
But now Bill Tieleman wants to say no, we're going to start anew and for this community, which we are desperately working with to try and create a sound economic foundation and future - no, the rules will be different for you - you won't have those opportunities. You're not going to have a small portion - 200 hectares, 200 hectares - upon which you can make some decisions.
And you know what, maybe they'll decide a portion of it is going to remain agricultural but it will be their decision. . . . .
And what we're trying to do is create a circumstance in which people can move forward and what Mr. Tieleman and others seem intent on the one hand saying 'yes, yes I'm supportive of the Tsawwassen First Nation but on the other hand I want them to move forward with one hand tied behind their back.' That's not fair.
Not surprisingly, Minister de Jong misrepresents not only my position but the reality of the Tsawwassen Treaty.
There is no question whatsoever - as Vaughn Palmer notes - that the Tsawwassen First Nation is not going to expand Deltaport by using the excluded farmland.
De Jong's statement that there is no "pre-ordained deal" is absolutely ridiculous.
As I've previously noted, Chief Kim Baird has said so and there is a Memorandum of Agreement with the Vancouver Port Authority right on the TFN's own website!
Secondly, the Tsawwassen are not going to develop the land themselves - they are going to sign it over to Deltaport in exchange for a big cheque and probably some small number of jobs for TFN members.
The real goal, as I have repeatedly stated here and in 24 hours newspaper, is to get the farmland out of the ALR to allow Deltaport expansion quickly and without question - to remove any possibility that the Agricultural Land Commission would block the removal of those farmland from the ALR if the Tsawwassen had simply been transferred the land without and exclusion - as was previously proposed.
So if the Tsawwassen are satisfied with a big cheque and some jobs, why not give it to them without destroying precious farmland? Because the provincial government and the federal government wanted Deltaport expansion more than anything else - and they used the Tsawwassen First Nation to get it.
Let's be clear - I have said from the beginning that historic injustices need to be resolved, that the Tsawwassen and other First Nations have been shamefully treated in the past.
But that does not mean the only resolution is to let them make the same terrible mistakes that were made generations ago by non-aboriginals, at a time when our society didn't realize the damage we were doing to our environment and our health.
An honourable treaty could have been negotiated - but the economic interests of the government and big business came first and now we have another tragic situation - a First Nation being put in a position where it has been used for larger and less noble purposes than righting historic wrongs.
De Jong's justifications ring hollow.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The following are Hansard Draft excerpts from New Democratic Party MLAs, including Leader Carole James, on the Treaty and in particular on its exclusion of farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve for Deltaport expansion.
Tuesday October 16, 2007
[DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Carole James - NDP leader & MLA - Victoria-Beacon Hill
C. James: I rise with pride today to speak to the Tsawwassen treaty. I rise with feelings of pride and optimism for the future of Tsawwassen people, but I also have feelings of great concern about this government's approach to treaty-making — past, present and future. And I'm going to take some time this afternoon, as I go through my remarks, to talk about that and to talk about some ideas of how to improve that process.
But I want to start by saying how proud I am to stand with my caucus to support the Tsawwassen treaty. It will be a momentous day for the Tsawwassen people when this treaty is finally ratified by all parties and comes into effect. It will be a genuine cause for celebration.
.....In the 1990s the Leader of the Opposition, now the Premier, opposed race-based aboriginal government. The Nisga'a treaty was unconstitutional, he said. Non-Nisga'a citizens would be subject to Nisga'a laws, he said. Non-Nisga'a citizens would be burdened by taxation without representation.
Even when the courts told the Premier that he was wrong, he fought back with a terribly divisive and racist provincial referendum that did nothing except create more divide — after a history of divide in our province — and delayed treaty talks.
Then we all know that suddenly, in 2005, the Premier began promoting a new relationship. Given the Premier's history, first nations and the general public both have good reason to wonder whether they're dealing with a far-sighted statesman or a partisan tactician. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I have to say that I believe a statesman would have found an honourable way to treat the Tsawwassen First Nation and protect the agricultural land reserve. A partisan would have played one off against another. A far-sighted strategist would have worked hard to resolve this critical land use dispute. A mere tactician would have gone for short-term political gain. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY] We all know what happened in this case. As a result, neither first nations nor the general public really knows where this government and this Premier stand on the toughest of historical treaty issues. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Guy Gentner NDP MLA - Delta North
This treaty, in addressing old wrongs, is writing into history, I believe, a new wrong. The new wrong is the dismantling of the agricultural land reserve, and it will be the death of the ALR.
If we approve the removal of the province's most valued agricultural land for treaty settlement, then all agricultural land is on the table, Crown or otherwise.
The precedent will be set. The province's willingness to barter away farmland is the death knell for more to be lost.
Further, by losing that land for the express interest of global profits, from which you and I really won't benefit, we are also sounding the death knell for our future food resources, our future health and welfare, our future environment and, indeed, our very future.
I asked at the beginning: what price do we put on what is going to be lost? It seems to me that what we have here, written in such fine detail in the VPA agreement, is that the costs of repairing the past is the future of farmland. Is this what we want?
What was done in the past and the long-lasting impacts on indigenous people was, to our modern and hopefully more enlightened minds, morally reprehensible. There should have been amends long ago, and it is long past time to sign treaties and enable first nations to move toward their own future.
But what future will that be if we do not protect the very land that feeds us all, if we do not protect the environment that is our collective responsibility?
We are in the process of legislating the end of the agricultural land reserve and gaining a parking lot of containers. Fields of containers is what our future will be with this legislation — the legacy of this government.
We are going to fix a horrendous wrong with containers. Is this truly what we want?
. . . . Someone is going to make a lot of money from this, a heck of a lot of money. Only a very few people will benefit, and it won't be all the TFN members. A special few will benefit, most of whom live outside the province.
The rest of us will pay. We'll pay with our taxes, pay with our health and pay with our future. The Premier is finding that it isn't really easy being green.
Scott Fraser - NDP MLA Alberni-Qualicum
As has been mentioned, the Tsawwassen treaty has not been without debate. New Democrats have strong and passionate beliefs. Two of those issues that we feel most strongly about are settling first nations treaties — it's a human rights issue — and preserving B.C.'s food-producing lands.
It was also the NDP that created both the ALR — the agricultural land reserve — and the treaty process. So as a party and as a caucus, we have the obligation to carefully consider the implications of the Tsawwassen treaty for farmland. This debate is intelligent, it's healthy, and we should all be proud of it.
The New Democrat caucus has had in-depth discussions about these issues, and we've come to a decision to support the treaty. However, as the official opposition, it is our right and our role to raise important questions. So we will stand in the Legislature and give voice to your concerns, which we all have in British Columbia, about the loss of agricultural land, which produces food for communities in the region and beyond.
The ALR is one of B.C.'s greatest legacies, and we will not lose sight of that — of the crucial importance of the legacy of the ALR for the people of British Columbia, particularly in the times of climate change.
We will also raise important concerns about this government's plans for expansion of Deltaport and how these plans impact the fertile and irreplaceable agricultural lands in the area, especially when alternatives are available — ports, facilities such as in Prince Rupert.
. . . . As New Democrats, we will build on the momentum that the Tsawwassen treaty offers, momentum towards reconciliation — more than just the word — and towards protecting farmland, which is our future food security.
As we continue the journey towards reconciliation, the NDP will stand by our commitment for the preservation of farmland — not just today, not just for today's generation, but for future generations. This must also be a key part of the treaty process.
Leonard Krog - NDP MLA Nanaimo
I'm going to accept that the government members have changed their minds, many of them. I'm going to accept that they are now sincere in their support for first nations people across this province.
I'm going to accept that they want to build a just society, a society where social and economic justice are the hallmarks, not just for those of the dominant culture but for those who are of first nations ancestry — those who occupied the land from time immemorial, long before the Spanish came or the Russians or the English or the French.
I'm going to believe that they're sincere in that. I'm going to believe that they want to do the right thing. But the way the agricultural land, which is of such great importance to British Columbians, was included in this treaty gives the opposition some reason for concern.
The commitment to preserving agricultural land is one that is strongly felt by British Columbians. It is indeed the one thing, apart from some awful tinkering, that successive governments, since its introduction by Dave Barrett and Dave Stupich, have not really tried to trifle with.
There have been some changes under this government that are quite unpalatable and that any responsible government elected to succeed them will change, but the fact is they haven't played with it. They understood its importance and its significance to British Columbians, just as the preservation of land, and the land, is so important to first nations people in this province, understanding that intense relationship that exists between first nations people and the land.
One could say that if the NDP had negotiated this treaty, maybe we would have and could have done it differently. But as I have said to some of my constituents who question the treaty, this is like an election. This is exactly like an election. You never get to pick the perfect choice. We have a treaty that we can support or we can oppose. We don't get the treaty that each and every one of us might exactly support.
. . . . The opposition will support this treaty. The opposition will continue to have its concerns about the agricultural land. But when you weigh the issue of the ALR and agricultural lands against the profound importance of the treaty process succeeding, I would suggest to those who have those concerns that the success of the process far outweighs the issue of the agricultural lands.
I say that as someone who is profoundly proud of the agricultural land reserve, as someone who is absolutely astonished that this government, in a time when we're all talking about hundred-mile diets and the importance of being self-sufficient in food and about food security, would throw this in as part of the treaty — to use it as some political football, arguably.
But you know something? I trust the Tsawwassen people. They have much for a future to look forward to.
Wednesday October 17, 2007
David Chudnovsky - NDP MLA Vancouver-Kensington
It's a good day for the Tsawwassen people, and it's a good day for British Columbia, and it's a good day for Canada, because this treaty speaks to the hopes and the desires and the dreams of a first nation and of a province and of a country.
That's not to say that I don't have concerns, serious concerns, about this treaty and about this legislation, and I want to talk about those concerns in some detail in a few minutes.
. . . . Once he formed government, this Premier insisted on holding an expensive and ultimately meaningless referendum on treaties in 2002. First nations condemned him. Polling professionals ridiculed the questions and the methodology and the process.
Everyone who understood the reality of the history of aboriginal people in British Columbia was appalled.
Now, finally and happily, the Premier and his government have changed their tune, but the political opportunism remains.
How else can one describe the government's decision to use public funds to take Tsawwassen people to Nisga'a territory to observe the results of a treaty that this Premier and this government opposed so enthusiastically?
. . . . I said earlier that even though I'm proud to support the treaty and the legislation, I have real concerns about some of its elements. Many people are concerned about the treaty, and many are even critical of it. That shouldn't surprise us. Together with the debate around this treaty, some of our most cherished principles are put into stark relief. There are tensions and conflicts between and among them.
The treaty process, the ALR, self-government and self-determination, local and municipal governance, protection of the environment, redress and reconciliation, food security, social justice. Each of these is for me a touchstone, a measuring stick, a way to figure out where I stand and how I should behave. So, like others, when those principles don't all line up in one direction, I have to struggle to find a way forward.
. . . . There are some who say that the Tsawwassen treaty is an attempt by this government to make an end run around the ALR. I think they're right.
Many say that the treaty is a way the government hopes to get around municipal concerns regarding control over development in Delta.
Critics assert that the treaty is being used by the Liberals to avoid their responsibilities to sustainability and the environment, to protect, for instance, the Fraser estuary and the Georgia Strait. They argue that the treaty is all about massive expansion of Deltaport.
My view is that we should take every one of those criticisms seriously. I think there is merit in each of them. There's no doubt the Tsawwassen peoples' legitimate interest in self-determination and in economic development is being used by a cynical government to push a project that is far more important to them — the government — than the Tsawwassen people or any other first nation in B.C. — namely, massive expansion of Deltaport and a socially and environmentally irresponsible version of economic development.
. . . . The Tsawwassen people had no control over the creation of the ALR or its relationship to their traditional territory. So, despite the legitimate criticisms, I cannot reject the treaty on these grounds precisely because it is the treaty which will provide the Tsawwassen First Nation the possibility, finally, to participate in determining their own future.
We, who have done such a poor job in ensuring social justice and environmental sustainability, have a lot of nerve denying them the right to try to do better than we here — even on their land, and even if they make some mistakes.
Chuck Puchmayr - NDP MLA New Westminster
Last year New Westminster hosted the Pulling Together. I was able to make a presentation at the Tsawwassen longhouse. I left a message for Chief Baird from my leader, the official opposition. The message was that we understood what they were facing, and we could understand that there was some anxiety with the people on the Tsawwassen First Nations land with respect to the upcoming vote. The message from my leader was that we support any direction that they take.
. . . . Back to Tsawwassen, there's certainly some concern about the farmland. We're not going to not talk about the issue of farmland. Farmland is very crucial to the survival of this planet. It's very crucial to have farmland so that you can develop your own food for your own people.
Just as the first nations do, we need food as well. We cannot start to depend on foreign countries to provide us with food. It may look advantageous today, but it could be a disaster for us in the future.
There's no doubt that there are some concerns, and I'm sure the concerns could very well be from some members on the other side who boast about growing in B.C. and boast about farmland. I'm disappointed that I'm not hearing the actual concerns about the agricultural land reserve, but they are valid concerns, and they are real concerns.
When the Agricultural Land Commission and the land reserve were brought in under the Dave Barrett NDP government…. We look today at what we have in preserved farmland that is always under threat, always in jeopardy. We wouldn't have that today had there not been that vision in the past. So there's no doubt that there is some concern when you start to lose farmland.
The land component of the Tsawwassen treaty is irreplaceable. The land component is something that has more value than any amount of money that you can print. Once that land is gone, once the title is gone…. Once that land is sold, 50 years from now or 100 years from now or 500 years from now, people will be wondering what happened to that land.
It is of such extreme value to any future first nations that it has to be respected and it has to be treasured. I feel confident that Tsawwassen First Nation has considered that. There is going to be immense pressure on Tsawwassen First Nation to liquidate, to sell some of that land.
If you look where they're situated between the long jetty driveway to the ferry and the other one to Robert's Bank and the massive container and coal port…. When you look where it's situated, you can understand the pressures that they are going to be experiencing with somebody wanting that land for industrial development. I mean, it's inevitable. I know that Tsawwassen will be strong and that they will certainly listen to their people before any decisions are made on something that is absolutely not replaceable.
. . . . I would say that the Tsawwassen lands are so important to them and the agricultural land is so important to us, but had those land claims been resolved when they should have been resolved, there wasn't even a dream of the agricultural land reserve. This is something that came in the modern times, in the early '70s. So my concerns — where I think they're very valid, I do think that the history trumps that concern to some degree.
Claire Trevena - NDP MLA North Island
My colleague from Delta North gave a heartfelt plea for retention and protection of agricultural land. He will not be alone in that.
The ALR was an innovative and inspired approach to land, brought in by the NDP and embraced by the people of B.C. As our concerns about climate catastrophe and food security increase, we should all be conscious of each piece of agricultural land and find ways to protect it.
Norm Macdonald - Columbia River-Revelstoke
I had the opportunity to watch part of the demonstration outside on Monday. The treaty upsets some because it is motivated by the government's desire to move ahead with the Delta port expansion. That was clearly seen by many, many to be the motivation behind moving with this treaty.
Chief Stuart Phillip, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, described the government as working towards — and he used an unparliamentary term, but he says — "a sleazy backroom approach to port development." I think we would all recognize that that is one of the factors that is part of pushing this deal forward first.
As I said, I don't believe there is genuine concern for first nations issues with the Premier or with many of the people in the Premier's office such as Martyn Brown. I just do not see that they have genuinely changed and are concerned with first nations issues. So it is something else that motivates the Premier, and likely it is the Delta port expansion.
But I want to be clear that the Premier's motivation is really beside the point in considering whether to support this treaty or not. Nothing that the Premier or the government does — none of their motivation — should take away from the honourable work of the people negotiating on behalf of the Tsawwassen First Nation. Whatever the motivation, we ultimately need to judge by results on this particular issue. Reaching a negotiated settlement is a positive step for the province.
The Tsawwassen were clear in accepting the treaty; that is to be acknowledged and to be celebrated. The challenge for others is if we do not have a motivation such as Delta port, will our treaties be dealt with in as quick and energetic a manner? By quick, we're still talking about 14 years.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Tsawwassen Chief Kim Baird criticizes "columnists, environmentalists and politicians" who oppose removal of farmland from Agricultural Land Reserve
In her address to the BC Legislature Monday afternoon, Chief Baird went after - probably specifically me - who disagree with the Tsawwassen Treaty excluding farmland from the ALR so it can be used for Deltaport container shipping expansion.
I respect Chief Baird's considerable abilities and her skill in negotiating a treaty for the Tsawwassen people - but I fundamentally disagree with the provincial government legislatively removing 207 hectares - or about 500 acres - of farmland from the ALR and with the Tsawwassen for demanding it.
And I find it incredible that Chief Baird continues to publicly claim the Tsawwassen will not necessarily agree to pave the land for container port expansion when there is a Memorandum of Agreement with the Vancouver Port Authority right on the Tsawwassen First Nation's own website.
That MOA reads in part: "CHAPTER 1 - GENERAL MATTERS AND RATIFICATION1. The purpose of this Agreement is to set out the basis for TFN to benefit from the Roberts Bank Port Facility and from the Roberts Bank Port Facility Expansion on Roberts Bank within the Tsawwassen Territory and adjacent to the TFN Reserve and toprovide a basis for a mutually beneficial relationship between the Parties."
No port expansion on ALR land?
Furthermore, Chief Baird has repeatedly admitted in media reports that the Tsawwassen will use ALR land for development. She said in the Vancouver Sun in June 2006:"We'll probably be asking for about half of it to be taken out of the agricultural land reserve. If we can't have that, I don't think we can have a treaty. That would be a deal-breaker."
And the Tsawwassen reprinted the Globe and Mail report of July 27, 2007 - on their website - without correcting what it says: "The deal will more than double the size of the reserve, with an extra 372 hectares of surrounding Crown land added from the province's Agricultural Land Reserve. More than 200 hectares of that protected farmland will be removed from the ALR to allow the band to build a container storage facility in line with port expansion plans."
Sorry Chief Baird but it's obvious what will happen to that farmland - it will be paved over, and soon.
Here is the Hansard draft section of Chief Baird's speech yesterday:
"Consider the clause in our treaty that stipulates the transfer of 207 hectares to us from the agricultural land reserve. Some of you may have heard of this. In the countdown to the final agreement, we made it clear we needed those lands in order to live and grow, to set up businesses and build houses."
"No other aspect of our treaty resulted in as much controversy, so many headlines. Some critics — including columnists, environmentalists and politicians — are trying to block our treaty because of the agricultural land reserve issue."
"Critics choose to ignore Tsawwassen's history of being victims of industrial and urban development to the benefit of everyone but us. The naysayers do not seem to care that they are calling for the continued exclusion of Tsawwassen from opportunities everyone else has enjoyed. "So what of Tsawwassen First Nations' legitimate economic needs? So what of Tsawwassen First Nations' land base needs? Let's just continue to ignore Tsawwassen First Nations' needs." [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I will repeat again what I have told Chief Baird personally in a debate earlier this year - treaties should be about righting past wrongs - this treaty simply creates yet another one.
What was done in the past to the Tsawwassen people was wrong.
But at a time of drastic climate change and serious threats to British Columbia's food security, the solution is not to pave farmland for container shipping.
First Nations have been shamefully mistreated and need not only to be fairly compensated for their loss but also equipped to participate in our society and economy on equal terms.
Giving the Tsawwassen the opportunity to make tragic mistakes with irreplaceable farmland to turn a quick buck because of guilt is no way to solve problems.
And for Premier Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberal government to use legitimate grievances from a First Nation to remove farmland from the ALR to get massive Deltaport expansion is contemptible.
More on this in a future 24 hours column.
Vancouver newspaper columnists, editorials get facts wrong in trash talking CUPE Vancouver workers over strike
Tuesday October 16, 2007
Papers missed the strike facts
By BILL TIELEMAN
Many a good newspaper story has been ruined by over verification.
There is a lot of garbage left around town from the end of the Vancouver city workers' strike - too bad so much of it was printed in newspapers.
Those who insist on trash-talking workers should at least get their facts straight, but apparently that's asking too much.
Or maybe some columnists are simply suffering amnesia about why and when the strike got "personalized," strangely forgetting Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan's lead role.
My friend Mike Smyth in the Province railed that: "The labour movement chose to personalize their attacks on Sullivan from Day 1."
And the Vancouver Sun's Pete McMartin opined that the Canadian Union of Public Employees gained momentum: "by its clever, and unfair, campaign of painting this as 'Sam's Strike.'"
Wait a minute, guys! Who said the strike was "not his top priority"? Sullivan.
Who said that CUPE's goal was to "disrupt" the 2010 Olympics with a strike, without any basis whatsoever? Sullivan.
Who said the contract term had to be 39 months or else? Sullivan.
Who wrongly said CUPE had rejected a possible five-year deal? Sullivan.
Who got the Labour Relations Board to force workers to vote on a "final offer" that their bargaining team had already strongly rejected? Sullivan.
It was only after these repeated insults that CUPE workers began calling it Sam's Strike, and with good reason.
The mayor went out of his way to take an unhelpful public role in the strike - if city workers named it Sam's Strike it's because they were repeatedly belittled by Sullivan.
So they plastered "Sam's" stickers over the "On" part of their "On Strike" signs to make them read "Sam's Strike."
Then there's my 24 hours colleague Erin Airton's suggestion, along with other right wingers, that privatizing garbage collection would solve any future inconveniences.
Wrong again. Private garbage companies are also unionized and could also face a strike or lockout their employees, which would mean - ta-dah - no trash pickup.
Lastly, others were outraged that the outside workers - CUPE Local 1004 - require contracts be ratified by a two-thirds majority.
A "mockery of democracy" Don Cayo fumed in the Sun. "Common sense, maturity missing" a Sun editorial lectured.
Hmmm. When B.C. held a 2005 referendum on a new electoral system it required not one but two super majorities - over 60 per cent of all voters in favour and over 60 per cent of all 79 provincial constituencies voting over 50 per cent yes. It failed the first test despite a 57 per cent yes vote.
So if a union's members democratically decide that they need a strong majority vote in favour to ratify contracts, I say big deal.
And if you want to trash talk, get it right.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
BC Minister of State for Mining Kevin Krueger comes out against Single Transferable Vote - first BC cabinet minister to take public stand against STV
Gordon Campbell, George Abbott responsible for deplorable condition of seniors in Victoria's Beacon Hill Villa retirement home
Tuesday October 9, 2007
Old trouble on Beacon Hill
By BILL TIELEMAN
We want seniors to know that they have the support of government. We want them to know that we're created a plan for healthy living that's second to none across the province.
If there's anything more disgusting than the terrible mistreatment of seniors at a Victoria retirement home, it's the hypocritical attitude of the B.C. Liberal government that allowed it to happen.
A senior going without a bath for 11 days. Residents found sitting in wheelchairs in the dark at 1 a.m. because there were not enough staff to put them to bed. A resident who died after being found unattended in a wheelchair with the seatbelt around her neck. A senior's bedspread covered with stool.
These are just a few items from reports about treatment of seniors at Beacon Hill Villa, where last week the Vancouver Island Health Authority finally appointed a public administrator to run the privately owned facility.
And Beacon Hill Villa is just a block from the B.C. Legislature.
The treatment of seniors should never have been allowed to deteriorate to this degrading level.
Why? Because the government had reports of serious problems with Beacon Hill Villa going back to 2002.
And because in 2002 the B.C. Liberals passed Bill 29, a piece of union-busting privatization legislation that let health-care employers fire workers and slash wages and benefits that had been freely negotiated in collective bargaining. About 8,000 workers lost their jobs.
That would be the Bill 29 that the Supreme Court of Canada said violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a landmark case this year; the Bill 29 that Campbell still refuses to fix so it complies with laws that give workers the right to join unions and bargain collectively.
And the Bill 29 that is still being used to fire hundreds of unionized health-care workers despite the Supreme Court ruling that it is illegal.
So there's little doubt that residents would still be suffering had New Democratic Party leader Carole James not released damning investigations reports going back to 2002 obtained through Freedom Of Information requests.
But why does it take opposition FOIs and intense media coverage before the government acts to protect seniors it already knows are in distress?
Perhaps because Health Minister George Abbott and Campbell know full well that their government is as responsible for the terrible conditions at the Beacon Hill Villa as the owners, Retirement Concepts.
They should be deeply ashamed, but they are not.
Campbell even said: "These matters are taken seriously." Yes, only five years of problems before action was taken.
High sounding words about "healthy living" for seniors mean nothing when our elderly citizens can be found in obscene conditions in a government-funded retirement home.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Tune in and listen to Norman Spector and I discuss the possibility of a December federal election, the Vancouver civic strike, the Beacon Hill Villa controversy and other political topics.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Green Party activist angry Director authorized to approach members to work on pro-STV campaign; using military company email for Green Party business
And Stuart Hertzog objects to Green Party members getting emails sent from a military technology corporation that sells missile tracking systems.
Hertzog says that an email sent late last month by Roy Ball, a provincial Green Party Director and also a Director of Fair Voting BC, left the impression that the Party list was being used to solicit support for the pro-STV campaign.
Hertzog says that after complaining to the Party he was assured that Ball had only sent the email to some members, not to the Party's list, and did not have access to that list.
But Hertzog is still concerned and is also upset that Ball sent the email to members from his company, Imago Machine Vision Inc, which is involved in military technology for defence and aerospace applications, including air to ground and ground to air missile video tracking.
"Even though it claims not to have given out the entire membership list, the party has failed its prime duty to safeguard members' privacy. Now, there is no assurance who has access to the BC Green party membership list, or what they're going to use it for," Hertzog told me by email.
"This is especially disturbing at a time when people are becoming increasingly alarmed at the ability of corporations, governments, and the security industry to monitor every aspect of citizens' lives," he says.
The Imago Machince Vision website states that: "IMAGO specializes in providing fully integrated, portable video target trackers, miss distance and trajectory systems, that are used to measure the performance missiles, aircraft and mortars and other targets."
Hertzog, who runs a website called GreenPolitics about Green political issues, wrote to the Green Party's Provincial Councilors and leadership candidates to complain about Ball's military connections as well as his email requesting support for the STV campaign.
"My consternation is compounded by the fact that Mr. Ball is an owner of and gives as his email address Imago Machine Vision Inc. of Gatineau, Quebec, (Imago Trackers) a company that makes automatic video target tracking, artillery miss distance calculators, and missile guidance systems for military and civilian use," Hertzog wrote.
"Imago Machine Vision Inc. is a member of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), a not-for-profit national business association that represents the Canadian defence and security industries. That a member of CADSI sits on the provincial council of the Green party of BC has already been raised as a concern by party members," he wrote.
Hertzog says that in response to his complaint he was told by the Green Party that the membership list was not provided to Ball but that he was authorized to approach individual members about the Fair Voting BC campaign. And Ball has been requested to not use his Imago company email to contact Green Party members in the future.
Ball's email reads as follows:
"I have been authorized by the BC Green Party Chair to approach GPBC members to encourage you to actively get involved with the upcoming STV – Yes campaign which is being coordinated by Fair Voting BC."
"We must build strong regional teams as soon as possible if we are to guarantee beating the 60% threshold in the 2008 referendum."
"In addition, please reserve your advance tickets before 5 October to get the early bird rate for the 10 November conference on electoral reform at UBC. Details at: http://fairvotingbc.com/node/24
"We need volunteers for many things. Please indicate your interests
- join or help start local organizing committee for your constituency
- help to recruit other electoral reform supporters in your constituency
- having a lawn sign or bumper sticker
- learning more about STV
- monitoring the press & writing letters to the editor
- hosting private or public events (dessert parties, public forums, etc)
- joining an FVBC committee (for example: publicity, fundraising, school programs)
- making a financial contribution other (specify)
Director BC Green Party
Director Fair Voting BC