Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tieleman on BC NDP opposition losing its direction

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column - News, Views & Attitude

Tuesday November 21, 2006

NDP tripping over its own feet


I cannot help it if every time the Opposition are asked to name their weapons, they pick boomerangs.

- Iain Macleod, British Conservative politician, 1959

B.C.'s New Democratic Party opposition has lost its sense of direction.

Instead of heading towards government, this past week NDP leader Carole James ended up in Taiwan of all places, on a free junket bought and paid for by a foreign government and foreign businesses.

While James and fellow travelling NDP MLAs Bruce Ralston and Norm Macdonald understandably want to pay attention to the Asia-Pacific region, the optics are just plain awful.

How does the NDP explain its worthy goal of election financing reform - to ban business and union donations - when it willingly takes a trip paid for in part by foreign corporations hoping to influence party policy?

And with the B.C. Liberals the most corporately funded party in Canadian history - an astonishing $10 million of the $13 million raised in 2005 came from business - the NDP has a popular issue that could also kill the Liberals' financial advantage.

Instead, they've gone for the $20,000 trip - one that has no relevance to British Columbians concerned about overcrowded hospital emergency rooms, child poverty, homelessness, drug addiction or other important issues.

A series of NDP political blunders have resulted in the Gordon Campbell B.C. Liberals enjoying a big advantage over the NDP in recent polls, despite narrowly avoiding defeat in the May 2005 election.

The Liberals took 46 per cent versus 42 per cent for the NDP in that vote.

But in late September Ipsos Reid gave the Liberals a 47 per cent to 37 per cent lead over the NDP, and even that is an improvement over the 51 per cent to 35 per cent result in a June poll taken after public sector unions signed new contracts.

The NDP's troubles started last November when it supported MLA pay raises and pensions in a backroom deal with the Liberals that set off a firestorm.

Then this summer the NDP rolled over when the Liberals gave senior bureaucrats and political staff big pay raises - up to $45,000 for assistant deputy ministers.

When Campbell announced in October that all projects over $20 million with provincial funding must be considered as public-private partnerships, the NDP yawned instead of yelling, issuing a mild news release three days later.

NDP voters want action, not acquiescence.

Carole James is an effective, personable and persuasive leader. James demonstrated in the 2005 election debate and in the Legislature since then that she can clearly best Campbell.

But if James and her MLAs don't figure out how to be a strong opposition and hold the Liberals feet to the fire instead of burning their own, they will be sitting on the wrong side of the Legislature for many years to come.

Hear Bill Tieleman Mondays at 10 a.m. on CKNW AM 980's Bill Good Show.


Anonymous said...

One hopes Ms.James hears your concerns. Her style isn't the same as Little fat Dave or Glenn Clark. she has a few problems.
The economy is on a roll,Gordon has not been caught drunk for some time now and of course the folks right of center bankrolling him are just a tad nervous of the opposition. The question of the day should be. Did the citizens vote against the near absolute rule of Gordo or for change as offered by Ms.James? I do agree the optics of getting a free ride is something, the NDP often complained about but sort of slipped into the trip. So maybe some of the advisors are coming up a bit short right now? What concerns me is since Gordon has so much of our cash right now, he will use it to get re elected. If such an event occurs, watch out for more cuts in services, to satisfy the Olympic dream. The income from natural gas alone will cut heavily into the surplus. Gordon likes to be the big man. dl

Anonymous said...

As long as Carole lets David Perry run the show and over-rule MLAs, we will be stuck in neutral.

And it looks like Perry Perry will be able to do that as long as Carole is around

Budd Campbell said...

Further to what I said on PublicEyeOnline:

The NDP has been hurt by it's opposition to the Port Mann Hwy 1 Project. Add to that the reflexive opposition to "lodges in parks" and you clearly have a pair of stances that an opponent, to say nothing of a hostile media, can easily portray as anti-job creation.

The opposition to Port Mann and Hwy 1 needs to be seen for what it is. It's not an environmental issue, if it were, these people would also be opposed to the Sea to Sky Project, but they aren't because the wealthy supporters of so-called environmental groups own property in the Squamish Whistler area which they want to see go up in price even further with the Olympics. These same wealthy property owners, and some not so wealthy, are scared @@@@less that if properties in the outer suburbs become more competitive, that inner city prices will start to throttle down. My dear God, ... you may not be able to charge people $500+ per square foot any more, ... which means that a 1,500 square foot apartment in which one might raise a family will no longer "cost" $750,000. Wouldn't that be a terribly unprogressive development?

I am really suprised, Bill, that you don't realize that this is a pure class issue, nothing more, nothing else, nothing less. David Suzuki and Jim Fulton are not going to park their Mercedes Benz's and start going about town in some sputtering bus or some overstuffed Skytrain cattle car. They want some working class people who live in places like Surrey, Langley and Maple Ridge to bite the bullet for them by parking their Fords and Chevs. Neat, eh?

pariah said...

, for the right to use marijuana was largely funded by the Program. I raised money from friends but it was extremely difficult for this issue. I am appalled by the unwillingness of the NDP party to help bring to public attention the plight of the few Canadians who've managed to qualify to use marijuana medicinally.

We have been turned over to the wolves and it's not a fair fight. Our pills and our feeding tubes are no match for guns and uniforms , bureaucrats, thieves politicians who lie or run for cover, doctors and other professionals and their "governing bodies" asserting as much control over our bodies and our lives as they see fit with no consultation with consumers.

I was stunned at the lack of attention paid to the second demise of the Court Challenges Program. Established by Liberals it was killed by Conservatives, Brian Mulroney only to be resurrected by Liberals under Chretien. Funding from that program made it possible for me to sue the Federal Government. My civil action in 1998 resulted in a partial constitutional win. The outcome however has been disastrous to the poor and the sick. Self proclaimed "compassion clubs" sell marijuana at street prices usually $10.00 a gram.called "compassion societies or clubs". Dealers and gangs of course charge the same or more.

The Federal Government charges $5.00 a gram for a product I consider unfit for human consumption. Many with no other supply ordered the government product, were unable to pay of course, went into arrears at which point the Federal Government cut off their supply and turned collection agencies after them. That was this year, 2006.

Who decided it was ok to charge the poor and the sick for marijuana? The only people profiting are bikers, gangs, compassion clubs, street dealers, and housewives. The Federal Government went into the business of selling their product last year at $5.00 a gram, half street prices but the stuff is unfit for human consumption in my opinion and this has been a bizzarre twist to this story.

I asked my MLA Nicholas Simons to help bring these problems to public attention as I did with my MP Blair Wilson. Nothing. Nicholas seemed to draw a blank and left it at that and Mr. Wilson, in spite of meeting with me this summer has studiously avoided me since.

I had hoped to have the Province at least consider adding medical marijuana to it's approved drug formulary as no insurance exists for marijuana. I never heard back.

I tried to reach Jack Layton but was waylaid by an assistant who referred me to Penny Priddy's office, NDP Federal Health critic. I never did hear from her or from Jack Layton or anyone in either office.

I then wrote to Mr. Harper. The
Prime Minister referred me to the Minister of Health, Tony Clement who has studiously avoided me for months.

The Justice Minister didn't bother to reply to me even though the program clearly crosses jurisdicion problems almost daily in some part of the country.

Libby Davies said she'd written to the Auditor General about some of the problems and would send me a copy of the letter. She didn't.

Then out of the blue the Conservatives kill the Court Challenges Program effectively cutting me off from access to the courts. They followed that by cancelling the 1999 Federal promise to establish research programs. They never did and millions was apparently sitting around unspent. I don't fault them for retrieving the money but the loss of the program is a sad day for Canada.

Once again the poor have no access to the courts to challenge basic human rights. Is anyone paying attention, does anyone care?

I was arrested and charged with trafficking and cultivation marijuana four times in 2000 and 2001, not long after my 1999 win. All charges were eventually withdrawn but not before my life savings were depleted fighting for my rights and those of other sick Canadians. I never charged money and my crime was to try to grow marijuana collectively with a few other exemptees. These were all people who eventually got their own exemptions but hadn't at the point I helped them.

I went from AIDS patient and winner of a constitutional challenge to an alleged felon in one day. Rock had left the Department and Anne Maclellan was in charge, the MP who called us dopes and stupid for smoking marijuana. She authorized the arrests and I have been ensnared by the Department of Justice ever since. My crime? Sharing. My punishment? Loss of reputation, false arrests, harrassment, public exposure, refusals for reimbursement of medical marijuana costs by Revenue Canada, breach of privacy through their " licences" issued to all approved users and growers with full face passport type photo, address, amount of marijuana one can use, grow transport etc. We are sitting ducks for police and thieves. Many police bust first and check later and the damage is done, another legal crop gone to rogue cops or thieves and six months work down the drain and no medicine. More sick people hurt and oftem unnecessary court time, law enforcement time, legal costs, and continued harrassment of the sick in a very public and often humiliating way.

The Federal medical marijuana program was orphaned in Health after Allan Rock left the portfolio and has been administered primarily by Justice with neither department cooperating and no due process for the sick, caught in the crossfire except the courts. Regulaions or policies originally called for Health to have Inspectors but none were ever hired and as a result of course the problems get dealt with in the criminal justice system if dealt with at all.

There is and never has been overall governance of the program and as a result problems which have arisen with Corrections, Justice, Revenue Canada, Immigration, too many physicians hostile to program and unwilling to help qualified sick Canadians complete the applications, policies and rules made up by bureauctrats and subject to no scrutiny as to their effect on exemmptees and of course the BIGGEST problem INSURANCE. No company will insure anything related to the production or storage of marijuana.

We, myself included have faced and continue to face enormous difficulty accessing safe clean affordable high quality strains of marijuana with which to alleviate symptoms as is our right. Rights without remedies are useless and in this case harmful to one's health.

My former lawyer Alan Young is a criminal lawyer wihout much experience in civil law. He seemed the best choice at the time although in retrospect I feel short changed by the Justice system. Mr. Young lost two appeals on my behalf after winning my exemption from section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act before Justice Harry Laforme May 10,1999. The civil nature of the case was often overlooked because of the context of the case, what was a case for the constitutional right to choose my own medicine, in this case marijuana became overshadowed by the political climate of the day.

Politics played an undue role in the entire process of my Constitutional Challenge in the Superior Court in Toronto, Ontario. Even before I launched the case a representative from Prime Minister Chretien's office attended a meeting with the AIDS Action Now! task force on medical marijuana, a task force I chaired and hosted a meeting with Dann Michols, then Director General of the Therapeutic Drugs Division for Health Canada, Liz Mulholland, from the PMO's office, Jari Dvorak and Derek Thaczuk both members of the Task force. At that meeting Dann Michols told us we'd have medical marijuana within months. That was in January or February 1998 at a meeting held at my home at 540 Church St, in Toronto. It was held there because I was too ill at that stage to go to Ottawa. Turned out rather quickly that he was misleading us and he testified against me in court, fighting the challenge on behalf of his master, the Minister of Health.

I recently contacted the Court Challenges Program to see if I could qualify to have my case reopened. Harper killed the Program.

I was trying to find out how I could attempt to recover my money, nearly $100,000 eaten up by police, lawyers, thieves, and court costs since 1998.

I had recently been in discussions with the Director of equality rights at the Court Challenges Program and she was going to inquire if there was a way to reopen my case. Harper killed that avenue.

I have no money. I am hopelessly in debt with a huge mortgage and not enough money from my disability pensions to pay for my dental costs, prescription drugs not covered by the provincial drug formulary, ambulance, even the deductible is prohibitive and they call it fair Pharmacare in B.C.

Life with AIDS is expensive and I fear for my future. Last year I was sent home from a Vancouver hospital in a hard collar three days after spine surgery on my neck. Friends got me home on the ferry and to Gibsons where I lived at the time but there was no help of any kind, no home care, not even a nurse follow up. I managed that time but friends can only do so much and what are we to do when all we need is some help in our homes as we recover from surgery or major illness.

I am considering resigning from the NDP, a party I joined two years ago mainly ,because of Jack Layton, his values and his leadership skills, those of both he and Olivia who are truly an awesome team. But if I can't reach them and no one down the chain of command will listen or take the issue forward I will seek help elsewhere. Maybe the Bloc?

I feel betrayed by my country which has been unduly negligent in it's treatment of medical marijuana exemptees and it's total disregard for our rights.

I don't know how one goes about getting something on the Auditor General's agenda and had hoped the NDP might at least advise me on that. I still don't know so I will contact her office and find out. It's disappointing to have to make "cold calls" on such important matters.

Then again I am not sure that is the most effective way to proceed. It's hard being poor and trying to effect change and when your life savings have been taken away by punitive Government action. Maybe there is no redress for my personal losses but at least the public deserves to hear what has happened to the program from our point of view and from a taxpayer's point of view. Our government has spent millions of dollars in a Mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba where Prairie Plant Systems grinds our crap and sells it to people approved by the Feds. How many times are we taxpayers paying for this fiasco, I've heard 23 million and counting. And for what? Canadians deserve better, especially the disadvantaged, the dying and the sick.

It has become a poor man's problem because marijuana is so plentful in Canada if you have enough money and most users do. It's the poor who are shut out and harrassed by the few outlets that currently exist, "compassion clubs" which operate openly but illegally in most main cities in Canada. They are vultures fleecing the poor at $10.00 a gram while the Federal Government competes with shwag at $5.00 a gram.

ever notice how "compassion" left the government vocabulary with Allan Rock. Subsequent Health Ministers have barely conceiled their disdain if not contempt for those of us who choose marijuana as one medicine in an arsenal required to effeciveley manage our health and well being.

Their disdain is misguided at best. They operate too close to the American DEA to be objective.

Thanks for your attention.

Anonymous said...

Bravo: The NDP have the opportunity, actually the responsibility, to highlight problems in the public sphere and economy in BC and to propose soluntions, that is what they were elected for as any opposition party is elected to do.

Unfortunately, they are allowing the Liberals to not only set the agenda but to frame the context of the discussion and are accepting the gov't position on a whole range of issues.

The provincial gov't believes in smaller localized provision of services and as such it condemns local gov't and authorities to struggle to provide services without having appropriate resources to do so and while competing for the scarce resources that exist to do so.

The provincial government does not believe in the profit incentive of business as I do, rather they believe in business altruism and so, in dealings with business have abdicated their role as representatives and stewards of the public interest.

It is notable that if the infamous fast ferries (for which NDPers always accept responsibility and dutifully hang their heads incredibly low)were built today, there would be no scandal, as the gov't has endeavored to remove itself from all things public and for which taxpayers expect them to be responsible, the people would never even know a problem exists as the public money would be spent outside of the area that can be examined by the Auditor general.

Further on finance, the NDP accepts too readily the rosy picture that is painted without ever addressing the real and soon top be pressing question of what happens to revenues and expences if and when commodity prices soften significantly? (structural deficit could actually be defined)

I could keep going but the NDP owes it to British Columbians, as the official opposition, to be a lot more aggressive than it has been in addressing the interests of residents of BC.

- George

Anonymous said...

Disappointment in the NDP is deafening in my circle of average, moderately politically active east siders. I won't take time off work again to volunteer to get anyone from this party elected...except maybe Adrian Dix. The dark horse that may be the undoing of the NDP (other than their own passivity) is what may emerge from the Green Party now that Adrianne Carr is gone. If they can find a leader with some credibility, they may just be the undoing of the NDP support. Enough of the Mrs.Nice Guy business in the leg. It is disingenuous and pathetic. Find a backbone already! It's embarrassing :(