Tuesday, September 07, 2010

BC government HST secrets censored in FOI documents fuel anger further

Come Clean, Premier Campbell

One page of 140 released - and censored - under FOI request

HST questions for BC Liberals after censored documents released draw unbelievable answers.

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/TheTyee column

Tuesday September 7, 2010

By Bill Tieleman

"Secrecy and a free, democratic government don't mix."

- Harry Truman, U.S. president 1945-53

The B.C. Liberal government has got a secret.

Actually, many secrets -- all of them about who knew what and when regarding the sudden imposition of the Harmonized Sales Tax on July 23, 2009 -- just two months after a provincial election when the B.C. Liberals strongly denied the HST was being considered.

As of last week -- thanks only to Freedom of Information requests filed by the Victoria press gallery that took over a year to obtain -- we now do know that B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen received a lengthy
briefing note on the HST on March 12, 2009 that said the HST could lead to five years of higher unemployment and lower economic growth.

Yet Hansen and Premier Gordon Campbell
said in July 2009 that the HST was "The single biggest thing we can do to improve B.C.'s economy."

And we know that three senior staff in the Public Affairs Bureau -- the government's highly politicized communications branch -- were copied on a
March 25 email between four finance ministry staff about the possibility that B.C. would get questions about the HST after it was reported that Ontario would implement its own HST.

"We have prepared a note for the minister on this," the email that was sent to PAB officers Rena Kendall-Craden, Gordon Keast and Sherri Patterson states.

But there's far more we don't yet know -- thanks to the government censoring key parts of the FOI dozens of times.

Truth blanked out

One censored email dated March 18, 2009 -- before the Ontario HST announcement -- was sent by Glen Armstrong, the then-acting assistant deputy minister of finance, to Doug Foster, finance's director of strategic initiatives.

"Doug, we have a BN [briefing note] with the Minister on harmonization." Then a section is blanked out, followed by: "I'd like an update from you on what you know so we can send up some supplementary information. It's an important piece."

Other subsequent emails between Armstrong and Foster are completely blanked out by the government as allegedly privileged information.

Then, after the Ontario HST announcement, comes a March 27, 2009 email from Armstrong to finance ministry tax policy advisor Paul Flanagan:

"We will have to update the BN for the Minister based on the MOU [Ontario-federal memorandum of understanding]. We should think about any questions/clarifications we have for the feds re: new rules so we can provide an update next week."

Once again a section that appears eight lines or longer is blanked out.

Then on April 6, 2009 Armstrong sends another email on the subject of "harmonization" to three finance staff -- but an opening section of up to 10 lines is censored, followed by: "Can you pull something together for discussion after my holiday?"

Other emails released by FOI show correspondence back and forth with federal finance officials in Ottawa about HST details before the election.

Censors' sorry excuses

Government staff censoring the documents cited three sections of the
FOI Act for not releasing full details.

Those sections which allow withholding information are:

"Section 13: Policy advice or recommendations

"Section 16: Disclosure harmful to intergovernmental relations or negotiations

"Section 17: Disclosure harmful to the financial or economic interests of a public body"

Given that the HST has already been imposed, there's no reason to censor the documents -- and Campbell and Hansen could release the information immediately, if they wanted to.

It's obvious they won't -- unless forced to by public pressure -- because it will only make them even less convincing in their already tattered HST tale.

Hansen on the record

And the now-released HST emails sent prior to the election show that Hansen clearly misled the B.C. legislature and public when he answered
questions from NDP opposition finance critic Bruce Ralston in finance ministry estimates debate on Nov. 23, 2009.

Ralston asks: "There was no discussion either by the minister or his officials of the implementation of an HST. Is that the minister's position then?"

Hansen: "That is correct."

Ralston even goes further, giving Hansen another chance to clarify.

Ralston: "I understand that the minister has made his position very clear -- no discussion with any of his officials, no public comment, no decision taken between January and May. Was there any discussion at any point with the premier about Ontario and its implementation of the HST, the investment climate and the reasons why British Columbia might want to reconsider its position?"

Hansen: "No."

Ralston: "And by discussion, I mean personal contact, face-to-face, or any exchange of memos at the deputy minister level or through the email network or anything. There's simply no discussion at any level between the minister of finance, his officials and the premier and his office and his officials about the HST between January, when it was first raised publicly in Ontario, and the end of May. Is that the minister's position?"

Hansen: "That is correct."

No, it was not.

Several finance ministry officials -- possibly some sitting beside Hansen to provide answers -- and several PAB staff all knew that wasn't true.

And the only way voters ever found out was through much-delayed FOI requests -- at no point did Hansen come forward after that debate to correct the public record.

End the cover-up

Hansen continues to
insist he wasn't aware of any HST discussion prior to the election -- that he doesn't recall reading the HST briefing note staff prepared for him.

Unbelievable.

What's more, when the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association and the NDP filed separate FOI requests to obtain any finance ministry discussions about the HST prior to the election they were both
told there were "no responsive records" to release.

Again, now we know otherwise and both FIPA and the NDP have filed complaints with the Freedom of Information Commissioner.

When it comes to covering up the true story of how the HST was imposed, the B.C. Liberal government is now left wearing a fig leaf in a hurricane.



.

32 comments:

SB said...

How can we trust this Govt at all and why would the opposition request be denied completely this is dicatorship type work and big media should be screaming the MSM is as much a damn joke as the BC Libs.
This is very scary stuff when they will lie to the elected officails and the voters something is very wrong we need to wake up.

Anonymous said...

Not one document with Premier Gordon Campbell's Chief of Staff Martyn Brown's name on it?

Anonymous said...

One key to all of this would seem to be the senior finance ministry bureaucrats who advise Hansen. Without parsing words in the manner of U.S. President Bill Clinton trying to explain his Monica Lewinski travails, they had to know that what Hansen said in the Legislature was at the very least misleading, whether deliberately or not. They either brought the matter to Hansen's attention or they did not. If they did not, then that speaks to their competence and loyalty to their Minister. If they did, then that speaks volumes about Hansen and his failure to promptly correct the record in the Legislature.

Anonymous said...

they don't even need a fig leaf there are no balls to cover,ball less men

Paul said...

*** From Wikipedia *** ("BC Liberal Party")

The Campbell government: 2001–present

QUOTE:

"Governance was also re-arranged such that Deputy Ministers were now to report to the Chief of Staff in the Premier's office, rather than to their respective ministers."

Does that mean that the Deputy Ministers have been answering to Chief of Staff Martyn Brown, since 2003?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BC_Liberal_Party
=====

From the Toronto Star, Monday September 06 2010:

Two sources have told the Toronto Star the premier plans to replace Hansen with Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon.

NDP Finance Critic Bruce Ralston: "The obvious problem with that is if he gives the finance minister the boot, why is the premier still standing?"

http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/hst/article/
857250--b-c-premier-faces-major-crisis-in-wake-of-hst-revelations?bn=1

SB said...

Should be fun to watch if he gives Hanson the boot id think that will create the end battle as others know they are next as scapegoats and begin sticking a fork in Campbell first , cant wait to see this begin.

Anonymous said...

BULLHST

Sean Holman's Public Eye has learned that Andrea Smith, who worked as a constituency assistant for Mr. Falcon, was among those who advertised in support of former premier Bill Vander Zalm successful petition to end that tax.

According to a disclosure statement filed with Elections British Columbia, that advertising came in the form of $675 worth of T-shirts.

The shirts were emblazoned with the words "BULLHST"
.

Anonymous said...

Sure wish this Bill Tieleman was coming out with the same thing when the FastCats were started by Glen Clark. Would be interesting ro read the FOI released emails and so forth as to why exactly aluminum and a new assembly facility that didn't exist before was chosen over using
Allied and Vancouver Shipyards steel work capacity to further build up the BC ship building inudstry at the time.

Still a few things missing from that equation.

But would Bill continue on his blog like this is now when the NDP becomes government?

Probably not.

DPL said...

I heard somewhere that Hansen had family ties to a flower shop. If true, do you think when he gets kicked out of politics and goes back to the flower shop that anyone will let him near the till

Anonymous said...

His mother in law owns a flag shop where he used to work.

I used to work down the road from it; in a florist shop. Trust me, he wasn't working with us.

Anonymous said...

1:07 pm

Questions, questions, questions.

Kitimat producer of Aluminum using clean electricity, BC workers, BC voters:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitimat,_British_Columbia

The Hall-Heroult process:

http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Aluminum.html


Eastern United States produces "our" Steel using vast amounts of dirty coal.

How steel is made:
http://www.keenovens.com/articles/steel-furnance.htm

Pollution Sources and Prevention from Steel Forming:
http://www.istc.illinois.edu/info/library_docs/manuals/primmetals/chapter2.htm


Allied and Vancouver Shipyards .... both antiquated facilities in need of huge funding upgrades to compete with off shore bidders.

Yeah Aluminum

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this yet:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/09/08/bc-gordon-campbell.html

Jebus. Campbell is a nut.

sb said...

Reply to Anonymous - re fastcats and Clark id agree the project may have been imperfect but it was less than the cost overuns on a convention centre mr Campbell built and his ferries were built offshore great for German workers crappy for 1000s of ours the comparisons make Clark look good against Campbell and im no NDP card holder just hate the absolute lies and deceit will vote NDP for the first time ever to clear the Libs out now.

Anonymous said...

"Reply to Anonymous - re fastcats and Clark id agree the project may have been imperfect"

Far from being imperfect, there would have been a much better result if Clakr had gone with steel hulled ferries and continued on with replacing older vessels which would have built up a dying ship building industry.


but it was less than the cost overuns on a convention centre mr Campbell built and his ferries were built offshore great for German workers crappy for 1000s of ours the comparisons make Clark look good against Campbell and im no NDP card holder just hate the absolute lies and deceit will vote NDP for the first time ever to clear the Libs out now.

Not bad points, but the Convention Centre like most other major projects were hit with higher costs for materials.

As for the building of the 4 ships in Germany, the local builders could have been miles ahead on that one if Clark and the NDP had envisioned restarting the steel hulled ship building industry, building up on the things developed during the building of the Spirit class ferries. That would have greatly reduced the chance of the new ferries being built elsewere. The local yards bid on the project, but could not meet the demands and capacities of what was needed from BC Ferries.

The NDP evcentually caved in and apologied for the mess they caused.
But Clark never did.

The NDP also started the selling process of the FastCats but could not sell them.

End of the cruise on this issue.

DPL said...

Since some folks keep bringing up the fast cats may I remind them that a lot of workers got valuable training in aluminum ship construction , their taxes stayed in BC and numerous small companies were making money as sub contractors. Heck even the local coffees shops made some money. As I see it,( sorry to enter the conversation, as my engineering expertise was in aviation) one of the biggest problems was the engines that simply were not powerful enough to keep the boats at cruising speed. Gas turbines would have been much lighter easier to maintain and the list goes on.seems the hated fast cats are doing well operating in the far east, but I'd have to break another liberal fantasy. Lets shove a new roof on an old stadium rather than keep a school from closing.

Lets not forget that Glenn Clarke is one of the senior guys working for that well known "socialist" Jimmy Patterson

Anonymous said...

"As I see it,( sorry to enter the conversation, as my engineering expertise was in aviation) one of the biggest problems was the engines that simply were not powerful enough to keep the boats at cruising speed.

Wasn't the problem. The 4 MTU engines were indeed rated for the required cruising speed of 50 to 60 knots, but they were constantly run at 100% rated power which led to problems, the other larger manifestation was wash. That meant cutting nominal cruising speeds for about half the length of the route resulting in no time saving.


Gas turbines would have been much lighter easier to maintain and the list goes on.seems the hated fast cats are doing well operating in the far east,

Haven't seen any reference of them being in revenue service in the UAE.

SB said...

Re again -Anoymous

As for the building of the 4 ships in Germany, the local builders could have been miles ahead on that one if Clark and the NDP had envisioned restarting the steel hulled ship building industry, building up on the things developed during the building of the Spirit class ferries. That would have greatly reduced the chance of the new ferries being built elsewere. The local yards bid on the project, but could not meet the demands and capacities of what was needed from BC Ferries.

I would be willing to bet Washington Marine would argue they indeed had the skills available with some time to set up they could have easily built ferries , and the Victoria Shipyards also could handle such work but that wouldnt punish NDP supportive unions enough and that is simply the point with Liar Liberal Campbell and you can balme the NDP till you turn blue its nonsense pure nonsense sending that much money elsewhere .
The Campbell led BC Libs are arrogant lying creeps , "we had no plans to look at HST pre-election 2009" and you want to do negative spin on fast cats project 10 yrs ago small change compared to what Campbell has cost me.
I have owned several businesses for almost 25 yrs my best profits came under NDP govts -hmm , the tax cuts resulted in increases in user fees govt fees increased hydro and such so much id say im 25% behind what i was pre - Campbell maybe more se im not abig enough cheque writer to get freebies back so spin that for me any way you want it means less money in our economy more in Lib freinds wallets is that where you are?
I really dont mind honest informative reply but pure PAB fed bunk ill call as i see.

Crankypants said...

Bill, I see you've attracted the anonymous echo again.

Anyhow, it looks as if Campbell & Co. are silencing more than FOI requests. The infamous Craig James feels that after 2 months at Elections BC, he is qualified to reorganize the whole operation. He has fired Linda Johnson, second in command at Elections BC after 28years of service to this supposed independent institution.

Of course this news comes out just in time for him to be away until September 20, thus avoiding any attempt by the media to interview him.

There is something very smelly wafting to the mainland from the capital.

Anonymous said...

"The local yards bid on the project, but could not meet the demands and capacities of what was needed from BC Ferries."...says anon.

Flensberger actually managed to get government support on this project. Otherwise known as corporate welfare. Not much of an even playing field is it?

Libs are always Hypocrites. Can't stand welfare unless it is for them.

Willy P said...

Anonymous said...

Not one document with Premier Gordon Campbell's Chief of Staff Martyn Brown's name on it?

12:31 PM PDT


I don't remember seeing it.....

off-the-radar said...

Bill,
can you please post an article/ comments about the temporary Liberal appointee, Craig James, firing the CEO of Elections BC, right before recalls start? That's their two most senior experienced people gone in 4 months; the same two people who ruled against the Liberal government.

The story is being covered by the Tyee and the BC Globe and Mail and is incredibly important.

Craig James is using re-organization as the pretext and the NDP aren't even commenting.

(Btw, what is with the NDP and their media "strategy"?!? For example, this summer several NDP MLAs publicly defended Ida Chong on her excessive expense claims. Okay be silent, but to be go public in defending and even praising a disliked Liberal cabinet minister? Wtf? )

Bill Tieleman said...

NOTE FROM BILL TIELEMAN - my apologies to Off-The-Radar - I accidentally hit the Delete rather than the Publish button yesterday on his or her comment - here it is:

OFF-THE-RADAR said....

The temporary Liberal appointee to the Elections BC office just fired the CEO (and 28-year employee) of that office. (Details at the Tyee and the Globe & Mail).

Elections BC governs the recall process. Firing the CEO, who recently ruled against the Liberals and their pro-HST propaganda, is NOT a coincidence.

We need to pay attention and act now: donate, demonstrate, contact your MLA, get active in recall.

This is a government that will stop at nothing to retain power. They need to be gone. We need to act.

Anonymous said...

Flensberger actually managed to get government support on this project. Otherwise known as corporate welfare. Not much of an even playing field is it?"

Certainly wasn't when the NDP gave money to start up Catamaran Ferries International and loaded it up with political appointees to the Board of Directors.

Not was it when the NDP gave government support for the building of the Century Class Ferries or even WAC Bennett gave money to the build up of new BC Ferries ships.

and let's not forget the Polar 8 project which went to St. Johns Shipyards a decision made politically at the federal level.

and definately wasn't equitable when Washington Marine Group wouldn't even use their own Vancouver Shipyards to build their larger cargo handling ships which would have provided much needed further fabrication activity.

Won't even get into the Barrett government throwing dollars to Ocean Falls and getting public money into setting up an automotive insurance business.

SB said...

Re Anonymous yet again as for ferries well i use them and since Campbell service is down costs way up and a board of Lib supporters makes a killing along with Hahn running them into crap talk about greaing palms and hidden agendas,
and if asked and given time i would bet Washington Marine would build good feries here what was 1 years going to do keep a billion out of Germany oh lets not forget Harpers cut he got GST lol.

Won't even get into the Barrett government throwing dollars to Ocean Falls and getting public money into setting up an automotive insurance business.
The next best you have is from 1973 wow who did PAB recycle who can remember that, and ICBC is a way better deal than anywhere in canada that has private insurers stick you head outside our borders and quote prices and get back to us with how bad this has been oh i forgot Campbells buddies in Pvt are not making killings like USA based health guys do so its bad , and lets now talk about only 10 years of lies since campbell - i wont sell BC Rail- lie - i wont break contracts-lie we didnt have HST on our radar-lie ill wait for good spins from PAB on these and wait for them to blame Tommy Douglas next he started the whole mess way back with public medicaire creating what became the NDP.

Anonymous said...

"PAB on these and wait for them to blame Tommy Douglas next he started the whole mess way back with public medicaire creating what became the NDP."

So who is PAB?? Douglas didn't cause any mess with the health care system. He built it up to something that had worked very well for all Canadians and one that I am very much happy to have my income taxes pay for.

That is until Paul Martin as Finance Minister came along and screwed up everything by cutting off health care payments to the provinces.

As for WMG, they won't even build larger cargo carrying vessels for their overseas routings here in Vancouver, and they actually do very little coastal freighter ship building. In fact even very few of the tugs have been built built by Vancovuer Shipyards for Seaspan. Many have been built by Alied and other shipyards. WMG built the Island Sky but it had problems during the first few months of service now fixed.

One thing that WMG / Seaspan has never done yet is to expand intermodal ferry service to include river transport from the CP and CN intermodal yards in Pitt Meadows and Surrey to FraserPort, Delta Port and to a location that would best serve Vancouver Harbour.

SOmething far more forward thinking that the NDP could work on as opposed NDP and their supporters constantly whining over and over again saying the same things repeatedly about the HST which the NDP won't get rid of anyway. They ahvce said they will renegotiate which is a farce. Either you keep it or you don't.

I'll read Bill's Blog once again once the Legilative Raid case begins. The constant whining in this hobby blog about the HST which doesn't come up with anything new is wearing thin.

SB said...

I'll read Bill's Blog once again once the Legilative Raid case begins. The constant whining in this hobby blog about the HST which doesn't come up with anything new is wearing thin.

LOL lies from Campbell just dont interest you then, I would really like you to read back though i was a card carrying Conservative but they support Campbells side theses days or at the least his ideology. He is a convicted DUI offender a promise breaker and a pure liar , i will support the NDP this time because of those issues not anything before just those and many many people are saying the same is it any wonder inside his own party the knives are out .

Anonymous said...

It is indeed strange, anyone opposing Campbell, gets one of his little juvenile vendetta's, the little boy was being spiteful and malevolent. Cause, Harry Neufeld, had to make a decision, bound by law, to disallow, little boy Hansen, to mail out his, HST propaganda, that no-one was interested in. Hansen, tattled to Campbell, and Neufeld, was told he would not be reappointed. Campbell is very much like a Communist dictator. Perhaps, that is why Fadden of Canadian Intelligence, was keeping an eye on BC. Campbell made many a trip to China. China was given, BC's mill jobs. Campbell and Harper, both toady to China....Something sure stinks in BC...Hmmmm

Anonymous said...

I starting to miss you again Bill. Please get back to the desk.
: )

Anonymous said...

Gordon Campbell is lit shit stuck on the bottom of my shoe. Disgusting and hard to get rid of!

Anonymous said...

Could you all just stick to the current government in your comments? PABrats love to bring up the past and ignore the present nightmare we are living in....

Anonymous said...

"PABrats love to bring up the past and ignore the present nightmare we are living in...."

Noth everyone who references the past are PABrats. If those who accuse anyone who brings up the past as being PAB would widen out their peripheral vision, this blog would be much better off.

and wait for the nightmare to begin when the NDP decides to keep the HST but at a slightly reduced percentage let's say 10%.

Then what does VanderZalm and Delaney do? Recall the NDP members who voted to keep the HST? Bill here will have alot of fun with his blog readers on that one.

Guaranteed.

Anonymous said...

I was recently charged 12% HST on BC cranberries (more than 5 bucks!) by Capers on West 4th, which had never happened before, even though I bought the same cranberries there several times after July 1st. When I asked the clerk about it next time, she told me that cranberries contain sugar (!) and that's why the store applies HST to this item. Can't get any more absurd, can it? Where are clear rules on what items are taxable? I couldn't find anything on the BC Gvt website.

Al
Burnaby