Sunday, March 31, 2013

The HST's grim toll continues in restaurant business even as it disappears

The Harmonized Sales Tax devastated restaurants across British Columbia since it was imposed - as it finally disappears on April 1, remember how many chefs, servers and other staff suffered the results of the extra 7% tax on meals.

Hell's Kitchen bailiff notice

Room Eighteen bailiff notice

Room Eighteen

Hell's Kitchen 
I went for a walk this past week on 4th Avenue in Kitsilano and on just one city block found these two bailiff's notices on two prominent and now closed restaurants - Hell's Kitchen and Room Eighteen.

I do not claim the HST is responsible for their unfortunate closures but without question the HST has killed countless restaurants and jobs since it was imposed by the BC Liberal government in 2010.

You don't need to take my word for that - listen to Per Maltesen, owner of Nanaimo's New York Style Pizza & Pasta and chairman of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association

"The HST was the worst thing that has ever happened to this industry and it has directly resulted in putting a lot of restaurants out of business in this city and across the province," he said.

"The restaurant industry is the toughest business in the world and the introduction of the HST was the nail in the coffin for many. It's not that we were against the HST, just that this tax on food should never have been a part of it."

The BCFRA estimates restaurants have taken a 9% hit in sales since 2010.

So on April 1, celebrate the end of the HST by going out to breakfast, lunch or dinner at a local restaurant - and tell them you are there because the HST isn't!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

HST Casts Long Shadow over May 14 BC Election

The Harmonized Sales Tax is officially dead, and so are the BC politics that spawned it.
Bill Tieleman and Bill Vander Zalm after HST Referendum win.
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday March 26, 2013

By Bill Tieleman

"If Premier Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberal MLAs don't listen to the people and drop the HST, he and his party are finished." 

Three years to the day of that warning from Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm, the harmonized sales tax is finished, Gordon Campbell is finished and in six weeks most BC Liberal MLAs will be finished.

On April 1 the despised HST that shifted $2 billion a year in taxes from big business onto the back of consumers will finally disappear.

While an extra seven per cent tax was put on hundreds of services for consumers, businesses got massive tax credits -- paid for out of your pocket.

So killing the HST means seven per cent less tax on home renovations and repairs, domestic airline tickets, taxi fares, basic telephone and cable, massage therapy, vitamins and hundreds more items.

That tax shift doomed the HST even more than the underhanded way it was introduced.

Despite some repeated media claims it wasn't the HST that was the problem, but only the way the BC Liberals brought it in and communicated it, ex-premier Campbell's ex-chief of staff Martyn Brown disagrees.

In his new ebook "Towards a New Government In British Columbia," Brown clearly states what Fight HST argued all along about why voters were furious, from his perspective as Campbell's long-time top political staffer.

"They opposed it because it was so clearly a tax shift that took more money from their pockets to facilitate lower taxes for business, which might make businesses more competitive and profitable, but that also reduced working families' take-home pay," Brown wrote.

"...blaming the HST debacle on communications misses the point. And that is, the decision itself was wrong," Brown continues. "It was wrong because of the governing party's stated position against the HST, before and during the election, and because of its failure to earn social license for that tax shift before announcing it as a fait accompli."

"Most taxpayers did not believe it would make them better off. They believed it would do the opposite," Brown wrote.

Gordon Campbell has long exited both B.C. politics, and even the country, after the HST made him Canada's most disapproved premier, with just 12 per cent of British Columbians approving of his performance by Sept. 2010.

And after the May 14 provincial election, most BC Liberal MLAs who imposed the HST will also be history -- either afraid to run or likely defeated, with their party falling to just 28 per cent in the latest Angus Reid Public Opinion poll versus 48 per cent for the New Democrats.

And Brown also writes that BC Liberal MLAs "...woefully underestimated the political price they would pay for their personal support [for the HST]. For most government MLAs that day of reckoning has yet to come."

No more betrayals

But the HST will cast a shadow longer even than the election results.

No provincial politician, from B.C. Premier Christy Clark to NDP leader Adrian Dix to future premiers, can ever consider drastically betraying the trust of voters by reneging on campaign promises after an election.

It's extraordinarily difficult to achieve a citizens' Initiative petition to get 10 per cent of valid voters in every one of B.C.'s 85 ridings.

But the Fight HST campaign -- where I was strategist -- proves that government and big business advertising is no match for angry citizens and grassroots rebellion.

The 2011 binding referendum vote saw 55 per cent of British Columbians vote to kill the HSTversus 45 per cent wanting to keep it, despite an $8-million government ad campaign and a never disclosed but estimated $10 to $20 million ad campaign by the big business-funded Smart Tax Alliance.

No political party will ever think it can get away with an enormous double-cross on its own significant pledges -- and to even its own supporters.

Both the home building and restaurant industries saw the BC Liberals state that an HST was not being contemplated, in response to direct questions posed before the election, only to betray their political allies.

In fact, it was Brown himself who personally expressed the BC Liberal Party position that the HST was not contemplated, in his role as public campaign director in the 2009 election, writing that he was "utterly certain about that fact."

Some still believe that the HST was planned long before the election but my belief, supported by Brown's book, is that the BC Liberals panicked after the election when Campbell's promise that the provincial deficit would be no more than $495 million ballooned to an estimated $2.8 billion. It eventually came in at $1.8 billion -- still almost four times larger than promised.

A desperate Campbell and then-finance minister Colin Hansen frantically grasped at the HST and a federal Conservative government grant of $1.6 billion as the only way to save face and avoid the "fudge-it budget" they accused the NDP of in 1996 -- but with numbers 10 times worse!

Legacy of a 'fiasco'

Regardless of the timing, the results were clear.

As Brown rightly summarizes what the HST "fiasco" teaches all parties:

"The bottom line is this: if any government wants to do anything of the scale or importance of the HST, it needs clear, prior social license. Period. That was the main lesson from the HST debacle."

But if BC Liberals will pay the political price soon, it was ordinary consumers who paid the financial price for the past three years, with estimates on the average annual extra cost per household ranging from $350 to $2,000 or more.

That's because the HST not only was a $2-billion shift of taxes from businesses to individuals, it was also not "revenue neutral" as Campbell and Hansen repeatedly swore.

In fact, the government's own independent panel report -- long after imposing the HST -- found that it was raising an extra $820 million a year off consumers.

In the end, the HST legislation proved to be what NDP MLA Leonard Krog described as "the longest political suicide note in provincial history."

Those BC Liberal MLAs who supported the HST right to the bitter end, including Clark, will learn the true price of the HST on May 14.


Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm will be guest speaker at a Celebration of the end of the Harmonized Sales Tax in Victoria outside the BC Legislature  on Sunday March 31 at 1 p.m.  More details at:

And Vander Zalm will be interviewed on Wednesday March 27 from 7 to 8 p.m. on Have Your Say – an online radio show hosted by Fight HST activist Sal Vetro -


Monday, March 25, 2013

Is BC Liberal voter identification campaign on in Vancouver-Point Grey? Toronto firm Logit calling - here are all their questions

Are BC Liberals doing voter identification and polling in Vancouver-Point Grey riding through Toronto firm Logit?  Here are the questions being asked:

Who is Logit calling for in Vancouver-Point Grey riding?
A Toronto "telephone data collection" firm called Logit is calling extensively in Vancouver-Point Grey riding and I have all the questions being asked.

The likelihood is that they are working for the BC Liberal Party but Logit has not yet responded to my inquiries.  

It is possible that this is polling done by someone or as an Omnibus poll but who would poll in Vancouver-Point Grey other than a political party - and I have spoken to other people in the riding who have also been called.  

A poll in the riding would only need 300 respondents to be a decent sample so the odds are that it is voter identification used to determine campaign messaging and get out the vote efforts in the election.

Neither the NDP nor BC Conservatives are doing the calling.

I previously reported in January in 24 Hours newspaper and The Tyee on a province-wide "robo call" effort by another firm called Probit, a division of Ekos Research, that appeared to be doing voter identification also by calling every voter in BC!

And in the Vancouver-Point Grey by-election in 2011 I was also called and able to figure out what was going on.

I received a call from a live phoner saying they were with "University Research" on Wednesday March 20 from telephone number 1-416-640-3489.

That phone number is associated with Logit.

I know this because exactly the same number called me againThursday March 21 at 7:43 p.m. - as above - but this time on behalf of the Insurance Corporation of BC [ICBC] doing a customer satisfaction survey.

The Vancouver-Point Grey questions included:

Is British Columbia on the right track or wrong track?

Who would you vote for in the provincial election in Vancouver-Point Grey?

All major party candidates were listed, including BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark - it's her riding; BC NDP candidate David Eby - but Eby's name was mispronounced by the Toronto caller!,  BC Conservative candidate Duane Nickull and BC Greens candidate Francoise Raunet

Then I was asked what was the most important issue facing BC.

Next I was asked to rank the importance of 6 issues:  the economy; education; crime; healthcare; transit; and reducing oil tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet.

Then I was asked 6 more questions on whether I would be more likely or less likely to vote for any of the candidates if they supported these positions:

Selling the Jericho Lands [no explanantion given but presumably the federal armed forces base and related property] to improve infrastructure elsewhere.

Building a rapid transit line down Broadway.

Taking a strong stand against the federal government's closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station.

Supporting a ban on more tankers in Burrard Inlet.

Blocking traffic on parts of Cornwall Avenue.

And which form of transit I believed should be built on Broadway:

A light rail line on the surface of Broadway - which the phoner said would take up some existing traffic lanes;

An underground bored subway tunnel, which the phoner said was more expensive than the other alternatives but less disruptive; or

A "cut and cover" tunnel [like the disastrous one done for the Canada Line on Cambie that drove small merchants out of business!], which the phoner said was cheaper but more disruptive.

Lastly I was asked age and education demographic questions.

All very interesting - especially the Jericho Lands question and the Broadway transit options.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thanks! From Bill Tieleman - I feel like a million - pageviews that is!

Thanks to all my readers for pushing this blog over the 1 million page views mark since May 2008!  
Cheers to all my blog readers!  And thanks!
Just a short thank you note to everyone who reads this blog - I was happy to discover that the number of page views since May 2008 has just gone past the 1 million mark!

Now, regular long-time readers will know that I started this blog in October 2006 - and I don't know why Blogger doesn't count all the page views between then and May 2008 - because with the coverage that was featured here on the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid case there were a lot of readers before May 2008 - but what the heck - a million is a million!

Since May 2008 I have also posted 1121 different articles here - and well over 200 before that.

This is a blog run solely by me, I don't run ads to promote it and I rely on word of mouth and my columns in 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper and The Tyee online magazine to gain an audience.

So thank you again and stay tuned - perhaps I can hit the 2 million mark a lot sooner!  


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Would Justin Trudeau Liberal leadership win pave way for Conservative re-election?

Will Parliament’s Member for Twitter-East win or will MP Joyce Murray meld parties with social media backing?  

Will Justin Trudeau or Joyce Murray be victorious in Liberal leadership?
And other far out fantasies fueled by social media.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday March 19, 2013
By Bill Tieleman
"Twitter is a great place to tell the world what you're thinking before you've had a chance to think about it."
- Chris Pirillo, blogger
Canada is apparently doomed -- unless one of two things happen, depending on which Twitter feed you follow:
Either Justin Trudeau -- Parliament's member for Twitter-East -- becomes Liberal leader, is elected prime minister in 2015, and vanquishes both Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair, or;
Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray becomes Liberal leader and drags into a one-time-only 2015 electoral cooperation deal her own reluctant party, the uninterested NDP and the keen Greens, who all then implement proportional representation and allegedly ensure Conservatives never rule Canada again.
While the first option is extremely unlikely, it at least has a mathematical possibility of coming true.
Justin Trudeau/Joyce Murray/Marc Garneau - Sun News photo
The second option, however, would require more things to happen in precisely the right order with exactly perfect timing than the Big Bang Theory that created our universe.
But two of Canada's biggest social media groups, and, are betting everything on the cosmology caper coming true.
For others, either one of those events happening in Canada in 2015 would be a sign of political apocalypse akin to the Mayan calendar's 2012 end of the world prediction, and equally unlikely.
Nonetheless, when the Twitterati become restless thinking that Harper will extend his Darth Vader rule by winning another election in 2015 -- they do what they do best: Tweet.
Windmills 2.0 and both have admirable campaigns that I endorse, such as fighting violence against women in India or opposing Conservative environmental cuts.
But they strained their credibility beyond the breaking point when they asked Canadians to join the Liberal Party of Canada to support Murray's windmill-tilting campaign for the leadership.
They had the same unsuccessful strategy backing NDP MP Nathan's Cullen's leadership campaign, when he also advocated electoral cooperation -- and came a distant third. and don't even seem bothered by the fact that Murray's own track record on the environment -- one of their top issues -- is simply awful.
Murray was once hatchet person for then-premier Gordon Campbell's BC Liberal government, serving as minister of water, air and land protection while clear cutting 25 per cent of the staff that actually protected wildlife.
Murray was also in charge when the BC Liberals ended the moratorium on salmon farm expansion and hunting grizzly bears and stopped issuing reports about who were the worst corporate polluters in the province. They even eliminated the name "environment ministry."
But her past apparently doesn't matter even to famous enviro endorsers like David Suzuki, because Murray now opposes the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline -- and wants electoral cooperation.
You have to choose
As I have argued before, removing voters democratic right to choose between political parties through an electoral cooperation deal is simply wrong -- and what's more, won't work.
And while Tyee contributor Murray Dobbin endorses the lowest common denominator approach to Canadian politics, the reality is that those who want to depose Harper have a simple choice -- Mulcair or Trudeau, but not both.
Electoral cooperation can still happen if Canadians wish to support whichever party can most likely win against a Conservative in a "strategic voting" scenario. But neither the NDP opposition nor the third party Liberals will endorse it.
That approach is totally fair for groups like and to advocate, inform and persuade -- but trying to remove voter choices through a party deal will never succeed.
And while their efforts have gained some media traction, the reality is that currently about 51,000 Canadians have signed's electoral cooperation petition online -- which represents less than half the number of voters in one average Ontario riding.
Unfortunately neither nor are launching campaigns to restore democratic representation by population in Canada, where currently Prince Edward Island has ridings with just 30,000 voters and Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia average about 70,000 voters -- compared to six Greater Toronto-area ridings with 150,000 to 170,000 voters.
That means a vote in PEI is worth five times more than in Toronto!
What does Trudeau stand for?
Meanwhile Justin Trudeau continues the Liberal coronation campaign backed by his nearly 200,000 Twitter followers.
Marc Garneau -- an actual Canadian hero who once challenged Trudeau to debate the real issues facing our country instead of making vague pronouncements -- has dropped out and endorsed the party favorite, but only after landing more punches than pathetic ex-Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau did against Trudeau in his celebrated boxing match.
"He has told Canadians that we need a 'bold plan' and a 'clear vision' without defining either," Garneau said in February. "On Justin's two clear priorities -- the middle class and youth engagement -- he has said nothing. We have to know what we're voting for, not just who we're voting for."
"We made the mistake last time of saying, 'All we have to do is choose a leader and everything will work out,''' Garneau said, with a reference to disastrous former leader Michael Ignatieff.
"We did not define ourselves, the Conservatives ended up defining us. They'll do it again this time unless we know where each of the candidates stands."
"I am doing the Liberal party a big favour by bringing this up. It's a difficult question but it's one that needs to be asked," Garneau concluded.
Garneau also went after Murray's "wishful thinking" electoral cooperation plan in the Halifax debate March 3.
"Joyce, have you abandoned the Liberal party? Have you lost faith in our party?" Garneau asked her. Murray responded that her plan was "about one-time co-operation... to defeat Stephen Harper."
Lastly, one of my Facebook friends says the NDP and Conservatives seem to be getting nervous about Trudeau -- and I agree, but only on the part of the NDP.
Trudeau's celebrity leader status may eliminate any chance of the NDP seriously challenging Harper's rule in 2015 but there is almost no chance of a third to first miracle comeback win by the Liberals.
So the Conservatives aren't nervous about Trudeau as Liberal leader. They are elated.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

BC Liberals likely face more firings, resignations over ethnic outreach memo from inept bunch of bunglers

Why BC Liberals Ethnic-gate Scandal Won't Blow over Soon
Part of Premier Christy Clark's ethnic outreach strategy?
Actions, and names, involved add up to more than mere stupidity.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday March 12, 2013

By Bill Tieleman

"As a government plot it is quite unique in any scandology of B.C. politics." 
- Political scientist Norman Ruff discussing BC Liberals' ethnic outreach
The strong temptation is to call the hapless hacks who concocted the BC Liberals' disastrous ethnic outreach document The Gang That Couldn't Memo Straight, an inept bunch of bunglers.
That staff working in Premier Christy Clark's office have done her more damage trying to score political points than her opponents could dream of is bad enough.
But there's much more to this than political farce performed by some incompetent aides who one ex-BC Liberal described as "a bunch of losers."
And despite Clark accepting resignations from deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad and Multiculturalism Minister John Yap, this scandal is far from over.
Clark's Deputy Minister John Dyble is due to report on his investigation this week, while BC Liberal caucus chair Gordon Hogg is also conducting an inquiry.
Expect possible firings and more serious ramifications for the Clark crew involved, who include former BC Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt and ex-TV anchor Pamela Martin.
That's because there's a clear pattern of deception, deviousness and denial on the part of some BC Liberals.
The basics are simple: while political staff are expected to promote the premier, using non-partisan government employees and resources on partisan BC Liberal business, like collecting data, breaks all the rules.
That's what's clear in the 17-page memo circulated by Haakstad via private emails, which avoids falling under Freedom Of Information requests details -- and it's why Haakstad quit.
Don't we know you?
Some of the staff named in the email chain aren't in trouble for the first time. Others knew better -- and did nothing to stop it.
Nor is there any sense of shame amongst some BC Liberals.
Harry Bloy, the outgoing Burnaby-Lougheed MLA, actually rose in the Legislature last week to heap praise on Brian Bonney -- one of those staff involved in the outreach strategy.
Bonney has a history of political problems: he was also connected to an embarrassing BC Liberal orchestration of a Burnaby Hospital Committee report for party gain that blew up last year.
But despite that escapade, Bloy personally pinned a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal on Bonney last fall for his "significant contribution," calling him an "outstanding individual."
Bonney, who also has a checkered past in Burnaby municipal politics that includes having to apologize for a newspaper ad he partially paid for that wrongly attacked Mayor Derek Corrigan, has since left government but others remain.
'For sure'
Primrose Carson, executive director of the BC Liberal government caucus, is another staffer on the private email list who apparently looked the other way.
Yet Carson publicly reprimanded other government staff last fall, including some in the premier's office, for creating a BC Liberal Party attack website about NDP leader Adrian Dix on taxpayers' time.
"You can't be doing party work here. For sure, I would agree with that," Carson said in November. "Some conversations took place using a government email account during work hours. They shouldn't be doing that. And this is a nice reminder for them."
For sure. Nice to remind them.
So when Carson got an email outlining exactly the same kind of behavior by not only Haakstad but several others in Clark's office and beyond, why didn't she blow the whistle then and there?
Perhaps Dyble's report will explain -- and perhaps Carson will soon be unemployed.
But can anyone have faith in Dyble's investigation after independent Freedom Of Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham last week criticized Clark's own office for a "dramatic increase" in what she called "no responsive records" replies to FOI requests in the last year.
Denham outlined how premier's office staffers deliberately delete emails that are "transitory in nature" and conduct business in ways that avoid documentation.
"The general practice within the Office of the Premier is to communicate verbally in person. Email communications usually consist of requests to make telephone calls or meet in person," Denham wrote. "Generally, staff members in the Office of the Premier do not make substantive communication relating to business matters via email."
Repeated abuse of government resources for partisan political gain, use of private emails that avoid detection, deleting government emails to frustrate FOI requests and medals for some involved in scandal all add up to one conclusion:
Clark's problems are far from "transitory in nature."