TRU students get insight from political commentator
The Daily News
Friday, February 29, 2008
By Cam Fortems
It's a wooden puzzle.
B.C.'s forest industry -- the province's biggest business and, along with the mining industry, the largest political donor to the Liberal party -- is in a crisis.
Thousands of workers, including in Kamloops, are losing jobs as mills shut down or go into bankruptcy.
Yet Premier Gordon Campbell's latest budget virtually ignores forestry, said political commentator Bill Tieleman.
"You'd think the budget would be concerned," he said. "You'd be wrong: it's about the environment."
Tieleman spoke Thursday to political science students at Thompson Rivers University as well as in an evening public lecture.
The former adviser in the office of then-premier Glen Clark is now a columnist, communications consultant, blogger and self-described "resident left-wing complainer."
Tieleman spoke to students without referring to notes, on a range of topics that included the single-transferable vote (he's against it); Finance Minister Carole Taylor's carbon tax (he's against it); privatization of energy (he's against it); MLA raises and new pensions (they don't deserve it); and the NDP ("I'm very unhappy with them").
But despite that negativity -- the right of any columnist, whether right or left -- the affable Tieleman entertained with his scattershot approach.
Tieleman said the New Democrat party of leader Carole James is getting too far from the real concerns of everyday voters by agreeing in principle with a carbon tax, even if James opposes the Liberal version.
"I'd campaign against the carbon tax," said Tieleman, who argued corporations and businesses are getting the majority of the breaks while taxpayers get a one-time $100 cheque. That cheque will make up the extra carbon tax paid on gas and home heating fuel for as little as six months to a year for many residents.
"They have to find their way back to more populist issues," he said of the NDP.
The B.C. budget ignores forest communities while pumping up Campbell's latest fad in a long line that preceded the environment, said Tieleman. That "book of the month club" approach to policy included focus on First Nations, "the heartlands" of rural B.C. and literacy.
"I don't see how the premier and the government can ignore depopulation of workers in this province and do nothing about it," said Tieleman, calling forest industry employment "good, family supporting jobs."
Tieleman helped found an anti-single-transferable vote (STV) lobby group before the last provincial referendum on the issue. That vote in 2005 nearly achieved the 60 per cent approval threshold.
A second referendum will be held along with the provincial election next year.
One of the biggest complaints about the last referendum was the lack of public education.
Tieleman said this time each side, the pro and con, to the proposed new way of electing provincial politicians will receive $500,000 to campaign.
He predicts the second referendum won't come close to the 60 per cent threshold, particularly because there is no longer a lopsided Victoria legislature. "People aren't nearly as agitated. The more they know about it (STV) the less they like it."